Finally got a chance to ride Zwift! I just wanted to write some of my initial impressions.
Equipment: PowerTap 2nd Generation ANT+ on a dumb fluid trainer, Garmin Soft Strap HR Monitor, GSC 10 Speed/Cadence (used only for cadence as I didn’t have the speed magnet on my tire. PC: Laptop with i7 4500U, 12GB RAM, and Radeon 8750M graphics. I was riding in the garage and had wifi (which may not have had the best signal strength) but it was good enough to stream TV on my tablet in addition to Zwift on my laptop. I was using the Garmin mini USB stick along with USB extenders to run the ANT+ stick along my top tube and then stuck it in the strap of my saddle bag. I’m not sure if this was needed, but I have had trouble previously with my PowerTap and Garmin head unit, and I didn’t want to have to change things once I started riding. I set my laptop on top of a small pile of cardboard boxes, and put it in front of my front wheel.
When I started up the game, all my sensors paired really quickly. I made sure to give my wheel a few spins to wake up all the sensors. Zwift remembered my HR strap from the few times I was spectating while wearing it, and then I paired my other sensors which only took about 5 seconds.
When I was placed in the game, it seems like I was just thrown into the middle of the road. I was right next to another stationary cyclist and a couple of other riders were flying past us. I think it would make more sense if you were placed on the side of the road when you started, or if your rider was a ‘ghost’ until you start riding.
The first issue I ran into was the green jersey sprint. Being the first time riding the course, I didn’t know how long the sprint was or where it started. I assumed that it started at the first sign on the side of the road (300M), so I increased my effort and nothing really happened other than my in-game rider went crazy. I then backed off and the sprint started at the 200M sign. While I understand that’s it’s nice to have the 300M sign to give users a visual cue to start preparing for the sprint, I think that there should be a more obvious marker designating the start of the sprint section. I’m not sure what the best way to do this would be, but you could do something simple like putting a green line on the ground, making the 200M sign green, putting a green flag on top of it, or making a floating UI element similar to the ones over other riders’ heads. Of course I’m sure as you ride the same course hundreds of times the sprint points become 2nd nature, but once new courses are introduced, it will be nice to know where the sprint zone starts.
The next issue I encountered was drafting. I know this has been mentioned a lot before, but I figured I’d throw it in here. I think the biggest problem is the delay and possibly the game’s coasting mechanics (although I haven’t really played around with it enough). Typically when I draft someone, if I come to close to them I’ll just coast for a bit and then continue pedaling to keep the gap small. Trying to do the same thing in Zwift resulted in me getting dropped and then when using a little more effort to catch back up, just (accidentally) passing the rider in front. I also recorded my ride with my Garmin head unit, and I noticed that the 3s power field was much more stable than the Zwift in-game power number (which I expect is 1s and is totally expected to be more variable). I’m not sure if some type of averaging would help the drafting system, but just throwing my observations out there.
The next thing that happened was that a bird flew through my helmet. I feel bad for the little guy.
I think this was also mentioned before, but during some longer segments (mostly just KOM), the UI element on the bottom will cover up the names of the riders drafting you. I guess you could always look at the list on the right, but I have pretty poor vision and wasn’t able to make out the names on the list.
I also noticed that I got some achievements. I think it would be cool to have them listed somewhere. I know the out-of-game stuff is still being developed but I think adding them to the website dashboard area would be a great idea, and also listing all the incomplete achievements would be nice too, so we know what to work towards. Possibly also have progress indicators. So max power ones could show current max power and how far we have to go, and time/distance ones would show current time/distance spent riding. I typically unlocked them while I was sprinting which makes sense since I was putting out a lot of power, but it also kind of broke my focus. I think the pop up could last a little longer so I could read it after I finished my sprint effort.
I’m sure there are some other things I could write about, but I think I’m going to stop there for now. I really like this beta so far and look forward to some more rides on Zwift Island!