5 Best Indoor Bikes For Zwift Cycling With Auto-Resistance
Whether you are new to indoor cycling or looking to upgrade your set-up, finding out how to connect a spin bike with Zwift or find out how your bike works with Zwift and other popular cycling apps needs to be an essential consideration.
The likes of Zwift continue to gain popularity due to their ability to make your workouts extra fun and engaging. You will find that your workouts are a lot more targeted and effective when riding alongside avatars or taking part in a tracked time trial instead of watching Netflix.
It is important to note that Zwift is a third-party application, that is to say, it will work with a wide range of spin and exercise bikes. However, that does not mean that all spin bikes work with Zwift without additional accessories.
Many of the cheaper spin bikes on the market will not come with the connectivity you need to link up your workout data with Zwift. So, if using apps like Zwift is a big motivation for you, you have come to the right place to find out which spin bikes work with Zwift without additional accessories.
- Number 1: Wahoo Kickr Indoor Training Bike
- Number 2: Tacx Neo Zwift Indoor Training Bike
- Number 3: Stages SB20 Zwift Indoor Cycling Bike
- Number 4: WattBike Atom Zwift Cycling Bikes
- Number 5: Echelon EX5 Smart Connect Zwift Bike
What Are the Best Indoor Bikes for Zwift Cycling?
I have been asked this question many times in the last 7 years in the indoor cycling industry and I think the Wahoo Kickr, Tacx Neo, Wattbike Atom, Stages SB20, and Echelon EX5 are the best spin bikes for the Zwift indoor cycling application.
These 5 indoor bikes connect seamlessly with the Zwift and allow the application to control their resistance for uphills and downhills. They all come with electronic magnetic resistance which is better than manual magnetic if you want to do auto-resistance workouts on Zwift.
Except for the Echelon EX5 which is a budget indoor bike for Zwift cycling, the other four indoor bikes have -/+ watt reading, customizable gearing systems to adjust the gear ratio, multi-crank length options, and narrow q-factors.
But if you don’t care about the mentioned features and you want to spend less than $1000, the EX5 is a good indoor bike for the Zwift application without compromising too much on quality. You can easily connect it to Zwift but you would need to use the QZ application as a bridge which shouldn’t take more than a few minutes.
|Names||Wahoo KICKR Smart Indoor Bike||Tacx NEO Smart Indoor Bike||Stages SB20 Smart Indoor Bike||Wattbike Atom Smart Indoor Bike||Echelon EX5 Smart Indoor Bike|
|Incline||Electronic Incline and Decline||Not Available||Not Available||Not Available||Not Available|
|Handlebars||Vertical & Horizontal Adjustment||Vertical & Horizontal Adjustment||Vertical & Horizontal Adjustment||Vertical & Horizontal Adjustment||Vertical & Horizontal Adjustment|
|Saddle||Vertical & Horizontal Adjustment||Vertical & Horizontal Adjustment||Vertical & Horizontal Adjustment||Vertical Adjustment||Vertical & Horizontal Adjustment|
|Bounce||Not Available||Automatic simulation bounce of cobblestones||Not Available||Not Available||Not Available|
|Screen||No screen on the bike||With screen on the bike||No screen on the bike||No screen on the bike||No screen on the bike|
|Crank||5 Crank length options||3 Crank length options||4 Crank length options||1 Crank length option||1 Crank length option|
|Pedals||Flat cage pedals included||Not included||Not included||Flat cage pedals included||SPD and Cages|
|Extras||None||Tablet holder and two cooling fans||Tablet holder||None||Tablet holder|
|Chafing||Possible seat tube leg rub||Possible seat tube leg rub||Not an issue||Not an issue||Not an issue|
|Resistance||Electronic Magnetic (Automatic Change with Zwift)||Electronic Magnetic (Automatic Change with Zwift)||Electronic Magnetic (Automatic Change with Zwift)||Electronic Magnetic (Automatic Change with Zwift)||Electronic Magnetic (Automatic Change with Zwift)|
|Tracking||Watt (direct), RPM, speed, gear, & time||Watt (direct), RPM, speed, gear, & time||Watt (direct), RPM, speed, gear, & time||Watt (direct), RPM, speed, gear, & time||Watt (estimated), RPM, speed, gear, & time|
|Connectivity||Bluetooth & ANT+||Bluetooth & ANT+||Bluetooth & ANT+||Bluetooth & ANT+||Bluetooth|
|Gear Ratio||Adjustable (Virtual Front and Rear Gears)||Adjustable (Virtual Front and Rear Gears)||Adjustable (Virtual Front and Rear Gears)||Adjustable (Virtual Front and Rear Gears)||Fixed (no gear)|
Number 1: Wahoo Kickr Indoor Training Bike
In my personal opinion, the Wahoo Kickr is the best indoor bike for Zwift cycling. Not only right out of the box, it connects to Zwift, it also allows automatic incline and decline for uphill and downhill.
