Climbing in Zwift

I am just getting back into cycling, so coming off the couch in very poor shape, but am very motivated to change that. I live in Wyoming so I am stuck riding indoors for the next few months. So far I am psyched with the results. I have doubled my ride lengths to a whopping 13 miles and added 2 mp/h to my pace.

I am on a dumb trainer with an HRM cadence and speed sensors.

One thing I don’'t get is the climbing feature. I am just spinning the same but the shown speed results slow down to represent the slower progress associated with a climb.

Would it be a different experience if I was on a smart trainer that could change resistance?

Is there a way to better simulate the climb using a dumb trainer?

If simulating a climb is not possible on my trainer are there longer rides I can do that do not have climbs on them?

On smart trainers the resistance changes with the gradient so you have to change gears as well. It’s more like riding a real bike up a steep hill.

It is worth the extra expense. And if you are stuck riding indoors, you may as well build yourself a great pain-cave. :slight_smile:

I would likely upgrade to a smart trainer for next winter if this winter and next summer goes as planned and riding stays much as a focus as I plan.

I normally keep busy skiing in winter but did not buy a pass this year so biking is filling the gap.

Hi Jordan, welcome to the forum!

As Chris pointed out, there‘s no way Zwift can make a „dumb“trainer simulate a gradient change. You just get slower. But that doesn‘t have to be a disadvantage - you just need to pay very close attention to the gradient map and change gears in time, and you‘ll be fine to „stay in the pack“. You just miss the more realistic feeling you‘d have on a smart trainer.

Or you stick to the flat routes like „Tempus Fugit“ in Watopia - unfortunately there‘s not many of them.

smart trainer = automatically increases resistance so either a) you have to put out a LOT more power or b) you have to change into an easier gear (either way ur speed will drop on a hill if u dont increase power, just like in real life).

if you want the hill climb experience on a dumb trainer - just change into a harder gear and start pumping :smiley:


Here is list of other flat routes from my research. I am new to this all and am starting to find my way around the resources.

Sorry was not allowed to include a link but there is an article in zwift about flat race types.
The list includes

  • Watopia’s “Tempus Fugit”
  • Watopia’s “Volcano Flat”
  • “Greater London Flat”
  • Richmond’s “The Fan Flats”

A question about smart trainers. If I was to have a smart trainer and a hill came up, then resistance would increase and I would be forced to pedal harder or change gears. If I was to change gears to compensate for the “hill”:
Unless I also have something to change the incline, essentially I could be spinning at the same cadence with the same effort after changing gears?

If I understand your statement then the answer is Yes. A smart trainer simulate the terrain, therefore when you are climbing a 4% hill the trainer will apply resistance as if you are climbing a hill outside, so suddenly the 200w you were comfortable on the flat at 80RPM wont be possible and you will go down to 50rpm, but you can change gears to get back to 200w and 80RPM. If you like to pedal at 80rpm you can change to a lower gear and you will be able to climb at 80RPM (if you have the correct gearing)

With a dumb trainer you just do the opposite, when you get to a climb your speed will decrease if you don’t increase the power and maintain the 200w at 80RPM. So if you want to go faster up the climb you need to change to a harder gear (ie increase the resistance)


That’s right. On the dumb trainer you won’t feel the resistance change unless you do it yourself. It’s not as realistic.

While on Alpe you go from the nice easy 7% up to 14 % and with a smart trainer you quickly grab easier gears and spin up there (assuming you have the right gearing).

Riding lots and lots of ADZ this year has done wonders for fitness. Riding a dumb trainer on a flat course wouldn’t have achieved this for me I don’t think. I would have been bored.

hey ain’t nothing boring about a crit city romp :smiley:

Thanks guys. Maybe someday down the road I will be joining crits and climbing the Alps. For now I am just trying to get back into shape and feel I am “waisting” effort climbing hills while all I am doing is spinning at the same pace, while watching the olympics.

For sure the other cyclists and the challenge to close the gap on Zwift has helped me push myself but in reality I am so out of shape and to see all my effort being translated into a 4mph climb is disheartening.

My plan is to stick to the flat courses until I can pedal 30 miles in one outing, I am about half way there. Then i can start adding some climbs and other challenges.