There are a lot of different factors that play into the perfect setup. We can walk you through some of the biggest factors we consider before making any purchase.
We’re big fans of the smart trainer + Apple TV + mobile phone + heart rate monitor + a really good fan combo. For this setup, any bluetooth enabled smart trainer, such as the Cyclops Hammer, Tacx Neo, Wahoo Kickr, or Elite Direto will pair nicely with Apple TV (4th gen and higher). Download Zwift Mobile Link for your phone and put all the controls of Zwift at your fingertips. And don’t forget a fan!
But with so many different options for setups, determining “the best” is more specific to your budget, space, and existing gear.
Aside from a bike, your trainer is likely to be the biggest impact to your budget. Trainers come in several varieties:
- Smart direct-drive (meaning you take your back wheel off). Generally most expensive, but they simulate gradients and real-world feel and enable you to play with all the bells & whistles of Zwift. The Cyclops Hammer, Tacx Neo, Wahoo Kickr, and Elite Direto are great options.
- Smart wheel-on. More budget friendly than direct-drive, but they don’t feel as realistic as their direct-drive counterparts and they’ll put some wear & tear on your rear wheel. Consider getting a trainer tire. Examples are the Cyclops Magnus, Tacx Genius, Wahoo KICKR SNAP, and Elite Rampa.
- Classic wheel-on. Most budget friendly, but you’ll need a power meter or speed sensor to work with Zwift. Examples of classic trainers are the Kurt Kinetic and CycleOps Fluid 2. For power meters, the Power Tap and Quarq are solid options.
For more on determining which trainer is best for you, you can visit our in-depth review here.
Some Zwifters also ride rollers or smartbikes. Rollers are a great way to work on your bike handling skills, and you can use any classic rollers to Zwift on a bike equipped with a supported power meter. For an immersive experience, try out smart rollers that have resistance control. For smart bikes, Zwift works with all smart bikes that broadcast power (watts) via ANT+ or Bluetooth Smart (BLE) using open standards.
Aside from your trainer / smartbike / roller setup, your other notable cost might be the device you choose to run Zwift on. Zwift works on Mac, PC, iPad, iPhone, and Apple TV. You do not need a fancy gaming computer to run Zwift. Minimum specs are Windows 7 (64bit) or higher, or macOS 10.9 or higher. You’ll want at least an Intel Core 2 Duo processor and 4GB of memory. If you’re running iPhone, you need an iPhone 5 or higher and for iPad, it’s iPad Air or iPad 2 or higher. And Apple TV is 4th gen or higher.
There’s a good chance the computer or device you have will run Zwift just fine. Higher end graphics cards and gaming computers will help the Zwift experience run smoother and look better… but they won’t make you faster.
How much space do you have? Is your Zwift setup a permanent fixture? Or will you be setting up each time you ride?
Most trainers are about 2.5 feet wide x 2.5 feet deep – give or take a few inches, (60 - 75 cm wide and deep) and they weigh roughly 50 pounds (22kg) for smart trainers and 35-40 pounds (about 16kg) for classic trainers. If you don’t have a permanent setup, you’ll want to consider where to store your trainer relative to your Zwift space. They aren’t the lightest things to lug around.
On the Bike
Noise and vibration is another consideration. Modern trainers are getting increasingly quiet. Many boast to be quieter than a shower or a fan on a high setting. However, if you live in an apartment above a friendly neighbor, you may want to test vibration sounds. Trainer mats will do a fair bit to dampen vibration and noise…and protect your floors from all the sweat.
We can’t say enough about a good fan. You’re going to work up a sweat, even in the dead of winter. A fan makes a world of a difference.
Don’t forget to stay hydrated with a water bottle, filled with H2O or your favorite sports drink.
And consider a sweat towel. Did we mention you might sweat?
Other Gear to Consider
Are you Zwifting with Bluetooth connections or ANT+? With Bluetooth, it’s pretty seamless, but not all smart trainers or power meters have Bluetooth. For smart trainers and power meters using ANT+ technology, you’ll need an ANT+ dongle for your computer.
If you’re Zwifting on an iPad or a laptop, consider the best way to prop it up. Music stands are a great, inexpensive option.
You may need a dedicated extension cord and power strip to accommodate outlets for your trainer, computer, TV, or fan.