With the coronavirus outbreak severely curbing group outdoor activities in Europe, including cycling and running, options to get your social cycling fix are limited. In Belgium they've already banned group rides and activities, and the UK will likely go the same way. How then can we workout as a group?
Not to sound too millennial, the best answer to this is using technology. The rise in popularity of turbo training and platforms like Zwift have made indoor cycling a real thing. Those who love it really love it, but those on the outside, the uninitiated, can definitely feel a bit left out. A large part of the problem is the cost of indoor cycling. A top of the range smart turbo trainer isn't a small amount of cash. Chuck in Zwift membership (£12.99 per month), plus all the add ons, and it soon adds up.
However it is possible to zwift on a budget, if you follow our tips. If you are able to spend the money, we'd recommend going all out and buying a Wahoo smart trainer, as your results will be more accurate. However, the below options will also work just fine for most amateur cyclists.
Zwift membership (£12.99pm)
Whilst you don't need to use Zwift to train indoors, the platform has got a bit of a lock on the 'group ride' scenario. This is where you join a group event and virtually ride with others. You can join the pre organised rides like the Tour of Watopia, or you can set up your own meetups and invite your mates.
Dirty Wknd have set up a bunch of 'club meetups' during this time so we can still ride as a group and enjoy the feeling of a group ride (albeit virtually). You don't have to use Zwift to train indoors of course, there are loads of really good training guides and 'follow along' videos on Youtube (check out GCN). Of course you don't get the group ride vibe, so a Zwift membership is a good idea.
Budget Turbo Trainer
A turbo trainer needn't cost the earth, and if you shop around you can pick up one for pretty cheap. It won't be a smart trainer, but you can add those bits (see below) so it works with Zwift and other platforms. Make sure you check reviews before buying, and buy from a reputable place so you can take it back if it's rubbish.
Top tip - Buy a turbo tyre too, or you'll wear through your precious GP4000s in no time. It's also not like you're going to need an outdoor tyre for a while! :(
Second Hand Turbo
During this crisis a second hand option might be hard to come by, with turbo trainers (probably) being worth more than their weight in gold. However if you scour Ebay and Facebook Marketplace you can find some bargains. Most people will be selling their turbo trainer because they hated using it and gave up, so it's probably had very light use. As with any second hand kit buying, ask loads of questions, try and view the item and make sure you can send it back if needed.
Budget Roller Set
Riding rollers is like being a Jedi in the cycling world. Such is the trickiness of the activity, you'll inspire awe in your training buddies as they marvel at your skill. And rollers can also be cheaper than your average turbo, so it is a great option if you're willing to master riding on rollers.
It's a great skill to learn, as it improves your bike handling as well as your fitness. If your indoor training during a quarantine involves riding rollers, then you're likely to come out of it with some bike handling skills left. If you just ride on the turbo, well... let's just say it might be a good idea to do a few solo outdoor rides before joining a group!
Shop around, but the Tacx Antares Rollers are pretty much industry standard and a great option, and currently down to £122 on Cycle Republic (roughly £100 with the club discount). Also check out the second hand options, because even more so than a turbo, some riders really don't get on with rollers, and will put them on sale (if not in the bin) after a few attempts!
Speed Sensor // ANT+ cable
To train indoors successfully, all you need is one of the above options. You can chuck your bike on a budget turbo trainer or rollers and off you go. Stick on some music or a Netflix series to alleviate the boredom and your all set. As previously mentioned, work out videos on Youtube and other platforms are free and a great option. You don't have to connect to anything smart at all...
But you want to, don't you? Let's be honest, you want to know what all the Zwift fuss is about, and you want to join in on the DW Zwift group rides. The good news is that all you need is a bluetooth speed sensor connected to your bike, or an ANT+ cable to connect to your laptop (you can use the Zwift app on your phone without this). Check out a handy explainer video here.
All of the above options are essential to start indoor training with Zwift, with this next section covering accessories that make the experience more enjoyable, but aren't essential.
- Training Mat - You can buy all kinds of specific mats, but any cheap yoga mat will do. It helps to control the seat problem (it's a thing) and deaden the noise a little if you have downstairs neighbours
- Fan - Again there are loads of specific fans you can buy, but a normal bedroom fan will do the trick. Or train next to the window!
- Laptop Stand - As above, why buy a specific turbo stand when a chair, desk, window ledge will do the trick
- Cadence Monitor - Useful to have, but not essential to get connected to Zwift. However can be used outside too, so a good investment
Indoor turbo training and getting set up on Zwift doesn't have to cost a bomb, and it's a great investment to aid your winter training. Being able to keep training during the Coronavirus quarantine is also a huge plus.
If you want to spend some of the cash you'll inevitably save from not being able to go to the pub, then we'd always recommend splurging on the best turbo trainer or rollers you can afford. Ideally a smart one so you can connect to any platform you do decide to subscribe to with ease.
Join us for a Zwift group ride by joining the community. Members can access group rides via our members app, as well as loads of cycling discounts. Click Here for full details.
If you have any questions about indoor cycling training or how to set up Zwift then get in touch in the comments or on social channels (@dirtywknd). Or a good old fashioned email for a chinwag is always great. We love to chat!