On top of that, the Wahoo Kickr bike has an electronically adjustable magnetic resistance that can provide up to 2200 watts of resistance which is way beyond what any cyclists might need. So, no matter your fitness level, there is a challenging resistance level for you on this bike.
But automatic incline/decline and resistance are only part of why I think the Wahoo Kickr is the best spin bike for the Zwift application. There is a combination of many other features that you can only find on this exercise bike.
For instance at 140mm it has the narrowest q-factor in the industry so you don’t feel like riding a fat bike when trying to ride indoors. Additionally, it has 5 crank-length options from 165mm to 175mm for different user heights and preferences.
I reviewed many smart training indoor bikes but personally don’t know of any other bike with a such variety of crank-length. The bike does come with a pair of regular flat pedals.
For the price, I think they should give the option to choose the pedal of your choice at least between SPD and Look Delta. But thankfully you can replace them easily because the pedal thread is 9/16 which is standard and widely available.
Stability is another huge factor of Wahoo Kickr. Even on highest intensity Zwift rides when you are out of the saddle and pedaling uphill, the bike remains in place without wobbling or moving. It’s because of its “Y” shape design which was recommended by the world’s elite road cyclists.
In fact, every feature on the Wahoo Kickr is designed by and for elite road riders who want to exercise indoors when they can’t go out for a ride.
Aside from what I mentioned, what I even love the most is its horizontal and vertical adjustment. Unlike regular spin bikes that only allow the seat or the handgrips to adjust horizontally, the Wahoo Kickr allows Seat+Post to adjust. So, no matter your height, you can fit this bike in the safest and most comfortable possible way.
The +/- 1 percent watt accuracy is another reason that I believe Wahoo Kickr is the best exercise bike for Zwift cycling. This Wahoo Kickr calculates power through the voltage and torque applied to its advanced motor which is extremely accurate and removes the need for additional calibration. It’s real data, not an estimation of your effort.
In order to make sure the power accuracy of +/- 1 percent, each Wahoo Kickr motor is individually tested, calibrated, and verified at the factory. So, you don’t need to calibrate your Kickr bike.
Aside from your watt/power, this indoor training bike measures speed, cadence/RPM, distance, and gradient. Although there is no screen on the bike (which is unfortunate), the bike can sync all your stats to the application of your choice on your personal device (TV, PC, Mac, IOS, phone, etc) via Bluetooth.
Another thing that I love about the Wahoo Kickr Zwift bike is its handlebars and saddle. Unlike most spin bikes that have knobs for changing resistance, this Wahoo bike has proper gear shifters and drop handlebars, just like the ones on road cycling bikes.
Its saddle is a performance seat so you don’t get much padding and cushioning but that shouldn’t be a problem if you wear proper indoor cycling shorts. You definitely get better pedal stroke and power efficiency from a performance seat than an extra padded saddle.
As you can see, the Wahoo Kickr indoor training bike is a whole package for Zwift cycling. I recommend it to any elite or mid-level cyclists but wouldn’t recommend it to beginners or those who are used to traditional spin bikes like Peloton.
The Wahoo Kickr is not designed for a relaxed cruising cycling position. You can’t lift up its handlebars to set upright, you should be willing to lean on the bike, more or less in a “buck upwards” posture.
So, if you don’t like riding road bikes, I don’t think you should consider the Wahoo Kickr. A great alternative for you would be the Echelon EX5 or EX3 bikes. They have a more upright design.
Number 2: Tacx Neo Zwift Indoor Training Bike
I already mentioned that Wahoo Kickr is the best spin bike for Zwift but if you don’t mind the lack of an incline/decline system, forget about the Wahoo and get the Tacx Neo bike for Zwift indoor cycling.
Although it doesn’t have incline and decline, it has some unique features that you don’t have with other Zwift-compatible indoor bikes. For instance, it has two well-designed cooling fans that keep you fresh during summer rides.
