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Cheap turbo trainers: Advice and deals to get the cheapest Zwift setup

Zwift on laptop
(Image credit: Josh Croxton)

If you're one of the many people who has looked to training indoors over the past couple of years, then you've probably had many questions about what products you need for indoor cycling. Various solutions are available, ranging from simple systems that by themselves are incompatible with apps like Zwift, to the premium options that, while app-compatible, can leave your bank account feeling emptier than your stomach after a fasted ride.

Here we're going to run through all the options, with a guide on how to get the cheapest Zwift setup, so that you can have the interactivity of the apps without it costing a fortune. If you've done any research, you'll have noticed that the best turbo trainers can easily cost four figures, while the best smart bikes cost even more, but you can absolutely bring your training indoors on a budget. Below, we overview the various ways you can get onto Zwift, the cheapest ways for each, along with any deals we can find to get you rolling indoors on a budget.

Best cheap turbo trainer deals quick links:

USA: 

🚲 Competitive CyclistDeals on Kickr bundles, $150 off Elite Direto XR and more

🚲 Jenson USADeals on select Tacx and Saris trainers

🚲 REI CoopDeals on select Tacx trainers

🚲 Mike's Bikes: Save 21% on Tacx Neo 2T

🚲 Wiggle: Up to 45% off Elite and Lifeline trainers 

🚲 Chain Reaction Cycles: 35% off the Elite Direto Smart, and up to 37% off LifeLine trainers


UK:

🚲 Sigma SportsSave on TacxNeo 2T, Elite Direto XR and more

🚲 Rutland CyclingSave £160 on Saris M2 and £47 on Tacx Boost

🚲 Wiggle39% off Elite Direto, discount Tacx bikes and up to 50% off LifeLine 

🚲 Tredz: Best price on Elite rollers and deals on Stages SB20

🚲 Chain Reaction Cycles: 35% off the Elite Direto Smart, and up to 46% off LifeLine, Tacx and Stages trainers

Before we start, it's hard to ignore the impact that COVID-19 has had on the price and availability of turbo trainers. At the start pandemic, many people were forbidden from riding outside, and those still allowed felt a moral obligation to stay indoors to reduce the risk of crashing and putting undue strain on the health services. Cyclists turned to indoor cycling to continue their training programmes or get their fitness fix, and as a result, there was a huge surge in demand for turbo trainers. At the same time, factories were forced to close, and a stock shortage ensued around the world. 

Thankfully nowadays most manufacturers have caught up with the demand and stock is easier to find. Discounts are still harder to come by than pre-pandemic times, but they are out there if you know where to look, which is where we come in, as we've highlighted the best turbo trainer deals below, as well as the best prices on popular trainers and smart bikes where stock remains available. 

As COVID cases continue to spike in locations around the world, factory closures are entirely possible at a moment's notice, so if you want to take your training indoors, we suggest taking advantage of the stock that is available today.

Turbo trainer deals

As you'll see below, the best turbo trainer deals are currently in the UK. Deals are available in the USA, too, but stock is a little harder to find so we've also highlighted the best places to buy each of the below turbo trainers where stock remains available.

Top deals

USA:

Elite Direto | Up to 39% off
USA: $929.95 $572.99 | UK: £769.99 £499.99 | AU: $1,369.99 $824.99

With a maximum resistance of 2200 watts, the Direto is designed with elite cyclists in mind. However, this price is anything but. It's compatible with all modern axle standards, features folding legs for ease of use, and with a 4.2kg flywheel, it's light enough to move around between sessions. 

Tacx Neo 2T | up to 20% off Mike's Bikes USA:

Tacx Neo 2T | up to 20% off
Mike's Bikes USA: $1,399.99 $1,099.95 | Sigma Sports UK: £1,199.00 £1,050.00

The Neo 2T doesn't require a power supply, instead, it uses the power of your legs to function. It can handle an output of up to 2200 watts and can simulate gradients of up to 25%. 

Tacx Neo 2T smart trainer review.

Stages Cycling SB20 Smart Bike | Up to 22% off UK:

Stages Cycling SB20 Smart Bike | Up to 22% off
UK: £2,799.00 £2,199.00 

Despite Stages being the biggest seller of commercial spin-style bikes in the world, the SB20 is very much aimed at the smart-bike cycling audience with connectivity to apps like Zwift and TrainerRoad. It comes with adjustable pedal-length alongside all the usual adjustabilities, two bottle cages, a tablet holder, and a space for your smartphone too. 

Read our Stages SB20 smart bike review.

Saris H3 | Up to 26% off USA:

Saris H3 | Up to 26% off
USA: $1,099.99 $879.99 | UK: £750.00 £549.00

The H3 comes with integrated speed and cadence (and of course power) sensors and offers smooth transitions in resistance. The standout figure is the low noise, promising just 59 decibels at 20mph, the H3 is arguably the best turbo trainer for those looking to keep neighbours happy.

