Considering bringing your training indoors, but you don’t want to spend a fortune? Our guide to the cheapest Zwift setup is here to help. The best turbo trainers can cost a small fortune, but you can absolutely bring your training indoors on a budget.
Here we overview the various ways you can get onto Zwift, the cheapest ways for each, along with best turbo trainer deals to get you rolling indoors on a budget.
You’ve likely done a bit of research already and already know that Zwift itself is a rather inexpensive subscription at £12.99 / $14.99 a month. However, retailers do occasionally offer three- or 12-month subscription deals that can save you a bit of money.
It’s the required hardware that can add up to make getting onto Zwift a rather expensive investment. Without taking advantage of a turbo trainer deal, the most premium setup will cost you four figures for the turbo trainer alone and that’s before you consider the cost of the bike, possible additions of a computer or tablet, as well as a fan (you’ll need a fan!). If you’re planning on running Zwift in the garage or shed, you may even need to factor in an extension lead and an ethernet cable. The overwhelming thought of all this investment might put you off, but thankfully, we’re here to help.
We’re going to answer the question: What is the cheapest Zwift setup, and what turbo trainer deals can I use to get on to Zwift without paying a fortune?
If you’ve read our guide to Zwift, you’ll know there are a couple of turbo trainer types: direct-drive and wheel-on. You’ll also know that some trainers are smart, meaning the resistance can be controlled by software (Zwift, TrainerRoad, etc), whereas others are ‘dumb’, and will need to be controlled by your gear selection or a manual resistance controller that clamps to your handlebars.
Below, we’ll go through the cheapest options for all, as well as the best ways to get a cheap Zwift setup into your home, no matter your circumstances, including the best turbo trainer deals.
Of course, once you’re up and running, you won’t be limited to Zwift. All of the below options will work with other training software such as TrainerRoad, The Sufferfest, Rouvy and more.
The cheapest Zwift setup available is to use a ‘dumb’ turbo trainer and a speed sensor. You could buy second hand on eBay to reduce costs further, but if you’re unsure what you’re looking for when it comes to quality, we recommend buying new. With this method, Zwift calculates power output based on the speed of the rear wheel so the downside is that there will be a delay between power output and your in-game avatar’s response.
This isn’t too problematic for long steady efforts, but for sprint efforts or Zwift races, a smart trainer or power meter would offer a better in-game experience.
Was £100.00 | Now £59.99
This budget option from Wiggle is the LifeLine TT-01 magnetic trainer. Don’t expect smooth road feel or extreme durability, but it might just be the cheapest way into the virtual world of Watopia. View Deal
Blackburn Tech Mag 5 Trainer | Save 25% at Competitive Cyclist
Was $129.95 | Now $97.50
This budget option from Blackburn is a magnetic trainer. It’s foldable, comes with a quick-release skewer, and has five resistance settings controlled by a remote on your handlebar. View Deal
Elite SuperCrono Volare bundle | Save 60% at Wiggle
Was £224.99 | Now £89.99
With the inclusion of a bottle, sweat guard and a riser block, this deal offers extra value for money in one package. The only thing you need to add is a speed-sensor and you’re ready to ride!View Deal
CycleOps Basic Mag Kit | Save 51% at Rutland Cycling
Was £199.99 | Now £94.99
Coming complete with Trainer mat, riser block, sweat towel, and QR skewer, this is a great way to get up and running in the world of indoor training on a budget. This plus a speed-sensor and you’re ready to ride!View Deal
A slightly more accurate method of using Zwift is with a power meter. It’ll cost more than a speed sensor, but it will come with added accuracy, along with the benefit of being able to take that accuracy outdoors.
We recommend choosing something with Bluetooth compatibility as well as ANT+, because it will communicate with more computers, phones and laptops than an ANT+ only device. You can overcome with an ANT+ adapter, but that’s an extra cost we’re trying to avoid.
A power meter paired with your device running Zwift will increase the accuracy of your in-game experience and will be a great training tool for intervals and steady-state training, theoretically resulting in long-term performance gains.
Your choice of power meter will depend on your bike and the subsequent compatibility requirements. More details can be found in our guide to the best power meters, but here are a few of the best deals we’re able to find.
4iiii Precision 2.0: Shimano 105 5800 | 28% off at ProBikeKit
Was £379.00 | Now £269.99
This previous-model Shimano 105 is compatible with current generation Shimano Hollowtech II chainsets. Just be sure to get the correct crank length to match the right-hand side!View Deal
Verve Infocrank | 50% off at ProBikeKit
Was £1,090.00 | Now £540.00
Widely considered one of the most accurate power meters available the Infocrank is available in three crank lengths, all of which have a BCD of 110mm. View Deal
Power meter pedals
Power meter pedals aren’t exactly cheap. They’re generally twice the price of a budget crank-based power meter or a wheel-on smart trainer. However, the benefit to owning power meter pedals over a smart turbo trainer is the flexibility to use it in multiple scenarios: At the gym, at home on your own Zwift setup, outside in the real world.
