Zwift has a little skunk works call Zwift Futures. Their latest idea is steering for Zwift, which was demo’ed on their new mountain bike course. Let’s dig in!
Zwift Steering and Mountain Bike Course Revealed
Eurobike has a habit of being a ground for Zwift to release or tease up coming features. This year, as the smart bikes have flocked outside, there is another type of bike which has appeared on the Zwift stand – a mountain bike. Attached to a Tacx Neo 2T and running a version of Zwift from Zwift Future Works
Future Works in a skunk works from Zwift, specifically where crazy ideas can be trialed, abandoned and excitingly brought to life. Hopefully this will be an effective way for Jon Mayfield to be allowed to stretch his imagination, engage the community with his beta ideas, whilst not affecting the actual Zwift brand
The MBT route is a particular portion of the Titans Grove course, due out in the next weeks or so. Just a heads up, I didn’t see any mega fauna climbing around the rocks
Steering has been teased, summarised and talked about for over two years on Zwift, so it is very interesting to see this come to life, and sitting in the corner of a Eurobike stand.
Zwift steering is still very much in the beta mode. I had the app crash on me once, with no control over the rider. Thank fully in those situations Zwift does take control again. At the start of your ride, in that same way that you need to zero your power meter, so the zwift app, needs to zero in the position of the phone on the handlebars to get the best out of the gyroscope
At times the steering can seem a little twitchy, this is because we dont really steer by turning the handlebars left and right when riding in real life. The lean of the bike has a much more important role to cornering. You can however reduce the sensitivity with a slider on the bottom of the LEFT side of the screen.
The single track MBT gives a different feel to Zwift. Normally we are used to sitting as passengers, or perhaps sitting as the engine for our avatar. It was very interesting to be able to have some degree of control over my avatar on the course, even if it dig bring to mind the feeling of 1990’s rally games!
On of the main reasons for that old computer game comparison is that you can crash. The course sign tape at the edges of that track has that computer game “higher tensile strength than steel trick” which is something which used to irk me as a child, and I think would start to irk me again here. Essentially if feels as though you have bowling lane bumpers down each side of the course, you can’t wrong, you just bounce.
By taking the most sensible line, you do keep a faster speed, but the change is relatively slight, and feels almost as though steering is an added challege to maintaining speed, not something to master to gain a benefit
Zwift Companion App – Further Ecosystem Integration
The central aspect of the Zwift steering is the Companion App which Zwift has steadily been making a very core piece of the Zwift experience.
The smart phone is the only piece of additional hardware you need. Currently tne vast majority of Zwift features and controls can be achieved with the keyboard and mouse. This is the first time that Zwift is specifically bringing out a feature which relies wholy on the app.
Zwift Steering Hardware
It was quite interesting to see the Tacx NEO 2T trainer as the demo unit for Zwift Steering. I’m not sure that this was a random choice either. Most of the time in Zwift you are pretty planted on the bike, even when standing up, it is difficult to get a trainer really rocking. With the changes to the line on the bike from having to turn (and I do mean turn – a nudge will not cut it here) the direction of the forced travelling to the turbo changes. I saw one chap managing to really get the NEO 2T to twist in position. Perhaps sterring may be another pending issue for bike chain stays?
The other reason why it was interesting to see Tacx as the demo trainer is that Tacx do have a sterring accessory for use with their old software. Interestingly enough currently this will NOT be compatible with Zwift Steering as it uses a proprietary version for ANT+ – back from the days of when trainers didnt play nicely together
Now you might ask, why you really need a steering mount like that when the app will clearly suffice. Well Zwift is rumoured to be bringing steering to the main game. Possibly in a simple form to allow you to make your course turn selections with the handlebars, but then to allow your rider to change position on the road and in the peloton
Other manufacturers are currently working on steering accessories. Elite had a non-functioning version on show. Well I say a non-functioning version, they have recieved a lot of positive feedback about the feel of the steering plate under the front wheel for general riding. As such they are looking to bring out a mechanical steering until without electronics, and one which is able to interface with Zwift, which is looking at around October this year for launch
But at the end of the dauy Zwift has made it so that you only need a simple turn table, or heck even a hard piece of plastic. Just something to go under your front wheel to allow you to pivot, without wearing a hole in your zwift mat!
Hands on Zwift Steering – Video
That pretty much wraps things up for me as to the new Zwift Steering, other than to direct you to the video of my first ride with the new system. As ever, drop you comments below, shout out if you think Zwift steering is something you are looking foward to, or do you think it will be a distraction for your normal ride?