The Unfolding Story of COVID-19 and Zwift

The Unfolding Story of COVID-19 and Zwift

By now, we’ve all been touched by the COVID-19 pandemic. For some, life has been dramatically altered – working from home, school cancelations, quarantines, travel bans, even hospitalization. It feels as though the world has turned upside-down – and nobody knows when it will return to normal.

As the COVID-19 story developed, the Zwift Community realized it is built on a platform perfectly positioned for this crisis. It’s an angle many of us had never really considered – but Zwift offers a way for the world to exercise safely at a time when outdoor riding or running may be unwise, discouraged, or even unlawful.

Zwifter Barry Mainwood said it well: Aside from being able to get some good exercise in it’s the last place where all of us from all over the world get to hang out together and socialize. And for that, I’m grateful for Zwift.

It could be said that zwifting helps us fight the effects of COVID-19. At the same time, COVID-19 is affecting the way we use Zwift! Let’s dig into these ideas a bit more.

The Effects of COVID-19 on Zwifters

More Meetups

I’m part of the Betty Designs team which is a worldwide triathlon team. A number of the girls have had races cancelled and/or are now working from home. We’ve been organising meet-ups so that we can get together while getting some exercise, all without leaving home. I’ve become an expert on time zones and Zwift meet-ups in the last couple of days. It’s super fun to do and is a great way to have some kind of social life without physically being around people.

Nadine Voice 

Zwifters are taking advantage of Zwift’s Meetup feature more than ever, since it makes it easy to create events for a select group of friends. When you’re unable to ride outdoors with local buddies, riding virtually (and even using Discord) is the next best thing.

Learn how Meetups work >
Learn about the “Keep Everyone Together” option >

With the cancellation of organized youth sports, having two side by side trainers, and a lot of healthy energy at home, we are doing meetups with our kids… motivating them with the idea that if they ride x miles in a week / month, they can earn a Fitbit (a highly desired device at ages 9 and 10).

Sarah Goodrich

With more Zwifters using Meetups than ever before, we’re also seeing more requests for Zwift to upgrade Meetup functionality. Particularly, Zwifters are asking for the option to allow late joining of Meetups, and to hide non-Meetup riders on screen.

Work From Home=More Zwifting

Millions of office workers have been asked to work from home for the foreseeable future. The elimination of commuting time and nearby availability of their Zwift setup means more Zwifting for these members of our community.

I’m working from home and all travel for work is canceled – so I might finally get the chance to zwift every day for two weeks in a row and get that ‘unemployed’ badge.

Philippe Armbruster

Zwift As the Only Option

In some areas of the world right now, cyclists simply cannot ride outdoors – it’s against the law! Spain and Italy have banned it entirely, with Spanish authorities reportedly handing out hefty €3,000 fines for infractions.

I am part of a local cycling club in Madrid, currently on lockdown. On Sunday I arranged a meetup with my fellow colleagues to replace our long ride (110 km with 1.5 times Big Foot Hills circuit). Every day going forward I will be organizing varied meetups (recovery rides, workouts, races). Many have discovered Zwift through this initiative 🙂 and thanks to Discord we could feel “virtually” closer!

Hugo Angelina

Experienced Zwifters are happy to have a way to ride in countries where outdoor cycling is prohibited, but there are also new riders discovering Zwift because it’s their only alternative:

I’m in the Red Zone in Italy, about 40km from the city were all this COVID-19 thing started… a lot of guys here are discovering Zwift these days. With my team we are organizing meetups every Sunday and Saturday… As we know meetups needs to be improved a lot (late join could solve a lot of problem for my team for example).

This morning a Uber Pretzel meetup with a lot of great Italian guys.. thanks to Zwift.

Fabio Mux

Zwift As the Safe Option

Some Zwifters are riding exclusively on the platform during this time because they are part of the high-risk groups for COVID-19, or they live with people who are high-risk. Zwifter Brian McEntire coined the term “Social Zwiftancing”, which is exactly what these Zwifters are doing!

Having close family members who are in the very high risk group, Zwifting allows me to reduce the chances of picking up an infection that, while highly likely to be trivial for me, would be fatal for them. Having Zwift makes that a very minor sacrifice.

