If you like to train indoors on Zwift then it’s entirely possible that you haven’t spent the warmer months doing that.
All that good weather (if you even got any) and those long hours of daylight are a memory now; the clocks have gone back and you’re probably going to be busy dusting off the trainer and the gym fan and getting back to some hard yards in the spare room/garage/shed. The world of interactive indoor training is a fast-moving one, though, so you might have missed some of the new things that have been happening on Zwift over the summer. And that’s where we come in.
If you’ve never used Zwift – or you don’t even know what it is – then head over to our in-detail feature on how to get started. If you’re already rolling, here’s what you need to know.
Zwift doesn’t stand still. There’s been a fundamental change to the game engine so that on any day there’s always a choice of two worlds: Watopia, which is always available, and a guest world which changes according to a calendar that you can find on the Zwift community page. Events on the event calendar can happen on other worlds, too.
Watopia has expanded. There are two major expansions. The first expansion, Fuego Flats, is (clue’s in the name) a flat smash across the desert; it’s been added in partly to host time trial races using Zwift’s new TT race format (more on that later) but it’s really good for racking up the miles (and Drops to spend!) while you’re doing a workout, too.
If you get to Saddle Springs, the town at the end of Fuego Flats, and then hang a right you’ll find yourself on a road up to the bottom of the Epic KOM. Take the next right and you’re into the second expension, Titan’s Grove, which is a world of Giant Sequoias, dinosaurs, hot volcanic pools and reasonably gentle climbs. Combined with a one-way trip through the desert it forms the Sand and Sequoias loop, 20km with 176m of climbing. It’s a good one for a recovery day or an easy session; you can go hard up the climbs if you want to get a bit sweatier.
Two new courses have been added too. Bologna is a replica of the Giro d’Italia Grand Depart from this year. It’s specifically a time trial course and as such isn’t really suitable for general riding, so it doesn’t feature on the guest world calendar; it’s only used for TT events.
The Yorkshire world is based around the town of Harrogate, and like Innsbruck and Richmond before it it’s a tie-in with the UCI World Championships. The route comprises a 13.8km loop out into the Yorkshire countryside, with the option of a shorter loop that stays in the town; that loop is relentlessly up and down which makes it a pretty tough race circuit.
As I mentioned earlier, Zwift has a new race format. People have been running time trials on Zwift for as long as there’s been a Zwift, but the new race format introduces some neat features to make it feel more like a real-life time trial. The starting pens use a conveyor-belt system to bring the riders to the start line; riders are released one at a time from the front row at one-second intervals, then the next row moves forward, and so on. There’s no drafting in the race so you can set your sights on riders in the distance and reel them in. And they can do the same to you, obviously! One neat feature is a power-up stretch just after the start which acts a bit like the ramp on an outdoor TT, getting you up to speed nice and quickly. There’s a decent calendar of TT events on Zwift now; they’re all either on Fuego flats or the Bologna TT course.
Can’t find the ride you want on the calendar? Why not organise your own? Using the Zwift Companion app you can schedule a meetup with your mates. You can only invite people who follow you, and invites are limited to 50 per event (it’s still in its early stages), and you have to use a course that’s available on the calendar for the time when the event is scheduled.
Recently Zwift has added a ‘rubber band’ effect to keep riders on a meetup together. It works in a similar way to group workouts: so long as you’re riding, you won’t fall off the back of the group, even if you’re not putting out the same power as the people on the front.
One of the most interesting developments in the Zwift world over the summer has been the introduction of a mountain bike section. Not because it’s mountain biking so much as because it introduces a steering element for the first time. The MTB section is a 2-mile trail section that’s accessible from the Titan’s Grove route.
The steering functionality is handled by the Zwift Companion app, so you’ll need to have that running on your phone, and have your phone mounted to your bars. The MTB section rewards you with an easier time for staying on the trail, and making the right line decisions. FutureWorks is a name that you’ll see appear from time to time on new features in Zwift that are still in development. The steering has been well received, but it’s still a work in progress, and there are some setups – smart bikes for example – where it’ll need a different implementation. If and when steering input will come to the main game is anyone’s guess right now, but it certainly does add another dimension to indoor riding.
This last one might not be directly useful to you (unless you’re a *really* handy rider) but Zwift is continuing its expansion into esports, and its association with the UCI. 2019 saw the first British esports National Championships on Zwift, and 2020 will be the inaugural World Championships, with associated qualifying races running in the build-up. Better get training!
So there you go: if you’ve been out in the real world riding over the summer, now you’re up to date with all the new stuff you can do in Zwift. Ride on!
This article includes paid promotion on behalf of Zwift
Dave is a founding father of road.cc, having previously worked on Cycling Plus and What Mountain Bike magazines back in the day. He also writes about e-bikes for our sister publication ebiketips. He's won three mountain bike bog snorkelling World Championships, and races at the back of the third cats.