Using Zwift or any Virtual Riding app with a Non-Smart Trainer!!
I love cycling outdoors, whether solo rides for training or group rides on weekends or short get-together rides. Nothing compares to the fun and excitement of outdoor rides, waking up early morning at 5 AM. Most importantly, checking regular updates of WhatsApp cycling groups and being part of this morning cycling community. But unfortunately, there are times when this routine breaks. It may be because of some personal commitments, busy schedules or bad weather, pollution, and traffic.
To overcome these challenges, Indoor cycling came into the picture. It offers multiple options to achieve our desired fitness goals and have the same fun as riding outdoors.
Let’s first talk about Smart Trainers!!
It’s been quite some time since smart trainers got so much popularity with their exclusive feature of Virtual Rides. There are so many apps that allow you to ride virtually on popular cycling routes all around the world. With some compromises, this has resolved many of the issues of Outdoor cycling. Here, one gets the options of the ride, racing with friends virtually, and others in the comfort of your home.
However, Smart Trainers comes with a hefty price. Some say it’s a fancy affair while some say it’s a value so let’s not discuss this. Because everyone’s tastes and preferences may differ. We have listed the specifications, pros, and cons of various Indoor cycling equipment in our blog- Best Indoor Cycling Equipment where you can select the indoor cycling trainer that suits you best.
The agenda here is to talk about how to make your set of Bike rollers, Non-smart trainers, and even any exercise gym bike compatible with Virtual Riding apps.
So, now the answer to “Can we use Non-Smart Trainers with Zwift??” is obviously Yes but another question is: How to use Non-Smart Trainers??
No doubt, we cannot challenge Smart Trainer’s feature of automatic resistance adjustment to match the virtual terrain. But you can still gain an amazing experience of virtual riding in which the resistance can be managed manually with gears shifting of your bike or with the magnetic resistance mode of magnetic trainers. All you need is a speed sensor, which nowadays is quite cheap and readily available. Its cost ranges from INR 1500/- to INR 3000/- (all work well with virtual cycling apps). The speed sensor should be ANT+ BT 4.0
You can read more about ANT+ BT technology in this link, (what it is and how it is different from traditional magnetic sensors, and how it works).
Why just a speed sensor?
With Classic bike Rollers or non-smart trainers, there is a relationship between wheel speed and how much power the rider is generating. This relationship can be graphed as a virtual power curve. Riding apps like Zwift/trainer road/kinomap use this power cover to generate estimated power in watts that get displayed on the screen. Well, whatever power you generate, that can not be accurate. Sometimes the actual reading is nowhere close to what it is showing.
We have compared it many a time in multiple ways with a bike computer on one side and an app on the other side. So there is no need to check your power watt. Or unless you have a bike equipped with a power meter or power paddle you can connect it to VR apps for accurate readings. If the choice is given, I would personally prefer to spend on a power meter over a smart trainer.
A cadence sensor is good to have but not a necessity. It all depends on how much further you want to invest. VR apps do recommend using cadence sensors to improve the experience. And to have one more reading to show RPM and calculate overall workout performance.
At the end of the day, using a classic trainer on any virtual course is going to be as engaging as you make it. Because you’re the one controlling your resistance with gear changes. You just have to pay attention and learn to shift into harder gear when going uphill, especially when trying to stick with a group. Over time you will learn to engage more with your trainer. And figure out what ratios feel good for approximating different grades and you will have no problem keeping up with riders using smart trainers.
Connecting Zwift with Non-Smart Trainer
Here we will just share the step-by-step connectivity of two popular apps zwift and Kenomap. For other VR apps, the setup and connection work more or less the same way only. Download the Zwift app on your mobile and on your tablet/laptop or smart tv as well. Set up your profile and fill in all the required information. Next is a screen with all the sensors you can connect as shown in the pic. You can connect your speed sensor, cadence sensor, heart rate sensor, or any other sensor you have.
Next, you need to select the trainer you are using. Even if you are using non-smart trainers, the option of some popular non-smart trainers is there for you to select. For those using rollers, its option is visible in ‘other non-smart trainers’. If your sensor is just ANT+, you need an ANT+ dongle if you want to run the app on your laptop or smart tv. If your sensor is both ANT+ BT then just switch on the Bluetooth of your laptop and you are good to go.
You can select your avatar of choice and just start peddling. Choose the location you want to ride out of several options. The readings you will see is the speed, power watt, distance, map of the route, your name, and other rides’ name on the screen.
Now, What’s Next??
After connecting your classic smart trainer with Zwift and pairing it with all the devices, the next step is to explore everything that Zwift has to offer. It includes riding on Virtual Roads of different routes, Group rides, and structured workouts of your choice
A free trial period of 7 days is also available. It allows you to try the “zwift with non-smart trainer” experience to understand what works for you. You can select the ‘Ride Type’ and ‘Routes’ as per your choice. Further, you get a calendar to administer any future rides. And, you can also select your goals to help you monitor your rides accordingly.
Now, without wasting any time, you can get started with your Zwift rides on a non-smart trainer. It would be amazing if you could share your zwift riding experiences with us. Or in case you have any queries, kindly share them below in the comments.
Our Indoor Cycling Series:
Also, you can check out our Indoor Cycling Series, an all-rounder guide to enhance your indoor cycling experience.
Indoor Cycling Series 1: This is a perfect guide to a powerful 45- minutes step-by-step Indoor Cycling Routine and Training at home with your Indoor Bike Trainer/ Rollers.
Indoor Cycling Series 2: Get detailed knowledge about the Best Equipment and Setup for Indoor Cycling Workouts and measure their pros and cons to find your ideal one.
Indoor Cycling Series 3: Record your Indoor Cycling Routines with the Best Workout Apps that come with interactive features, detailed analytics, minimal equipment, and investment.
Indoor Cycling Series 4: A step-by-step DIY process of rocker plates to transform your favourite smart trainer into exclusive designs that are ideal for your body.
Indoor Cycling Series 5: Know everything about the challenges, rewards, tricks, and easiest hacks for maintaining quick balance while riding on rollers.
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