Paceline Dynamics more realistic to encourage working together

I noticed a number of prior discussions about improving the dynamics in a paceline. But no one mentioned that one of the biggest attractions to cycling is working together as a pack. As a former Cat 2 cyclist from the 80’s that can no longer do real life group rides due to balance issues, what I miss the most is that quality of drafting in real life. It’s not just leading out a break to show off to other riders. It’s being able to suck wheel because you’re not as good as others in the pack. It’s other people slowing down a bit to keep you in the pack knowing that the pack is faster if they keep more riders in the group. I enjoy riding in the packs that occasionally form in Zwift but it’s just not as friendly as in real life and I think part of the reason is that the dynamics are off. I realize that many of the riders in Zwift may not understand the real life experience of pack riding, so they might not care if they drop other riders and, in fact, might think that dropping others is what Zwift is all about.

Are you riding in Zwift TTT races? Look up WTRL TTT if not, it’s all about teamwork and drafting. And it’s very friendly.

Encouraging working together would be nice, if it actually worked. But there are a ton of people on Zwift who are proud of the fact that they will never ever work with anyone in a break. Not just me projecting–they’ll say it, in so many words.

What Zwift needs is a checkbox in your profile that says “Will Work With Others?” And when you check that, a little symbol appears on the rider list, alongside the icons that show whether you’re using the Comp App or in a workout. Then you can just tell at a glance whether you should bother trying to work with whoever you find yourself with. People could check or uncheck it as their attitude mandates from day to day.

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Sounds like OP either needs to be on the lookout for a [good] group ride (there are bad ones, so don’t be afraid to try a few different club’s rides), or indeed, TTT if wanting to race (WTRL TTT).

That said, do note that if you’re saying you expect your avatar to fall properly into a paceline at any given moment, this is still a bit of a mess in Zwift, especially if other folks have steering, and you do not for example.

But, it sounds to me more like you want a more aggressive group ride, than a race.

A massive majority of Zwift’s races are solo, and people treat them as such (which is why I extremely rarely do them unless another teammate wants to).
Finding a series, league, or club, should in theory answer your complaints.

It feels like the dynamics of Zwift drafting is way off compared to real life. In real life, like it or not, a not so good rider like myself can ride with better riders. The dynamics of real life drafting tends to form groups just from the physics of it. But in Zwift it feels harder to stay in the pack and too easy to fall off the back. In real life it’s easier to tow a slower rider back to the pack. I really miss that. The challenge and satisfaction of holding a group together. Forty years ago and the moments I remember most about those real life group rides and races weren’t winning or dropping other riders but bridging gaps and returning the favor of other riders who helped me when I got dropped. It just seems like the social dynamics of riding in a group could be drastically improved if they would tweak the dynamics to be like real life.

I’ve made the same point before. I’ve been in the middle of large packs doing 30mph and never broke a sweat, the draft is incredible.

Ah okay, I understand what you mean then. Your assessment is correct.

At the end of the day however, Zwift is not trying to replicate real life, at its core it is foremost a workout program, and is designed around that.

It attempts to be engaging in several ways, and generally speaking has some “physics” that try to make it somewhat realistic in some aspects, but probably less than 50% to real life (all things considered here, not purely draft ie: climbing speeds, descent speeds… the fact that everyone goes incredibly fast to begin with).

Unfortunately, I wouldn’t expect any of this to change, as it isn’t what Zwift is aiming for. Some other programs may have more accurate to real life drafting, I have no idea, but Zwift is very limited in this aspect, and essentially tries to balance everyone to an equal effort (except those in front of a group / paceline).

Zwift has draft, but no, it’s nothing like real life which allows you to save some dramatic number.

But the reality is, it’s taken the programmers basically all of Zwift’s life to come to where we are now, which is actually the MOST draft Zwift has ever offered.
25%, 32%, 37%, in 2nd, 3rd, 4th positions.

Back in the days of PD3 and prior, it was 17%, 25%, 29% (but pack speeds were incredibly fast due to avatar churning.)

So I guess the “unfortunate reality” is, you aren’t going to get what you want from Zwift, as it isn’t designed for you to get to ride with incredibly strong folk, like you can outdoors; you have to ride with folks that are roughly the same speed as you. There are alternatives to this (banded rides which are… gross [speaking of physics breaking and confusing]), but generally not engaging.


As line break, this is why some folks have argued for a split physics engine, one that is more accurate in this manner, specifically for racing… but I don’t see that ever happening, as that just adds overall confusion.


I would still however continue to say that it does sound like you want to do races that involve teamwork, which series like that do exist, like WTRL TTT, Ladder Series, among more that I likely don’t know exist. Or just plain [good] group rides that involve working together.
Zwift used to have chase races, that I thoroughly enjoyed, but were generally A’s chasing C’s, no idea if those exist anymore, but those obviously involved teamwork of everyone to work together to run away, otherwise there was no chance of survival.

