January 20, 2021
There is no question that using a smart trainer with a built in power meter is the ultimate way to experience online, connected training and racing with Zwift. A smart trainer can change resistance on the fly, simulating headwinds or hills, creating a "close to real" experience.
There is a downside, however - smart trainers are very expensive! Even the next-best option, a traditional "dumb" trainer combined with a power meter hub, crank, or pedals on your bike can still set you back $500 or more.
There's a way to access Zwift without a power meter at all, however - a great option for riders for whom smart trainers and power meters remain out of reach. This approach uses an ANT+ / Bluetooth speed sensor that you add to your bike's wheel. Here's how you can set it up for less than $200.
There are about 20 different options on the market that all work the same way - a small plastic device about the size of a quarter that attach to your front or rear hub with a small rubber strap. Most run on CR2032 coin batteries and weigh next to nothing.
Popular brands include Garmin, CatEye, Bontrager, etc. You can also find some "no-name" styles as well. Choose one that takes the common CR2032 batteries and supports both ANT+ and Bluetooth protocols for the widest compatibility. Models that also measure cadence are available if you like that option.
In addition to indoor Zwifting, you can use the same speed sensor while riding outdoors too, in combination with GPS computers like Garmin or Wahoo. They can increase accuracy compared with GPS-only riding (for example, when you go through a tunnel and lose GPS signal.)
I hope this information helps you access Zwift in a cost-controlled manner. Good luck!
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