But even more importantly, the Tacx Neo bike has a nice backlit console so you don’t have to use a tablet or phone to see your cycling stats.
On top of that, this is so far the only Zwift spin bike that can mimic cobblestone, snow roads, and sidewalks. So, the feel of the bike changes when riding on different roads and in weather conditions.
Another feature that the Tacx Neo bike has is 3 front and 12 rear Virtual Gear settings (not actual gears/cassettes). So you can choose the gear ratio just like how you would on a road bike except you don’t have to deal with the maintenance of cassettes/gears.
They are referred to as “Virtual Gear Settings” and you can go on the Tacx Training app to customize them. The app gives you four preset gearing options to choose from Triple, Compact, Semi Compact, and Double.
But if you want to customize it, you can easily do it on the app. The front teeth per sprocket are adjustable between 22 and 53 and the rear teeth per sprocket are adjustable between 11 and 40. So, there is a huge variation to pick from.
It’s as smart as it gets with minimum noise and maintenance. Zwift and other compatible applications connect to this Tacx Neo bike right out of the box so you don’t need additional accessories or “bridge apps” to connect to Zwift.
Something else that you might find really interesting is the lack of transmission. Pedals are connected to the drive and there is no belt or chain. So there is no need for extra maintenance and of course, that means less noise as well.
An additional awesome feature is direct watt tracking which is as accurate as it gets with -/+ 1 percent (%). Just like the Wahoo, Stages, and Atom, the Neo gives you accurate wattage feedback based on real data. What sets Tacx NEO apart though, is the right and left leg power balance. It’s because instead of one sensor, this bike has two sensors, one to measure your right foot watt (power output) and one to measure your left foot watt (power output).
In terms of adjustment, the NEO bike adjusts to all directions both on the handlebars and on the saddle. If you are between 5’3″ to 7′, you should be able to have the perfect indoor bike fit for safe, low-impact comfortable indoor training.
The gear shifters built into the handlebars and the handlebars themselves are more similar to road bikes than those on a standard spin bike like Nordictrack S22i. To create resistance, this bike has an electronic magnetic system which is smart allows applications to control it for you.
Just like Wahoo, the Kickr has a performance seat that has less padding but also minimum chafing and touching. Although bike seats are more of a personal choice, I don’t think you have any problem with the one on the Kickr as long as you are using padded indoor cycling shorts.
The most recently manufactured Neo bikes include 3-hole cranks (170/172.5/175) but the older ones used to ship with 1-hole cranks (172.5). I know for sure, the ones on Amazon have 3-holes. If I am not wrong the Tacx NEO Plus comes with 5-hole cranks.
The actual pedals are not included which I think is not fair. They could and should have included a pair of triple-sided pedals with the bike. One of those that can fit SPD, Look, and/or shoe cage.
For extras, this indoor cycling bike has everything you need to enjoy Zwift training. From a tablet holder to fans, and bottle holders, it’s all included with the bike. So, no need to spend more on accessories.
Considering everything on this smart indoor cycling bike with auto-resistance, I think you are getting lots of quality and unique technology for the price.
But if you are not used to road bikes, I am not sure you would enjoy the road cycling design of this Zwift bike. It’s built by and for road cyclists who want to train indoors. So, it’s not to ride in a relaxed/comfortable posture as let’s say Nordictrack S15i.
Number 3: Stages SB20 Zwift Indoor Cycling Bike
Stages SB20 bike is definitely sturdier than Tacx Neo and Wahoo Kickr but the brand hasn’t recently been as focused on indoor cycling as Garmin and Wahoo so it’s not as advanced in technology and design as those bikes.
Plus, those brands have more resources to keep their indoor bike software updated to date with new features. For instance, if there is an issue with Zwift compatibility, they are quicker to find a solution than Stages.
However, Stages Sb20 is sturdier than both competitors and it doesn’t have the leg-rub issue because its design doesn’t incorporate a front tube. So, no matter the shape of your inner knees or thighs, you are going to be comfortable.
The Stages SB20 for Zwift spinning workouts will not disappoint you. There are several factors that make the SB20 one of the top 3 indoor bikes for Zwift cycling application in reviews and comparisons.
As for the resistance, it is as smart as every other indoor bike for Zwift I tried and featured in this buying guide. It’s electronically magnetic and allows Zwift, Peloton, and several other applications to control the bike’s resistance.
For resistance adjustment, there are controls built on the handlebars and to change virtual gears, you can use the shifters which is pretty cool and of course similar to Neo and Kickr.
