Zwift is a fitness technology company that allows users to interact, train and race on its virtual online cycling platform. Zwift has approximately one million subscribers and has completely changed how cyclists view training.
Zwift was launched in 2014 by co-founders Jon Mayfield, Eric Min, Scott Barger, and Alarik Myrin. The company released a beta version of the training platform from its California headquarters in September 2014. The idea for Zwift stemmed from Min’s frustration with the lack of interactive indoor cycling options.
From the first days of Zwift launching, interest in the virtual cycling platform was high. The company received 13,000 applications for just 1,000 beta places in the Autumn of 2014. Zwift officially launched in October 2015 for a $10 monthly subscription fee.
Using a bike, a trainer or a set of rollers and either a power meter, smart trainer, or cadence sensor, Zwift uses an algorithm to translate a rider’s data into their avatar’s speed on Zwift. The platform uses the rider’s weight, power, road gradient and virtual draft from other riders.
The company raised another $450 million two years later as it bid to enhance its software and release other indoor training-related products. Zwift’s first hardware product eventually arrived in 2022 - a turbo trainer known as the Zwift Hub. Zwift is partnered with several WorldTour teams and is the title sponsor of the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift and Paris-Roubaix Femmes avec Zwift.
Zwift has also strengthened its links to elite cycling through its Zwift Academy program which has run annually since 2016. Program winners, who include UAE Team Emirates’ Jay Vine, earn a professional contract and the opportunity to build a career in the pro peloton.
2016 - Zwift launches on iOS
After going public for PC and Mac users in 2015, Zwift opened the door to a new wave of cyclists a year later when it launched an iOS version. With Zwift now available on iPhones and iPads, riders could join the platform from even more places than ever before.
2019 - The Drop Shop opens
The customisation and gamification of Zwift reached a new level with the launch of the Drop Shop, allowing riders to kit out their avatars with a range of bikes and other gear. Riders can use the platform’s virtual currency, Drops, earned while riding, to purchase the best bikes and wheels that have a direct impact on performance.
2022 - Zwift’s first hardware product
The Zwift Hub marked Zwift’s first foray into the training hardware market as it looked to provide subscribers with a more affordable way to ride on Zwift. The new smart trainer, which comes custom-matched to your cassette, aimed to eliminate any compatibility issues consumers might have faced between bike, trainer, and app.
“I separated my shoulder in 2014 and started using Zwift just to get on, and it completely changed the game for me. It used to be that you went on the indoor trainer if you couldn’t get outside, but now it’s kind of changed and you’d prefer to be on the indoor trainer sometimes.”
If you want to add some structure to your training, it’s worth exploring Zwift’s extensive range of workouts. Each workout has a description so you know what it entails and Zwift even tailors the workouts to your FTP. Don’t know your FTP? Don’t worry! Zwift has multiple FTP tests available.
Worlds and routes
There are 12 virtual 'worlds' on Zwift, and each day there are three worlds available. One of these is always Watopia and the other two change daily. Once you've selected the world you want to ride in, click ‘Routes’. This displays all of the routes in that world, and you can scroll through them to see the distance and elevation for each. Most worlds offer everything from leg-sapping, hilly courses to pan-flat routes, depending on what kind of riding you enjoy or how hard you want to push yourself.
Racing and group rides
Through Zwift, you can enjoy group rides or even tap into your competitive side with races, providing hours of entertainment. These group rides and races are available all day, every day, no matter where in the world you are, and they're organised according to fitness levels.
Ride with friends and pros
You can search for specific riders and ride along with them. It could be family, friends, your favourite pro or one of GCN's presenters. They can all be found through the Zwift Companion app, which also lets you communicate with your fellow riders.
Use your power-ups
One of the key gamification features of Zwift is that you can enhance your performance by picking up power-ups along the route. These include speed boosters, weight adjusters, and the famous breakaway burrito.
Customise your avatar
One of the many fun features on Zwift is the ability to change the appearance of the virtual ‘you’ that you - and others - will see on screen. There are different jerseys, helmets and bikes, plus you can unlock more things as you ride. Before long, you could be riding on your dream bike. It’s just a shame it’s not that simple in the real world.
There was a Tour de France on Zwift. At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the delayed 2020 edition of the Tour opened a hole in July, filled by a ‘virtual’ Grande Boucle. Zwift partnered with Tour organisers ASO, built a new world, France - which included a simulation of Mont Ventoux - and put on a six-stage race for some of the biggest men’s and women’s teams.
© Sprint Cycling Agency
Current sponsorships: Tour de France Femmes, UCI World Championships, Ineos Grenadiers, Jumbo-Visma, Canyon-SRAM, Alpecin-Deceuninck.
Zwift Academy: The Zwift Academy was set up in 2016 as a talent identification programme - an indoor racing competition with the prize of a pro contract on the open road. Leah Thorvilson was the first winner, going pro with Canyon-SRAM, who have since added six more graduates. The men’s programme launched in 2017, first through the Dimension Data team, and more recently through Alpecin-Deceuninck. The most-high profile graduate is Jay Vine, the 2020 winner who went on to win two stages of the Vuelta a España in 2022, before signing for UAE Team Emirates in 2023.
Designed to bring greater control to the fingertips of riders, Zwift Play will initially launch at £/$/€99
Coffee Stop, the introduction of the Col du Tourmalet and brand-new Missions form part of the virtual platform’s new offerings that will be rolled out over the coming months.
Online training platform has also introduced new difficulties to its Climb Portal, plus rewards for ‘ride streaks’
We've set Hank some pretty mean challenges in the past and somehow we've roped him in for more! We've set him the task of riding every single road on Zwift. With the help of Hank's Dad, could he finish another epic ride?
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