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Zwift questions and impressions

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Zwift questions and impressions

Old 11-14-19, 03:58 PM
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rousseau
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Zwift questions and impressions

I'm having a whale of a time on Zwift, and have basically given up outdoor riding for the winter (which seems to have arrived for most of the North American continent already). I didn't see another thread like this on the forum, so I thought I'd start one here.

1. What's the deal with practically going right through or getting way too close to other riders when you pass them? I know it's all virtual, but it's still a bit unnerving when you close the gap or pass someone and you're right on top of them.

2. If I have one complaint, it's that the visual cues rarely seem to match the gradients of the ascents and descents. Is this a general graphics issue? Am I asking for something that just isn't possible? So often the roadside will look like it's sloping down, but then the gradient indicator will show that it's sloping up. You think you might be cresting a hill but you've still got a long way to go. That kind of thing. I find I'm constantly looking over at the gradient indicator to see what's coming up, which is distracting and takes away from the enjoyment a little bit.

3. Can you "cheat" by giving a lower body weight when calibrating your smart trainer? I, uh, gave a slightly more optimistic weight than what the reality actually is, and it seems like I'm going up 15% gradients (impossible in real life) and passing other riders up hills when I'm actually somewhat generously proportioned for a roadie and tend to be at the end of climbs when riding outdoors. Is your weight a variable that changes things on a smart trainer?

4. I'm glad to be getting in consistent workouts in the off-season, raising my heart rate and feeling the burn in the quads, and yet an hour's session on Zwift doesn't feel quite the same as an hour's ride outdoors. Are there intangibles to outdoor riding that an indoor trainer simply cannot replicate? If so, what are they, exactly? Can they be quantified in any way?
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Old 11-14-19, 04:09 PM
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Originally Posted by rousseau View Post
I'm having a whale of a time on Zwift, and have basically given up outdoor riding for the winter (which seems to have arrived for most of the North American continent already). I didn't see another thread like this on the forum, so I thought I'd start one here.

1. What's the deal with practically going right through or getting way too close to other riders when you pass them? I know it's all virtual, but it's still a bit unnerving when you close the gap or pass someone and you're right on top of them.

2. If I have one complaint, it's that the visual cues rarely seem to match the gradients of the ascents and descents. Is this a general graphics issue? Am I asking for something that just isn't possible? So often the roadside will look like it's sloping down, but then the gradient indicator will show that it's sloping up. You think you might be cresting a hill but you've still got a long way to go. That kind of thing. I find I'm constantly looking over at the gradient indicator to see what's coming up, which is distracting and takes away from the enjoyment a little bit.

3. Can you "cheat" by giving a lower body weight when calibrating your smart trainer? I, uh, gave a slightly more optimistic weight than what the reality actually is, and it seems like I'm going up 15% gradients (impossible in real life) and passing other riders up hills when I'm actually somewhat generously proportioned for a roadie and tend to be at the end of climbs when riding outdoors. Is your weight a variable that changes things on a smart trainer?

4. I'm glad to be getting in consistent workouts in the off-season, raising my heart rate and feeling the burn in the quads, and yet an hour's session on Zwift doesn't feel quite the same as an hour's ride outdoors. Are there intangibles to outdoor riding that an indoor trainer simply cannot replicate? If so, what are they, exactly? Can they be quantified in any way?
2 things re: climbs and workout rate - What's the max gradient/slope your trainer will imitate and have you set your Zwift settings to 100% replication (default is 50% from memory)
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Old 11-14-19, 05:34 PM
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Yeah if you report a weight different from your own, the results will be skewed.

