Running out of gears

I just started using Zwift a couple of weeks ago, so excuse me if this question has already been answered.
I’m finding that I’m running out of gears in Free Ride mode. I’m pretty much only using my biggest gear, maybe just downshifting once on the steepest climbs. On easier climbs, flats, and downhills, I run out of gears and can only reach half-power, to the point where I’m free-spinning some of the time on flats all the downhills, doing 120-170 Watts, when I want to be somewhere around 170-200 Watts.
Maybe I’m missing it, but it seems there is no way of increasing the difficulty settings or the magnification of resistance as is possible in Erg mode in a Workout.
I’d like to do races or group rides but these won’t be very fun if I can’t ride hard in them.
I’ve tried resetting my FTP (it is accurate), messing with the Difficulty Setting and also tried recalibrating a couple of times and that has only minimally improved the issue. Ideally, I’d like to be able to toggle up the difficulty, as you can do with the Companion app during a workout session. Thanks in advance for any help you can lend me!

Hiya @C_White_SMAR welcome to Zwift forums.
What kind of bike are you using? What gearing does it have? Does it have chainrings that are substantially smaller than what you’d find on a typical road bike (50x34)?

Normally, I’d say that you should try bumping up the FTP numer in your game user profile. Raising it would have the fastest effect in fixing “resistance is too low” complaints. But you say your FTP is accurate, so maybe not? How do you know it’s accurate for this particular trainer you’re using? It’s common for folks upgrading from a wheel-on trainer to find their old FTP numberr is all of a sudden too difficult for a (more accurate) direct-drive trainer.

Hi Shuji,
I’m riding a Niner RDO with a 1x gearing set up for primarily riding trails, so yes, significantly smaller than what would be found on a typical road bike.

I know my FTP is accurate because I used TrainerRoad (on the same trainer, the Wahoo Kickr) for the previous two years before trying out Zwift, and because I’ve done several Workouts in Zwift with that FTP that provide an appropriate level of effort (with the Erg assistance).

I actually did try bumping up the FTP for a Free Ride but it didn’t have much effect but that was before I recalibrated, so I will try again.

Thanks for your help! Has anyone else out there had the experience of not feeling like they had adequate gearing to ride at effort in Zwift?

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@C_White_SMAR Figured you were on a gravel or mountain bike with a current-spec drivetrain. What kind of trainer are you using, incidentally? A wheel-on trainer, or a direct drive type?

Just as when you ride with friends on road bikes, you might spin out your top gear riding outdoors on flat pavement because your gearing range is limited on the top end vs. a road bike. You’ll run into some of that in game as well, because many trainers in general (and direct-drive trainers specifically) are designed around road bikes.

In game, we have some sections of gravel and dirt surfaces which add virtual rolling resistance and that’s when your gravel bike would have an advantage vs a road bike, which would feel overgeared. At this time today, there’s only a handful of dirt trails in Zwift, but we do have plans to add more off-road features in the future.

Not sure how feasible it is to put a bigger chainring on your Niner for indoor training, but if 1) a 48 or 50 teeth ring (or larger) is available for your crankset and 2) there’s enough chainstay clearance for that ring, you might consider that option?


Yes!!! Every time! I’m also on a 1x drivetrain setup MTB and I hate this spinout problem too. There’s so much energy just wasted while I spin at high RPM and go nowhere.

Well, this stuff is not really built for MTBs.

Try this:
Create a workout that has only one large block of free ride in it.
Do this workout.
In the companion app there should be now an option to increase the basic incline.

Hi Ben,

I now use Zwift exclusively in Workout mode, as that allows for full control of my power output. It just requires selecting the type of ride I’d like to do, such as a large free ride block as you suggest.
The companion app does allow an option to increase the basic incline, but it is limited to a 10% bump so its positive impact is limited.
In any case, I’ve determined that Free Ride mode and doing Zwift races are not compatible with my set-up, which to me is a big design flaw, but I’ve shifted my expectations and now just enjoy the more limited aspects of what I can get out of the game.

Yeah, Zwift should really put a Trainer Offset slider next to the Trainer Difficulty slider, where we could adjust the basic level of the trainer at 0%.
But it is what it is.
You could buy a cheap used road bike to train/race on Zwift, or try to put a bigger front ring on your crank.