With the northern hemisphere now securely positioned in the depths of winter, you've probably considered taking your training indoors and looking at finding yourself a cheap Zwift setup. Here we overview how to get onto Zwift, the cheapest ways for each along with best turbo trainer deals to get you rolling indoors on a budget!
You've no doubt done your research and already know that Zwift itself is a rather inexpensive subscription. For £12.99 ($14.99) a month, you can immerse yourself in an entirely new (virtual) world. However, it's the required hardware that can add up to make getting onto Zwift a rather expensive investment.
Without taking advantage of a turbo trainer deal, the most premium setup will cost you four figures for the trainer alone, and that's before you consider the cost of the bike, possible additions of a computer or tablet, as well as a fan (you'll need a fan!). If you're planning on running Zwift in the garage or shed, you may even need to factor in an extension lead and an ethernet cable! The overwhelming thought of all this investment might initially be more stressful than the thought of just putting up with winter yet again and cleaning your bike every day. Thankfully, we're here to help. We're going to answer the question: What are the cheapest Zwift setups, and what turbo trainer deals can I use to get on to Zwift without paying a fortune?
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.
Below, we'll go through the cheapest options for all, as well as the best ways to get a cheap Zwift setup in your home, no matter your circumstances, including the best turbo trainer deals. Of course, once you're up and running, you won't be limited to Zwift. All of the below options will work with other training software such as TrainerRoad, The Sufferfest, Rouvy and more.
The Cheapest Zwift setups in price order
Basic turbo trainer deals
Possibly the cheapest Zwift setup available is to use a dumb turbo trainer and a speed sensor. You could even consider buying second hand on eBay to reduce costs further, but if you're unsure what you're looking for when it comes to quality, we recommend buying new. With this method, Zwift calculates power output based on the speed of the rear wheel so the downside is that your avatar won't react immediately to an increase in power. As a result, accuracy is negatively affected, so upgrading to a power meter or smart trainer would be our recommendation.
LifeLine TT-01 Trainer | Save 60% at Wiggle
Was £100.00 | Now £39.99
This budget option from Wiggle is the LifeLine TT-01 magnetic trainer. Don't expect smooth road feel or extreme durability, but it might just be the cheapest way into the virtual world of Watopia. View Deal
CycleOps Basic Mag Kit | Save 54% at Rutland Cycling
Was £199.99 | Now £89.99
Coming complete with Trainer mat, riser block, sweat towel, and QR skewer, this is a great way to get up and running in the world of indoor training on a budget. This plus a speed-sensor and you're ready to ride!View Deal
Wahoo Bluetooth Speed Sensor
Attach this little unit to the hub of your rear wheel and it will calculate your speed, then push that data to your Zwift device via either Bluetooth or ANT+ to control your in-game avatar. View Deal
Power meter deals
If you're shopping for a power meter for Zwift, we recommend choosing something with Bluetooth compatibility, as this will communicate to more computers, phones and laptops than an ANT+ only device. Of course, an ANT+ adapter can be bought for your laptop, but that's extra expenditure you'll want 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 the subsequent compatibility requirements, but here are a few of the best deals we're able to find.
Stages Cycling Power L Ultegra R8000 | 20% off at Tredz
Was £479.00 | Now £383.00
The Stages Cycling Power Meter Ultegra R8000 crank-based is available in for 20% off the RRP at Tredz. It's available in 170mm, 172.5mm and 175mm crank lengths.View Deal
4iiii Precision 2.0: Shimano 105 5800 | 28% off at ProBikeKit
Was £379.00 | Now £269.99
This previous-model Shimano 105 is compatible with current generation Shimano Hollowtech II chainsets. Just be sure to get the correct crank length to match the right-hand side!View Deal
Smart wheel-on turbo trainer deals
If you want the complete Zwift experience, you'll undoubtedly want a smart turbo trainer. The variable resistance offered by a smart trainer can be controlled electronically and work in perfect harmony with your Zwift experience, meaning when the road points up, pedalling gets harder, just like in the real world.
There are many different smart wheel-on turbo trainers available, but here are a few of the best deals we've been able to find.
Wahoo Kickr Snap | 14% off at Hargroves Cycles
Was £499.99 | Now £429.99
No list of turbo trainers would be complete without something from Wahoo. The Kickr Snap is their wheel-on offering and it sets the benchmark for wheel-on performance and road feel. View Deal
Power meter pedals deals
Power meter pedals aren't exactly cheap. They're generally twice the price of a budget crank-based power meter or a wheel-on smart trainer. However, the benefit to owning power meter pedals over a smart turbo trainer is the flexibility to use it in multiple scenarios: At the gym, at home on your own Zwift setup, even outside of your pain cave in the real world! It may be a slightly more expensive total outlay, 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.
If your gym doesn't have smart bikes, 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.