Alasdair MacMillan

As someone who lives in Seattle, the weather is not ideal for outdoor riding yet, so I’m thankful to have Zwift available as it makes long training sessions tolerable while staying indoors. Of course, now that we’re also a hotbed for Covid-19, the idea of me wiping out somewhere and needing medical attention when so many people who fall into the ‘vulnerable population’ are needing help – it seems like a selfish decision… I’m more than happy to hang out in the ‘pain cave’ until we get through this.

Lynn Johnson

Zwift As Stress Relief

This is a stressful time for everyone, for many reasons. We all know exercise is a powerful stress reducer and happily, Zwift provides a way for us to exercise in the safe environment of our own homes.

Really grateful for Zwift. Normally I’m the only one in the family who does it, but now that we’re all couped up in the house isolated, it’s a great outlet to get some exercise, pass the time, and release any tension we may all have. One of my kids (9 and 13) is really taking a liking to it!

Andres Sulleiro

I Zwift a lot anyway, but I am trying very hard to social distance as much as possible to protect my asthmatic daughter. Zwift is keeping me sane. People who think they don’t have to worry about this because they aren’t in a high risk population have no idea the stress involved in trying to protect a vulnerable person in their home. It. Is. Stressful. Zwift is helping me manage that stress. I am so, so thankful for my indoor Queen. Still riding outside, but love the ease and flexibility of my indoor set up. Kudos to Zwift!

Shelly Baldwin Brown

Events with Pros

With nearly all bike racing cancelled worldwide in the coming weeks, pro teams are looking for ways to keep their riders healthy and in-shape. Zwift seems perfectly-positioned to meet this need, and Mitchelton-SCOTT was the first world tour team to really figure this out and begin making some lemonade from the lemons with their “Where the World Rides” series. Surely other pro teams will follow suit soon, but even if they don’t, we’re already seeing more pro riders using the platform for everyday training.

I’m loving the additional TOW time slot events and the interactions with the professional riders. Cycling Canada has recommended a suspension of activities on the calendar until early May and will re-evaluate mid April. It looks like Zwift will be the only competitions here for the next 45 days.

Blair Drader

Zwifters love interacting with pro riders, and this situation is providing an opportunity for pros to put in some substantial training alongside their fans. Smart teams like Mitchelton-SCOTT will move quickly to plan events that help their athletes train while reaching out to current and new fans.

For the pro riders this is like cancelling their purpose, like soldiers with no war to fight. So it’s really nice to connect with fans, talk up sponsors, and do something productive!

Jeremiah Bishop

Events Moving Indoors

It takes some time to make it happen, but we’re seeing some of the canceled outdoor events moving to Zwift in various ways. While organizers may not be able to perfectly replicate the outdoor event, someone may be able to do something, even if it’s as small as Mitchelton-SCOTT’s homage to the canceled Strade Bianche.

Zwift just announced the Absa Cape Epic Race Week, being held during the same dates as the Absa Cape Epic race was scheduled to be held before it was canceled. There are many community organizers who are attempting to move outdoor events to Zwift as well:

Since all IRL races for amateurs are canceled in Poland we (as a community Polska Społeczność Zwift – ZTPL Cycling Club) are planning to ride our own virtual tour, ZTPL.CC Tour 2020. Right now we are waiting for ✅ from Zwift HQ.

Jacek Tarach

I run the local Escape Velocity races and in March/April I had eleven events scheduled. Now all on hiatus. I’m hoping to get going in May with our weekly crits and BC Provincials in June. In the meantime (Zwift event schedulers willing) I’ll be adding some additional weekend races targeted at our Spring Series participants.

Stuart Lynne

Nathan Guerra over at Zwift Community Live has been keeping his finger on the pulse of these new events. Other community members are also trying to support events which have had to suddenly move to a virtual venue:

At ZMS Live Stream we have offered to stream any events that are being transferred to Zwift to help with awareness and soften the blow where possible, particularly charity rides that still need the support despite cancellations. We are already working with some riders and groups on additional streams and happy to try and squeeze in as many as we can.