Lifeline Xplova Noza S Smart | Up to 45% off USA:

Lifeline Xplova Noza S Smart | Up to 45% off
USA: $879.99 $529.99 | UK: £649.99 £379.99

Lifeline is Wiggle's in-house brand dedicated to offering high-quality, low-cost cycling goods. The brand made a name in tools, but it's now taking on turbo trainers. Powered by Acer electronics, the system follows a similar design to the Wahoo Kickr Core. It offers a maximum resistance of 2500 watts, 18% gradients, and accuracy within 2.5%. 

Smart trainers

Wahoo Kickr V5 Smart Trainer & Kickr Climb | 10% off Competitive Cyclist USA:

Wahoo Kickr V5 Smart Trainer & Kickr Climb | 10% off
Competitive Cyclist USA: $1,799.99 $1,619.98 | Wiggle UK: £1,449.99 £1,299.00

Bundling the Kickr together with the Kickr Climb would usually cost £1,449.00 / $1,799.99, but Wiggle and Competitive Cyclist have both dropped the bundle price by 10%. This brings the total price down by £150 / $180, which is a nice saving but only if you were planning on buying both anyway. 

Wahoo Kickr V5 with Lifeline accessories | 9% off Wiggle UK:

Wahoo Kickr V5 with Lifeline accessories | 9% off
Wiggle UK: £1,160.99 £1,049.00

Wiggle has bundled the Kickr together with a desk, sweat guard, bottle and mat from its in-house brand Lifeline. In doing so, it's brought the total value down by 9%, or effectively offering all those extra accessories for just £50.00. If you only need the trainer, then don't get sucked in to spending the £50 extra for no reason, but if you will make use of the accessories, then you'll struggle to get them all together for such a low cost. 

Tacx Neo 2T | up to 20% off Mike's Bikes USA:

Tacx Neo 2T | up to 20% off
Mike's Bikes USA: $1,399.99 $1,099.95 | Sigma Sports UK: £1,199.00 £1,050.00

The Neo 2T doesn't require a power supply, instead, it uses the power of your legs to function. It can handle an output of up to 2200 watts and can simulate gradients of up to 25%. 

Tacx Neo 2T smart trainer review.

Tacx Neo 2T | up to 20% off Mike's Bikes USA:

Tacx Neo 2T | up to 20% off
Mike's Bikes USA: $1,399.99 $1,099.95 | Sigma Sports UK: £1,199.00 £1,050.00

The Neo 2T doesn't require a power supply, instead, it uses the power of your legs to function. It can handle an output of up to 2200 watts and can simulate gradients of up to 25%. 

Tacx Neo 2T smart trainer review.

Wahoo Kickr V5 Smart Trainer | 10% off Wahoo US:

Wahoo Kickr V5 Smart Trainer | 10% off
Wahoo US: $1,199.99 $1,079.99 | Sigma Sports UK: £999.99
The ever-popular, top-of-the-range Wahoo Kickr smart trainer was upgraded to incorporate even better power accuracy, automatic calibration, and new Kickr Axis feet that provide authentic side-to-side movement to enhance the ride feel and mimic the feeling of cycling outdoors. 

As with the Core, there are no current deals on the Kickr alone, but a few retailers are bundling it together with other items to help you get a saving. 

Read our Wahoo Kickr V5 review for more details.

Wahoo Kickr V4 | Up to 17% off direct from Wahoo USA:

Wahoo Kickr V4 | Up to 17% off direct from Wahoo
USA: $1,199.99 $849.99 | UK: £999.99 £722.49
With the release of the latest Kickr V5, there are some deals to be had on the older version, which was released in 2018. With the COVID-19 pandemic, most of the remaining stock was snapped up, but Wahoo is offering certified reconditioned V4 units with a 1-year warranty for a discount. You can also upgrade it to accommodate the AXIS feet.

Wahoo Kickr Core & Lifeline accessories | 10% off Wiggle UK:

Wahoo Kickr Core & Lifeline accessories | 10% off
Wiggle UK: £860.99 £769.00
Wiggle has bundled the Kickr Core with a host of accessories from its in-house brand Lifeline, including a desk, a bottle, a floor mat and a sweat guard. Bought separately, the total would be £860.99, but when combined, you can save 10%. This effectively brings the total of all the extras to £70 over and above buying the Kickr Core alone. 

USA: $899.99

Wahoo Kickr Core
USA: $899.99 | UK: £699.99

UK customers get 15% off, which is the biggest discount we've ever seen applied to the Kickr Core. Customers in the USA don't get quite as hefty a saving, but with a free year of SYSTM thrown in, it's arguably better value.