Some of my most enjoyed races were those chase races, one in particular I remember we had to climb Volcano at the end (which has that super steep climb before the arch), and I literally made it to that super steep section after blowing the doors off the group on the climb, as I watched the map on Companion and saw the A’s coming up to us Got to that steep section at what, 50m or less, and the lead A rider caught me… super fun stuff.

Beyond that, unfortunately, Zwift isn’t designed to allow say someone like myself, 60kg with 230w FTP ride with one of my strongest club teammates who is 84kg with a 400w FTP
Which… outdoors on the flat, I very likely could sit behind him at some unreasonable speed I myself am incapable of going (within reason of course).
But on Zwift, no… no I can’t keep up with him at all LOL, not even for a minute.
In fact, even for reference for reference from the WTRL TTT page, his average speed is 5kmh faster than my teams’…

Maybe a hot take, but it seems like 99% of the problems with dynamics are essentially workarounds for the fundamental design choice to allow people to ride through each other. If that design choice were changed, most of the intractable problems with pack dynamics would become solvable and a lot of weird hacks could be binned.

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I’m not so sure - you saw the outrage when folks saw an ‘auto-brake’ indicator for a millisecond when they were braked mid-pack. In order to enable real collisions you’d need a lot more of that I would presume.

The other issue is there are multiple scenarios in Zwift and they want one model to serve both - for instance racing and pace partners. Moving from the back to catch back up to a pace partner, or to get through a large pace partner pack would be pretty chaotic with collisions etc.

Do you really think it’s that bad? Genuinely asking, because I’ve not really ridden outdoors enough to be able to tell the difference. If the effort I’ve put into Zwift over the past 7ish years has been less effort than I would have needed to do it outdoors, I feel kind of cheated. Zwift has been great for me, I just don’t want to have been riding to so much and not being told what my effort actually translates to. I don’t care if my effort would produce lower miles, etc. IRL, I just want to know what is really the case. I definitely agree that it is easier on Zwift than outside, but I just hoped it wasn’t… that bad. It didn’t seem like that much. Specifically paging @DavidP
#bringbackPD4.1

Bad certainly wouldn’t be my choice of words; unrealistic it may be, but I don’t think it’s bad.

I understand what it’s after and trying to accomplish; and having unrealistic physics is just a small aspect of that.

If it makes you feel any better, I started Zwift in June 2021, and I didn’t ride outdoors with a group of folks until ~ June of this year… so 2 years on Zwift, with virtually zero experience of being on a bike since I was a child.

As you can imagine I’ve become decently strong over those past few years, but my problem then that I realized with group rides and becoming comfortable on the roads outdoors was… while I was certainly strong enough to sit in the front of my locals (too strong for most of them really, for the paces I like to ride at at least)…
I never knew where I was going LOL! So I’ve always had to sit behind them.

But generally speaking, yes, Zwift is pretty far from real world, and … personally I’m fine with it.

Restricting yourself to trying to recreate something in a simulator aspect of trying to be accurate to life is certainly a choice anyone can make.

But gamifying things and allowing for more opportunities is certainly a good choice too.

I’ve got teammates that I know would absolutely crush me instantly outdoors, but indoors I can keep up, and sometimes even beat them; which is fun.

The speed thing is a bit of a weird one though; their old (or continued but in the background) saying was “Fun is Fast”, but I know I cannot hold the speeds I go in Zwift outdoors… Unfortunately I don’t think they can really fix this anymore because folks are so used to it.
Watopia could’ve been shrunk in size so a decrease in speed didn’t change how long it would take to ride across it, but is that what anyone would want? I have no idea. It’s kind of a dangerous / touchy subject for most folks when talking about Pack Dynamics. So it’s just one of those things that is what it is, a choice was made early on and it basically has to stick, at the cost of for whatever reason likely upsetting a huge portion of the community (for a number… I know… silly).


Speaking of outdoor riding though; and me starting on Zwift, I had become so accostumed to watts, w/kg, power stats in general… and being relatively new, I kind of assumed it was a bit commonplace in the outdoor world as well; as of course all of this stuff is required to ride on Zwift.

So low and behold my first outdoor rides with my local group (and this is the norm by the way), they were saying what speeds they were aiming for.

So me being naive in part thanks to “modern” tech and Zwift, I was like… what on earth does 16mph mean? 19mph?

In a car 16-19mph is imperceivable if you ask me… so I had no concept of what the intention was of them referring to anything in this manner, and again, only having very few rides outdoors just roaming around the neighborhood to make sure I wouldn’t topple over when unclipping. But even then, I was never looking at speeds… why would I? I had been on Zwift for all these years, looking at watts! So I always had a power meter and watts showing on my Garmin, because that’s what I was used to!

