TrainerRoad vs. Zwift

Trainer Road vs. Zwift

TrainerRoad vs. Zwift: What’s Best for Your Indoor Training

With summer rapidly drawing to a close for those of us in the northern hemisphere, its time to start thinking about how you will spend the long winter months training for next season.  While some people might brave the short days and cold temperatures and ride outside year round, the more cowardly of us hide inside and ride our trainers, going nowhere fast, to get in the winter miles.

With the boom in smart trainer options and the growth in popularity of interactive training programs, two programs have come out as leaders in the field: TrainerRoad and Zwift.  While both programs have the same basic function, making riding indoors more enjoyable, there are big differences between the two.  In this article, we will take a look at both TrainerRoad and Zwift and help you decide which program is better for you.

TrainerRoad

TrainerRoad offers a library of hundreds of power based workouts as well as large selection of structured training plans tailored to your goals.  The certified coach designed workouts provide power goals which are based on your FTP.  Which is perfect for the self coached athlete who is looking for some structured training in order to get the most out of their training time.  In a way, TrainerRoad takes all the good parts of training outdoors, concentrates it, and gets ride of all the bad (traffic, stop signs, changing road conditions that stop you from maintaining constant power, etc.) in order to allow you to get the most out of your training.

All you need to get started with TrainerRoad is a speed sensor and a supported trainer and TrainerRoad’s Virtual Power will take care of the rest.  TrainerRoad also works with a power meter and smart trainers connected to your trainer via ANT+.  Although a smart trainer will make it easier to hit the power targets, it is not necessary to get the full experience.  In fact, a smart trainer that locks you in at your target may be detrimental as it doesn’t allow you to practice pacing.

TrainerRoad does require you to provide your own entertainment as the one screen instructions and graphs, which are great for doing your workouts with, aren’t that enthralling.  But it is easy to set up the TrainerRoad software to be at the bottom of your computer screen so that you can still watch your favorite movie or TV show, or re-watch all your favorite races.

Personally, I used TrainerRoad all last winter and their Sweat Spot Base plan converted me from my previous stance on traditional base training.

TrainerRoad is best for the rider who is looking to get the most out of their training time and want to focus on getting quality work done.  Riding indoors isn’t only for the winter.

Zwift

Zwift, on the other hand, looks to bring riding outside indoors by immersing you in a virtual world.  Zwift is like turning cycling into an online game where you can interact with other players much in the same way as you would outdoors.  The immersive environments, which include the island of Watopia, the Richmond World Championships, and now London, occupy your senses (even more so with Tacx’s Road Feel) and help your indoor training time fly by.

While you can get started on Zwift with just a speed sensor, a supported trainer, and virtual power (also a power meter and ANT+ connectivity), a smart trainer is needed to get the most of your virtual experience.  A smart trainer will allow you to experience all the hills, descents, different road surfaces, and drafting other riders like you would outdoors by automatically changing the resistance.  Without a smart trainer, you will continue to ride at the same power while your avatar just slows down or speeds up with no change in your sensation.

Zwift has added workouts to the program and the ability to create your own which is great for the rider who is looking to do a little more than just ride.

The social aspect of Zwift is one of the biggest draws for many cyclists as you can catch with other riders and meet up for group rides similar to how you would in real life.  And for the riders who enjoy a little competition and the video game side of things, their are also Sprint and KOM jerseys up for grabs on Zwift.

Zwift is best suited for the rider who is looking for a completely immersive experience to make riding indoors more like riding outdoors because we would all be rather riding outside anyways.

TrainerRoad vs. Zwift Conclusion

TrainerRoad and Zwift are both amazing programs that have greatly changed the way we train indoors.  Gone are the days of spinning away in a dark, damp basement while watching Spinerval VHS or recordings of the Tour de France.  We are now in a period of technologically advanced pain caves full of modern amenities to make our indoor training as convenient and as productive as possible.

Hopefully this little write up will help you choose which program is best for you.  But it doesn’t have to be TrainerRoad vs. Zwift.  It can be TrainerRoad and Zwift and you can be like some riders and combine both programs.

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  • Northstar_702

    The videos still have a place too. I like to combine the Sufferfest videos with TrainerRoad. It turns the subjective 1 to 10 effort scale on the video into real wattage targets. Their content is fun too, like coming up alongside Miguel Indurain in the TDF and attacking. It takes a bit of imagination I suppose.

    • I agree that The Sufferfest is fun and still has a place but now that it’s app based I haven’t spent anytime on it so I can’t make a comment. If you’re looking for structured training it lacks the library size of TrainerRoad and even Zwift.

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  • ibc

    If you have more than one Ant dongle you can do both. I run TR on my iPad while simultaneously running Zwift on my desktop. Sometimes it’s nice to have some eye-candy.