The Best of Both Worlds

As the popularity of indoor riding continues to rise, many riders find themselves enjoying the safety of riding indoors on their trainer or taking shelter from the elements. Thankfully, structured workouts like those from Xert and online virtual rides from the likes of Zwift not only reduce the boredom associated with riding indoors, but they can even make these rides fun and productive. If you have Xert and are looking to utilize it in tandem with Zwift, this article was made for you. This blog post is a comprehensive guide to help you set up, enjoy, and benefit by combining Xert and Zwift.

First Things First – Sensor Setup

A key point that we’d like to address first is the sensor connectivity. Zwift connects to your ANT+ or Bluetooth fitness sensors. So do the Xert Workout Players (Xert EBC for Android & iOS, and Garmin Workout Player). Keep in mind that ANT+ sensors can be paired to multiple apps, while most Bluetooth sensors are limited to a single connection, meaning they can only be paired to one app/program at a time. Some newer devices, like the Wahoo Kickr V5, offer dual Bluetooth connections, so they may be able to connect to two apps simultaneously.

  • The Xert Remote Player does not connect to your trainer or sensors! It only displays the data being collected from an Xert Workout Player (Android, iOS, or Garmin). The remote player simply allows you to access your workout data from any internet browser.
  • Loading Xert workouts by exporting the ZWO files from Xert and importing into Zwift does not require you to use an Xert Workout Player.
  • Most importantly, your trainer should only be paired to Xert OR Zwift, not both! If your trainer is paired to both apps/services at the same time, you will get strange behavior from your trainer.

Remember these points and you will save some time trying to figure out why you are not getting power data or getting the correct resistance from your smart trainer. Next up, we will describe the various options that you have when combining Xert and Zwift.

Important Terms To Know

We will use various terms throughout this guide…

  1. Activity – A session on the bike (or running) that starts and finishes. You will collect data for an activity. Xert manages & analyses data from, and during, your activities.
  2. Structured Workout – An activity that includes a set of specific power targets of various durations. Structured workouts help athletes manage the workout difficulty, as well as the type and amount of strain applied for performance improvements. In Xert terms, structured workouts have a predetermined Focus & XSS amount.
  3. Unstructured Workout – An activity that does not include specific power targets but can have goals for the workout. For example, “Ride for 60 minutes at or below to your Lower Threshold Power with several sprints at full power” is an unstructured workout.  “Accumulate 100 XSS points with a Focus Duration of 3:00.” is also an unstructured workout.
  4. Workout – If the word “Structured” or “Unstructured” isn’t used, it is assumed that the workout is structured.
  5. Power-controlled workout – When using a smart trainer, the power output during intervals in a structured workout are controlled by the smart trainer.  It does this by varying the resistance automatically.
  6. Athlete-controlled workout – The power output during intervals in a structured workout are controlled by the athlete, normally by varying cadence and changing gears but may also involve changing the resistance on a smart trainer using “slope mode” or “resistance mode”. If you don’t have a smart trainer all workouts are athlete-controlled.

Basic Ride Types

There are three basic ride types you will use almost every time:

  1. Xert Workout ZWO Import to Zwift (Easiest)
  2. Xert EBC controlled workout with Zwift (Recommended)
  3. Free Ride in Zwift with Xert Workout

1. Xert Workout ZWO Import to Zwift

This option allows you to export workouts from Xert in ZWO format and perform those workouts entirely in Zwift. Check out this specific article on how to load workouts into Zwift for help. While some users might find this easier, be aware that that this option does eliminate some of the benefits that come with using Xert’s workouts players, such as the use of your full fitness signature (Threshold Power, High Intensity Energy, & Peak Power), as well as losing the dynamic, SMART functionality of Xert’s workouts.

Step 1 – Download the Workout: Download a ZWO file of the recommended workout, or a workout that you would like to do from Xert.