Like the new Tacx NEO Bike Plus, you can customizable shifters to replicate Shimano and Campagnolo. The only issue with the gear system is that it’s not displayed on the Zwift app but I heard they are working with Zwift to display gears.
One thing that Stages SB20 has but its competitors don’t have is the heavy flywheel and toothed belt (timing) transmission. This bike is equipped with a 50-pound flywheel and top-of-the-line drive to deliver a smooth ride.
Unlike poly-v belts or chains, SB20’s toothed belt drive doesn’t need frequent lubrication and/or adjustment. They usually use these belts for car engine transmissions so for an indoor bike it should last a lifetime.
At 157MM Q-factor, the SB20 is a little bit wider than the Neo and Kickr but nothing crazy here. It’s shouldn’t affect the pedal stroke efficacy.
Although the bike is often shipped without any pedals, the thread is 9/16 so you should easily be able to find compatible pedals on the market. The SB20 has four crank lengths to choose from: 165mm, 170mm, 172.5mm, and 175mm.
As you probably already know, Stage is famous for making great power meter cranks, sensors, and pedals. So, you can expect excellent accuracy from SB20 indoor bike. There are two separate power meters for each crank to provide you with right and left leg balance as well as overall power output. The accuracy is -/+ 1 which is as good as it gets among indoor cycling bikes for Zwift cycling workouts.
There is no screen on the bike but it has Bluetooth and ANT+ connectivity so you can pair your device (IOS or Android) and track your stats on Zwift, Stages, or any other indoor cycling application of you choice.
Wirelessly the Stages SB20 sends your RPM/Cadence, Speed, Gear, and Watt. Due to its electronic magnetic resistance, you need to keep the bike plugged into a standard outlet socket to be able to change intensity.
There are two USB charging ports so you can charge your iPad and phone when cycling on Zwift and an adjustable tablet holder that can fit all major tablet and iPad sizes.
If you are between 4’10” to 6’10” and weigh less than 350 lbs, you should be able to comfortably use the Stage SB20 while cycling on Zwift at home. Its handlebars and seat adjust horizontally and vertically to make sure a comfortable bike fits everyone.
Number 4: WattBike Atom Zwift Cycling Bikes
When I was in search of the best exercise bikes for Zwift training application, I came across the Wattbike Atom many times and decided to try this bike and see it up close.
Well, it stands true to its name and popularity. It’s a sturdy indoor bike with some cool features that you would normally find in smart indoor bikes. But to be honest, I liked the bike but I found nothing unique about this indoor bike.
For instance, with the Wahoo Kickr I got an incline and decline system, with Tacx Neo I got a cobblestone simulation, and with the Stages Sb20, I got a 50-pound flywheel.
Each of these features was unique to that specific bike that you wouldn’t find in the other Zwift-compatible bikes. But with the Wattbike Atom, there is nothing really unique. Probably that’s the reason this bike is cheaper than the Wahoo, Tacx, and Stages.
Plus, its horizontal saddle adjustment requires tools which is not handy. It also has double transmissions (belt+chain) and double flywheels (front+rear) which makes it a little louder and requires more maintenance than the competition.
Anyways, although it may not have anything superior compared to the other top three Zwift cycling indoor bikes that I mentioned and reviewed above, it is still one of the top 5 spin bikes for Zwift in the market.
The Wattbike Atom uses an electronic magnetic resistance with 22 levels so you get plenty of intensity. It’s also smart which means Zwift and many other compatible fitness applications can control the resistance automatically.
There is no incline or decline system so the bike doesn’t tilt forward or backward like Wahoo Kickr or ProForm TDF, but it does have 11 virtual gearing systems. Unlike SB20, the gear and intensity levels are both displayed on the Zwift application so that’s good news.
It’s a realistic road-like ride with descent simulation, gear feels feature triggers on the handlebars to what you would feel on your road bike while you are shifting gears.
You can virtually shift /customize gears to change the gear ratio of your virtual drivetrain through the Wattbike Hub app (version 5.1.0).
You can either customize your gears/ratio or choose from the three preset gearing options from the Wattbike Hub application; compact, semi-compact, and climbing.
The Compact options is 12 Speed endurance groupset, 50/34T chainset, 11-34t cassette. Then there is the Semi-compact which is 12 Speed racing groupset, 52/36T chainset, 11-30t cassette. Lastly, there is the Climbing which has 11 Speed gravel/adventure groupset, 46/30T chainset, 11-36t cassette.