The initial spend might be higher, but if you intend on using your bike outside as well as on the turbo, you will benefit from a single consistent reading of power across all of your training sessions.
If your gym doesn’t have smart bikes like a Wattbike, with a pair of power meter pedals and a polite request, your gym might allow you to swap them onto one of their non-smart indoor bikes – the type used for spin classes. Pair them with your Bluetooth enabled phone or tablet and you’ve got Zwift at the gym – great for those who are often on the road.
Garmin Vector 3S | 10% off at Wiggle
Was £439.99 | Now £392.99
The Garmin Vector 3S pedal-based power meter is a single-sided power meter that uses Look’s Keo cleat type. You do get two pedals, but the right will be void of any electronics or sensors. Garmin does also sell the right-hand power meter pedal separately, should you wish to upgrade to dual-sided later. View Deal
Garmin Vector 2 dual-sided | 45% off at ProBikeKit
Was £1,199.99 | Now £649.99
With dual-sided measurement, these are perfect for accurate power measurement and left-right balance. You’ll even get a free pair of cleats to go with them.View Deal
Smart wheel-on turbo trainers
The resistance of a smart turbo trainer can be controlled by software and work in perfect harmony with your Zwift experience, meaning when the road points up, pedalling gets harder, just like in the real world.
There are many different smart wheel-on turbo trainers available, but here are a few of the best deals we’ve been able to find.
CycleOps M2 | 55% off at Rutland Cycling
Was £499.99 | Now £224.99
The M2 is a smart wheel-on trainer that’s built upon a folding platform that’s solid and planted while in use, but compact when stowed away. View Deal
CycleOps M2 | 17% off at Jenson USA
Was $599.99 | Now $499.99
The M2 is a smart wheel-on trainer that’s built upon a folding platform that’s solid and planted while in use, but compact when stowed away.View Deal
Wahoo Kickr Snap | 14% off at Hargroves Cycles
Was £499.99 | Now £429.99
No list of turbo trainers would be complete without something from Wahoo. The Kickr Snap is their wheel-on offering and it sets the benchmark for wheel-on performance and road feel. View Deal
Smart direct-drive turbo trainers
For the ultimate experience and a true road feel, a direct drive turbo trainer really does offer a considerably better experience compared to a wheel-on trainer. Not only does it prevent that laboured pedalling-through-treacle feeling, but it’s also considerably quieter and doesn’t chew through tyres like Ken Block on a track day. The top-spec direct-drive trainers add extra niceties such as vibration (to provide off-road feel in off-road in-game sections) and generally have a higher maximum power and incline simulation.
Yes, they’re a far cry from the cheapest Zwift setup that this article provided at the top, but if you’re looking for a premium turbo trainer setup, you can still save money with the following deals.
Elite Turbo Muin II Fluid | 15% off at Chain Reaction Cycles
Was £449.99 | Now £382.49
The Elite Turbo Muin II is a low-cost direct-drive smart trainer and comes in at a lower price than some of the wheel-on options above. Assuming compatibility with your bike, it’s a great option. View Deal
CycleOps H2 | 40% off at ProBikeKit
Was £1,000.00 | Now £599.00
With a wide stance, the CycleOps H2 is one of the most sturdy on the market, yet it folds away for easy storage. A free sweat guard is included with every purchase. View Deal
CycleOps H2 | 33% off at Jenson USA
Was $1,199.99 | Now $799.99
With a wide stance, the CycleOps H2 is one of the most sturdy on the market, yet it folds away for easy storage. A free sweat guard is included with every purchase. There’s only one left, so be fast. View Deal
Tacx Neo 2 Smart Trainer | 25% off at Chain Reaction Cycles
Was £1199.99 | Now £899.99
Formerly the range-topping model from Tacx, the Neo 2 is still one of the best direct-drive turbo trainers on the market. It doesn’t require a power supply, instead, it uses the power of your legs to function. It can handle power of up to 2200 watts and can simulate gradients of up to 25%. View Deal
Alternative: Gym subscription
All of the above options assume you already have a bike ready to be used in conjunction with a turbo trainer, but what if you don’t?
If you’re a member of a gym, there’s a possibility your gym has a Zwift-ready bike with a built-in power meter such as a Stages bike or Wattbike. Check with the gym’s staff as to the facilities available – you may then be able to pair their bike with your phone and be on Zwift in seconds.
What you need for Zwift
For any Zwift setup, you’ll likely need a turbo trainer, if you’re looking for advice on which to get, we have a guide to the best turbo trainer.
You can alternatively use a smart bike. An adapted gym bike will work although we’d not suggest buying one of these over the other, better options available to you.
