Who is Zwift for?

Sorry this may seem like a random rant, but I hope it is not! A 100% business question I’d like to ask – Who do you think Zwift is made for?

Here is why I am asking.

I like racing. There are many races, and there are new formats added - not only we have group road races, we also have criteriums and TTs. But - some critical features related to racing are just missing. There is no category enforcement. In fact, to race more or less seriously you need to register at ZwiftPower, an external website which should have been integrated into Zwift a long time ago, but somehow it is still not. “I raced a D-category race and the winner pushed 4w/kg!” - how many times you’ve seen similar topics?

I’ve heard the social aspect is the key advantage of Zwift. What kind of mechanisms and features do we have for social interaction? We have ride ons, fine. But I am not sure if anyone remembers / appreciates any ride ons I give, and I am not sure I appreciate ride ons I get when somebody riding next to me clicks on their companion screen to give 5 ride ons to random riders nearby. Then, you can’t organize a team. There is no voice chat - good that community comes up with Discord and similar things. How is social interaction encouraged? Events and races? Well, see the paragraph about racing above.

I like training. I like Tri & Cycling Academy workouts, however I cannot put them into a training plan. There are some training plans, but again - who are they made for? Gravel / Dirt / Road / TT - well, this is not how one who wants to improve would work with a coach. There are more specific things one may want to develop, and there is some science that can be explained to folks who are keen or training. Otherwise there is a perception that another well-known product provides a better value for those who actually want to improve their cycling.

Is Zwift for racers? Is Zwift for casual folks who “work out”? Is it for people who want to improve? Is it about smooth and easy experience? How is this different from another product which doesn’t have the graphical part, but has a great deal of workouts? How is this different from buying a $2k bike and a monthly subscription which is like 3x the price of Zwift from another company (US only?). Well, these guys sending gym bikes have half million paying customers - not too bad!

It’s been about 1 year on Zwift for me. Every once in a while I get a feeling that this is a beta product. A startup trying to figure out who their customer is and how to approach their audience. I’ve listened to the podcast with the CEO - I’ve heard a lot of doubts, a lot of “this is not clear”, “how can you enforce categories properly…”. It’s OK to have doubts and consider alternatives, however overall it’s all looking like managing a product without a good product management strategy…

Hi Denis, great question!

A bit of a history lesson on Zwift racing:

I think the fact is that Zwift was originally conceived as a social platform. Its main purpose was to make riding indoors less tiresome.

Racing wasn’t even on the roadmap as far as I know. I don’t know if Eric or Jon even considered it.

But racing grew out of the community’s grassroots efforts. Despite the game lacking any tools to support racing, we raced anyway. People would meet near the lap start banner on Watopia at a given time. We’d edit our names to add our team and category, and usually the race name as well. e.g. ZTR-EB for (IIRC) Zwift Training Race - Early Birds. At the appropriate time we’d get a message to roll out, and there’d usually be some neutral zone with the race proper starting at the sprint banner.

Clever people came up with ways to watch network traffic, and park spectator bikes at strategic points on course. They came up with ways to generate results, often from Strava segments and the like. ZwiftPower was born, with several pieces of work coming together to create a useful service.

Enterprising people even put on race series with a real money prize purse, and live finals. Look on YouTube for CVR for example. Yes, the same CVR as CVRcade.

Zwift saw that racing was popular, and reacted with tools to support racing. These have evolved over time, and what we have now, while not perfect is leaps and bounds ahead of where we started.

Now, Zwift have seen an opportunity in the popularity of racing, so there’s quite some investment in it, both in terms of money and development in game. I feel they acknowledge and are starting to deal with some of the issues. I don’t think anyone really thinks we should have to register with ZwiftPower for “the real results”. But as you noted, it’s a very young company. It takes time to bring in more people. There are lots of things to work on, and prioritisation is a hard nut to crack. So they do what they can with the resources they have. If they could snap their fingers, of course these things would have been addressed already.