Garmin Vector 3S | 20% off at Wiggle
Was £439.99 | Now £349.99
The Garmin Vector 3S pedal-based power meter is a single-sided power meter that uses Look's Keo cleat type. You do get two pedals, but the right will be void of any electronics or sensors. Garmin does also sell the right-hand power meter pedal separately, should you wish to upgrade to dual-sided later. View Deal
PowerTap P2 pedals | 26% off at Wiggle
Was £ 799.99 | Now £619.99
These power meter pedals use ANT+ or Bluetooth, so will easily talk to your smartphone or tablet. They can be used on your turbo trainer or rollers for a power-based indoor experience. They can be fitted to any kind of indoor bike that uses 9/16" thread, or they can be used on any bike outdoors, without compatibility issues. View Deal
Smart direct-drive turbo trainer deals
For the ultimate experience and a true road feel, a direct drive turbo trainer really does offer 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 Ken Block on a track day. The top-spec direct-drive trainers add extra niceties such as vibration (to provide off-road feel in off-road in-game sections) and generally have a higher maximum power and incline simulation.
Elite Turbo Muin II Fluid | 27% off at Chain Reaction Cycles
Was £449.99 | Now £329.99
The Elite Turbo Muin II is a low-cost direct-drive smart trainer and comes in at a lower price than some of the wheel-on options above. Assuming compatibility with your bike, it's a great option. View Deal
Tacx Neo 2 Smart Trainer | 25% off at Chain Reaction Cycles
Was £1199.99 | Now £899.99
Formerly the range-topping model from Tacx, the Neo 2 is still one of the best direct-drive turbo trainers on the market. It doesn't require a power supply, instead, it uses the power of your legs to function. It can handle power of up to 2200 watts and can simulate gradients of up to 25%. View Deal
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?
If you're a member of a gym, there's a possibility your gym has a Zwift-ready bike with a built-in power meter such as a Stages bike or Wattbike. Check with the gym's staff as to the facilities available - you may be able to pair your bike with your phone and be on Zwift in seconds.
Find your local PureGym in the UK
Things you need for Zwift
Firstly, for any Zwift setup, you'll need a turbo trainer. Rollers aren't completely out of the question, but unless you're planning on spinning 140rpm, you'll need resistance rollers, and unless you already own these, you're much better off investing in a turbo trainer. Most will come with a front-wheel riser block, but if not, adding one of these will prevent your weight from being pushed onto your hands.
Kinetic T-750c riser block | 28% off at Wiggle
Was £25.00 | Now £17.99
They don't need to be anything special, the cheapest versions can be found for around £4.00 at Amazon. However, this Kinetic riser block is built to offer a choice of four height options.View Deal
You'll need an internet connection. This can come in the form of 4G, but in our test, a one-hour-long Zwift race used approximately 650MB of data, so be careful with your data allowance if choosing this option. Running an ethernet cable to the garage mightn't be the quickest solution, but it might be the only option you have. If you're able to run a permanent ethernet cable, a second router or WiFi booster is a worthy consideration. There's nothing more '21st century' than getting dropped due to a poor internet connection, but it's annoying nonetheless.
Zwift compatible computer
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, an iPhone screen is too small to read the data numbers in the corners when riding at or near your limit.
Bluetooth / ANT+
Bluetooth or ANT+ connectivity. No matter your budget, if your turbo trainer, power meter or speed sensor are ANT+ only, you're likely to need an ANT+ adapter. If you're using Bluetooth, then there's a greater chance your device will connect without the need for an adapter.
You'll ideally need a power supply. Especially if using a smart trainer. Some of the best smart trainers, such as the Tacx NEO 2T, will work without, but you'll also want a fan and you don't want your laptop's battery life to cut your ride short.
You'll also need a fan. OK, you don't need a fan, but when you're sweating from places you didn't know existed, we promise you'll want one more than you've ever wanted anything before.
Honeywell HT900e Turbo fan
From our experience, the Honeywell HT900e is a great mid-sized powerful option, and it can be fixed to a wall. But if you're unsure, the general rule is the bigger the better. View Deal
Things that improve your Zwift experience
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 you can often make do with a less dedicated solution, such as an ironing board or a stepladder.
2. 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.
3. Turbo trainer floor mat
Unless you're in the garage or shed, you'll probably want to protect your floor from the same salty sweat as well as any 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!
4. Turbo trainer 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. Not only will this ruin the tyre's on-road cornering performance, but it will also remove any puncture protection it once had. Dedicated hard-wearing turbo trainer tyres exist to overcome this very problem. You could invest in a dedicated turbo trainer tyre but if you fancy some new rubber for on the road, recycle your old part-worn tyre for indoor-use only.
Elite Coperton turbo trainer tyre
The major difference between this and a typical road tyre is the density of the rubber and the lack of tread pattern, which reduces heat, noise and vibration. View Deal
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 unessential peripherals. Look for a turbo trainer deal to ensure you're getting the most bang for your buck.
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 £35.00, and a similar length ethernet cable for around half that.
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 in the comments below.