Monica Schlange is well-versed in the different routes you can travel on Zwift. She’s ridden nearly all of them! She set a personal challenge for herself in early 2020 to earn all 67 route achievement badges available at the time. Eleven weeks later, tired and triumphant, she met her goal.
“I knew I'd need a specific goal through the winter (somewhat of a New Year’s resolution) to keep me on my bike and gaining fitness,” says Schlange. “The biggest lesson I learned from it is that the mental strength to do the harder routes was needed more than the physical strength. And I found that I am mentally very strong! And knowing I'm mentally strong has helped me in many areas of my life!”
Schlange started riding outdoors in the summer of 2015 when she was struggling with depression. Her husband Eric, an avid cyclist, knew that cycling could help her and encouraged her to ride.
Eventually, she “caught the cycling bug” herself! It helped her find her mental strength and, through Zwift, meet supportive friends from all over the world.
“Eric happened upon Zwift in the fall of 2015 and immediately jumped all in,” Schlange says. “I followed shortly behind him as it was easier for me to hop on Zwift than gear up for the outdoors. Zwift eliminated many of the excuses that would try to keep me off the bike.”
These days, Eric runs the website Zwift Insider, and Monica is a contributor. She’s also a mainstay of the Zwift community, helping to encourage other riders as they start their own cycling journeys or work toward personal goals.
Want to go for the route badges yourself? Zwift Insider has created a progressive plan for riding all Zwift routes. The Tour of Watopia is a great chance to check off some of these routes, riding with a group of people who can encourage and push you - or just hang out and chat. If a route isn’t on the schedule this year, you can ride it on your own, join another event that features it, or set a Meetup with some friends!
Monica’s three favorite Watopia routes include two motivating climbs featured in the Tour of Watopia 2021. There’s also a fun loop for those who would rather stick to flatter ground:
Inspiration to ride to new heights - or get there faster.
- Length: 29.5 km (18.3 miles)
- Elevation: 682 m (2,238 feet)
- Lead-In: 0.5 km (0.3 miles)
Why she loves it: “When it was released back in 2016 it was the biggest climb. I was newer to cycling then. [The next year] I had a group of Zwifters who knew I'd pushed myself up the mountain but hadn't made it to the radio tower. A ride was organized where they all rode up the entire Mountain and radio tower with me. They made jokes and distracted me as I suffered and pushed myself more than I ever had before. It was likely the least challenging ride they'd ever done, but I don't actually know that for certain as not a one complained about the slow pace. And I'd find myself a few years later, halfway across the real world visiting some of them in their homes. The bond from that ride is still strong today.”
Challenge yourself: “The Mountain Route has many landmarks to tell yourself to keep pushing to: push to the funky bridge, push to the small village, push to the overhang, push through the scary drop-offs, push to the goat banner, push to the radio tower. And after that, it's all easy peezy!”
Landmarks: As you ascend, you’ll ride through an Alpine village and a castle courtyard. The “goat banner” is the finish of the timed KOM/QOM segment, where an ibex (a type of wild goat) waits to greet you. You’ll get a brief rest before one more steep climb up to that radio tower! Then enjoy the descent and ride back to the beach.
It might just make you admit you like climbing.
- Length: 22.8 km (14.2 miles)
- Elevation: 192 m (630 feet)
- Lead-In: 0.5 km (0.3 miles)
Why she loves it: “Before tearing a muscle in my hip, I secretly loved riding up the Volcano. I don’t think you’re supposed to love climbing, especially when you’re not a petite rider, so have had to keep that hush-hush. It’s a short enough climb that I could go all out, but long enough to really work me over. The Volcano climb is fun to watch on the Companion app as you ride each spiral around to the top.”
Hot tip: “I prefer to get right to my destination, so I’d do Volcano Circuit CCW and just [manually] turn up to the Volcano from there. But if I was looking for a PB I’d choose the Volcano Climb route so I got a bit of a warm-up first.”
Landmarks: “I enjoy the slight break as you ride through the middle of the Volcano. And then I always get out of the saddle in the last steep 900m to the end.”
Flat doesn’t have to mean boring.
- Length: 16.8 km (10.4 miles)
- Elevation: 44 m (144 feet)
- Lead-In: 2.4 km (1.5 miles)
Why she loves it: “I love the change of scenery during it and that it's not completely flat (but mostly so). I recently did it in reverse and that was fun too!”
Challenge yourself: “Tick Tock is a great route to work toward making personal progress in small measurable ways. ‘How fast can I do the entire route?’ ‘How many miles can I do in 30 minutes?’ ‘Can I beat my last time through the sprint?’”
Landmarks: “In Tick Tock I always feel at home in the Redwoods, since we live near them IRL [in real life]. So that’s the landmark I look for. I know I’m almost to them when I get to what I like to call ‘George Jetson town’ (a.k.a. Saddle Springs).”