On a directly related note, I could climb hills in real life faster than now if I weighed less.
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Old 11-14-19, 05:39 PM
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Originally Posted by rousseau View Post
4. I'm glad to be getting in consistent workouts in the off-season, raising my heart rate and feeling the burn in the quads, and yet an hour's session on Zwift doesn't feel quite the same as an hour's ride outdoors. Are there intangibles to outdoor riding that an indoor trainer simply cannot replicate? If so, what are they, exactly? Can they be quantified in any way?
Wind resistance and rolling resistance do not exist in the Zwiftverse. And as you're not actually moving, gravity isn't really doing much to slow you down either. You need to accomodate for that through either increased intensity or duration.
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Old 11-14-19, 06:10 PM
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Originally Posted by illdrag0n View Post
2 things re: climbs and workout rate - What's the max gradient/slope your trainer will imitate and have you set your Zwift settings to 100% replication (default is 50% from memory)
I'll have to check this the next time I fire up the Zwift machine.
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Old 11-14-19, 06:25 PM
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Originally Posted by rousseau View Post
2. If I have one complaint, it's that the visual cues rarely seem to match the gradients of the ascents and descents. Is this a general graphics issue? Am I asking for something that just isn't possible? So often the roadside will look like it's sloping down, but then the gradient indicator will show that it's sloping up. You think you might be cresting a hill but you've still got a long way to go. That kind of thing. I find I'm constantly looking over at the gradient indicator to see what's coming up, which is distracting and takes away from the enjoyment a little bit....
The default view is from behind and above your avatar. That'll skew the gradient visual. Try view #3 and see if that makes the gradient visual more in line with the indicator and changes in resistance.
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Old 11-14-19, 06:29 PM
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Originally Posted by Athens80 View Post
The default view is from behind and above your avatar. That'll skew the gradient visual. Try view #3 and see if that makes the gradient visual more in line with the indicator and changes in resistance.
Actually, I do always hit the 3 button so that my avatar is not visible and the view is more akin to what I would be seeing on a real ride. ​
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Old 11-14-19, 09:36 PM
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1) Think that's the best compromise. If they implement crashing it would completely suck and ruin the experience, as it's a lot harder to judge distance of a virtual environment than in real life. And even if they forcefully slow you down instead of crashing, think of all the potential griefing/trolling involved. Of course the game tries to minimize clipping by having you move over to the side, but sometimes it fails if you close in too fast, or there are too many riders, or at some iffy sections such as turns and junctions where the virtual path or "race line" gets thin, and so on.

2) Yeah, as others have mentioned, depends on your camera view.

3) Yes it is one of the various means of cheating.

4) Yeah indoor and outdoor efforts can vary. Gravity and wind as mentioned, also ability to stay cool (or avoid overheating), and also various cycling dynamics like how you can sway your bike or move/stand to affect your center of gravity outdoors, but you're basically just sitting on a static bike indoors.
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Old 11-14-19, 10:16 PM
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Originally Posted by DrIsotope View Post
Wind resistance and rolling resistance do not exist in the Zwiftverse. And as you're not actually moving, gravity isn't really doing much to slow you down either. You need to accomodate for that through either increased intensity or duration.
That's not right. On a smart trainer in simulation mode all of these are accounted for. While there is no wind, air resistance is built in to the speed calculation. If you get behind someone you'll get a drafting boost. And you certainly will feel the hills. This is in simulation mode. In ERG mode the program sets the wattage output no matter what your cadence or gearing is, so these things are taken out of the equation when it comes to feel, but are still reflected in speed. Even the different gear that you can earn will make a difference, some virtual bikes are faster than others, same with wheels.

How realistic this all will feel is where the trainer and software companies put their money. I did 2 laps of Central Park today in Zwift and it doesn't feel all that different than riding it IRL, except that Harlem and Museum hills both have exaggerated grades, but I think that is because of the intensity setting so they feel realistic. All that setting does is extend your gearing, it makes it feel easier but in reality it is only feels easier because you end up in a lower gear. Your speed is reduced. The problem I've always seen with this though is that I don't care about speed when I'm doing Zwift. But I did have a revelation this weekend when I rented a bike with much lower gearing than my own, 34/34 vs my own 34/26. I was in San Francisco and we know what SF is known for, hills. I'd have never made it up a few hills without that lowest gear, but instead I could spin up. Even a less steep but longer hill up in Marin was made much easier for me with the lower gearing. I'd have made it up with my own bike but it was more relaxed with the rental. Zwift does this for me in the software, and that's a lot cheaper than buying a new cassette and derailleur that will take it.
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Old 11-14-19, 10:43 PM
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No, it is right. The Zwift software will attempt to simulate the effects of gravity and wind resistance to make the results of the simulation more reflective of reality. But it never will be. It will never feel like riding a bike outside.

