How to Change Bikes Quickly in Zwift

How to Change Bikes Quickly in Zwift

With Zwift’s recent-released mountain bike rolling faster over dirt than all the road bikes in game, racers hitting the Jungle Circuit or Road to Ruins routes would be wise to plan a smart bike-choice strategy beforehand.

The mountain bike is significantly slower on tarmac in comparison to road bikes, but the reverse is true on dirt. That leaves us with a few potentially winning strategies:

  1. Ride a road bike, going hard at the start to drop anyone on a mountain bike so you have a significant lead going into the Jungle.
  2. Ride a mountain bike, planning to close any gaps to the road bike riders once things get dirty.
  3. Swap from a road to mountain bike when you hit the dirt, hoping that the time lost in making the bike switch is made up by increased bike speed.

A Brief History of Bike Switching in Zwift

Bike switching is a strategy which appeared in the early “Wild West” days of Zwift racing. Riders might switch to a climbing bike at the base of a long mountain, or a heavy, aero TT bike before a long descent.

Zwifters even began using macros to make the switches instantaneous and simple. Macros allow you to “record” a set of actions (such as mouse movements and clicks) on your computer, then “play” those actions easily. So instead of manually clicking through menus to change bikes, savvy Zwifters could hit a macro shortcut and instantly be on a new bike without ever slowing down.

Zwift put a stop to this eventually by requiring your avatar to stop moving before switching a bike frame or wheelset. (Fair play, since this is how things work in the real world.) This change effectively ended bike switching in Zwift races, because very few race situations existed in which the benefit of a bike swap was worth the time penalty.

How to Switch Quickly

Today, a bike switch can easily be done in 12-15 seconds. It involves these simple steps:

  • Stop pedaling
  • Hit “A” to bring up the pairing screen, which also applies the brakes on your rider
  • As your rider slows to a stop, hit “OK” to close the pairing screen, and hit “T” to bring up your garage
  • Select your bike, then start pedaling
  • Hit OK to return to the game

If you aren’t a computer, you can perform similar steps by clicking “Menu” first, then accessing the pairing screen and garage from the menu. It’s a bit slower, but not much.

Here’s a demonstration video showing what this looks like. We recorded two riders chugging along at 300 watts (4 w/kg), so you can see what sort of time gap may be created if you are in a race pack and decide to switch bikes. It appears that time gap will be approximately 20 seconds, but this will vary depending on the speeds everyone is traveling when the switch happens. (Slower is better!)

With the mountain bike turning in a Jungle Circuit lap time 73 seconds faster than the Tron bike (at 4 w/kg), a 20-second gap can easily be made up.

Note: while a macro program could be used to make this process a bit faster, we did the switch above manually.

Real Race Example

Tom Gakes of Bolt Racing Team may have been one of the first races on Zwift to do this, just a couple days ago. He says, “First change was a bit messy (started pedaling again too early) but the tactic worked out well. Too bad I just didn’t have the legs that day.”

Watch below as he makes the switch, and even with taking too long to do it, ends up catching the front group that was well ahead on road bikes.

Have You Tried It?

Have you tried the bike swap strategy yet in a Zwift race or group ride? How did it work out?

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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Joe Bolan
Joe Bolan (@bolanbiker)
1 year ago

Did a crummy swap in the Fondo today, forgot the T key shortcut, only had the Zwift mtn bike to use, and STILL caught a group that dropped me on the climb before the Jungle / Alpe gate, and made up enough time to switch back and still be ahead. Still wish the gravel bike was a better choice (hard to watch myself on a mtn bike), but it really works. Some in the pack griped about being able to switch, but they had the same option, since everyone has the Zwift mtn bike now. Now to practice the switch.… Read more »

Peter Murray
Peter Murray (@karatepete)
1 year ago

Any chance of a video of how to do the same but with apple TV?

DP Pedal of Honour
DP Pedal of Honour
1 year ago

I guess For evaluation purposes, it’s actually a 40 second gap in total as you have to switch back (unless race finishes at end of Jungle).
So the advantage at 4W/Kg around Jungle is now only 36 secs – assuming you don’t make a mistake.
Training harder, as in real life, seems the better option

Paul Mason
Paul Mason
1 year ago

Hi Eric – just to say thanks for the tip. I combined the bike swap and the MTB speed recommendations on Stage 3 group ride tonight. I made up 90 places during the jungle loop with another rider who did the same thing. Great fun. I changed back on the rope bridge (figuring I would stop quicker as it sloped back up) a bit of hammer back on the Tarmac Pro and I caught back up my group.

Jim Landon
Jim Landon
1 year ago

My iPad Zwift has put me on a mountain bike even though I don’t have access to frames in my garage! It only does it on one of my iPads? Doesn’t seem to matter what route. Just started doing it and I have no idea how to get rid of it!?

Sandy
Sandy (@sandythomson)
1 year ago
Reply to  Jim Landon

Your bike needs to be stationary before you can change frames, I suspect when you tried it you might have still been moving

Taylor Gonsoulin
Taylor Gonsoulin
1 year ago
Reply to  Jim Landon

If you joined the Cape Epic challenge for the month of March, there is a radio button that auto-selects the Scott Spark RC mountain bike. That may be the problem, and you need to click the button on the Zwift home page to turn off the auto-selection.

Karen Chin
Karen Chin (@karenyouwrote)
1 year ago

Would you know what level you have to be to be able to have a Mountain Bike in the Garage? I was trying to follow instructions to swap on my very first Meetup today, and everyone was doing it smoothly but me 🙁

Mark Crane
Mark Crane (@rdcyclist)
1 year ago

As usual, game changing information here. I gotta tell you Eric, ZW has made a material difference in my Zwift experience and this tip is another example of it. Thank you so much!

A question: What are the performance differences between the three MTB’s I see:

  1. Zwift MTB
  2. Specialized Epic S-Works
  3. Scott RC

I don’t really have the drops for the Epic at the moment but I could clear the Scott. Is the Epic worth waiting for? Is the Scott better enough than the Zwift to make a difference?

Thanks again,
Mark

Air Gee
Air Gee
7 months ago

FYI, I tried this bike-swap method during today’s Fondo.
On my IOS device, the app promptly crashed after I hit “Ok” on the pairing screen, ejecting me from the event.

I was very disappointed …

Ok, next time I will test things before the event 🙄

Marek
Marek
6 months ago

So how many bikes swaps are allowed during one activity? Thanks

Alex Eliott
Alex Eliott
6 months ago

You can do any number of bike swaps in a single activity. Some feedback on trying a mixed bike swap strategy this in a race scenario. After plenty of practice using Eric’s tips I got the swap time down to 10 seconds. Then tried it in a race on Road to Ruins Reverse loop. Was in the third group but going full out. Did a 10 second swap before the caves onto MTB. For 1 minute i hammered away but could not make an impact on the group. Started slipping back, and on the descent after climbing up to the… Read more »

Henrik
Henrik
5 months ago
Reply to  Alex Eliott

Thank you for this comment, Alex. Exactly what I was looking for.

John Wilkins
John Wilkins
5 months ago

Hi, I’m using an Ipad, without wishing to appear too dense, how do I hit “A” after I bring my avatar to a standstill ?

Thanks

John

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