I know the old Wattbike Atom doesn’t have these gearing features but the new Wattbike Atom (Next Generation) and the Wattbike AtomX has all these preset and customizable gears.
Designed for cyclists and triathletes, the pedals, handlebars, bar tape, saddle, and the bike’s integrated crank are all customizable. The only thing that is not customizable is the crank length option of 170mm.
Although Wattbike Atom comes with basic flat pedals, you can easily find suitable replacement bike pedals because they are 9/16 pedal thread. Its 160mm is also not bad for most professional cyclists.
You can adjust the bike to fit riders from 5 feet all the way to 6 feet 5 inches and up to 300 pounds. I think that’s a good range of bike fit.
The bike comes equipped with ANT+, FE-C, Bluetooth and allows wireless firmware updates which are essential for Zwift cycling. Wattbike offers a home use warranty of 2 years on drive and electronics and 6 months on wear-and-tear items.
Wattbike’s unique analysis tool, Polar View, visualizes your pedal stroke in real time, showing left/right leg balance as well as how you apply force.
This allows you to optimize your technique as you ride and see your Pedalling Effectiveness Score (PES) improve over time, before translating those gains to the road.
There is no cooling fan for long summer indoor rides but that’s an easy fix with a cooling fan. Wattbike power measurement is incredibly accurate and consistent within 1%. It’s little features like this that sets the Wattbike Atom apart from the competition.
Number 5: Echelon EX5 Smart Connect Zwift Bike
The Echelon EX5 is nowhere as close to the other four compatible Zwift indoor bikes in this list in terms of technology. It’s just a simple spin bike with a straightforward belt-driven transmission and a flywheel.
There are no road-bike handlebars, gear shifters, or virtual gearing to change your wheel ratio. Its watt reading is also not accurate and there is no left and right leg balance. Plus, its Q-factor of 200mm is a little too wide for elite cyclists and power efficiency.
Also, it needs the QZ bridge application to properly sync to Zwift. So, unlike the other stationary bikes, I reviewed here, it’s not Zwift compatible right out of the box.
It’s mainly because Echelon built this indoor bike for its own application (Echelon Fit app). But thankfully Roberto, a firmware developer created the QZ application that has made many spin bikes work seamlessly with the Zwift.
Now, enough with the cons, let me tell you what you get with the Echelon EX-5 Zwift indoor cycle. It is a sturdy simple spin bike with electronic magnetic resistance and Zwift compatibility at an affordable price.
It’s almost $2500 less expensive than the Kickr and around $1500 less expensive than the other three spin bikes that connect to Zwift.
In its own price range, it’s the best spin bike to use with the Zwift application because it has automatic resistance and easily connects to Zwift using the QZ app.
You can connect it to Zwift, Peloton, Strava, Kinomap, and the Echelon Fit applications to access thousands of fitness classes and start cardio with the application of your choice.
There is no screen/console on the bike but it does have a screen mount that adjusts and fit all major Tablet and iPad sizes. The Zwift indoor bike has Bluetooth sensors that track cycling workouts and sync your metrics, including estimated watt, resistance level, distance, time, speed, and cadence.
If you then connect a Bluetooth or ANT+ Heart Rate Monitor to Zwift, you can also monitor your heart rate and accurate calories. Additionally, it has USB charging ports so you can keep charging your phone and tablet while using them on the bike.
There are 32 levels of magnetic resistance that can be adjusted manually via the knob or through the QZ application (or Echelon wireless control). For Zwift uphills and downhills it adjusts the intensity automatically.
On the Peloton app, you can also set it to adjust the resistance automatically when the class instructor calls out a new resistance level. If you want to stop the flywheel immediately, you can press down the resistance knob to stop the workout completely.
I know the Peloton has 100 levels and the EX5 has 32 levels but that’s not an issue because the QZ application calculates the resistance for you to match the intensity on the app. On the QZ app, there is also the option to set “offset” and “gain” in case resistance is too easy to too difficult.
Another thing that I like about the Echelon EX5 is the stable frame construction with durable steel for up to 300 lbs weight capacity.
There are also two bottle holders on the handlebars for quick hydration and transport wheels for ease of moving the stationary bike.
Last but not least is the adjustability on this spin bike for Zwift. Unlike many other Zwift indoor cycling bikes that I tried, this one adjusts to fit most people. The saddle and the handlebar are both horizontally and vertically adjustable to fit people between 5 feet and 6 feet 4 inches.