UK customers can also get it with SYSTM and a Vel trainer mat with 10% off at Sigma Sports.

This deal wasn't supposed to go live until Monday, but it's already available to buy right now. 

Read our Wahoo Kickr Core review

Saris H3 | 20 - 27% off USA:

Saris H3 | 20 - 27% off
USA: $1,099.99 $879.99 | UK: £750.00 £549.00

The H3 comes with integrated speed and cadence (and of course power) sensors and offers smooth transitions in resistance. The standout figure is the low noise, promising just 59 decibels at 20mph, the H3 is arguably the best turbo trainer for those looking to keep neighbours happy.

Elite Direto XR | Up to 23% off Competitive Cyclist USA:

Elite Direto XR | Up to 23% off
Competitive Cyclist USA: $999.99 $849.99 | Sigma Sports UK: £829.99 £639.00
The Elite Direto XR is brand new to market this year, and it offers up to 2300 watts of resistance, the ability to simulate a 24% grade, and accuracy within 1.5%. 

Tacx Flux 2 Smart Trainer | Up to 21% off Competitive Cyclist USA: $899.99

Tacx Flux 2 Smart Trainer | Up to 21% off
Competitive Cyclist USA: $899.99 | Wiggle UK: £699.99 £549 | Pushys AU: $1,099.99
A middle-ground between the Flux S and the Neo 2T, the Flux 2 offers 2000 watts of resistance, a 16% grade, and power accuracy within 2.5%. 

Wahoo Kickr Snap & Lifeline accessories | 10% off Wiggle UK:

Wahoo Kickr Snap & Lifeline accessories | 10% off
Wiggle UK: £590.99 £529.00
Wiggle has paired the Wahoo Kickr Snap with a floor mat, a sweat guard, a desk and a bottle from its own brand Lifeline. The usual cost of the whole lot would be £590.99, but in bundling them together, they're offering 10% off. This brings the total of the accessories to just shy of £100. Do your research though, the desk by itself is currently discounted to £69.99, so if you don't need all of the accessories, you might be able to save money by buying only the items that you need separately. 

Elite Suito T | Up to 24% off Competitive Cyclist USA:

Elite Suito T | Up to 24% off
Competitive Cyclist USA: $849.98 $722.48 | Sigma Sports UK: £640 £489
The Suito-T is the trainer of choice of many pro riders. It comes with a Sterzo steering plate, folding legs and power accuracy of 2.5%. Compatible with 142x12 and quick-release axles, and it has a carry handle for ease of movement between sessions.

Wahoo Kickr Core Smart Trainer | 10% off Wahoo US:

Wahoo Kickr Core Smart Trainer | 10% off
Wahoo US: $899.99 $809.99
The Wahoo Kickr Core delivers an authentic and accurate indoor cycling experience, thanks to the brand's proven 5.4kg flywheel technology and the smooth and quiet belt motor drivetrain. It can simulate climbs of up to a 16 per cent gradient, and provides a maximum of 1,800W of resistance for you to power through. 

Tacx Flux S Smart | 20% off Sigma Sports UK:

Tacx Flux S Smart | 20% off
Sigma Sports UK: £549.99 £490.00
The Tacx Flux S is one of the more affordable direct drive trainers. It's compatible with a range of bikes, offers up to 1500 watts, 10% inclines and Bluetooth/ANT+ technology.

Tacx Flux S review.

USA:

Elite Direto | Up to 39% off at Wiggle
USA: $929.95 $572.99 | UK: £769.99 £499.99 | AU: $1,369.99 $824.99
With a maximum resistance of 2200 watts, the Direto is designed with elite cyclists in mind. However, this price is anything but. It's compatible with all modern axle standards, features folding legs for ease of use, and with a 4.2kg flywheel, it's light enough to move around between sessions. 

Wahoo Kickr Snap, mat & cadence sensor bundle | 9% off Competitive Cyclist US:

Wahoo Kickr Snap, mat & cadence sensor bundle | 9% off
Competitive Cyclist US: $609.99 $552.97
The Kickr Snap, a Kickr turbo trainer mat and a Wahoo RPM Cadence sensor would usually set you back $609.99, but Competitive Cyclist has dropped the price by just shy of 10% to bring it down to $549.99. Obviously, it's not a better price than buying the Kickr Snap on its own, but if you're in the market for a mat and a sensor anyway, it's a solid way to save some cash. 

Saris M2 | Up to 28% off Amazon USA:

Saris M2 | Up to 28% off
Amazon USA: $549.99 $499.00 | Rutland UK: £499.99 £339.99
The M2 is a smart wheel-on trainer that's built upon a folding platform that's solid and planted while in use, but compact when stowed away.

