First use, first impressions (MacOXS 10.10.1 2.8 GHz i7 4GB RAM)

(. The Labrador!) #1

First off well done on getting this together. Brilliant achievement. If only for getting so much VC funding for a turbo game :slight_smile:

What follows is a fairly haphazard list of observations, confusions and problems from my first 30 minute session. I’ll try and list them as chronologically and succinctly as I can. Apologies if these points have been raised before or if many of my suggestions are already being developed.

About me. UK based. Race and train with power. Long time user (and advocate of) Trainer Road. Using a standard Kurt Kinetic turbo with Quarq and ANT+ dongle and 2012 MacBook Pro.

Launching the app is flakey. There seem to be two parts launched from the single Zwift app. Zwift (with icon) and Zwift App (with a exec icon). Zwift App handles the ANT+ connections and the game but the Zwift application itself doesn’t seem to do anything. It’s a carousel of promo images and a ‘checking for update’ progress bar. I can quit the Zwift program to leave the Zwift app program running. Very odd.
Why are they separate and why is the profile on the desktop? I expect there are various technical reasons but it’s confusing as hell and akin to opening a restaurant with the toilet in a separate building down the street.

Next… I search for my powermeter (Quarq) but can’t calibrate (auto zero) it. Huh? That makes it next to useless if you’re trying to train properly. It definitely seemed to read high for RPE. I guess there’s a chance that the novelty of Zwift lulled me into thinking it wasn’t hurting like ‘normal’.

I just ride but then realise I’ve not entered any settings. I stop (press I’m done and the app quits!) to go to the desktop settings page. Why isn’t this in the app?

I enter my weight but not my FTP. When I’m ‘racing’ against someone else do you estimate speed based on Watts/KG or just watts?

I start again.

I couldn’t see the screen enough. The figures are tiny (I’m on a 13" MacBook) even though I’m relatively close to the screen. I strained to see my cadence.

I’ve read about power ups and pressing space to activate them. Really? Is that what you’re supposed to do? I’m close to the laptop but not close enough to touch space and even if I could a) I don’t want to be sweating all over my laptop and b) I want to train on the bike not be having to interact with the computer.

I had absolutely no idea what was going on on the right hand side of the screen. The little profile. The map pointers in orange and green. Who am I? Which direction is it going in? I realise the list of people is relative to me but is this a leaderboard or what? This list seemed to clear and rebuild a couple of times in the first few minutes.

Then the app hung and lost about a 10 minute ride.

I restarted again.

The overall environment is so dark. Why when it’s a virtual world wouldn’t it be always sunny? Is it based to run ‘real time’ to a particular system clock?

I ride past people and they seem to attach themselves to wheelsuck but why? There’s no advantage is there? Everyone was riding so slowly I couldn’t tell. I couldn’t help but zoom past people even at quite low power.

Do people just drop in and out at random? How can I tell how hard they’re working compared to me. How long they’ve been riding and how hard? I feel I need to see a real time % of FTP by each rider. And, if you’re going to be competitive, you really you need to know how much TSS a rider has accumulated within the world to know how fresh or not they are - don’t you?

I don’t understand the hills. Your virtual speed slows as you maintain constant watts - that makes sense - but because there’s no feedback to how it feels for you physically - the environment wasn’t such that I could visually tell I was climbing or starting a climb. Visually it’s better and clearer when descending.

The sprint points just appeared without warning. An audible 3…2…1 count (that you could turn on/off) would be handy but better visual clues would be the first start. How can you tell how long the effort is and how much you’ve completed vs the time. All I saw was a goal time (like a TT) and my time. The goal times set are the best times from riders all time or just the year / month / week / day - what?

There’s talk of AI riders but I can’t distinguish any. Everyone seems “real”

I really disliked hitting and riding ‘through’ another rider when overtaking them. I saw some riders zigzagging across the road - how?

