If you’ve been enjoying the outdoor ride season in the Northern Hemisphere, you may have missed some of the latest updates in Zwift over the last few months. The Zwift team has been busy with new features, bug fixes, and other enhancements while you’ve been away. As the weather cools off, it might be time to dust off the indoor trainer, fire up your PC, Mac, iPad, iPhone, or AppleTV and load the Zwift app. As you wait for the download to complete before you ride again, let’s take a look at some of the newest features that the Zwift team has added since we last wrote about Zwift.
If you’re new to Zwift, you may want to take a look at a few of our past articles covering how to get started Zwifting:
1. Welcome to Watopia
2. Zwift, The Deeper Dive
3. It's Game On With Zwift
4. Zwift: Let's Dance!
5. Zwift: A Potent Tool for Training
6. On Zwift Every Day is Race Day
Those were originally written in 2017, and a lot has changed since then. Let’s dig in!
Brave New World(s)The most obvious updates are the additions of new courses/worlds and routes. The team at Zwift has been very busy in this regard, having added several miles of new routes with expansions in Watopia and new worlds hosting routes modeled after major race stages. In Zwift parlance, a route is a predefined road, while a course or world is a collection of routes. Watopia is the biggest of 7 worlds, consisting of a total of 28 routes. All total, there are now 64 official free-ride routes in 7 worlds. Mapping out all of the details of the Zwift worlds is beyond the scope of this article, and we’ll cover this in upcoming articles. For now, we’ll talk about a few of the latest additions here.
Fuego Flats Watopia ExpansionInspired by American deserts, Fuego Flats consists of roughly 9 miles of new, relatively flat roads that enabled the addition of 5 new routes. Fuego Flats includes two new towns - Saddle Springs and Desert Flats - with their own distinct styles.
Giro d’Italia Bologna TT CourseIn conjunction with the Giro d’Italia, Zwift introduced their take on the 5.1 mile TT prologue and made it available on May 11, 2019 - the same day the pros were riding it. This is the first time Zwift has offered a Grand Tour course. The Bologna TT course is generally not included in the course calendar, but can be used for events.
Titan’s GroveIn what might be the most beautiful portion of all of Zwift, the Titan’s Grove expansion pays homage to the Giant Sequoias of northern California and perhaps some of America’s other spectacular national parks. Situated in Watopia, right next door to Fuego Flats, Titan’s Grove provides plenty of visual stimulation over a twisty, hilly course through the woods. The road through Titan’s grove is also included in 5 new Watopia routes.
YorkshireThe most recent expansion is the addition of the Yorkshire world, centered around the 2019 UCI World Championship. Yorkshire includes 5 free-ride routes, including the Harrogate Circuit, raced by the pros during the UCI Worlds. The Zwift team added many nice references to Yorkshire history and points of reference.
World ChoiceOn top of this expansion, you now have some more flexibility where you ride on a given calendar day. Zwift’s Guest World functionality was introduced in January 2019 and allows you to ride in your choice of two worlds on any day. Watopia is now always available as your “Home World”, and the other worlds (London, Richmond, Innsbruck, New York, Yorkshire, and Bologna) are rotated in the course schedule as “Guest Worlds.” London and New York tend to be on the schedule more frequently than the others, generally commanding about 2/3 of the schedule each month.
Note that the Home/Guest World and course schedule is specific to free riding, and events such as races or group rides may occur on any course, regardless of which Guest World is on the course schedule. There is also a way to ride just about wherever you want, and we’ll talk about in an upcoming article, too.
Step Right Up and Win a Prize!Zwift is a game, and some of the things that make it fun are the various means Zwift uses to motivate you to ride. Zwift has added several new means of rewarding you for your hard work.
New Route Achievement BadgesFor the “collect them all” kid in all of us, Zwift has expanded the collection of Achievement Badges to include new badges honoring the completion of 25 of the Zwift routes.
The Drop ShopBack in February, Zwift introduced the Drop Shop - a way for you buy new gear using a currency called “Drops” that you earn while you ride. Save up your Drops and you can buy new bikes and wheels to add to your virtual garage. Many of the major bike and wheel brands are represented, with prices ranging from 9,500 to 3,550,000 Drops for bikes, or 3,200 to 1,508,800 Drops for wheels. There’s a catch, though - you have to not only have the Drops in your wallet, you also have to have the Zwift riding experience. If you want a Cervelo P5x and have the 1,065,000 Drops you need to buy it, you’re going to have to reach level 45 first. The Drop Shop provides a fun way for you to choose your own prize.
Levels 26-50Initially, Zwift offered 25 rider levels based on the amount of XP (Experience Points) earned by riding in Zwift. As many people were able to outgrow those first 25 levels, Zwift has now expanded to 50 levels. Each level allows you to unlock new kits, shoes, helmets, and other fun gear. To get to level 50, you need to earn 500,000 XP, which would be roughly 16,667 miles of free riding!
Technology ImprovementsIn order to stay on top of the cycling game, uhh, game, Zwift and other cycling app providers need to be constantly improving the technology - providing robust support for new and existing trainers and sensors, improving the reliability of the connection, and solidifying the technology core in order to support more riders and more courses. There are many updates that have been made in that regard, and while these are often not very flashy, they are very important.
Zwift for AndroidOne pretty massive tech change that happened this year is the introduction of Zwift for the Android platform. This is not to be confused with the existing support for Zwift Companion on Android - this means that the full Zwift application is now also available for Android users, like it has been for iOS, AppleTV, and Windows PC users. From a development perspective, this is a big deal. From a customer perspective, this opens doors for all the folks who are using Android phones or tablets. The Android universe is vast and varied in regards to devices and their processing power. So far, Zwift has narrowed the list of supported devices down to some popular phones and tablets.
Rolling Resistance ImprovementsAnother subtle, yet significant effort has been in regards to rolling resistance. We love to talk and argue about which tires are the fastest on the Slowtwitch forums, and the Zwift team has the added challenge of coding to emulate the physics of the real world. Like the differences in aerodynamics of bikes, Zwift factors in the differences that the rider weight, tires, wheels, and terrain have on the overall rolling resistance. Basically, dirt is going to be slower than tarmac for the same effort, like it is in the real world.
FutureWorksLast, but certainly not least is the recent introduction of Zwift FutureWorks, which Zwift describes as “a platform to soft launch innovations from the team at Zwift HQ.” The first innovation to come out of FutureWorks is steering, adding an extra level of realism to the game. To coincide with this, a Zwift Mountain Bike and a special segment of trail named Repack Ridge has been tucked away in Titan’s Grove in order to complete the experience. Look for more coverage of this new feature soon.
Whew! That was a lot to cover!
As mentioned earlier, this is just covering some of the biggest things to occur in the last year or so on Zwift. We didn’t even cover the changes to racing and group riding. As you can tell, we have a lot more to cover - we’ll be working on several more articles over the next couple of months to help you get the most out of these and other Zwift features, so stay tuned!