You don’t need to even leave the house to get a serious training session in, so you’ll never have to skip a cycle due to bad weather, bad timing, or inconvenience.
Sufferfest vs Zwift is a common and fiercely-debated topic in the bike world. Which is right for you? Well, it depends on what type of athlete you are and what kind of interaction you prefer.
Let’s get into the details of each app so you can make an informed decision about which one would work best for you.
What Is Zwift?
Zwift is the most loved indoor fitness app the world over, and for good reason. It has something for cyclists of all abilities, but it also caters for runners.
Triathletes in particular will find plenty of benefits in this app, being able to train two of their three disciplines without even leaving the comfort of their home.
The app was launched in 2014 and has built up a massive community in the years since then.
What many users enjoy about Zwift is the video game-esque feeling about it. It’s like a gigantic online multiplayer game, which involves making your way through virtual worlds with your buddies.
You can interact with your online training partners, run or cycle your way through beautiful locations, and motivate each other from afar.
How Do You Use Zwift?
The app connects to your smart trainer or your bike’s power meter/cadence sensor. It uses this data to create the virtual experience of riding through a course or the streets.
It’s extremely comprehensive, using your weight, power, the gradient of the road, and the draft from other virtual riders to provide as realistic a virtual experience as possible.
You can view your virtual event on your phone, tablet, PC or Mac computer, and Apple TV. As well as following along with your workouts, you can join specific events on the app, send messages to other users, and even follow others who inspire you.
What Equipment Do You Need to Use Zwift?
In order to use Zwift, you obviously need a bike of some sort. It could be a bike trainer or a real bike with a set of rollers. Take note, though, that using bike rollers is not for beginners!
If you aren’t using a smart trainer, you’ll also need a power meter or a cadence/speed sensor that connects via Bluetooth or ANT+. You’ll also need a Bluetooth or ANT-compatible device to have your virtual experience on.
How Much Does It Cost?
You can try Zwift for free for 7 days, but you’ll need to sign up for a paid account if you want to continue after that.
Zwift is actually fairly affordable, at just $14,99 per month. You’ll have access to a variety of training plans, thousands of structured cycling workouts, 10 virtual worlds, group rides, racing events, and a motivating community.
One of the features people love about Zwift is the ability to put your account on hold, rather than canceling it completely.
If you have a bad few months and need to put it on the backburner for a while, you can do so stress-free.
Probably the biggest benefit of Zwift (apart from the absolute video game-like fun of it) is the sense of community.
The community is enormous, running into the millions. This alone puts Zwift far ahead of others in its class, and makes the experience that much more fun.
Virtual training can definitely be an adventure when you’re training alone, but the community gives you a sense of belonging, motivation, and accountability that other apps don’t have.
Zwift allows you to “level up” as you gain experience points. The more miles you ride, routes you complete, achievements you hit, and the more your fitness level improves, the more XP you earn.
This is an excellent way of staying motivated and tracking your progress in a fun and exciting way, instead of the usual data and statistics. It becomes extra fun to push yourself that extra bit to hit your goal, making exercise far more effective.
More than 1000 ready-made workouts exist on the platform, and you can choose any one at any time. There are also training plans that can help you along the way to specific goals.
Whatever you wish to achieve, there’s some kind of training to help you with that. Threshold workouts, tempo intervals, VO2 max workouts, and endurance workouts are just some that you can choose from.
The app also offers an onboard FTP test, which measures your power level so it can calibrate to the right levels for you. This is a huge thumbs-up, as it means you start your experience on the app with it catered perfectly to you and your fitness level.
For All Abilities
Zwift offers training plans and races for every rider, no matter their age or ability level. You can also host your own meetups or group events, so if you have friends who use the app you can meet virtually at any time for a training session.
Your Zwift app is personalizable, which makes it even more fun. Choose your own kit, bike, shoes, and hair, so your online avatar resembles you as closely as possible. This makes the virtual world experience so much more real!
To be honest, the cons hardly make a dent in the pros of Zwift. Some users have mentioned that there’s not a huge amount of visibility for climbs on many routes, which is frustrating.
Another thing that’s been brought up is that on occasion, you’re rushed into choosing which fork in the road to take. Choosing incorrectly can land you on an entirely new course, completely inadvertently, which may be very confusing.
This mishap can also skew your training stats somewhat, as you may be close to the end of your ride and suddenly find yourself near the beginning of a new one!
Cyclists who love the social, community aspect of riding. Also, those who need human motivation and accountability. Video game enthusiasts will also love Zwift!
If competition is what drives you, Zwift is a fantastic choice. You’re constantly taking part in races against other users, and communicating with them at the same time.
It’s also a great choice if you use an Apple TV interface. You’ll get the best virtual experience of the app on a large screen.
Riders who want real-life scenery. There’s a definite virtual reality feeling to this app, as if you’re truly a character in a video game.
Serious cyclists who want as real a virtual experience as they can get may prefer a different kind of app.
Sufferfest or Wahoo SYSTM
What Is the Sufferfest?
