Some notes on using trainer difficulty

i just fiddled with the trainer difficulty setting for the first time, and wanted to share.

i did a race this past sunday that was 4 laps of watopia hilly. i knew it would go over the small KOM 4 times, so i knew it was going to be hard to manage my heart rate. long story short, i went too hard on the first one, ruined my pacing for the second and third laps and decided i was just too toasted to finish. but it got me thinking about how i should do a race that has a noticeable incline like this – i clearly didn’t do it right here, and i feel like i am able to hang with the C riders in a less hilly race, so i shouldn’t have gotten toasted like that.

i saw zwiftinsider just posted a tip about lowering the trainer difficulty setting in a hillier race (see here: so i decided that tonight i would ride Richmond cobbled climbs for three laps as hard as i could and really push on the KOMs, but i’d do it all with trainer difficulty set to 15-20% (ish) instead of my usual 50%.

holy moly! it felt like i was cheating! with the lower trainer difficulty setting, i was able to keep higher watts at higher cadence, and when i decided to stand and mash it wasn’t to push through a lack of cadence, it was to really slam some more power into my attack! usually, i’ll get halfway up a climb and switch to standing because it’s just getting too hard to sit, and i want to try to maintain my power. on this ride, i decided to stand because i wanted to shift to a harder gear and INCREASE the power.

i understand that the effort should be the same either way, but for me, there was a totally different head-space (and leg-space?) when i changed the trainer difficulty setting. the climb was less about getting bogged down than about giving it everything i had. i definitely think i’ve been wasting effort on some of these hard-driving rides (i’m looking at you TDZ and TDW rides).

one of the things i’ve enjoyed the most about zwift is the “simulation” aspect – having the resistance change with the terrain is somehow motivating. so it’s weird that this is exciting to me; i don’t really want to reduce the simulation, but i’m getting dusted on races with noticeable climbs, and i think this is a contributing factor.

i’ll try the volcano climb next. i can’t for the life of me get much lower than 9 minutes (or maybe upper 8s) at 50%… maybe with difficulty set lower i’ll be able to!

if you are trying any racing (or difficult group rides) – try lowering the trainer difficulty. it’s worth experimenting with, because it literally changes the game.

I’m going to try that. Thanks for posting.