Extended Review: Zwift Hub Trainer
We take a close look at the new budget wheel-off, direct-drive bike trainer from Zwift.
Zwift majorly disrupted the indoor cycling market in 2014 with its critically-acclaimed gamified software that suddenly made riding the trainer fun. For the past seven-and-a-half years, Zwift has done what Zwift does best: software.
Now, Zwift enters the hardware market with its first smart trainer: the Zwift Hub. The Hub primarily aims to address the typically extremely high cost of smart trainers and how difficult they are to set up. Zwift’s goal with the Hub is to make indoor cycling more accessible to the masses.
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Zwift Hub Specs
|Flywheel weight||10.3 lb|
|Power accuracy||+/- 2.5%|
|Max wattage||1,800 watts|
|Max gradient simulation||16%|
|ANT+ and Bluetooth compatible||Yes|
|Cassette options||8-12 speed|
|Data collected||Power, cadence, speed, distance|
Zwift Hub: What We Like
The Zwift Hub isn’t a tough sell. It’s easy to like right out of the box. I immediately have to call out the $500 price as being the first thing that caught my eye. Most other smart trainers retail for at least $700-800 and range, all the way into $1200-1600. To create a quality smart trainer for $500 is quite the feat and will surely disrupt the smart trainer market much in the way Zwift’s gamified software did nearly a decade ago.
Zwift has thought of everything the layperson might need to get their first ride going within 30 minutes or less—from building the trainer to getting the bike onto it and connecting to Zwift, or any other virtual training platform.
The quick start guide is complete with pictures and simple step-by-step explanations. There are even QR codes you can scan that link out to YouTube videos demonstrating some of the trickier steps like how to take off the back wheel of your bike and mount the chain and derailleur onto the Hub’s cassette.
Also worth mentioning is all Zwift Hubs come with a cassette for no additional cost—or you can opt not to get one if you already have one at home. Zwift offers 8- through 12-speed cassette options that all come pre-installed on the Hub.
As for actually riding the Hub, it may be the first smart trainer that is actually whisper-quiet. No more shouting over mechanical chugging just to have a conversation or cranking the TV volume up to 100. The Hub makes the slightest whirring sound, but is truly the quietest trainer I’ve ever ridden.
The ride itself on the trainer is smooth once you get going (there is always a bit of resistance to push through at the start of any ride on a smart trainer), and I had no issues connecting quickly and easily to the Zwift platform. Once riding, the trainer seamlessly did what Zwift does best: make indoor riding feel like the great outdoors. The trainer was responsive to the gradient changes of my route and held its Bluetooth connection with my MacBook with no interruption.
The Hub is compatible with any fan favorite indoor riding software such as Rouvy or Ful Gaz, as well, which is a plus—it surprisingly doesn’t lock you into the Zwift ecosystem if that’s not your preference.
Zwift Hub: The Just Ok
The goal of the Zwift Hub was to create a smart trainer that was affordable and accessible to the general population, not just wealthier elite athletes. However, a power accuracy of +/- 2.5% is not great when compared to other industry-leading smart trainers that offer +/- 1 % accuracy. If you’re not someone looking to participate in competitive e-racing via Zwift or needing to drill down on power in your workouts (or you have an on-bike power meter), then the +/- 2.5% accuracy isn’t an issue. But for those looking for a high-end trainer that spared no expense in accuracy and is suitable for elite-level data tracking, the Hub isn’t it.
While it’s great that a cassette comes pre-installed at no additional cost, companies have to save money somewhere, and it looks like Zwift did it with that cassette. It’s a low-quality cassette and seemed to be made of a flimsy alloy. You won’t bend it just by doing high-wattage efforts, but my guess is that the teeth of the cassette will wear down with a year of moderate to heavy use.
The Hub is also difficult to move as it doesn’t have a handle. Due to its shape, the easiest way to pick it up is to carefully tilt it either forward or to the side, then grip one of the base bars and pick it up. At 34.6 lbs, though, that’s a hefty object to have accidentally crush a toe or lean into a shin. A handle in future models would be much appreciated. And of course the lower weight is in part a result of a lighter-than-most flywheel, which can translate into a less-realistic road feel.
Lastly, the Hub doesn’t come with any front wheel stabilization holders. To be fair, other trainers like a KICKR don’t either and are aftermarket purchases, but it would be nice to see Zwift consider some sort of low-cost plastic divvet for the front wheel to sit in in the near future.
Zwift has masterfully entered the smart trainer market with an affordable and quality trainer. It is easy to set up for even the least savvy of home mechanics and Zwift thought of every possible resource one could need to make smart trainer setup less scary.
For those who live with roommates or close quarters, the Hub’s silent flywheel is a godsend. It is the first trainer I’ve ridden that is legitimately silent barring a slight whirring of air. For those of us who are sick of ratcheting up our headphone volume over the mechanical droning of other smart trainers, this is a highly enticing feature.
The biggest drawback, in my opinion, is the +/- 2.5% power accuracy. Other trainers have achieved +/- 1%, so we know it’s doable. If you have a power meter already installed via your crank arm or pedals, then this is of no matter. But if you plan on doing any e-racing with Zwift, the +/- 2.5% power accuracy of the trainer will oddly not meet Zwift’s own e-racing standards, which require multiple power sources that read within +/- 1% accuracy.
This is overall a stellar smart trainer that other brands should be paying attention to if they, too, want to break out of the elite cycling bubble and make their products more appealing to recreational cyclists. For a 1.0 version, the Zwift Hub is off to a great start.
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