Gearing query - am I doing something wrong?

Apologies - I have posted about this before in someone else’s thread - but I do need some clear guidance from others before I go back to Wahoo for help (or not) and I’d like some thoughts please.

I ride on Zwift using a 5-month old Kickr Core, latest model at the time (20 edition?). For all other context, I run Zwift on a basic Android device, Samsung A20 (which works just fine). I am a bigger than average rider - 84 kgs - but when I started riding at Christmas I was 97 kgs. My FTP is 315w.

That’s all the context out of the way.

The problem I have got is that - perversely for a bigger rider - I find it so much easier to put power out going uphill than on the flats, and I find my best performances are on AdZ rather than Tempus Fugit.

I can bust out a 50 minute Alpe ascent, but I get dropped from the Bs all the time on the Champs-Elysses. Even at 97kgs, I’d be more likely to be dropped going downhill than uphill.

The reason for this is why I need the help. I think something is wrong somewhere:

The biggest gear on my bike is 50 x 13. This is the only gear I use on Zwift. If I use any smaller gear than I simply cannot generate the watts because there is insufficient resistance for me to push/pull against.

To be clear, there is still a decent amount of resistance, but the point I’m struggling to make is this.

Outside, in the real world, on the road, I will never be in my big gear. When cruising on the flat, sometimes I won’t even be in the big ring on the front! Pushing 50 x 13 on the road is virtually impossible for me; I just don’t have the strength to do it and if I do, I’ll be grinding away at 45 rpm. So, I ride in lower gears, as you would expect. The biggest gear is rarely used and only if I’m flying down a steep hill.

But on Zwift, those lower gears are just too easy for me in any sort of configuration. I am climbing 14% gradients in my 50 x 13 gear because that’s the only gear that gives me enough resistance to really push against. On the flats, it’s so hard to get the watts out even if my biggest gear because I feel like I should be a few gears up with more resistance.

So what I’m trying to work out is, is this normal or is something wrong here? Zwift is essentially a single gear experience for me, whereas I’m assuming I should be riding uphills in a smaller gear, changing into bigger gears when going downhill and so on (when not in erg mode). In over 5,000km of riding so far, 90+ races, I have not changed gear once.

Someone suggested workarounds involving setting headwind in the Wahoo app, but my assumption is that I shouldn’t need to workaround here.

I have posted about the ability to increase training resistance on the flats, but can I rule out something being not right either with my trainer or the app? It feels like I’m missing 2 or 3 extra gears, is what I’m saying, but 50 x 13 is not that small a big gear.

Or, conversely, can someone tell me this sounds entirely normal?

Have you calibrated your trainer in the Wahoo app?
Is your trainer updated to the latest firmware?
Is Zwift updated to the most recent version?
Is your trainer difficulty slider set at 100%?

Yes, all calibrated and regularly so - at least twice a week.

Yes, trainer on latest firmware.

Yes, latest version.

No, Trainer Difficulty not on 100%, but it has been previously. Currently at 40% but I’ve tried lots of different settings. But TD is a red herring as only affects uphill, not flat or downhill. If I set TD to 100% then I definitely do need to shift down on AdZ! But I still lack the resistance on the flats.

Hmmm. Have you tried using the trainer with any other apps? Perhaps it is a trainer issue, as opposed to a Zwift issue. Not having the trainer at 100% would seem to explain the issue with not having to change gears on the climbs (to an extent, anyway), but a 50x13 should be reasonable enough to stay with a group (maybe not an A group, but many groups) on the flats. What sort of speed does Zwift show you rolling at when pushing the 50x13 across that flats at, say, 90 rpm?

Definitely not normal. Something is very wrong at your end. Hopefully with help from the forum, you can work out what/where the problem is.

Is your weight and height set correctly in Zwift? Not to something crazy?

Do you have the wahoo app on the same device as Zwift? If so, try force closing it or even Uninstalling it.

Push the trainer difficulty up to 100%. Jump into Watopia and head out of downtown to the small KOM.

You should feel a big resistance change after going over the bridge as the terrain switches to 7-10%. If you don’t feel this change then your trainer is either;

  1. not paired as a controllable device
  2. not working correctly.

As noted on another comment, you should close your wahoo app before opening zwift. This can affect Zwift’s ability to pair your trainer as controllable.

