It’s back to school , and soon, back to the trainer. Yes. I know. Many of us use the trainer year-round, but peak trainer season is on its way as the days get shorter and colder. In anticipation of the roads of Watopia getting busier, the folks at Zwift have announced new features, routes and races that will start appearing in the next few months. Here are some highlights.
More room in the clubhouse
In 2021, Zwift launched clubs, a feature that lets all sorts of organizations run events. There are now more than 20,000 of them. From June to August 2022, nine per cent of all activities were based around club events.
While there is search functionality in Zwift that lets you find clubs, the company is planning to improve your ability to discover the best club for you. Within a club, you’ll be able to communicate more easily with other members. For club events, organizers will be able to control drafting and powerups. The changes should lead to a richer experience for you as you ride with others on virtual routes.
A new home (screen)
New home screen allows for easier access to features and operations, such as pairing to devices, as well as getting into the garage and getting kitted out for a virtual ride. You can also find the achievements you’ve racked up in a snap. The rollout for the home screen has already happened on PCs and Macs. It’s almost complete on iOS and Android tablets. For Apple TV users, you’ll see these changes later this fall.
Another interface that’s getting a revamp is the training library. Its navigation should make finding the right workout for you a much simpler process. A workout’s information screen has a short description, the workout duration, effort level (out of five), a colour-coded representation of the power zones you’ll be hitting and the ability to edit your FTP. Don’t know your FTP? No problem.
No FTP necessary
If you’re Zwifting sans power meter or smart trainer (or maybe you’re just not that into numbers at the moment), you can use a route-based workout. A route-based workout essentially relies on your rate of perceived exertion. For example, as you ride, you’ll get a message telling you to go full gas. You hold that effort until you get another message telling you that you can recover. “Deep breaths here,” the app will say.
Zwift Academy back! No surprise there. Registration for the structured workout program opened on Aug. 15. Things get going on Sept. 12 and run to Oct. 9.
Zwift Pro Training Camp
Zwift is launching its Pro Training Camp. It consists of workouts developed by members of Ineos Grenadiers, Movistar, Jumbo-Visma and BikeExchange-Jayco. If you sign up for Zwift Pro Trainer Camp Group Workouts, you can pedal with others and, occasionally, with the pros themselves. The workouts are also available to you on-demand.
The Pace Partner goes mainstream
The Pace Partner feature is graduating from FutureWorks, where new ideas are tested, to the main platform. The folks at Zwift have found this feature to be quite popular: more than 30 per cent of engaged Zwifters do one Pace Partner per week. Many warm-up with a Pace Partner , then race, and then cool down with a Pace Partner.
The feature is on the first row of the home screen. You have eight cycling paces to choose from. You can see it live now in Watopia and Makuri Island. The Pace Partner can also be in selected events.
Race against yourself from a few days ago
A new FutureWorks feature is Holographic Replays. On a segment, you’ll see a ghost-like version of your avatar. This hologram is moving exactly as you did either the last time you did the segment or at the rate of your PR from the past 90 days. With your ghost-vatar ahead of you, or behind, you race yourself.
“It’s ridiculously motivating,” says Mark Cote, vice-president of content at Zwift. “I worry for everyone because you are probably going to tear your legs off the next time you do volcano loops trying to catch a nemesis of yourself.”
Look for this FutureWorks feature around the beginning of October.
Zwift Duathlon Series
Season 3 of the Zwift Duathlon League will kick off on Oct. 5, 2022. The events include a 35-minute non-drafting TT bike race, a 10 minute transition, then a 15-minute run. The goal is to see how far you can go in the allotted time. Scores are based on the distance – 1 point for every 100 m ridden or 20 m of running.
Another form of racing is Z Racing. (It’s pronounced “Zee Racing,” but, for kicks, I plan to call it “Zed Racing.”) This format features monthly themes. For example, September’s theme is Get Rolling. It’s four stages long. There are five stages in October under the Race Like a Champ theme. Look out for Race Makuri in November, which has six stages.
With Z Racing, you can chase stage results or an overall position during a particular month. You can also snag a new monthly badge.
These races are category-enforced. If you haven’t raced, yet, you’ll find them a good introduction to virtual competition.
Zwift Racing League
According to the company, the Zwift Racing League is the biggest racing league in cycling. Season 1 starts Sept. 13 and runs to Oct. 18. Hit up Season 2 Nov. 7 to Dec. 13. Or, target Season 3 from Jan. 10 to Feb 14. In March, there’s the end-of-the-season championships.
In late August, Zwift added a conveyor-belt start system for TTTs. This feature means you don’t have the risk of a false start. Also, there’s now drafting on TT bikes. You can do TT on any course, not just Tempus Fugit or Bologna.
Improved Fairness in Racing
Make sure your FTP and VO2 max. are up-to-date. Let’s say you have the numbers that make you a C rider. If you are a C, then you can’t jump into races for D or E riders. No sandbagging! You can level up though to test yourself against stronger riders.
There are now hardware requirements for certain races. If you don’t use a direct-drive trainer and rely on zPower to estimate your power, you can’t compete with the direct-drive users.
Esports World Championship Series
Zwift will once again be involved with the World Triathlon and Super League Esports World Championship Series next year. There aren’t many details on that at this point, but the series will likely expand in 2023.
UCI cycling esport world championships
On Feb. 18, Zwift will host the UCI cycling esport world championships for the third time. In 2023, the championships will have a new format on a custom course. Competition will start with a scratch race on a rolling route. The top 30 riders will advance to the second race: another scratch event but on virtual hilly terrain. Finally, only 10 riders will line up for the elimination race on a short, punchy circuit. The whole event should take about an hour and a half.
The people at Zwift are keen to point out that racing in the virtual world can lead to big successes IRL. From the garage to the WorldTour, they say. Loes Adegeest, the 2022 UCI cycling esports world champion, has a contract with FDJ-Suez-Futuroscope for 2023. During this year’s Vuelta a España, 2020 Zwift Academy member and 2022 UCI cycling esports world champion Jay Vine won two stages. (There may even be more before the Spanish Grand Tour is over.)
A Makuri expansion: Urukazi
Coming in late fall is the third expansion for Makuri Islands. It’s called Urukazi. It’s a Japan-inspired tropical island with 16 to 19 km of new roads connecting previous expansions. Urukazi will launch with eight new routes, including a big route that’s more than 40 km. The surfaces will include asphalt, dirt and sand.
There’s also a new tour associated with Urukazi running from Nov. 4 to Nov. 30. Its six stages will make up Zwift’s first fully on-demand tour. You can do it as a workout or with others. Pace Partner will lead stages at certain times.
Whew. That’s quite the rollout. Time to dust of the trainer.