With a new year comes a surge of people getting back on Zwift to pursue their goals for 2023.
While many people use Zwift year-round, others may have recently dusted off their trainers and logged back into the game. Below is an overview of many of the new features that Zwift has added recently along with suggestions for using them.
Pace Partners have been renamed as “RoboPacers,” and are easily available on the main menu when you log into the game. Scroll down to the fourth row of the main menu, and you will find the “Find a Pacer Group” options where the RoboPacers are listed in order of watts/kg (and color of w/kg category: yellow, blue, green, and red). Note that the route details are listed as well as the current size of the pack following the RoboPacer.
RoboPacers have a standard height of 175cm and weight of 75kg. Keep in mind that they can draft off of other riders, and you can draft off of them. That means the larger the size of the blob around the RoboPacer the faster the speed will be. Some people get frustrated (in the chat) about the varying speed of the RoboPacer. This is caused in part because of the draft effect of the blob of riders in the pack and that RoboPacers now use dynamic pacing. This means they increase power by up to 10% uphill and decrease power by 20% when descending.
These drafting and pack dynamics take time to get used to, and the RoboPacers offer a no-stakes opportunity to get a feel for drafting. Often, I will have a friend who is an accomplished road racer complain to me about the learning curve of in-game draft dynamics. I always suggest they start with a RoboPacer and learn to find the sweet spot in the middle of the blob and the constant forward churn of the pack which can feel like a Belgian kermesse. Stick your nose out in front of the blob, and you get sent backwards through the group because of the momentum of the other riders in the forward churn. No one’s avatar is touching the brakes, after all.
RoboPacers are now showing up in large events. For example, the Tour de Zwift that is running between Jan 9 and Feb 12 (with stage make-up days Feb 6 -12) features RoboPacers of the same color as the stage category you choose. This means when you are in the starting pen, you will see the RoboPacer’s color banner and can generally count on a group forming around them. This is a nice feature in large events, where it takes some time to settle into a group with others around you. You may have to ride hard to catch one of these RoboPacers, especially with double draft enabled, so log in to the event early (20 minutes before) to be near the front of the start pen in events with large numbers of participants.
You may have noticed that a ghost of a former version of you shows up on particular courses and segments. These ghosts are replaying an earlier effort you made down to the detail of what equipment you used and when you were sitting and standing. They can be deceptive, though, because the effort that the HoloReplay is using may or may not have been in a group, and the current effort you are comparing to may or may not be assisted by drafting or powerup. You can adjust the settings of the HoloReplays by clicking on your circle icon in the upper right of the main menu and selecting My Settings. If you scroll to the bottom, you can choose among Personal Best, Most Recent, Both or Off.
I find the Most Recent option most helpful for when I’m doing repeat efforts on the same course or segment. I can work toward negative splits by trying to out ride my most recent previous effort. This is particularly useful (and hard) when doing a route like The PRL Half in London because you get a HoloReplay for both the London Loop and Box Hill, both of which you do four times on the route. My most recent attempt at The PRL Half had me chasing my HoloReplays for negative splits on the second and third lap, but I threw in the towel and let my ghosts ride away from me on the fourth lap. There are some other ideas for using the HoloReplay listed at the bottom of ZwiftInsider’s article.
HoloReplays will appear on all timed segments, including sprints, KOM/QOMs, Alpe du Zwift, and full courses, which include: Crit City: Bell Lap, Downtown Dolphin; Innsbruck: 2018 UCI Worlds Short Lap; London: London Loop; Makuri Islands: Flatland Loop; New York: Park Perimeter Loop; Paris: Champs-Élysées; Richmond: 2015 UCI Worlds Course; Watopia: Hilly Route, Jungle Circuit, Jungle Circuit Reverse, Volcano Circuit, Volcano Circuit CCW; and Yorkshire: 2019 UCI Worlds Harrogate Circuit.
If you are looking to do repeated efforts on a timed segment, another helpful website is the site What’s On Zwift? that sorts routes that contain each segment. For example, the Fuego Flats sprint is featured on 14 routes (4 of which are event only). Choose your world, choose your segment, and then see which routes allow you to do that segment multiple times within the interval it takes you to ride a lap of the course.
