Ok, I’ll come right out and admit it, I’m a Zwift nerd. I’ve been sucked in, I bought the hype, I drank the Kool-Aid, I’m caught hook, line and sinker (or whatever new terms the kids use today to describe a fascination that often gets me quizzical looks from my fellow riding pals).
As such, when Zwift introduced its FutureWorks program last year around this time, initially as a “companion” mobile phone app, to debut its new steering demo program I was intrigued but not sold. I liked the idea but never followed through with downloading said app. It required mounting your phone on the handlebars and after reading about some its inherent flaws through relying on a smartphone’s accelerometer as a reference sensor to steer in game I took a hard pass. But then, later in the year Elite, in an exclusive partnership with Zwift, released its very own steering device called the Sterzo Smart.
Elite’s Sterzo Smart ($125 suggested retail) is simply a triangular steering plate with a swiveling riser block allowing you to turn the handlebars as you would outside in the “real world.” Its spring-actuated block has 34-degrees of self-centering rotation and runs on three AAA batteries which Elite says should last up to 500 hours.
Set-up is straight forward. Place it on the floor making sure it’s facing the right direction (otherwise steering will be reversed), center your front wheel in the block (it’s wide enough for gravel and even traditional cross-country sized mountain bike tires) and pair it via a Bluetooth connection. There’s a small LED light that flashes blue when you turn the wheel indicating it’s awake and then flashes green once the device is paired. Generally, just like pairing your smart trainer and its power meter, it’s quick and automatic. Every once in a while that wouldn’t be the case but it’s a simple fix: just click on the steering icon on the start-up screen. In my testing, it would pair right up after a few seconds when I had to go that route and in the countless hours I’ve used it I never lost a connection during a ride.
Obviously it’s not like riding outside, you don’t lean, you just, um, steer. The spring always returns the wheel to the center position. What the Sterzo adds is a degree of realism to pack riding. You can cut corners inside or outside to sprint by other gamers (without steering you stay in position in the draft). It also lets you move around in the bunch, choosing who to draft and where it’s optimum. It’s absolutely faster if you’re timing yourself or racing. Even on climbs, if you’re going for a KoM/QoM you can shave time by taking the quickest line through turns.
Where it gets even more fun is if you find the Dust In the Wind, Muir and the Mountain or Quatch Quest mountain bike sections. On these routes you can pick the smoothest, fastest lines through certain sections.
Overall, with the addition of steering the ride does indeed become more engaging and it is absolutely faster if you utilize it correctly.
Final thoughts: While it’s certainly not a necessity, if you’re a regular Zwifter, especially often joining races or going for the leader’s board, there are some fun benefits from the Sterzo as well as proven added speed.
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