Best Indoor Cyclings Apps – Zwift vs. TrainerRoad
Although nothing can replace riding outdoors, there are plenty of reasons to keep the wheels turning even when hopping on the road just isnʼt possible.
With app-based indoor training provided by both Zwift and TrainerRoad, there are far fewer reasons for sitting around on cold, grey days when the winter is in full swing. While both apps provide entertaining ways of knocking out indoor trainer miles, they have distinct features which make them quite different from each other, with each better suited to specific needs.
We know what itʼs like to have decision paralysis, so without further ado letʼs dive right in and take a look at the differences between Zwift and TrainerRoad so that you can make a quick and painless decision between the two.
Perhaps youʼve noticed over the last two years that more and more of your friendsʼ Strava rides are happening in weird places like Watopia or in cities you know they definitely donʼt ride in, like London.
Adding to the inexplicable locations are photos of virtual riders clipping away in animated settings. What gives?
Stay calm, itʼs just the rise of Zwift. But before you ask what Zwift is, weʼll just go ahead and tell you.
Zwift is a massively multiplayer online game specifically created for indoor cyclists. It all began as a novel way to take indoor cycling away from being repetitive. Surely, you know the drill well by now. Your work schedule has you pinned, or itʼs the dead of winter and starting a ride on icy roads doesnʼt sound very appealing. Instead of letting your great summer fitness go to the wayside, you grudgingly hop on the trainer and start spinning out the miles while looking at the white garage door in front of you.
Weʼve all been there.
Zwift replaces that tedium with an app-based game wherein you craft an avatar decked out in your choice of kit and bike, then hit the road in virtual locations while putting out a performance thatʼs linked with any Bluetooth/ANT+ enabled devices you may have (cadence, power, HR).
Your metrics translate into your avatarʼs on-screen performance, allowing for racing other riders from around the world. Riding with Zwift doesnʼt always have to be difficult – you can just also just noodle around on a coffee ride with other Zwiftopians, if that pleases you.
- A 7-day free trial makes it easy to see if Zwift is for you
- Compatible with both iOS and Android
- Does an incredible job of making indoor cycling great again
- Virtual ride locations are surprisingly rich and realistic
- Races are very competitive, translating into a great workout
- Workouts are not structured enough for those looking to follow a rigorous training plan
- At $14.99/month, cost could become a factor
- Can be expensive to get set up if donʼt already have a turbo trainer
- Requires a stable internet connection
For the analytic types who want to squeeze every last watt out of their workouts, thereʼs TrainerRoad, an excellent indoor training app that is backed by sports science training principles.
In contrast to Zwift, there are no cycling avatars to contend with in TrainerRoad. Neither are there group rides around Richmond or city- limit sprints. TrainerRoad instead focuses on specific workouts – over 1,000 of them to be exact.
The way it works is simple: you work with the TrainerRoad app by letting it know your goals. Based on that data, the app will offer workout plans specifically suited to your needs. If youʼre suiting up for a hilly time trial, TrainerRoad will have a detailed approach for getting you into the best shape possible for race day.
Whereas Zwift workouts can seem rather unstructured and have a higher entertainment factor, TrainerRoad takes the long view regarding your fitness. Most plans take 28 weeks to finish and take into account a long base-period build up. If all of this sounds very pro, thatʼs because it is - TrainerRoadʼs training plans are built by coach Chad Timmerman who has several decades experience making cyclists faster.
- TrainerRoad offers a 30-day money back guarantee on your first subscription
- At $15/month or $129/year, TR is significantly less expensive than hiring a coach
- There are tons of long-term reviews available by cyclists who can attest to TrainerRoad improving their cycling
- Highly detail-oriented training plans help you work on specific cycling skills
- Great podcast that goes over all of the scientific details
- Not very entertaining – the app itself shows little more than your Garmin ordinarily would
- Although you donʼt need a power meter to use TrainerRoad, you wonʼt truly benefit from the app unless you have one
- Price was just raised from $12/month to $15/month after some improvements to the app – thereʼs a likelihood theyʼll raise prices again the near future
Between Zwift and TrainerRoad, there is no better or worse app. Theyʼre both oriented towards different ends. If youʼre really serious about cycling faster, have specific performance targets, and donʼt mind a no-frills approach, then TrainerRoad is for you.
If, on the other hand, you want to improve your cycling in general but want to do it in a social, fun, and entertaining way, then Zwift will be more to your liking. Regardless of the app you decide to go with, youʼll need a phone adapter for your Garmin mount so that you can easily use the app while on your trainer. KOM Cycling makes a sleek adapter that works perfectly for getting set up with Zwift, TrainerRoad, and even Strava.