I’ve recently participated in a couple of races which have left me particularly frustrated with the way drafting is implemented in Zwift. While I understand that Zwift is a game, it is also supposed to imerse us in a life-like riding experience, and the current drafting algorithm is a constant reminder that we are not really riding.
The standard draft, we have learned, is something like 50% of reality, and includes “stickyness” to help riders stay together. I can see how this approach might have some benefits in social riding, but it is nothing but annoying in a race as you continually get “stuck” to slower riders and have to drasticly increase power to break free. Each of those efforts burns a match that you would not need to use IRL, and eventually you run out of matches.
Recently we have seen the introduction of Double Draft/Real Draft/True Draft, but this also bears little resemblance to drafting in real life. Riding a flat road in the middle of a large pack of riders at 35-40 kph I should be able to hold my position soft pedaling at less than 100 watts. In Zwift I have to keep the power at 250-300 watts or I’m quickly out the back of the peloton.
Can drafting in Zwift please be made more like real life? Perhaps at least for racing?
Change or remove stickyness.
Stickiness should only apply if the rider behind would be going slower than the rider ahead in the absence of any draft. If the rider behind puts in just enough more watts that they would be moving faster than the rider ahead (in the absence of any draft) they should gradually move on by.
The strength of stickiness should also decrease as the draft effect decreases. If the draft effect drops below a reasonable threshold (say, 5 watts benefit) then stickiness should go to zero. When riding up a steep slope at 8 kph I should not get stuck to other riders.
This archived post contains a link to a video showing what should NOT happen. (Video by Wes Salmon, no less.)
Better yet, just get rid of stickiness and make the draft more realistic.
Make the draft uniform across the road.
Since we have no control over our lateral position, make the draft dependent only on our distance behind the riders ahead. If the Zwift application decides to move our avatar left or right we should not suffer the consequence of getting kicked out of the draft. So make the draft equal across the width of the road. Or give us some left/right control over our avatars.
Make the draft global.
At the moment, the draft seems to be tied to a single rider ahead. Even in a large, dense blob the “Close the Gap” message is popping up every few seconds and my avatar keeps moving between the drops and the hoods. There is no way the draft benefit I’m getting should be changing like that simply because a rider ahead in the pack moved 12 inches forward/back or left/right.
Increase the strength of the group draft.
The strength of the draft in a large group is far too low. If I’m in the middle of a pack, I should be able to keep my position while getting some recovery time. If I hammer to catch a group up the road, when I catch them there should be immediate relief and the opportunity to sit on the back and get the lactic acid out of my legs. In the current drafting algorithms, even DoubleDraft, there’s not enough draft benefit to recover.
The study below has been linked before, but I’ll include it here for reference.
The numbers are the drag force as a percentage of the drag force of an isolated cyclist riding at the same speed.