And of course outdoors for most local groups they’ll refer to their groups as “A or B” (etc), and me at the time being a C on Zwift, I’m trying to figure out what any of this meant; but of course all of my locals are twice my age (don’t be fooled by age though, plenty of ripping fast old folks out there! I’ve learned that one indoors and outdoors).

I ended up not riding with them until about July of this year, but kept up with their chat in hopes to join eventually.

So my first actual group ride outdoors was actually a group ride leader here on Zwift, who is an hour or so away from me, so I joined him. I have no expectations right, I have no way to compare myself coming from being indoors crushed by all the fast folks on Zwift… So I show up, and my buddy is like, you’re with me, we’re in the fast group.

I’m sitting there like… what do you mean… I’m in the fast group???
He’s like, yeah just hang out in the back you’ll be fine, you’re probably faster than almost everyone here… great… nice ego boost LOL. The worst thing that could’ve happened that day would’ve been falling over, which… I came very close too… twice actually, but fortunately didn’t…
Sadly I didn’t check my power meters’ battery was dead that day, but I ended up joining him again on July 4th for a ride then (after this ride I joined my locals after feeling much more comfortable).

But going back and looking at my stats for that 4th of July ride, despite having a decent average speed of 19mph over 2.5 hours and 2000ft climbing… power wise it was basically nothing, because it was such a huge group and I was mostly sitting in the middle of it. And when I mean nothing… I mean, I averaged 111w, normalized 149w, which is… Z0 for me.

All of that said… the biggest difference between indoors and out that I still notice, is the difference in HR.

Some folks have a lower HR outdoors, some have a much higher HR outdoors (me), whether it be anxiety, stress, fear, etc. That’s probably the one big thing I noticed personally about riding outside.

The draft I guess I was kind of expecting personally, coming from cars and racing and better understanding how much aerodynamics matter… So I wasn’t really surprised how easy it was sitting mid-pack during these outdoor rides.

As for me personally outdoors; while I have my power meter still showing 3s/30s power on my Garmin, I have my HR more visible, because my HR peaks out so much faster outdoors; even a Z2 power wise for me outdoors, my HR is basically 15bpm faster… (obviously, not actually Z2 anymore).


So the reality is… you almost can’t translate how fast or strong you would be outside due to so many differences.
HR as just mentioned is a big one for me.
Wind? Huge variable when riding outdoors that we don’t have in Zwift.
Road conditions… fueling

While the motions indoors and outdoors are the same, they’re rarely comparable.

And as I said… I’m personally okay with this. It allows for situations that I know wouldn’t happen outdoors… get to happen.

Is pack dynamics in Zwift perfect? Absolutely not, and unlikely to ever be, and IMO, that’s fine; but I also recognize it isn’t trying to replicate real life, which is something some folks just can’t get beyond.


Another super quick example is bike handling skills; can be all the difference in lots of situations, racing or not… that is something that is not and can not be translated by Zwift.

With my locals, when I started to ride with them we go through a VERY hill and VERY twisty neighborhood road; and when I first joined them, I had to essentially blow up to catch back up to them once we got through the area.
It was fun to experience my improvement this summer going through that neighborhood and … while still not quite keep up, week by week I was more confident and wasn’t falling behind nearly as much.

Indoors and outdoors is just different…
And they don’t have to be the same.

Holy post… have fun reading that one yall LOL

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It’s ‘accustomed’. Geez. Put some effort in here, at least.

:wink:

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Story time with me; typos are free of charge!

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I don’t know if changing that assumption would make most people any happier. My point is more that without that change Zwift will never arrive at realistic pack dynamics, so we shouldn’t expect that there is a magic set of tweaks that will get us there. It’s just a bit better or a bit worse depending on how the knobs are turned, and whether people think it’s better or worse is highly subjective.

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I rode Bkool for a while and drafting felt much more realistic. But riding on the road is lonely with just a few riders. The velodromes in Bkool are more like real life group rides but boring after a while. There’s no chat, no “ride on!”, no names, and the avatars are all the same. But the drafting dynamics felt like real life.

I’ve got some sad news for you…

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:joy: I’ll live with the differences between indoors and IRL, but I just wish the basic physics of riding would be based on real life… sigh ah well.

then i’ve got some good news for you. it really depends what aspects you are comparing though. if it’s distance covered, or meters climbed or whatever, well… you were doomed to never go anywhere right from the start

I leave a group ride on Zwift which was non stop puns… (yeah sure I encouraged it, but I didn’t expect it to get so bad!) Only to come full circle within minutes.

:upside_down_face:

Well done, have a cookie :cookie:

Dont know if Zwift Developers are working on something but it seems that current physics are going to stay for a long long time now they are focused on other things which is sad