I can’t use this for training at the moment. It’s not a viable alternative to Trainer Road. It’s a novelty. Good for a ‘free ride’ or a recovery but it absolutely has to have a library of structured workouts that you can ride alone or with just personally invited people (who you ride with in real life).

How can I turn off the sfx to play music from my laptop?

I want to be able to talk to people. Especially if I’m able to ride (virtually) with a group of real friends. I don’t want to wear a headset but use the mic (camera) from the laptop.

I’ll probably give it a few more sessions before I completely discount it but as I say, in its current state it’s not a training I’m able to use. Especially as I expect this will eventually require a paid subscription.

Apart from the forum there doesn’t seem to be any user guide or instructions that could answer the questions I have. Is there?

Would be great to get some feedback after taking the trouble to write all this out.



(Christopher Pallotta) #2

Charles, I’m also on a Mac and I agree with much of what you wrote, particularly the first section regarding interface problems, a lack of instructions, etc. I haven’t experienced many app crashing issues, so I can’t comment on that. Regarding the darkness, note that with your setup, you’re likely not getting the full visual experience. I’ve used Zwift on a new MacBook Air and a new Mac Pro and the visual difference is remarkable. Most Mac notebooks will only run the app in a low to medium graphics setting. More powerful setups will achieve high to ultra settings. Changing these settings is another problem with the app at this point, but improvements are coming.

Regarding power, entering your ftp is not necessary with the app at this point, because as you said there is no way to do structured training. What the app excels at, I believe, is simulating a race or group ride. Your performance is based on your power/watt ratio. Power is either done virtually, or from a power meter. Accuracy of different power meters and especially virtual power will naturally influence the accuracy of the results. Additionally, riders can manipulate the weight they input to have an advantage. You will see outliers with questionable numbers, but for the most part I think most riders are doing their best to be fair.

As I said, the app is great to simulate racing/riding others in a pack. And yes, there is an advantage to draft other riders. Just as in real life, you can strategize against others to get the best time on sprints, etc. Being highly competitive, I find I’m putting out far more power with less perceived effort with Zwift compared to any other indoor training I’ve done. I’ve done many miles on Virtual Training, TrainerRoad and with Sufferefest videos with my Kickr/SRM combo. The other tools are great and TR and SF offer structure. But, for me, they come nowhere close to simulating riding on real roads with real people the way Zwift does. I actually find the effect remarkable and beyond my expectations.

As you use the software more, you’ll begin to figure out what all the screen info means. For example, you asked about seeing others power/weight ratio and that’s actually shown next to each each rider’s name on the right. All those names are the people nearest to you. Your name will always be in the middle. People ahead of you are above you and those behind you are below. The display also indicates how many seconds you are ahead or behind each rider and the number of laps each rider has done.

As far as feedback for hillclimbing, a smart trainer such as the Kickr will increase or decrease resistance depending on the grade (indicated on the upper right). With a standard trainer, you won’t get this feedback, but as you noted, you will see changes in speed.

I also noticed on today’s ride that there were no virtual riders. Perhaps they’re not as necessary that there are more and more real Zwift riders on the island.

Zig zagging riders are supposedly caused by riders having issues connecting to the servers from poor internet connections, etc.

There’s no way to turn off just the sound effects on the Mac right now. I’m sure that will come with the official release along with a proper setup/config/instructions window at startup.

Talking with people is not possible at this time, but you can send messages to everyone on the island by typing M and entering a message.

(Christopher Pallotta) #3

Also, time goes by quickly on the island. Within the course of an hour, you will ride in both daylight and moonlight (and a headlight if you’re setup has the graphics horsepower).

(. The Labrador!) #4

Thanks for your reply. It’s interesting what you say about working harder within the game. There certainly was a much better sense of ‘riding’ watching a bike and feeling the wind from my fan. On reflection perhaps the power wasn’t so far out.

