Zwift New User - Game or Real Life Simulation

Hi all,

I am a new Zwift user but love cycling and have been riding outdoor for many years.

I enjoy the scenery and other features within Zwift but am feeling frustrated with my speed vs effort. Even bunch riding seem to be extremely tough. Is this because Zwift is a game and does not represent real outdoor riding or am I doing something wrong.

I use the same power meter and bike that I ride with outside and use a proper fan to ensure I am staying cool. I am not overweight in my opinion and I agree with the W/kg shown on the side of my screen while Zwifting. I do not have a smart trainer, the lockdown was a bit unexpected. I however keep an eye on the gradient and adjust with my trainer difficulty and using my bike’s gears to make sure I work harder on the climbs.

I have investigated my group rides on Saturday mornings outside and see about a 80 - 100W ave difference to maintain a similar ave speed on a relatively flat 60km route. Yes sure I don’t work at the front of the bunch that often but it is similar to what happen on Zwift. I calibrate my power meter each time before I ride.

Despite all the above I sometime see massive differences between the power I am riding at and my HR. I love the stats in cycling so am probably a bit of a geek in that regard but would someone please tel me if I am doing something wrong or if Zwift is just a game not a simulation?

Maybe the answer is just to not enter events or races because this seems to just frustrate me and take the enjoyment out of Zwifting for me.

Hi Andre. I guess it could be a few things, including how exactly Zwift compares to real life - my wife rode this morning, and compared to IRL she is probably going faster than she would do outside.

One aspect with group rides on Zwift that might contribute, is that you cannot ‘feel’ the draft, even on a smart trainer. So even if I could possibly get away with dropping the power a bit while still keeping up with the bunch, often I will just keep riding at the same effort and so not get any rest from being in the draft.

Could be that this is a different issue, I have a smart trainer so not exactly the same experience, but could be worth a test in your next meetup or group ride.


Hi Henk, thank you for the interest in my post. I have searched for other answers first before I left this comment. I am therefore familiar with the draft feeling argument and tried to drop my output while riding near the front of the bunch, only to have to put in a hard effort not to get dropped. In my humble opinion it does not require 220 - 240W to sit in a bunch at 40kph on a level road for a rider of my weight and lenght with wind excluded from the argument.

Your input about your wife is very similar to my wife and her experience, she is not posting her rides on Strava because she say that she is unable to perform at the pace that Zwift suggest IRL. Her average speed is way above what she ever achieve outdoors. IRL my wife struggle to keep my pace, up to the point that our joint rides I used my MTB and she her roadbike, but on Zwift I have to fight to stay with her. It just feel off, not accurate at all.

If the difference between Zwift and IRL was small, one would not have been able to detect it, it feels grossly different. Therefore my question, if it is not a simulation, it is a game and I understand. If it is a simulation, there is something wrong with either my setup or settings or Zwift got it completely wrong, but how can that be…

I am just wondering if this is not a very big contributing factor towards why user are cheating. In the end, we all ride because we love that feeling of freedom when our bikes fly over the tarmac with the wind in our faces. I do not mind some hard sessions, but I am doing them to enjoy the group rides and races even more with a better fitness. I do not enjoy going full gas 100% of my group ride/race just to be dropped halfway.

I am sorry if I am unable to hide my frustration in my comments, I was just expecting an alternative to outdoor riding and hoping to get some level of enjoyment from it.

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Thank you for your input Mike, but I use a reputable brand power meter, power numbers for indoors and outdoors are from the same meter and therefore comparable.

I also use a power meter for both indoor (Zwift) and outdoor and power is a little higher outside for the same effort due to being free to move the bike naturally. My speed in Zwift is a little high due to no stop signs, perfectly smooth riding surface, no wind and better equipment.

It is close to impossible to compare indoor/Zwift rides with outdoor.

In the end the only thing that matters is effort over time (watts/time or HR/time), speed is irrelevant in Zwift and in IRL.

You will enjoy Zwift more when you stop trying to compare it to IRL riding.

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Wait. Are you saying zwift is easier or harder than in real life?

Hi Ben, In my case much harder. From what I gather from Paul easier. I am guessing this is a weight thing…

No, it’s not harder or easier, it’s different because on a stationary trainer you don’t have that natural rocking of the bike.

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Hi Paul,

Thank you for your response, if I ignore speed for now, and not compare to outdoors, what should I change to be able to keep up with other riders in my groups/races?

I am riding in the category for my ave W/kg, but I am not able to keep up? If I average 3.1W/kg surely I should not ender D category races/group rides.


what in-game bike are you using? TT bikes do not get a draft effect so don’t use them for group rides or races.


Paul, I agree, when out of the saddle the natural rocking of the bike assist because you push the bike against the movement of your legs therefore creating more power with your upper body. I am however mostly riding seated and the rocking make little to no difference to me.

Make sure you are not using a TT/Tri bike and that your Zwift is fully up-to-date.

Group rides can take some getting used to (so I have heard).

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There is still some bike movement IRL when seated also. I use the same Tri bike for Zwift as I do for races and it feels different.

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In theory averaging 3.1w/kg should put you in C group. But it depends on the race and the number of riders riding in the wrong category, unfortunately. I watched a video of Chris Pritchard a few days ago, where he (upper B cat) got destroyed in C or D.

If you can, try riding C cat in one of the “ZHQ Beta …” races (for example, the crit one at 17h SA time today) - the anti-sandbagging is being tested in these events, and so far it looks like the categories work out better in these.

Thanks Mike, I have changed to a more Aero Bike (Zwift Aero because I am only level 14) now, saving my drops to get Ridley Noah Fast. I seen Chris Pritchard Zwift Bike testing on YouTube and just bought my Zipp 808 set after yesterday’s race. I will see if it make any difference at all.

Thank you Henk, that sounds like a plan.

Make sure that when you are on the wheel your avatar is on the hoods (sits up) If he is in the drops then you aren’t in the draft. There were definitely bugs being reported about this (people unable to get in a draft). Thought they had fixed it but maybe not. Ignore what the other avatars are doing (what you see and what they see is not the same).

If I were you I’d be trying to figure out what is the cause of the difference between your wife and yourself. Can you use her trainer, bike, computer etc to work out what’s going on?

Looks like the ZHQ Beta race went well :slight_smile: Well done!

A good test of the physics was done by Robert Chung. He rode solo over mixed terrain, loaded the FIT file into Golden Cheetah which has a power-speed model, used it to calculate his altitude versus time from his power and speed, then adjusted the parameters (CdA, Crr) to match the modeled profile to the actual. The resulting values were reasonable (consistent with what one extracts for outdoor rides) with the rider evidently having an excellent position with form-fitting clothes (most recreational riders do not).

Drafting is another matter. I don’t believe Zwift models the effects of drafting in a group versus drafting just a single rider. So riding in a group is more challenging than IRL, I believe.