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Zwift Ride is the virtual training platform’s new smart bike

The unit features a small footprint and rich controls so it’s always ready for a spin

Zwift Ride is the virtual training platform’s new smart bike

This year marks Zwift’s 10th anniversary. The company is celebrating with the launch of its very own smart bike, Zwift Ride.

You may remember Zwift was working on a similar concept a few years ago. It, unfortunately, had to can the project as a result of the supply and demand issues that affected most brands during the COVID period. That being said, Zwift Ride builds on that early work and refines the original project. In “driving down price and driving towards a simple solution” Zwift’s ambition is to make indoor cycling more accessible. The notions of affordability and simplicity are evident throughout. So what can we expect? Well, everything Zwift has offered to date, and more.

Zwift Ride

Zwift brings the virtual shifting, which works in conjunction with a Wahoo Kickr Core, with its smart frame to form a complete indoor smart bike. For those of you who haven’t experienced virtual shifting yet, it modifies the resistance directly associated with the wheelspin to mimic the sensation you would have when changing gears in real life. Further expanding on this realism, Ride also supports Shimano or SRAM 2×12 gearing and accommodates gear ratio options suitable for varying terrains, for example: flat (53/39, 10-28), all-rounder (48/35, 10-33) and climbing (43/10, 10-36).

The in-game on-boarding introduces Zwifters to the navigation, braking, steering, and so on, all of which are fully integrated into the handlebars’ dual control pads. Arguably less life-like but adding to the fun, Ride also boasts user configured drop-bar buttons for quick access to RideOn Bombs, Power Up and so on, with the promise of more to come.

Designed for the home

Ultimately, Ride is intended for the home, meaning that there is no need to bring your outdoor bike inside, nor is there any need to dismantle your trainer setup for your regular club ride. Moving away from the stealth look that a lot of cyclists opt for their regular bike, Zwift has leaned more towards a brighter, sleeker colourway to better reflect a home environment. The company then added the fun and lively hologram, in keeping with the brand. The compact footbed is also more convenient and more accessible for those with smaller homes, who might struggle to accommodate a more typical bike and trainer setup. These users will also benefit from the updated cog which Zwift claims to be noticeably quieter.

Easy setup

Keeping accessibility front and centre, Zwift has carefully considered the user’s unboxing experience. Ride is delivered in three boxes with the thought that one larger package might be tricky for an individual to manage. Thereafter, the user is carefully guided through the opening process and initial setup, with step-by-step instructions, to alleviate any anxiety.

Acknowledging that a rider’s technical prowess doesn’t determine their passion for the sport and that there are many dedicated cyclists who might feel intimidated by basic mechanics, Zwift has intentionally set out to overcome potential barriers with a hassle-free, mess-free assembly. The user needs just one tool, the Frame Key, otherwise known as the Monolever, that comes with the package. In addition, Zwift has worked with a bike fitter to establish an easy letter-based system to ensure each rider is in an optimal position and therefore has the best experience possible. This letter system allows for quick, tape-measure free adjustments between multiple users (between 152 and 198 cm tall) and provides an easy solution for those without a professional fit.

Design phases

The most extensive of Zwift’s five development phases was the first one, focused solely on the user. The team mapped out the user’s journey from purchasing to regularly Zwifting on the Ride. The company not only identified each of the interactions they would make, but which of those interactions could potentially result in them changing their mind and/or not using the product as intended. Zwift referred to these specific interactions as “pain-points” and outlined a score for each based on simplicity, clarity, high value (low cost), home design, always-ready, and multi-user functionality. Needless to say, those parts with a higher volume of interactions, such as the controller, took precedence over those with a lower volume, such as applying the pedals upon assembly, but each were taken into account as a whole. Throughout the remaining four phases, the design team continually referred back to this pain score and used it to tailor their decisions.

During phases two and three, the generate and define phases, the team sketched out initial concepts based on the findings of the first phase, then developed digital designs and handmade models. The models allowed for crude adjustments to be made on the spot to better align the technical and visual propositions.

Zwift relied on user feedback throughout but this really came into its own during the fourth phase—validation. Here the team used prototypes to report on the user experience, including the assembly and associated guides, and adjusted as necessary to ensure each point met the minimum score. This led to the fifth and final phase: delivery.

Development and testing

It’s quite a feat to think that Zwift only started working on Ride a little more than 18 months ago, even more so that within three months of starting, it also planned and built its own testing centre from scratch, along with the required testing software. Given that there aren’t many companies building smart bikes, a complete off-the-shelf testing rig wasn’t available.

This separate and considerably large facility in London was dedicated to performing each and every form of test you might think of, and wasn’t simply a nice-to-have asset, but was key in speeding up the R&D as it enabled the team to identify and solve issues on the fly. Should they have opted to outsource the testing phase as most brands would have, it would have easily delayed them by at least another season.

Each part, whether it be more cycling or gaming oriented, was put through rigorous testing to ensure it would last the lifetime of the bike, as intended. Much of the testing was used to determine the strength and durability of the bike and Zwift modelled the minimum requirements using some of the ISO-standards they had obtained from existing Zwifters. By way of an example, they applied considerable downward force on each side of the handlebar to simulate sprinting at volume. Other tests focused on key contact points and associated torque loads to ensure the parts would hold, even with the minimum recommended force and having been adjusted for multiple users time and time again.

Pricing and availability

Through Zwift’s partnership with Wahoo, Zwift Ride with Kickr Core is available in Canada and will start shipping as soon as June 26. The Zwift Ride with trainer is $2,000 via wahoofitness.com