I made it to the radio tower on Watopia a couple times, and it's not the same as climbing an actual mountain. It beats staring at a wall on a dumb trainer, but it's not the same as being outside.
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Old 11-15-19, 06:53 AM
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Originally Posted by DrIsotope View Post
Wind resistance and rolling resistance do not exist in the Zwiftverse. And as you're not actually moving, gravity isn't really doing much to slow you down either. You need to accomodate for that through either increased intensity or duration.
I worked for a little while in an indoor cycling place coaching riders. I'd ride that bike, "calibrated" and would have won the world championship time trial. LOL...my sprinting was hilarious. I'm 65 years old and Sagan would have shaken my hand at the finish.

This stuff makes indoor training amusing. But you are not dealing with wind, temperature, changes in road surfaces, and a thousand other variables.

I guess that's why it's popular. You can feel like you are big time. But that's a lot to spend for that, IMO.
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Old 11-15-19, 06:55 AM
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Originally Posted by DrIsotope View Post
No, it is right. The Zwift software will attempt to simulate the effects of gravity and wind resistance to make the results of the simulation more reflective of reality. But it never will be. It will never feel like riding a bike outside.

I made it to the radio tower on Watopia a couple times, and it's not the same as climbing an actual mountain. It beats staring at a wall on a dumb trainer, but it's not the same as being outside.
Well said.
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Old 11-15-19, 07:07 AM
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Originally Posted by DrIsotope View Post
No, it is right. The Zwift software will attempt to simulate the effects of gravity and wind resistance to make the results of the simulation more reflective of reality. But it never will be. It will never feel like riding a bike outside.

I made it to the radio tower on Watopia a couple times, and it's not the same as climbing an actual mountain. It beats staring at a wall on a dumb trainer, but it's not the same as being outside.
I don't the discussion was about whether it "feels" different than IRL. I think folks understand that. I think the question is how far off do you think the results are from what reality would be? You basically said that Zwift is easier than IRL. If the Watopia radio tower was a real hill, and you exerted the same effort as you did on your trainer, you believe that your time to complete would be worse (assuming a windless day)?
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Old 11-15-19, 07:57 AM
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Oh, same exact "conditions" in Zwift vs. outdoors, anyone would absolutely be slower IRL. But that's okay. It is after all, a video game. I mean c'mon-- there are power ups. Some realism is I think deliberately not replicated in the Zwiftverse because it's supposed to be fun. Descending from the radio tower in Zwift, you just sit up and pant (because it wasn't easy) while your avatar screams down the mountain at +50mph. That's cool. Many cyclists will never hit 50mph out on the road-- hell, getting above 50mph takes a serious tuck, nearly perfect conditions, and the absence of fear to actually do it.

Zwift is fun, and it's a good workout, but it's not a cycling simulator. Just look at some of the rides people post. I see Zwift group rides with 50ft/mi averaging 23-25mph all the time. Pros don't do that in actual races. Back when I was stuck on Zwift, I did a route called The Pretzel, 47.5 miles w/ 4,500ft of climbing in 2h45m. Any similar real world effort I've done has come out in the 3h15m-3h30m area. And yes-- I put my height and weight in correctly. I never even thought to do otherwise. Later, I figured out how the dudes on paperboy bikes were blasting by me at 25mph on the flats.

But that's why Zwift is nice-- there's no way in hell I would have sat through 2h45m on a trainer otherwise.
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Old 11-15-19, 08:34 AM
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1. I'm hooked now.

2. You can still have fun even with a dumb trainer and meter/HRM, and race.

3. The draft is pretty accurate on the power cost/save for groups, but the bunching and positioning is kind of randomized and silly (it pops you out to the side despite being right where you need to be).

4. The TT CdA is a bit off versus the real world, I'm boat loads faster in the real world on the TT bike.

5. Now that I've raced a bit, I don't seem to worry or care that the cheaters exist. It's mental distraction versus staring at a wall doing intervals or listening to Pandora.

6. The combo of Zwift, ZwiftPower, Facebook groups/teams, and Discord make it a pretty immersive experience. Being able to talk tactics and stuff over Discord makes it a lot more fun. Or shout encouragement.
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Old 11-15-19, 09:46 AM
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Re: Zwift being easier than real life - I see this a lot with people I know and ride with in real life. I think it is a result of the power broadcasted by their smart trainer being inaccurate (regardless of doing a spin down). They are generally 2-3mph faster on Zwift as compared to a similar real life route/distance and elevation.

