When it comes to indoor cycling, Zwift is easily one of the most popular platforms in the world. Founded in 2014, the company has already garnered millions of users and interest from professional cycling teams and races around the world. Having been in the spotlight since its adolescence, the software that Zwift built was largely responsible for the rise in popularity of the best turbo trainers, and as a result, it spurred a world of interest in virtual cycling.
While Zwift is the most popular indoor cycling app in the world, it is not the only one, and believe it or not, there are aspects of Zwift that some people do not enjoy. Whether it’s the gamified experience or the pixelated avatars, there are many cyclists who prefer to use one of the many Zwift alternatives.
As advancements in indoor cycling technology continue at an all-time high, the birth of other indoor training apps has followed. You may recognise the apps such as Rouvy, TrainerRoad, and Wahoo SYSTM, but there are many more.
We've tried almost every indoor cycling app available, and while we're all fans of Zwift here at Cyclingnews, we're by no means exclusive Zwifters. Others have many benefits too, so here are our favourite Zwift alternatives.
For comparison’s sake, here are Zwift's specs:
- Price: $14.99 / £12.99 per month
- Platform: Mac, Windows, iOS, Apple TV, Android
Last year Wahoo announced the rebranding of Wahoo SUF (which was previously the Sufferfest) to Wahoo Systm, an all-encompassing training app that seeks to help you reach your cycling goals. Unlike Zwift – which is limited to just cycling and running – Wahoo Systm has a multifaceted approach to training and recovery, and includes guided sessions such as mental training, yoga, strength training, and meditation in addition to cycling, running, and swimming.
Wahoo Systm also uses the patented 4DP (four-dimensional power) test to evaluate your current fitness in a more thorough way than the traditional 20-minute FTP test or ramp test. Within Systm, the legacy Sufferfest workouts are a truly unique experience, combining real-life race videos, on-screen text, and motivating music to help you reach your power targets. However, there are no virtual worlds in Wahoo Systm, and you won’t be able to ride with friends like you can on Zwift.
There is also no ‘gaming’ feel to Systm, such as experience points, levelling up, or having a customisable avatar. Some users will appreciate this, while others won’t. Overall, Wahoo Systm is a much more focused training app than Zwift, one that takes away the distractions and helps you get the most out of yourself. It promises to help you get the most out of your training, and make you fitter and faster than ever with its customised training sessions and plans.
The most popular indoor cycling platform in the world is not Zwift – it's Peloton. You’ve certainly heard of the brand before, but if you’re a Zwifter, you’ve probably never tried Peloton, or vice versa. The apps target very different user bases, with Zwift going after more traditional road cyclists, and Peloton geared towards spin class enthusiasts.
Peloton’s app includes everything from live and on-demand, instructor-led spin classes to guided strength training sessions. There are yoga classes, interval training workouts, stretching, running, and meditation classes included in the monthly subscription, which is $39.00 / £39.00 per month.
Peloton focuses on all-around fitness, but what you see during a ride will be vastly different to the likes of Wahoo Systm or Zwift. Peloton doesn’t have an ERG mode workout graph for power and heart rate, a virtual world, or race videos in the background. Instead, Peloton is known for its instructor-led spin classes. With upbeat music playing in the background, Peloton’s professional instructors will help you stay focused and full of energy throughout your spin session. This is a far cry from more traditional cycling apps that are mostly focused on either ERG mode training or virtual cycling.
As opposed to Zwift which is all about social connection and competition by riding with or against other avatars, Peloton is focused on peer-based motivation, putting you into a live workout with other users around the world, challenging and helping you all get the most out of yourselves during a tough spin session. Peloton also has a more holistic approach to training within its app, with stretching and recovery sessions included. But unlike Zwift, the actual rides will be extremely different, with only the instructor and your own metrics to look at. There are no roads to ride on or mountains to climb, you’ll just have to use your imagination.
- Is Peloton worth it?
