Zwift beta receives 13,000 sign-ups – have you made the list?

New virtual indoor training software has received an unexpected level of sign-ups to the beta test, with the first lot of applicants to be invited this weekend

Words by Simon Schofield

Cyclists keen to be amongst the first to test out a virtual reality platform which claims it will revolutionise turbo training will find out next week if they have been successful.

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Zwift chief executive Eric Min told Cycling Weekly that 13,000 people have now applied to become testers of the new software.

“We just did not anticipate that level of interest – that caught us by surprise,” said Min, who’s also the co-founder of the company.

”People say that cyclists don’t like indoor riding. Well, it looks like they do.”

The very first riders to get access to Zwift’s ‘hyper-realistic’ virtual world will start getting their invites this weekend. And UK riders will be amongst them.

“The UK is the hottest market for this kind of thing. Just ask Strava,” Min said.

Zwift will be recruiting beta testers at the rate of a  couple of hundred each week, with plans to get to a thousand early adopters online  before it goes live to all comers from January 2015. It’s now too late to apply.

Zwift will work with both high-end trainers and cheaper machines. Owners of sophisticated turbos, like the Wahoo KICKR, will get the most accurate representation of their efforts in the online world.

But cheaper trainers can hook into the platform using speed/cadence sensors and an ANT+ dongle. The subscription will cost $10 a month.

And Min has revealed more details of how the platform plans to blend the real world and the virtual world. He raised the possibility of buying a piece of Rapha clothing which contained a code giving the rider access to the virtual version for use in Zwift.

“Or we can graphically represent your exact helmet, your identical bike, even down to your power meter or handlebar computer. “

Min rejects the idea that Zwift is a “game-ified gimmick,” which won’t be taken seriously by cyclists who use the turbo to improve.

“We will absolutely cater for the serious athlete who wants to do structured training. But we will present it in a different way, “ said Min.

“So if your programme calls for an interval of four minutes at 350 watts, instead of following the numbers on a screen you will have to chase down Bradley Wiggins.

“We can re-invent how structured training is done. Part of the pain is the “book-keeping” – keeping track of intervals in your programme. We will just make that graphical. You will chase down or keep pace with a rider. You may even have a digital coach pushing you to reach your goal.”

Min, who is a cyclist, also says that professional commentators could be recruited to provide race commentary for on-line races on the platform.

“We might run a Tuesday night crit. In theory Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen, or other famous voices from bike racing, could commentate on your training race.

“It’s totally feasible and it’s economically viable. We are already talking to people to make this happen.”

And the racing may not be limited to amateurs. “Imagine World Tour riders competing on Zwift. We are having the conversations and that is not so far away,” claims Min.