Zwift and the Case for a Bigger TV

Welcome to my world. The world of Zwift that is — the online virtual cycling game/training tool that makes indoor cycling fun. Yes, I said it. Training indoors can actually be fun, and the bigger and better your TV is, the more fun it will be. If you struggle with your significant other over new electronic purchases, I have found your solution. Get your SO hooked on Zwift and he or she will beg you for a bigger TV.

Indoor cycling trainers have been around for plenty of years. Anyone who’s spent anytime using one knows how mind-numbingly boring they can be. Most people can barely manage to spin for an hour without screaming from boredom. Music can barely help the hours go by. For really long sessions, a movie might make the miles go by faster, but that usually also distracts you too much so you’re not actually training.

Enter Zwift, the online gaming platform ($14.99/month) that puts riders in a virtual environment, racing others cyclists from around the world. There are three virtual worlds that rotate throughout each month — Richmond, Virginia, downtown London, and the completely fictitious Watopia, an imaginary island in the South Pacific. I say imaginary, but they just added a surprisingly realistic climb mapped from the legendary Alpe d’Huez in France. You can join a social group ride, program a structured workout, or just tour around the virtual roads, with the Zwift software controlling the resistance (simulating climbs) of the newest breed of bike trainers, known as “smart” trainers.

The program runs on a laptop or smartphone app, and using it from either of those is, well, okay. However, my world was rocked the day I hooked up the HDMI output of my laptop to my big-screen TV. Instead of watching the world of Zwift through the small window of my laptop, viewing it on the large screen made me feel like I was actually in the space. The program lets you choose your point of view, including typical Tour de France race coverage from various “camera” angles, complete with helicopter SFX when viewing that perspective. Selecting a view that looks ahead but lets me see my avatar is the most immersive experience. My avatar can be customized to look somewhat like me, and her cycling cadence matches mine, pedal stroke for pedal stroke.

Why do you need to see this all so clearly? The Zwift programmers have created an amazing world with quite impressive details. Windows on the buildings in the town show reflections from across the street; deer, horses, an ibex and a yeti look on from the sides of the road, and there’s even a yellow submarine visible from the underwater tunnels. There’s so much to see, and you’ll appreciate the diversions when the elevation on the scenic climbs picks up.

I can also help convince your SO that you need bigger better speakers too. While the in-game SFX are fun, there is something extra-motivating about a pounding music track. Studies have shown that exercising with music lets you work harder with less perception of pain, and you know that only full-size tower speakers will do the trick.. Crank up the tunes while you crank out the miles. You’ll definitely need (okay, fine… want) a subwoofer to play the in-game sound effect of rumbling over cobblestones through the European villages.

A small TV is adequate, a big TV is great, and a bigger TV would be incredible. I have officially turned my home theater into my cycling pain cave, and I couldn’t be happier. My significant other can’t complain either. I’m talking him into getting an even bigger TV. With bigger speakers. And a better amp It’s a win-win for him, and he doesn’t even have to break a sweat.