It's also available at Sigma Sports UK

Lifeline Xplova Noza S Smart | Up to 45% off at Wiggle USA:

Lifeline Xplova Noza S Smart | Up to 45% off at Wiggle
USA: $879.99 $529.99 | UK: £649.99 £379.99
Lifeline is Wiggle's in-house brand dedicated to offering high-quality, low-cost cycling goods. The brand made a name in tools, but it's now taking on turbo trainers. Powered by Acer electronics, the system follows a similar design to the Wahoo Kickr Core. It offers a maximum resistance of 2500 watts, 18% gradients, and accuracy within 2.5%. 

Wahoo Kickr Snap Smart Trainer | 10% off Wahoo US: $449.99

Wahoo Kickr Snap Smart Trainer | 10% off
Wahoo US: $449.99 | Wahoo UK: £429.99 | Wahoo AU: $749.95
The Wahoo Kickr Snap features all the necessary tech to connect you to indoor cycling apps, but the wheel-on nature helps to keep the price down. 

It features power accuracy of +/- 3%, a maximum resistance of 1500 watts, as well as a maximum gradient simulation of 12%. The 10.5lb flywheel helps to offer a realistic road feel, and the included accessories make it compatible with road bikes of all styles. 

Elite Tuo | Up to 22% off Competitive Cyclist USA:

Elite Tuo | Up to 22% off
Competitive Cyclist USA: $579.99 $492.99 | Wiggle UK: £444.99 £349.00
More than just a turbo trainer, the Elite Tuo is a work of art that wouldn't look out of place in any modern contemporary apartment. But it's not just a pretty face, it's accurate within 3%, offers 2,050 watts of resistance with a 10% gradient, and it comes complete with adapters for all modern axle standards. 

Saris Fluid2 Equipped | Up to 27% off Amazon USA: $299.99

Saris Fluid2 Equipped | Up to 27% off
Amazon USA: $299.99 | Sigma Sports UK: £279.99 £219.00
The 'Equipped' Fluid 2 takes the standard Saris Fluid 2 trainer and adds a speed sensor to the bundle. This speed sensor can then connect to Zwift, and you can tackle Watopia right away! 

Tacx Flow | 26% off Wiggle UK:

Tacx Flow | 26% off
Wiggle UK: £269.99 from £199.99
The Flow is a smart trainer that measures speed, cadence, and most importantly, power. With magnetic resistance and an electric brake, the Flow is an affordable way into smart indoor cycling. 

Smart bikes

US: $3,499.99

Wahoo Kickr Bike
US: $3,499.99 | UK: £2,999.99 | AU: $5,999.95
If you're starting your pain cave setup from scratch and would rather not relegate one of your bikes to the house, there's a lot to be gained from Wahoo's Kickr smart bike. Constructed from robust steel and aluminium, the Kickr Bike uses the same legendary flywheel technology as the Kickr smart trainer, which means incredible power accuracy and responsiveness. The Kickr Bike delivers real-time grade changes to match ascents of up to 20 per cent, replicating an authentic ride feel that enables you to maintain your pace. You can program the virtual shifting to match your preferred gear ratio, number of speeds, cassette tooth count and even groupset from Shimano, SRAM and Campagnolo. 

Wahoo Kickr Bike Refurbished | 10% off Wahoo UK:

Wahoo Kickr Bike Refurbished | 10% off
Wahoo UK: £2,699.99 £2,429.99
The Kickr Bike is a class-leading smart bike with the ability to connect to the likes of Zwift and TrainerRoad. It even tilts forwards and backwards to respond to in-game gradient changes. If you're in the UK, Wahoo is offering 10% off refurbished units. It'll still come with a warranty, but it may just have a few visual blemishes.  

Stages SB20 Smart Bike | 11% off Competitive Cyclist USA: $3,149.99

Stages SB20 Smart Bike | 11% off
Competitive Cyclist USA: $3,149.99 | Tredz UK: £2,799 £2,499 | Pushys AU: $5,499
Smart bikes are a far cry from the cheapest Zwift setup available, but if the budget stretches, the Stages Bike offers great value. 

Stages SB20 smart bike review

Tacx Neo Smart Bike | 17% off Competitive Cyclist USA: $3,199.99

Tacx Neo Smart Bike | 17% off
Competitive Cyclist USA: $3,199.99 | Wiggle UK: £2,299.99 £1,899
Quite the comprehensive solution to indoor cycling, the Neo Bike Smart comes complete with a fully adjustable setup, along with integrated fans, a tablet holder and phone holder, as well as industry-leading accuracy, resistance and gradient simulation.

