Racing Experience of a New Rider

I started Zwift this winter. I had roughly a 1.5 W/KG at that time and doing 10KM was way enough. I would feel dizzy after a ride because I pushed myself too hard. For a few months, I avoided the races as I felt I had no place in them. Indeed the D category was 1.0 to 2.5 W/KG. I always like a friendly competition and it’s that competitive aspect that has drawn me to Zwift so it was a bit of a disappointment to realize that I didn’t fit anywhere in the categories. Even the lowest category was way too good for my level and then the race length were too long or had too much elevation for what I could manage.

Suggestion: Make a category for beginners with a lower threshold than 2.5 W/KG and adapt the races to make them shorter for beginners.

Still, I continue to ride with the idea in my mind that one day I would be able to enter a race without feeling out of place. I gradually improved and at some point I decided that I would try a race even if I had no chance at all. I told myself that D was the lowest category so it must be full of beginners like me. Maybe it wouldn’t be that bad. I was getting close to 2 W/KG at that time when I pushed myself. I joined a race and, while it was fun to race, the situation was worst than I thought it could possibly be. While I expected that the races would be full of beginners like me, half the riders were sporting their fancy Tron bike. To this day, I still can’t understand how you can have a Tron bike and still be in the D category… but moving on. Clearly, my opponents were not beginners. At least, I thought that their power would be at most 2.5 W/KG since it was the D category. To my surprise, the winner ended with more than 3 W/KG if I remember correctly and half the group was above 2 W/KG. Of course, I ended in the bottom of the ranking.

Suggestion: Restrict the bikes that can be used in the beginner category. It’s demoralizing to compete against Tron bikes when it’s impossible for a beginner to get a good bike. And, fix the categories enforcement because it’s clearly not working.

I kept riding and improving. I raced from time to time and I was glad to noticed that I sometimes managed to finish in the top half of the racers. Still, I never came close to winning a race. This bring us to today… To my surprise, I was bumped to the C category. I did improve but to my knowledge, I was nowhere near the level required to race in C. Still, I tried a race. I gave everything I could and managed to do 2.2 W/KG, obviously finishing at the bottom of the ranking. At the end, I looked at the race results and the D category was still full of riders above 2.5 W/KG with some at 3 W/KG. If they can be in D category, why am I forced to be in C category? It doesn’t make sense.

Question: How can I get a good and enjoyable racing experience in Zwift?

So far, I don’t know. A racing system where you get bumped into a higher category based on your race results would probably work better than the current system that is exclusively based on power. For example, if you win a race in D category than you are bumped into C category automatically.

1 Like

First thing i would do is go to The at Home Cycling & Running Virtual Training App and down the right side where it says fitness click more info then it will display various best power figures for different durations;

This might give more of an idea why you have been bumped to cat c. Feel free to share if you want more detailed feedback.

The next confusion for any new racer is the different race category methods from zwiftpower categories to cat enforcement, If i were you i would make sure all races you do are cat enforced otherwise there is nothing stopping over cat riders joining the D pen

There are a few D focused races i know of likes of TFC Friday and herd beginners races at the weekend but the main issues seems to be is that D riders just don’t race enough particularly sub 2 /wkg which you rightly point out could be due to lack of suitable events.

Also have you setup a zwiftpower account? i had a quick search but could not find you.

The Tron is a great all-around bike, but it isn’t actually the best bike for either climbs or flat routes.

For flat routes for instance you can start to get an ok bike/wheel combo at level 6, then the next bump is level 13 at which point you’ve already got a bike/wheel combo that is pretty solid for flat races, one that you probably won’t notice much of a difference between it and the Tron on flat in practice.

You can see the analysis of these here:
Fastest Bike Frames and Wheels at Each Zwift Level | Zwift Insider

It also talks a bit about the Tron, on flat it’s about what you’d see from the best L35 bike setup, which only saves about 10 seconds over the L13 bike combo riding for 50 mins at 300W which is a fair amount of distance to cover - probably not a difference you’d easily notice in a typical D race given the average powers in a D race tend to be much less than that.

