Introducing Climb Portal Elevation Scaling [December 2023]

With the release of Zwift game version 1.54, we’re pleased to announce the next phase of the Climb Portal feature: Elevation Scaling.

This feature allows you to reduce the meters / feet climbed by 75%, or 50%, or increase it to 125% after you’ve ridden at 100% at least once. By changing the elevation, you alter the gradient of the climb. You might remember this formula from geometry class:

  • Elevation Scaling directly alters the Rise in this equation.
  • A gradient change and corresponding change in resistance are secondary effects.
  • The distance of the Portal route does not change.

As you ride the Climb Portal - you’ll see others with an icon that shows if they’re riding at 125%, 75%, or 50%. You may be passing others because you’re a faster climber, they’re using a more challenging setting, or both.

Q: Will the slope of the road look flatter if I reduce the elevation?
A: No. For this iteration in game version 1.54, the slope of the road will look like the full (100%) gradient, but the resistance will match the elevation scale you choose.

Q: Is Elevation Scaling the same as Trainer Difficulty?
A: No. Trainer Difficulty does not change the elevation of the route. The meters / feet you climb are not altered.

Q: What does the Trainer Difficulty setting do on climbs?
A: Trainer Difficulty adjusts the perceived gradient of all routes and worlds by X%. Your smart trainer’s Resistance signal must be paired to Zwift, and used in simulator (SIM) mode for Trainer Difficulty to have any effect.

The default Trainer Difficulty setting is in the middle of the slider at 50%. A 10% hill will feel like 5% while climbing.

If your Difficulty setting slider is set all the way to the right at 100%, the resistance you feel on a 10% climb will be in full force…

Q: What does the Trainer Difficulty setting do on descents?
The resistance value we send to the trainer on downhills is always half of the actual gradient. The Trainer Difficulty default setting of 50% scales that resistance further.

Q: Where do I adjust the Trainer Difficulty setting?
A: In the game’s settings menu. The menu is context-aware, and will show you the Trainer Difficulty once your smart trainer’s Resistance signal is paired.

Q: Will the compounded effects of Elevation Scaling and Trainer Difficulty be felt at the same time?
A: Yes, while riding Climb Portal routes. Elevation Scaling works only while in the Portal.

Q: How will scaled-elevation Portal rides save to Strava?
A: Strava will note that this was a gamified ride, and also note you rode at 50% / 75% / 100% / 125% of the elevation in the activity title.

In Challenges where Strava is the official record-keeper (like the Rapha Festive 500), if you choose a Climb Portal route - ride at 100% or 125% scale. Portal routes correspond to GPS coordinates of the IRL climbs. So that an indoor ride matches the effort on the IRL climb outdoors, the Portal session should be ridden at full elevation in Strava-managed Challenges.

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A quick note: we’ll enable this feature on the server later today.

UPDATE December 5
This feature is enabled server-side for Zwifters using game version 1.54.

  • We’ve begun phased rollout of game v 1.54 today for Windows / macOS / Android.
  • Phased rollout to iOS / tvOS devices begins tomorrow.
  • Thank you for your patience - barring any unforeseen issues, Climb Portal Elevation Scaling should be available on all devices by Thursday / Friday (depending on your local time zone)

Is the issue with incorrect powerup granting in climb portals when entered from a free ride fixed?

Checking with the team, stand by.

UPDATE: Not fixed in 1.54.

UPDATE: DECEMBER 6
@calfzilla The fix is being worked on and will be released as soon as we can. Thanks for your patience.

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Has this changed? Back in 2020 when GPLama did this video, the descent simulation was only 50% of the “real” gradient. So a -10% descent was simulated as -5%. At a TD of 50%, that -10% descent was simulated as -2.5%.

So on that understanding, a -15% descent should feel like -3.75% at a 50% TD.

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An important additional detail, per Zwift Insider (emphasis mine): if you ride a 50% or 75% scaled version of your climb during an activity, your entire activity will be tagged as “gamified,” and all Strava segments will be excluded. So if you want your activity to match with Strava segments, don’t mix in a scaled climb portal effort!

Well that’s good, otherwise scaled riders would take all the KOMs easily.

@Daren Thanks for asking. We went deep into the rabbit hole to check, and you and the esteemed Mr. Lama are correct. I made some corrections to my OP.

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Slightly off topic, but can the Gamified tag be applied to other ride types? Rubber band rides, zPower, any activity that triggers a cone of shame. Anything to try to keep the strava leaderboards as clean as possible.
And getting into wishful thinking here, could it be applied retroactively?

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at half the gradient, right?

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The rabbit hole is now half the gradient in most places. :grin: It makes it easier to get out.

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If you have ridden all the climbs previously (original 100%), do you have to ride them again at (offical) 100% before you can scale them up? How does that work? It wasn’t clear.

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No, you don’t have to ride them again.

Do the climb portal badges, 25x etc, only count
100% rides ?

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So i logged in tonight. Looks like i do have to ride them all again. Only one that counted was Old La Honda which i did this week (at 100%) not knowing at the time what that meant. Boo. Seems like an extraneous hoop to jump through for us

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When there is a short climb in the mix I now think Elevation Scaling on a climb portal is the best way to get XP. This is because there are still 10 arches to go under no matter how short the ride is, and with 50% scaling you can go uphill pretty quickly - there’s no in game incentive to use the higher gradient as far as I can tell - which seems odd to me, but here we are.

I just did 3 laps of Old La Honda at 50% in an 1h5mins or so all in endurance zone with a bit of tempo on the last lap.

In those 3 laps I got:

  • 3x250xp bonus: 750XP
  • 18x10xp bonus: 180XP
  • 36km (20xp/km): 720XP

What I don’t know is if I got super lucky getting 3 250xp bonuses, or if that’s typical.

So that is 1,650XP for just over an hour of effort. Now I did push on the pedals on my last descent (so total ride time was closer to 1h15min), but I could have just let the avatar coast down that last time.

As a comparison, with Coco doing 41km/h you can get 1,025XP for 1h15mins.

This doesn’t work on long climb portals, just short ones you can lap a few times in an hour. I’ll probably keep an eye out for climb portals that I can scale and do 3 laps in an hour until I get the fire socks.

That’s odd - I just checked, and the Cote de Pike is showing as completed for me at 100%, and I rode that back in June.
I rode Old La Honda at the beginning of the month, and it shows as 100% complete also.

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Would be good to get an official word from zwift on this. I contact zwift support to get credit for climb portal climbs that I did but they said we have to wait for official word from zwift to know if they should even count for climbs done before this completion tracking come out this week.

This climb portal elevation scaling, is the idea encourage the riders to use 100% trainer difficulty with portal climbs or what it was the idea of this ?.