5 Intermediate Zwift Racing Tips

5 Intermediate Zwift Racing Tips

Racing on Zwift has evolved into a cycling discipline of its own. As such, racers are learning strategies and tricks which can give them an edge. Here are five intermediate-level tips for next-level eRacing on Zwift.

If you’re new to Zwift racing, be sure to read “How to race on Zwift (setup, strategy, and more)” first, which covers the basics.

#1: Attack Dirty

Watopia includes several dirt sections, and even though it’s virtual, riding in the dirt is different than riding on tarmac! Dirt has a higher rolling resistance on Zwift, so your smart trainer’s resistance will increase a bit on dirt sections. Additionally, dirt sections are dusty, which limits visibility.

Another way to look at it: these dirt sections essentially behave like small climbs, with the added benefit of reduced visibility. If you’re feeling good and want to make an attack, consider the dirt.

Attacks in the dirt are what dropped GCN’s Simon Richardson from the leading pack in the famous “Si vs the Volcano” race in Zwift’s early days. The lesson here is: if you’re barely holding onto the pack and are approaching a dirt section, try to start near the front of the group and be ready to put in an extra dig to avoid getting dropped.

This also gives you better visibility, because unless you’re near the front, you won’t be able to see more than a few bike lengths ahead in a large pack. (Pro tip: for visibility, you can also change the camera angle–hit 9 on your keyboard for an overhead view without dust.)

Stay within a few bike lengths of the front so you don’t lose sight of the pack

#2: Power Through the Sticky Draft

The wizards at ZwiftHQ have put in a lot of work to make drafting as realistic, intuitive, and functional as possible… and that’s no small feat when you consider the lack of braking and steering! A big part of what makes drafting work on Zwift is a bit of “stickiness”: when you get behind another rider the game makes you “stick” in their draft just a bit.

This is a nice feature when you’re trying to draft, but if you’re trying to move past a rider it’s no fun at all. It is especially noticeable at slower speeds like you’ll find on a hill climb.

Here’s how to beat the sticky draft:

  1. If you are already sitting in the rider’s draft, increase your power significantly (by ~100 watts or more) so Zwift knows you don’t want to draft anymore. You’ll move past the rider in short order.
  2. If the rider is a short distance ahead of you, make sure you are moving significantly faster than the rider you are passing, and Zwift will let you pass them without sticking at all.
Mind the sticky draft, especially on slower climbs!

#3: Don’t Over-Power It

Since Zwift’s draft is a bit sticky, there is actually a wattage range that will keep you in the draft. That is, if you are drafting behind someone who is pulling at 300 watts, you will stay in their draft if you do 250 watts… but you may also be able to stay in the draft at ~225 watts. So why put out the extra wattage?

Racing is all about conserving energy so you’ve got the watts when you need them most. So try to maintain the minimum wattage necessary to hold your desired position in the pack. This will require constantly adjusting your power output, but once you’ve spent some time doing it, this becomes second nature.

Mind the gap

#4: Know Your Draft Status

Paying attention to whether or not you are currently drafting helps you know how much power you need to put out. Zwift uses the visual cue of having your avatar “sit up” on the hoods to indicate when you are in the draft. Two key exceptions:

  1. Your avatar will also sit up at slow solo speeds (but in a race situation, this rarely applies).
  2. When riding the Tron bike your rider will never sit up, even though it is drafting.

If you are moving at 33kph (20mph) or more and your avatar is sitting up, you are in the draft. If you’re hunched down in the drops, you are out of the draft and probably working harder than you want to be.

Drafting in Zwift actually introduces some randomness into group riding, as the game positions you right to left automatically. Sometimes this means you get moved out of the draft–when this happens and your rider crouches down, be prepared to work a little harder to keep pace with your group until Zwift takes you back into the draft.

Read more about Zwift drafting >

#5: Take a Quick Breather with a Supertuck

If you’re on a long enough downhill section and only want to keep your position in the pack, consider not pedaling. If you’re putting out 10 watts or less on a decline of 3% or more at 58km/hr (~36mph) or more, Zwift will put you into a “supertuck” position which lets you coast down the hill fast and hang with riders who are still working.

Result: you get to rest a bit while maintaining your position in the pack!

The supertuck is faster in race events than freerides or social rides, because Zwift changed how it behaves in races back in May 2019.

A word of warning: the supertuck works great until you hit a flat section or slow down and the game sits you up. At that point, if you’re sitting in with a group that is hammering, you’ll can get dropped very quickly. Pay close attention to the road and start pedaling hard if you see it flattening just ahead.

Read more about Zwift’s supertuck >

Check out that supertuck!

Share Your Tips

Got some advanced racing tips of your own? Share them below!

About The Author

Eric Schlange

Eric runs Zwift Insider in his spare time when he isn't on the bike or managing various business interests. He lives in Northern California with his beautiful wife, two kids and dog. Follow on Strava

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Carl J
Carl J
1 year ago

You mentioned that Simon got dropped on the dirt section a couple of years ago. Didn’t realize that the dirt had resistance back then. Thought that was just recently added, or did they just recently increase the resistance when they brought out the Gravel and MTBs? Speaking of MTBs, is it possible to switch bikes during an event? I do recall you mentioning something about people using macros before to quickly do the switch, however when I’ve tried in the past to switch bikes while riding, it wouldn’t let me. This past Sat I did the Zwift Fondo, and someone… Read more »

anderfo
anderfo
1 year ago
Reply to  Carl J

1. That was probably due to the (lack of) sight, not resistance.

2. Yes, you can switch during a race, but you need to make sure that you stop completely first. So do it at a place with low speed, and push A then Esc to stop quickly. Then find your quickest way to switch bike. You will probably loose 30-40 seconds, but it can be worth it if you go on dirt for a while…

Carl J
Carl J
1 year ago
Reply to  anderfo

Thanks. Maybe my issue was that my rider wasn’t fully stopped. Will give it a try

James Daley
James Daley
1 year ago
Reply to  Carl J

Try it on a free ride first. I did yesterday and was far quicker, the level of boost is similar to drafting ie about 25%

Lar
Lar
1 year ago

On my tacx flow I often lose connection in the supertuck. Super frustrating

Juniorm
Juniorm
1 year ago
Reply to  Lar

Yep, this has happened to me so many times and I just figured out it was the supertuck today! (tacx flow also)

Paul Garner
Paul Garner
1 year ago
Reply to  Lar

I also lost connection yesterday for around 30 seconds after supertuck on tacx flow !!!

Andrew
Andrew
1 year ago

I’m curious whether the introduction of the new in-ride “steering” functionality has any bearing on what you talk about as Zwift’s automatic lining up of riders and shuffling you out of the draft periodically – will riders with Steering turned on be able to keep themselves in the draft more of the time with some well timed tweeks of the front-end?

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