As the cold weather begins to bite here in the Northern Hemisphere, many are turning their attention back to finding a way to get through the winter in relative comfort.
While some will still dust off their winter road bike and cold-weather cycling gear, many will instead pull out their smart trainer or smart indoor bike.
For those more interested in the latter, there are a number of exciting new products, updates to popular indoor cycling apps and expansions to online events, all worth considering for the cold, dark months ahead.
New smart hardware at lower prices
While smart trainers used to be prohibitively expensive, prices in general have become much more competitive this year.
Some new high-end models, like the excellent Wahoo Kickr V6 and the new Elite Justo, have increased in price this year, but otherwise, things are looking rosy for indoor-curious riders.
While supply issues are still affecting parts of the bike industry, stocks of smart trainers look decent and while that may not be true everywhere, a quick look at a popular online search engine reveals that many places even have deals (at the time of the writing).
Arguably the biggest news in this category in 2022, however, was the launch of Zwift’s own direct-drive smart trainer, the Zwift Hub.
Despite costing just £449 / €499 / $499 including a choice of cartridges, it offers the spec sheet and most importantly the performance to compete with far more expensive trainers.
While not available in every territory, there are other powerful models in this price range such as the Pinnacle HC Turbo and the Elite Zumo.
Better software than ever
As interest in indoor cycling increases, so does the quantity and quality of supporting software.
Many of the major app platforms have recently released a number of significant updates bringing new features, maps and routes to freshen things up.
New maps, roads and features on Zwift
Zwift, for example, continues to expand its roster of virtual worlds and roads, as well as its virtual group ride and race offerings (more on that in a moment).
Zwift recently announced Urukazi, an expansion of its hub world in the Makuri Islands. Urukazi brings to the game eight new tracks ranging in length from 6.3 km to 40 km and a mixture of virtual road surfaces such as asphalt, gravel and sand.
Zwift also announced that a west of Scotland based map will be released in January 2023. It was specially developed for racing and will be used for the 2023 UCI Cycling Esports World Championships.
We don’t yet know all the details of this new map, but we do know that there will be five new golf courses and the map will be inspired by “the idyllic Scottish countryside” and the city of Glasgow.
HoloReplay – a feature that displays a holographic avatar of your best segment time in the game while driving (so you can try to beat it) – has also been updated. Previously only available for segments, it can now also be used for courses, allowing you to race even over longer distances.
Finally, Zwift has also implemented a number of features like segment leaderboards and Discord integration into the Zwift Companion app.
Wahoo X is expanding
Wahoo recently released Dunoon Crossover, a new dirt track for its Wahoo RGT virtual cycling app.
Dunoon Crossover is the latest addition to Wahoo RGT’s Real Roads catalog, a collection of virtual routes based on real-world locations.
As the name suggests, Dunoon Crossover is based on a gravel spot in Dunoon, Scotland.
Wahoo also recently added an in-game voice chat feature for RGT Cycling. As you’d expect, this allows riders in a group to socialize, but can also be used as a race radio of sorts in competitive scenarios.
The integration between Wahoo SYSTM (which focuses on training plans rather than Wahoo RGT’s virtual worlds) and its range of Elemnt bike computers has also been improved.
Training plans and workouts from SYSTM can now be synced directly to a Wahoo Elemnt cycle computer. This allows riders to complete these workouts both outdoors and indoors, allowing for a greater degree of flexibility when venturing into the depths of winter.
The results are automatically synchronized with SYSTM upon completion.
If you’re looking for a new workout plan for the New Year, Wahoo says it’s also continuing to expand its library of workouts, plans, and videos.
Wahoo X could therefore be the ideal subscription service for those looking for a mix of indoor virtual cycling, structured training and outdoor riding as it includes access to Wahoo SYSTM and Wahoo RGT.
As you read this, we’re tracking our indoor miles and working on a comparison between Zwift, Wahoo SYSTM, and TrainerRoad. Pay attention to the result in the new year.
Virtual races are an integral part for many today
If you don’t want to give up your competitive spirit over the winter, then it’s worth trying Zwift Racing.
There are many regular community events as well as monthly series and official leagues to participate in, so most people will find something that fits their schedule.
The ZRacing Monthly Series, for example, allows drivers to race as an individual (which means you don’t have to be part of a team), and there are events throughout the year.
Races usually last between 30 and 40 minutes and take place every hour every day. So they are an easy and convenient way to jump into a tough but fun workout.
For more dedicated racers there is also the Zwift Racing League. They have to assemble a group of teammates to compete in these events and they are less flexible when it comes to when races take place.
However, this is the primary amateur racing series available on Zwift. So if you want to prove yourself as a virtual racer, do it here.
For those not on Zwift, Wahoo RGT and Rouvy also offer virtual races.
Rouvy, for example, recently partnered with the Vuelta a Espãna to host a series of augmented reality races based on stages from the 2022 Spanish Grand Tour. The last stages will take place in the next few days.
In addition, numerous races take place every day, with events ranging from mass races on hilly routes to mountain time trials on legendary climbs such as the Col du Galibier.
Mass start races on Rouvy also now include a drawing mechanic to make the mass dynamics more realistic.
Wahoo RGT has races scheduled every day.
Riders can choose from group races with mass starts or individual time trials, and thanks to Wahoo RGT’s “Magic Roads” feature (which generates virtual tracks based on GPX data), there’s a wide variety of tracks on offer.
If your focus over the winter is basic training and steady fitness building, then such high-intensity races may not be for you.
For those with less competitive aspirations, December 2022 and January 2023 also have events like the Z Fondo, the Rapha Festive 500 (virtual kilometers now officially count, although that wasn’t always the case) and the Tour de Zwift.
These events are meant to be more of a challenge than a race, but there’s nothing stopping you from getting a high finish if you want to.
If you fancy training with some of the best riders in the world, this is the Zwift Pro training camp runs until January 15, 2023.This offers the opportunity to complete workouts inspired by professional riders such as Geraint Thomas, Wout Van Aert and Annemiek Van Vleuten.
There are also special group workout events that feature WorldTour pros and give you the opportunity to train alongside them. For more information, see the Events page in the Zwift Companion app.