That could be the graph of my best buddy. He´s been on Zwift for about 5 years (he brought me to Zwift). We sometimes visit each other to watch the other one race. I noticed that his racing style is strange: Full sprint, then full stop, then full sprint and so on. I pointed that out to him. He said: “I know, I would never do that IRL, but for some reason it works better on Zwift than constant pedaling.” He knows nothing about sticky watts, he absolutely doesn´t want to cheat, he just realized that this works well for him. If he got a DQ he would have absolutely no idea why. Is he to blame or is Zwift to blame?
Good question. I guess he doesn´t do it IRL because no one rides that way so he would be in trouble. He said that on Zwift it takes less effort to stay in a group with his technique than with constant pedaling.
I guess everyone knows for sure that he´s cheating when he changes his metrics deliberately. But is it cheating when you have no idea that your trainer´s behaviour on Zwift is not as it should be and different to other trainers? It says nothing about this in any manual or Zwift FAQ. I bet 99% of the users of the affected trainers have absolutely no idea that they are “cheating”.
It’s likely not sticky watts, and is micro-sprinting (The power doesn’t flat line at the top, but it is more efficient/effective to sprint and rest than consistently pedal. Which is of course is nonsense in real-life. Microsprints can be done on any trainer, Sticky watts is only effective on certain trainers). It’s a flaw of Zwift physics that desperately needs fixing.
I believe I have seen it written somewhere (maybe WTRL rules?) that abnormal pedalling techniques are considered cheating.
This is the big issue originating from a general lack of action combined with the explicit motivation for Zwifters to report fellow riders they suspect of cheating.
But let’s at least try to separate “Sticky Watts” and “Micro-Bursts/Sprints”, which as I understand it are two different things. Sticky Watts gives you ‘free’ Watts and only applies to certain pedal-based PMs. It is definitely not-allowed, as the way it works overlaps with the ‘pairing screen bug’. Zwift was fairly explicit in notifying everyone that it was not allowed to use that to gain an unfair advantage either. The big difference between Sticky Watts and Micro-Bursts is that if you were to dual record, a ‘Sticky-Watter’ would produce two entirely different power curves (due to the free Watts that were hanging), while a “Micro-Burster” would produce two identical power curves. Sticky Watts per definition requires micro-bursting to trigger the cheat/exploit, but not all micro-bursts leads to sticky watts. Just like a thumb is always a finger, but not each finger is a thumb.
As to the question if micro-bursting provides an advantage due to the way Zwift translates power input to speed, that I don’t have a strong opinion about as I have never tried it. Nor do I know if it something that can be solved as easily as the change of height/weight while in an event.
This may be true. Still at best it would give you free speed, not free watts. The primary reason I think they need to be separated is that both may require a different ‘fix’, because they work slightly differently. And hopefully both can be addressed by Zwift.
I came across this and sums up quite a fair bit of racing on Zwift and micro-sprinting…
“Your avatar is really affected by the riders immediately around you,” Stephens says. “If you just go 20 watts harder than those around you, you won’t move up in the group. So I started doing these micro-sprints, taking two really hard pedal strokes, to move up in the group when I needed to. Then I could settle in and stay there.”
There we have it where micro-sprinting is even mentioned in a major cycling magazine . Guess we don’t need to look far and wide how the idea came about when supported in mass media.