My First Experience With Zwift & Online Racing

Zwift racing screenshot

The throwaway comment that started it all

It was during that lockdown period in 2020 that I casually mentioned to the folk in my cycling club that I was missing the social aspect of riding with others. It was one of those throwaway comments that you don’t believe could have any consequences. On this occasion, though, the lovely Paul suggested I pop over and pick up his old Tacx Fortius wheel-on trainer from him. Then, given a little software jiggery-pokery, I would be able to connect it to the computer and sign up to one of those online cycling platforms like Zwift. This would enable me to join the others in the club on some virtual rides, connect through Zoom, and enjoy a bit of companionship.

However, if truth be told, I didn’t have the hardware with enough ‘oomph’ to get it going properly.

This was how it all started. Up until that point, I had been an online virgin and had yet to experience the joys of riding a bike indoors. A couple of days later, I found myself at Paul’s place in North London, face mask in hand, loading his old trainer into the boot of the car. #Grateful

The first of several Zwift hurdles

It wasn’t all plain sailing. This trainer thing, whilst top of the range in its day, was now well past its sell-by date. There were limited ways by which it could be connected to the computer. There was a piece of freeware code on GitHub that with the addition of two Ant+ dongles would get the computer and the torture machine trainer talking to each other. I did get it going in a fashion (I think I’ve mentioned my relationship with technology before). However, if truth be told, I didn’t have the hardware with enough ‘oomph’ to get it going properly.

It wasn’t long before my ‘fitness’ was over 150! Apparently, that’s something.

In the end, I found a Stages power meter on flee bay. Once fitted it’s able to connect to the computer while the bike is mounted to the trainer without any modification. Effectively, it enabled the tiny cartoon me to move around the screen in Zwift. It meant, of course, that the 2 Ant+ dongles I bought, together with the time I invested in getting the GitHub Python script running, were all a bit of a waste. Anyway, there I was in the virtual world, whizzing around in strange, surreal surroundings, indulging in the joys of Zwifting – is that even a thing??

The Zwift honeymoon

Not being allowed out due to Covid and finding that I could still ride and stay dry during the winter, saw me stacking up the miles on the indoor platform. It took a while before I began to make sense of all the numbers I was seeing. If you’ve never had the pleasure of watching your cycling efforts being read back to you in numbers, squiggly line graphs, and incoherent acronyms, then you’re really missing out. Truthfully, you could listen to a podcast in Urdu and probably get a better understanding of the data, unless you speak Urdu, of course….

I took the precaution of setting up the emergency services number on speed dial just in case.

It wasn’t long before my ‘fitness’ score was over 150! Apparently, that’s something! Not that I really understood what the number meant. I only mention it because the word ‘fitness’ boosted my confidence.


The weeks passed happily as my honeymoon with data and riding indoors progressed. All was well. I was enjoying my Saturday morning indoor club rides. I learned that, just as in real life, every time the road went up, my friends rode off. This left me on my own (both virtually and in my hallway), struggling like f*** to catch up.

You can find races on Zwift at any time of the day and night.

This stuff is not easy. Often, I was left completely gassed. I took the precaution of setting up the emergency services number on speed dial, just in case. The learning curve was steep and unforgiving. The slap in the face was that I learned that I was half the cyclist I had fooled myself into thinking I was. I joined events. I followed some Zwift training plans and eventually plucked up the courage to see myself getting properly trounced in races. You can find races on Zwift at any time of the day or night.

Taking it up a notch…

The invitation eventually came from my club mates to join them in an online team time trial. Talk about a baptism of fire! EEEEeek!

…Then Covid

Those first 3 or 4 months saw me train, ride and race as hard as I could until January of 2021. After returning from our customary Christmas with the rellies, the inevitable happened; I got Covid! Inescapably there was a hiatus in my exercising while I recovered. During February, March and April, I slowly returned to riding more, very gently. It took some time before I could rejoin the team and contribute to racing again. Whilst I have yet to revisit those dizzy heights of having a ‘fitness’ of 150+, I can hold my own in my category. I now even captain one of the clubs online teams. Yey!

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