Damon Bates

Solidarity

There’s definitely a feeling of goodwill and solidarity permeating group rides on Zwift. We’re seeing Zwifters checking on other riders via in-game messaging, especially those in Spain and Italy:

While I was quietly ambling along doing the Out and Back route badge today just before I reached the QOM arch a group of 5 Italians blasted past me. Usually this would have me mutter something under my breath but today it really made me smile that they had somewhere they could all ride together, fast and safely.

Sarah Strange

Trainer Sales Spike

I’m getting some inquiries from friends on how to set up a minimalist Zwift pain cave (dumb trainer and speed sensor for z-power). Wonder what the worldwide supply of ant+ dongles and/or the Garmin speed and cadence 2 sensor is.

Gene Edwards

We’re even hearing rumors of a spike in sales of indoor cycling equipment! Panic-buying smart trainers? Perhaps it’s a thing! Here’s one funny story:

I work in a bike shop and a very forward-thinking fellow came in last night 15 minutes before the shop was to close to panic-buy a smart trainer. He doesn’t even have a bike to go on it right now, but all his friends have been raving about Zwift and he’s realized it might be the only way to stay exercising soon.

Diana Wilson

At a time of the year when many cyclists are moving away from Zwift and heading outdoors, we’re hearing more and more stories of riders trying out Zwift for the first time. And loving it, of course!

I live in Redmond WA, work in Kirkland WA. We are at ground zero. Earlier in the year I started toying with Zwift. Started to really enjoy it (coming from Peloton). Then as COVID-19 started heating up, my last non-food shopping trip was to the bike shop to get a Kickr. Wanted to be sure that the next few weeks/months are awesome!

Craig Wiley

Training Load Mindfulness

Note: we are not medical professionals. We believe the information shared below is broadly applicable to most people, but that does not mean it applies to you! It is best to consult your doctor if you have questions or need recommendations regarding exercise or nutrition.

During this time it’s important to do what we can to stay healthy – not only for ourselves, but for those we could potentially infect if we get sick! Because of this fact, we’re seeing more and more discussion and questions about how training load affects immunity.

The basic answer is: if you’re not feeling sick, then it’s best to keep getting regular exercise, as this boosts your immune system. But don’t overdo the training, as this will tax your immune system, making you more susceptible to health problems.

Here’s a thorough and informative paper titled “The Compelling Link Between Physical Activity and the Body’s Defense System” from the Journal of Sport and Health Science. Click the link to read the full article, but we’ll summarize a few key points which we believe are especially useful to Zwifters during this time:

  • Moderate-to-vigorous intensity exercise of less than 60 min is now viewed as an important immune system enhancer.
  • “In contrast, high exercise training workloads, competition events, and the associated physiological, metabolic, and psychological stress are linked with transient immune perturbations, inflammation, oxidative stress, muscle damage, and increased illness risk.”
  • Upper respiratory tract infections (URTI) follow a J-curve model that links URTI risk with exercise workload. Moderate training results in a 40-50% reduction of URTI risk, while elevated training results in an elevated (2-6x) risk of URTI. So again, moderate training is recommended, while high workloads are not.
  • “Immunosenescence is defined as immune dysregulation with aging. Emergent data support that habitual exercise is capable of improving regulation of the immune system and delaying the onset of immunosenescence.”
  • “The most effective nutritional strategies for athletes, especially when evaluated from a multiomics perspective, include increased intake of carbohydrates and polyphenols.” Fuel your rides well with carbs, which leads to “reduced stress hormones, diminished blood levels of neutrophils and monocytes, and dampened inflammation.” And be sure to eat fruits and vegetables high in polyphenols, which exert “a variety of bioactive effects that are important to athletes including anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antioxidative, and immune cell signaling effects.”

What Hasn’t Changed

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed everyday life for billions of people, and as you can see from the testimonials above, it’s even changing the way we use Zwift.

But there’s a lot on Zwift that hasn’t changed at all. We’ve still got our amazing community. We’ve still got hundreds of fun events to choose from every day, and a powerful platform to host them all.

What About Zwift HQ?