- Best exercise bikes: Dedicated smart turbo trainer bikes that are more than your typical home exercise bike
One of the most popular training-focussed apps around, TrainerRoad has a massive following from both its training app and “Ask a Cycling Coach” podcast.
It has one of the simplest and barest displays out of any cycling training app. All you’ll see is a workout graph, plotting your planned and completed power output, as well as some of your other metrics such as heart rate and cadence. A few on-screen instructions will help you stay focused on the effort at hand, but that’s about it. There are no virtual worlds, and the only social connection comes if you choose to ride a group workout with friends, there are no videos to watch or mountains to climb. You don’t get an avatar or any levelling-up bonuses, and there are no races to compete in either. TrainerRoad is all about you and making you faster.
However, that's exactly where it excels. TrainerRoad is an app with a single focus, and it does this using a smorgasbord of workouts and how they are prescribed as part of its wider training plan builder. Start by telling the app your goals and timeframe, and the app will prescribe a plan that builds you toward those goals, adapting every day to your progress, just like a real coach would. It includes workouts for running and swimming too, but it's in cycling where the app excels most.
Truthfully said, TrainerRoad is not a fun training app; but it is effective. It uses machine learning to calculate how well you followed a workout, and if you nailed it, it'll level you up. If you failed it, it'll give you a more achievable workout next time round, so that you can continue completing workouts that are hard enough to push you, but not too hard that you fail. If you want to become a faster cyclist – without the need for entertainment, social connection, or other potential distractions – TrainerRoad is the Zwift alternative for you.
- Zwift vs TrainerRoad: An indoor cycling head-to-head
Rouvy offers one of the most immersive virtual cycling experiences of any training app, dropping you into the ‘real world’ from your own pain cave. The platform has even hosted some virtual National Championship races in Europe and is always in the conversation when talking about the next big thing in indoor cycling. With over 4,000 structured workouts, real-life riding footage, racing, and a custom workout builder, Rouvy might offer the most ‘bang for your buck’ out of any training app, as it costs just $12 per month.
Combining the virtual world with reality, Rouvy puts you onto real-life roads all around the world, taken from the GoPro of a real-life rider. Rouvy then matches your smart trainer to the gradient, and it feels like you’re actually riding up the Stelvio. Few other training apps – if any – can match the real-life riding experience of Rouvy. And with so many workouts to choose from, you won’t be struggling to increase your fitness using this app.
Rouvy lacks the gamified experience of other apps like Zwift, but many users will prefer the real-life feel anyway. Overall, Rouvy is an incredibly unique training app that creates an augmented reality experience unlike any other – it’s definitely a Zwift alternative worth trying.
- Zwift vs Rouvy: Which is better?
One of the few free training apps is RGT Cycling, a unique app with a whole new level of user input and customisation that has become the favourite of many. Called Road Grand Tours, RGT Cycling is like other training apps in that it has a number of virtual roads to ride on, each of which based on real-world locations, as well as a massive library of workouts to choose from. The virtual routes include rides up the Stelvio, and the city circuit of the Road World Championships in Leuven, Belgium.
RGT Cycling has races on offer every day of the week, and a unique physics model that includes a simulation of braking, drafting, and cornering. No other training apps have these features, which helps RGT Cycling stand out. The app is constantly updated using feedback from its public forums and Discord chats, and an ever-improving physics model has convinced many riders to stay.
Perhaps the most unique feature of RGT Cycling is its ‘Magic Roads.’ These are virtual roads created for you when you send a GPX file to RGT Cycling, and it converts it to a virtual road in less than 24 hours. This is a great tool for entertainment and exploration, but can also be an amazing way to virtually ride somewhere in the world that you’ve never been. You can ride a stage of the Tour de France, preview the National Championships course, or upload the GPX of your target event and familiarise yourself with every climb, descent and turn. Magic Roads is an amazing feature for pre-riding and course reconnaissance, and one that has even been utilised by professional teams targeting key races.
