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  • Writer's picturedirtyheart

Zwift Goes Virtual Mountain Biking, Offers Steering - Eurobike 2019

If you're not familiar with Zwift, it's pretty much one-third stationary trainer, one-third fitness program, and one-third video game. Your bike is attached to a trainer of some kind, and this communicates wirelessly (if you have a ''smart'' trainer) via science to your computer to tell Zwift how much power you're putting out. Zwift itself is a virtual world where you ride your bike, along with thousands of other people, and the more power you put out, the faster you go. Just like outside.

It ain't as good as being outside, but Zwift has its place. Now you can go mountain biking and even steer.

It's not intended to ever replace actual riding - you're inside, on a trainer, staring at a screen - but it lets you train, if you're into that kinda thing, during times when you might not be able to ride outside, be it due to injury or weather. Think of it as a tool to make your actual riding even better. Up until now, it's been entirely road bike-based (you can run, too), but I wrote two years ago that it's only a matter of time until they offer mountain biking, probably with some sort of steering system. And that's exactly what we're looking at here.

Accelerometers in your phone let you steer and pick the best lines.

Zwift is releasing it to the public in a few weeks under the 'Future Works' name that's intended to signify new developments, but it'll only be a 2.1-mile segment in Watopia (one of their multiple worlds you can choose to ride in) for now. Expect new, longer off-road routes to become available down the road, though, all designed to mimic the grade changes that you'd see on your mountain bike. That fact will be important for riders who use Zwift to train for mountain biking as it's ideal to replicate the steeper, shorter off-road climbs that you wouldn't usually see on the pavement.

Oh, and you're graded on your line choices as well, with higher marks unlocking new features. The steering is managed by mounting your phone on the handlebar and using its accelerometers, and you'll be able to adjust the sensitivity as well; the one at the show is a bit touchy. Your front wheel rests on a rotating base that allows you to easily turn the handlebars. If you're already using Zwift, you have everything you need to head off-road. The idea here is to make training fun and more engaging, and this isn't going to be for everyone. But for those that know how Zwift can turn that winter frown upsidedown, it could be just the ticket.

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