1 Like

If you’re going slower than the default steady state 300W and 75Kg rider used in the speed tests, you’re on the route for longer, so time differences between frames and wheels will be bigger…

Or at least that’s how I think it works! :thinking: :upside_down_face:

Well, on a flat route the aero aspect is more important on the bike in terms of the stats. I would imagine that aspect of the bike becomes more impactful with speed.

Maybe ZwiftInsider should do a power test for the rest of us who don’t tend to casually ride around at 300W all the time :slight_smile:

I have the TRON but barely ever use it in races any longer. It did not give me an edge where I needed it. Synthetic script based tests are good and gives you insights but that doesn’t translate 1:1 to race conditions. In the pack, I can sit in the draft with basically any bike/wheel. That’s not where I would get dropped. I select something that would either help me where I’m weak, or boost me where I’m strong. Since I’m no heavy mega watts power sprinter, the TRON is not my goto, but that is of course different for everyone. Just saying, life can still good even without the TRON :grin:

@Marc-Andre_PC - I was involved in helping get the Herd Beginner Racing (current incarnation of D-Only races) going. I had planned on moving to custom categories using Category Enforcement as that had been on the Zwift work-plan - but they removed it from their roadmap. I felt that using Category Enforcement was the best way of doing Beginner races, so they could be publicly accessable as opposed to some of the complex private race schemes, but that caused it to be limited to only using the D-cat. We put together a group of D riders to advise on format and courses, and that’s what we’ve got. Typically relatively flatter and shorter races, as you say.

The difference in bike choice is NOT as much as you think it is, especially in a drafting race. Obviously aero is king in an individual TT. I know it’s hard, but my advice is to not worry about it. People who know me will laugh about this, because I’m very much a gear-geek and was the go-to person for recommendations on the podcast I used to do (still do occasionally) with Herd Racing (The Pink Tron, available wherever you get your podcasts :wink: )

I know the Herd run some teams in the Team Time Trial races on Tuesday that run well under 2 W/kg that might be interesting to you has links to the Herd Racing League where you can try to join a team. I’m sure some other clubs run TTT teams for slower riders as well, but I’m not sure who else is running at sub-2.0 pace.

1 Like

I agree. The main thing is to not ride the default bike or a completely inappropriate bike. Once you get beyond that, the differences are small especially on shorter routes. In your typical mostly-flat Zwift race, the Zwift Aero frame with DT Swiss ARC 62 wheels will be fine, and you can get both at level 6. By level 10 the Canyon Aeroad 2021 is one of the best bikes in the game. You can use to get an idea of which bike is best on any route at a given level and drops budget.

1 Like

Well said. I have exactly the same experience. And yes, there is no rational explanation for the points you make, like Tron bikes in Cat D, people push 4W/kg in the D races, etc.

Also - Zwift is probably the “game” with the most lacking onboarding experience I’ve yet to see. Given an estimation of their recurring revenue, it just does not make sense that they are still so far away from the average state of the industry.

Even nearly-mandatory sites like ZwiftPower are not well integrated or explained, and feel very much 3rd-party.

As for me - I’ve given up on trying to place top 10 in any event as I’ll probably forever be a Cat C, and in the less likely case I’m promoted to B, I will definitely finish last 10% every time. So there’s no way to win a race, unless you go to a non-category-enforced D race - which is not what I think is acceptable. It’s crazy that it’s actually easier to win real-life crits if you’re in the correct category.

Anyway not a great experience, and I think that with Zwift trying to get more people / non-cycling nerds into the game, they need to work something out.

1 Like

Zwift has tools to encourage D racers, first time racers, women racers, etc. Badges, XP, drops, jerseys, missions, category adjustments, whatever. It doesn’t seem to be a priority.

ZwiftPower we know is not a priority since they’re planning to discard it and aren’t investing in it much. Even in the game or Companion app, they don’t refer people to it for results.

I agree the game leaves a lot unexplained, and it’s not intuitive, so unless you join a team or do a lot of research, you’ll have a big learning curve.

The Tron bike is awarded for meters climbed.
It has nothing to do with racing experience.
Cat D is not the “beginners” group.
The cats are based on performance power.
There are shorter races such as crit city.
A common mistake for inexperienced racers is to show up to the race with out being warmed up.
Really warmed up.

