Years ago, someone on the Zwift Riders Facebook group suggested that we need a way to review or rate Zwift group rides.
It’s been a long time since I saw that thread but as I recall, the suggestion wasn’t endorsed by most. People thought a group rides review tool would turn into some sort of a mudslinging platform where hardworking ride leaders would have nothing but negativity tossed their way.
At the time I agreed that it would probably create more hassle and headache than it was worth. And yet, the idea has sat in the back of my mind for years, because I’ve always thought it had merit on some level.
Today, I want to unpack how an Event Feedback System (EFS) for Zwift might function, and what value that functionality might add to everyone’s experience. Because I think such a system would be very useful at this point in Zwift’s evolution. Let’s dig in!
There’s no easy way to query the massive historic database of Zwift events, so I can’t easily chart how Zwift’s calendar has grown over the years. But I can assure you that the number of events has increased greatly from a few years ago! A quick glance at sites like ZwiftHacks and ZwiftPower shows that the current daily schedule has approximately 90 Group Rides, 130 Races, and 60 Group Workouts scheduled for cyclists.
That’s nearly 300 events per day! Which, in many ways, is amazing: most of those events are organized by members of the Zwift community, and many of those rides are led by volunteers who show up every week to deliver a rewarding ride experience for all involved. Kudos to them.
But imagine being a newcomer to Zwift, trying to find a group ride to join. Intimidating, right? Not only are you somewhat ignorant of how group rides work (“What will a pace of 2.5-3wkg feel like? How hilly is this ‘Hilly Route‘?”), you also don’t know how good of a job the leader is actually going to do.
And heaven forbid you click to join the ride from the Home Screen in the Zwift game, which doesn’t display anything about the event except its title!
5 years ago, Zwift consisted of a much smaller user core which managed a much smaller set of events. Experienced Zwifters were familiar with most of the events on the calendar, and actually noticed when new events were added. But those days are long gone.
We need better discovery tools for events. And an EFS should be a key component of those tools.
The Truth Shall Set You Free
If you’ve been on Zwift very long, you’ve probably taken part in a group ride or two. If you jump into a variety of events, you’ll soon discover that not all group rides are led well.
I joined one just last week, led by a pro rider. (This, by the way, is often the kiss of death on Zwift – pro riders are notoriously bad ride leaders.) The ride details stated a pace of 2-2.5 w/kg. He messaged before the ride began to say he would be holding a pace of 2 w/kg. Then promptly launched off the front, messaging 10 minutes into the ride that the pace would be closer to 3 w/kg.
Not a big deal to me personally on this particular day, but depending on your situation, this could really be irksome.
So what can Zwifters do to help? The answer is: nothing, apart from messaging during the event. Sure, you can post on Zwift Riders about how you didn’t like your ride experience – or how your group ride experience was amazing! But that’s only going to reach a tiny subset of that event’s potential audience.
If it’s a weekly event, it will all happen again the next week: same day. Same time. Same great (or not so great) leader.
Instead of relying on limited in-game messaging, we need to be able to provide feedback easily, which drops into a system that exposes that feedback in various ways to various interested parties. It’s the only way for ride leaders to get truly useful feedback, and the only way for the cream to rise to the top so would-be participants can easily decide if a ride is worth attending.
How’d I Do?
Having led various group rides over the years, including the weekly Friday Pacific Sprintapalooza, I see the situation from the perspective of the ride leader as well as the participant. And you know what I would love to have? An EFS that provided me with this information after every ride I led:
- Total riders who joined
- Total riders who joined for the first time
- Total riders who finished
- A simple 1-5 star average rating from anyone who filled out the post-ride survey
- Suggestions from participants (short one-liners would be plenty)
This simple report would help me do a better job in all aspects of ride leadership week after week.
What About Negative Reviews?
When the group ride feedback system was proposed years ago, the big concern was that people would rail against group ride leaders – and nobody wanted to build a system that enabled others to attack hardworking volunteer leaders.
But I don’t think this would be a massive problem, as long as people could only post a review for a ride they had actually taken part in.
Sure, some leaders who do a terrible job would get some poor reviews. But is the alternative (angering a bunch of Zwifters who signed up for the event in good faith) better? I’d say no. Zwift’s event calendar is no longer a backyard weekend project for a handful of hobbyists – it’s stuffed full of events sponsored by big brands and teams with thousands of members. There’s simply no room for poorly-led group rides at this stage in the game.
Simple and Integrated
A third-party solution isn’t going to do the job here. The only viable EFS would be one integrated into the Zwift game, so any rider upon finishing (or prematurely exiting) an event is greeted with a quick survey screen where they tick a box or two and enter optional feedback. Simples.
Four different audiences would have access to EFS data, enabling them to make informed decisions:
- Ride leaders could be emailed a report, or perhaps just given access via the Companion App
- Team administrators would have access to reports for all rides hosted by that team
- Zwift HQ could use the data to “trim the fat” if the calendar go to packed, or spot bad ride leaders and intervene
- Zwifters would see some sort of rating for upcoming events, perhaps something as simple as a star rating and total review count. Make it so we could filter events by rating, or perhaps give top-rated events a special designation. Give ride leaders something to work for!
Wrapping It Up
My description above isn’t meant to be detailed and exhaustive, but rather to propose a simple framework for an EFS on Zwift. As a rider who has both participated in and led hundreds of group rides over the years, I think a simple EFS, properly implemented in game, could dramatically improve the group ride experience for participants and leaders.
Do you think an Event Feedback System is a good idea? Any features you would change from what I proposed above? Chime in below with your thoughts!