Beginner watts sanity check

Hi, I just want some feedback to know if something might be wrong with my setup. I just tried zwift for the first time last night hoping to have a fun race in the d category. I got dropped on the line Instantly. So there was no race for me lol. I figured I should be able to hang with other beginners right? Or wrong?

Since I am not an experienced cyclist and have no understanding of what “watts” I should expect I wanted to ask whether you think my in game watts are accurate and whether something might be wrong with my setup. Like the speed sensor seems a bit flakey and I had to just guess about the model of the trainer. I weight 99kg and my average in game watts were 175. I know 99kg sounds like I’m fat and out of shape but I’m 6’2” and I’ve been strength training for years. I’m not fat. I’m not in amazing shape but not bad. I run 3 miles at 10 second pace twice a week.

If 175 is in deed a reasonable watts for a tall strong male beginner then what do I do to find people my level to race against since just joining a random race in the d category did not work.

Hi @Martin_Colwell

Welcome to the forum.

Racing is hard, even at the entry level groups. They start fast and furious like nothing I have seen in real life racing. It take some time to get used to them.

I would say pick some group rides and get your fitness up. some group rides has a hot lap (mini race) in the end.

Here are some info on cyclist power levels.


So you are saying you think 175w is indeed reasonable and not an indication that I might have selected the wrong trainer or that my speed sensor isn’t working properly?

Can you give us a run down of your setup, the more into the better.

For reference I am about 66Kg and 175 watts is in the middle of my Zone 2 for HR.

I think you mean 10 minute pace.


Here are some images showing my setup

It’s some sort of cycle ops magnetic trainer so I select cycle ops magneto as my trainer. One of the images shows how tight I have it against the tires.

Here is a link to the speed sensor I bought

The sensors seem to work fine with the wahoo app but very poorly with zwift. It can take many tries to get zwift to pick them up. Zwift on my iPad picks them up but then registers no speed ever. On my android phone it registers speed but the cadence is always stuck at 64.

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“Racing is hard…”
This made me smile. :grinning:

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It might be correct it might be incorrect.

Looks like your profile is private so we can’t snoop around. We’re you using the TIme Trial bike? That thing should be banned from races.

Average watts from a race you got dropped in might be accurate of a good effort if you drilled yourself like you would in a running race, or it might be very low if you soft pedalled when you lost all hope of getting a good race.

Do a ramp test or a 20 minute FTP test to get a good indication of a FTP.

Each category has a lower and upper bound, but because people and people and don’t like losing there are normally more people closer to the upper limit than the lower limit.

Look up on here or YouTube guides to racing on zwift you might get some good tips. First tip is start like sprint to stay in the bunch.


This would indicate that your wattage is incorrect.

But your picture looks like the trainer you selected so unless there is a resistance setting it’s probably as correct as it can be.


Even though the trainer might be wrong, if you aren’t an experienced cyclist AND the was your first zwift ride, I’d say that output is expected — even reasonably good. Zwift races start ridiculously hard.

You will likely see some steady gains over the next couple of months if you stay at it. Even if the trainer is wrong, if it is at least consistent, you can measure your progress.


That’s good. I really just made this post as a literal sanity check to make sure 175 wasn’t some absurdly low number that meant I must have something wrong. If starting at 175 is reasonable then that answers my main question.

The problem though is… I joined this to have a fun way of improving fitness. Getting dropped and having no chance of catching up is not fun. So I need to fix that. I’m not exactly happy about the idea of having to “get fit” before I can do the thing I wanted to do in order to help get fit,

I just looked at results from a race my local group participated in a few hours ago, and in the D group, you might have been able to keep up. Hard to say, though, the best strategy is to not get dropped from any group, because once you do, you are toast. So, if you can put out 175w, you should be able to stay in a pack where the leader is doing low 200s — just make sure you aren’t using a TT bike which cannot draft. I think you have a real shot at getting your FTP up quickly. Just remember that races start really hard. In the meantime, try group rides, do some workouts.

For whatever it is worth, as they say about climbing the Alpe, it doesn’t get any easier. I’m a very low B rider and always a struggle to keep up. By the time you start figuring it out, you’ll be in C and repeating…

As someone who is about the same size as you (6 foot and 93kg) and also a D rider, I think 175 watts isn’t too shabby for a beginner. When I started on Zwift, my FTP was about 205, but I’d been riding outdoors for the previous 5 years, so had a small advantage over you there. I also was getting shelled out the back pretty quickly when I tried to race.

In the two and a bit years since then, I’ve improved my FTP to 235 and am now regularly challenging for podiums in D class, or at least according to the results on ZwiftPower - in the game itself it still shows me as finishing in 20th, but of the 19 riders ahead of me, 17 or so are B and C class riders needing an ego boost(!)

The one thing to note (as has been mentioned by some posters above) is that Zwift racing isn’t like real life racing - you have to go ridiculously hard out of the gate as otherwise you get dropped in the first mile and will never catch up to the riders ahead as they’ll have a draft and you won’t.

If you can work on your short term power, to the point where you can hold say 240W for the first minute, then after that settle down and average 180W for the rest of the ride, then yes you’ll probably still be in the back half of the race, but at least you’ll be with other riders and not solo-ing around on your own way behind everyone (been there, done that and it does feel horrid). Then over time, both your initial first minute power and your long term average power will improve and you’ll start moving up through the pack just like I did.

