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Zwift is tough - I think

Old 10-08-19, 10:01 AM
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medic75
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Zwift is tough - I think

I am fairly new to all of this. I began to take cycling serious in June of this year. I have really enjoyed it and I know I have made significant advancements in my abilities, though I am still always at the back of the pack on climbs. Now that winter is upon us, I am concerned about all of my hard work disappearing over winter. To keep this short, I went out and bought a direct drive trainer and am giving Zwift a chance with the trial period.

Now, on to my findings - Zwift seems significantly tougher than real life. I know this is a good thing, but I have ridden 50 mile rides with up to 800 ft 5% climbs (total of 3,000+ ft over the entire ride) and they don't seem as difficult as Zwift. So far, my longest zwift ride has been 9 miles with 800 feet of elevation over 37 minutes and it kicked my butt. My original plans were to spend 3-4 hours per week riding on the trainer, but I don't know if I can do it. Once again, tough is good, but I would also like to get some endurance.
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Old 10-08-19, 10:19 AM
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When you're inside and stationary WRT the air...your body simply cannot work as hard as IRL, you simply overheat far faster and end up gasping for air before you get as much of a workout in...get a fan, set it to high.
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Old 10-08-19, 10:24 AM
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Sounds like your trainer power reading may be off. Forget about distance and elevation and just get the time in. Also, agree with Marcus about getting as big a fan as possible. In the winter I have my trainer in a workshop I keep at 12C (54F) with a fan.
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Old 10-08-19, 11:21 AM
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Originally Posted by medic75 View Post
I am fairly new to all of this. I began to take cycling serious in June of this year. I have really enjoyed it and I know I have made significant advancements in my abilities, though I am still always at the back of the pack on climbs. Now that winter is upon us, I am concerned about all of my hard work disappearing over winter. To keep this short, I went out and bought a direct drive trainer and am giving Zwift a chance with the trial period.

Now, on to my findings - Zwift seems significantly tougher than real life. I know this is a good thing, but I have ridden 50 mile rides with up to 800 ft 5% climbs (total of 3,000+ ft over the entire ride) and they don't seem as difficult as Zwift. So far, my longest zwift ride has been 9 miles with 800 feet of elevation over 37 minutes and it kicked my butt. My original plans were to spend 3-4 hours per week riding on the trainer, but I don't know if I can do it. Once again, tough is good, but I would also like to get some endurance.
What is your gearing? Can you not shift to a lower gear? You can turn down trainer difficulty as well
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Old 10-08-19, 11:31 AM
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I am using a CycleOps Hammer trainer. The gearing is the same that is on my bike at 11-27, though a cheaper (heavier) cassette. The weather is really nice today, so I plan on a real ride this afternoon, though it will be on my gravel bike which is heavier with lower gearing. I am going to pay attention to how I ride and see if I just don't push as hard when I am riding for real. I don't have a power meter, so I can't compare on that front.
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Old 10-08-19, 11:59 AM
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Do you have a power meter on your bike (for outside)? as @gregf83 said, it sounds like your trainer's power reading may be off.

I tend to find, that for a given power, I tend to go a few kph faster on Zwift than outside.
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Old 10-08-19, 12:38 PM
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Do you coast/soft pedal a lot more outside versus inside?

Many people severely overestimate the work they do outside. Without a poweremeter and an intent to maximize time applying power to the pedals, it's very easy to spend 30-50% of your time coasting or soft pedaling outdoors, especially in rolling terrain.

And if that's the case and you pedal the entire time while indoors, then it can certainly seem tougher.
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Old 10-08-19, 01:46 PM
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rubiksoval hit it right. Outdoors you soft pedal more. Also, they chose those world's courses for a reason. UCI worlds. Not the weeknight group ride.

Also, check your proper weight in Zwift, your meter readout, etc....

Indoors, you need a great fan. Even then, it's not the same cooling effect. You'd essentially need to sit your trainer in a temperature controlled wind tunnel to get full cooling.

Even in a smart trainer in Zwift you may work more if not sucking wind in a group ride like outdoors. Then outdoors you're rested for the climbs.

Stick with it. It's fun. Zwift has some nasty % grades, etc...
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Old 10-08-19, 06:38 PM
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This was my ride tonight: https://www.strava.com/activities/27...de7da9800f968a

Hills are nothing new to me. Initially, after riding on Zwift for the past few days, my bike felt really light. I also realized that I don't ride as fast in real life, my cadence is slower, & I don't push as hard. Also, as was mentioned above, there are downhills & flats where I get a little break, while I just continue to push on when using Zwift. During tonight's ride I also noted how much wind there really is when riding and all I have to say is WOW. The concept of a wind tunnel isn't far off.
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Old 10-08-19, 08:03 PM
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I always think Zwift is harder than real life until I do their Central Park loop. Since this is a loop that I also do in real life outside I can say that it isn't all that much different in effort. The difference IMHO is that not so much that you coast more than you think when riding outside, but that the trainer forces you to keep pedaling. There is no point in coasting on a trainer either since you aren't going anywhere. That big downhill when you head north into Harlem, I'll coast that in the park but what would the point be on a trainer to coast? You don't feel the wind in your hair, the bumps on the road. You just watch yourself go downhill on an animated video if you coast on the trainer and what pleasure would you derive from that?

