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Zwift Plans Three At Home Fitness Hardware Products

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Last week Zwift posted a slate of new job positions, notably around supply chain management. Included within that, the company listed that they’ll not only be making three specific models, but that they’ve also selected their hardware production partners already.

At a high level, the position postings themselves would be expected. Zwift has been more open in the last few months about their hardware ambitions, in numerous statements from the CEO and PR teams. They’ve openly discussed their plans to bring hardware into a market currently occupied entirely by their partners.

All of these positions are part of Zwift’s hardware division, which is called FitTech, and appears to be largely based out of London (since that’s where all of the FitTech engineering/test/etc positions are showing from). This matches with the first round of positions about 16 months ago.

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However, most of the more interesting tidbits here come from the Supply Chain positions, which are able to work mostly anywhere (according to the descriptions).

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Props to Tariq Ali of SmartBikeTrainers.com for his tweet catching a couple of key words in one of the listings for the Director of Global Supply Chain Planning, specifically, this sentence:

“we are now expanding and are in the process of launching three at-home fitness products, that Zwift will manufacture and deliver directly to customers all over the world.”

And more specifically, the part where it says “three at-home fitness products”, as previously they haven’t really disclosed just how many products they’re working on. Of course, Zwift already makes one physical hardware product – the Zwift Running Pod, though, I’m not sure they’re actually even making that anymore, as it’s been sold out on their site for a while. That’s the pod they bought from Milestone a few years back.

Manufacturing Partners Selected:

(Above: The insides of a prototype Tacx Flux S smart trainer, prior to release)

Before we talk about the Zwift hardware threesome, there’s also a slightly different listing which details another element that might give clues to who their partners are. Inside the posting it says:

“You will work closely with our manufacturing partners in China to ensure production can run efficiently, and all component parts are delivered to them on time.”

While most job listings might allude to a region for partners (such as Asia), this is actually direct in two manners. First, it states that they’ve already selected partners in China for production, and two, that they’re going to produce these in China, specifically.

At first glance you might shrug this off. But a bit more understanding of the sports tech landscape makes this interesting:

A) It means they’ve gotten far enough down the road to choose a manufacturing facility
B) This means they aren’t planning on acquiring an existing player in the market (who almost exclusively produce outside of China)
C) It means they aren’t going to leverage existing 3rd party manufacturing powerhouses like Giant, which makes their stuff in Taiwan
D) It calls into question leveraging Specialized facilities based on that investment round, as some had speculated, which are largely in Taiwan, Cambodia, and elsewhere
E) It puts Magene as a viable manufacturing partner on the table
F) It uses the plural of partners, which might imply more than one manufacturing facility (potentially for different products)

Around this point in the post, many of you are like “Who is Magene, and how’d they end up in this post?!?”. Magene is a Chinese-based sports tech company that’s made trainers for a number of years, and has more recently dabbled in power meters. I reviewed one of their trainers a few years back, and found them actually surprisingly accurate and well done for a company that at the time didn’t have much experience/history. In many (most?) ways, they duplicated the Wahoo designs of the time, though recently they’ve gone their own route a bit on designs. Though their most recent T300 direct drive trainer seems a lot more variable, and drifts considerably, based on the testing that GPLAMA has done.

Beyond Magene, most other trainer manufacturing partnerships within Asia tend to fall to Thailand, Vietnam, and Taiwan. Though interestingly, Magene actually lists Wahoo Fitness as an investor and their own Alibaba page lists them as Wahoo’s supplier – so whether or not that would preclude a partnership with Zwift is unclear (since helping make trainers for Zwift would obviously not be in Wahoo’s competitive interest). Though, Magene (which goes by half a dozen corporate identities in China) does have OEM manufacturing partnerships for a few different product categories including rocker plates, bike lights, smart trainers, power meters, and more.

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Obviously, manufacturing goods in China isn’t news per se, but the Magene angle gives one pause – as they’d have experience in this sector already. And as much as bean counters who haven’t built trainers and smart bikes want to believe manufacturing is interchangeable, the reality is that having an experienced partner in this sector will save many months of ramp-up struggles.

Three Fitness Products:

But let’s back up a second to the “three at-home fitness products” part of this job description. That’s obviously the most important part of today’s post. In fact, it’s so important that Zwift has realized it was a poor strategy to include that in the job posting itself. Since Tariq’s initial tweet, that wording has since been changed to remove those words. However, you can’t remove anything from the internet – it’s still everywhere:

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Assuming this isn’t just three new footpods, which obviously, it isn’t – then the question is to what level do these three new products rise to?

