It’s happened – the dark, gloomy, cold, wet days and nights of winter have drawn in, and with it, we know first-hand how motivation to get out and ride your bike can freefall. This means, despite our often lofty goals and ambitious plans for the coming year, training plans stall until the weather has turned, going out for the odd outing when the skies clear. Surely there’s a better solution?

Cyclists have relied on the turbo for winter ‘miles’ for decades but, at the same time, indoor training has also been long maligned as boring and contrary to the spirit of what riding a bike is all about. However, interactive platforms like Zwift have taken indoor training by the scruff of the neck to make riding the turbo a stimulating, entertaining and, above all else, efficient way to spend your time on the bike.

- What is Zwift and how can you get started? -

If you’re wanting to give your winter riding a shot in the legs, Zwift could be the solution you’re looking for. With the help of ex-pro rider and cycling coach Dean Downing, we’ve identified six ways Zwift can make this your best winter yet.

Zwift, indoor training, turbo trainer, turbo training

Zwift, indoor training, turbo trainer, turbo training

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Stay warm, dry and safe

One of the main reasons why riders don't get out at much as they'd like in winter is the weather. You open the curtains, and it looks grey and wet, still dark out, or perhaps there’s ice on the drive making you (wisely) think twice about venturing out. Or, perhaps you’ve just finished work and daylight has already disappeared. Whatever the reason, Zwift can help you overcome it.

“For me personally, Zwift helps massively in the winter because I hate riding in the rain and I've now become a fair weather cyclist," says Downing.

“Training after work, or in the dark and in the cold, can sometimes be unsafe. Zwift allows you to do your training properly in the safety of your own home or garage. You can replicate a road session on Zwift, getting in that valuable training regardless of the conditions."

Quick and convenient

As well as helping to keep you out of the nasty and sometimes dangerous winter weather and road conditions, Zwift is also ideal for the time-crunched cyclist, who needs to balance training alongside work, family and social commitments.

“Zwift is a very convenient training option for the time-crunched cyclist who is looking to work to a training programme," he says. “For me, the benefit of doing three intense dedicated training sessions a week on Zwift and maybe getting out at the weekend, far outweigh doing nothing in the week because of a lack of time."

Ultimately, Zwift allows riders to squeeze quick, convenient training sessions into an otherwise busy midweek schedule. Helpfully, riding indoors also means less preparation time - you don’t have to don all your winter layers after worrying about how many you should wear, nor do you have to contend with traffic or ride out of town to find uninterrupted training roads.

Additionally, your bike will stay nice and clean, too (apart from the inevitable sweat!), so you won’t need to spend time with a bucket and soapy water either.

Zwift, indoor training, turbo trainer, turbo training

Zwift, indoor training, turbo trainer, turbo training

Efficient training

The good news here is, while you might spend three to five hours outside on the bike at the weekend (we all need our outdoor fix), Zwift allows you to get far more training bang for your buck when time is short. Zwift’s structured workouts and rides encourage you to ride to defined effort levels, eliminating the ‘junk miles’ and targeting specific areas of your fitness.

That’s particularly beneficial for recreational cyclists who who aren’t full time riders, according to Downing. In fact, he says most of his coaching clients ride on Zwift throughout the year, not just the winter, in order to hit key training targets in a controllable environment.

- Six things you need to know about... training zones -

“Zwift sessions can be tailored to each individual riders’ training plan and, more specifically, their own personal training zones," he says, highlighting the ability to create a custom zone-based workout in order to hit a specific area of fitness, or to join a prescribed group workout to train with other riders. That leads us nicely onto...

Zwift Group Workouts

Zwift Group Workouts

Keep it social

Indoor training has a reputation for being a lonely pursuit – it’s just you and the trainer. Even if you have music to listen to or a film to watch, turbo training certainly isn’t renowned for its social interaction. With Zwift, however, you can ride virtually with friends or join a group ride/workout.

“The new group workout rides are fantastic," says Downing. “My coached riders can jump on these rides and do their training session without the worry of getting dropped from the group, yet still train within their own personal training zones based around their FTP.

“Virtually riding in a big group really does make the time fly by when you are in the garage, whether that’s as part of a race or a group workout."

Get your competitive fix

There’s also the competitive edge that Zwift can offer. During the winter, unless you’re out on the cyclo-cross course, it can be hard to get your competitive juices flowing. Some of us, after all, are competitive animals!

Zwift not only offers organised group rides and workouts, but also sets up virtual races and gran fondo-style rides all year round, with events and classifications organised by FTP and power-to-weight ratios to help ensure close and competitive riding.

- Five training sessions for the time-pressured cyclist -

“I've done a few Zwift races myself and wow, they’re hard efforts, but they’re a lot of fun," Downing says.

“I think the rivalry and competition element of a Zwift race is great," he adds. "You can race against your friends, but potentially hundreds of miles apart. That’s fun, and it’s valuable because you’re likely to push yourself because you don't want to get dropped, just like in a real world race."

Zwift, Dimension Data, screen grab 2, pic - Zwift

Zwift, Dimension Data, screen grab 2, pic - Zwift

Ride with professional riders

It’s not just everyday riders who can use Zwift to stay fit; it’s becoming more and more common to see pros using the platform too, often in organised events. As a result, you can test yourself against the world's best riders in a way that you can’t on the open road.

We all know the story of 2016 Paris-Roubaix winner Mat Hayman, who used Zwift to rebuild and hone his condition before winning the biggest race of his career, but there are also organised events, such as Team Dimension Data’s recent online training camp, in which riders like Mark Cavendish, Steve Cummings and Edvald Boasson Hagen all trained alongside other users of the platform. 

Even outside of organised events, you might see the avatar of a pro cyclist flash up as you ride around one of Zwift’s three virtual worlds, with the likes of Greg Van Avermaet, Robert Hesink, Laurens Ten Dam, Thomas De Gendt, Ben Swift and Luke Rowe all regular Zwift users. Do you have what it takes to jump on their wheel?