12 Zwift Cycling Tips To Get You Started

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12 Zwift Cycling Tips To Get You Started
Photo by Rich Maciver

It’s crazy to think that when I first wrote this post, it had been 10 months since I had properly ridden outdoors. Zwift was our saving grace when we wanted to continue riding, and keep the social and community feeling.

A weekend in Lanzarote in February 2020 was the best memories of outdoor cycling I could’ve asked for though. But upon return to the U.K, I had little choice other than jumping onboard the indoor cycling wagon.

Coincidentally, I’d decided to upgrade to smart trainer while I was in Lanzarote (before all this madness) so it arrived not long after my trip. I signed up for the 30 day Zwift trial that came with the trainer, and the rest is, as they say, is history…

Learning the basics about Zwift was quite a learning curve. As with cycling itself, there are hard facts, made up rules and of course, etiquette. If you’re pretty new to the platform, like I was back then, these simple Zwift tips should help you hit the road running… or rolling…

Photo by Rich Maciver

The Story Behind the Pictures: When the restrictions in March hit my calendar, like so many other creatives, completely emptied. As the months passed, indoor cycling kept me sane but the pressure to create personal photography projects and be proactive became overwhelming. Until one night, just as I was falling asleep, one idea rushed to the front of my mind: Pain Caves.

Indoor training has become such a big part of peoples lives through 2020. Visiting riders I’ve tracked down via social media and word of mouth, I embarked on the journey to document those staying indoors and putting the miles in.

1/ Download Zwift Companion App

Download the Zwift Companion app onto your phone asap. It’s one way to connect your devices to the game, but it also gives you access to loads of on-the-go features like signing up for event, giving friends kudos, and arranging meet-ups.

You can also use the app while you’re riding to chat, take ‘photos’ (i.e screenshots) as well as following along your route or workout.

Originally, I found connecting my devices through companion app to be the most reliable, but since I switched from the Elite Direto to the Wahoo KICKR V5, I’ve connected directly to my laptop via bluetooth.

2/ Choosing A Zwift Route To Explore

One of the best ways to get to know Zwift, is to just in and start exploring routes. At the top of the dashboard when you sign in, click on the world symbol to check out the routes in Watopia (always available) and the guest worlds for the day.

How To Choose A Zwift Route To Explore

One of the most recent updates to Zwift is that you can actually see in-game which routes you’ve ridden before – they have the green star to the left.

3/ A Lot Of Routes Have a “Lead-in”

Until recently, lead-ins – the distance between where you are dropped into the game and where the route actually starts – which could be quite substantial, and also unclear. For example, you’d pick a 20 mile route but could end up riding an extra 5 miles to get to the start.

Now Zwift includes lead-in information in the route information (see image below – total distance says it includes lead-in)

A Lot Of Zwift Routes Have a "Lead-in"

4/ Get To Know The Action Bar

Now you’ve downloaded the Zwift Companion app, and you’re getting to know you’re away around Watopia, you can start to utilise some in-game stuff through the companion app while riding.

When you open companion app during it ride, it automatically opens the game dashboard with loads of buttons at the bottom. This is known as the ‘action bar’.

Here are some of the actions:

  • Camera – take a picture which can be uploaded to Strava with your ride.
  • Toast – actually shouts out “I’m Toast” while you ride. 
  • Thumbs Up – says “Ride On” (use this one a lot, there’s a an achievement badge for it)
  • Circle with Line – thats a Bell and rings like on a bike

If you wanna find out more about the action bar, you can read about that on the Zwift website.

5/ Earn Your Route Badges

With well over 100 routes available in Zwift, there are route badges that you can collect, for completing each route. When you’ve unlocked the achievement, having ridden through the arch, you’ll see a blue banner pos up in-game.

One great thing about these badges is that you can also collect them while doing meet-ups and workouts, which means you can do all three at the same time.