One could assume a smart bike, a trainer, and perhaps a KICKR CLIMB like accessory with steering built-in. Or, it could be three ‘trainers’/’bikes’, such as a low-end trainer, a mid to high range trainer, and a smart bike. Or, it could be steering products of their own, not requiring dependence on companies like Elite and their Sterzo Smart.

Now Zwift’s CEO Eric Min has already confirmed they’re building a smart bike, so that takes one of them off the listing. Here’s that exchange from this past fall:

Bloomberg: “So does that mean there’s going to be a smart bike, a Zwift branded smart bike?”

Eric Min: “That’s right, we’ve been telling our partners for many years now that this is really the future of growing this entire category. And we’ll continue to work with our partners, and in the current environment our partners cannot make enough hardware.” [He goes goes on to note that the shortages have impacted many different fitness companies beyond Zwift.]

Bloomberg: “So when can we see that Zwift branded smart bike?”

Eric Min: “Well I wish…yesterday. We’re working as fast as we can, but these things do take time. We’re certainly not going to come out with a product that is just a, you know, just another piece of product. I think we have an opportunity to really innovate. And really further enhance the experience that we promised ourselves to deliver on.”

And while a so-called Zwift Bike makes a ton of sense (and what I’d focus on as well), it won’t move the needle in subs. That’s because Zwift won’t be able to make meaningful quantities for years. That manufacturing capacity doesn’t exist to the degree Zwift wants it to. Even if we combine all of the smart bikes made monthly by Wahoo, Tacx, Wattbike, and Elite, that’s not even a drop in the bucket. Low single-digit thousands (units), give or take, in total.

Instead, Zwift needs to make tens of thousands of units to have even a start at meaningful impact on their growth numbers – and it will take years to reach that for smart bikes, due to the complexity of what they’re designing. So, smart trainers it is.

The only question is: What’s it gonna cost, and what features will it have? My bet is simple:

Good: Wheel-on smart trainer at ~$399 price point (or under)
Better: Direct drive smart trainer at $999
Best: Full smart bike in the $2,500-$3,000

And all of those would have some initial Zwift subscription probably baked in to entice people further, over their competitors. Ideally they’d find a way to get a $1,800-$2,400 smart bike, to roughly match Peloton’s two-tier pricing, but I think that’ll be challenging at launch.

Or, they could do something completely off the rails and build a rower or treadmill. But neither is in line with Zwift’s very clear stance in recent months that they’re focusing on cycling, and just cycling. In fact just last weekend they had to walk back a tweet where they implied rowing was about to be added to the game. In reality, according to Zwift’s CEO, any focus on rowing has been tabled – likely because they and their investors have realized there’s no meaningful amount of new subscriptions to be made there from a growth standpoint, relative to cycling. And the same would largely apply to running, since it doesn’t appear treadmill availability is really the limiter on Zwift’s running growth.

In any case, as I’ve said before – I certainly wouldn’t hold back any purchases waiting for Zwift’s hardware. There’s simply no way hardware availability is coming anytime soon. My best guesstimate is that they could potentially announce a product portfolio at the end of summer, around the Eurobike timeframe, but that it probably won’t be available until at earliest the end of the year, or likely not till 2022. There are exceptions to that, such as by purchasing another brand – but that also seems less and less likely now. The more complexity Zwift tries to chew off, the longer the timeframes are, because ultimately, Eric Min said it best himself as part of that November interview:

“I can tell you we’ve been working on it for some time now, and hardware is as they say – hard.”

With that – thanks for reading!

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75 Comments

  1. John

    I’ll never understand why Zwift chose to pursue being the Golden Tee version of Peloton rather than simply doing microtransactions for cosmetics.

    It’s baffling and seems driven by pure ego.

    Cyclists spend $60 on a carbon bottle cage that weighs 12 grams less than a plastic one but Zwift doesn’t offer any purchasable customization?

    They are picking up pennies in front of a steam roller in the middle of the highway while there are money trees in their backyard.

    • usr

      I believe that is simply because they are burning cash as a rate where every victory smaller than Peloton is effectively defeat. Microtransactions work well when you either succeed at keeping your costs down or grow your user base extremely wide. But that second option won’t fly for Zwift because for every turbo trainer that could run Zwift you’ll find hundreds of game consoles (and the true microtransaction goldmines are those who can target every modern mobile phone and those even dwarf the number of humans on the planet)

      To illustrate how wasteful Zwift are compared to the game development industry: even a AAA production like 2077 got done on a budget smaller than the funding Zwift has collected so far.

    • Trash

      If Zwift implemented microtransactions, I’d cancel my subscription. I scrimped and saved and sold my PS4 to buy a Kinetic Road Machine Smart so I could ride in the winter. The last thing I want is some company I pay 15 bucks a month to annoyingly try to drain me of my pittance even further. There are too many good alternatives out there.

