Ok - drafting is not bad in Zwift, but I find the way it works creates some Zwift-specific pack dynamics that detract from their “realism” for me.
Specifically, zwift packs tend to be blobs that surge, stretching and contracting fairly abruptly sometimes. It’s easy to “accidentally” hit the front of the pack, slow down, and get spit out the back because the pack “squished” together right as you are going back.
One of the dynamics that’s also lacking is the single-file strung out pack.
I think the reason for both of these dynamics is the fact that the game automatically pops you into the wind if you’re going too fast to stay behind the rider ahead of you.
It causes contractions because it’s possible for large number of people to be moving forward all at once.
It prevents the lined-out pack, because the rider trying to hang on can get easily lose the draft by going a little too hard trying to stay on the wheel. Once they get popped out of line and lose the draft, they’re done for - meaning zwift packs also shatter more easily than real packs.
Imagine, for a moment, that the game didn’t do that for you: Instead, you would have to hit a button to pull out into the wind to the left or the right (e.g., left and right arrows). If you put in too much power, it would just get wasted - but you wouldn’t pull out from behind the wheel you’re following.
If someone is ahead of you to the left/right you would pick up their draft. If there is nobody there, you’d be in the wind.
If you’re forced to use this dynamic to move up in the pack, I think it would lead to people staying in the draft more, leading to a more stable pack.
I suppose an issue would be jumping onto the wheels of a train that’s passing you - there would have to be some rules about whether you could “butt in” or not.
It might make sense to have this be a voluntary setting too - as a wheelsucker, I’d probably want it turned on, but others may want to be able to hammer to the front with no obstruction. I guess an alternate implementation would be to make this a toggle - be able to turn off the “auto pop out” for a while to stay in the pack and then turn it on to move up.