How is Zwift HQ handling the COVID-19 situation? We reached out to see if they could give us any insight into whether traffic numbers are higher due to COVID-19, whether Zwift is changing their plans to better support Zwifters during these times, etc. Here’s what they said:

As you know, we never comment on subscriber numbers. As an at-home training service, we’re in a stronger position than most, and as the climate changes, we’re likely to see some changes in community behavior (that change being more activity). That said, assuming a more active base, we’re working on adding new events throughout the calendar to keep our community moving and training.

Translation: Zwift is working to get more events added to keep the community motivated during this time.

Zwift is definitely talking to pro teams and event organizers about partnering together in the coming weeks – but there is a lot of planning that has to take place to pull these events off. Yesterday, when asked about Zwift stepping in to help with some of the canceled events, Zwift Game Designer Jordan Rapp said this:

What About You?

How has COVID-19 changed your Zwifting, if at all? Are you finding Zwift especially useful during this time? Share 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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MATTHEW YANKOW
MATTHEW YANKOW
1 year ago

I know a lot of my rides have had some new faces in them trying to figure out how to ride on here. It will be interesting times, have to dig out my new user mid ride advice from the first week of January rides.

Oliver Radermacher
Oliver Radermacher
1 year ago

Eric, thanks for sharing these very different point of views, this is very much appreciated. And it shows the diversity that Zwift offers and I am more than happy to be part of this friendly and encouraging community. Although – or happy to do so – I still have to go to work (Lockdown in Germany awaited) I really love to join different races, group rides or meetups. Let us all hold together and encourage to overcome this situation and hopefully lots of new frienships all over the world will come to life. Ride On and stay healthy!!!

Szatmari Oj Daniel
Szatmari Oj Daniel (@daniel)
1 year ago

Hi Eric , great writing btw, very well summarized.
Unfortunately, as long as motivation goes, the current situation is kind of…sh..ty I would say.
We have no more IRL races, so nothing to train for.
But wait, we have Zwift, we can race in single races/ virtual tours/haute route stuff. Buuuut, as long as you race & exert yourself for virtual-challenges, you are growing big chances of getting sick/infected because of the lowered immunostuff.
So … where to go next?

June
June
1 year ago

This video is circulating. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5y-2PtSxbCQ&feature=youtu.be It seems pretty informative but you have to go what works for you.

Gil Santa Maria
Gil Santa Maria
1 year ago

Eric, how about a campaign with the Zwift team to support athletes who cannot go out on the street to train, so that Zwift provides 30 days free on its platform, mainly supporting those who cannot pay at the moment. It would be a great opportunity to support the population in this difficult time, in addition to attracting new users in the future

Gil Santa Maria
Gil Santa Maria
1 year ago
Reply to  Eric Schlange

Eric, I do not see it as a situation where Zwift will take advantage, but an opportunity for the platform to collaborate with the world population and not only with the PROs, who, as you said, receive from the teams the condition of using Zwift. The benefit for Zwift would be to signal to people in general that they are helping the well-being of athletes and cycling enthusiasts, it would be a positive message that, as a result, could mean new users in the future who would try Zwift to pay for use after the free 30 days. TV channels… Read more »

Buddy The Elf
Buddy The Elf
1 year ago

Thank you for providing this information on Zwift and Covid-19. I understand Zwift’s position on not divulging subscriber numbers but I would like to know if they believe their server capacity will be able to handle the increase in traffic?

Linda Messinger
Super Member
Linda Messinger (@lmessinger)
1 year ago
Reply to  Buddy The Elf

Yes this was my question as well.

Hamish Gibson
Hamish Gibson
1 year ago
Reply to  Eric Schlange

I’m going to wildly assume that the platform is SaaS-based in someones cloud, so it should be able to autoscale out anyway if demand did go up. Issues may well be more bandwidth-related than resource capacity, expecially with who-knows how many more people globally working remotely.

*** EDIT *** – Just seen further down that it’s AWS based, so should be able to auto scale if need be.

bags
bags
1 year ago
Reply to  Buddy The Elf

Its a gaming server , zwift users will never out place COD players or WOW. We have nothing to worry about for the 0.1 % of world using it lol

Yvette Sienkiewicz
Yvette Sienkiewicz
1 year ago

I am SO grateful that I am was set up with Zwift prior to this world health situation! It is not yet Spring here, and still a little chilly and rainy. On top of getting a boost from being able to exercise indoors any time I feel like it, it also makes me feel good to run on a sunny road with green trees, and blue skies and birds chirping. It is such a great way to escape for a while.

