Trainer difficulty HELP!

Hello All,

New to the Forum! Please be nice… :rofl:

I am after a bit of help / advice on the trainer difficulty setting. I have been using Zwift for a while now and absolutely love it. I have had the trainer set to 100% since setting everything up when I first got it. I did this because my friend who also has Zwift, told me to stick it 100%.

Anyway, I find anything above 9% gradient, almost impossible to tackle sitting down. I always have to get out of the saddle for this. Which doesn’t seem right to me. When I look at some of my Zwift Strava segments compared to people I follow. Their cadence on these steep bits, are much higher than mine. My cadence is always very low which is totally different than riding outside.

I know the obvious move is to change the setting down… But just wondered if I am missing something here. Is it just that I am completely pathetic at climbing and just need to get better, or is my setting set wrongly…

Thanks in advance! J

The difficulty setting is always a tough one to figure out, and there is certainly nothing wrong with moving the slider around until you find what works for you. In my opinion, the biggest factor in deciding where to set the difficulty slider relates to what sort of gearing you have on your bike. That is, because the difficulty slider changes the feel (on the trainer) of the climb (that is, at 50% difficulty an 8% climb will feel like a 4% climb) you would need larger cogs for steeper climbs at a higher difficulty setting (presuming using use of a smart trainer).So, if you’ve got a straight block on your rear wheel and want to climb to the radio tower a 100% difficulty setting will likely make this a long out of the saddle/low RPM experience. So it could be that the folks you are using as a reference either have a lower difficulty setting or have different gearing, or both. (And if they are not using a smart trainer it’s an entirely different ballgame.)

There was an article on Zwift Insider recently that might offer some additional insight on this:


Thanks for replying, also thanks for the link, I did read this before posting but I still don’t understand it!

I know one of the people I was referring to has a trainer wheel setup and mine is a direct drive. Not sure on gearing. But my gearing is 8 speed 11-32. I guess I just have to mess with the difficulty setting to find what works.

What I don’t want to do is lower it too much and have the ‘feel’ completely different to rides outdoors.

Hope that makes sense!

That is a good aim, we all want the most realistic climbing experience. So if you use the same bike indoors and out doors, then go do a big climb and see what cadence you can do on what grade and set the slider accordingly.

My personal opinion is I don’t ride the alpe IRL if I would go do it then I wont use my 48/24 gearing I would swap it to a 32/28 or something like that. same in Zwift if you are going to climb the alpe then change the slider, that is why we have it.

Thanks for the reply.

I have been riding all summer outside near me and its pretty damn hilly and only a few of the climbs I really have to get out of the saddle which is why something didn’t feel right with my setup. Its funny you mention the Alpe, as the reason I am asking this question on my set up is because I have finally got to level 12 so want to attempt it this week!

Thanks again anyway and I will change the slider accordingly.

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If you have the trainer difficulty set at 100% (and everything is calibrated properly), in theory any grade should feel basically the same as something of a similar percentage grade IRL. The RPMs you see for other people likely don’t correlate with yours at all because they may have a different set up (wheel-on trainer, for example) or may have their difficulty slider set differently. The power is what makes the avatar move in Zwift, so that’s the critical piece.