However after downloading the ride and uploading to CyclingAnalytics all the power and speed is junk. A 235kph max and average power for the ride at 35w with a 2000+w peak power. Uploading the file to Strava was fine but I can’t see the graph of power/time.

Working on the periphery of games dev myself it’s interesting to see how thy’ve focussed their efforts. At the moment it seems like the balance is too far skewed towards it being a game that you control by pedalling, rather than a training tool that offers motivational visuals and a layer of gamification. I’d suggest this is due to the background of the key dev staff - there’s more gamers than competitive cyclists. I’m curious as to the engine the game uses - Unity, Unreal, Natural Motion etc. or have they built their own custom engine?

The killer app is the lovechild of Zwift and TrainerRoad seamlessly integrated into Strava.

(Joel Dudgeon) #5

I know a lot of people are using TrainerRoad with Zwift; it’s not an integrated experience but it still serves as a distraction.

Displaying someone’s TSS isn’t going to mean much since many of us use multiple programs for training, so unless a TSS aggregate is taken from something like Strava, where rides from disparate sources are likely uploaded to, it’s not going to be accurate. As mentioned already, a person’s power output in w/kg is listed under their name on the right.

I’ve got a Quarq Elsa and a Kickr - I’ll never go back to just using a power meter during the winter. Having a smart trainer is just awesome and, depending on the program used to control it, can simulate hill- and wind- resistance quite realistically.

I think the developers are currently focused on getting the core algorithms sorted (e.g. zPower) and enabling support for as many trainers as possible. Down the road there will be training programs/workouts - I doubt they’ll compete with TR though - and more virtual routes, probably based on real routes. Most of the things you mention are refinements that will take place over time. It sounds like you want a finished product which Zwift is not, since it is currently in beta testing.

(. The Labrador!) #6

I think you’ve misunderstood TSS Joel. TSS is measured per ride. The accumulated TSS is typically averaged over 7 days and called Acute Training Load (ATL) and 42 days Chronic Training Load (CTL)

The TSS is going to mean something within each specific ride in the sense you know how hard someone has already worked although you’d need to allow someone to set their FTP to be able to calculate TSS in real time. Obviously if someone is fatigued from racing the day before that’s something that the system can’t (and probably shouldn’t) try and reflect. But just looking at laps ridden isn’t a good indicator of how much someone might have left in the tank.

My feedback was based on what I did and experienced as a first time user. I know it’s a beta. I don’t expect a finished product, and I’m not knocking it, but I would say this feels more like a high fidelity alpha rather than a beta which, to over simplify, I’d define as ‘feature complete but likely to still contain bugs & errors’.

(Simon Oxenham [VC10]) #7

Add a second ANT+ USB dongle and you can run TrainerRoad and Zwift together. What I would like to see is a Zwift workout mode that is triggered by your 3rd party training software of choice. For me that would be a TrainerRoad workout running in the background triggering the Zwift on screen graphics

I’d like the workout mode to use TrainingPeaks metrics, NP, TSS and IF, but I’m not sure I’m bothered about seeing anyone elses. If you’re riding round the island trying to keep within a group, just keep an eye on the w/kg of the riders around you. If it turns into a race you just need to stick to the rider in front like glue, especially on the downhills or it’s GAME OVER :wink:

There is a companion iOS app that will be available in the App Store shortly and an Android app that is available now. I have my iPhone mounted to a Quad Lock on my handlebars. The app gives you access to all the keyboard shortcuts including the on screen text messaging. If you want to chat to friends I’ve been using Skype


(Christopher Pallotta) #8

As far as speed/data being junk, I think a weakness of the concept is the “garbage in, garbage out” principle. I have complete confidence in the data I get from Zwift as I’m using a recently factory-calibrated SRM power meter that I zero-out before every session with my Garmin. Zwift is capturing data from that meter and that meter is more than accurate enough. Additionally, I’m using the same bike and power meter that I use on the road, so the Zwift data is apples-to-apples for my training. Speed in Zwift is a calculation of my weight, my power and the grade. There is no wind resistance taken into effect, so it doesn’t perfectly simulate the outdoors, but it’s accurate enough for these purposes. All users are subject to the same speed calculations, so as long as everyone is honest with their weight, speed performance within Zwift is accurate relative to other riders. People don’t train with speed, so how accurate it is to the real world is largely irrevelant. Getting speed reasonably close in Zwift, though, is important as I and many others track daily, weekly, monthly and yearly mileage in Strava, etc.