      And no, not every cyclist spends $60 on a bottle cage. In fact, I don’t know any that do. You sound like someone who’s alienated the plebeians and isolated yourself in a bubble of the bourgeoisie. Golden Tee? What the hell lol

    • Robert

      If you compare their subscriber base to Peloton’s, you can see they probably think it’s a lot easier for them to bring in 10% more users than to bring in 10% more revenue per user. Or 20%, or 30%, or whatever.

  2. Thomas Roaf

    There would it appears be real space in the market for a budget smart bike. If they can find a way of delivering a smart bike at 1000$ price point, even if it had accuracy issues and lacked aesthetic form it would fly off their website. A peleton original without the screen could surely still have sufficient margin at that price point while simultaneous delivering subscription boosts.

    • Definitely – however, I don’t think that’s viable. I think the $1,500 price point is viable, especially for a company like Zwift which is then going to rake in sub money long term.

      For example, when the Wattbike ATOM first came out, it was only 1,499GBP – or at the time 1,633EUR. That was super affordable, and largely has the main features that people need in Zwift today. Sure, there’s some design decisions that I’d change, but that wouldn’t really impact price.

      However, Zwift seems to imply they want to go with a higher end model that undoubtedly would do steering, CLIMB functionality, and more. At least out of the gate. In doing so though, they raise manufacturing complexity, and thus, reduce unit shippable volume.

    • David W

      Hi Ray. Any idea if a Zwift bike/trainer will conform to industry standard Ant+ and BT interfaces so that you can use it with platforms other than Zwift? If the answer is that it only works with Zwift then I would have ZERO interest.

    • secret_squirrel

      Although Ray’s undoubted the expert I would query the difference between a top end trainer and a smart bike. Surely the complexity is in the drive train electronics and the rest is a solid frame and a few hardware buttons for gears and steering. There are dozens of spin bikes out there that the frame shouldn’t be a problem.

      Establishing a drive train as good as the electromagnetic units from Tacx, Wahoo or Wattbike is surely the biggest problem.

      Wattbike are hardly a massive company (15% of Zwifts size according to pitchbook) and they are closer to the $1500/$£1500 range than anyone else, with a fairly decent product in the Atom NG.

  3. David E.

    Interesting. Was just listening yesterday to a relatively recent podcast that Eric Min did with the Momentous CEO (protein/recovery nutrition company). Two reactions:

    1) Min claimed that Zwift’s interest in hardware was about making it easier for people to get on Zwift. Is this really a problem that people have? Plug-and-play Zwift hardware would be great, I suppose, but how hard is it really to get a bike with any other trainer set up?

    2) He said that he thinks there’s lots of potential to innovate with treadmills, but it’s not even on the Zwift roadmap at this point.

    • Simon

      For a certain type of user ( that is the new influx who are not hard core cyclists and/or early adopter and/or tech savv) the friction getting going on Zwift is considerable. Eric Min and others have long talked about this. The evidence in the various Zwift forums is plentiful. And then there’s those who give up before starting “because that all looks hard”.

    • David E.

      Thanks. I suppose that makes sense, especially if one thinks of Zwift’s main competition as Peloton. For me, it’s Zwift in competition with TrainerRoad, but I realize the OCD indoor-training, technology-obsessed triathlete is probably not a huge part of the market. 😉

    • JimC

      As Simon says there’s a huge amount of friction, at a minimum you need: A laptop or tablet; a bike; and a smart trainer.

      And you have to connect them all up, and it’s not simply a case of plugging something in – you need to sort out pairing etc. Then you might have to install a new cassette on a direct-drive trainer, which may or may not be compatible with the 7-speed MTB beater you’re planning on using, etc. Lots of pain points where things can go wrong.

    • usr

      Every public statement from Zwift leadership makes perfect sense iff you look at it from the angle of “can this be used as an excuse for why they aren’t earning their investors billions yet?”

      Same for their impressive log of strategy shifts: “we’ll introduce ruining, it will be huge”, “we’ll introduce pro competition, it will be huge”, “we’ll introduce or own hardware, it will be huge”.

      They are deep in the VC trap, they got big investments, they *have* to spend the money (investors expect their money to be spent, they won’t tolerate a company staying lean and just using the cash as a rainy day fund), and that increases costs which makes it even harder to reach the goalposts which are even farther out now.

    • David W

      There is a ton of friction. BlueTooth on Windows 10 does not work and hasn’t for the two years I have been trying it. Two completely different computer and Zwift finds a total of ZERO BT devices. TrainerRoad, Sullerfest, and Rouvy all connect to everything instantly on the same hardware and Windows installation. iOS works fine but I don’t want to run Zwift on my iPad when I can use my laptop and a huge screen. But they apparently don’t care about fixing it because every time I contact support I get the same link to the same document which has a number of steps that don’t fix the problem. The simple observation is that if everybody else works fine then the problem is Zwift and NOT my computer setup.

