Zwift's new FutureWorks Steering product update has officially been rolled out across the platform's eight worlds in a move that is certain to revolutionise the indoor cycling movement. This steering functionality is currently only compatible with the Elite Sterzo Smart steering plate (pictured here) which will help not only promote a more immersive experience but also allow better control over your Zwift avatar.
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We first caught a glimpse of the Elite Sterzo at Eurobike last year but the version we sampled was the non-smart, 'mechanical' version. Having tried it first hand at the Zwift and Elite stand, it worked pretty impressively but the complicated nature of having to use your smartphone's accelerometer as a reference sensor to steer came across quite gimmicky.
The Elite Sterzo smart steering plate has tidied things up and will no doubt take the interactivity side of things - not to mention eRacing tactics - to the next level.
Design and aesthetics
Visually, the Sterzo fits in well with Elite's current product portfolio and design blueprint. In fact, at first glance, you'd be forgiven for thinking it was a regular riser block such is its refinement and minimalist form. It's only when closely examining the unit that its smart attributes come to the fore. For starters there's a little LED notification light located on the top left corner which flashes green or blue (ANT+ or Bluetooth Smart).
The Sterzo steering plate possesses a triangular footprint - a design feature which allows the riser block to swivel from side-to-side as you manipulate your handlebars just as you would when steering outside. Three rubberised grippers provide traction but still requires your full body weight to hold it securely in place. How well this will hold up in an out-and-out sprint I'm not yet entirely sure, but we will report on this when we review it in detail in the coming months.
Other than that, the undercarriage houses the battery compartment, as well as a number of stickers, referencing the serial number and date of manufacture.
Offering 34-degrees of self-centring rotation (left and right) the spring-actuated riser block runs across the triangular base by way of two roller wheels. Located on each side of the base is a rubber bump stop to prevent the riser block from making contact and damaging the base. The Sterzo takes three 1.5V AAA batteries which Elite claims should last for up to 500 hours. In terms of bike compatibility, the riser block will play nicely with both road- and mountain bikes catering for a maximum tyre size of up 56mm in width.
It's important that you orientate the steering plate correctly - in this case, it should point forward like an arrowhead. This helps it grip better as well as ensures the widest range of lateral movement - Elite recommends you use it together with its training mat for maximum traction. Connecting the Sterzo is as straightforward as pairing your turbo trainer and heart rate monitor. The device status is indicated by the aforementioned LED notification lights.
What about riders who use rocker plates such as the Saris Nfinity Trainer Platform? Well, for now, it's unfortunately not compatible and probably not a good idea given the fact it can't be securely fastened to the rocker plate baseboard.
Avoid the sticky draft once and for all
Ah yes, the sticky draft. This is a bugbear that has long plagued many Zwifters, particularly those who race. In short, the new Elite Sterzo will now give riders the ability to steer their way around slower riders in the bunch and not through them.
The most exciting feature, however, is the ability to choose your own line through corners. This will become particularly tricky in racing scenarios where you'll need to be more alert and perceptive to moves, chasing the draft in front and, essentially, not getting dropped.
Whether or not this will add to the racing aspect or detract from it, we'll have to wait and see but I imagine Zwift will eventually make steering mandatory for racing. Tactics will undoubtedly become more important as a result and should naturally favour those who understand the fundamentals of racecraft, bringing more of a balance to races.
The Elite Sterzo smart steering plate is an excellent addition for the indoor setup of any serious Zwifter or eRacer. Not only will it improve the riding experience but also make the racing aspect less about FTP and more about strategy - or dare I say, skill.
At £74.99 it's by no means cheap and some may see it more as a luxury than a necessity but it represents the direction where Zwift and indoor cycling is moving as a concept - full immersion and interactivity.
I'll be testing the Elite Sterzo smart steering plate over the coming months and look forward to seeing how it holds up during fast-paced 3R and WTRL TTT events on Zwift. Full review to follow.
Tech spec: Elite Sterzo smart steering plate
- RRP: £74.99 / $NA
- Weight: 955g
- Connectivity: ANT+, Bluetooth
- Battery life: 500 hours
- Battery type: AAA
- Left-right movement: 34-degrees each way
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