Note: Xert’s curvilinear XSSR intervals will be exported as ramps based on %FTP, so some workouts may be harder (or easier) than performing the workout with one of the Xert Workout Players. Example shown below using the SMART – Closer 170 workout:

Step 2 – Import workout to Zwift: Copy the ZWO file you downloaded from Xert to your Documents > Zwift > Workouts > ###### (your Zwift number) folder. For detailed instructions, check out the instructions linked above, or follow the steps on Zwift’s Support site (here).

Step 3 – Select Workout: After adding the ZWO to your workouts folder, launch Zwift and open the “Custom workouts” section. All that’s left is to select the workout you want to do and start your activity!

2. Xert EBC Workout with Zwift

This option allows you to leverage the benefits of Xert’s SMART workout functionality, including variable power and variable duration workouts. With this option, Xert will control your smart trainer, while Zwift will only be paired to your Power Meter & HRM (if applicable). To use this option, you will need to perform the workout from one of Xert’s players: Xert Player for ConnectIQ, Xert EBC for Android, or Xert EBC for iOS. You can even overlay the data from Xert’s remote player around the Zwift app on your PC. If you don’t have a smart trainer, follow the instructions for athlete-controlled workouts farther below.

Step 1 – Zwift Setup: There are a few key changes you’ll need to make in order for this to work. Firstly, ensure that Controllable Trainer is disabled – notice that there is no active connection listed under CONTROLLABLE in the screenshot above. The only sensors that should be paired are Power Source/Cadence & HRM (if applicable). If possible, pair your sensors to Zwift using ANT+.

Next, you will want to make sure Zwift is in windowed mode – this is necessary if you wish to overlay the Xert Remote Player. On MacOSX, move the mouse cursor to the top-left of the screen and click the green circle to make sure you’re not in ‘full screen’. For Zwift on Windows, under Settings > Screen Mode select Windowed and not Full Screen.

Step 2 – Xert Workout Player Setup: Next, launch the Xert EBC app (Android or iOS). Ensure that your smart trainer is paired under Trainer Control. Xert EBC can be paired to any FTMS-compatible trainer via Bluetooth. If your sensors are paired to Zwift via ANT+, you can also choose to pair your Power Meter & HRM to Xert EBC under their dedicated sensor type. Power-match is supported by default, so be sure to pair your Power meter to the ‘Power Source’ and Smart trainer to the ‘Trainer Control’ sensor. 

To learn more, check out the Quick Start Guide for Xert EBC Android, and learn about using the Xert EBC app for iOS.

Alternatively, you can also use the Xert Workout Player for compatible Garmin Edge devices. Simply follow the setup guidelines as described in our video:

YouTube player

By default, the Xert ConnectIQ Player for Garmin supports power-match, enabling you to use the power coming from your power meter to control your smart trainer.

Step 3 – Overlay Xert Remote Player with Zwift (Optional): Although the addition of the Remote Player interface is optional you may find the ability to view the Xert Remote Player nearby, or on the same screen as the Zwift app, helpful during your workout. The remote player can be used to view upcoming intervals and summary statistics from your workout.

The Remote Player default size is quite large. Use this default size setting when using a separate, dedicated device for the Remote Player and place the device within view. You can run the Remote Player on a tablet or laptop, and place it in front of you while you Zwift on another screen.

If you would like to overlay the Remote Player on the same screen as Zwift, first reduce the View Zoom, depending on your screen resolution. Use Option “-” on MacOSX or Control “-” on Windows to reduce the zoom. Click on the expand buttons (↔) to open the workout data & chart in new windows. You can now reposition and resize your browser windows together with your Zwift app. Here is an example desktop on MacOSX:

Step 4 – Select Workout: Last, select the workout that you would like to ride using the Xert EBC app and start pedaling. When paired correctly, Xert EBC will control the resistance of your trainer according to the workout while Zwift passively reads the power data to move you through the virtual course!

