I sit and write this having just tuned into the latest vlog from our mate Francis, in it, he’s talking about how he’s caught the Zwift bug and some of the little nuances of riding in the virtual world. I found myself listening and nodding away in agreement, as I imagine many of you will do too if you get round to watching that. Funny how this already popular virtual world has become such a big part of so many of our lives during this pandemic. We're all riding more than ever and it's great to see so many of you join us whilst doing so, or supporting huge virtual challenge's like Francis' double everest, in aid of the NHS emergency fund!! So with that, lets get into Part 2 of my diary from the Virtual World as one of our G!RO ride (and virtual ride) leaders.
As hopefully some of you will have seen in part 1, we’ve been doing regular Zwift meet-ups for you guys, the G!RO community. A great way to ride socially, with mates without disregarding the incredibly important lockdown measures we are still living under here in the UK. It goes without saying, this offers an incredible tool to ride responsibly and protect the NHS as they admirably negotiate this difficult time. We have been championing the need to ride responsibly since day 1 of the lockdown here in the UK, and our Zwift rides are one of the many ways we are doing this, hopefully boosting morale and helping everyone keep pedalling despite the ongoing situation.
As I mentioned in part 1 of this mini blog series, the feedback on these has been very positive and awesome to see so many of you join us each time, even if a few glitches on Zwift have hindered the experience from time to time! The rides have grown, and we’ve loved having so many of you join us from all corners of the globe - when we got these set up we couldn’t have hoped for more, becoming a semi regular platform for exercising and socialising whilst doing our bit to aid the fight against Covid-19. Fortunately for us, Zwift have expanded the invite limit, allowing us to invite up to 100 people now, giving us scope to continue to make these bigger and better than ever in the coming weeks. We’re hoping to get a few synced up with zoom soon too, so you can immerse yourself in the Virtual group ride experience further.
Now back to where I started, watching Francis’ recent vlog, he was riding outside for the first time in a while after a punishing few days of Zwifting (we’ve all been there right?!). After a few days on the trainer, back to back, you find yourself at a point of satisfying exertion - something about jumping on the trainer that makes it impossible to ride easy. It’s something we explore with our resident coach Danny Roberts-Clarke in another of our recent blogs. So many factors make the indoor trainer such a valuable tool, and this forced time where this tool is being maximised may be really beneficial to many of us doing these regular meet-ups and other activities in the Virtual World. The boredom of indoor riding certainly can be spun into a positive in this regard. As we discussed in the aforementioned blog with Danny, spending a bit more time focussing on the data and using structured training as a way of passing the time can increase the quality of any riding you do in terms of training benefit.
Similarly, there is no let up in pedalling and it can certainly positively impact your pedal stroke efficiency as you’re often forced to keep pedalling where in a similar situation on the road you’d find yourself coasting. Finally, depending on which way you look at it, riding with others (even virtually) can be a blessing or a curse in this sense too. One of the things Francis mentioned in his vlog is it’s impossible to ride easy on Zwift, you inevitably get sucked into trying to stay with groups that zoom past you, or race your own best time up the Alpe Du Zwift, or harder still, you get sucked into the dark world of Zwift racing. Zwift creates a competitive element that can add some great benefits to your training regimen and overall fitness, especially whilst we lack this in the real world... All positives considered, it can lead you into a great big Zwift shaped hole that's very hard to climb out of, if you find yourself overdoing it on the competitive side of things…
On top of our meet-ups, some of the crew have begun to explore this competitive side of Zwift, myself included. As I mentioned in part 1, I’ve always utilised Zwift to smash out some good structured work during winter, but lockdown has seen me delve deeper into Zwift racing than my previous dabbles, and I even went up the Alpe full gas for the first time last week. It turns out I’d never ridden up it before, and I certainly underestimated just how long I’d have to go full gas for (OUCH!). That Zwift shaped hole I was talking about, yeah, I’ve fallen down that a few times recently. Zwift racing is perfect for those who have a competitive itch they need to scratch (like many of the G!RO RT I keep spotting lined up in the same races), a (SEMI) controlled racing environment that allows all to test themselves against others of a similar ability (as well as some 34kg, 400 watt threshold superhumans) and really satisfy that desire to compete and WIN (or lose as is often the case on Zwift)! Despite the constant virtual head kicking, it’s addictive and probably not particularly healthy (a vice shall we say) as you get sucked into all the races the rest of the crew are doing, and end up doing six 20 min max efforts in 2 days and can’t get off the sofa for the next 4.
Like with the meet-ups, it’s by no means perfect with ‘Zwift Doping’, (which can come in a variety of forms, the easiest being lying about your weight to boost w/kg) that skews results in a big way. Another complication is the variety of trainers that are compatible with Zwift and the inevitable differences in data these churn out, in particular so called 'dumb trainers' will often produce inaccurate numbers through the Zwift power algorithm. Those without smart trainers could see themselves dropped like a stone, or inexplicably riding away from World Tour riders as the dumb trainer spits out data that Zwift attempts to convert into power figures using it’s Zwift power readings. You could also read the above as excuses for my somewhat lacklustre results in recent Zwift races… Along with my power meter dropping out, or my internet connection dying just as we hit the key climb of the race etc... I’ve got more if you need any, just drop me an email and I’ll send over the link to my pdf bible of Zwift race excuses. And whilst it lacks the regulation, and experience to ever replace proper racing, it certainly has the potential to satisfy some peoples need for competition to motivate their riding, and as an extra feather in the cap of cycling alongside regular outdoor racing, it certainly is an incredibly engaging feature of Zwift that will no doubt become more prominent. The armies of volunteers online seeking to eradicate 'Zwift doping' are a promising sign of a fairer platform in the future. Even before Covid-19 struck, e-racing was becoming a big deal, this will only boost it’s profile and provide cycling with a new and modern way to engage with audiences! Why not join me, and a few of the other G!RO crew on the start line of any of the multitude of Zwift races available!
Back to the meet-ups, if reading this has got you intrigued on all things virtual riding, and you're keen to get involved with the virtual G!RO crew, hit this link to find our handy guide we created on how to get involved. Join the guys for regular social spins in the various exciting locations on Zwift and get the inside scoop on any of the races they might be attending so you can join them in exploring some of the other great stuff you can do virtually whilst we consciously make the effort to ride responsibly. Hopefully we can boost morale and bring some positivity to the situation by all rallying together virtually and be fit and ready for when normality begins to resume.
We can’t wait to be back meeting for a pre-ride coffee at G!RO, enjoying a quick catch up before we hit the stunning Surrey Hills and we hope many of you have joined us virtually, will be joining us back at the cafe whenever we reopen! Until then, thanks for joining us so far and we look forward to seeing you on the virtual road for the remainder of this lockdown! Stay safe, ride responsibly and keep it G!RO.