    • Indeed, as Simon noted – the friction for first time users is massive. I see it in comments everyday from folks that just don’t want to try and understand all the pieces they need to make it work – it’s a mess. Eric is spot on there as well, it’s a huge lift for the average consumer that has a bike – some bike – and wants to get into Zwift.

      Or, even someone who wants a ‘just works’ solution, akin to what Peloton delivers experience-wise. Think about it – in normal times, Peloton people roll that $1,900ish bike to wherever you want in your house, put down the trainer mat, connect it to WiFi, give you a quick explainer, and make sure you’re account is logged in and good to go.

      Yet, if I buy a $3,500 KICKR Bike – it shows up and you have to assemble it, you have to connect it up to another screen, and you have to connect that screen to an app, which in turn has another account, and on and on.

      While many readers here might shrug at those steps, the reality is most wince instead. They just say no, and go another route. These days, the number of bike-tech-friendly people that are left in the world for Zwift is dwindling. And a key way to fix that is making the process easier.

      Of course, they could also accomplish quite a bit of that by working with existing partners too, to streamline the process and improve setup. There’s zero reason it needs to be the mess it is today. If I were telling Zwift what to do…I’d say both.

    • MrJoeJoe

      Bluetooth works just fine on Windows 10 for me with Zwift. Sounds like you’ve got a hardware issue.

    • David E.

      Points all well taken, but all those issues are still going to exist for any Zwift trainer, right? You’re still going to need to figure out how to get your bike on it. You’re still going to need to connect it to a computer/tv/tablet. You’re still going to need to make sure the app is talking to the trainer. I get how the all-in-one Peloton-like solution would be attractive (though I’m skeptical that they can win versus Peloton for the people who would consider both), but I don’t see how the trainers solve the apparent problem.

    • Tony

      In the past 2 years I have had Zwift connected to a Win10 laptop, a Win10 desktop, M1 Macbook Pro, an iPad Air, and the Apple TV.

      Without QUESTION the Apple products are completely superior in their BT reliability. I want Windows to work badly as I have an RTX 2080 Super waiting to be leveraged and it looks fantastic when it works.

    • Claus Jacobsen

      Not if they combine monitor/computer with the bike as one unit. (just like the peloton) – that literally is the only way you can make an “easy entry” into Zwift racing, and with someone like magene who literally has the basic technology done. All they have to do is build the t300 onto a bikeframe, and attach a monitor with an android based unit (which would probably be enough computepower) – Et Voila, one peace of “zwift” bike.
      All you would need then was to create an account and ride. But that is needed on a peloton as well if i’m not mistaken.

    • David E.

      Umm, I think that’s exactly what I said: “I get how the all-in-one Peloton-like solution would be attractive…”

      I’m still not sure that a ZwiftBike beats a Peloton. I’m not on Peloton, but the people I know who are love both its ease of use *and* the classes they can take. They all have their favorite instructors. Not sure that Zwift races or fondos can compete with that. . .

    • Scott W

      The only way it would become user friendly from the box is a fully functional smart bike, like peloton but better. I visualise a love child from a Kickr bike and Peloton bike+

    • “I visualise a love child from a Kickr bike and Peloton bike+”

      Yup, I agree – find a way to do that, ideally at $2,499 (roughly same price at Peloton Bike+), and they’ll sell boatloads. Find a way to do a variant of that at $1,899ish, and boatloads more. And so-on down.

    • “Bluetooth works just fine on Windows 10 for me with Zwift. Sounds like you’ve got a hardware issue.”

      I think this quick exchange has illustrated perfectly the issue though: It becomes the users problem today. Sorting out whether that’s a hardware issue or a software issue isn’t something people want to deal with. They’ll go buy all-in-one solutions from competitors and go elsewhere.

      Plus, it’s well known that Bluetooth issues exist on Windows 10 and Zwift. Heck, I can’t get Bluetooth sensors to work half the time on my main Windows 10 machine. Is it hardware? Of course not. it’s software. It’s a crappy driver somewhere that’s causing that. That could be the vendors issues, Microsoft’s issue, Zwift’s issue…who knows. It’s not high on my list to solve, I just stick an ANT+ stick in there. But most people don’t bother, they give up.

    • Chris Benten

      BT has never been reliable on the multitude of W10 laptops i have had. Works fine on the iPads. It is a WinTel issue. Android is in between. When I first got my Pixel 2XL…BT sucked. But it slowly got better and suddenly it worked great. But now they have gone too far. Just look at the BT icon on the phone and it connects to whatever is around. Sometimes this becomes a real PITA.

