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6 Tips for Amazing Free Rides

on March 18, 2019

Even though Zwifters love workouts and group events, “free riding” is still our most popular activity. Why? Because it’s easy! Just sign on, pick a route, and go.

How can you make your free ride session the best it can be? Here are 6 ideas.

#1: Embrace Exploration

With multiple maps in the Zwift universe, and multiple routes on each map, there are lots of roads for new Zwifters to discover. Go exploring! You’ll find flat routes, climbing routes, and everything in between.

Different maps and routes have their own distinctive sounds as well as landscapes and manmade features--New York’s Central Park includes robotic horse-drawn carriages while Watopia’s Ocean Boulevard includes a wind farm at a key intersection. Get immersed in Zwift’s virtual worlds and use the sights and sounds to orient yourself.

Some routes are only open to upper-level riders for free riding. This means as you spend more time in Zwift you will gain access to even more roads.

Sometimes all you need is a change of direction: flip a u-turn on a familiar route and it becomes an entirely different experience.

#2: Get Social

You will pass other Zwifters who are free riding, and some may pass you. If you find a rider who is going at your pace, why not tag along? Use in-game messaging to say hello, trade off taking pulls, and give them a Ride On while you’re at it.

Free riding with friends is easy as well. Just let them know where you’re at on course (the start/finish banner is a good place to begin) then they can hop on and click to “Ride with” you.

Looking for a more organized event with friends? Try the Meetup feature in Companion.

#3: Challenge Yourself

Many routes feature timed segments on certain climbs, sprints, or entire laps. Why not push yourself by trying to set a 30-day PR? The leaderboard on the left as you approach a segment will tell you your recent times for that section so you can push to improve.

Feeling really strong? See if you can grab a leader’s jersey!

#4: But Don’t Overdo It

“Without allowing yourself to recover, you will stop making progress, increase the risk of injury and illness, run the risk of overtraining and ultimately, your head will fall off.” Rowe & King

Sport is all about pushing ourselves to achieve more, but in order to improve we must give our bodies time to recover after hard efforts. We don’t get stronger during the workout--we get stronger when our body rebuilds itself after the effort.

So make sure you allow adequate recovery time between efforts. Many riders find that hard efforts every other day are sustainable, while daily hard efforts are not. Listen to your body, and if you aren’t able to perform at your best that’s OK! Go for a very easy recovery spin to help your body rebuild. Once you’re ready, get out there and crush it!

#5: Set Goals

We all work harder when there’s a goal in mind. Committed cyclists often set annual goals, then work backward to set up their training to meet those goals. But cyclists of all levels can set simple goals. How about a weekly distance, elevation, or time goal? Our Companion app lets you set weekly or monthly goals based on distance or time.

Go into every ride knowing what you want to accomplish. Will this be a hard effort chasing a PR, or an easy recovery ride? How many laps do you want to complete? Set a goal… then crush it. The win will give you a mental boost that keeps you coming back for more!

Looking to chase more PRs? Connect your account to other services like Strava or TrainingPeaks to help track even more metrics.

Need a long-term goal? Select an in-game challenge so every ride is working toward a big milestone that may take weeks or months to achieve.

#6: Be Well-Equipped

“...if you stick to the typical energy systems that you will use in the coming days and replenish these via real and healthy food, you will go a long way in the sporting world.” Greg Henderson, Cycling Coach

Make sure you give your body the fuel and hydration it needs to perform at its best. Try to drink at least 1-2 bottles of water with electrolytes per hour, and don’t wait until you’re thirsty to start sipping. In addition, try to consume 30-60 grams of carbohydrate (120-240 calories) per hour for rides lasting over an hour.

Every body is different, and each new ride brings its own fueling demands. The guidelines above are just general pointers. Learn what works best for you!

One final note: your riding experience will be improved if you bring along a few accessories as well: we recommend a good fan (or two), a sweat towel, and perhaps some tunes or podcasts for your listening pleasure.

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