Update – October 3rd, 2022: The Zwift Hub has now started shipping, and with it, I’ve released my full Zwift Hub In-Depth Review. In that review, you’ll find my accuracy testing on the final firmware/hardware, as well as all the other usual testing bits. I’d recommend reading that instead of this older post done on a pre-production unit.
Zwift has just announced their Zwift Hub, a $499 smart trainer that will likely slaughter pricing in the market. Well, maybe. First, it requires Zwift to make it accurate. But assuming they do that, the product has specs that are roughly half the cost of most of their other competitors.
Now, before we go too far, it’s important to know one key detail: Zwift didn’t make this trainer. At least not entirely. Instead, they’re rebranding the JetBlack Volt smart trainer (which I reviewed a year ago), and repricing it significantly lower than the $849 it previously was. That very capable direct drive trainer did quite well in my testing, arguably better than some of the large trainer companies have done at the same price point.
What Zwift has done is take that trainer, add a dash of orange to it, make setup easier via some nifty bits of cardboard (seriously, it’s actually brilliant), and add a few bits of integration into the Zwift companion app. They didn’t take away any 3rd party compatibility, thus, you can buy the Zwift trainer and use it with any 3rd party app via the established industry trainer standards. I did exactly that in my testing.
But before we get too far, note that this is not an in-depth review. I’ll get to the details of why it’s not a bit later on, but the TLDR version is it’s not baked yet. This trainer won’t launch until October 3rd, and you won’t be able to buy it till then. Once it finishes baking (namely, the firmware), then I’ll release a full in-depth review. Till then, this is more of a hands-on explainer.
Got it? Good, let’s dive into the specs.
First, just a quick run through the top-line specs, which are identical to the JetBlack Volt because it’s the same hardware (something Zwift confirmed as well, there are no changes here):
– Direct drive trainer: This means you remove your rear wheel – Flywheel: It has a flywheel weight of 4.7kg – Cassette: A cassette is included, and you choose how many speeds (8/9/10/11/12) upon ordering on Zwift’s site. Which is then officially compatible with Shimano and SRAM drivetrains (unofficially, 11sp Campagnolo will also work on Shimano cassettes, just as many users do so today on Jetblack and other trainers) – Sound: Essentially silent. Only the sound of your drivetrain is heard. – Handle: This unit lacks a handle, which continues to make it slightly awkward to move around. – Protocol Compatibility: ANT+ FE-C, ANT+ Power, Bluetooth Smart Trainer Control, Bluetooth Smart Power (everything you need) – Unique Party Trick: Can rebroadcast your heart rate sensor within a single channel, ideal for Apple TV Zwift users (who are Bluetooth channel limited) – App Compatibility: Every app out there basically (Zwift, TrainerRoad, Rouvy, RGT, The Sufferfest, Kinomap, etc…) – Skewer Compatibility: All the skewers and adapters you could ask for: Road 130mm, 135mm, 142x12mm, 148x12mm – Max Incline: 16% simulated grade – Max Wattage: 1,800 watts resistance (or 1,300w @ 40KPH) – Stated Accuracy: < +/-2.5% – Power Cable Required: Yes, power block compatible with 100-240v – Pricing and Availability: $499USD, £449, 499EUR, order/ship October 3rd
Just for context, these specs are very similar to the Wahoo KICKR CORE, which costs $899 without a cassette (figure another $50 for that). The JetBlack VOLT, when sold with JetBlack branding was $849USD, or 749EUR (though, it went for about 700EUR street price, including an 11-speed cassette).
What’s Different About It?
Now, as I noted earlier on, this is merely a rebranded JetBlack Volt. Honestly, that’s a smart move. Zwift futzing about trying to create their own smart trainer/bike when plenty of very solid companies existed to acquire or OEM, just didn’t make a lot of sense. As I noted at the top, the JetBlack VOLT is a legit good trainer. It competes just fine with mid to upper-end trainers quite easily. Plus, it already had an orange color scheme.