Darin Boyd
Darin Boyd
1 year ago

Yeah, all those “outside grouches” that were laughing at us for all the Zwifting a couple months ago… They don’t seem to be laughing much these days… 😆

Charles Rogers
Charles Rogers
1 year ago

Nobody’s really talking much about it yet, but Zwift, with it’s combination of social interaction and workout, is really going to benefit our MENTAL conditioning as well. By the way, it seems that there are a lot of riders around the world that generally ride Zwift about the same time of day I do; I’ve been seeing the same names over and over again.

Simon
Simon
1 year ago

What about if Zwift HQ went down? No more service for a while..

Wouter
Wouter
1 year ago

I turned off the comment pop-ups after reading the word “Corona” there as well every other second. Please oh please – we are there to escape reality and relax: NO CORONA TALK! (and no politics as well…)

James Hodges
Member
James Hodges (@10212974246230259_anonymous)
1 year ago

Controlled race starts. Moderate exercise with some short efforts.

We need more pace and race events in place of all out races right now. We are our own worst enemy when it comes to racing hard.

The community puts on a number of well executed events – 30-40 minutes easy and an “espresso” segment/lap.

Matt Wheeler
Matt Wheeler (@thisisthematt)
1 year ago
Reply to  James Hodges

Absolutely, that would be great.

Erg mode is the only version of myself I trust. 2 short races a week (not back to back) then Trainer Road controlling me in z2/z3. Shame I got my route badges already.

D.J.Hunter
D.J.Hunter
1 year ago

Hi Eric, do you know what counts as a ‘lap’ for the 14 days unemployed badge? Perfect time to go for it for me.

Matt Wheeler
Matt Wheeler (@thisisthematt)
1 year ago
Reply to  D.J.Hunter

it’s something like 10-15km or the distance of the old hilly loop.

naan
naan
1 year ago
Reply to  Matt Wheeler

A single lap of the Volcano was enough for me (just to check the box after a ride outdoors), and that’s just 4 km.

Jordan Rapp
Jordan Rapp
1 year ago
Reply to  D.J.Hunter

5km+

Kristian
Kristian
1 year ago

I find that an unexpected upside to working from home is that i no longer have to stress about working out early in the morning or late afternoon. Now i do my workouts in the middle of the day, and i find that it increases my productivity in the afternoon, but i can still put in the same hours of work, often even more because there is no commute. Win/win all around

Jelle
Jelle
1 year ago
Reply to  Kristian

I was hoping something like that as well, but having two kids (5 and 8) also at home, means I cannot even make normal working hours, let alone workouts…

hal
hal
1 year ago

Could there be some metric such as calories burned divided by rider weight that is an indicator of effort, such that different riders can get a sense of how hard to go before they are compromising their immune system. Perhaps refining this with an age factor. The event that boosts the immune system of an 85kg 25 year old rider, might do the opposite to a 65kg 70 year old.

.KR
.KR
1 year ago

Limiting fatigue has been a focus for me the past several days. It looks increasingly likely that ride/travel plans for the late spring will be off, so there is less of a driver for fitness gains. With immune capacity now such an important consideration, the calculus has changed.

Still aiming to ride every day, CTL 120 or better, but holding rather than gaining fitness seems like the right goal for now. Minor loss on the scale of things, but not insignificant.

sujin
sujin
1 year ago

best the solution for this health situation. while covid-19, the riding on zwift can easily set up and also keep you safe from the outside environment. nobody sees the deadly virus gem, me neither. to minimize our risk, zwift would make you enjoy the ride as you did before.

sujin
sujin
1 year ago

👍🏼

Hamish Gibson
Hamish Gibson
1 year ago

Very interesting article, I actually started getting back into cycling just shortly before this all kicked off, not having ridden for probably 25+ years, I went out and bought a road bike just because I was trying to be more active this year. Then the weather wasn’t great, so instead of risking my life out on The Moors in 70mph winds, I bought a trainer and had a look at Zwift. Turns out it’s the best thing I’ll probably do this year, knocking out 75km per day (my daily target) without having to leave the house and possibly put others… Read more »

Paul Mountford
Paul Mountford (@pmountford)
1 year ago

The price is just too high a monthly sub to consider with all my other monthly subs, I’d rather an ad supported free version as now my smart trainer is looking pretty dumb…

Darren
Darren
1 year ago

Bought a Kickr Core/Climb combo in late January because I figured I would really like Zwift… now that I am confined to the house my timing appears downright miraculous!

Guillaume Szondi
Guillaume Szondi
1 year ago

Why not make it free for the time of Cov19!?

Mike smith (70) il
Mike smith (70) il
1 year ago

For me….if I couldn’t zwift…I’d probably have to cut down on my riding…I have macular degeneration…so being able to walk into my extra room..and riding every day is an enjoyable workout..I’m happy to have zwift…

Ed Siegel
Ed Siegel
1 year ago

I would absolutely agree. I’ve loved Zwift for 2 years now and given our current situation, I can’t think of a better platform to socialize globally and ride together. I’ll definitely be riding much more often.

Ozero
1 year ago

Our local cycling club in Folsom, CA(with over 600 members), recently decided to postpone outdoor rides while the world is dealing with the Corona virus. Our weekend rides typically averaged 40-50 riders. Lucky for us, we had the foresight a couple of years ago to start posting Meetup/Zwift events during the winter season. Even though it’s spring time weather and the days are longer, we will be posting more Zwift rides until it’s considered safe to gather in large groups again. Using Discord to allow us to chat with each during a “ride”, really changed the dynamic as we were… Read more »

Kim S
Kim S
1 year ago
Reply to  Ozero

Our club (West Chester, PA—and nearly the same size) reached the same conclusion this week and has the same Zwift/Discord capability. Very useful in the winter and might now continue to be useful for the duration of this situation

Laurence Price
Laurence Price
1 year ago

What some haven’t consider is this, ride in the road/bush, have an accident, will there be a bed in hospital, if yes, have you denied someone else who could be told to die at home. Dramatic but realistic in some parts of the world.

Dennis M Foster
Dennis M Foster
1 year ago

Hi Eric,
I haven’t seen anything on here about the login / performance problems of the last couple days, likely due to higher volume. Yesterday I was not able to login at all (after 90 min of trying); today I was able to get in but navigating through the screens was difficult. The good news is RGT works fine, just a lot less people.
dm

Peter
Peter
1 year ago

Love the events and often seeing the same name/avatar. Competitive, social and great exercise.

Tim
Tim
1 year ago

Great article! Im brand new to zwift and very excited about my new hammer trainer! I have a 6 week old and a 3 year old at home with me. Free time seems to only be at night these days. Do you have any tips late night zwifting?

STevel
STevel
1 year ago
Reply to  Tim

Don’t Zwift late at night in the garage with the door open. My elderly neighbors called the cops on me because they thought something was wrong.

Andy
Andy
1 year ago

One side effect of Corona is that the second day in a row you can’t log in at evenings (E.S.T.). Apparently teh server are full. :-(.

Neil Glezer-Jones
Neil Glezer-Jones (@neil)
1 year ago
Reply to  Eric Schlange

I am in South Africa and I cannot login. Keeps saying Check my internet connection. Problem not on my side because I decided to load up RGT and went for a ride. No reply from support either, so if I cannot connect by Monday I will cancel subscription for April and just ride RGT.

Nige
Nige
1 year ago

With a lot of us losing our jobs we can’t afford to pay the monthly fee anymore. Would be good if the Zwifters could help us out over these tough times…

Andrés C
Andrés C (@acorral)
10 months ago

Got in ZWIFT on April as a way of getting in better shape to prepare my body to better face COVID and lower my risk, being sedentary and overweight is not a good way to face a deadly respiratory disease right?

Bought a Schwinn Classic Cruiser trainer bike to Zwift on it…

Today I’ve lost 9kg, my resting heart rate is 67bpm, not 75bpm, my blood pressure is within reasonable levels at 110/80 and I am Zwift level 11 and finishing my first full ftp booster training, my ftp is at 120 and I FEEL GREAT!

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