What is Zwift?
If you have found a way to this article, you should have a basic knowledge of what Zwift is, but if it is new to you, here is a brief explanation of what Zwift is.
Zwift is a digital cycling application that allows you to cycle as part of an online community. You get real-time feedback from the amount of effort you exert on the bike. Your pedal strokes and power output move the digital cycling avatar through various landscapes as you exercise.
Zwift adds a fun, competitive, and social aspect to indoor cycling that can push you to a new personal best and improve the effectiveness of your workout.
Can you connect any spin bike to Zwift application?
The short answer is no unless you are willing to use cycling accessories such as power pedals or cadence sensors! If you don’t want to add/buy the mentioned accessories, you need to look for two aspects to ensure that your spin bike can connect to the Zwift application.
Firstly, you need to ensure that the spin bike has the technology and connectivity to connect to Zwift. As a minimum, you will need a spin bike that has Bluetooth and/or ANT+. Many spin bikes have Bluetooth (sometimes shown as BLE or Bluetooth Low Energy) and ANT+ connectivity. However, you will find that the cheapest spin bike models often lack this connectivity.
Secondly, you need to double-check that the manufacturer of your spin bike has not limited the connectivity options. This is either they want you to use their own app to track your data, have restricted access to a select few third-party apps, or despite having BLE or ANT+, you still need to get an extra accessory to connect a phone/computer/laptop and subsequently get it working with Zwift.
It’s very common for companies to make smart spin bikes that only work with their own application so you are hooked up with their heavy subscription fee. For instance, the NordicTrack S22i and S15i and Peloton bike are smart indoor bikes with HD Screens but they only work/sync with the application of the brand. Bottom line is that Bluetooth and ANT/+ don’t always mean Zwift compatibility.
Which spin bikes work with Zwift but don’t have auto-resistance?
This is a summary of the most popular spin bikes that work with Zwift without additional accessories. Although they have magnetic resistance, they are only manually adjustable so Zwift can’t do auto resistance adjustment when you uphills or downhills. For more information and to see if there are any new additions, check out the support page on Zwift’s site.
|Names||Incline/Decline||Controls Resistance||Transmits Data|
|Life Fitness IC8||No||No||(ANT+ and BLE)|
|Keiser M3i||No||No||(ANT+ and BLE)|
|Stages SC3||No||No||(ANT+ and BLE)|
|Diamondback 1260||No||No||(ANT+ and BLE)|
Can Zwift control the resistance/gear of any spin bike?
Getting a spin bike that syncs with Zwift, including controlling the resistance, takes the idea of immersive indoor cycling to another level. However, only a few indoor bikes have the capability and technology to hand over control of the resistance to the Zwift.
Your spin bike should have an electronically adjustable magnetic resistance to allow an application like Zwift control the intensity level. Spin Bike with manually adjustable magnetic resistance can’t allow the Zwift or any other application/software to control the resistance.
So, you would have to change your resistance by manually turning the knob. It’s not the worst thing but some people prefer to let Zwift control the resistance so they can focus on the workout.
In 2022 it’s not difficult to find electronic magnetic resistance that allows auto-resistance with the Zwift. You will, however, need to be willing to pay a little more for such functionality. The Stages SB20, for example, allows Zwift to control the resistance as you ride and follow the track on Zwift, but this is the top-of-range indoor bike by Stages and, as such, has a price tag to match.
If you are relatively new to indoor cycling or Zwift, you should not feel like you need to relinquish all control of the spin bikes resistance to Zwift, but it does supercharge the immersive and life-like feel of completing tours and sportives in the Zwift world. Here are a few of the indoor spin bikes that allow Zwift to control the resistance while you are riding:
How to connect a spin bike to the Zwift application?
There are two main ways that your spin bike will connect to Zwift if it’s not already compatible with the Zwift application. You can either use Speed and Cadence Sensors or even better, a pair of Power Meter pedals.
Both have their merits, and the Zwift app will help you estimate your Power and FTP (Functional Threshold Power) even if your spin bike is only transmitting data for speed and cadence. If you are serious about competing professionally in the Zwift universe, you will need a power meter to record your output accurately.
You can use Zwift on your laptop, tablet, or smartphone. Connecting your spin bike is as simple as downloading the app and creating an account (Monthly subscription costs apply to make the most of all the features). iOS and Android are now supported, but try to create a set-up with a large screen, such as a TV or projector, for a fully immersive experience.