So, what has Zwift changed?
Well, things fall into basically three buckets:
A) The outer box it comes in, setup guides, pamphlets, etc…
B) The exterior paint scheme of the trainer
C) The firmware: This controls things like accuracy, features integration, etc…
Starting off with the box, here’s the new box it comes in. Though, I think this isn’t entirely finished yet either. But – I do like the look of it:
Next, there’s the setup guides. And this is arguably the biggest change. To people that can rattle off bottom bracket and similar standards, knowing exactly which skewer/axle type you have is old hat. But for most others, especially those new to the sport, it can be confusing. Zwift aims to solve this with these cardboard cards that you slide in between your rear dropouts, which handily gives you the exact specification and then color-coded adapters that are zip-tied to the cards.
It fits here:
It’s absolutely freakin’ brilliant. And why on earth nobody else thought of this before seems idiotic in hindsight. But hey, kudos to them! Also, there’s a very thorough and very well-done manual. Nobody else has an as clean or easy to use manual as Zwift does.
And that’s largely because Zwift repeated numerous times in our conversation that they wanted to make it easier for people who have never had a trainer before, to get the Zwift Hub up and running. All these little things matter.
For example, when you put on the legs of the trainer, they have a little warning symbol which will only show if you put the legs on the wrong direction. Not only that, the legs are color-coded to match the frame of the trainer, again, so you just match the colors.
If you’ve ever assembled a Wahoo KICKR CORE or the original JetBlack Volt, you’d know it’s relatively easy to put the legs on the wrong orientation (and have it work too).
The last change is the firmware. Zwift has made the firmware their own, so it shows up properly as the Zwift Hub using standard protocols, and integrates with the Zwift Companion App for firmware updates and heart rate sensor pairing. You can see the firmware update portion here:
Further, if you have Apple TV, you can use the heart rate sensor pass-through option. This is useful due to Apple TV’s 2-Bluetooth connection limitation. Thus normally if you wanted to connect your trainer + heart rate sensor + steering, you’d be one short. Here, the Zwift hub connects to your heart rate sensor and then re-broadcasts it as part of the trainer data stream (also including power/cadence/control), so it in total only takes up one channel:
This of course works with any app (I used it with TrainerRoad too), but it is particularly useful for Apple TV trainer apps.
First Rides Thoughts:
Now using the trainer was pretty straightforward. I cracked open Zwift and then paired it up in the pairing menu. First as the controllable trainer, then power source, then cadence, and finally also the heart rate channel. You don’t have to use the HR re-broadcasting, but I did on a few rides.
Next, you’ll do whatever ride it is that you want to do on Zwift, be it an ERG ride (structured workout) or a regular SIM ride (just normal riding where it changes the gradient). All of this works just like any other trainer, namely because it is any other trainer – just now with Zwift branding.
In terms of ride feel, it’s quite good. Just like the previous branded JetBlack Volt was. It’s pretty much the same ride feel and inertia as the Wahoo KICKR CORE is. So yes, it’s very good for the price.
Sound/noise-wise, it’s silent. The only sound/noise you’re going to hear is your own drivetrain, so depending on how clean that is, that’ll determine how much noise you hear. I include a little snippet of it within the video.
Next, it’s fully compatible with other apps too. Since it uses the industry standard ANT+ FE-C and Bluetooth FTMS trainer control standards, I had no issues using it with TrainerRoad or Rouvy, to name two. Nor any problems pairing it to my watches (up till the most recent firmware broke that non-trainer connectivity, but I’m told that’s coming back in the next firmware version).
Which then leaves accuracy. To step back briefly, the original JetBlack Volt had very solid accuracy. Things were great in my testing. This time around with the Zwift Hub though, testing it on three different bikes with half a dozen power meters, I ran into some not-so-small accuracy issues. These snags were mirrored by others.