Because Xert is controlling the workout and Zwift is only recording the power data, you get the full benefits of Xert’s curvilinear intervals and SMART power intervals, which adapt second-by-second as you progress through the workout. These curvilinear intervals provide an interesting view in Zwift – see the example below:

3. Free-Ride in Zwift with Xert Overlay

As another option, it’s also possible to use Zwift to simulate doing a “real-world” workout. In fact, some of the Xert workouts are best suited to doing them athlete-controlled – i.e. manually by controlling your power output with cadence and gearing. Xert Fitness Tests, Sprint-Focused workouts and longer endurance workouts like SMART – Iron Man are good examples of workouts that can, and in many cases, should be controlled by yourself. The realistic variability of a Zwift ride is well-suited for this as well.

This option is similar to the above with the key difference being that you allow Zwift to control the trainer’s resistance and disable trainer control from Xert. This means that you will have to use your gears & cadence along with the terrain in Zwift to control your effort level during the workout. This allows you to push a bit harder, or back off a bit, depending on how you’re feeling on a particular day.

 Step 1 – Zwift Setup: Open Zwift app and pair your Power Meter & HRM (if applicable). Also, ensure that your smart trainer is enabled in Zwift as CONTROLLABLE. If possible, pair your sensors using ANT+. Finally, select the Zwift course that you’d like to ride.

Step 2 – Xert Workout Player Setup : Launch the Xert EBC app (Android or iOS). If your sensors are paired to Zwift via ANT+, you can pair your Power Meter & HRM to Xert EBC under their dedicated sensor type. Ensure your smart trainer is NOT paired under Trainer Control – notice Trainer Control is blank in both apps below:

 

The Remote Player default size is quite large. Use this default size setting when using a separate, dedicated device for the Remote Player and place the device within view. You can run the Remote Player on a tablet or laptop, and place it in front of you while you Zwift on another screen.

If you would like to overlay the Remote Player on the same screen as Zwift, first reduce the View Zoom, depending on your screen resolution. Use Option “-” on MacOSX or Control “-” on Windows to reduce the zoom. Click on the expand buttons (↔) to open the workout data & chart in new windows. You can now reposition and resize your browser windows together with your Zwift app.

Step 4 – Select Workout & Ride: Start the workout in EBC and start pedaling!

The key difference between this option and the previous is that you will need to use your gears & cadence to ride at the workout’s target power, since trainer control is linked to Xert’s . If you are planning to just ride (i.e. using just XSS and Focus targets in place of a structured workout), choose one of the Free Ride workouts available in the Xert Workout Library. Choosing one of these workouts allows you to ride in the Zwift environment while monitoring your Xert metrics like MPA, XSS, and Focus, both with the Xert apps as well as on your computer screen via the remote player.

The Remote Player will also display a medal if you manage to achieve a Fitness Breakthrough! Here is a screenshot just after achieving a breakthrough:

 

Greg Leo, of Team DRAFT, demonstrates his use of Xert during a hard ride using a custom configured MPA gauge on this ride screen – see top/middle of the screen.

Multi-User Overlays

Things can get really interesting when you combine the ability to view other athlete’s Remote Player on your screen. In fact, you can put your entire team’s Remote Player gauges on your desktop while in Zwift allowing you to monitor their fatigue and see how close they can get to a Fitness Breakthrough. Using this option you can improve your racing strategy with knowledge of each other’s fatigue and awareness of how close they are to blowing up, something that you’ll see happening on the display well-before it does. Set up a Squad in the Xert Communities feature. Here is a sample Squad screen:

Notice the LIVE icons showing that the athlete’s Remote Player is live and can be viewed by clicking on the link. Clicking on all the squad members’ links and arranging them on your screen can be performed to enable a single view of all the athletes’ gauges at once, all active in real-time:

The Remote Player gauges showing both power and fatigue could make for exciting spectator viewing for road and online racing!

That’s all – hopefully you find this blog post helpful and informative!