At 90rpm, 50x13 I believe I’m going around 39 - 40kph in a group. But then again that doesn’t help very much; I find that I’m always going around 40kph whether I’m off the front on my own, in a group, at 80 rpm, 90 rpm, 100 rpm!

Weight and height definitely set correctly, but I’m going to double-check just to make sure.

Hi - my Wahoo app is on a different device. If I’m reading between the lines of your post correctly, I have the other device with bluetooth mode disabled while I’m riding using Zwift on my other app, as I found I kept getting interference and dropout. So, the device I ride with Zwift on does not have the wahoo app on it.

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Thank you - just tried this and I do get the resistance change. I can definitely feel the hills - going up the towards the radio tower climb is nasty!

The issue I’m trying to explain (which I’m doing a REALLY REALLY BAD JOB of!) is that when I’m going uphill, all is good: I can pump out 320 - 340w and there is lots of resistance to push against (e.g. there is no option to soft-pedal).

But on the flat, I can only generate 320w by REALLY putting major pressure into the pedals at 90+ rpm; I’m lacking a high level of resistance to work against to give me the power. If I had an extra gear or two then I think I would be able to achieve a much higher power output; at 90rpm I’m usually putting out around 270 - 280w on the flat; it’s the gradient and resistance that lets me hit the extra 40 - 50w.

To use a very old-school analogy; my style is very much Jan Ullrich grinder type: I tend to ride at a much lower RPM and push a bigger gear; so, 80rpm max for most events, but on AdZ climbing 60rpm at times, maybe even dropping down to 50 rpm (and dicing with the spiral of death).

On the flats, I can’t ride grinder-style because I just don’t get the power out in 50x13, even though on the road in real life, on the flat, that gear is nearly impossible to push because it’s too much of a grind, even for my style.

That probably made no sense, but I’ll try and take some photos to show it later.

So a quick further update to see if this is helpful, based on your responses earlier.

First off, I managed to find an extra gear. 50 x 13 was always my largest useable gear, but I managed to play around with my rear mech so I can use actual largest gear, which is 50 x 12.

Just now, I rode an event on the flat London Classique route. Virtually no climbs, except for a couple of uphill drags that hit around 4%.

As you can see, each time I hit the hill the gradient kicked in on the trainer and I had something to ‘work against’. As such, my power went up to around 320 - 330w as shown. You’ll notice how much of a grinder I am: mostly riding at between 72 and 78 rpm! You’ll also note I gave up after around 25 minutes because there was no point; I was pushing hard but getting barely enough power to maintain 2.0wkg, going backwards.

But once back on the flat, even in my largest gear, I just couldn’t get more than 260w on average out of my largest gear at 80rpm. I ended up just cruising, heart rate not even hitting 130, because there just wasn’t enough resistance to push against.

The thing is, there IS resistance. Workouts are fine in erg mode. And it feels like the resistance on climbs is no problem in races. It’s just the flats I can’t seem to put enough power down - and I’m still ‘grinding’ at a low RPM here, with not much excess strength to increase RPM. Yet, going up AdZ, I can average 320w. It just makes no sense. I’m wondering if it is me.

So, on your advice, I re-set up my Wahoo app and got some interesting results:

First off, the firmware is up to date.

But key here is: not only did I get error messages reading from the trainer, but I couldn’t do the spindown because it wasn’t picking this up.

Normally, I don’t even have the app installed; I do the spindown in the Zwift app on my other device and that seems to work fine. But on my iPhone which has the Wahoo app installed, I can detect my trainer and pair it, but there’s no data being read from it.

Might this be the issue?

Have you looked at settings on zwift to make sure your trainer is on full difficulty as it is set at half difficulty for new zwifters . Then you can adjust to what suit you best. .

Yes he has

Something definitely sounds a little off.

Like you, I am a heavier rider (93-95kg) with an FTP of 317, and while it is definitely easier to put out the watts on gradients (I have the TD set at 100% all the time) I can occasionally max out the wattage of my trainer (it is a Tacx Flow Smart and only goes to 800W) on the flat sprint in Tempus Fugit on a 50x11 gear, and can put out decent wattage on the flat if I put my mind to it.

I do, however, always ride the big ring (usually on the 5th gear of 8 on the cassette when climbing, as the trainer also maxes at 6%) where I would need the centre or even small ring when riding outside.

Apart from that the gradient and resistance changes feel fairly natural and reflect what I am seeing on screen pretty well.