As a result, this isn’t a review, since the firmware that you’ll be getting won’t mirror what I’m currently using. Zwift isn’t going to start selling or shipping units till October 3rd. In my discussions with them last week, they asked to hold off on a review and data analysis while they go back to the drawing board. That’s a fair request, given I generally don’t publish “reviews” unless a product is for sale, or already shipping. Thus ensuring what I have matches what you have.
Then, just a few hours ago (yes, today), they sent over an e-mail confirming they found two items that contributed to the accuracy issues I and others were seeing on recent firmware, and believe they have them fixed for the next firmware update. That firmware version isn’t yet available to me, but likely will be within the next few days. Once I get that, and go back and put it through its paces over the course of a number of rides, I’ll circle back with a full in-depth review.
Assuming Zwift can sort out the accuracy issues I stumbled into (and I have every reason to believe they will, given it was perfectly functional until recent firmware), this trainer will absolutely gut the low to mid-range trainer sales from their partners/competitors. There’s simply zero reason to purchase anything else below $900, except perhaps the Wahoo KICKR CORE since it includes integration with the Wahoo KICKR CLIMB (and has dual Bluetooth connections). Almost everything else below $900 has the same or lesser specs as the Zwift Hub, but at a higher price. Of course, at launch, the Zwift Hub is only going to be available in the US/UK/EU, of which there are more than a handful of countries outside of those three areas.
When you get to the $1,000+ trainers, then things get a bit more complicated, as the specs tend to increase, both in things like gradient simulation as well as road feel (slightly). I’m interested to see how Zwift’s competitors react here, both in terms of pricing, but also just the simple fact that this isn’t entirely truthful to what Zwift implied they were doing back in May when they said they were stopping development of their smartbike/trainer. Perhaps the nuance there was “that trainer”, or more specifically the Zwift Wheel, versus this trainer.
Either way, more to come down the road once I get the final firmware, and continue putting it through its paces. Plus, this is apparently the start of new trainer announcement season, with Saris also announcing a new Saris H4 smart trainer today. Things are getting warmed up!
With that – thanks for reading!
Found This Post Useful? Support The Site!
Hopefully you found this review useful. At the end of the day, I’m an athlete just like you looking for the most detail possible on a new purchase – so my review is written from the standpoint of how I used the device. The reviews generally take a lot of hours to put together, so it’s a fair bit of work (and labor of love). As you probably noticed by looking below, I also take time to answer all the questions posted in the comments – and there’s quite a bit of detail in there as well.
If you're shopping for the Zwift Hub or any other accessory items, please consider using the affiliate links below! As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. It doesn’t cost you anything extra, but your purchases help support this website a lot. Even more, if you shop with TPC (The Pro's Closet), you'll save $40 on purchases over $200 with coupon code DCRAIN40! The Pro's Closet has been a long-time partner of the site here - including sponsoring videos like my cargo bike race, as well as just being an awesome Colorado-based company full of good humans. Check them out with the links below and the DCRAIN40 coupon!
I use Apple TV for Zwift the vast majority of the time, but also just for watching YouTube/Netflix/etc on the trainer. The Apple TV remote sucks though. This $8 case fixes that, it's a silicone strap that makes it easy to grab, but also has a strap to easily place on the edge of your handlebars. Boom! Note: Not compatible with 2021 Apple TV Edition.
Here's the thing, some people like front wheel blocks, some don't. I'm one of the ones that do. I like my front wheel to stay put and not aimlessly wiggle around. For $8, this solves that problem. Note some trainers do come with them. Also note, I use a riser block with *every* trainer.
I've got three of these $12 fans floating around the DCR Cave, and I frequently use them on rides. They work just fine. Sure, they're not as powerful as a Wahoo Headwind, but I could literally buy 20 of them for the same price.
