Does Zwift make you more crash-prone in the real-world?

I crashed yesterday; it was only the second time I’ve ridden outside since I started Zwifting five months ago. The first outside ride was the day before that. And prior to yesterday’s crash, I hadn’t crashed in many years.

I don’t know exactly what happened, but my front will slipped out from under me, probably because of wet leaves or something. But I’m pretty sure it happened because I wasn’t paying close attention, and in turn I think that’s because riding Zwift got me out of the close-attention habit.

Is this a common experience? What’s the best way to avoid it?

js

Unless you tried to ride thru someone, I don’t think Zwift Is to blame.
The roads (Midwest US) have a lot of sand and gravel on them making them slick.
You may be going faster because you’re in better form for the time of year.

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I had my first outside ride yesterday for 4 months. I must say I felt a little skitty and nervy and certainly wasn’t cornering as I would normally so yes I’d say there is a little mental blockage there.

Likewise I caught a decent sized stone on a bend and had a little wobble but it was low speed and the front end came back quickly.

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I’m a little ashamed to admit this, but one of the things I really like about Zwift is the almost total absence of actual physical danger. I might end up with a sore rear end or achy legs. But my chances of fracturing my skull or getting bloody road rash is pretty much zero. Especially now that it’s winter, the ability to get good quality training, without worrying about icy roads, or getting buzzed by a thoughtless motorist is a real boon.

I will say that I miss riding outside. And that I look forward to going back to it. But when I do, I can do so without worrying too much about adhering to a training regime. I can keep my concentration where it belongs: Enjoying the ride - and paying attention to the road and traffic.

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Lack of riding outside probably makes you more prone to incidents due to your lack of practice. I can’t see that it would make any difference whether you had been using Zwift over that break or not.

It would make sense to be more cautious on your first few outside rides until you get your brain back into the habit of concentrating more while riding, checking the road condition, sending what’s going on around you, etc.

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Thanks for all the replies!

Tim - Speed was not a factor. I was on a familiar bike path deliberately riding slower than normal. I’m not suggesting that Zwift makes one more prone to crash into things (bikes, trees,…); reacting to in-your-face danger is deeply ingrained, and I doubt any amount of Zwift time would weaken that. So it’s not about crashing into things, it’s about crashing because of being inattentive to details of the road condition. More on that below.

Stuart - At least you noticed it was a stone! :slight_smile:

Andrew - No shame! Zero danger has got to be a huge factor for many who race on Zwift. I’d never race IRL, but would on Zwift (if I were a stronger rider!).

Steve - Lack of practice is likely a factor in being crash-prone, but I do think that riding Zwift for six months is worse in that respect than doing nothing for six months. It’s one thing when your brain isn’t being reinforced by outdoor riding practice, but if you ride Zwift in the meantime your brain is being reinforced by riding practices that are decoupled from danger.

I think the main “culprit” in Zwift is that you don’t have to steer, and most don’t. Zwift bikes have a great autopilot, so you can ride for hours without paying much attention to the dynamics of riding (other than power). Because of auto-steer, you don’t have to pay attention to the road surface, so it’s easy to get in the habit of not doing so. Even if you have a Sterzo and ride with it enabled, which I do, you don’t have to steer - the autopilot takes over whenever you stop steering.

The only time I pay close attention to the road (or path) surface is on Repack Ridge, and that’s because you have to. Unlike elsewhere on Zwift, if you stop steering on Repack Ridge, you go off trail into the woods.

I’m not suggesting that Zwift is harmful to everyone in this way. Zwift can make you lazy if you let it, and I think I’m one of those people who unfortunately let it!

I have been out on the road since a week now, using the same bike that I use on Zwift. It felt completely normal and I noticed even some improvements after my first Zwift winter. I have the feeling my pedaling is a lot more ‘stable’ when compared to last fall. I think this is due to being really able to focus on a specific area when you are Zwifting.

On the road my attention is much more focused on scanning the road ahead and looking at what is happening around me. One thing I definitely did not miss outside was the constant sound of “ride on” :slight_smile:

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Hi Jereon - It’s great to hear that in your case Zwift improved your riding IRL without any downsides. I didn’t mean to imply that Zwift makes everyone inattentive when resuming riding IRL - just that it can be a problem for some people (not only me), and worth a forewarning. As for the soothing sound of “ride on,” there’s probably a Spotify track you could stream…

js

I mountain bike too and my first outdoor ride in a long time was offroad, didn’t notice any issues and I’d have thought they’d be exaggerated there.

Hi Ian - I’m not surprised that you didn’t notice any issues when mountain biking, since the danger of inattention is in your face. Similarly, riding Zwift’s Repack Ridge (with steering) forces you to focus.
js