    • Nat G

      I’m a woman in my 40’s. reading through the reviews (thanks, Ray!) went for kickr core. Got confused by the cassette required as all I knew I needed a 9 speed one. Sorted. Installed the kickr, it was rattling a bit and vibrated in high gears. Bought a mat. Better but still not good enough. Watched numerous videos on indexing, no luck. Cleaned the chain (first time in my life), followed gplama’s video on greasing (bought special grease etc.), still not happy. Asked over a bike mechanic, £20 later, still not a good enough experience. Back the kickr core went, zwift cancelled. Now trying to choose which smart bike to buy once there is stock as I did like Zwift (90 kms only) and the smart bikes’ UK prices don’t make it easy anyway. All together awful experience, learnt a lot though althoughI think the workout/training plan section in Zwift is straight from the nineties ? but as far I’m as I’m concerned the only platform that has various beginner training plans (I didn’t even know what a structured workout was at first). I personally think there must be a market for out of the box works type of offerings not that I’ll wait for the zwift bike.

    • Eric B

      100% Ray on Peloton and it just works. Had one which I sold a while back and do miss the simplicity.

      An AppleTV purchase recently helped tremendously with Zwift and it just works. Ready for the Neo bike to come back in stock mid year so I can sell my N2T, dedicated trainer bike and the Saris MP1. Love the combo but want to cut. down on the “stuff” that is involved with it.

    • Jeff

      I _was_ having issues with Bluetooth drops on a Win10 NUC box I got specifically for Zwift, so kept using my TabS6 which didn’t have issues with Ant or Bluetooth. The issue for many (and myself) was the Intel Bluetooth drivers being buggy with their BLE support. Intel FINALLY got Bluetooth stabilized in the November 2020 timeframe. (which also stabilized 802.11ac connections…) If anyone’s still having issues and has Intel Wireless – UPDATE your drivers. Probably applies to all other wireless chipsets. 🙂 Not to mention firmware updates for devices….

    • Sure selling trainer bike with Zwift built in will remove much of the friction. If one wants to do Zwift and nothing else I guess it is a big win. It will also severely curtail the choice of the customer unless Zwift makes their trainer compatible with common connectivity / protocols or makes their own public. Some people might like it and some might not.

    • “It will also severely curtail the choice of the customer unless Zwift makes their trainer compatible with common connectivity / protocols or makes their own public”

      I agree. If Zwift comes out with a bike/trainer that doesn’t support ANT+ FE-C and Bluetooth FTMS, it would be very challenging for me to recommend it. And I also think it’d be a pretty big slap in the face to both consumers and trainer companies, the two entities that enabled Zwift to get where it was, based on open standards (ANT+/BLE trainer profiles) and open API’s (Wahoo/CycleOps/Elite/Tacx open trainer API’s prior to that). Without those standards, Zwift never would have succeeded.

      While arguably Peloton is in that realm today, it’s a bit different in that their core audience/customer base isn’t people that are likely to use other apps (sure, some want to, but 99% don’t).

    • Cristo

      Then just use ant+.

    • RaulV

      People that fall in this cat. should buy a trainer at a LBS and have them take care of everything. For a different price….

  4. Dembo

    Am I the only one who always hears Steve Jobs saying “…an iPod, a phone, an internet communicator. Three things, are you getting it?” when somebody mentions three new products? So with Zwift expanding into rowing I fully expect their hardware device (singular) to be a hybrid smart bike / treadmill / rowing machine. That thing will be awesome!

  5. Santo

    Wait in two years before they realizing that they need to pivot back to the core value of the company (game) and raise the price of the sub to cover the failed hw experience..

  6. Gaz

    Imagine having the opportunity of a clean slate and deciding to manufacture in China lol ??
    Who ever thought that was a good idea needs shooting. The product will be utter dogshit.

    • It’s not about where you manufacture, it’s about your quality process and oversight. After all, manufacturing in China seems to work out just fine for Apple and their outsourced partners there. Nobody complains about iPhone quality levels.

    • WattsUp

      Worst take ever. Damn near everything you use – including, many of the precision instruments & components used to make most of your electronics – were made in China. Your iPhone and many of the components in your iPhone…made in China.

    • Chris Benten

      Reliability of Chinese products has gone up orders of magnitude over the last 10 years. The issue in most of Asia is keeping your IP inhouse. Next thing you know the brother-in-law of your shift supervisor is making a copycat right down the road. Seen it happen.

    • Robert

      I’m ready to bet you wrote this comment on a device manufactured in China, connected to the net via a router made in China, your message went through a network of China-manufactured routers, and is now sitting on a China-manufactured server, ready to be read by a whole slew of readers using China-manufactured devices.

