A couple of weeks ago the Zwift roadshow landed in Leeds so what better way to get my blog entry count up than to recap the evening just in case the cycling equivalent of the Coca-Cola Christmas holiday truck rolls into your city anytime soon (I’m always thinking about you guys!)
I was fortunate enough to bag a ticket to attend this free event as the Zwift ‘party’ was hosted by my cycling club albaRosa CC. The venue was near work just outside the city centre so it was easy for me to get there early to provide help setting up and catch up with a few old friends who had the same idea. I believe this was the only UK tour date in 2016 so it was pretty cool to have the event ‘up north’ in such a strong cycling heartland and as a result most of the 250 available tickets were snapped up.
We are lucky to have cycling journalist Simon Schofield as a member of albaRosa CC and as a ‘champion’ of Zwift he was able to organise the event in what seemed to pretty short timescale. Simon works tirelessly to spread the word about Zwift and its benefits not only among local cycling club members, but also the wider cycling community in the UK. As well as being a regular contributor to the magazine Cycling Weekly he also has a Zwift podcast which covers the current talking points within ‘Watopia’ as well as interviewing leading lights and contributors (The interview with CEO Eric Min was one I would definitely recommend you check out if you’re just starting your Zwift journey – Podcast 13)
The event was put on as a way to raise awareness and showcase Zwift to club members and cyclists here in Yorkshire. Having a live event where people could see Zwift running up close and personal would show attendees how Zwift can be used during the winter months to help maintain fitness as well as showing how it is striving to build a global online ‘community’. The Zwift set up was impressive to say the least. They came to the party with 4 bike ‘rigs’ each equipped with new Wahoo Kickr2 trainers (good choice!) paired with some serious bike porn so that people could take on the KOM challenge which had been organised to take place during the evening.
As well as showing off the latest tech and trainers Zwift had flown Jesper Anker of CyclingHub TV in from Denmark to MC alongside Sheffield cyclist and TV presenter Chris Pritchard (he also represented Scotland on the track at the 2014 Commonwealth Games and is seriously rapid). Both these guys have great YouTube channels that I recommend you check out if you are thinking about getting involved with Zwift. Jesper’s channel follows his cycling development and how he is trying to become a better cyclist from almost a standing stand only 2 months ago. Chris’s content is a more humourous look at the world of Zwift and features videos of himself taking part in races (totally burying himself in the process) as well as his ‘Fat Dad to Fast Dad’ vlogs which are genuinely funny (well they will be if you have a similar sense of humour to me!)
They did a fantastic job encouraging participation in the KOM events as well as letting people know what was going on during the night. Northerners can be a pretty tough crowd, but their mix of humour and sarcasm kept the atmosphere ‘up’ over what was a long evening. Chapeau gents and ‘Ride On’!
Zwift also brought along their virtual reality (VR) tech which is a fantastic bit of kit. It uses much the same set up as a normal rig, but you wear a VR headset which then shows the wearer what they would normally see on their laptop, monitor or TV. I had a quick go on it and in all honesty it was strange experience. Brilliant, but a bit mind bending!
You’re sat on the bike and you can look around the environment you are cycling in, but what freaked me out slightly was that when you look down you can see your ‘virtual’ legs moving. I had a genuine fear that somebody might do a ‘Ronnie’ and topple off the bike as it really affects your spacial awareness the first time you put the headset on and start pedaling.
If you’re not sure what a ‘Ronnie’ is follow the YouTube link above!
It’s obvious that they would need to address the question of users sweating buckets during hard workouts or races, but if they can refine that then I believe it’s a huge game changer!
As well as the Zwift gang we had various albaRosa CC ‘Zwifters’ who had kindly transported their rigs from home, set them up at the venue and were demonstrating them to the crowd. We had a real mixed bag of turbo trainers and tech setups, but it worked well as people could ask questions and get honest answers about costs and get an idea on space requirements. I thought this was a great idea by the organisers as it gave people the chance to see that really you can do Zwift at any price point. You can do it on the cheap, you can go for a moderate cost set up or you can go out all guns blazing and buy yourself a totally ‘pimped’ rig. That’s the great thing about Zwift, you really can spend as much or a little as you like and still have a great experience.
We had one of our club sponsors Woodrup Cycles come along with the Tacx Neo to demo and OTE put in an appearance with their altitude training rig (I stayed well clear of that!) It was great to have other cycling related organisations at the event as it meant it wasn’t just completely focussed on indoor training and covered topics such as nutrition, laser bike fitting as well general bike mechanical advice.
All in all the evening appeared to be a great success with a great turnout of albaRosa CC members and cyclists from other clubs interested to see Zwift in action. We even had professional cyclists Russell and Dean Downing attend with Russ having a blast on the KOM challenge only to be beaten by Cameron of ‘CyclingCam‘ by a handful of seconds. The participants on the KOM challenge gave their all and we had men, women and children smashing themselves during efforts to beat the best time on the course. I have to say that as more of the free beer was consumed the rowdiness of the crowd increased exponentially cheering on their favourites!
So if Zwift are heading to a city near you soon my advice is to go along and take a look at what it’s all about. The Zwift community is growing week on week and every cyclist that joins the community is helping to make the experience better for all – Now who wouldn’t want to be a part of that movement?