Also, a lot of people complain about Zwift racing.
The vast majority complain but they don’t really race IRL.
People who would not normally race decide to do so on Zwift
This shows how many doors Zwift actually opens.
People should be thankful that they got to try to race others and try to improve.

And remember, it’s not bike racing till there’s controversy.


This–thank you for pointing that out. Some people either aren’t going to get stronger/faster, but they can ride a lot. And riding a lot is all it takes to get the Tron. It doesn’t take power or speed. So having one is no indication that you’re any particular cat.

I don’t believe this is true. Whilst yes all those things do exist, we currently have no way of incorporating them into a special type of race without taking away from the experience.

We are looking at improving D (as well as level 1-10 and Women) into racing and I suspect you’ll see more of that over the course of the coming year.

I do agree however that there is a lot more that we could do with the likes of ZwiftPower (wherever this ends up) integration and improving ZCA in terms of how racing information looks. I’m hopeful we’ll see some developments here in the next 12-24 months (it’s a huge task).

@Marc-Andre_PC thanks a lot for taking the time to share your experience. It has been seen.

Start small - how about a badge for entering or finishing your first race? Or even easier, put badges on more of the race routes like Bell Lap, Downtown Dolphin, Bologna TT. Just like Neokyo Crit Course.

Add a race to Zwift Academy, even if it’s optional.

It’s not clear to me how it would harm the race experience to add more incentives. I can understand that implementation of some of these ideas might not be a trivial amount of work.

I don’t understand this statement. every month we get things like badges, double xp, jerseys for events so it would seem quite easy to do to target a few beginner friendly events to promote.

You can see with race Scotland there is masses of new riders out there although i’d slightly disagree that riders in a 200+ field racers is a good experience for lot of them so promotion of other events I’d say is also key.

Custom cats/half cats would be the obvious choice if Zwift wanted to improve the beginner experience but seeing as that has been shelved and now looks like we are waiting a further 12-24 months what are the chances access the likes of WTRL has can be revisited.

We could do custom cats tomorrow if given the access.

1 Like

No, that’s fair enough - I think the problem in my head is “would it actually be beginners turning up” as we have no way in our mission engine to identify that it’s someone’s first race.

Do you honestly think we wouldn’t have done this already if it was easy?!

The API access I was meaning. I can accept in game custom cats could be a considerable amount of work and if ranking/scoring is the future then better to work on that although a wait of up to 24 months does seem like an exceptionably long time.

Although it does make me nervous whether ZHQ have scoped the project and are not going off down a path of what they think the community wants and delivering something completely different wasting a lot of time like what happened with CE.

API access would be easy (it already exists) it’s more a security concern from what i understand. If WTRL are putting 13k+ member signups through API calls each week along with who knows how many results pulling to work on their own ACE ranking system and fit file processing then I’m sure this far outweighs what a few community organisers would be doing but ZHQ don’t seem keen to allow anyone else access.

So we are left stuck doing everything manually adding extra confusion to new riders so they miss out on what I’d say is potentially best racing experience for new riders. e.g TFC, SZ splits cat races. herd beginner races (if custom cats) Dirt series, our own series etc

1 Like

That’s why I’m here - I’m largely the voice of the Community (where possible given workload) - CE was largely what was requested, although somewhat difficult to keep track in a 3k long thread. Although it was so long ago I’ve forgotten a bit now!

I don’t think API access would give you the desired result - sure you could put who you wanted in the categories that you wanted but that wouldn’t take into account the CE model that we would want to use.

I also don’t think this is entirely dead in the water but need to see what the next few months brings. Whatever we decide we’ll keep you guys updated.

It’s worth bearing in mind that WTRL are also our sub contractors so it is a little bit different.

1 Like

It really wasn’t.

What was loudly and clearly requested was pen enforcement, and that is what we were told we were going to get (i.e. JUST pen enforcement).

What we ended up with was a new, confusing system (Zwift have failed to heed warnings here that the terminology was confusingly similar to known terms, e.g. zFTP, while being very different) that was for a long time NOT enforced except for a small minority of races, and even now after so much time is still NOT enforced for the majority of events (for goodness sake, why?).