- RGT vs Zwift: Which platform is more realistic?
BKool attempts to blur the virtual with reality, creating a realistic user experience for indoor cycling. One of the most underrated training apps available, BKool shares many features with other indoor cycling apps, such as the ability to upload your own virtual routes. There are hundreds of workouts to choose from and plenty of user customisation such as choosing your own kits and bikes. You’ll even earn experience points for completing miles, just like you would in Zwift.
One of the best features of BKool is its massive variety of routes to choose from, including professional racecourses and realistic city rides. You can head into the Ardennes for a tough training session or pedal around London or Sydney on one of BKool’s virtual routes. Available on all the usual platforms, BKool costs $10 per month and is one of the most valuable apps out there.
£9.99 per month / £85.99 per year
Using real-world user-submitted footage from roads around the world, FulGaz allows riders to follow routes in all corners of the globe. However, instead of an avatar, the app simply places a replica bike computer on your screen, giving you a first-person view of the road.
The most Zwift-alike of the alternatives, the MyWhoosh platform is new to the scene, founded in 2018, but features virtual worlds with rider avatars and plenty of gamification. It it also already home to a sizable and competitive racing scene.
How to choose a Zwift alternative
Virtual, reality or neither?
In all the above training apps, some tend towards the gamified virtual world, others focus on real-world footage, while some simply ignore the notion of a visual experience altogether. Apps like Zwift and RGT Cycling are based entirely on a virtual-world aesthetic, while Rouvy, FulGaz and Peloton use a more real-world approach to visual design. TrainerRoad meanwhile eschews the visuals altogether, instead allowing you to bring your own entertainment, or even suffer in silence.
To choose the right Zwift alternative, you need to ask yourself what you'd prefer. Do you want to simulate outdoor riding, or play a cycling game with power-ups, experience points, and customisable avatars? The gamified apps add a whole new level of complexity to your indoor cycling, and this can either help you forget about the pain, or hinder your ability to focus. It depends what motivates you most.
Training, racing or riding with friends?
What is more important to you: individual training, or group rides and racing?
Your answer will tell you a lot about what app(s) you will prefer, whether it's TrainerRoad or Zwift. To maximise your indoor cycling experience and not waste a single pedal stroke, individually focused apps such as Wahoo Systm and TrainerRoad are the best options.
But if you want to ride in groups, challenge friends on KOMs or in races, and be surrounded by other people (even if it’s just in a virtual world), then you need a connected and sociable app like Zwift or RGT Cycling.
Social or solo riding
Social connection is a human need and one that is fully stressed in some indoor cycling apps, and almost entirely ignored in others. The hermit-like nature of apps TrainerRoad or Wahoo Systm can be extremely off-putting to some riders. Complete the workouts and you’ll certainly get faster and maximise the efficiency of your training, but not everyone is happy toiling away in their own company?
On Zwift or RGT Cycling, you’ll be able to ride with others and race against strangers on virtual roads around the world. The training might not be as scientifically procured, but you may have a lot more fun in the process, which could lead you to stick with it, rather than skip sessions, and this in itself will yield greater results.
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Zach is a freelance writer, the head of ZNehr Coaching, and an elite-level rider in road, track, and e-racing. He writes about everything cycling-related, from buyer's guides to product reviews and feature articles to power analyses. After earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Exercise Science at Marian University-Indianapolis, Zach discovered a passion for writing that soon turned into a full-fledged career. In between articles, Zach spends his time working with endurance athletes of all abilities and ages at ZNehr Coaching. After entering the sport at age 17, Zach went on to have a wonderful road racing career that included winning the 2017 Collegiate National Time Trial Championships and a 9th place finish at the 2019 US Pro National Time Trial Championships. Nowadays, Zach spends most of his ride time indoors with NeXT eSport.
- Josh CroxtonTech Editor
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