Home Tech Zwift vs Sufferfest: Which indoor cycling app is right for you?

Zwift vs Sufferfest: Which indoor cycling app is right for you?

While Zwift is by far the most popular indoor training app in the world, there are a number of other apps, each with dedicated followings that boast about the unique features that their chosen platform offers. TrainerRoad and RGT Cycling come to mind, as well as Sufferfest – now known as Wahoo SUF – which is a comprehensive training app designed for performance-based endurance athletes looking to unlock their performance potential. Both Zwift and Sufferfest offer a wide variety of leg-burning workouts, accompanied by a high-tech display and helpful cues. But it is the community aspect where the platforms suddenly diverge. 

In this article, we’ll take a look at the similarities and differences between Zwift and Sufferfest, and how to decide which of the two indoor cycling apps might be best for you.

 Zwift 

The most popular indoor training platform in the world, which caters to serious cyclists, weekend warriors, the casual spinner, and everyone in between – Zwift continues to dominate the indoor training space, shooting past the three-million user mark earlier this year. The massiveness of Zwift’s community is what separates it from other virtual training platforms. Races and group rides for riders of all ages and abilities are held 24/7/365, plus, users can create their own meetups and group rides on any course at any time. 

Zwift racing itself has ascended past weekday group rides and ‘Wednesday Night Worlds’ – the inaugural UCI Zwift World Championships took place this past December, as well as the Virtual Tour de France last summer, and now the community-driven Zwift Racing League including the coveted Zwift Premier League races. There is so much ground to cover and so many races to talk about that it’s impossible to summarize it all in one article – so I’ll just say this: the Zwift community is unfathomably massive, and Zwift’s ability to connect millions of riders from around the world is what truly separates Zwift from its indoor training space competitors.

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Users also love Zwift for its personality and customizable features, such as changing the shoes, kit, hairstyle, and bike of your avatar. The colourful graphics and mix between real-life and imaginary worlds create a unique and ever-expanding landscape for thousands of users each day. Zwift users can also level up by gaining experience points (XP) by riding more kilometres, completing routes and KOMs, and earning in-game achievements, such as power targets. 

Like other virtual riding platforms, there is an enormous library of Zwift workouts and Zwift training plans in its user interface – just about every timestamp and intensity is covered, including sprints, tempo intervals, threshold sessions, and lung-bursting VO2 max efforts. There is also the ability to perform group workouts in Zwift, as opposed to solo suffering. 

To connect with the hundreds of thousands of other users, Zwifters can use the Zwift Companion app, a free app available on iOS and Android in which you can find and sign up for events, send and receive messages, as well as follow and give ‘ride-ons’ to other users. 

Setting up to ride on Zwift is as simple as many other platforms – users can connect to Zwift via a smart trainer, or an external power meter and ANT+ or Bluetooth. Smart trainers are not required for Zwift – instead, users can connect to Zwift using just a speed and cadence sensor.

Sufferfest (aka The Wahoo SUF)

For the same price as Zwift, indoor riders can instead opt for Sufferfest (aka Wahoo SUF), a virtual riding platform that features real-life videos on display during each and every workout. Sufferfest was the first training app to create personalized workouts for its users based on their complete power profile, rather than FTP alone. This all stems from Sufferfest’s infamous 4DP test, an hour-long power test that determines a rider’s neuromuscular power, maximal aerobic power, functional threshold power (FTP), and anaerobic capacity. In layman’s terms, the 4DP helps determine your strengths and weakness by testing your sprint, five-minute power, 20-minute power, and aerobic (i.e. endurance) power.

Sufferfest offers personalized workouts that are meant to target specific energy systems for each one of their users, all completed on ERG mode and without a virtual world. Instead, users get to watch real-life cycling videos, with their workout metrics – cadence, heart rate, and power – displayed around the screen.  What Sufferfest gains in personalization, it loses in its variety. There are less than 100 cycling workouts available in total, but many more strength training, yoga, and mental training sessions available. Consider this as opposed to Zwift’s 2000+ workouts, and there is only so much to choose from.

Built into each Sufferfest workout are music, video, and on-screen text that is meant to motivate the user, and help them get the most out of themselves each and every workout. The personal nature of Sufferfest is one of its defining features, especially in the use of the 4DP test that measures each user as a unique individual, and not just a Category A or Category B rider based on their FTP. 

The real-life videos and humorous text that accompany Sufferfest are some of the standout features of the platform. As opposed to Zwift and other virtual worlds, Sufferfest immerses you in the real-world, fighting for wheels at over 50kph, flying down the tarmac on a time trial bike, or dancing up switchbacks in the Pyrenes. 

While the real-life video features are extremely motivating and certainly entertaining, they are not synced up with the user’s power output, which creates an awkward disconnect between the user and what they’re watching on their screen. For example, the Sufferfest user could be doing a steady tempo effort at 180w, but the video they’re watching is Nairo Quintana attacking on Mont Ventoux. The efforts don’t line up, which creates a far less engaging experience than one like Zwift where the user’s effort is matched by their in-game avatar. 

Sufferfest also offers mental training, yoga sessions, and nutrition guidelines within the app, features that are completely lacking from competitors like Zwift. For the same price, Sufferfest impresses with these additional features designed by some of the top sports scientists in the world. 

Zwift vs Sufferfest – Which do you choose?

Perhaps the biggest difference between Zwift and Sufferfest is the community aspect. Sufferfest is all about solo suffering, providing you with intensely-focused, highly-structured workouts with lots of audio and visual aids. If the quest is to get fit and reach your performance potential, Sufferfest is the way to go. 

Alternatively, Zwift has tens of thousands of riders pedalling around Watopia each and every day. Perhaps your motivation is low, or you’re legs aren’t feeling great on the day – having a group ride up to you, or simply having other riders suffering on the same climb with you, or a rider in the distance to chase, can do wonders for your mentality, especially when it comes to the isolating nature of virtual cycling.

Zwift is for users who want to ride and race with others, and who don’t care as much if their race/HIIT session is a bit chaotic. With hundreds of routes and races to choose from, the options on Zwift are almost endless. The workout library is there too, but with a more ‘gamey’ feel than more realistic platforms like Sufferfest. When you want to get inspired by the real world, to watch the Tour of Flanders while also trying to churn out the Watts of Boonen and Cancellara, there’s no better place to do so than Sufferfest. 

The science-backed workouts and training system are among the best in the world – Sufferfest’s creators are coaches of WorldTour riders and National Cycling teams, after all. There is no equivalent in Zwift that can challenge the personalized training and interval quality offered by Sufferfest. 

Conversely, Zwift offers a greater variety of workouts, routes, races, and community engagement than Sufferfest. For cyclists looking for a little bit of everything – from group rides to endurance workouts, to weeknight crits and weekend fondos – Zwift has it all.

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