This desk is both a knock-off of the original KICKR Desk, but yet also better than it. First, it's got wheel locks (so the darn thing stays put), and second, it has two water bottle holders (also useful for putting other things like remotes). I've been using it as my main trainer desk for a long time now and love it. Cheaper is better apparently. Note: Branding varies by country, exact same desk.
This is by far the best value in trainer desks, at only $59, but with most of the features of the higher end features. It's got multi-tier tablet slots, water bottle holders, non-stick surface, adjustable height and more. I'm loving it!
One of the most popular trainer fans out there, rivaling the Wahoo Headwind fan in strength but at a fraction of the price. It doesn't have smartphone/ANT+/Bluetooth integration, but it does have secondary outlets. I've been using it, and a similiar European version lately with great success (exact EU variant I use is automatically linked at left).
I've had this for years, and use it in places where I don't have a big screen or desk, but just an iPad or tablet on my road bike bars.
And of course – you can always sign-up to be a DCR Supporter! That gets you an ad-free DCR, access to the DCR Quarantine Corner video series packed with behind the scenes tidbits...and it also makes you awesome. And being awesome is what it’s all about!
Thanks for reading! And as always, feel free to post comments or questions in the comments section below, I’ll be happy to try and answer them as quickly as possible. And lastly, if you felt this review was useful – I always appreciate feedback in the comments below. Thanks!
I swim, bike and run. Then, I come here and write about my adventures. It’s as simple as that. Most of the time. If you’re new around these parts, here’s the long version of my story.
You'll support the site, and get ad-free DCR! Plus, you'll be more awesome. Click above for all the details. Oh, and you can sign-up for the newsletter here!
Here’s how to save!
Wanna save some cash and support the site? These companies help support the site! With Backcountry.com or Competitive Cyclist with either the coupon code DCRAINMAKER for first time users saving 15% on applicable products.
You can also pick-up tons of gear at REI via these links, which is a long-time supporter as well:
With TPC (The Pro's Closet), you'll save $40 on purchases over $200 with coupon code DCRAIN40 for tech and non-tech purchases!
Alternatively, for everything else on the planet, simply buy your goods from Amazon via the link below and I get a tiny bit back as an Amazon Associate. No cost to you, easy as pie!
You can use the above link for any Amazon country and it (should) automatically redirect to your local Amazon site.
Want to compare the features of each product, down to the nitty-gritty? No problem, the product comparison data is constantly updated with new products and new features added to old products!
Wanna create comparison chart graphs just like I do for GPS, heart rate, power meters and more? No problem, here's the platform I use - you can too!
Think my written reviews are deep? You should check out my videos. I take things to a whole new level of interactive depth!
Smart Trainers Buyers Guide: Looking at a smart trainer this winter? I cover all the units to buy (and avoid) for indoor training. The good, the bad, and the ugly.
You probably stumbled upon here looking for a review of a sports gadget. If you’re trying to decide which unit to buy – check out my in-depth reviews section. Some reviews are over 60 pages long when printed out, with hundreds of photos! I aim to leave no stone unturned.
I travel a fair bit, both for work and for fun. Here’s a bunch of random trip reports and daily trip-logs that I’ve put together and posted. I’ve sorted it all by world geography, in an attempt to make it easy to figure out where I’ve been.
The most common question I receive outside of the “what’s the best GPS watch for me” variant, are photography-esq based. So in efforts to combat the amount of emails I need to sort through on a daily basis, I’ve complied this “My Photography Gear” post for your curious minds! It’s a nice break from the day to day sports-tech talk, and I hope you get something out of it!
Many readers stumble into my website in search of information on the latest and greatest sports tech products. But at the end of the day, you might just be wondering “What does Ray use when not testing new products?”. So here is the most up to date list of products I like and fit the bill for me and my training needs best! DC Rainmaker 2023 swim, bike, run, and general gear list. But wait, are you a female and feel like these things might not apply to you? If that’s the case (but certainly not saying my choices aren’t good for women), and you just want to see a different gear junkies “picks”, check out The Girl’s Gear Guide too.