The Sufferfest used to be a standalone app, but as of September 2021, it’s been integrated in Wahoo’s Systm app. This doesn’t change much about its original design, though; the app uses real-life footage that you ride along to, in varying degrees of difficulty.
As well as these ride-along videos, the Systm app includes other forms of training, like yoga for cyclists, strength training, and even mindset training.
How Does It Work?
Once you’re logged in, you have a huge library of training race videos at your disposal. Choose the one you want to ride, and get riding It’s that easy.
What Equipment Do You Need?
Obviously, you need a bike. Like Zwift, you can use a bike trainer or a real bike set on rollers, as long as you have an appropriate power or cadence sensor to connect to your app.
Your phone, tablet, or computer is the last piece of the puzzle, so you can view your real-life videos as you ride.
How Much Is It?
Sufferfest/Systm offers a 14-day free trial. Thereafter, the monthly cost is $14,99, or you can choose to pay an annual fee upfront of $129.
For what you’re getting, it’s pretty well-priced. You’ll have access to real-world, personalized workouts, pro coach-designed training plans, long-term training schedules, other forms of cross-training, and a private Facebook group where you can get in touch with members of the community.
Many of the workouts have an interesting kind of storyline that you follow as you’re going through the video. This makes you feel like you’re in the middle of the race, racing side-by-side with the pros through amazing, real-life locations.
Comprehensive 4DP Test
While Zwift offers an FTP test, Sufferfest/Systm uses a more comprehensive test that they call the 4DP test.
This is an hour-long fitness test that helps the app understand your strengths and weaknesses by measuring your FTP, anaerobic capacity, max aerobic power, and neuromuscular power.
Once you’ve completed this test, you’ll have an excellent start on the app, as it calibrates immediately to your fitness level.
The workouts you’ll find on the app are designed by top coaches and athletes. They’re backed by the latest sports science, and there’s something for every level of cyclist.
“No-Vid” Exercise Option
If you’d prefer to exercise without the scenery for once and just watch a series or listen to your own music, the app allows for that.
Sometimes, it’s a welcome change and having the option to follow the app when you want to and do your own thing when you want to comes highly appreciated.
You won’t necessarily miss out on coaching if you’ve chosen a coaching program or training ride. The coaching can be done via voice only, so it doesn’t disrupt your entertainment too much.
Long-Term Training Plans
Amongst the many training plans, you can find something suited to every kind of rider.
Whether you’re a beginner, intermediate, or advanced cyclist, there’s an appropriate plan for you. There are also custom plans for mountain bikers, triathletes, and other types of cyclists.
Other Cross-Training Options
This is another area in which Sufferfest/Systm has an advantage over Zwift. Although Zwift caters to runners as well as cyclists, this app offers training in a much wider scope than Zwift does.
Strength training is an excellent form of cross-training that can be hugely beneficial to riders, especially for correcting muscle imbalances. Yoga is a fantastic way of improving flexibility and helping muscles to recover after a hard ride.
As for mindset training, this is something we see far too little in sports training. It’s much appreciated and other apps should take a leaf out of their book, in our opinion!
The community may pale in comparison to Zwift, but the Facebook group is quite busy. If you have questions about the app or want an accountability partner, chances are you’ll find one here.
Sufferfest has always been known for its humor. Whether it’s the text that accompanies workouts or the addition of straight jackets and minions to its videos, there’s a unique sense of humor throughout the app that you don’t quite find with its more serious competitors.
Solitude. This app is made for training alone in the comfort of your home, and doesn’t have the interactivity that Zwift does.
That being said, it may not be a con for everyone. Some people prefer solo training over group efforts, so this could be a pro for some!
Probably the biggest disadvantage is that the on-screen videos aren’t synced with your power or cadence meter. You could be pedaling your heart out but what you see on the screen is a more chilled climb.
This can create a bit of a disconnect between what you’re doing and what you’re seeing, which may be disturbing for some riders.
Cyclists looking for real-life footage will enjoy Sufferfest/Systm more than Zwift. It’s also a good choice for those who aren’t competitive and just want to do their thing without anyone else being involved.
If you’re interested in cross-training like strength work or yoga, this app gets the thumbs-up. The mindset training is also a huge bonus.
And because you can do much of the training without being online, it’s a great choice for those who live in areas with slow or unpredictable internet.
Those who want an engaging, gaming-like experience and need an element of competition or accountability.
What Are the Main Differences Between the 2 Apps?
The thing that may make the biggest difference is the sense of community. Zwift has a thriving, enthusiastic community that loves to share info, ideas, and be accountable to each other. Sufferfest/Systm is for those who want to ride alone.
When it comes to working out, though, Sufferfest/Systm gets the nod for intensity. The workouts are highly structured and pro-designed. Zwift offers a more gaming-like experience.
One difference that may or may not be a big thing depending on you is that your Zwift workout ebbs and flows according to your power or cadence readings. Sufferfest/Systm doesn’t do that, so you may find yourself pedaling heavily while the guys on the screen are taking it slow, creating a disconnect.
In the end, it’s really up to you and your needs as to which of these two is right for you. Chances are you already have a good idea of which one would suit your personality and training goals.
If neither of these sounds like the perfect app for you, check out our Peloton review!