Lower trainer difficulty for racing?

Hi Jim,

I’m not sure if I have read all your messages or miss read, them but I apologise if I have.
Saying that,
I think your idea would only be countered with Zwifters changing their gear set up.
If a Zwifter wanted to use a cadence of 95 as opposed to 65 to achieve the required 350 watts there is no way that Zwift or anyone can stop them.

All they would do would make the appropriate gear configurations, possibly even using a triple on the front, or custom making their own rear block and eventually differing blocks.

The really keen Zwifter racer, (not me) would eventually, if the put their mind to it know every gear setup for every Zwift race circuit and be happy to change their setup to get the win or placing.
The Zwift slider just means that ant Zwifter whatever there setup can have a usable set of gears to enjoy Zwift.
I totally get that many Zwifters want total realism, even more so on the racing side but in all honesty I feel it just won’t happen. (not that I can see)

I thought I had a great idea when I started Zwift racing. A Zwifter would go to their LBS to be weighed, height checked, power checked? gender checked LOL
but in reality it’s not going to happen.
The a biggest part of the problem I think is that the whole race system is weight based, which bears no reflection on real life, this is what need changing first in my mind.
Sorry to go on.

But you could. You have that option.

Trainer difficulty enables people to so something similar by making the hills less severe.

Admittedly, many people riding on Zwift could swap cassettes out on their Zwift bikes too; but as more people start buying smart bikes it ceases to be an option as far as I know.

I can imagine the next generation of smart bikes you could pick your own gear setup. Can’t see why not if there is the demand.

I do, or at least I did when I was racing, I had 3 sets of wheels with different gear ratios.

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I guess nobody should be able to use a dumb trainer with power meter, or a smart trainer that can only simulate 11 degrees…


Dumb trainers allow racers to fly over the tops of climbs while others using smart trainers have to change lots of gears if their difficulty is set too high and can get dropped on the downhill.


I’ve no doubt that some of the serious Zwift racers will have more than one setup.

There is no proper gearing for gradients over 10% at 167lbs…so the slider doesn’t change your gearing it changes the gradient…which is a major advantage…steady power and cadence is much less stressful than power spikes and cadence swings. Perhaps the answer is to create IRL Rules for certain events…in those races trainers must be on full realism. You better weigh 125lbs or have MTB gearing on your bike to spin 90rpms in Central Park, the Radio Tower, or the lower slopes of the Alpe. If the slider was an actual gear change you would pay a big penalty on flats and downhills which is not the case.


What about a triple chainring 56/48/34 with a 11/40 cassette.

I don’t see a lot of races on the Central park climb or Radio tower, most races is on the flatter parts.

The bigger issue is people sand bagging to stay in lower cats.

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There is some truth to what you say, but 100% isn’t the same on every trainer too. I do product testing for one of the trainer companies but I also ride the competing models. I did a ride today and at the same supposed difficulty percentage I was in 3 gear positions difference in the rear cassette at cruising speed. We need a common standard for what 100% means in my opinion.


The only time trainer difficulty actually matters for racing is when the gradient changes. If you have a constant gradient, everyone needs the same watts.

How a change in gradient matters is as you get a hill, the trainer changes resistance and essentially forces you to increase power, providing you with a solid platform to launch an attack uphill over those with lower difficulty setting, who need to spin up themselves and cant rely on the trainer as much. On the flipside, when you crest the hill, the opposite is true. Those with higher difficulty have to spin up to get the same speed going into a descent, and depending on the descent you lose significant watts over those on a lower setting as the resistance has essentially fallen off.


I think we can all agree that riding at 0% means resistance to the peddle is kept steady regardless of in game grade changes. This lack of resistance change means consistent cadence and wattage can be kept without changing gears. Conversely, the higher the difficulty percentage the greater the spectrum of resistance and the more gear shifting is required to maintain consistent cadence and wattages. There is lag time when changing gears to match grade changes especially when they are abrupt, this lag time has a cost. People riding at 0% absolutely have a competitive advantage.


Hi Micheal,
I think I agree with what you say.
I am wondering if you may have missed one point in that, the real possible advantage comes if the “Trainer Difficulty” is set not at 0% but at a % that allows the Zwifter to reach an incline and not have to change gear at all, or to have to increase cadence for the power required to make the climb This is because the trainer increases resistance for the Zwifter and so the Watts go up but the cadence stays the same.

ie on the flat to be able to put out X Watts at Y cadence, but on an incline to be able to put out X+ Watts, still at the preferred Y cadence.
Not sure I’m right, just a thought.

ps (not shouting)

Zwift has totally changed indoor training, it’s just that we humans are never happy, if you know what I mean.
Well I am, usually :slightly_smiling_face:

One last thought. At least we all have access to the “Trainer Difficulty” slider so from that racing point we are all on a level playing field with regards to its access and its choice to use it or not. I think there may be bigger racing issues to be fixed first.


Until they have to change to a higher gear in order to go up the hill with more power to stay with the group because their trainer doesn’t up the resistance on 0% difficulty. No competitive advantage there.


I agree with you, light resistance could be more of an advantage than no resistance. that’s a good point! No shifting and added watts on the hills.

i see your point. Maybe what would be best would be if race organizers had the ability to limit slider adjustment for their races. This way zwift wouldn’t be making a drastic change and riders would still have choice. If the concept catches on more organizers would do it, if not… business as usual.

The slider matters, but because IT IS a gradient/ gear changer.

At 100% you are going to be using your full range of gears to do a race going up anything with a serious climb. And if you are on rollers then you are doing a lot of gear changing and this can impact your performance. You can also drop your chain (did this in Tour of London).

If you ride at 0% then the gradient never changes. This means you can put it one gear and stay there the whole time. No gear changing. I know this as just before TdZ Stage 1 I snapped my rear derailleur cable and got stuck in my 11 cog. So I dropped the trainer difficulty to 0% and rode the whole thing in 50x11. I did great. Was super boring though (and hard).

Changing gears and changing cadence and rhythm impacts your performance. Especially true for those of us who are older (I am a veteran).

The only way to make it fair for races is level the playing field and have everyone ride on the same setting. Maybe vary this by category (A=100, B=75, etc.). They can then choose to ride whatever cassette they want.


So what about someone that ride a triple with a 11-34 cassette with Di2 shifters compared to 56/48 with 11-22 cassette with downtube shifters. Do you think it is fair.

If you think there is an advantage then set it on 0% and go race.

The fact that you have a 50 up front already make it that you can spin more on a climb than someone with a 56.

How do you account for different trainers, some trainers can only simulate up to 7% incline.


When you race in real life you are free to choose whatever equipment you want (within UCI regulations and budget). Want to race a triple? Go for it. But you are not able to flatten the course. Everyone does the same hills. Same descents. Racing in Zwift should have similar principles.

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No one is flattening the course, just reducing the resistance that the trainer has. If the trainer does not have enough resistance then you wont be able to generate the power to be competitive up the climb.

If you close your eyes IRL on a 12% climb with a 34 34 gear you would think wow this is a long 2% climb but if you do the same in a 56 11 on a 3% climb you would think this climb is super hard.