Inspired by the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift? Indoor cycling tips from female cyclists

Keep that cycling momentum you picked up during the summer months going by embracing indoor training. We share some top tips and insights from experienced female Zwift riders to help you optimise your indoor rides.

The Personal Cyclist
Last updated -

The Tour de Frances Femmes avec Zwift (TDFF) this summer was a master class in women’s cycling. And if you found yourself inspired by the incredible pro women cyclists to get out on your bike more over the summer, you might be wondering how to keep your cycling fitness up through the winter.

As the weather turns and the nights draw in, finding the time and the motivation to get outdoors on the bike can be difficult. But embracing indoor cycling on Zwift over the winter could be your secret weapon for some serious cycling fitness gains that will have you riding stronger than ever before by the time the next TDFF rolls around.

Whether you’re just getting into indoor cycling, or you’re after a few tips to help you stay motivated. We spoke to some female cyclists to get their top tips for riding on Zwift.

Meet the riders

Cycling journalist and TV presenter Rebecca Charlton
Cycling Journalist and Presenter
Paediatric doctor and cyclocross racer Phoebe Sneddon
Phoebe sneddon
Paediatric Doctor and Cyclocross Racer
Mel Berry co-founder of Her Spirit
Co-Founder of Her Spirit
Leah Thorvilson former Zwift Academy winner
Former Zwift Academy Winner
Emma Dooley Zwift Team Fearless athlete
Full-time Mum and Zwift Team Fearless Athlete

Get set up – and stay set up – for indoor cycling

A quick scroll through some of the very impressive indoor cycling ‘pain cave’ set ups you see on Instagram might have you thinking you need to undertake a major DIY project before you can your turbo trainer in situ. But in reality, you can keep your indoor cycling set up simple – all you need is a small amount of space, a few bits of kit and you’re good to go.

It might seem like the biggest task to get on for the first time but once you have everything set up and you’re in a routine it only becomes easier to hop on.”
Rebecca Charlton

Our indoor cycling guide for beginners will talk you through the basics of getting set up. But the key bit of advice from our experienced women cyclists is to have your turbo trainer or smart bike set up in a space where you can always have it ready to ride. If you haven’t got to spend time moving furniture around and lugging kit across the room before you can ride, it makes it much easier to feel motivated.

Phoebe Sneddon riding on Zwift
Having your turbo trainer set up and ready to go makes it easier to train when a window of opportunity arises.
Currently I have a Wahoo Kickr Core set up in the garage with my bike on it at all times. This means that once the baby is napping or the kids are in bed I can swiftly throw my Lycra on and be training in less than five minutes. I find this invaluable when I am so short on time, plus it means there’s no getting out of it. If at all possible, having your turbo set up and ready to go means there’s less chance of procrastination or putting off getting on it – we all know it can feel like an absolute chore at times.”
Phoebe Sneddon

When it comes to kit beyond the basics, the essentials are a fan and a good set of headphones to blast your favourite playlist. And don’t be tempted to save your ‘good’ cycling shorts for your outdoor rides. Because the turbo trainer or smart bike is static, the pressure points can be more intense. Cycling shorts with a comfortable chamois pad are a must for indoor training so you don’t end up with chafe and saddle sores.

Make your Zwift rides sociable

Riding outdoors with friends, or even just that nod of solidarity as you pass another cyclist out on the road, is one of many things that makes cycling so fun. So it’s understandable if you’re worried that indoor riding will be a lonely, boring experience. Thankfully, indoor training platforms such as Zwift have created a huge social element so you can still have that sense of community and camaraderie.

Find a community or club if you like the socialisation aspect of training, and give everything a try! We’ve just launched the Zwift Women’s Training Club, which has group workouts every 3 hours on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and social rides every 3 hours on Wednesdays. This is a great club to meet other women to train with, and a safe space to ask any and all questions about Zwifting or training in general.”
Leah Thorvilson
Don’t do it alone – do it with others. We’ve built our Her Spirit community on Zwift and I love this – we have a jersey and it makes me smile all the time and most importantly motivates me. It’s a great experience and keeps me focused.
Mel Berry

You might feel a little intimidated at the thought of joining a group ride or even becoming part of a women’s e-racing team. But it’s far more accessible than you might think and it’s a great way to become part of a supportive community from the convenience of your own home. Virtual cycling communities often make use of apps such as Discord so you can chat while you ride.

Don’t be afraid to try something new with workouts and group rides 

Workouts on Zwift are really great way to get specific with your training and maximise your fitness gains. The group ride feature brings in that social element we’ve already discussed, and it can also keep you accountable by ensuring you ride at a set intensity. The beauty of indoor cycling is that you can try something new without any pressure. If you don’t like it, you can just stop – without a long and lonely ride home!

Enjoy the benefits of indoor cycling
Zwift’s workout library offers plenty of ways to try something new in your training.
For me, Zwift is such a safe space; it’s the perfect place to have a go and try new things. You can have a play, see what you like and can jump on or off at any time. Nobody can see you and I ride with loads of people I’d never have the nerve to ride with in real life! Plus, you’ll never get a puncture!
Emma Dooley

Browsing the workout library and group ride events on Zwift can be a little bit overwhelming if you’re not sure what you’re looking for, or how to ensure you’ll be riding at the right intensity for your current fitness level. A great way to get started with workouts is to head to the ‘training plans’ section on Zwift. You can select a plan that matches your goals and you’ll be guided through a series of workouts designed specifically to take you from where you are now to where you want to be. Our Zwift training guide gives you more detail on workouts and setting your FTP to ensure the intensity is right.

When time is tight, 30 minutes on Zwift can be enough to make a difference

When you’re juggling all sorts of commitments in one day – be that work, social events, childcare, or all three – finding time for a ride can feel impossible. It can take 30 minutes just to get all your kit on, a route planned and your tyres pumped up! But with indoor training, 30 minutes can be enough to get a great workout done in a short window of time.

“I love using Zwift when I’m juggling too much in one day but want to be active. My go-to is either the ‘30 minutes or less to burn’ category or pace partners because you can easily choose your effort level and trust me, half an hour of some of those intervals seems like five!”
Rebecca Charlton

As Rebecca has mentioned, the ’30 minutes or less’ category within the Zwift workout library will give you a session that holds maximum impact when time to train is minimal. Having your turbo or smart bike set up and ready to go means you can jump on and start riding when the opportunity arises. That makes it far easier to stay consistent with your training when life gets busy.

It can be easy to fall into the trap of thinking ‘I’ve only got half an hour, so I might as well not bother’ – but remember, something is better than nothing. You’ll be amazed at the progress you can make!

Inspired by these women riders and ready to get riding on Zwift? Browse our Zwift section for more tips and tricks to help you make the most of the indoor training platform.

Kate Auld
Written by
Kate Auld
Writer, occasional triathlete and founder of The Personal Cyclist®, Kate is a British Cycling qualified coach & ride leader, offering bike confidence coaching & bespoke cycling experiences.
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