How to Zwift with Kids

As the realities of quarantine set in, local cycling families we hang with asked if our kids were Zwifting. I snidely replied I wasn’t fond of trainers. I like to be outside. Thank you very much.

Two weeks into quarantine I caved. It was cold and icy outside. I had already bought two swings and my children were still climbing my walls (literally).  David Mawhinne posted a great article on Woom’s website which inspired me to give it a try. And so I started researching how to zwift with kids and how to do it on a budget.

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how to zwift with kids
How we rolled this time last year.

What is Zwifting and How to Zwift with Kids

Zwift is a virtual training platform (app) for runners and cyclists. A bike is hooked up to a trainer and then connected to a video game that is controlled by the rider’s pedal strokes. The faster you pedal, the faster your avatar moves. It was designed for adults but can be adapted to kids.

My girls need to pedal hard to move their avatar along but they don’t seem to mind. They are able to ride with friends in a group ride where no one is dropped (left behind). There are different challenges, races and locations that encourage the kids to keep ridding.

how to zwift with kids
Lil dude’s first session.

Zwift Trainers: The gear we need

There are three main trainers that can be adapted to smaller wheels:

I derive immense value from finding gear deals second hand so I began searching for a used trainer.

I found a Saris Cyclops trainer on FB marketplace for $60, I picked it up from a neighbors yard, sprayed it down with Lysol and then chocked on the fumes on the way home.

I immediately ordered the small wheel adapter kit and my kid eagerly awaited it’s arrival.

How to Zwift with Kids: What bike works best?

My eldest has a Woom off 5 which is a 24″ wheel but it needed an additional part to connect it to the trainer (a thru-axel). Not to mention tires that are meant for OFF roading.

This bike was NOT built for a trainer. It’s almost an insult to connect her to one.

She also has a 20″ Cleary Owl which we love but has internal gearing hidden in the back axel making it impossible to connect to a trainer.

However, my dear mom-in-law gave me her old 26″ Trek Hybrid which I’ve been using as a towny. This bike fits my kid (just barely) if I jam down the seat. Turns out the cage pedals I despise work perfect for a 6 year old Zwifting.

how to zwift with kids
Littlest gets excited and begins her campaign.

When learning how to zwift with kids, start with the bike you have in the garage. The point isn’t to get the best trainer bike, it’s about getting the kids moving. We eventually got both kids “road” bikes with the idea that they can use them for BMX/Cyclecross or simple road rides but this is not necessary.

There’s a “Zwift” set-up for practically every budget when you start learning how to zwift with kids. I’ve seen parents stuff socks in the gaps of an old trainer just to make it tight enough the kid can spin their wheels and pretend. Stacking books under the front wheel and making the back wheel fit stably is key.

A Garmin Ant+ ($55) stick boots the bluetooth signal and a speed sensor measure pace. I found a Wahoo speed sensor ($40) from our local bike shop. I ordered these new because my kid was eager to get going but they can be found used at half price as well. The second kid will get a $25 used sensor.

how to zwift with kids
Our set-up has evolved over the months.

How to Zwift with Kids: The Set Up

Learning how to zwift with kids and setting up a Zwift account was fairly easy. I sent in the request for a kids account and heard back within a few days.

*Be sure to read all of the Zwift parent tips and best practices.

how to zwift with kids

How to Zwift with Kids – Total spent

Total spent: $60 for the trainer, $60 for the adapter, $40 for the sensor and $15 a month for a Zwift account.

With our local cycling club cancelled for spring and summer (the kids) this expense seemed relative. At least the kid can bike with her friends online.

*Please Note: Kids are free but need a parent account attached to their account for safety.

A month or so later, L received a $160 for a used cross bike for her 7th birthday. It’s a lot of dough for a little dude but if your a bike family, it’s money well spent.

how to zwift with kids

My youngest (4) received a $150 used 20″ BMX bike because well…equality. We had another trainer in the garage my husband bought on Amazon for $50 a few years ago. To my delight, it fits though she doesn’t have any resistance or connection to Zwift but don’t tell her that.

Never mind the fact that my children now have bikes in two different sports, they are happy with their skinny slicks.

A has plenty of room to grow but can practice on a slightly bigger bike.

As a thrifty bike mom, I don’t feel it’s necessary to actually connect the 4 year old’s bike to the game while her sister is playing. She essentially gets an unconnected remote control to play with while sister plays.

It’s been about 4 months since we began our Zwifting journey. My eldest has since adapted to riding her a 24″ Redline Cross bike in her bedroom with a fan and water station. The little one isn’t far behind.

Is Zwifting for kids worth it?

how to zwift with kids
That smile is worth it!

I’m not going to lie, learning about trainers and kids bikes was a process. I had bike shop techs put me on hold because they couldn’t answer my questions about kids wheels and trainers. Setting kids up on cycling trainers is still a fairly new concept.

That said, there hasn’t been a single downside to have my kid’s bike set up on a trainer. Her cross bike is new and being able to shift on it while on the trainer has been great practice. She also hops on and spins out her wiggles before bed.

Have you gotten your kid up on Zwift? Share your set-up with us using the hashtag #kidsthatzwift

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  • Jen Gardner, a Colorado native is passionate about exploring and preserving nature. When not hiking, biking or skiing the Colorado Rockies with her family (and alone!), Jen enjoys traveling the world with her husband and kids. Diagnosed in 2006 with 3 cranial cavernomas (weak blood vessels in the brain that hemorrhage creating benign tumors), Jen has made it her mission to live life to the fullest. She writes about her journey getting her kids outside despite sickness on a blog called Gone With Groms. The better the gear, the longer and easier it is to stay outside, so Jen has made it her mission to find the best gear for outdoor families.

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