I don't actually ride Central Park that often, but I do ride in Prospect Park which has a similar but shorter loop. Once I'm in the park I ride the entire loop without letting up and up to 5 laps, and you just don't do that on most rides.

Back to Zwift, it is a great training tool and can really kick your arse if you are on a good course or using a good workout. Also, workouts are relative to FTP so get yourself tested if you haven't already.

And stop comparing indoors to outdoors...
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Old 10-09-19, 12:41 PM
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I looked at my calorie count for a 10 mile Zwift ride compared to a 30 mile ride outdoors, and the calories burned were almost the same.

This is due to more hills in Zwift, and also more coasting/soft pedaling outdoors.

I ride with a power meter (Stages), cadence sensor (Cateye), heart rate monitor (Garmin) and let the trainer (TacX) tell Zwift my speed.
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Old 10-09-19, 12:53 PM
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That said it was a gravel ride. I don't think Zwift slows us down yet for having a road bike on the "gravelly" portions. They say it's in development.

Also, sweet ride area. Wish we had categorized climbs around here. All I get are the all-out 2 minute hills.

Outdoors you have to really tailor a route well to accumulate good kilojoules or uninterrupted work. Indoors I've done steady state workouts around 900KJ per hour. Outdoors my record is 820/hr last night around town. I caught a lot of green lights, hammered the downhills, and created a route I knew I could hammer.
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Old 10-09-19, 01:45 PM
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Originally Posted by dagray View Post
I looked at my calorie count for a 10 mile Zwift ride compared to a 30 mile ride outdoors, and the calories burned were almost the same.

This is due to more hills in Zwift, and also more coasting/soft pedaling outdoors.

I ride with a power meter (Stages), cadence sensor (Cateye), heart rate monitor (Garmin) and let the trainer (TacX) tell Zwift my speed.
Wow. That can't be right. Edit: unless you were doing alp d'zwift or something.

I checked my most recent Zwift ride along with a solo ride (using TT bars), a hilly ride with just one other person (he did most of the pulling) and a group ride. The kj per km were:
Zwift: 21.45
Solo Ride: 23.66
Duo Ride (hilly): 23.86
Group Ride: 22.14

Zwift was the lowest for me in terms of energy expended per km travelled. I checked the last Zwift "race" I did, one of the ones on the World Championship course, so quite hilly, and it was 26.11 kj per km. So, slightly higher (due to the hills and me riding at a much more intense pace), but still very much in the same ballpark. I don't see how you could get triple the energy spent per unit of distance like you say.
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Old 10-09-19, 01:54 PM
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Originally Posted by OBoile View Post
Wow. That can't be right. Edit: unless you were doing alp d'zwift or something.

I checked my most recent Zwift ride along with a solo ride (using TT bars), a hilly ride with just one other person (he did most of the pulling) and a group ride. The kj per km were:
Zwift: 21.45
Solo Ride: 23.66
Duo Ride (hilly): 23.86
Group Ride: 22.14

Zwift was the lowest for me in terms of energy expended per km travelled. I checked the last Zwift "race" I did, one of the ones on the World Championship course, so quite hilly, and it was 26.11 kj per km. So, slightly higher (due to the hills and me riding at a much more intense pace), but still very much in the same ballpark. I don't see how you could get triple the energy spent per unit of distance like you say.
I did my comparison using the BKool app/program to control my trainer using a route I had ridden in real life as BKool will import your ride data from Strava if you have a premium account with Strava and a premium account with BKool.

The graphics and social structure of BKool aren't as nice as Zwift, but being able to import .GPX data into the app to train for a route is really nice.

I labeled Zwift in my earlier response as most people understand what Zwift is, but many here in the US are unfamiliar with BKool. BKool is a Spanish company.

My first smart trainer was a BKool Pro (1st generation).
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Old 10-09-19, 02:00 PM
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Maybe they account for everyone cheating with their weight and you are the only person who enters the actual weight?

Indoors is harder because you also fight boredom and don't feel the speed from air movement. No matter the technology, a nice ride in nature cannot be replicated.
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Old 10-09-19, 02:26 PM
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I typically think Zwift is easier than real life.
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Old 10-09-19, 03:10 PM
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Originally Posted by burnthesheep View Post
That said it was a gravel ride. I don't think Zwift slows us down yet for having a road bike on the "gravelly" portions. They say it's in development.