When not using a true power meter, I have far less confidence in the numbers that Zwift outputs. I’m confident that when I ride in Zwift with someone using a Powertap, Garmin, Stages or Quark meter that we’re working just about equally hard to achieve the same speed. With riders using virtual power or even the straight power output from a Kickr, I don’t feel this way. I myself, ride Zwift on a Kickr, but don’t use its grade control in Zwift because I know its power measuements are inaccurate (20-30 watts higher than SRM). Instead, I use the Kickr as a “dumb” trainer and connect to my power meter at startup instead of the Kickr. I’ve read that stimated power for users with no power meter can be fairly accurate, but my belief is that there are just too many variables there.

In the end, though, the only important thing for me and my training is that my data is good. Whether or not other riders in Zwift are working as hard for the same speed doesn’t really matter. There is no real podium. Nobody’s racing career is on the line. I’ll never meet most of these people. Riding in packs, sprinting against others, taking a break behind another rider. That all feels real enough for me with Zwift and no other indoor training comes close in those areas.

(. The Labrador!) #9

Thanks. Yes I’m using a Quarq so have faith in the data. I do think I need to auto zero the Quarq before the ride though. Currently not possible.

And I agree that virtual power can’t be compared with actual real measured power. I’d also agree that I’m suspicious of Kickr power values based on someone (who I know and have ridden with) recent FTP result.

But the point about the power from the file being junk in Cycling Analytics is still valid. It’s fine from the same file I’ve uploaded to Strava so I think it’s likely there’s something in the .fit file that CA’s site isn’t expecting which is causing the problem rather than the actual data that’s been recorded. I’ve written to David at CA to see if he can shed some light on the issue.
I’ve not tried converting the .fit file to a .tcx file and then uploading to see if that works. That’ll be the next step of investigation I guess.

Thanks Simon. Yes I think there’s a lot that can be done. It’s hard to know if the timeline for this. Are you involved with the company at all - you seem like a very active user.

At the moment my confusion is positive, in the sense that I want to get back on and try again to see if I can figure stuff out, rather than off-putting to the point where I can’t be arsed with it. But for the moment I’ll be using TR to train and keep the Zwift sessions short and recreational while I learn some more.

(Simon Oxenham [VC10]) #10

I wish I was Charles… I think they’re on to a winner

The .fit files load up into WKO+ okay so I’d send a file over to your man at CA

Have a go with a second ANT+ stick and TrainerRoad. I’ve been using both all winter and it’s been fantastic

(Joel Dudgeon) #11

“I think you’ve misunderstood TSS Joel. TSS is measured per ride. The accumulated TSS is typically averaged over 7 days and called Acute Training Load (ATL) and 42 days Chronic Training Load (CTL)”

I don’t think I misunderstood, you wrote:

“And, if you’re going to be competitive, you really you need to know how much TSS a rider has accumulated within the world to know how fresh or not they are - don’t you?”

If you noticed, I did say aggregate TSS. You can’t calculate a meaningful CTL/ATL or TSB without accounting for all sources of TSS points. As you’re aware, you can accumulate additional stress from cross training (e.g. running - rTSS, swimming - sTSS, etc.)

What I misunderstood was your intended use of TSS, though you did make it sound like you were talking about accumulated TSS and not a live calculation of TSS for a given ride. :slight_smile:

Displaying a rider’s TSS for a ride in progress sounds cool, but it might be more of a novelty, at least in my opinion. Firstly, unless the ride has been in progress for a while, TSS is going to fluctuate wildly, at least initially, so it won’t be a good indicator of how hard someone is training until the ride progresses.