It helps if you have a trainer that can be calibrated with a real power meter (if you use a trainer bike without one), or use a bike with a power meter that you can connect directly to Zwift. My experience has been inside watts (real) are harder than outside watts because there is no micro recoveries (ability to freewheel without loosing momentum is at a different rate dependent on trainer flywheel). As a result, the ability to hold a certain wattage over time is shorter because there is no micro recoveries. In other words I have to work harder than I would outside, which is fine because when it comes time to do it IRL where it counts, I'm much better.

If you want the most realistic experience this is the smart trainer to use. Aside from real inside watts being harder vs. outside watts, the riding experience is just like IRL. You can also adjust the trainer to account for wind speed through it's app.

Inside Ride - E-Motion Rollers

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Old 11-15-19, 11:22 PM
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Originally Posted by jadocs View Post
Re: Zwift being easier than real life - I see this a lot with people I know and ride with in real life. I think it is a result of the power broadcasted by their smart trainer being inaccurate (regardless of doing a spin down). They are generally 2-3mph faster on Zwift as compared to a similar real life route/distance and elevation.

It helps if you have a trainer that can be calibrated with a real power meter (if you use a trainer bike without one), or use a bike with a power meter that you can connect directly to Zwift. My experience has been inside watts (real) are harder than outside watts because there is no micro recoveries (ability to freewheel without loosing momentum is at a different rate dependent on trainer flywheel). As a result, the ability to hold a certain wattage over time is shorter because there is no micro recoveries. In other words I have to work harder than I would outside, which is fine because when it comes time to do it IRL where it counts, I'm much better.

If you want the most realistic experience this is the smart trainer to use. Aside from real inside watts being harder vs. outside watts, the riding experience is just like IRL. You can also adjust the trainer to account for wind speed through it's app.

Inside Ride - E-Motion Rollers
Nope. In real life it is just as hard or easy as it is in Zwift. Power is power. I have both a power meter and a smart trainer and they track the same. When I've replicated a training session outdoors that I've done in Zwift it feels the same. The reason outdoor feels easier to most people is that you don't ride as consistently hard, no micro recoveries as you say. Speed doesn't really tell you how hard you are riding. Just get in a tuck behind a rider and draft, and you tell me that you are riding as hard at that same speed. You actually lose about 100 watts of power when you do that if you are doing a decent clip.

Yes, I've done the downhill from the radio tower at 50mph. And if I were going downhill and a complete daredevil I'd probably be doing 50mph IRL too. Maybe even faster. It is the absence of fear that you need, not the tuck. I've done 45 on my bike on a hill that I knew had no bumps and no cars, but I don't even hit 30 on most. At 64 years old I know I'd break every bone in my body in a crash at that speed, if I survive. No thanks.

And no, it is not the same as being outside. Of course it isn't. When I'm done with a training session, as opposed to a free ride, my power is in nice even blocks in Zwift. Even the most consistent purposeful training ride outdoors is a jagged line. That may be the biggest difference. You just can't hold consistent power outdoors no matter how high you ride. That isn't to say you can't generate a lot of power, it just isn't consistent. There is no flywheel keeping you going.

And as far as it being the best substitute for being outside, I've used the other apps too and find that switching between them keeps you interested the most. Unfortunately I'm not willing to pay for them all. I had Zwift all year and The Sufferfest part of the year. Rouvy and BigringVR are still trials and may have expired since I last used them.
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Old 11-16-19, 12:04 AM
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Originally Posted by illdrag0n View Post
2 things re: climbs and workout rate - What's the max gradient/slope your trainer will imitate and have you set your Zwift settings to 100% replication (default is 50% from memory)
This is my setup on my Lynx VR trainer. I don't really understand grade reduction beyond the idea that it makes steeper grades a bit easier.




Originally Posted by mstateglfr View Post
Yeah if you report a weight different from your own, the results will be skewed.
Tonight I totally reduced my weight on the trainer settings. Not Contador light, but still, a lot lighter than I really am. It's cheating, it's my little secret...and I'm lovin' it! You think they'll find out somehow? Could I get banned?

