Zwift Play Controller: Taking Indoor Cycling to the Next Level

Back in 2020, Zwift had an accidental leak revealing a new product in development – the Zwift Play Controller. At the time, this easily overlooked news didn’t generate much buzz. But now, the Zwift Play Controller has arrived, and it’s time to take a closer look at this unique accessory for the popular indoor cycling platform.

Unboxing the Zwift Play Controller

Upon receiving the controller, the sleek and minimalist packaging catches your eye. Inside, you’ll find:

  • A user manual (that likely won’t get read)
  • A fun sticker perfect for slapping on your bike or laptop
  • A charging cable with dual USB-C connectors for simultaneous charging
  • Optional handlebar shims for compatibility with different bikes

The compact yet sturdy design promises to withstand sweaty indoor riding sessions. The built-in battery offers an impressive 20+ hours of usage time between charges based on my experience.

Setup and Pairing

Attaching the Zwift Play Controller to your handlebars (e.g. on the Wahoo KICKR Bike 2) is simple courtesy of the adjustable straps that securely fasten it in place. Powering it on and pairing via Bluetooth to the Zwift platform takes just seconds. The Zwift game interface even displays current battery levels so you’ll never be surprised by it dying mid-ride.

Gameplay Experience

Once connected, the Zwift Play Controller opens up new possibilities:

  • Fluid steering from the handlebars adds precision and realism. No more clunky bluetooth steering accessories.
  • The action bar allows changing views, accessing settings, and activating power-ups without touching a screen.
  • You can thumbs-up fellow riders and activate emojis, bringing social engagement to handlebar level.
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The controller truly shines for controlling ERG mode workouts. With simple handlebar button taps, you can adjust workout intensity targets on the fly based on how you feel.

Also read: MyWhoosh vs. Zwift

Zwift’s New Repack Rush Course

To highlight the controller’s capabilities, Zwift launched a new steering-focused road course called Repack Rush. Guiding your rider to speed boosts and bonuses by turning feels dynamic, though the steering has slightly reduced responsiveness versus other Zwift worlds. This course adds a fun time-trial element by banking time deductions for quick completion.

Value Proposition and Pricing

At the current $99 price during its beta period, the Zwift Play Controller offers good value for Zwift enthusiasts who want to level up their experience. But Zwift says the MSRP will increase to $150 after beta, which gives me pause.

The pricing may still make sense for devoted riders when considering the controller’s potential to improve your indoor training and racing. However, it pushes the boundaries of being an easy impulse purchase.

Future Potential and Third Party Integrations

Promisingly, Zwift hints at making the Zwift Play Controller’s underlying protocols openly available to third parties down the road.

This could enable integrated steering control and interactivity for other hardware like smart trainers and accessories. Unlocking innovation could take indoor cycling engagement to the next level.

The Bottom Line

The Zwift Play Controller delivers on its promise to make indoor training more immersive through integrated handlebar control. Its thoughtful design and reliable performance make it a worthy upgrade for any Zwift setup.

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During the beta period, the $99 price point lowers the barrier to entry to experience the next evolution of indoor riding interactivity. I recommend riders take it for a spin before the price increases. The future looks bright for accessory innovation that could take Zwift to new heights.

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