Basic trainers

Tacx Boost | up to 20% off Competitive Cyclist USA: $299.99

Tacx Boost | up to 20% off
Competitive Cyclist USA: $299.99 | Rutland UK: £229.00 £182.99
A recently relaunched trainer from Tacx, the Boost is a basic trainer which will actively reduce noise. It features a handlebar-mounted resistance control, a stable base and a front wheel riser block. Additionally, you can select bundle and get a speed sensor to connect you to Zwift. 

Saris Fluid2 | Up to 30% off Amazon USA: $299.99

Saris Fluid2 | Up to 30% off
Amazon USA: $299.99 | Rutland UK: £239.99 £169.00
With fluid resistance, this unit has a progressive resistance curve that gets harder the harder you pedal. There's a claimed noise output of 64-68 decibels at 20mph - which is really rather good for a wheel-on system. The quick-release skewer is included, and the system features folding legs, quick-release mounting, and an adjustable roller. 

Saris 9902T Mag+ | Up to 27% off Amazon USA: $259.99

Saris 9902T Mag+ | Up to 27% off
Amazon USA: $259.99 | Rutland UK: £184.99 £134.99 | Pushys AU: $299.99
The 9902T is a dumb trainer, so you'll need a speed sensor to connect yourself up to Zwift. It comes with a remote for adjusting your resistance, and it also comes with a month's subscription to Zwift competitor Rouvy.

LifeLine TT-02 | Up to 38% off at Wiggle UK:

LifeLine TT-02 | Up to 38% off at Wiggle
UK: £149.99 £99.99 | USA: $222.99 $139.99 | AU: $307.99 $189.99
The LifeLine is a fluid trainer, meaning it offers a progressive resistance curve (the harder you pedal, the more it resists). It is compatible with QR axle bikes (a thru-axle adaptor is available to buy) and the legs fold up to make it easy to transport. 

Lifeline TT-01 | Up to 50% off at Wiggle UK:

Lifeline TT-01 | Up to 50% off at Wiggle
UK: £99.99 £49.99 | USA: $147.99 $79.99 | AU: $205.69 $109.99
Finally, turbo trainers are starting to fall back down to their original pricing level, and this basic turbo trainer from Wiggle's in-house brand Lifeline is back under the golden £100 mark. 

Rollers

Elite Nero smart rollers | 16% off Tredz UK:

Elite Nero smart rollers | 16% off
Tredz UK: £774.99 £649.99
Combining the extra-realistic feel of rollers with resistance and smart tech, the Nero rollers can simulate a gradient of seven per cent and are parabolic to help you stay centred, no matter how hard you're going. 

Elite Quick-Motion Rollers | up to 27% off Competitive Cyclist USA:

Elite Quick-Motion Rollers | up to 27% off
Competitive Cyclist USA: $569.99 $484.49 | ProBikeKit UK: £374.99 £308.49
Offering the same level of connectivity as the top smart trainers, the Elite Quick-Motion rollers can connect you to your indoor cycling app to offer the same necessary resistance, however, here you're also working on your balance and handling at the same time. 

Cheapest Zwift setup

If you're one of the many people who has looked to training indoors over the past couple of years, then you've probably had many questions about what products you need for indoor cycling. Various solutions are available, ranging from simple systems that by themselves are incompatible with apps like Zwift, to the premium options that, while app-compatible, can leave your bank account feeling emptier than your stomach after a fasted ride.

Here we're going to run through all the options, with a guide on how to get the cheapest Zwift setup, so that you can have the interactivity of the apps without it costing a fortune. If you've done any research, you'll have noticed that the best turbo trainers can easily cost four figures, while the best smart bikes cost even more, but you can absolutely bring your training indoors on a budget. 

Below, we overview the various ways you can get onto Zwift, the cheapest ways for each, and with the help of the turbo trainer deals above, we'll help to get you rolling indoors on a budget.

So, without further ado, let's dive in and get you onto Zwift. 

Zwift cost

At the end of the free trial period, Zwift is priced as a monthly subscription of £12.99 / US$14.99 / AU$19.99 per month. However, retailers do offer 3 and 12-month subscription gift vouchers that can save you a bit of money, especially if you can pair them with a discount code for that retailer. 

For context, TrainerRoad is similarly priced at US$19.95 per month, although there is an annual subscription of $189.00 which equates to the better price of $15.75 per month. RGT has a freemium business model, allowing unlimited kilometres to be ridden in a pared-down version of the game without any monthly payments, and an annual subscription to Wahoo SYSTM is $14.99 / £14.99 or $129.00 / £129.00 per year.