    • Steve

      That’s an unhealthy and unhelpful point of view, and this is not the forum for it.

      Got a phone? Likely made in China. Got a laptop? Likely made in China. Got TV? Guess what? Likely made in China

    • Colin

      [The world] Outsourcing manufacturing to China the last couple decades has made them efficient, often expert manufacturers.
      The idea that anything that comes from there is junk that falls apart is a dated, narrow-minded worldview likely brought on by nationalistic propaganda.
      Interestingly, some leather goods producers found that China even had the most consistent QC amongst all of their facilities in Brazil, Europe and other places in Asian Pacific. The lowest return rates due to quality were from China!

    • Matt

      I was thinking more along the lines of ethical and human rights issues than quality when choosing China vs another country. I’d prefer manufucterers who are entering the market look the a country with less issues than China.

    • Robert

      The current political and trade pressures against China are driving manufacturers away – to other countries without necessarily better ethical and human rights issues. But it’s not China, so it’s all good.

  7. Fabio

    I think if things keep going this way i’ll try other softwares… OK for an hardware division but the software needs more updates …worlds, streets, clubs and other Frequently asked features like new UI.

  8. Alex

    I have a very hard time understanding why Zwift decided to go that route instead of acquiring an existing hardware manufacturer. By the time they’ll get there, they probably lost two years. That’s without considering Zwift’s poor track record on getting anything meaningful done in a reasonable amount of time.

    Right now, Eric Min tells the media they could release a new world every month if they wanted to. In reality, they weren’t even able to handle their recent Tour de Zwift and the leaderboard for heavily marketed Haute Route Watopia 2021 turned into a total cluster**** because nobody understands the ZwiftPower code. 4 days later, there are users on the forums who compiled general classifications on their own because Zwift is incapable of using Excel.

  9. Tony

    Mixed feelings about this. The biggest complaints I see are about HR and power meter connectivity, companion app issues, and bike-upon-smart trainer fitment issues.

    Pro: Zwift is a massive, massive hardware hurdle for the vast majority of riders. I’m not just talking about BT/ANT+ issues, I’m talking DD trainer issues regarding cassettes and gear indexing, fitment issues, etc. Facebook is full of users struggling, even people competent in both tech and bike maintenance. Moving to a trainer bike solution that is affordable would massively open up the market for Zwift. A smart trainer with a LBS support network would be huge. Zwift could fully test their software with their devices and insure they’re all compatible.

    Cons: I don’t trust Zwift’s programmers farther than I can throw them. They are eternally baffled by bugs they create. For a well-heeled subscriber base that chips in monthly, it is astonishing at how poorly their product is developed and managed.

    To me Zwift is like AOL – they’ve tapped into a rapidly growing audience, they don’t have the competency to expand the technology to fit the needs of the user base, and instead they will ultimately hemorrhage subscribers to other systems. A controlled ecosystem with Zwift hardware could work and give these guys a crutch, but they have to stop hiring D-tier programmers.

    • NCG

      “Zwift could fully test their software with their devices and insure they’re all compatible.”

      LOL, Zwift doesn’t test their software, period. They’re not going to start testing anything now.

    • Hermanni

      >Zwift could fully test their software with their devices and insure they’re all compatible.

      They certainly _could_. But I have a hard time seeing they would do such a complete 180 after years of breaking some stuff every update. It has to be a pretty deeply-rooted problem with management.

  10. bertfw

    One of the reasons I went with Zwift is: it seems more open than Peloton. I bought a cheapie alloy-frame 11 spd bike, a middle-of-the-pack direct drive trainer, and I alternate between iPad and my computer depending if I want to record a ride. Any one of these pieces can be upgraded or replaced without little effort.

    As far as I understand it, with Peloton you’re locked into whatever monolith they provide. Which means any day they could decide they won’t support “Model 2018 A” anymore, and then you’re on the hook for a whole new rig.

    Can you even record a Peloton ride without pointing a camera at the screen? Some of the other comments on here imply that Peloton is easier for non-technical people, but when I search to see if you can record Peloton rides I find stuff like this: “Easiest method is grab from apkmirror and install it by connecting a micro USB cable to rear of Peloton. You can use Android Debug Bridge on PC to install the app.” Hey – *I* can do that, but if someone has a hard time just setting up a bike+trainer+display in Zwift I don’t think they’ll be able to.

    In any case I’d hate to see the day come when Zwift locks out third-party hardware. Maybe that day will never come, but I could see it happening if they want to “be like Peloton”.

    • Reggie

      Not sure what you’re trying to do with recording, many users are perfectly happy with the workout with no recording. Or if they want it, the Strava integration is fine. I think you’re projecting requirements onto the average user.

