Last week, Zwift posted a number of new positions, particularly in supply chain management. This includes the fact that the company will not only manufacture three specific models, but has also already selected its hardware production partners.

The position postings themselves would be expected at a high level. Zwift has has been more open in the last few months about their hardware ambitions in numerous statements from the CEO and the PR team. They openly discussed their plans to bring hardware into a market that is currently exclusively occupied by their partners.

All of these positions are part of Zwift’s hardware division called FitTech and appear to be largely based out of London (since that is where all of FitTech’s engineering / test / etc positions are displayed). This coincides with the first round of Positions about 16 months ago.

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However, most of the more interesting tidbits come from the supply chain positions which (as per the descriptions) can work for the most part anywhere.

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Props to Tariq Ali from SmartBikeTrainers.com to the his tweet Catch a few keywords in one of the lists for the Director of Global Supply Chain Planning, especially this phrase:

“We are expanding now and are part of it Launch of three fitness products for the homethat Zwift will manufacture and ship directly to customers around the world. “

And more specifically, the part that says “three fitness products to use at home” because they didn’t actually reveal how many products they were working on beforehand. Of course, Zwift already makes a physical hardware product – the Zwift Running Pod. I’m not sure they even make this anymore though as it has been sold out on their website for a while now. This is the capsule you bought from Milestone a few years ago.

Selected manufacturing partners:

(Above: The insides of a prototype of a Tacx Flux S-Smart trainer before release)

Before we talk about the Zwift hardware threesome, there’s one more thing listing Another element is described here that could provide clues as to who their partners are. The publication says:

“You will work closely with us Manufacturing partner in China to ensure that production is running efficiently and that all components are delivered to you on time. “

While most job vacancies may point to a partner region (like Asia), it is actually direct in two ways. Firstly, it says that they have already selected partners in China for production, and secondly, that they will produce these specifically in China.

At first glance, you might shake this off. However, a bit more understanding of the sports technology landscape makes this interesting:

A) It means they have come far enough to choose a manufacturing site
B) This means that they have no plans to attract an existing player in the market (who almost exclusively produces outside of China).
C) That means they will not use existing third party power plants like Giant that manufacture their products in Taiwan
D) It questions the use of specialized facilities based on this investment roundas some had speculated, mostly in Taiwan, Cambodia, and elsewhere
E) This means that Magene is on the table as a viable manufacturing partner
F) The plural of partners is used, which can imply more than one production facility (possibly for different products).

Around this point in the post, many of you are saying, “Who is Magene and how did you get on this post?!?”. Magene is a China-based sports technology company that has been making trainers for a few years and more recently has dealt with power meters. I checked out one of their trainers a few years ago and actually found it surprisingly accurate and well done for a company that didn’t have a lot of experience / history at the time. In many ways (most of the time?) They have duplicated the Wahoo designs of the time, although they have been going their own way on the designs a bit lately. Though their most recent T300 direct drive trainer appears to be a lot more variable and drifts significantly based on that Testing what GPLAMA did.

Aside from Magene, most of the other coaching manufacturing partnerships in Asia typically fall to Thailand, Vietnam, and Taiwan. Interestingly enough Magene actually lists Wahoo Fitness as an investor and their own Alibaba side lists them as a Wahoo supplier – whether or not that would rule out a partnership with Zwift is unclear (since helping to make trainers for Zwift is obviously not in Wahoo’s competitive interests). Magene (which includes half a dozen corporate identities in China) has OEM manufacturing partnerships for a few different product categories, including rocker arms, bike lights, smart trainers, power meters, and more.

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Of course, the production of goods in China is not news per se, but the stomach angle gives a break – as they would already have experience in the sector. And as much as bean counters who have not built trainers and smartbikes want to believe that the production is interchangeable, the reality is that an experienced partner in this sector will save many months of start-up battles.

Three fitness products:

But let’s get back to the “Three Fitness Products to Use at Home” section of that job description for a second. That is obviously the most important part of today’s post. In fact, it’s so important that Zwift realized that including this in the job posting itself was a bad strategy. This wording since Tariq’s first tweet has since been changed to remove these words. However, you can’t remove anything from the internet – it’s still everywhere:

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Assuming these aren’t just three new footpods, which they obviously aren’t, the question is, what level do these three new products go to?

One could assume a smart bike, trainer, and maybe a KICKR CLIMB-like accessory with built-in steering. Or it can be three “trainers” / “bikes”, e.g. B. a low-end trainer, a medium to long range trainer and a smart bike. Or it could be your own control products that don’t require any dependency on companies like Elite and their Sterzo Smart.

Now, Zwift CEO Eric Min has already confirmed that they are building a smart bike, so one of them will be removed from the list. Here it is Exchange from last autumn::

Bloomberg: “So does that mean there will be a smart bike, a Zwift branded smart bike?”

Eric Min: “Right, we’ve been telling our partners for many years that this is truly the future of growth for this entire category. And we will continue to work with our partners, and in the current environment our partners cannot make enough hardware. ” [He goes goes on to note that the shortages have impacted many different fitness companies beyond Zwift.]

Bloomberg: “When can we see the Zwift brand smart bike?”

Eric Min: “Well, I wish … yesterday. We work as fast as we can, but these things take time. We are definitely not going to release a product that is just another product. I think we have the opportunity to be really innovative. And really keep improving the experience we promised ourselves. “

And while a so-called Zwift bike makes a lot of sense (and which is what I’d focus on, too), it doesn’t move the needle in submarines. That’s because Zwift can’t make meaningful quantities for years. This production capacity does not exist to the extent that Zwift would like. Even if we combine all of the monthly smartbikes from Wahoo, Tacx, Wattbike and Elite, that’s not even a drop in the ocean. Total low single-digit thousands (units), give or take.

Instead, Zwift will have to manufacture tens of thousands of units to have any significant impact on their growth numbers – and it will be years before intelligent motorcycles do that due to the complexity of their construction. Well, it is smart trainers.

The only question is: what does it cost and what functions will it have? My bet is simple:

Good: Wheel-on Smart Trainer priced at ~ $ 399 (or less)
Better: Direct drive smart drive for $ 999
Best: Full smart bike valued at $ 2,500 to $ 3,000

And all of these would likely have an initial Zwift subscription to further entice people over their competitors. Ideally, they’d find a way to get a $ 1,800- $ 2,400 smart bike that’s roughly the same as Peloton’s two-tier price tag, but I think that will be a challenge at launch.

Or they could do something completely different and build a rower or a treadmill. But neither of these is in line with Zwift’s very clear stance over the past few months that they are focused on cycling and just cycling. In fact, they didn’t have to until last weekend Go back a tweet Where they implied rowing was about to be added to the game. In reality, according to Zwift’s CEO, everyone’s focus is on Rowing has been submitted – Probably because they and their investors have recognized that, from a growth point of view, compared to cycling, there is no significant number of new subscriptions to be made there. And the same would largely apply to running, as it doesn’t seem like the availability of treadmills is really limiting Zwift’s run growth.

As I said, there is no way I would hold back purchases waiting for Zwift’s hardware. There is simply no way the hardware will be available anytime soon. My best guess is that they might be able to announce a product portfolio at the end of the summer, around the Eurobike period, but it is unlikely to be available until the end of the year at the earliest, or probably not until 2022. There are exceptions to this, for example by buying another brand – but that seems less and less likely now. The more complex Zwift tries to chew on, the longer the timeframes, because in the end Eric Min best said it himself in this November interview:

“I can tell you that we’ve been working on it for a while, and hardware like I said – is tough.”

With that – thanks for reading!