So while Zwift itself is reasonably inexpensive, it's the required hardware that can add up to make getting onto Zwift a rather expensive investment. If you don't take advantage of a turbo trainer deal, the most premium setups will easily cost thousands and that's before you consider the cost of the bike, possible additions of a computer or tablet, as well as a fan. If you're planning on running Zwift in an unpowered garage or shed, you may even need to factor in the cost of an extension lead, wifi booster, even the light bulbs!

The overwhelming thought of all this investment might put you off, but thankfully, we're here to help. If you've read our guide to Zwift, you'll know there are a couple of turbo trainer types: direct-drive and wheel-on. You'll also know that some trainers are smart, meaning the resistance can be controlled by software (Zwift, TrainerRoad, etc), whereas others are 'dumb', and will need to be controlled by your gear selection or a manual resistance controller that clamps to your handlebars.

While Zwift is undoubtedly the biggest of the various indoor cycling apps, it's worth noting that the following setups will also work with other training software such as TrainerRoad, Wahoo Systm, Rouvy and more, so once you're set up, you can test out the various platforms for yourself.

Cheapest at-home Zwift setups in price order

Basic trainers

Assuming you already have a road bike to use, the cheapest Zwift setup uses a 'dumb' turbo trainer and a speed sensor. With a dumb trainer, Zwift calculates power output based on the speed of the rear wheel so the downside is that there will be a delay between power output and your in-game avatar's response. 

This isn't too problematic for long steady efforts, but for sprint workouts or Zwift races, a 'smart' trainer or power meter will offer a better in-game experience.

To fit your bike onto the turbo trainer, you'll also need an adaptor for the rear axle. This is where it can get a little bit confusing, as you'll need to use the correct adaptor for your bike. If your bike uses quick-release axles, the most common rear spacing (distance between the dropouts) is 130mm for road bikes. If your bike uses bolt-thru axles (an axle that goes through the hub and threads into the frame), then check the axle itself for size spec (the most common on road bikes is 142 x 12mm).

If you don't have a bike to use, our roundup of the best bike for cycling indoors will help, use the deals at the top of this page (or check out our roundup of cycling deals) to see if you can grab a bargain, or jump to our gym-based Zwift solution below.

You'll also need the speed sensor itself. This simply wraps around your rear hub and will connect to Zwift using either ANT+ or Bluetooth. Find a sensor that speaks Bluetooth to avoid having to buy an ANT+ adaptor for your laptop or tablet. 

Power meters

A slightly more accurate method is using Zwift with a power meter and a dumb trainer. It'll cost more than a speed sensor, but it will come with added accuracy (and immediate responsiveness), along with the benefit of being able to take your power measurement outdoors too. The initial spend might be higher, but if you intend on using your bike outside as well as on the turbo, you will benefit from a single consistent reading of power across all of your training sessions. 

We recommend choosing something with Bluetooth compatibility as well as ANT+, because it will communicate with more computers, phones and laptops than an ANT+ only device. You can overcome that with an ANT+ adapter, but that's an extra cost we're trying to avoid. 

A power meter paired with your device running Zwift will increase the accuracy of your in-game experience and will be a great training tool for intervals and steady-state training, theoretically resulting in long-term performance gains. 

Your choice of power meter will depend on your bike and its compatibility requirements. More details can be found in our guide to the best power meters, and deals can be found in our roundup of Cyber Monday bike deals.

Power meter pedals

Power meter pedals do the same thing as any power meter, but instead of being built into your crank, hub or bottom bracket, they are built into your pedals, which can be very useful.

They're generally twice the price of a budget crank-based power meter or the same as a wheel-on smart trainer, but the benefit to owning power meter pedals over a smart turbo trainer is the flexibility to use it in multiple scenarios: at home on your Zwift setup, outside in the real world, across multiple bikes, and even at the gym.

If your gym doesn't have smart bikes like a Wattbike, with a pair of power meter pedals and a polite request, your gym might allow you to swap them onto one of their non-smart indoor bikes - the type used for spin classes. Pair them with your Bluetooth enabled phone or tablet and you've got Zwift at the gym - great for those who are often on-the-road with work and don't have the means to take their bike and turbo trainer with them. 

Smart wheel-on turbo trainers

The resistance of a smart turbo trainer can be controlled by software and work in perfect harmony with your Zwift experience, meaning when the road points up in the game, pedalling gets harder just like it would in the real world. 

There are two different types of smart turbo trainers. The first of which is 'wheel-on', which is similar in design to the budget turbo trainers in that they leave your wheel fitted to your bike, bolting the bike to the turbo trainer via the bike's axle and placing the tyre against a roller. 

With smart wheel-on turbo trainers, the resistance of the roller is then controlled electronically, which enables it to react to the software. 

Smart direct-drive turbo trainers

The second of the two types of smart turbo trainer is 'direct-drive', which requires you to remove your rear wheel, then fit the bike to the turbo trainer, connecting your groupset to a cassette that's fitted directly to the flywheel.