For example, I’m now usually holding 300-350W in my first minute - sometimes enough to stay with the leaders (depends on who’s entered the race), rest of the time at least good enough to get me in the second group on the road. Then I’ll be able to go 275-300W for the next 5 minutes, before dropping back to my long term pace of 240-250W for the remainder.


Hi Martin,
welcome to Zwift.
A couple of well populated routes where you will be able to hookup with other Zwifters working out at all differing intensities are “Tempus Fugit” which is virtually flat and “Tick Tock” which is possibly more popular but has some elevation in it.

Here you would be able to latch on to a group or Zwifter at anytime of the day and work at holding with the group with the knowledge that if you want to ease off you can and another Zwifter will be along pretty soon.

This may help with

The other events that are worth looking out for are any of Zwifts Tour series or the Zwift Fondos that occur from time to time, as these are generally mass start events with numerous Zwifters of all differing abilities and speeds.

Have fun and keep at it.

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Holy crap folks it worked. I just tried racing again and this time I was able to stay with the lead pack for 10 minutes. Yes cranking it up to 250w just before the race started worked.

What really blew me away was how much harder I could work than I thought I could. From just riding in watopia I thought 175 was the most I could sustain for any length of time. But when I was desperately just trying to stay with the group I could hold 230 for 10 min and then 200 for another 10. This is what has me excited right now about this program now. I did not expect to be able to push myself like that.

Unfortunately it turns out it was a mountain stage and as soon as we hit the mountains I got dropped hard. After 20 min I retired. My legs were burning so hard I just couldn’t keep going. That was the most intense 20 min of exercise I’ve had in a while. I didn’t look at the race at all before joining (I don’t even know how) so I had no idea what the profile of the race would be. I’m still very confused by the interface.

I feel like being so heavy I have no chance in the mountains right? Because then it’s all about w/Kg right? But on a flat race your weight doesn’t matter so much?

Also my watts reading seems to lag behind what I’m doing by quite a bit, like 5 to 10 seconds. This made me yo-yo a lot which was pretty frustrating. I guess this is an unsolvable problem that comes with using a speed sensor rather than a power sensor or a smart trainer?


Glad you got a good workout. I can hardly stand just pedalling around anymore on zwift. Have to be doing a race to push myself.

Look for an event, find out the route, and then google the route name + zwift hacks or + zwiftinsider. These sites give you more info on what to expect along the route.

If you can’t find the route name: look on the companion app, select an event, the name at the top (in the top of) of the picture/map is the route name. Don’t use the zwift app to find events/races, use the companion app or zwifthacks or zwiftpower.

Yes, on flat your weight doesn’t count so much.

Your experience is similar to mine…

  • the level of aerobic capacity of a half decent cyclist is much higher than you would think
  • 175 w is a reasonable starting point, the good thing is that 250w should be attainable within 6 months
  • real world or Zwift on the hills, a 60kg rider has a big advantage uphill, but a disadvantage everywhere else.
  • if you train really hard and get to 300w, you will get into the B cat. The problem won’t change, they will drop you after 10minutes too.

It’s not so much aerobic capacity as much as my legs. Like I can run continuously for a much longer time at the same heart rate than I can cycling. Like 175 was making my legs burn and get weak but not really making me even breath heavy. Maintaining 250 for a few minutes though does make me huff and puff. But still the thing that stops me is my legs dying. Not running out of cardio.

“Specificity” is a real thing. Running fitness isn’t cycling fitness and outdoor cycling isn’t indoor cycling. This is why E-racing teams tend to kick the butts of traditional racing teams in Zwift races.

Put a top cyclist in running shoes and have them run a 10 km race. They’ll be lucky to finish.

I think if you’re suffering and not breathing hard that’s a good sign it’s not the aerobic engine which is limiting cycling.

The good thing is adaptation is much quicker than building base fitness so you’ll see rapid gains in performance if you stick to it.

Not that anyone should care at this point but I just did my third race and managed 250w for 26 min and came in fourth. Most remarkably is that it was simultaneously harder than last time but I recovered much quicker. Last race I only managed 230w for 10 min and was shaking for like 2 hours after it was over. This race I felt completely recovered 10 min after it was over. And I managed to go up to 300w for the last km and 400w for the last 200 meters or so.

My point is you guys were right. Looks like everything is probably working right. My incredibly poor initial performance is just because it was literally the first time I’ve been on a bike in like 5 years. My body just needed to adjust.

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D racers push avg 2.5w/kg, you are pushing 1.77w/kg
If you have been only strength training, then it will take a while for your cardio to catch up. The good news though is that you should be able to instantly push your HR into the red to allow you to make fast gainz :slight_smile: pure strength is kinda useless in cycling outside of sprints/velodrome - road cycling is more about muscular endurance (i.e. strength over a long duration & cardiovascular fitness).

Yes flats are far better than hills for heavier riders.
Yes you want to be going super hard with 5sec to go b4 start of any Zwift race.
Yes watts lag behind slightly but you get used to it.
P.s. stay in the draft of riders in front for the majority of the time during races, you save up to 30% of the effort compared to being in front, which adds up over a long time. If you get dropped by a pack, you likely won’t see them again without a huge sprint effort, so better to try not get dropped in the first place :wink: