Trainer Difficulty-

Hi guys,

I understand adjusting the trainer difficulty mimics putting different gearings on the bike. If I want to have the most authentic experience for my particular bike and gearings how would I work out what setting I should be on? I hope that makes sense and I haven’t misunderstood the difficulty, but please let me know if I have.


100% mimics actual gradient and therfore more authentic






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As Mike said, 100% difficulty is more “realistic”. But is that what you really want?

For me, I’d rather make sure I can enjoy everything that Zwift has to offer. For example, I want to be able to ride everywhere in Zwift, and at 100% TD there are some slopes that would definitely not be fun, and where if it was outside I’d probably be putting bigger gears on my bike. So not being on 100% is more “realistic” for me about the challenges that I undertake.

By the way, you can change TD in the middle of a ride by bringing up the menu, if you want.

100% is a pain in the ass cos you are changing gear every 2 seconds.

25-50% is a better middle ground unless you are a true climbing ■■■■■■■■■.

Thanks for the replies guys.

Steve says exactly what I was thinking, I don’t want to have to change gearing on my bike to keep it at 100% so I would rather be able to work out, with my gearing, what the “optimal” difficulty should be set at, or is that not the way to look at it?

I kind of feel I don’t want to cheat gradients, but then again I am definitely not built to be a climber (94kg’s of pure fat) and want Zwift to be fun, so I want to find a nice middle ground.

Its not really cheating because you still have to crank out the watts - not having it set to 100% is more like adding a load of extra climbing gears to your bike. Suits me because I have a 1x TT bike hooked up to my trainer - every hill over 5% in real life I have to ride it around instead of going over it.


Just try it at the default 50% and see how it feels on the gradients that you want to ride.

Oh yeah, I am on 50% now, and the slopes feel fine, I suppose if I wanted to train myself to become more of a climber IRL I should gradually increase the difficulty towards 100%? Having said that, I live in the middle of England, and there are very few gradients over about 5% near me so tackling the Alpe on a regular basis would train me to be taking 5% gradients better IRL.

TD is a personal preference. I prefer to push against higher resistance (up to a point!), so I found that around 70% TD feels about “right” to me for everywhere in Zwift.

I’m only talking about my own preference here. You may well prefer something totally different… Experiment and see, but don’t waste effort worrying about this. As Kevin said, you still have to put the watts in anyway, so there’s no “cheating” at being less than 100%.


Makes perfect sense, thanks Steve :slight_smile:

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What TD you select depends on what you are trying to achieve. For me Zwift is a means to stay in good shape for outdoor riding, so i need to mimic what i experience IRL.

Most of the hard climbing close to me is a 5-10 minute effort. But the terrain is rolling (never less than 1000ft elevation per 20 miles) and mostly kicks of 10% or more. Because of this i keep the trainer difficulty at 95% so my legs can retain the punch required to get over the IRL ramps.

If you live in an area that has gradients of nothing more than 5% then there is limited value to your virtual training pushing you to harder efforts. You are better off reducing the TD in order to stay on top of the gear and powering through like you would do IRL.

Perhaps worth noting that 50% is the minimum allowed under ZADA rules (and sometimes imposed on all riders, so also the max allowed in those cases). Not that all (or even many) races adhere to these, but there’s a strong precedent for using that value.

Personally I find 50% works well for me, but you can probably get used to pretty much anything.

Simply set for 100% and you get the experience