Triathlon Magazine Canada

Do you Zwift?

Online Fitness Explosion


It seems like a silly question to triathlete­s, as so many have embraced the new platform and have made it an integral part of their training. Here’s a look at the company’s surge in popularity since the COVID-19 pandemic and what we can expect in the future.

It’s hardly a surprise to triathlete­s out there – as our world locked down in March 2020, more and more people found themselves looking for ways to work out. Triathlete­s, who were already avid fans of the Zwift platform, just did more of the same, sniggering to themselves when they came across someone new to the platform who was raving about this great new indoor cycling program called Zwift.

By July 2020, Zwift reported that the platform’s popularity had doubled since the start of the pandemic, with upwards of 35,000 users on the app during peak times. (By February 2021 that number was up to 45,000.) According to a report in the Calgary Journal, engagement had grown by 79 per cent over the year. As athletes looked for homebased fitness opportunit­ies during the pandemic, Zwift growth continued. The company received a huge boost of funding in September, 2020, netting US$450 million in a funding round that saw Amazon and Specialize­d Bicycles jump into the mix. Zwift doesn’t share their numbers, but in an interview with Forbes in February, Zwift CEO and one of the founders, Eric Min, was willing to say that the business doubled in size over the previous year and that there were over three million accounts created on the platform, with “hundreds of thousands of customers using Zwift on a daily basis.”

It’s become so popular that many triathlete­s now refer to their indoor workouts as “zwifting.”

I can still remember the first time I saw Zwift in action. It was at the Ironman World Championsh­ip in Kona, Hawaii, in 2015 and I was asked to check out the Zwift display. I met Min – a passionate cyclist himself. The “gaming” component of the platform was somewhat lost on me at the time, but since then I’ve come to realize that it is that component to the platform that both differenti­ated Zwift from other indoor riding programs at the time (Computrain­er’s Interactiv­e Real Course Videos), and has helped make it so popular today. The gamificati­on – collecting badges and exploring routes and competitio­n – has helped fuel the huge growth of the company.

While Zwift somewhat replicates the outdoor riding experience, that was never the goal for Min and the rest of the Zwift developers.

“We’re not trying to simulate, but we are bringing some of those elements in, but we want to create our own unique experience,” Min told Forbes magazine.

Since my first look at Zwift in Kona, the company has come up with many more ways to engage with the program – steering and mountain biking – which seems to provide a similar draw for triathlete­s that my son’s seem to have for the video games they’ve long been addicted to. Add to that the Esports component to Zwift and the program gains even more legitimacy as a viable competitiv­e platform, one that makes even more sense as a training tool. Unlike other popular Esports games, Zwift is very physical. It’s been recognized as a discipline by World Cycling, and pro triathlete­s took part in a number of Zwift events last winter, including both cycling and duathlon events.

The platform helped spur the worldwide shortage of smart trainers for much of last winter, too. Athletes were so keen to be able to “zwift” that they scooped up every available trainer they could find just to be able to join their friends for workouts and races.

But will this demand continue? When Peloton chopped the price of its lowest end bike, its stock actually went down as investors questioned whether or not the pandemicfu­eled indoor fitness boom would continue. Zwift, though, has such a base of cyclists and triathlete­s that it’s hard to imagine those folks won’t both continue with the platform and encourage more to join them. Two of the athletes with the most followers on the platform, Jan Frodeno and Lionel Sanders, serve as role models for triathlete­s who see that it’s possible to get great training done on the platform and avoid having to deal with cars out on the road. And for our long Canadian winters? “Zwifting” is a great way to maintain winter bike fitness.

The rumour mill has been churning for a while that Zwift will also be moving into the hardware realm, too, which will add another interestin­g twist to the platform’s growth as the company steps into the same market that Peloton currently dominates.

 ?? ??
 ?? ?? The Elite Sterzo Smart allows you to steer your bike while using Zwift
Trainer accesories like the Wahoo Kickr Climb and Kickr Headwind make riding indoors far more comfortabl­e, immersive and entertaini­ng
The Elite Sterzo Smart allows you to steer your bike while using Zwift Trainer accesories like the Wahoo Kickr Climb and Kickr Headwind make riding indoors far more comfortabl­e, immersive and entertaini­ng

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada