A friendly fan gives us his verdict on the virtual reality bike racing game that everyone’s talking about.
On the blog last week we offered up our free invite to have a go at trying out Zwift. Basically Zwift is ‘virtual reality’ bike racing using your turbo trainer and competing against real people in other parts of the world.
Well, we plucked a name out of the hat and the lucky winner was – Anthony Gibson. Well done Anthony!
Anthony was very eager to give Zwift a go and has kindly written up his experience of his debut ride. Or should that be race?
What started out as a quick test to make sure everything was communicating and running smoothly soon turned into an international battle.
Upon logging in to Zwift you are asked to pair your powermeter or ‘speed meter’ and optional HR and cadence sensors.
Firstly I paired up my Stages powermeter followed by my Garmin cadence sensor. Both of these where found straight away and I was ready to roll in under 20 seconds.
The next step is to customise your bike and outfit how you like it. Bike colour, helmet, gloves etc. More options become available the more you ride and unlock achievements.
Then it’s the main event: you’re transported to Zwift Island!
One minute I’m in my bike room in Chorley UK, the next I’m in the sunshine looking at the scenery of this mystery island.
Then boom! Within 10 seconds of the game launching I have an American rider fly past me.
This is where it all begins.
I have a quick decision to make. Do I quit and come back later knowing everything is up and running? Hell no! No way I can let this guy get away! Forget the lycra, this is an emergency!
Quickly I tuck my jeans into socks, the slippers are replaced with bike shoes and the jumper gets thrown at the dog.
I’m clipped in and pedalling like a lunatic. There’s plenty of data on screen but I’m just concentrating on two fields: my power and the distance to the guy in front. At 200 watts I’m neither catching or losing him, the time gap remains at 24 seconds.
This definitely isn’t the way to warm up – but its too late for that, he’s not getting away!
Getting aero on a turbo
Despite being on a turbo trainer my brain is telling me to get more aero. Down onto the drops I go. Power upto 225 watts. I’m catching my prey.
I take a moment to look at my other data – I’ve only cycled 1.2 miles yet my jeans are sodden with sweat. This is not going to be pretty.
At this point I realise my lack of preparation. My fan sits silent in the corner of the room and isnt spinning, I’ve no towel, but more importantly at this time I have no drink.
As my mind starts tinkering with the idea of packing it all in I spot a drinks bottle on one of my other bikes. Just within reach I manage to yank it from its cage. Hurrah! There’s still some water left over from yesterday’s club ride! Stodgy water has never tasted so good.
Head down, arms tucked in, I’m as aero as I can be in baggy jeans! I’m catching… 18 seconds… 16 seconds… 10, 5… I’m in the guy’s slipstream.
This is where my first achievement is unlocked, drafting for 5 seconds. Maybe I can cash that in later for a new helmet? As I slide past my victim I realise we have both slowed down. Have we both burnt ourselves out?
Theres no time to think about that – the boards show me we have just entered a sprint points zone. I can see I’m only 2 seconds ahead. As we go past the 300m board I slowly increase the power. He does the same.
The speed is steadily rising again. 200 meters to go, 150m, then bang off he shoots. No way am I having this. I rise out of the saddle and put the hammer down. 100m, 50m neck and neck. I look up, I can barely see the line with the sweat in my eyes.
One last push, eyes shut, ignore the burn – shut up legs!
I’ve done it! Mr American was 2 seconds back.
Was he really racing me? I’ll never know. Was he just warming up for the KOM section coming up? Again I don’t know. All I know in my mind I had done it. I’m knackered yet I still haven’t completed a lap of the Island.
Knowing that my data is being recorded I cant just jump off now, I have to complete at least one lap.
Three laps later and a huge pool of sweat below me, I’m out of time. It’s time to call it a day.
My workout is saved as a FIT file which can be uploaded to Strava. This is an all important feature for encouraging me to come back. All my PRs are saved and I can view everyone else’s times and KOMs – like any other ride. I can even view my fellow riders that have been on the Island the same time as me.
I’m not too sure If Zwift will be used a serious training tool. The racing side, although fun, does rely on people entering their correct data such as weight to simulate the correct speed.
All in all I enjoyed my first go on Zwift and look forward to getting back on the Island – next time in lycra!
Chorley Cycling Club