Start pedaling on your spin bike, and you will then be able to see your spin bike on the paired devices section. Before kicking off, make sure you understand what data your spin bike will be transmitting—I.e. Power Source, Speed Sensor, Cadence or Controllable.
As of 2022, Zwift boasted of having over 3 million cyclists using their app. You do not get that many users if your app is full of glitches or is challenging to connect. It is straightforward to connect your spin bike to the Zwift application.
If you are in doubt and having real problems, then reach out to the Zwift service team. Remember, this is a paid service, so they are responsible for ensuring that you can use the service you are paying for.
Is using a spin bike with Zwift good for losing weight?
There is a large cycling community on Zwift. Many of them have joined the indoor cycling revolution as they appreciate that it is an ‘easy’ and efficient way of maximizing time training. That does not mean that everyone that uses Zwift is doing it for the love of cycling or improving their power output in time for the next racing season.
Zwift can help you lose weight, but it will not do the cycling for you. Zwift is effective at helping you lose weight because it allows you to make clear and track attainable goals relating to improving power and speed.
There are many different workout options on Zwift, but it is excellent at replicating a high-intensity workout. You will need to increase the resistance when you go on inclines or discover a desire to increase your cadence when coming up to the finish line. When done as part of a consistent training plan, this increases your heart rate and will result in weight loss.
Even if you are not thinking about competing in any of the races Zwifts hosts, having an avatar and something to distract you while riding can help you lose weight. If you are not a massive fan of cycling, then the animations alone and almost gameplay feel will help you reach your weight loss goals.
What accessories do you need to make the most of Zwift?
Once you have found a spin bike that works with Zwift without additional accessories, you can still get a few other things to elevate your indoor cycling experience.
Cooling Fan and Floor Mat
This does not have to be fancy or expensive. A desktop USB fan or a standard standing cycling cooling fan will do the job, but you will benefit from that little extra wind flow to help keep you a bit cooler.
An exercise mat will keep your spin bike more stable, help to dampen their sound and avoid your sweat from pooling on your floor (or seeping into your carpet).
Cycling Shoes and Shorts
I know, more of an item of clothing, but if you are new to indoor cycling, a decent pair of cycling shoes are a must. Indoor cycling shoes help you get the best power output while also helping you prevent unnecessary injury.
Indoor cycling is also the perfect opportunity to try using clip-in cycling shoes, as there is no fear of falling sideways if you forget to unclip in time! In terms of cycling clothing, a pair of padded spin bike shorts is the most important piece of clothing for a comfortable Zwift cycling ride.
A Trainer Desk or Tablet Holder
One of the two (tablet holder or laptop desk) is a must for Zwift cycling, especially if your indoor bike doesn’t have an HD screen and you need to use your own screen to ride on Zwift app.
I personally love the turbo trainer desks as they can be used with trainers and spin bikes plus they don’t stay in the way. But if you want to spend less, you may want to consider a tablet holder that attaches to the handlebars of the bike. On a tablet holder, you can’t put your laptop, drinks, and other accessories.
To conclude, you must do your research when looking for the best spin bike. Not all exercise bikes have been created equal, and there is no denying that Zwift has helped accelerate the popularity of indoor cycling.
If you are serious about losing weight, improving your fitness, and becoming more involved with the cycling community, then using Zwift as part of your indoor cycling regime is a no-brainer. However, not all spin bikes work with Zwift without additional accessories.
Although you can get accessories that make a regular spin bike ‘smart’, potentially giving you the chance to connect to Zwift, it is a much more complicated way of doing it. It is also vital that you research the speed/cadence/power sensors you are getting, as not all accessories sync up with Zwift. Elevate your indoor cycling experience and buy a spin bike that works with Zwift without additional accessories.
Last but not least, keep in mind the feature that allows an indoor cycling bike to change resistance with Zwift is known as “smart electronic magnetic resistance”. Not manual magnetic or manual friction resistance which you can read more about it in my spin bike resistance guide. Aside from this feature (smart electronic magnetic resistance), the indoor bike HAS TO be compatible with Zwift to change resistance. As an example, Nordictrack S22i and Peloton Plus both have “smart electronic magnetic resistance” but neither of them allows Zwift to change resistance. This marks the end of the article but if you have any questions related to Zwift and indoor cycling, please leave a comment below.