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Zwift Play are handlebar accessories that allow you to control Zwift which connect via Bluetooth. Launched in June 2023, they are currently available at a discounted price as the product is still in Beta whilst Zwift launch new game modes and features on the controllers.  There is a specifically designed route in Zwift called Repack Rush that allows you to utilise Zwift Play to its fullest, which is also available in multiplayer mode.  In additional there is Crit City, a criterium style race around the city which is also multiplayer.

The basics of Zwift Play

Zwift Play comprises of two controllers that attach to your handlebars via integrated silicone straps and have been designed specifically for drop handlebars and as such are not compatible with flat bars (mountain bike) or TT Aero bars.

Each controller has four buttons and a paddle shifter that provides steering and braking functionality.  The buttons have specific purposes that allow you to navigate menus, control route selection as well as give Ride Ons, all without having to take your hands off the handlebars.  In essence they could be compared to a PlayStation controller that has been divided into two.

The controllers have built-in rechargeable lithium-ion batteries that last for 20 hours and are recharged using the split USB-A to USB-C cable that is supplied.  The controllers have a rubber coating which Zwift says is “sweat resistant.”

Zwift Play controllers can be used to operate the virtual drivetrain on the Zwift Hub and Zwift Hub One smart trainers.

Priced at £149 / $149 / €149 (or get them during the initial trial period for £99 / $99 / €99 ), they are available via the Zwift shop, and by clicking here.

Setting up and compatibility

The controls are mounted to your handlebars, next to your shifter and held in place by silicone straps.  For thin handlebars, extra rubber padding is provided to ensure that the devices are held firmly in place.  Zwift Play is compatible with a broad section of handlebars and gear shifters such as Shimano, SRAM, Microshift and some Campagnolo shifters (not thumb) as wells as the Kickr Bike (but only one steering device will work at any one time).   However, it is not compatible with the following:

  • TT Aero bars.
  • Flat bars (e.g. hybrid or mountain bike)
  • Campagnolo thumb shifters
  • Garmin Tacx Neo bike will not allow proper placement due to shifter shape
  • WattBike smart bike
  • Stages bike buttons compromise optimal positioning

Once the controllers are attached, they are turned on by pressing and holding the large Z button that is at the bottom of each device and the LED will flash blue when ready to pair.

Pairing is simple and is done via the Pairing screen in game, by clicking the “Controls” button. 

If you are using Apple TV, this process is slightly different and you’ll need to pair your Zwift Play using the Zwift Companion (ZC) app as a bridge. 

When you first use the controllers, you will be taken to a helpful tutorial which teaches you about the different buttons and their functions.  I started using this but soon skipped it and opted for the “press and guess” approach as I was too eager to test them on the specifically designed course, Repack Rush.  

“Press and Guess”

With 14 buttons in total, 7 on each controller, it is worth discussing what they all do, as each one has a uniquely mapped function.

The right controller’s A, B, Y, Z button configuration dates back to the days of the Super Nintendo in the early 1990s and have specific functions.  Interestingly, I noticed that the traditional X button found on the Super Nintendo and X-Box controller is replaced with a Z, which I am sure was a conscious decision.

The Z button is used to return a Ride On, the Y button is used to activate a PowerUp or skip a block when undertaking a workout. Whilst A and B are used to select and go back in the menu system.

The left controller has a directional pad that allows the navigation of the menu system, with the main button being the down arrow which, if pressed and held, makes a U-turn while free riding or in a workout.

Both controllers have a paddle which controls direction. The left paddle moves your avatar to the left and likewise to the right paddle when pressed to the right.  However, when the paddles are pressed inwards, they activate the brake, which you can unintentionally use due to its positioning.  On the outer edge of the paddle is a button that adjust the resistance in ERG mode. If not in ERG mode, and you have a Zwift Hub or Zwift Hub One, this will control the gearing.  Each controller has its own on-off button, in the form of a large square Z.

The only thing that feels like it is missing is a mini keyboard to communicate to people when riding.    

In short, there are a lot buttons, but you soon get used to them, and if you don’t, just “Press and Guess.” 


One additional feature is that they vibrate when you undertake certain tasks such as returning a Ride On, brake, or ride over certain obstacles in Repack Rush.  This feature is called “haptic feedback.”  I’m not entirely sure how much value it adds but it’s an added extra, which can be turned off if not to your liking. 

Experience in use

Setting up the controllers was simple and this is always a plus when getting new technology as no one wants to spend time reading manuals or watching instructional videos.  I did notice thatwhen I connected the controllers to the handlebars, they were not level, like in the promotional photos; I would go as far as saying it had a slight angle which meant I was reaching for the buttons in a strange direction.  Due to the positioning of the devices, if you are accustomed to riding on your hoods, you may find that area feeling cluttered.  You’ll soon get used to it and this is outweighed by having the ability to use PowerUps or provide Ride Ons with the touch of a button, increasing your engagement when riding.

When using the paddles to navigate my avatar left and right, I did find I was pressing unusually hard and perhaps the paddles could have a rubber coating to soften it for the fingers. 

Using the menu system in game is accessed by pressing the A button.  Here, you can change views, which is easy.

The functionality that I like and use the most is the route selection, via the directional pad and it means that you don’t need to move your hands from the handlebars.  The other functionality that is fun is the steering, which is best utilised in Repack Rush.     

Repack Rush

Repack Rush is Zwift’s first attempt at fully “gamifying” a route and one which they have labelled as “a time trial with a twist.”  It reminded me of the Nintendo Game Mario Kart, but on bikes.  The objective of Repack Ridge is to navigate your way along the course picking up bonuses by steering into them, which impacts your time. 

It’s entertaining, quite challenging and takes some mastering.  I found myself oversteering by pressing the directional paddles too much.  I couldn’t quite decide if I was overcompensating or the game wasn’t responding fast enough, perhaps the truth is somewhere in the middle.  Nevertheless, it has added an extra dimension which is amusing, and I am in favour of something like this because it is different and brings a bit of enjoyment in the style of a game.  It offers an alternative way to get people engaged in the platform and effectively adds an extra dimension, which can’t be bad.    

Are the controllers worth it?

The simple is answer is it depends on how you use Zwift.  If you race a lot of Team Time Trials (TTT), then having the ability to break will make it easier to keep the group together and utilise the advantage of drafting. In races that have the steering function, you will undoubtably get an advantage as you will be able to select your racing line and the function adds that extra level of realism to your experience. Likewise, if you enjoy group rides and find yourself surging ahead of the pack, using the brakes will help control your effort.  For the casual rider, Zwift Play could be considered a “nice to have” and your experience in Zwift will not be diminished if you don’t own it. However, this may change if Zwift focuses on developing a suite of routes such as Repack Rush where gamification is central.  It is worth noting that if you already have a Zwift Hub or Zwift Hub One, Zwift Play will enable virtual shifting which is useful.     

Summing Up

There is no disputing that the product is well made and has been carefully designed and the controllers are easy to setup.  They add an extra dimension to Zwift, with the only points to note are that the paddles are bit hard on the touch and controllers don’t fit as snuggly to my handlebars as I would like, but I fully accept that trying to manufacture a device that works with all types of handlebars is an impossibility. Other than that, if you are a frequent user of Zwift, you may want to consider treating yourself to this.