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, that 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.
What are the best spin bikes for Zwift Cycling?
Wahoo Kickr, Tacx Neo, Watt Bike Atom, Stages SB20, and Echelon EX5 are the best spin bikes for the Zwift 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. The Echelon EX5 is the best affordable indoor bike for the Zwift application but you would need to use the QZ application as a bridge.
|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||Only Vertically Adjustment||Vertical & Horizontal Adjustment||Vertical & Horizontal Adjustment|
|Saddle||Vertical & Horizontal Adjustment||Vertical & Horizontal Adjustment||Vertical & Horizontal Adjustment||Horizontal 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||A tablet holder and cooling fan||A tablet holder||None||Adjustable 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|
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 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 Zwift application. There are 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 verity 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.
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.
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 workout.
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||Verdict|
|Echelon EX15 Sport||No||No||Bluetooth||Great bike and connects to Zwift through the QZ application without any problem but it doesn’t have Auto-resistance.|
|Life Fitness IC8||No||No||(ANT+ and BLE)||Great bike but expensive, its resistance is manually adjustable and there is no incline/decline system.|
|Keiser M3i||No||No||(ANT+ and BLE)||Great quality but its resistance is only manually adjustable so you can’t do auto-resistance on Zwift.|
|Stages SC3||No||No||(ANT+ and BLE)||Solid and direct accurate watt tracking but resistance is manual and there is no incline or decline.|
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 controls 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 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, you keep in mind the feature that allows an indoor cycling bike 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 allow Zwift to change resistance. This marks the end of the article but if you have any question related to Zwift and indoor cycling, please leave a comment below.