There is a significant problem with trainer accuracy for serious racing. This does not just affect the very top level, but also racing for many who still take it seriously at lower levels, for example the ZRL.
Over time Zwift racing will become a bigger part of the racing lexicon, and the ‘it’s just a game’ rhetoric will become less and less valid. This of course is a huge opportunity for Zwift and the validity of racing on the platform needs to be taken seriously.
Currently power number validation is primarily proven by dual recording - using a second power meter (nearly always pedals or cranks) to show that the numbers match to a certain percentage.
This approach is fundamentally flawed for a number of reasons:
- pedal and crank PMs can usually be configured to match the trainer numbers with little effort, therefore just proving something that is already false
- a second power meter purely to prove the accuracy of a trainer is extremely cost prohibitive, particularly now more and more riders are using smart bikes
- newer trainers and smart bikes are usually factory calibrated. The onus should therefore be on the manufacturer for accuracy and not a significant cost to the rider
Personal example : I have a Tacx Neobike. I have power meters on my IRL TT bike and road bike. The neobike is factory calibrated. There is no way I am spending over £400 for hardware that proves the accuracy of another piece of hardware I have bought, where part of its sales pitch is its accuracy. Its non-sensical.
Second personal example: I know riders performing at a high level with matching dual recordings with inaccurate power numbers.
What I propose is a Zwift Trainer Verification Programme. For those newer factory calibrated trainers and smart bikes, manufacturers would need to certify these to Zwift standards. The certificate should last for an appropriate period of time.
For other trainers, you should be able to take the trainer to a local bike shop or mechanic, and have the trainer certified for accuracy. This would cost say £20-£30 and be valid for a year. Providers should quite quickly become available locally as it proves a nice business opportunity.
What Zwift would need to do is produce a protocol for proving the accuracy (maybe with Favero Assiomas or other proven accurate hardware), and a database of service providers. Certificates could be uploaded to zwift power (or zwift itself post-ZwiftPower)
This approach opens up a validation process for Zwift riders that want to take racing seriously, and of courses races not requiring validation can still take place.