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 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 add/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 sensor! If you don’t want to add/buy the mentioned accessories, you need to look out for two aspects to ensure that your spin bike can connect to 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. NordicTrack S22i and S15i as well as Echelon exercise bikes and Peloton bike and bike + are smart indoor bikes with HD Screens but they only work/synch with the application of the brand. Bottom line is that Bluetooth and ANT/+ doesn’t mean Zwift compatibility.
Which Spin Bikes Work with Zwift without additional accessories?
This is a summary of the most popular smart spin bikes that work with Zwift without additional accessories. These indoor bikes connect to Zwift application right out of the box so you don’t need additional accessories to make them work with Zwift. 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|
|Wahoo KICKR||Yes||Yes||(ANT+ and BLE)||Best choice|
|Tacx Neo||No||Yes||(ANT+ and BLE)||Best choice|
|Stages SB20||No||Yes||(ANT+ and BLE)|
|Wattbike Atom||No||Yes||(ANT+ and BLE)|
|Wattbike Pro||No||No||(ANT+ and BLE)|
|Life Fitness IC8||No||No||(ANT+ and BLE)|
|Keiser M3i||No||No||(ANT+ and BLE)|
|Stages SC3||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.
While your Zwift cannot control the resistance on all spin bikes, a few indoor cycles on the market come with this game-changing capability. You will, however, need to be willing to pay the top price 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 their range indoor bike 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:
What are the best spin bikes for Zwift Cycling?
Wahoo Kickr, Tacx Neo, Watt Bike Atom, and Stages SB20 are the best spin bikes for Zwift cycling application. These 4 indoor bikes connect seamlessly with the Zwift and allow the application to control their resistance, incline and decline system for uphills and downhills. They all come with electronic magnetic resistance which is better than manual magnetic.
|Names||Wahoo KICKR Smart Indoor Bike||Tacx NEO Smart Indoor Bike||Stages SB20 Smart Indoor Bike||Wattbike Atom Smart Indoor Bike|
|Incline||Electronic Incline and Decline||Not Available||Not Available||Not Available|
|Bounce||Not Available||Automatic simulation bounce of cobblestones||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|
|Crank||5 Crank length options||1 Crank length option||4 Crank length options||1 Crank length option|
|Pedals||Flat cage pedals included||Not included||Not included||Flat cage pedals included|
|Extras||None||A tablet holder and cooling fan||A tablet holder||None|
|Chafing||Possible seat tube leg rub||Possible seat tube leg rub||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)|
|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|
|Connectivity||Bluetooth & ANT+||Bluetooth & ANT+||Bluetooth & ANT+||Bluetooth & ANT+|
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 a 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 pedalling 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 Feb 2021, 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 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 maximising 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 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.