It offers a much-improved experience, a true road-feel and a considerably better experience compared to a wheel-on trainer. Not only does it prevent that laboured pedalling-through-treacle feeling, but it's also considerably quieter and doesn't chew through tyres like the cool kids doing skids. The top-spec direct-drive trainers add extra niceties such as vibration (to provide off-road feel in off-road in-game sections) and motorised freewheeling (to prevent the flywheel from stopping, requiring a sprint to get it going again when your avatar is riding downhill) and they generally have higher maximum resistance and incline simulation. 

Yes, they're a far cry from the cheapest Zwift setup that this article promised at the top, but if you're looking for a premium turbo trainer setup, you can still save money with the Cyber Monday turbo trainer deals listed above. 

Cycling rollers

Rollers are the left-field inclusion here, but one that certainly warrants a ticket to the party. They differ in that your bike isn't fixed into place, and as such, it requires greater concentration in order to avoid riding off the side. They take a bit of getting used to - just search YouTube for 'first time cycling rollers' - but they're great for working on balance and core strength whilst riding. Also, while not impossible, a sprint session is probably better undertaken on a turbo trainer if raw power is the goal. 

Premium solution: Smart bikes

Finally, smart bikes. These all-in-one solutions take the brains from within a turbo trainer and fit it into a complete bike system, removing the need to use your own bike. 

The positives are that it's permanently set up and ready to go. They often use a belt-drive system and electronically-adjusted resistance to mimic shifting instead of a chain-and-derailleur, which combines to decrease noise and increase durability. 

They're not cheap - certainly not the cheapest Zwift setups available - but they're a great premium solution for indoor cycling's most dedicated participants and they're also not immune to inclusion in the sales. 

Alternative: Gym subscription

All of the above options assume you already have a bike ready to be used in conjunction with a turbo trainer, but what if you don't? 

Assuming your local gym is open - we know that's not a given in today's society - this can be the cheapest Zwift setup of them all, especially if you're already paying for a gym subscription anyway.

If you're a member of a gym, there's a chance your gym has a Zwift-capable bike with a built-in power meter such as a Stages bike or Wattbike. If you're unsure, you can either check with the gym's staff as to the facilities available or just open up the settings on your phone and search for Bluetooth devices. If a smart bike is found, it's likely that it'll connect up to Zwift without a hitch. Bring a power bank though, as Zwift can be battery intensive and the gym bros mightn't appreciate you trailing charging cables across the floor. 

PureGym Membership (UK only)

PureGym Membership (UK only)
Various prices depending on location
Starting at around £9.99 a month, you can join your local PureGym. We can't speak for every single PureGym location, but any that we've visited have all featured a smart bike in the form of either a Stages bike or a Wattbike. Both of which are directly compatible with Zwift. 

Anytime Fitness Gym Membership (worldwide)

Anytime Fitness Gym Membership (worldwide)
Various prices depending on location
Whether you're in LA, HK, the UK or away on holiday, there's probably an Anytime Fitness near you. As with most modern gyms, they tend to have Zwift compatible smart bikes on offer. 

What you need for Zwift

For any Zwift setup, you'll likely need a turbo trainer, if you're looking for advice on which to get, we have a guide to the best turbo trainers to help. 

You can alternatively use a smart bike (our guide to the best smart bikes will help you there) but they're far from cheap, with a starting price of around £1,700 / $2,000. 

An adapted at-home exercise bike will work with a pair of power meter pedals, but we'd only advise trying this option if you have one lying around anyway. If you're thinking of buying one, the money can be better spent elsewhere. 

Rollers aren't completely out of the question, but you'll need rollers that can add a bit of resistance to avoid having to spin at 140rpm. 

Do you need internet for Zwift?

Yes, you'll need an internet connection. This can come in the form of 4G but be careful with your data allowance if choosing this option - in our test, a one-hour-long Zwift ride used approximately 300MB of data. 

Running an ethernet cable to the garage mightn't be the most permanent solution, but it might be the only option you have. If you're considering this method, a second router or WiFi booster is an alternative idea.

There's nothing more '21st century' than getting dropped due to a poor internet connection, but it's annoying nonetheless.

Do you need a computer for Zwift?

Yes, you'll need a Zwift-compatible computer. This can be in the form of a PC, a laptop, tablet, Apple TV, or even your smartphone. The majority of us will already have something that technically can run Zwift, but in our experience, a phone screen is too small to read the data numbers when riding at or near your limit. Check out our guide to the best computers and tablets for Zwift for a few recommendations. 

Is Bluetooth or ANT+ best for Zwift?

Which of the two communication protocols should you use?