The next newish feature that I’ll highlight this month is the ability for Zwift Clubs to create and manage their own events using the Zwift Companion App. I have been encouraging people who want to organize open-to-all, large Zwift rides to create a Club and start using the club events instead of the Meetups. Yes, the Meetup feature has returned, which is nice for getting a few riding buddies together (comparable to a secret handshake ride outdoors). However, Meetups aren’t the best option if you want to organize a ride that is open to everyone including people who are not following you on Zwift.
For example, if a bike shop or organization wanted to host a ride, Zwift Clubs provides tools to not only setup events with a leader and a sweeper on a designated course, but also includes a way to push notifications about the ride out to members of the Club.
Our local club here in Western New York, the Buffalo Bicycling Club, has organized a weekend ride with a standard format of the first hour at 2.5 w/kg and the second hour featuring a points race. The organizers choose a short course that includes a sprint segment, such as the Monument Ave Sprint on the The Fan Flats route in Richmond. This format has led to fairly regular attendance by members of the club and some friendly competition to break up indoor riding in January.
If this seems over complicated to setup, Zwift has suggested templates in the Companion App for hosting Club Events, including Coffee Rides, Sprint Training, Long Steady Distance, and Badge Hunting. Your bike shop, organization, or team may want to start with a template and then make changes based on how it goes.
Tracking your badge hunting is easier now than it has been in the past. The new menu features a sortable list with green icons indicating if you earned the badge for each course. Access this sortable list by clicking on the World icon at the top for Explore Routes. Not very prominent on this page is the popup link to the World Schedule just below the current Worlds tabs. Additionally, you can still see your route badges under the Badges icon at the top of the menu on the right.
Lastly, if you are more of an analog checklist kind of person, Zwift Insider keeps a fairly regularly updated route list you can print out and hang on a clipboard next to your trainer. My wife, Erin, and I use this printable list to compare our badge-earning progress.
Badge hunting goes much faster with a group. To find an event or a race that features the route you are targeting, you can use ZwiftHacks sortable and searchable calendar. Click on the Search tab and enter the Route Name in the “Search in route name…” box.
Keep in mind that on Stage 8 of the Tour de Zwift, you will be able to ride the new Scotland map and earn the Rolling Highlands badge.
Happy badge hunting!
Here’s what we at Slowtwitch have planned for the rest of the month.
Slowtwich Indoors Event Preview (All Times Eastern)
Go to Zwift Events to sign up for these rides and runs.
Monday 100/100 Group Run, 7:00 AM & 7:00 PM
Join us for a group run on the virtual track of May Field that will kick start your week. Don’t forget that each of the five ride workouts and five run workouts have a short and long option. Rather than canceling a workout when you are crunched for time, you can complete the short version and still reap the benefits of the program.
Tuesday Ride of the Valkryies Workout (Women Only), 6:00 AM
This event is by and for women. It’s an almost no-drop, rubber-banded Structured Training workout, featuring a warm-up, set of intervals, and a cool-down.
Tuesday Structured Training, 7:00 PM
Our Tuesday ride features triathlon-focused cycling workouts written by coaches and pro athletes affiliated with Slowtwitch. The workouts last 60 minutes and will help add variety and interest to your weekly training schedule.
Wednesday Group Run, 7:00 AM & 7:00 PM
A more scenic group run on the Quatch Quest course.
Thursday Rise & Grind, 5:35 AM
This workout is an early morning bracer for the East Coast crowd. Get your work done before heading off to work.
Thursday SWIFT Ride, 6:55 PM
The newest ride to the Slowtwitch Indoors family, Slowtwitch SWIFT (Strong Women, It's Fun Together!) is here to bring another women's only ride to a slightly friendlier time slot. This ride will focus slightly more on strength-based work so bring those climbing legs. But even if you're feeling more like Mark Cavendish in the mountains of the Tour de France, so long as you keep the pedals moving, you'll stay with our group.
Friday Festina Lente, 9:00 AM
This structured training workout is designed to get you geared up for the weekend. Roughly translated as “make haste, slowly,” Festina Lente features a workout that will get your engine running but still leave some in the tank for the big rides and races you have planned for the weekend. This ride is led by members of the Kanberra Cycling Team as lead beacon.