"Bailout Gear" on-screen 'button'

From reading descriptions of what the “Trainer Difficulty” setting does, my understanding is that whatever percentage it’s set at, has the same percentage applied to a Zwift course gradient (ie. set at 50% difficulty, a 10% course gradient will have a feel of a real 5% gradient).  At the same time, using 100% difficulty setting may yield a real feel translated to the road, but lead to lots of user “fails” on some of the eg. 15% gradients that some courses have. 

To accommodate having a real feel of gradients for most of the time (ie. using 100% difficulty setting), could Zwift add something along the lines of a “Bailout Gear” on/off button on screen, that user can opt to quickly touch while riding, if about to encounter a fail… eg. could immediately reduce temporarily the feel (trainer resistance) of a gradient to eg. emulating 50% of what the Zwift course says?

Isn’t down shifting to an easier gear the same thing? In real life, you try to keep up with the group (or attack) on a big hill but if it’s too much, bam, down shift.

I have a classical trainer so trainer difficulty is not a setting I adjust.

Perhaps I am misunderstanding your point.

Ride On!


This request is more relevant to users riding Smart trainers. 

The bailout is just as implied… to be used when you’re out of gears; no more downshifts available.  For some riders (and reason I suspect Zwift defaults their software to a 50% trainer difficulty), hitting a 15% gradient can lead to fails.  OTOH, leaving trainer difficulty at 50%, while solving for 15% gradients, is making ALL gradients unrealistic ALL of the time.  BailOut button would allow 100% difficulty to be set, gradients are realistic all of the time, but IF you hit a gradient you cannot manage, the button gives you an instant reprieve.

I use a smart trainer and I shift gears when it needs it. Just like real life.

John, I get it and agree.  I think folks are missing “When you are out of gears” as in cant downshift further. 

Phew… I’m glad someone gets it!

Maybe an example helps illustrate when this would be helpful. 

If your bike has a 34 chainring, with 28 tooth as largest rear cog (ie. your lowest gear), and you come to a 15% hill, that Zwift will fully emulate with a compatible smart trainer at 100% difficulty (but not with a “dumb” trainer), a 175lb Bike/rider, in order to cycle with eg. an 80rpm cadence, will need to continually output approx. 450 watts for the duration of that climb.  If you’re familiar with the watts/kg that Zwift uses, this I think is a good bit over 6 watts/kg of effort

I think this is where you’d find a good number of Zwift riders would have to shut down their software and restart it 

What do you do on real hills?

What I do is irrelevant… what you want to ask is what do the thousands of Zwift riders online do who may never (or really infrequently) encounter 15% grades on real rides, yet are faced with such on some of the Zwift courses.  

I’m going to guess that most users keep their “trainer difficulty” at the default (out of the box) setting of 50%.  Have you put yours on 100%, and if so, can you perhaps imagine that there are less strong users out there who would have an issue making it up a 15% hill in Zwift at full strength.  

The proposed “bailout” button is effectively nothing but proposing an immediate option to change “trainer difficulty” setting to 50% while riding, without having to go thru the menus currently required to do so, as it would take too long to accomplish.

I ride up 15% hills in the real world and I ride up them in Zwift in the same way.  I am not sure what you are asking for, some sort of cheat button when the going gets tough? Defeats the object of training to me. 

I’d suggest a read of the article at the below link.  The “button” would really be nothing more than instant ability to change this setting (which Zwift defaults to 50%).  Think of it not as a cheat button, but as a bike swap to one that has more gears.  It won’t make you any faster.  I’d guess that more people than not have their “Trainer Difficulty” setting already at something other than 100%.


I leave mine at about 85-90% for the reasons given by the OP. I also think, though, that the gradients on Zwift are actually a little bit harder than they are in real life, so 85-90% for me seems more realistic. I don’t know how much of this is the ability ride a serpentine course uphill in real life as opposed to straight up.

You wouldn’t need a bailout button if you just pre-adjusted the trainer difficulty ahead of the ride - think of it as selecting proper gearing/cassette for the ride instead of wimping out. For example, set the difficulty at 80% if you know you’ll be doing a course with 15% ramps (this presumes you know what the course looks like ahead of time - which isn’t easy to find out). This kind of pre-planning would be easier if the course profile/gradients were better defined when you choose a route.

The problem with using Trainer Difficulty settings, is that it’s universal to ALL gradients for the whole ride, not just the really difficult parts.  I don’t need or want 5% gradients to be turned into 2-3% gradients, 2% gradients turned into 1%, etc…  I have proper gearing to handle (for myself anyway), most grades.  However, I don’t have a triple chainset, nor MTB gearing.

I think part of reason for 85-90% being found best, is difficulty or lesser efficiency standing up out of the saddle on hard climbs in same manner as we can do on the road.

I have my trainer (a direct drive model) set up with the same cassette as my road bike, so would prefer to train the same way.  Only in an “emergency” I think the bailout button would just prevent a fail for some cases and/or for some people, yet allow the other 97% of Zwift’s courses to be ridden more realistically (unlike is the case if using Trainer Difficulty).  Maybe I’d think a bit differently if a “fail” on a ride, didn’t mean a full Exit from the program, and requirement to completely restart and repairing of equipment, etc.

I agree though… course details would be nice to easily locate.  Are the routes all available eg. in Ride With GPS or similar?  If not, why not?

Can you not just click on game interface and pull up the Menu button, from which you access settings without quitting the current ride?

Honestly don’t know… at the very least though I’d think it would take a period of time long enough that you have to stop on the side of virtual road.  Once over the hump, then having to reset it all again.  Wouldn’t a dedicated toggle (on/off) hot button on screen be a nicer alternative?

You can alter the Trainer difficulty during a ride via menu button and settings. I get what you are saying about an onscreen on/off for when you blow up.

I like a bailout gear quick button.  Far more useful than a piece of toast button.  The UI on Apple TV is pretty clumsy as it is (mostly due to the shitty remote control).  I’m not an elite athlete.  Just trying to do my best and sometimes 450 watts is more than I have at 10pm on a Thursday after I put the kids to bed and before I log back into work.  Like you said, halving 5% grades and everything else isn’t desirable either.

John Craig: All course details can be found here: https://zwiftinsider.com/route-details/

It’s not a bad idea John.  I would even go so far as to have a little flashing z beside my name saying this guy is using the bail out.  What the hell fo I care what people think if I run out of gears or legs.  Most are flying by me cause they weigh as much as small woman.  It would also prevent cheating in races as well.  My 2 cents.  :) 

Thanks chris… However, if you think there needs to be a flashing Z for those who used it, that also implies that anyone whose trainer difficulty is set to less than 100% by default, have to do all of their rides with the flashing Z.  We could opt to all buy triple chainringed MTBs and put them on our trainers to ensure no dearth of gearing, but that seems unnecessary when technology can provide.

Fair enough.  So many variables.  Weight, no weight.  Height, no height.  lightning bolt to indicate power, but just a sensor on a dumb trainer.  It’s a hot topic.  However, I still think I would like to have a button to save my chain.  :)  Without having to hop off bike and go into settings.