Originally Posted by mstateglfr View Post
On a directly related note, I could climb hills in real life faster than now if I weighed less.
Yeah, me too. Who knew donuts were fattening?
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Old 11-16-19, 07:08 AM
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Originally Posted by rousseau View Post
This is my setup on my Lynx VR trainer. I don't really understand grade reduction beyond the idea that it makes steeper grades a bit easier.
Your Lynx/VeloReality grade reduction setting from the screen shot shows that your trainer will match the route's resistance for gradients up to 5%. For route gradients beyond that, up to 20%, the trainer resistance will rise more gradually, so that at a 20% route gradient, your trainer applies the resistance for a 10% gradient. So you can specify that up to some limit, you want your trainer experience to exactly match the real-world route you're riding. But you can also specify that steeper gradients will be moderated, so that you don't run out of gears on the most extreme slopes on the route. Your virtual "speed" isn't affected by grade reduction. 250 watts won't get you to the top faster with grade reduction than without.

Zwift doesn't provide that break point for grade reduction. If you have "trainer difficult" in Zwift set to anything less than 100%, then it applies that reduction on every gradient.

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Old 11-16-19, 08:16 AM
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Originally Posted by zacster View Post
Nope. In real life it is just as hard or easy as it is in Zwift. Power is power. I have both a power meter and a smart trainer and they track the same.
I donít know about your setup but for most people itís impossible to replicate the cooling effects provided by riding outdoors. Even with fans and a cold room Iím much hotter indoors than outdoors. Increased core temperature makes riding indoors feel harder once your power is above 250W or so. At lower power levels it probably doesnít matter.
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Old 11-16-19, 08:38 AM
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Originally Posted by zacster View Post
Nope. In real life it is just as hard or easy as it is in Zwift. Power is power. I have both a power meter and a smart trainer and they track the same. When I've replicated a training session outdoors that I've done in Zwift it feels the same. The reason outdoor feels easier to most people is that you don't ride as consistently hard, no micro recoveries as you say. Speed doesn't really tell you how hard you are riding.
.
There's a couple mixed up topics now going on. Power is power, so if you're doing a power-based training ride, Zwift should feel the same as IRL. At the same time, re the other discussion, it is proposed that a Zwift course is easier than IRL. eg. if you ride up a 8% grade at 250 watts, Zwift would give you a faster speed than you'd see IRL. This issue if true, seems could be mitigated to some extent by a user if they wanted to, by doing one of the mentioned hacks (body weight, wheel circumference?)

I do agree that trainers (not specific to Zwift) take away some 'ease/speed benefit' (if we call it this or if it exists), by being more uncomfortable (eg riding out of the saddle in a trainer sux)
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Old 11-16-19, 10:37 PM
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Originally Posted by DrIsotope View Post
No, it is right. The Zwift software will attempt to simulate the effects of gravity and wind resistance to make the results of the simulation more reflective of reality. But it never will be. It will never feel like riding a bike outside.

I made it to the radio tower on Watopia a couple times, and it's not the same as climbing an actual mountain. It beats staring at a wall on a dumb trainer, but it's not the same as being outside.
I ride climbs way better than I am able to do in real life. It is just too difficult to replicate the feel and effect of gravity.
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Old 11-17-19, 07:01 PM
  #23  
UmneyDurak
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Also position on a bike is different, unless you use wahoo climber or raise the wheel "manually".
Biggest thing with zwift, and it's an obvious statement, is that there is not bike handling skills that are required.
Someone mentioned descending from radio tower. Could you hit 50mph on similar road outside? Probably, it's pretty steep and there is enough straight to build up speed. Question is would someone would be able to make that left turn at that speed. My guess for majority of zwift users the answer is no.
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Old 11-17-19, 08:51 PM
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Originally Posted by UmneyDurak View Post
Also position on a bike is different, unless you use wahoo climber or raise the wheel "manually".
Biggest thing with zwift, and it's an obvious statement, is that there is not bike handling skills that are required.
Someone mentioned descending from radio tower. Could you hit 50mph on similar road outside? Probably, it's pretty steep and there is enough straight to build up speed. Question is would someone would be able to make that left turn at that speed. My guess for majority of zwift users the answer is no.
Yea, at 15% downgrade it would be easy to hit 50, but I'm not crazy enough to do it IRL. I checked my Strava from when I did the ride down Haleakala and only hit 30 once or twice. It isn't as steep and it is continuously downhill but I was riding the brakes the whole way.
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Old 11-18-19, 09:30 AM
  #25  
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I tend to find that riding at a certain power on Zwift feels pretty similar to riding at that power outside.
However, I also find that I go 2-3 km/h faster on Zwift for a given power than I do outside.
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