    • Jennifer R Wolf

      You are comparing apples to oranges if you are comparing the Peloton Bike with the Zwift app. The Peloton app can be used with any bike, including your setup.

  11. Bill Lomax

    Not to float your boat, but why wouldn’t Zwift or others scrape sites such as this or better yet, consult you directly, to build their products. You are one of very few that provide unsensored feedback so people can make informed decisions on where to spend their hard earned money.

    • I catch-up with most companies behind the scenes when they have ideas or such they want added input on. Of course, that doesn’t always mean they’ll do what I suggest – which is perfectly fine. They might be balancing things I don’t have a view into (financials, patents, partnership agreements, etc…).

  12. The target market for high end fitness equipment has a very low usage rate, think clothing rack. Therefore friction is high. They are willing to buy, hoping for a desired outcome. But they are unwilling to invest. They don’t want to invest effort connecting all the pieces if they know or at least expect, they will not use the device. Unfortunately this is not true of just fitness equipment. Ask your lbs owner how many bikes she’s sold than are in permanent lock down!

    • giorgitd

      Why wouldn’t Zwift build the most awesome smart bike and subsidize the price down to $999? Not to piss off existing hw manufacturers? Well why build your own, then? If they want to reduce friction, do that on existing hw and partner with most/all smart bike manufacturers. Current manufacturers could sell the current smart bike or the zwift-enabled smart bike that ‘just works’. If the ‘just works costs $x extra, zwift just subsidizes that – they have the $. The current approach seems stupid.

    • secret_squirrel

      I think thats a little naive. Stating that they have $ doesn’t make it so. The vast majority will already be allocated, via the plans they showed the VC to get investment originally.
      They have a different model and thus different VC expectations to someone like Peleton. Zwift burn VC cash to build better software to attract more subscribers. Peloton dont build (much) software – they burn VC cash to build hardware and fund better classes. Ultimately I suspect Peloton have the more scalable business model, albeit MMORPH’s etc also show that Zwifts model is viable too.

      Also the (true, not Peleton’s) smart bike market is not mature – looking at the price ranges you have a range of well over $1000 between Wattbike at the low end and Wahoo at the high end, with Tacx and Stages somewhere in the middle. Is there a $1000 difference in the Bill of Materials between all 4. I doubt it, even adding a bit for Wahoo’s climb simulation hardware.

  13. WattsUp

    > (since helping make trainers for Zwift would obviously not be in Wahoo’s competitive interest).

    I wonder about this. I think SufferFest is one of the Big Three, but probably the smallest of the Big Three, I think. A max of 4000 riders rode at least one stage of the recent Tour of Sufferlandria, the single biggest event of the year. There will be at least that many on Zwift right now, or at literally any time, 24/7. Why in the world wouldn’t Wahoo want to also work with making trainers for Zwift?

    More importantly – the two platforms aren’t mutually exclusive. I love SufferFest. The workouts are fantastic. I like how they’ve added yoga and strength training. But the videos themselves aren’t the best for structured training plans.

    TrainerRoad is awesome for structured training plans (and the recent announcement of Adaptive Training is both obvious and very very exciting). The plans themselves are structured in a way that is quite effective but the workouts themselves aren’t…you know, fun.

    I can’t ride with others or race on SUF or TR. Only Zwift can do that. So I use all three – TR as my training ‘base’, mixing in SUF and Zwift rides, with the aim of doing better or moving up category in Zwift races. So why couldn’t Wahoo target both markets?

    • In this case, it’s not about subscription revenue – that’s effectively throwaway for Wahoo.

      It’s about trainers. Wahoo is the #1 trainer manufacturer in the world today by volume and revenue (Tacx #2, Elite #3), and the only thing Zwift making hardware will do is reduce that – likely substantially.

      (Note: The above excludes Peloton, which is *BY FAR* the #1 smart bike maker in the world today)

  14. Robert

    The Peloton model is just too attractive for investors. There aren’t that many fitness app companies that can get there, and Zwift is one of the few, with its large user base. The move makes complete sense – do a Peloton me-too, differentiated by the ability of Zwift to hold large multi-user events. Yes, Peloton has instructors and classes; but it does not have group rides with 4 000 attendees and a Tour de Zwift. Remove the hurdles at entry by providing an all-in-one device + app offering; makes total sense.

    Except they’ve been fiddling with this for 2 years. Did they hire IQ2 project managers by any chance?

