With the cold weather starting to bite here in the Northern Hemisphere, many are turning their attention back towards finding a way to get through the winter in relative comfort.
While some will still dust off their winter road bike and cold weather cycling kit, many will break out their smart trainer or smart indoor bike instead.
For those more interested in the latter, there have been a number of exciting new products, updates to popular indoor cycling apps and expansions to online events, all of which are worth considering for the cold, dark months ahead.
New smart hardware at cheaper prices
While smart trainers used to be prohibitively expensive, prices have generally become much more competitive this year.
Some new high-end models, such as the excellent Wahoo Kickr V6 and the new Elite Justo, have seen their prices rise this year, but otherwise things are looking rosy for indoor-curious riders.
While supply issues are still affecting parts of the cycling industry, smart trainer stock levels look decent, and while this may not be true everywhere, a quick glance at a well known online search engine shows there are even deals to be had in many places (at the time of writing).
Arguably the biggest news in this category in 2022, though, was the launch of Zwift’s own direc-drive smart trainer, the Zwift Hub.
Despite costing just £449 / €499 / $499 including a choice of cassette, it offers the spec sheet and, crucially, the performance to compete with far more expensive trainers.
Though it’s not available in every territory, there are also other high-performing models available around that price point, such as the Pinnacle HC Turbo and Elite Zumo.
Better software than ever
As interest in indoor cycling increases, so too does the quantity and quality of software to support it.
Many of the major app platforms have recently released a number of significant updates, bringing new features, maps and routes to freshen things up.
New maps, roads and features on Zwift
Zwift, for example, continues to expand its roster of virtual worlds and roads, as well as its offerings for virtual group rides and racing (more on this shortly).
Most recently, Zwift announced Urukazi, an expansion to its Makuri Islands hub world. Urukazi brings eight new routes to the game, ranging from 6.3km to 40km in length, and a mix of virtual road surfaces such as tarmac, gravel and sand.
Zwift also announced a map based on Western Scotland will be released in January 2023. Designed specifically for racing, it will be used for the 2023 UCI Cycling Esports World Championships.
We don’t know all the details on this new map yet, but we do know there will be five new courses and the map will be “inspired by the bucolic Scottish landscape” as well as the city of Glasgow.
HoloReplay – a feature that displays a holographic avatar of your best segment time in-game as you ride (so you can try to beat it) – has also seen an update. While it used to be available only for segments, it can now be used for routes as well, giving you a chance to race yourself over longer distances.
Lastly, Zwift has also implemented a number of features such as segment leaderboards and Discord integration in the Zwift Companion app.
Wahoo X expands
Wahoo recently released Dunoon Crossover, a new gravel route for its Wahoo RGT virtual cycling app.
Dunoon Crossover is the latest addition to Wahoo RGT’s ‘Real Roads’ catalogue, which is a collection of virtual routes based on real-world locations.
As the name implies, Dunoon Crossover is based on a gravel riding spot in Dunoon, Scotland.
Wahoo also recently added an in-game voice chat feature for RGT Cycling. As you’d expect, this enables riders in a group to socialise, but it can also be used as a form of race radio in competitive scenarios.
Integration between Wahoo SYSTM (which focuses on training plans, rather than the virtual worlds of Wahoo RGT) and its range of Elemnt bike computers has been improved as well.
Training plans and workouts from SYSTM can now be synced directly to a Wahoo Elemnt bike computer. This enables riders to complete these workouts outside, as well as inside, giving a greater degree of flexibility when you do venture out into the depths of winter.
The results will then automatically sync with SYSTM when completed.
If you’re looking for a fresh training plan for the new year, Wahoo says it is also continuing to expand its library of workouts, plans and videos.
Wahoo X could therefore be the ideal subscription service for those looking to do a mix of virtual indoor cycling, structured training and outdoor riding, because it includes access to both Wahoo SYSTM and Wahoo RGT.
We’re logging our indoor miles as you read this, working on a comparison between Zwift, Wahoo SYSTM and TrainerRoad. Look out for the result in the new year.
Virtual racing is now a staple for many
If you don’t want to give up on your competitive spirit over the winter, then it’s worth giving Zwift racing a go.
There are plenty of regular community events, as well monthly series and official leagues to take part in, so most people will be able to find something to fit with their schedule.
The ZRacing Monthly Series, for example, enables riders to enter races as an individual (meaning you don’t need to be part of a team), and there are events year-round.
Races typically last between 30 and 40 minutes, and take place hourly every day, so they’re an easy and convenient way to get in a hard but fun workout.
For more dedicated racers, there’s also the Zwift Racing League. You’ll need to corral a group of teammates to enter these events, and they’re less flexible in terms of when races take place.
But this is the primary amateur racing series available on Zwift, so if you want to prove yourself as a virtual racer, this is where you do it.
For those not on Zwift, Wahoo RGT and Rouvy also offer virtual racing.
Rouvy, for example, recently partnered with the Vuelta a Espãna to host a series of augmented reality races based on stages from the 2022 edition of the Spanish Grand Tour. The last stages are taking place over the next couple of days.
Beyond that, there are numerous races taking place every day, with events ranging from bunch races on rolling courses to mountain time trials on iconic climbs such as the col du Galibier.
Mass-start races on Rouvy now also include a drafting mechanic to make the bunch dynamics more realistic.
As for Wahoo RGT, there are races scheduled every day.
Riders can choose from mass-start bunch races or individual time trials, and thanks to Wahoo RGT’s ‘Magic Roads’ feature (which generates virtual courses based on GPX data), there’s a huge amount of variation in the courses on offer.
Of course, if you’re focusing on base training and a steady build-up of fitness over the winter, then such high-intensity racing might not be for you.
For those with less competitive aspirations, there are also events such as the Z Fondo, Rapha Festive 500 (virtual kilometres now officially count, although this wasn’t always the case) and Tour de Zwift throughout December 2022 and January 2023.
These events are intended to serve as challenges, rather than races, but there’s nothing to stop you going for a high finishing place if you want to.
Lastly, if you fancy the chance to train with some of the best riders in the world, then the Zwift Pro Training Camp is on until 15 January 2023.This offers the chance to complete workouts inspired by professional riders such as Geraint Thomas, Wout Van Aert and Annemiek Van Vleuten.
There are also specific group workout events, which will be attended by WorldTour pros, giving you a chance to work out alongside them. Check out the events page on the Zwift Companion app for more details.