You'll need one or both of Bluetooth or ANT+ connectivity. If your turbo trainer, power meter or speed sensor are ANT+ only, you're likely to need an ANT+ adapter for your computer. If you're using Bluetooth, then there's a greater chance your device will connect without the need for an adapter, which will obviously save you some money. Our 'what is ANT+' guide takes a deep dive into the technology and how it differs from Zwift. 

Do you need mains power for Zwift?

You'll ideally need a power supply, especially if using a smart trainer. Some of the most feature-rich turbo trainers, such as the Tacx NEO 2T, will work without it but you'll also want a fan and you don't want your laptop's battery life to cut your ride short.

For anyone looking to run Zwift in a garage or outbuilding, a power supply and WiFi connection might not be a guarantee. The options here will very much depend on your circumstances. If you're unable to run a permanent power supply, an extension lead and temporary ethernet cable might be the only option. You can get a 50m extension lead from Amazon for around $40/£30, and a similar length ethernet cable for around half that. 

Why should I use a fan with Zwift?

You technically don't need a fan, but once you've tried cycling indoors without one, we promise you'll want one more than you've ever wanted anything before.

The oncoming air that you get when cycling in the real world performs a huge role in cooling you down. When you take that away by remaining stationary, you very quickly overheat. Your body's natural response to this is to sweat... a lot. 

This gets out of the realm of 'cheap', but if you want a real pain cave hack, buy as many fans as your budget will allow, then plug them all into smart plugs with remote control (or Amazon Alexa). This way, you won't need to get off your bike to switch them on and off, and you can leave them switched off for the first few minutes until you need them. 

What accessories can improve your Zwift experience?

Desk

You might want a desk. If you're running a laptop, you'll need to be able to reach it so you can use the Zwift menu without having to climb off the bike. Brands do make dedicated turbo trainer desks, such as the Wahoo Kickr Desk, but for the budget-conscious, you can often make do with a less dedicated solution, such as an ironing board or some adjustable shelving from your local hardware store.

Sweat protector

To protect your bike against corrosion from the cumulative drips of salty sweat, you can get a dedicated sweat protector to catch the drips. The majority of sweat will drip from your face and shoulders, so it's the handlebars that need the most protection. Therefore, a towel placed atop the bars and stem will generally do a good job - with the added benefit of being able to wipe your brow every so often. For the budget-conscious, a towel or an old sweatshirt draped over the handlebars and top tube can have the same outcome. 

Turbo trainer floor mat

Unless you're in the garage or shed, you'll probably want to protect your floor from your salty sweat droplets, not to mention the damage caused by the feet of your turbo trainer. A turbo trainer mat will offer this protection and are available pretty cheap, but an old yoga mat or even an offcut of kitchen lino will do the same job - just don't cut it out of your parents' kitchen floor! Our tried and tested method is to use interlocking floor mats designed for gyms or garages. Not only do they offer protection, but they also offer a few millimetres of cushioning which helps with your natural rocking motion whilst riding. 

A turbo trainer specific tyre

If using a wheel-on turbo trainer - especially a cheap one - the roller's interaction with the soft rubber of your rear tyre can quite quickly churn through your rubber and cause a square edge and ruin the tyre's on-road performance. Dedicated hard-wearing turbo trainer tyres exist to overcome this very problem. You could invest in a dedicated turbo trainer tyre, or alternatively, if you regularly ride on the road, upgrade your best road bike tyres and recycle your old part-worn tyre for indoor use only.

Riser block 

They don't need to be anything special, the cheapest versions can be found cheaply at Amazon. Or you can save that and slide a piece of wood or a few books (ideally taped together so they don't slide) beneath your front wheel. However you choose to bodge this, just make sure it's stable enough not to topple during sprint efforts. 

Where should I spend my money first?

If you're setting up Zwift for the first time and your budget is limited, our advice would be to invest your money in the trainer and the fan to begin with, then add to the experience later with the peripherals. Look for a turbo trainer deal to ensure you're getting the most bang for your buck.

Any questions / tips?

If you have any Zwift setup related questions, feel free to drop us a comment below - we'll be sure to answer as many as we can, and if, during your own pain-cave building process, you've learned any tips and tricks that will help others looking to invest in a cheap Zwift setup, feel free to share them.

Josh Croxton

Josh has been with us as Senior Tech Writer since the summer of 2019 and throughout that time he's covered everything from buyer's guides and deals to the latest tech news and reviews. On the bike, Josh has been riding and racing for over 15 years. He started out racing cross country in his teens back when 26-inch wheels and triple chainsets were still mainstream, but he found favour in road racing in his early 20s, racing at a local and national level for Team Tor 2000. He's always keen to get his hands on the newest tech, and while he enjoys a good long road race, he's much more at home in a local criterium.