I’ve just passed the halfway mark for all the badges; routes and other achievements. One badge I’m gonna be chasing soon is the Working From Home Badge. To get this achievement badge, you need to ride 10 km in a single activity for 14 days in a row.

6/ Why Do Other Riders Have Books or Laptops?

Did you know that riders with a “book” or “laptop” displayed on the handlesbars of their avatar are doing a Workout? And that the colour of the screen indicates the zone they’re riding.

When you do a workout in Zwift, you can still choose a route to do it on. You won’t “feel” the actual route but instead will be working the efforts as per your workout. Remember, you can still get route badges this way.

7/ Use Your Power Ups

While riding in-game, you can earn what are known as power ups. Usually when you ride under an arch – like at the end of a sprint – you can randomly get one – as long as you don’t have an unused one already.

If you have one, you’ll see it in the circle in the top left of your screen. Press the power up to activate it and make the most of whatever it treats you to.

For example, the feather reduces your body weight by 105 for 15 second, making you lighter so use it on a climb. Whereas the little truck is for drafting (30 seconds worth) so useful to use downhill or when riding on your own.

8/ Group Rides & Leaders

In Zwift, you can join group rides. There are so many scheduled each day with different clubs to cater for all levels and intensity desired. The “leader” in any group ride or meet-up can always be identified by the yellow beacon above their head. If there is an official sweep rider at the back (in a group ride) they will have a red arrow above their head.

9/ How Do I Get The Shiny Bike?

Once you’ve been riding on Zwift for a little while. you’ll notice people riding around a bike with shiny wheels.

This is the Zwift Concept Z1 bike (aka TRON bike), which you get from completing the Climb Mt. Everest Challenge. You have to climb 50,000 meters to get the Tron bike!

Now I’m not a fan of climbing but I’ve still signed up and am currently 34% of the way through the challenge. So if you do want the shiny bike, select the challenge asap to start ticking that elevation off.

Here’s how to select your challenge: During your ride, tap or hit any key to pull up the Zwift menu. Look for and click SELECT A CHALLENGE to open a new window. Depending on your experience level, you’ll find the available challenges to choose from.

The Climb Mt. Everest challenge is actually 29,028 ft (8,847 m) of climbing – but you need to keep going to 50,000m for the concept bike.

10/ Zwift Bike Choice Matters

Did you know that switching wheels and bikes dependent on the course can improve or hinder your speed at the same power?

We get a few standard bikes in our garage from Zwift but you can also shop till you drop (pun intended) in the Zwift drop shop, using drops earned from riding.

I recently bought myself the Liv Devote for routes requiring a gravel bike. Rode it on one of the fastest Maker Island routes – Fine and Sandy – and loved it.

Zwift Bike Choice Matters

You should also know that choosing a Time Trial bike takes away all drafting benefit in-game. So avoid it if you’re doing a race or group ride. You also won’t be able to earn any power ups.

11/ How To Voice Chat In-Game

Did you know Discord app is a popular free app to chat live while you ride? Lots of groups on Zwift use it.

Tip – if you’re on Zwift search for me – Elle Linton – and let’s ride together!

I only discovered Discord through Zwift but have now built out a whole community server on the platform – keep it simpElle studio – including channels specifically for indoor rides and meet-ups. You can join the server here to find out more about our meet-ups.

12/ How To Level Up Quicker

Did you know you collect XP (experience points) faster if you have your Zwift set as metric? So ditch the miles, and get used to km.

Your XP are what help you to level up in Zwift. While you’re riding you can see your level at the top of the screen. There are now 60 rider levels to work your way through unlocking various pieces of kit and access at each level.

I just treated myself to the DT Swiss ARC 1100 DiCut 62 wheels, which cost 184,600 Drops (and require level 6+).

I’ve kept this post updated over the years and through the big Zwift updates, and I know there is so much information already out there, but sometimes, it’s good to just have a few basic tips to get started.

Come ride with me to pick up heaps more tips but if you have any questions, or tips to share, drop them in the comments below.

Ride On!


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