CLC2018 Ride 3: A little whirl around Watopia

To add a little variation to my CLC rides, I decided to throw a virtual one into the mix! My virtual cycling software of choice is Zwift and so far I’ve pedalled over 7000 virtual kilometres on the platform.

For those who are unaware, Zwift is a virtual cycling program that allows you to “ride” with other people around the world on one of (currently) three virtual maps – London UK, Richmond USA and their own creation, Watopia. These three maps currently rotate on a daily schedule, but the ability to choose is coming soon. To recreate your speed (somewhat) accurately, the software takes your power output (from a smart trainer or powermeter), your height and weight and calculates your speed from that, taking into account the gradient of the virtual road. On a smart turbo trainer the resistance also increases or decreases as you head uphill or downhill. All very clever and technical.

Virtually ride, race and train in real time with people all over the world.

Bombing through a virtual London on a large Zwift group ride!

Before Zwift, I used to train on a basic turbo trainer with nothing more than a powermeter reading, stopwatch and some motivational heavy metal music to keep me going. Zwift has totally transformed that – now indoor training is no longer such a chore. In fact Zwift makes it borderline fun! It’s so easy, I just load up the laptop, get on my Tacx NEO and pedal.

Once you’re logged in, you can then choose to do a structured workout, join a group ride, join a race or simply just ride. The group rides are great as it gives you extra motivation to stay with the bunch – just like in real life – and just like in real life you go faster for the same effort when virtual drafting! The races are BRUTAL! I have never pushed myself so hard as in when virtual racing on Zwift, it is insane.

Counting down to all hell breaking loose at the start of a Zwift race.

The graphics are pretty damn great too, but not fantastic. This is on purpose though as most people who train using Zwift do not also own high end gaming computers, so limiting the graphics opens up the platform to more users. I do however have a pretty good machine and can run Zwift in 1080p HD quality, which is ace! It can be quite immersive!

As an added gaming aspect to Zwift, there are sprint and KOM segments that reward you with jerseys if you are the fasted person that hour! Also the more you ride the more points you accumulate and as we all know, points mean prizes! As you progress through the levels, you unlock clothing, bikes and upgrades that you can customise your rider with. Some are just for show (helmets, jerseys) and some make a speed difference (bikes, wheels). I’ve reached the current top level so have unlocked most items! Hopefully added levels above 25 are coming soon.

The more you ride, the more you unlock!

My virtual rider looks almost as professional on a bike as I do in real life!

Zwift rides have real-world GPS logging data, so you can upload them to Strava.

Today’s ride was just a bit of a “recovery spin” after my 130km road ride yesterday. I chose to free ride around Watopia to gently stretch the legs. Zwift is actually great for recovery rides as I find it hard not to push too hard when I try to do active recovery outdoors.

Virtual distance was 45km going nowhere in my garage, hehehe! Afterwards the wife and I went into town and indulged ourselves at a favourite local independent cafe to fulfil the “supporting the local economy” part of the challenge. After all what is a ride – even a virtual one – without coffee and cake?

Originally published on Cycle 365.

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