With all the events of the past two years, many people have taken up indoor cycling, and this is frequently using a smart platform such as Zwift or Peloton.
Zwift earns the bulk of its money via subscriptions, but a logical way to significantly improve profits is to expand into hardware, offering an all in one solution much like Peloton.
We have known Zwift has been developing its own indoor smart bike trainer for a few years now.
Not much has been revealed about the trainer. Most of the information has come from job listings for the hardware division. It gave us an idea of what they wanted but nothing concrete.
Recently, Zwift has been sending out surveys to users about the new hardware, and it reveals a surprising amount of information.
It has been assumed that Zwift was developing a smart bike, allowing them to offer all in one solutions with a high markup.
The reality appears to be a weird hybrid approach.
The new bike will come in two parts, the Zwift Wheel and Zwift Ride. The Wheel works like a direct drive trainer, but you can then upgrade it with the Ride for a full smart bike.
The images posted by DC Rainmaker, which I assume came from one of his readers, show quite a unique design. My personal opinion is that the design looks a bit over the top, and it looks like something that could be very plasticky.
The bike is designed to look like the Zwift Tron bike, and it even lights up like it. It is not to my tastes, but I don't really care what my equipment looks like, as long as it works well.
Zwift Wheel Specifications – Very similar to Tacx Neo 2T
The Zwift Wheel looks like a wheel-on trainer, but it is in fact, a direct drive trainer designed to look like a wheel.
The specification of this trainer is very similar to the Tacx Neo 2T, which in turn is very similar to the Tacx Neo Smart Bike.
- Max power of 2200w (Neo 2T is 2200w)
- Stated accuracy of +/- 1% (same as Neo 2T/Bike)
- Wireless game controller for your bike's handlebars for steering, braking, shifting, and other game controls
- Downhill acceleration – forward drive acceleration to increase the wheel-speed going downhill (same as Neo 2T/Bike)
- Gradient simulation but with no specific numbers givin. As this is leaning to a high-end trainer, we can assume 20-25%
- Terrain simulation similar to Tacx Neo
- Z Cog design is a single cog design with virtual shifting
Zwift Ride Z Cog Deisgn & Virtual Shifting
One unique feature this has that no other direct trainer has that I am aware of, is the Z-Cog design with the trainer and bile built around a single cog.
When you factor in the wireless game controller, this sounds like the bike will work in a fixed mechanical gear, and the wireless shifting will simulate virtual shifting.
This is exactly how smart bikes work, but direct drive trainers normally integrate into your existing bike gearing.
It may not be as pleasurable as the physical clunk of your gears changing, but it means that the bike part of Zwift Ride doesn't need any gearing.
When I was using a direct drive trainer, after a while, I started to have quite a few shifting issues, so the idea of not relying on mechanical shifting when indoors is quite appealing to me.
Zwift Wheel Pricing
The surveys seem to use different prices, the one DC Rainmaker listed was £900 for the Wheel, which is high end but not the most expensive. Another user had the Zwift Wheel priced at $1200.
Zwift Ride Smart Bike
Then you have the smart bike, which you should be able to buy after you have the Wheel, giving you an upgrade path.
This is essentially just an adjustable bike frame, and I assume the wireless controls integrated into the handlebars.
The crank arm has holes to provide different crank lengths, and the drive train is enclosed, which should help keep sweat and dirt from degrading things.
There is also some lighting to give you that Tron bike feel.
With all the expensive hardware being contained in the Wheel, the full smart bike could cost as little as £1,700, while a US user claimed it could be $2800.
At £1700, it would undercut all the options on the market. The Tacx Neo Bike is currently the cheapest if you shop around, priced at £1900-£2000
While I am not massively keen on the design, I like the concept and the potentially attractive pricing.
One of my concerns about my Tacx Neo Bike is its long-term durability and maintenance. I feel like having the bike in two separate parts with the option to use a normal bike means that if anything does go wrong, it should be a bit easier and quicker to fix.