Zwift for Dummies


Sorry, I’ve been a bit absent as we are in the midst of trying to move house  during the lockdown.  Well, the lockdown has tempted me to join the Zwift experience, sort of.

So to be clear the Dummy here, hopefully, is not me but rather that I have a Dumb Turbo and Dumb Rollers.  So what is the point in joining Zwift?

My reasons for joining were mainly to hook up with an internet group that were starting group rides in lieu of an event that was planned in Nice to ride the TdF first stage a week before the main event.  So, seeing how it would pan out in reality was interesting as to whether I could have a meaningful ride with those with Smart Trainers.

In fact it pans out pretty well.  Zwift will adjust your virtual speed based on it’s own calculations of your power (I don’t have a power meter either).  It does seem to help if you have cadence to add to speed as it can then make a better assessment of your power.  However, that is all very hypothetical as my Turbo is older than any model listed and using the most basic Tacx model it suggests set resistance at Stop 2, which is a bit arbitrary as to what resistance that equates to and which is actually Stop 2 (0,1,2 or just 1, 2?).  Having said that, if I go 0,1, 2 then riding on the flat, or downhill, is like climbing some of the steepest hills around here so 1, 2 seems right.

Anyway, it does work reasonably well for a group ride.

Riding on the dumb Turbo, on the flat and 1-2% climbs the predicted virtual speed is not far off but on steeper climbs it is somewhat generous and it would be easy to fly off the front of the group.  Net there is some backing off so as not to produce a silly speed/power.  In terms of effort, obviously I could manually up the resistance but then it predicts a much slower speed so I risk tumbling out of the back of the group.  Net I balance between the two a bit to allow myself some “standing time” by manually clicking up the resistance to relieve being sat static on the saddle for the duration of a ride, then as I get to the back of the group I click it back down again.  Makes a bit of a mockery of any stats Zwift produces but at least it lets me ride with the group.

So on a climb you net have to “ride” further as Zwift adjusts your virtual speed.  We did Alp de Zwift as a head to head the other week and while my time was probably generous I could not catch the leading whippersnappers.  I’m assuming they were on Smart Trainers……….I was just ahead of someone who I thought I should beat so perhaps it did a pretty good job of adjusting my virtual speed.

Riding on the dumb Rollers, on the flat my virtual speed is a bit high……  The disadvantage of dumb Rollers is not being able to stand and pedal against resistance to get some pressure relief.  With the group rides we do set them as ‘no drop’ which is fine as long as you don’t stop pedalling.  So taking a mid ride break is not really practical.  Normally I would stop every 10 miles for a stretch.

The amusing part on the rollers is on the high speed descents.  On the sharp bends the visual effect on the laptop screen can be a bit disorientating and I can see it could be easy to crash as a result.  So far I have avoided that but have come close on a couple of occasions.  The other thing is participating in any banter, attempting to use the keyboard while on the Rollers is perhaps not a good idea and might prove expensive to trashing both the bike and the laptop!

Zwift does seem to help the sensation of time pass and I’m definitely sold longer term and will be looking at a Smart Turbo sometime in the future.  As most Turbo Trainers are made in areas impacted by the global lockdowns it was interesting that for a while you could not buy one for love nor money.  Should have bought shares in Zwift, Turbo manufacturers and Zoom at the outset of all this.

Stay well, sane and safe.  Hope to see you all on the other side, whatever that turns out to be.

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June 4, 2020 6:05 pm

Zwift can be real work and real training, but not real riding (I keep all my Zwift rides on a separate Strava account because IMHO they’re not real miles). Not everyone (especially those who almost exclusively Zwift) understand that. Zwift is great at teaching you to ride to power and you learn what kind of power you’re capable of. That can be very useful out on the road (assuming you have a power meter). But otherwise, it doesn’t teach all the other things you need to know when you go out for a real ride. Maybe not so important if… Read more »

October 14, 2020 9:13 pm
Reply to  chuckp

A very late reply here, but I read on a rough estimation of the difference between the distance travelled on Zwift and in real life for the same amount of power over the same time. Obviously the folks at might be somewhat partial to Zwift here but in general their conclusion was that the difference was not large, and once you take into account the total lack of wind in Zwift (which will always slow you down overall if you ride in a “circle” as most Zwift rides are) it probably becomes negligible. In other words, unless you… Read more »

October 15, 2020 2:43 pm
Reply to  Quasar

Found it:

Of course none of this makes a Zwift ride a “real” ride because those are outside or in a velodrome, and require some amount of control over the bike. But for riders who mix Zwift with riding outside depending on circumstances there should not be a problem with bundling these rides in together in your statistics.