EVCC Zwift Virtual Rides - Winter 2021/2022
Contributed by Mike Haden and Heather Opseth, virtual ride co-ordinators
Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you have questions or would like to help co-ordinate virtual rides.
With winter at our doorstep, it’s time to consider options for staying active over the winter. We don’t need to put our bikes away, we just need to bring them inside and train on them over the winter. In recent years, several new virtual cycling applications have become quite popular, helping to keep cyclists motivated in their training – far better than hours of watching old reruns or catching up on your Twitter feed while cycling indoors.
Zwift is just one of several virtual cycling applications to choose from, turning your basement workouts into an interactive web-based experience with thousands of other riders from around the world.
Other than Zwift, several of the applications display real roads and real venues as you cycle, at the pace at which you’re riding. The first-person view is lifelike and the applications enable you to “ride” many classic climbs and tours in the world that we likely haven’t visited. Applications like Fulgaz, Rouvy, Tacx Training App, and Kinomap fall into this category.
Zwift is more like a computer game, with avatars of real people around the world, all cycling in a virtual world at the same time. It’s all about community, with races, group rides, group workouts, free rides, several virtual worlds, plenty of challenges, and it’s quite engaging as a result. It is the EVCC’s platform of choice due to its great community, group riding features, and number of users.
Using Zwift as our platform, the EVCC is pleased to offer to its members group rides on this virtual cycling application during the winter season. These group rides are posted in our regular event schedule during the winter season, are hosted by trip coordinators from the club, and provide an opportunity for club members on Zwift or new to Zwift to join in on group rides to stay connected and motivated through the winter months.
What’s required to join an EVCC Zwift ride?
· A “smart” cycle trainer OR a “dumb” trainer with a power meter and/or speed sensor on your wheel
· A desktop computer, tablet, or mobile device
· The Zwift application installed
· The Discord application installed (optional but recommended so that you can talk live with other virtual ride participants)
A “smart” cycle trainer can be controlled by the Zwift application to provide resistance in line with the terrain on which you're “riding”. It also accurately senses and responds to your power wattage output. A “dumb” trainer can’t be controlled by the application but can, with the use of a speed sensor and/or power meter, provide speed and/or power feedback to the application.
Which devices can you run Zwift on? Just about everything – your PC, Mac, tablet, or phone. For best results, you’ll want a relatively modern (but not necessarily the absolute latest) model of one of these. Obviously, the larger the screen, the better (more immersive) the experience. Most Zwift users use either their tablet or their desktop computer to run the application.
Some of us use a desktop computer and then mount our tablet or phone on our bikes so that we can use Discord and/or the Zwift Companion app at the same time. Others mount the tablet on or in front of their bike so that it’s accessible and use that for Zwift and Discord at the same time. Either way, don’t forget to have ready access to water bottles (hydration obviously), a fan (to cool you down), a towel (to keep you dry), and maybe headphones.
https://www.dcrainmaker.com/2020/11/smart-cycle-trainer-recommendations-guide-winter.html/ (For everything you need to know about trainers, and then some, this is the site)
How will the club use Zwift over the winter?
We started using Zwift for group indoor virtual rides in the winter of 2020/2021. It worked effectively to bring us together online on our bikes. The experience is definitely not the same as riding together on the roads in summer, but it’s a great way to continue to ride while staying connected with friends from the club.
We will post Zwift rides on the club calendar in the usual way. We’re aiming to post a good variety of ride lengths, days and times, including evening rides and mid-day rides.
Member-only meetups: We use a feature of Zwift called a Meetup in which a club trip coordinator sets up a group ride that is limited to club members. The one constraint is that each trip participant needs to ‘follow’ the trip coordinator in Zwift.
‘Following’ the ride coordinator: ‘Following’ a ride coordinator in the Zwift app is like ‘friending’ someone on social media. Trip coordinators can only add people to the meetup if they are following them. The trip coordinator will post their Zwift name, for this purpose, in the event details for the ride.
To follow the trip coordinator in Zwift, use the Zwift Companion mobile app and follow other Zwifters from your profile. Or use the http://zwift.com web site – login, select Following under My Profile, and add the trip coordinator’s Zwift name to your list.
Keeping the group together: In a club meetup we have the option of Keep-together mode and Meetup-only view. On most rides, we’ll probably use both. With keep-together mode, the group will be kept together by an invisible bungee cord, no matter what power output we might individually be generating on our trainers. No-one gets dropped (as long as you keep pedaling!). With Meetup-only view, we won’t see any of the other Zwift riders in the game, we’ll only see our own participants, creating a feeling of an EVCC group ride.
How do we communicate during the ride? (With Discord!)
In Zwift there is no audio connection between riders – we can see each other on screen but we can’t speak to each other, other than a ‘chat’ keyboard feature. So, we use a separate application called Discord to enable a group live voice over internet call for casual chit chat among participants.
Discord is a voice over internet messaging and calling application that enables riders to interact with each other in the real world, not just through the screen. It is the app of choice for online gamers, and the standard used for Zwift events.
Discord uses voice channels and everyone on the same channel can speak to one another. The club has a Discord channel that we use for group rides.
At the start of a group ride, launch Discord on your tablet or phone, test your microphone, and join the club channel in Discord. Then say “Hello!” to your buddies on the ride. Using Discord is optional, but you will miss out on the friendly conversation and banter if you choose not to join in.
Muting your potential sound effects: It is possible that participants may do some deep breathing while riding, or have other background noises in their workout space. To help minimize the group’s “wheezing” sound effects, please use the “mute” function when you’re not speaking. You can also use the “push to talk” function, which requires you to deliberately push a button to speak and automatically mutes when you’re not speaking (the opposite of the mute button).
- Well before the event, get your bike set up on your trainer, get Zwift set up on your desktop computer or device, and go for your first ride (or a few!) on your own.
- If you are brand new to Zwift, please test your equipment and software and complete some solo rides before joining a group ride. Please contact the ride coordinator several days in advance if you need help – we’d love to help, but it’s really hard for us to provide significant tech support at the time of the group ride.
- Register for an event in the club calendar as per a usual ride. You’ll have to provide one additional piece of information - your Zwift name from the Public Profile, accessible from the in-game menu.
- In the event details, the trip coordinator will include their Zwift name from their Public Profile in Zwift - you’ll need this in the next step.
- In the Zwift application, add the trip coordinator’s Zwift name to the list of people you ‘follow’. Without this, the trip coordinator won’t be able to add you to the group ride
in Zwift. (You only have to do this step once.)
- When that’s done, the trip coordinator will add you to the Zwift ‘meetup’ and Zwift will notify you with a ‘meetup’ invitation in-game.
- Before the event starts, launch Zwift and test out your bike setup to make sure that the setup between your trainer, bike and the Zwift application is working well.
- Before the event starts, install Discord on your device. Be ready to join the EVCC Discord channel from your tablet or phone - the link to the EVCC channel is https://discord.gg/ZPxHS982y3 but you can also search for EVCC in the Discord application.
- Join the Zwift meetup and the EVCC Discord channel 10 minutes before the ride start time to allow time for introductions and some pre-ride banter.
- Before the meetup begins in Zwift, everyone on the group ride will be brought to the start point automatically by the application. The trip coordinator will have picked out a route in Zwift (which will be listed in the event details) and we’ll all start from the start point of that route. The trip coordinator, who will have created the meetup, will be designated by a ‘beacon’, a vertical light-bar above them.
- At the pre-determined start time, we’ll be off! (You have 30 minutes grace to join the group if you happen to be late. Often it’s a technical issue with the device/trainer connection that can foul you up just when you’re rushing to join the event.)
We hope that this provides a good starting point if you’re interested in joining club rides on Zwift this winter season. The application and the virtual community that it has generated in the past several years has made a big difference to a lot of cyclists in their off-season training routine. The reaction of seasoned veterans, when they have begun to cycle in-game, has be quite positive - many of them are surprised by the reality of the in-game “feel” of pushing hard up hills, rolling over the tops and dropping into long downhill grades, or perhaps even having a little “small-c competition” with a fellow Zwifter in another country. For some of us in the club, it’s a great way to continue to ride together through the off season, and we hope that you’ll consider joining us on more virtual group rides this winter.