Also, why does it matter what another rider’s TSS is for a current ride if you’re just hopping into the server to ride with random people? It doesn’t really hold any relevance, at least for me, because that random person probably doesn’t know I’m trying to compete against them; most people hopping on the server are doing their own thing with sporadic bouts of competition. :slight_smile:

For an organized race or team ride, it might be a somewhat interesting metric to see TSS calculated live but, once again, it won’t initially be an accurate representation of a rider’s effort until the ride progresses.

As for beta versus alpha, Zwift is much more along the lines of an early beta release than at the alpha stage but still has many aspects of software in the alpha stage. As an enterprise software developer myself, the software we develop is generally never presented to internal clients at an alpha stage - only testing groups get access to the software. This is more due to internal policy though which restricts agile development practices, where frequent builds and involvement of clients are common practices. I also think the term beta has been bastardized over the years thanks to indie-developers using the term so loosely. :slight_smile:

(Joel Dudgeon) #12

@Christopher Pallotta

Your Kickr is off by 20-30w? My Kickr reads about 5w higher, mid-ride, than my Quarq ELSA - assuming I’ve calibrated my Quarq after the basement heats up. :slight_smile: I’ve heard the Kickr can drift over time as it warms up but didn’t think it would be that much. My Quarq is off the bike at the moment but I’ll have to check this out near the end of a ride sometime.

(Christopher Pallotta) #13

Joel, yes, my Kickr is off by that amount compared to both my Stages and SRM meters. This is after using the calibration kit and spindowns after a warm-up. Others have better results with their Kickrs, but there are many experiencing the same 20-30 watt differences in addition to drift and accuracy shifts at differing RPMs. I guess it’s to be expected considering a decent power meter generally costs the same or more as an entire Kickr.

A solution is on the horizon, though, as Wahoo is developing a new firmware for the Kickr which will allow it to be controlled by another power meter such as Quark, SRM, etc. I’ve done some beta testing for this, and it’s all very promising. So, in the future we should be able to have Zwift and Trainer Road control a Kickr’s resistance based on more accurate power meters than it has internally.

With TrainerRoad you can now come close to this as you can adjust the settings to control the Kickr, but display and record data from another power meter. It won’t at this time, however, make the Kickr actually follow the other meter. If Trainer Road wants you to put out 300 watts, it will only do it based on what the Kickr thinks is 300 watts. When Wahoo issues the update and Trainer Road integrates the functionality into their software, the Kickr will be adjusted to create a resistance that equals 300 watts based on your “real” power meter.

(Joel Dudgeon) #14

@Christopher Pallotta

I saw that info posted over here:

I didn’t really understand the relevance at the time, but if the Kickr is off by that much and is somewhat inconsistent then yeah, having a “real” power meter feed the Kickr power info is a great idea! I wonder how long before that firmware is released…

(Marc Stegger) #15

Great writeup and highlights all the things (and more!) than what caught my eye when I launched it for the first time yesterday. While i enjoyed the experience and powering up the climb to try and catch the KOM it is quite difficult to use if for structured training.
And how do I easily find people to do lets say structured high power laps around the island? As you mention, a lot of people just seem to ride with really lower power - would be great if you could easily tick off you wanted to do faster endurance laps, target KOMs etc and group up with like-minded rider there.

(Simon Oxenham [VC10]) #16

There are organised rides on Facebook… Zwift Riders is the US group and UK Zwifters is the UK group. There’s also a Zwift and UK Zwifters on Strava

With two USB2 ANT+ sticks it’s very easy to run TrainerRoad at the bottom of the Zwift screen… I’ve been doing that all winter

I never have a problem finding people to ride with. Groups naturally form as slower riders grab a tow or you jump on riders wheels as they come past…