Rollers aren’t completely out of the question, but you’ll need resistance rollers to avoid spinning 140rpm and unless you already own these, you’re much better off investing in a turbo trainer. Most will come with a front-wheel riser block, but if not, adding one of these will prevent your weight from being pushed onto your hands.
Kinetic T-750c riser block | 48% off at Wiggle
Was £25.00 | Now £12.99
They don’t need to be anything special, the cheapest versions can be found for around £4.00 at Amazon. However, this Kinetic riser block is built to offer a choice of four height options.View Deal
You’ll need an internet connection. This can come in the form of 4G but be careful with your data allowance if choosing this option – in our test, a one-hour-long Zwift ride used approximately 300MB of data.
Running an ethernet cable to the garage mightn’t be the most permanent solution, but it might be the only option you have. If you’re considering this method, a second router or WiFi booster is an alternative idea.
There’s nothing more ’21st century’ than getting dropped due to a poor internet connection, but it’s annoying nonetheless.
Zwift compatible computer
You’ll need a Zwift compatible computer. This can be in the form of a PC, a laptop, tablet, Apple TV, or even your smartphone. The majority of us will already have something that technically can run Zwift, but in our experience, an iPhone screen is too small to read the data numbers when riding at or near your limit.
Bluetooth / ANT+
Bluetooth or ANT+ connectivity. If your turbo trainer, power meter or speed sensor are ANT+ only, you’re likely to need an ANT+ adapter. If you’re using Bluetooth, then there’s a greater chance your device will connect without the need for an adapter.
You’ll ideally need a power supply. Especially if using a smart trainer. Some of the best smart trainers, such as the Tacx NEO 2T, will work without, but you’ll also want a fan and you don’t want your laptop’s battery life to cut your ride short.
For anyone looking to run Zwift in a garage or outbuilding, a power supply and wifi connection might not be a guarantee. The options here will very much depend on your circumstances. If you’re unable to run a permanent power supply, an extension lead and temporary ethernet cable might be the only option. You can get a 50m extension lead from Amazon for around £35.00, and a similar length ethernet cable for around half that.
You’ll also need a fan. OK, you don’t need a fan, but when you’re sweating from places you didn’t know existed, we promise you’ll want one more than you’ve ever wanted anything before.
From our experience, the Honeywell HT900e is a great mid-sized powerful option, and it can be fixed to a wall. But if you’re unsure, the general rule is the bigger the better.
Things to improve your Zwift experience
You might want a desk. If you’re running a laptop, you’ll need to be able to reach it so you can use the Zwift menu without having to climb off the bike. Brands do make dedicated turbo trainer desks, such as the Wahoo Kickr Desk, but for the budget-conscious, you can often make do with a less dedicated solution, such as an ironing board or a stepladder.
2. Sweat protector
To protect your bike against corrosion from the cumulative drips of salty sweat, you can get a dedicated sweat protector to catch the drips. The majority of sweat will drip from your face and shoulders, so it’s the handlebars that need the most protection. Therefore, a towel placed atop the bars and stem will generally do a good job – with the added benefit of being able to wipe your brow every so often.
For the budget-conscious, a towel or an old sweatshirt draped over the handlebars and top tube can have the same outcome.
Lifeline Sweat Net
A sweat cover needn’t cost the earth. This simple sweat cover called the Sweat Net from Lifeline is under £10 at Wiggle. View Deal
3. Turbo trainer floor mat
Unless you’re in the garage or shed, you’ll probably want to protect your floor from your salty sweat droplets, not to mention the damage caused by the feet of your turbo trainer. A turbo trainer mat will offer this protection and are available pretty cheap, but an old yoga mat or even an offcut of kitchen lino will do the same job – just don’t cut it out of your parents’ kitchen floor!
4. Turbo trainer tyre
If using a wheel-on turbo trainer – especially a cheap one – the roller’s interaction with the soft rubber of your rear tyre can quite quickly churn through your rubber and cause a square edge and ruin the tyre’s on-road performance. Dedicated hard-wearing turbo trainer tyres exist to overcome this very problem. You could invest in a dedicated turbo trainer tyre, or alternatively, if you regularly ride on the road, upgrade your best road tyres and recycle your old part-worn tyre for indoor-use only.
Schwalbe Insider turbo trainer tyre
The major difference between this and a typical road tyre is the density of the rubber and the lack of tread pattern, which reduces heat, noise and vibration. View Deal
If you’re setting up Zwift for the first time and your budget is limited, our advice would be to invest your money in the trainer and the fan, to begin with, then add to the experience later with the unessential peripherals. Look for a turbo trainer deal to ensure you’re getting the most bang for your buck.
Any questions / tips?
If you have any Zwift setup related questions, feel free to drop us a comment below – we’ll be sure to answer as many as we can, and if, during your own pain-cave building process, you’ve learned any tips and tricks that will help others looking to invest in a cheap Zwift setup, feel free to share them.