When riding outside, aerodynamics and weight are two key factors affecting your speed.
- Aerodynamics: in cycling, this refers to how resistant an object is to the air it is passing through. This is a product of an object’s frontal area, as well as how “slippery” it is. On flat ground, air resistance is the main force slowing a cyclist down.
- Weight: while the heaviness of a cyclist and their equipment affect speed on flat ground, it is most important on steeper climbs and during hard accelerations.
Aerodynamics and weight matter on Zwift as well. Each virtual frame and wheelset in the Drop Shop has its own aero and weight ratings, giving you a quick picture of the strengths of a particular piece of equipment.
Your frame and wheelset choice in Zwift affect your in-game speed, so if you’re looking to maximize performance in a challenging group ride or race, it’s worth taking a little time to understand how to use your garage full of virtual bikes to your advantage.
Knowing Your Route
Is your event on a flat route? Perhaps the profile features rolling hills, a single short climb, or a mountaintop finish? And how long is the overall ride?
Knowing your route is important when it comes to equipment choice, and it also informs your pacing and race tactics.
The event route is displayed in Zwift Companion (tap the event for details), as well as the zwift.com/events calendar of events.
Pay special attention to any uphill sections, since this is where efforts will increase. Note the length and pitch of any significant climbs, because the longer and steeper a climb is, the more your weight will be a factor. But on flat courses, aero is everything!
Consider the finish as well. Most Zwift races end with a group of riders giving it their all to the line, but some finishes are uphill while others are flat or even downhill. How can you equip yourself to perform best in that final push?
If you’re looking for an in-depth analysis of your event’s route, check out our Race Recon series. Here is the Watopia Hilly race recon as an example.
Cycling provides the perfect classroom for learning about ourselves. What are your strengths and weaknesses as a rider? Are you able to hang in races on flat sections, but struggle to maintain pace on climbs? Or perhaps you tend to ride away from the group on climbs, but struggle to hold the pure power necessary to stay in the draft on fast, flat sections?
Whatever your strengths and weaknesses, combine them with your knowledge of the race route to strategically choose the frame and wheelset which will deliver the best results.
How Star Ratings Work
Each bike frame and wheelset in the Drop Shop comes with separate 1-4 star ratings for aerodynamics and weight. More stars means better performance. A 1-star weight wheelset is heavier than a 4-star, while a 4-star aero frame will cut through the air much better than a 1-star.
New Bike Day?
You’ve been saving up in-game credits (Drops) as they accumulate during every Zwift effort. Perhaps it’s time to spend them on a new frame or wheelset? Just click “Garage” from the main menu, then choose frames or wheels from the Drop Shop.
Browse by brand, and notice each item has a Drops price and aero/weight star ratings. Window shop all you’d like, but keep in mind purchases are non-refundable!
When you’re ready to make a purchase, click the green price button, then click to confirm. Your purchase will be moved to your garage and immediately available for use.
Set Up Your Bike
The simplest strategy when equipping yourself for an event is a defensive one. Use the bike which helps you perform best on the most challenging parts of the course.
- If you have a tough time climbing and you’re racing Watopia Mountain, use the lightest setup you’ve got. That means selecting wheels with the most stars for weight.
- If you find climbing easy, but anticipate that today’s Greater London Flat race will be a chore, look for a bike with the most aero stars.
An offensive strategy is more useful if you believe you can hang with the front group and even put in some attacks. If this is you, consider equipping to sharpen your key efforts. Racing Watopia Figure 8 and planning to put in a hard attack to get away on the final KOM section? Get a lighter bike so you can accelerate and climb even faster up the steepest sections.
Fitness and Fun
Of course, your overall level of fitness is the biggest factor determining performance in challenging group rides. And there are plenty of workouts and training plans on Zwift if you’re looking to build fitness.
But thoughtful use of your Zwift garage engages the brain while providing small strategic advantages to anyone embracing their virtual equipment options. So have fun spending your hard-earned Drops, and we’ll see you out on course!