So this winter I’ve been doing a fair amount of indoor training using Zwift. Just in case you missed it Zwift is a virtual riding environment that computes the power you’re generating from your trainer and converts that into a speed. There is currently one course to ride and usually between 20-50 riders online to ride with. It works with many common trainers or the less common Computrainer and Wahoo Kickr which it can control.
So anyway, I’ve always thought that it would be real cool to see riders compete based purely on Watts generated with weight having no impact on the outcome. The closest real life environment would be track racing I suppose which I’ve always thought a rider like me would excel. When I started using Zwift I thought this dream I had was realized, then I discovered I was missing a key part of the equation.
During my first few rides on Zwift I won the King of the Mountain jersey nearly on every ride. When I approached the hill climb segment on the course I would give it 100% and typically get a small lead on the previous winner. I was like, “I knew I could be a great rider if I wasn’t so fat!.”
One day I checked out my profile on the game to set my nation and I found that the game asks for weight. Then it hit me, the computer had been calculating my speed up hills using a default weight which I found out was 75KG or about 165 pounds. No wonder I was so fast uphill.
For some reason I had just assumed that Zwift would just have a default weight for all riders. I put in my real weight of 230 pounds and hit the game. There was a noticeable difference. I was dragging so slowly up the hill that I nearly came to a stop. After about 20 minutes I changed the weight back to the original 75KG and went on beating everyone up the hills.
The next night I saw that Jason, my friend from Ohio, was on the island. I caught up to him and then we rode together for a few laps. I took it easy up the hill but kept dropping him, he would strike back and force me to work harder to keep up, but I was never really going all out. I knew this wasn’t right. The few times I’ve ridden with Jason I was pretty much maxxed out to just to hold his wheel. The guy is a beast. We did the Bike Ride Across Georgia together one year and I killed myself trying to hang with him. Jason is no featherweight hill climber and I knew that he must have entered his real weight.
After the ride I looked at his ride data from Strava and saw just how horrible it was. His heart rate was peaking out in the mid 180s on the climb while mine was right around 140. He was turning himself inside out to keep up with me on the climb while I casually rode away without even breathing that hard.
The next time I rode I changed my weight to 200 pounds. That’s still 30 pounds too light, so I’m cheating, but at 200 pounds I can keep the bike going up the hill at a recovery effort and I can’t beat the KOM on the hill climb.
I voiced my opinion on the forum that I felt like riders adding their own weight to the game was just a headache since you never really know if the person you’re racing up the hill with is honest or not. I was immediatly shot down. people really want the rider weight feature to be in the game so that they can get realistic climbing speeds and Watts/Kilogram figures while they ride.