Virtual riding?… it’s gaming, right?

Jun / 15 / 2020

Lockdown. No school. No skiing. Kids are gaming and endlessly watching inane videos and Netflix shows. The weather is rainy, cold and sometimes snowing. What to do?

We pulled the bikes out of the garage, commandeered Dad's smart trainers, and registered the kids on Zwift and RGT Cycling…its gaming, right? We even set the TV up to provide movies. So, they really had no excuses!

Et Voila, 2 teenagers and a tween riding smart bike trainers throughout lockdown and beyond. Which equals 3 tired kids, reduced screen time (kind of...) and more relaxed parents!

But what do the kids have to say about it? Read Maggie’s views about smart trainers…with some editing by his mother.

Who are you and what is your age?

My name is Maggie and I am 16 years old.

Prior to COVID 19 restrictions and lock down what did you do?

Just prior, it was the middle of the ski race season. I was literally going to a ski camp to train for interregional and national ski races, when the Swiss government shut down all sporting events, resorts, school, everything, except for essential shops.

Then lockdown. I remember it was strange, but already now, if feels such a long time ago. I have only just returned to school. Before this week, I was doing all my classes online and driving my mum nuts with the amount of food I was eating all day long!

Above: World Bicycle Day - Virtual ride up to Stelvio Pass

What were your initial views of smart trainers?

Well at first, we thought it was fun. It was different, and we were riding with and against people from around the world on Zwift and RGT. Mum also found some cycle shoes that fit, and that made cycling easier.

Did you continue riding on the trainers?

After a while and when we had weeks of sunny weather, it was harder to stay in the basement riding in virtual worlds. Mum had no sympathy since we spend most of our time on games anyway! (Mum wrote that bit!) Dad set up the room so we can watch movies and TV series while we ride - a bribe to get on the trainers.

School also started and so only the PE and Sport subjects allowed us time to ride on the trainers. Sometimes we chose to use the weights instead. And for a change, when the weather was good, we’d hike up to the summit of Grand Chamossaire or take the dog for a run…avoiding people along the way. More recently I have been on a few road rides when the weather has been nice….so yeah riding on the trainer has dropped off.

What do you think of smart trainers?

I think they are good, especially during lockdown and when we could not go outside. I think they are also good for bad weather days and during our winter when it is cold and miserable and where we live, snowy. Not so much fun now that we are having a warm spring and hopefully hot summer although they would be good for people in the southern hemisphere right now.

Who can use them?

I guess everyone who can get their bike to fit on a trainer. My sister who is 12 years old, jumps on the bike to ride every now and then. My brother is 14 years old rides too, but he is on an older model where the rear wheel slips on the steeper grades…he gets the hand me downs!

My older brother in Australia got one for his birthday, but could not get it until 2 months later as he was evacuated to Cootamundra. Apparently, Cootamundra is the opposite to Switzerland, so he borrowed his host’s trainer to get some hill climbs. Now he is back in Sydney and is using his new trainer – he and Dad ride together on Zwift sometimes. Just a matter of organising the times that work for them both.

Mum rides once a week, maybe…she gets sucked into riding classic mountain cols but always gets there …in the end.

Uri, Mum and I just rode together on a GTP World Bicycle Day Ride up Stelvio. I beat her up Stelvio easy. It was fun and chaotic with bike malfunctions, mum malfunctions, my sister taking arty photos and all of us chatting to others somewhere else in the world.

Do you recommend that cyclists get a smart trainer?

Yeah…if you want to stay fit and you can’t get outside to ride because of the time of day, weather, the season, school or work. But nothing beats riding in the real world. (Also, good to ride routes in other parts of the world – Mum)

Thank you Maggie for you time and honest opinion!

P.s. If your child’s under 16, their Zwift account will be free until they are 16 years old. Check it out and get them set up!