When training indoors with the Zwift software, the main route is called “Zwift Island”. As such, the term “Zwift Island Rig” has caught-on as a way to describe one’s setup for using Zwift. Technophobes might may find using Zwift a bit of a challenge as it does involve considerable technical expertise to get it running smoothly. My Zwift rig is hardly pretty to look at, but it works for now and is a work-in-process as I learn what works and what doesn’t.
It’s my opinion that the best Zwift setup is the one that involves the least amount of work to get it working. If it takes a half an hour to get setup before each ride, that’s way too long and will be a discouragement to training. The only part of my rig that requires setup is getting Zwift started on my laptop and then wirelessly projecting it to my TV.
I purchased a refurbished Wahoo Kickr with 10-speed cassette from Wahoo Fitness which brought the price down below $1k. Since my custom-built Trek ION cyclocross (CX) bike has the Ultegra 10-speed components group, I opted to use it for my training bike. I have a Shimano 105 11-speed cassette in case I want to put my road bike on the trainer, but my CX bike is configured for a more comfortable up-right riding position. Since there is no wind resistance to worry about in indoors, riding up-right like a giant parachute won’t affect my training results.
My rig is setup in my basement where it is typically about 60° F all winter long. Although that is a tad cool when I first start riding, it only takes a few minutes before I wish it was colder. I have a cheap box fan nearby to keep cool and have it within an arm’s reach while reading to crank-it-up as I start to get hot. The fan is also to my side to maximize the surface area the breeze cools on me versus having the fan straight in front of me.
I use the CycleOps Bike Thong Sweat Catcher to protect my bike from the corrosion caused by dripping sweat. It has a nice pocket in the front for holding my TV remote and mobile phone. Since my basement floor is concrete and I don’t really care what happens to it, I don’t have anything under my bike. However, it’s recommend that some kind of mat be put on the bike if protecting the floor is of concern as sweat and chain oil can get on the floor.
My cyclocross bike doesn’t have a cycling computer or related sensors, so I opted to purchase the Wahoo RPM cadence sensor to provide cadence data to Zwift. The sensor is attached to a strap on my right shoe as shown above as opposed to being strapped to my bike’s crank arm.
Without a cadence sensor, I found that Zwift would attempt to calculate my cadence, but typically calculated it to be much faster than it actually was. This created issues when using Zwift in workout mode. Zwift would cause the Kickr to apply a lot of resistance to maintain the workout’s desired wattage because it thought I was riding at approximately 95 RPM. The reality was that I was pedaling much slower, likely around 65 RPM’s. This became a big problem when I was running out of gears and my legs were getting tired. I don’t like grinding my gears at low RPMs because I want to preserve what is left of my knees.
Zwift requires a computer with a decent graphics card and considerable processing power. Although my 2012 Lenovo ThinkPad W520 laptop is a bit dated as far as technology goes, it is capable of running Zwift without much problem. Unlike lower priced laptops, it has a dedicated NVidia graphics card that is pretty much necessary for smooth Zwift operation. I have the NVidia software configured to always run the Zwift application using the NVidia card and not the onboard Intel HD 3000 graphics card. Running Zwift using the onboard Intel graphics caused Zwift to crash because the graphics processor couldn’t keep-up.
Unfortunately, I’m a Microsoft Windows 10 nerd living in a Apple/Android world. Even though the main Zwift application runs on a Windows PC, their mobile application only runs on an Apple or Android device. It’s not necessary to run the mobile application in order to use Zwift, however, the mobile application makes it easier to perform interactive tasks like giving other riders a “Ride On!” notification, taking turns in the course, and a host of other social features.
The Wahoo Kickr Fitness application is also only available on the Apple and Android platforms. It is used for updating the Kickr’s firmware and for performing “spindown” calibration tests. To ensure my Kickr doesn’t get too far out-of-whack over time, I opted to purchase a Samsung Galaxy Tab4 tablet to run both the Zwift and Wahoo mobile applications. Because it’s considerably larger than a phone, it makes working with the Zwift and Wahoo mobile applications relatively easy when riding.
In order for the Zwift software to wirelessly detect the Wahoo Kickr and Wahoo RPM cadence sensor, I’m using the Suunto Movestick Ant+ Mini USB Adapter. Aside from plugging the USB dongle into my laptop and letting Windows install a driver, there wasn’t anything else necessary to get it to work.
To project the Zwift application onto a larger screen, I use my laptop’s Intel WiDi wireless display capabilities to project to the Microsoft Wireless display adapter that is plugged into my LG television. Although projecting to my TV is nice, I’m pretty sure I’d be just as content with riding on Zwift using just my laptop screen. However, mounting my very heavy laptop in front of my bike at a location I could reach it would involve purchasing some kind of podium or the like.
My current rig works quite well as is, but there is always room for improvement. Some thoughts on improvements include:
- My television is mounted too high on the wall to be comfortably viewed for any length of time while riding. (However, if I lower it for indoor riding, it’ll be too low for watching while doing other exercise in my basement.)
- Although the box fan was a cheap cooling solution, it hardly moves any air. I’ll likely look for a pedestal fan with a bit more horsepower in the future.
- I ‘d like my tablet mounted on my bike’s handlebar so it’s easier to type group texts and interact with Zwift.
- Using a large computer monitor and hard wiring it to the laptop instead wirelessly broadcasting to my TV might help speed-up the setup time.
If you have any questions about my Zwift rig or need some assistance in setting up your own, please leave a comment.