  15. Bob

    I think the discussion between well geared triathletes and well equiped gear/tech enthuseists in the comments represents more of the same. If Zwift wants to attract new customers and not just compete for the existing pool using training software, they should focus on putting out a cheaper version of a Kickr Core. I’m not training for a triathlon or super interested in highly precise watt tracking. But i have been using a Kinetic Road Machine with Wahoo speed and cadence sensors for the past 2 winters and I’m pretty much over the connectivity issues on Android (definitely better for Apple users), battery changing, and the lack of remotely realistic feeling when riding on inclines or declines. Flats to 1-2% up or down feel realistic, above or below that I’m creeping or flying in a very unreasonable pace given my real world speeds.

    Offer me a Zwift branded direct drive trainer with reasonable functions in Zwift out of the box with reliable connectivity on Android or Windows at $500-600 and you have a sale and a resubscribe.

  16. andre

    I am certainly interested in the market for a stand-alone Zwift trainer.
    Recently I managed to get hold of a Tacx Flux S, and although In am very happy with it there are some issues:

    I don’t like the side to side movement. It feels unnatural ans a bit unpleasant. The first days I even got motionsick. I am more used to it now but I still hold my hands to the bars to prevent the bike moving too much.

    The derailleur/cassette combination seems to differ between my bike and the trainer. I am on Shimano 9 speed. (Yes, I used the spacer ring) There is noise and chainrub. I can adjust the derailleur, but I have to make adjustments again when I put my back wheel in. On the bike, shifting is smooth as butter. On the trainer, not at all.

    There is constant connectivity issues: “No Signal” says Zwift. If the hardware and software come from the same software, this could be more easily solved (at least that is what I hope)

    It is too much hassle to change saddle height etc. so that my girlfriend could Zwift. On a dedicated bike this would be easy.

    So yeah, I would like a dedicated Zwift trainer. If the price is right.

  17. Pictorbk

    Now I understand why they hired someone I have worked with in the past from one of the largest Hong Kong based product sourcing companies…oh Zwift. From bags shoes to training equipment. It is all making sense now. I guess good for all involved.

  18. Steve

    I expect the Zwift bike to be out of my price range, however if it was a real life Tron bike I might sell a kidney and get it

  19. Christopher

    Bummer to hear that rowing is not in the foreseeable future.I think it would draw in a good amount of addition people if they could simply get it to work with Concept2 rowers. They’re new for $900 but they’ve been around long enough that the used market is pretty good form them ($400-500). Personally i don’t used zwift because I still try to bike and run outside year round when the weather is good. When its not good, I like to switch up the activity and go to the gym for some rowing intervals. Been thinking about getting a rower for the garage but I really have no interest in a treadmill or standalone bike trainer.

    Anyone else or I’m I the only one?

    • Hoot

      I do the same…bike outside as long as the weather is good…dry that is, I don’t mind the cold! And I just got a Concept 2 rower a month ago! It’s great workout and I am on it almost every day! I used to do weights when I was much younger but the combination of cardio and strength is great!

    • I suspect the challenge is that while rowing might have some popularity in endurance circles here, the reality is that when looked at the larger picture, they’ll spend far more effort getting an extra 50,000 rowing subscribers than getting 50,000 cyclists.

      For the 50,000 rowers they need to develop & maintain the game portions just for that feature, plus events and such related just to that feature. Plus partnerships related just to the rowing community, and so on. All in, you end up developing entire teams…just for rowing and just to add 50,000 rowers.

      Yet, to add the same number of cyclists (and undoubtedly, and presumably the same monthly revenue), there’s none of that. You just market slightly different somewhere, or find ways to reach new groups. Things you’re likely already doing.

      In effect, it’s like running on Zwift – but way way way way ‘worse’, whereby worse is defined as the ROI there.

      Which isn’t to say there’s not a rowing community of course, or a demand for that product. That exists. It’s to say that the demand probably doesn’t match a company aiming to have millions of paying users.

  20. Alan Peery

    I’ve had Zwift for 18 months or so, and they’ve not added many more virtual miles given their subscriber base. They’re about to lose me over this out of boredom.

    BigRingVR seems to be a good ticket for me.

  21. John Turner

    This could add some validity to indoor racing. Having complete control over the hardware and software that the athlete is using Zwift could greatly reduce cheating. Standardization of hardware for competition could remove any variables that would give one rider an advantage over another. Also, something that works right out of the box is so appealing.

  22. David

    While Magene is certainly an option… what about Kinetic? Their wheel on smart trainer (kinetic road machine with control) is currently at $399 US on sale… So that hits your price point. Tie it to a year’s membership with some subsidy and maybe get the price a bit lower? The rock and roll version is $600, and the wheel off version is $700… and from what I can tell they are manufacturing at least some of their stuff in China. Even my 15 year old Kinetic dumb trainer says made in China… Kinetic seems to be the underdog now, this could be a good chance to make a come back.