I find Zwift is social It’s probably what you make of it though. If you regularly join group rides, you get to know the people. You chat in game. Banter goes back and forth. Yes, some rides and groups use Discord. It’s a common solution in online gaming. Even when games have built in voice chat, many times people use Discord for a host of reasons. Besides, we’ve touched on prioritisation. Would you rather Zwift “fixed racing” or that they integrate voice chat?

They’re working on built-in club features. Eric talked about these in the ZwiftCast this week, and the fact they’ll bring the ability to have private races etc.

I think Zwift training plans and workouts are aimed at more casual, semi-serious people. If you have a coach, you’re probably using something else to manage your workouts. And of course you can create a Zwift workout by exporting it from TrainingPeaks or Xert for example, and putting it in a folder on your computer. No, that’s not the most optimal way of doing it, but if you want to ride a TP workout within the context of Zwift, you can. You can follow your serious training program in the game, and people who are just interested in seeing what a workout or training plan can do can dip a toe in the water with the built in ones.

As to whether other services are better value, it depends what you want to do. If you like riding on your own, maybe they work for you. If you don’t need distractions like game graphics or video, maybe you just watch lines on a screen. You pay your money and take your choice.

However, I think it’s probably true to say that racers on Zwift are still a minority. By which I mean fewer than half of all Zwifters, rather than something insignificant. At its heart the core mission of Zwift is to get people riding indoors to benefit their health, I believe. It’s social riding. It’s riding or running with famous people (e.g. Andre Greipel tomorrow, or Geraint Thomas and Mo Farah a couple of weeks ago). It’s raising awareness (Pride On) and charity (World Bicycle Relief, Movember). It’s lots of things.

Racing is just one aspect.

Yes it’s for racers. Yes it’s for casual riders. Yes it’s for rehabilitation. Yes it’s for training. Yes it’s for a host of other things, maybe some yet to be discovered.

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Hi Denis,
I can tell you that Zwift is for me, and I can tell you a bit about why.

Before Zwift indoor training was a nightmare. On a static fluid trainer I could last about 30 mins. I switched to rollers and an hour was ok maybe a bit more.
With Zwift 1 to 2 hours, easy, that time flies by. 3 to 4 hours is harder but not a problem. I think it’s safe to say we can now actually “ride” indoors. I don’t mean train just actually ride.

I can now, with Zwift, fit my ride/training in anytime. I am now, not torn between letting down the family or my fitness as Zwift is 24/7, fantastic.
I train harder inside, especially in winter and I don’t have to try to ride in that small block of winter daylight. Happy days fitter and safer.

I like the social side, the “Ride On” is a great idea. On a long hard ride it lifts my spirit. I generally only give them out for a reason. Someone pulling at the front etc.
I defiantly feel part of the Zwift community through the chat, “Ride On’s” and comments on the companion app and on the forum. Zwifters I have found, are a very friendly, positive and helpful bunch.

I will agree with you racing needs improving but I honestly think us humans are never satisfied and often impatient. We always want everything now. Changes will come, but we just need to be patient. As they are now the races are possibly the hardest workout a Zwifter could do, and fantastic fun.
I know how you feel as I was was new and keen and constantly hoping for and wanting change. Things do change and improvements happen but at a reasonably slow pace.
Cheers and “Ride On”

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“Who do you think Zwift is made for?”

The answer is going to be completely subjective. Each individual actor is going to give you their personal reasons as to how and why they use it.

Me?

Statistically, I live in one of, if not the most dangerous area of my country to ride (road) bikes in public, regardless of what .gov does to make it “safer.” Everyone I know in my local riding community has been hit by a car, a walker/runner not paying attention on the local trails, something! Multiple times in most cases; it’s only getting worst with time.

I was hit by a SUV while riding legally with TWO rear flashing red lights in the bike lane 1 1/2 years ago. The driver was a 78 year old male who just couldn’t wait 5 more _____ _____ seconds for my morning group to go past his right hand turn. The impatient idiot tried to speed up and turn in front of us only to hit me (pulling) and the rider behind me as well. I now have a bunch of titanium holding my left leg together, chronic pain 24/7, which yes, does affect my attitude at times, and a permanent limp that doesn’t do much to impress the girls.

I use Zwift so I don’t have to deal with getting smashed again by idiots running over cyclists “in the real world.” Realistically, “they” don’t ever get truly sanctioned for hitting or killing us so they just don’t have to care. Doc said quit riding because if I break it again I’m in a wheelchair for life, but I can’t quit. Two wheels has always been a major part of my life and I do still go outside here and there, but I certainly try to minimize risks to be sure.

For now, Zwift allows me to safely ride in a virtual world with climbs, flats, interesting scenery etc while making my own choices as to where to go within the limits of each world. Hence why I want to see more paved roads added above nearly all other things, mainly to Watopia.

If Zwift HQ ever gets racing sorted out, I’ll probably get into doing that once in a while as well since I can’t race “in the real world,” nor can I really sprint anymore either, but I digress.

With a completely build up indoor setup, you can simulate outdoor riding pretty darn well. Granted, this is probably more than the average person would attempt or even need, but there are “extenuating circumstances” in my case. I posted my “build” in the “Show me your pain cave” thread awhile back as a model of what’s possible with current technology and a little bit of space.

The next person who responds will probably give you a much different reason, very likely a serious athlete “weather challenged” this time of year etc, and that’s to be expected.

See?

Subjective.

Like many of you, I do wish Zwift would iron out their “growing problems” faster. Very frustrating and I’m fairly vocal about it. If they’re not careful, Zwift will be remembered as the “America Online” (AOL) of indoor training companies when the competition inevitably shows up in the coming years. I’m serious too; I’m old enough to know exactly how it happens. I personally witnessed it while working for AOL 20 years ago as my first job in I.T. Evolve (in the right direction) or die.

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Great question.
I planned on writing a similar letter which I want to do with care because I’m in a tiff over Eric’s comments. But I will say this now…

Apparently it is for the silent 98% majority which Eric represents and knows intuitively. It isn’t for "the two percent,who are super vocal.

Later he says he wants everyone to use the forums more.He admits only a small percentage find the forums useful. I want paracycling avatars to be a priority.I want a training ghost or a hovering flying drone, but something I can use as a valid training tool. I want a non-steering velodrome. (add a second one later with future steering hardware)

The time for Zwift to hide what the future is should be finished. Just tell us Tokyo is going to surface in late June and Switzerland in early September.Why not listen to what the paying customer really wants.

Don’t discount our opinions and feelings. Eric once said a big mountain would not be popular though often requested. People will only ride it once just to see it. Yet, the Alp is hugely popular, thousands ride it, and hundreds ride it regularly. Learn from that lesson.

Nationals and the new Worlds in September are suppose to be a big deal this year and still no word on the course two weeks out? No rules released yet? No schedule for the alleged last weekend of February?

Again be more open about where we are headed.

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Amen, sir.

I agree with some of what you’ve said, for sure.

There are some big things that are almost certainly coming; but the precise format might not yet be settled. There might still be contractual or licence negotiations in progress. Until things are signed off, it’s probably not sensible or appropriate to talk about them.

Then there are the realities of game development. Sometimes things just don’t work out. The Tour de Zwift 2020 reward is a great example of this. Zwift wanted to try something; one team sent out comms making a tease out of it before it was ready. Another team realised it wasn’t going to work, but expectations amongst players had already been set. That leads to more disappointment than if they’d just kept quiet about it. I think it could have been better handled; Zwift could have been more honest and open about it, and said “hey, sorry we can’t do that thing” through official channels.

Either here, or via email comms/the event page on their website. It shouldn’t have been something that was just put out on Reddit. It’s great we got that explanation, because it does help address the disappointment, but Reddit is hardly where the majority of the Zwift player base lives.

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Zwift is for me.

For years before zwift I was looking for something to make training on the smart trainer more entertaining and to challenge me to do more.

From playing racing games to watching TdF. Every time something interesting popped up I would install and try it, but nothing could come close to Zwift (beta).

With a family and work responsibilities I have only early mornings to train. With Zwift I can log on at 5am and get a good 2 hour workout before work. This give my wife, some piece of mind knowing where I am and if they need me then I am right there.

