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Is RGT Cycling the new Zwift?

The free indoor cycling app has some cool features, but how does it measure up to Zwift?

Photo by: rgt

You may have recently seen other cyclists posting Strava rides that look like outdoor routes but are, in fact, virtual.  The riders may be using RGT Cycling (RGT stands for Road Grand Tours) a virtual cycling app with some interesting features. Unlike Zwift, the most popular indoor cycling app, RGT free to join—but is it worth converting to the platform?

To connect to RGT users need two devices—one for running the program and one that works as a non-optional companion app. Android and PC users will be happy to hear that the app has both Android, Windows, iOS and Mac compatibility.

Workouts, rides and races

Like a middle ground between Rouvy and Zwift, RGT offers digital replications of real roads and routes. The avatars ride through digital landscapes that follow the elevation profile, turns and direction of existing roads. Riders can choose places like Cap Formentor in Spain, or pay for for the premium account ($9.99 USD) and ride up Mont Ventoux and the Stelvio.

image: RGT Cycling

As in Zwift, riders can choose to do structured workouts, group rides, races or just ride on the courses. The number of RGT users riding the routes at any given time is dramatically smaller than Zwift, but popular roads will still have other riders from around the world.

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Races and group rides can include bots, who ride at different speeds and are generally spread out throughout the course.

Uploading routes

One of the most interesting features of RGT is the ability for riders to upload a GPX file they’ve created into what RGT calls a “Magic Road”. The file could be of a local ride they’re missing in the winter or maybe a route of a destination visited years ago. The app will convert the elevation and turns of the route onto a virtual road (a generic country side).RGT gives riders the option to let the app virtually control their smart trainer, so the change in gradient will be noticeable.

Group rides on RGT are growing in popularity, as the app is free and clubs/teams/groups of friends can ride a route and distance of their exact choosing while using the in-game chat feature.

Zwift vs. RGT

There are a few features that are unique to RGT that aren’t on Zwift just yet. RGT puts an emphasis on realistic ride simulation—unlike with Zwift, you can’t ride into corners full speed, the app will slow you down and even show you how many watts you are wasting. Drafting is also different in RGT. Your avatar won’t go through the rider in front of you, it has to go around them, requiring a push in effort.

RGT also shows you how close you are to the rider you’re drafting on and how many watts you’re saving by riding on their wheel.

image: RGT Cycling

RGT claims that the normalized power output numbers in its app are closer to real world than on some competitors. In terms of speed and distance, the numbers are lower than Zwift and likely more true to real life.

Don’t cancel your Zwift subs yet

While RGT has some interesting and innovative features, for most Zwift riders the benefits aren’t enough to convert to the freemium app. One of the biggest selling points of RGT, Magic Roads, is still very glitchy and often requires users to manipulate files using a number of third party applications before uploading to RGT.

Unlike Zwift, RGT doesn’t do “virtual watts”, so users can’t connect using a cadence and speed sensor. RGT cyclists need a method to measure watts, such as a smart trainer or power meter. Though the free aspect of the program is enticing to new users, the cost barrier to entry is still high, as the cheapest power meters will still set them back several hundred dollars. The free-to-join model is appealing, but the power meter and two device requirement limits the accessibility of the app.

The graphics in RGT aren’t at the same level as Zwift, which may be good for some riders with older computers, but feels like a bit of a step back. Finally, RGT simply doesn’t have the number of users that Zwift does. Large group rides, events with special guest, races and even just riding through a busy route are all part of what makes Zwift appealing for indoor cyclists.