Also, sweet ride area. Wish we had categorized climbs around here. All I get are the all-out 2 minute hills.

Outdoors you have to really tailor a route well to accumulate good kilojoules or uninterrupted work. Indoors I've done steady state workouts around 900KJ per hour. Outdoors my record is 820/hr last night around town. I caught a lot of green lights, hammered the downhills, and created a route I knew I could hammer.
Only about 6 miles of it was gravel - the rest was tarmac. The first 4 miles was 800 feet of climbing. I couldn't make it to the top without taking multiple breaks back in May, so making it to the top without being exhausted was a major milestone for me. It's pretty tough to avoid categorized climbs around here. If you ride, you climb. That is why I got a trainer and Zwift - to avoid having to start all over again next spring after 4+ month of winter. I really want to maintain all of the hard work I have put in this year, and maybe even get better for next Spring. To be honest, I don't ride for fitness. I ride because I enjoy it and it is a challenge. The fitness is just an added benefit. That is what pushed me toward Zwift instead of signing up for a spin class.

I was under the impression that the trainer didn't need calibration. I did a bit more research and found otherwise. I will be calibrating it tonight to see if that makes a difference.
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Old 10-09-19, 04:15 PM
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I just calibrated it and went for a short 1 mile ride - what a difference! I also rode at a more realistic speed & cadence (15-17 mph on the flats @ 65-75 rpms). I am now thinking 1+ hour sessions should be easily achievable. In addition to that, I'll still be able to climb the stairs from the basement after Zwifting.
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Old 10-10-19, 12:38 PM
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Originally Posted by zacster View Post
I don't actually ride Central Park that often, but I do ride in Prospect Park which has a similar but shorter loop. Once I'm in the park I ride the entire loop without letting up and up to 5 laps, and you just don't do that on most rides.
Totally off topic, but >50 years ago, my first real bicycle rides beyond going up and down my street on the sidewalk were on that loop in Prospect Park when I was maybe 6 years old. I had a blue Schwinn Stingray single speed and I remember the hills as fearsome. It's where I learned to "paperboy".
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Old 10-11-19, 01:08 PM
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Originally Posted by aspalmat View Post
I typically think Zwift is easier than real life.
Zwift races are definitely easier than real life races if you're racing certain categories in real life versus Zwift.

For example: A races in Zwift are really goofy and absolutely nothing like a real life race. In Zwift, you sort of sprint off the line (600-700w for 20-30 secs), hold 350-400 watts for another minute or so, then ride sweetspot for most of the rest of the time.

In real life, you either go nuts from the gun at 1000w+, then coast, then repeat, or you go super chill for a while, then go nuts, then rest, repeat. You actually coast in real life, but you also go really, really, really hard. A lot.

In zwift, you just plod along at sweetspot or tempo, maybe with a few 600-700 watt efforts here and there if there's a hill. You also get stuck having an avatar that can't corner for anything, so all of your real-life skills that make racing fun and nice and exciting are erased and you're left with trying to figure out why your avatar is so enamored with riding in the wind and losing 20 spots on every corner.

Anyway, zwift is different. There's a learning curve. It's tough in that I see some really awful real life bike racers riding much better than they do in real life, but then I remember it's a video game for training, so there's always that.
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Old 10-11-19, 03:07 PM
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Originally Posted by rubiksoval View Post
Zwift races are definitely easier than real life races if you're racing certain categories in real life versus Zwift.

For example: A races in Zwift are really goofy and absolutely nothing like a real life race. In Zwift, you sort of sprint off the line (600-700w for 20-30 secs), hold 350-400 watts for another minute or so, then ride sweetspot for most of the rest of the time.

In real life, you either go nuts from the gun at 1000w+, then coast, then repeat, or you go super chill for a while, then go nuts, then rest, repeat. You actually coast in real life, but you also go really, really, really hard. A lot.

In zwift, you just plod along at sweetspot or tempo, maybe with a few 600-700 watt efforts here and there if there's a hill. You also get stuck having an avatar that can't corner for anything, so all of your real-life skills that make racing fun and nice and exciting are erased and you're left with trying to figure out why your avatar is so enamored with riding in the wind and losing 20 spots on every corner.

Anyway, zwift is different. There's a learning curve. It's tough in that I see some really awful real life bike racers riding much better than they do in real life, but then I remember it's a video game for training, so there's always that.
What is up what that? It's not just on corners, I don't think. In Zwift I decide to tuck in behind somebody, and my avatar instead drifts off to the side and I lose the draft. You can't steer, you have no choice.....
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Old 10-11-19, 03:10 PM
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Originally Posted by MinnMan View Post
What is up what that? It's not just on corners, I don't think. In Zwift I decide to tuck in behind somebody, and my avatar instead drifts off to the side and I lose the draft. You can't steer, you have no choice.....
Steering is coming! Actually I got an email saying it already came for a section of Watopia as a beta.
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