I made many virtual friends in the last 4 years, we chat on the bike and after riding. I was off for a few days because of illness and got so many well wishes.

Discord is a nice addition to riding, I have it on most of the time and regularly find some good conversation, my favorite day is Thursday when we do a 3 hour ride, I cant ride with the fast guys but I can still chat with them, it just make the time fly by.

Can Zwift improve? Yes for sure, but all in due time. We all have the things that we want and when we get it we will ask for more.

Can I get better value for money? At this point in time no.

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Hi Christopher,
I totally get where you are coming from. It’s totally one sided, almost anti bike, and at a time where we are meant to be thinking of helping the environment. What a laugh.
I, like you, was also hit last year by an elderly gent. He must have been doing at least 50mph. I was fortunate that he only clipped my elbow rather than a total rear ender. I still went flying, landed on the road, no-one stopped except the guy himself and thankfully a younger cyclist who was commuting. Rest of the traffic just went round me, luckily I suppose.

For sure Zwift isn’t finished, but it is totally usable and I for one, am willing to give them the time to improve. However the quicker the better. :slightly_smiling_face:
Cheers Zwift.

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What are you referring to?

Jon’s explanation of why the Tour de Zwift reward message changed from “something shiny” to the jersery.

I work on the game team here and can provide details on what went down. ZwiftHQ collectively wanted to make something unique for the TDZ unlock, and the game team went away with an idea that everybody thought might work, but weren’t sure yet. In the meantime, the communications team started messaging about it assuming it was ready to go (unbeknownst to the game team).

Fast forward a couple weeks, the cool thing ended up being actually ugly/lame, and the backup plan of the standard jersey was what went out. Ideas fail all the time between the idea phase and implementation phase in product development, so we just need to be more careful about what we message out.

Good intentions that didn’t play out all that well. Sorry about that!

I originally thought we were getting a tron shirt. Maybe that was the plan? I would still like a tron helmet.

yup i’m dont believe the excuse about “something shiny” not coming through. i have no programming experience so maybe i’m way off… but honestly just make it a “shiny” new set of sunglasses, or the helmet from above post (very cool idea) you programmed a dinosaur avatar, you make xmas and halloween changes… how hard is it? in real life someone just came out with a ridiculous 24k gold plated tri spoke wheel for 10k euros… give us a pair of those in zwift. it would cost zero euros!

maybe next year

Well, Zwift is for me. I’ve been on it for just over a month now and I love it, warts and all. I used to go out for regular 80-100km rides on the weekend, but I live in the downtown core of a large city, and i was getting sick of many aspects of cycling from here: the long transit trip just to get to the start of the nice riding country, the endless stop and go of traffic lights (so you can’t just put the hammer down and go for miles at a time), unpleasant interactions with drivers which seemingly become more frequent all the time, the non-zero possibility of crashing, plus I was getting stick of all the routes available to me… to be honest I was just done with cycling and I hardly did it at all in 2019. I switched to running, but then blew my foot out and then I was like “ok now what?”

Enter Zwift. Zwift is amazing… with good equipment (nice TV and trainer) the experience is incredibly immersive. I can ride as hard as I can indoors for a couple of hours without getting bored at all. It’s fun to chase after people and try to grab a wheel, it’s fun to explore new routes (I look forward to what routes and worlds there will be next!), I love all the on-screen telemetry on cadence, power etc (though like everyone else I wish for customizable UI), all the “levelling up” and “badges” and “XP” might be silly … but it’s all quite addictive and I’m thoroughly enjoying it! I haven’t even started racing yet, but as I get a bit stronger I might give that a try. Honestly, I don’t think I’ll ever bother riding outside anymore… why bother? So, for me, it’s $18CAD/month very very well spent.

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Hi Darren,
big welcome to the world of Zwift, it really is very good. Glad to hear you are enjoying it.
“Ride On”

+1 to everything you said. Especially this:

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I like you @Zee_Kryder. You speak some sense. Thumbs up buddy.

I could not agree more. Your comments spot on and I’ve never been healthier.