This is a sponsored article in association with Zwift.
Sunday 27 February, 2016. Professional cyclist Mat Hayman fractures his arm in the build-up to the greatest one-day race in cycling — Paris-Roubaix.
On paper, with the “Hell of the North” just six weeks away, Hayman’s season lay in ruins. He could pedal but couldn’t handle his bike, react quickly or clasp his brake levers — all key to safe, fast road riding. In his 17th year as a professional, could this be Hayman’s curtain call?
Fast-forward to Sunday 10 April 2016 and Hayman’s recovered wrist punches the air in celebration as, at 37 years old, he becomes the fourth-oldest winner of Paris-Roubaix — despite hardly any outdoor training miles.
How on earth did he do it? “I rode Zwift twice a day,” Hayman explains, “racking up over 1,000km in my garage.” As for the famous winner’s cobble trophy? “It’s in an alcove in my living room under a spotlight — even when it’s not dark!”
As Hayman realised, Zwift is riding roughshod over the myth that indoor training is solely for winter. All year round, Zwift matches the performance ambitions of cyclists with the fun, addictive nature of gaming.
The simple online sign-up launches you, the recreational rider, into a virtual world where your real-life power sends your avatar sprinting against stunning, immersive backdrops.
Zwift features three courses containing numerous fun and challenging routes. Go fully virtual in the cyclist’s paradise — aka Watopia — or follow the pros by taming the RideLondon and 2015 Richmond World Championships courses, which feature hills, thrills and of course cobbles.
All you need to create your indoor Nirvana is a turbo trainer or rollers, internet connection and supporting device (from desktop computer to Apple TV or even iPhone), a bike and an ANT+ or Bluetooth measurement tool. This could be anything from a basic speed sensor right up to a cutting-edge power meter. It’s also recommended to have to hand a fan for cooling, a towel to catch your effort (sweat!) and a water bottle.
And if you’re thinking your lack of turbo trainer could be an issue, don’t worry, because you can pick one up second-hand from as little as £40. This will serve you fine when paired with a speed/cadence sensor.
Mind you, for the complete Zwift experience, you can’t beat a smart trainer such as Tacx’s Bushido Smart or the Wahoo KickR, which wirelessly links with Zwift to simulate changing terrain and conditions.
Becoming a 'Zwifter' couldn’t be simpler. Just sign up to Zwift’s free trial, choose your personal avatar and you’re away.
You can ride solo, but nothing motivates like a training partner. Cue Zwift’s burgeoning online community, which you can join in a convivial mass ride or battle against in the racing amphitheatre. And don’t worry if you’re new to cycling — there are thousands of riders of all ages and abilities.
Why ride indoors and not outdoors? The list of reasons is long, but a snapshot includes boosting speed, stamina and strength in a safe, controlled environment; refining technique, with drills such as one-legged pedalling, without distractions of traffic; and, for those with little ’uns, you can rack up the miles while babysitting for double brownie points!
You can also structure workouts more accurately. Research shows that physiologically building strength and endurance at the same time is near-impossible. With the many pre-loaded sessions on Zwift, you can build each performance component individually, meaning no wasted miles and a faster you.
And let’s not forget metrics. Cyclists and data go together like Froome and Sky, stabilisers and safety, long rides and cake stops… That’s why Zwift’s dashboard relays your heart rate, power output, cadence, speed, distance covered and elevation, all designed to motivate and maximise your riding.
Zwift is the go-to, all-year-round cycling platform for professionals and recreational riders alike (in fact, professionals are so keen, Mark Cavendish’s Dimension Data team recently selected a new member to its Continental squad from Zwift’s growing community.)
It’s fun, structured and social — the holy trinity when it comes to maximising your cycling — with new features added all the time.
Zwift’s Mobile Link app
Zwift’s Mobile Link app is a companion to the Zwift experience that allows you to control the game, register for events, connect with other riders, reference yourself on a map, and crunch all your ride data.
Simply visit zwift.com and sign up for your free trial right now.