Opinion: It’s Time for a Zwift Event Feedback System

Opinion: It’s Time for a Zwift Event Feedback System

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!

Status: Busy

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.

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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.

Your Thoughts

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!

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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Gordon Sloan
3 months ago

Good idea, it’s not just the vocal few that have feedback. I’m sure many riders that have a negative experience on a ride just opt to not ride that event in future. If leaders saw this sort of feedback i’m sure it would lead to improvements. There is quite a few improvements Zwift could make around events including a feedback system. Ideally if every club had access to clubs then it could be all integrated into companion. Along with a long overdue update of companion to include a decent event search, route profiles, garage access and much more would be… Read more »

Rick Wenger
Rick Wenger (@rwenger)
3 months ago

I definitely think something needs to be done to trim the number of rides and races on the calendar. Less events with more people in then should be the goal. Love the idea.

MATTHEW YANKOW
MATTHEW YANKOW
3 months ago

As a regular ride leader/event organizer I would love some of the data and feedback on how I am doing. We have a joke on one of my rides that we are “The least welcoming ride on Zwift” because one guy 3 years ago had a bad ride in our group and posted on Facebook about it. But other than looking at starting and finishing rider numbers over the weeks I don’t really know if riders other than our regulars are having a good time. I never know if it is just dropping because of nice weather or if there… Read more »

Jeremy Hobbs
Active Member
Jeremy Hobbs (@jeremychobbs)
3 months ago
Reply to  MATTHEW YANKOW

Matt, you’re one of the most positive people I’ve ever encountered on zwift. I always try to remember that we’re just playing video games in our basements!

Pete
Pete
3 months ago
Reply to  MATTHEW YANKOW

For my money, the Matthew Yankow led KAB ride is the best event on Zwift, and it happens three days a week. Bonus!!!!

Eric
Eric
3 months ago

I’d like to see rides published with both w/kg and absolute watts as a standard. Some simple pre-ride quidancr.on how gradients will be handled too…That would go a long way to letting people understand up front how they’re going to fit into the ride.

Evan
Evan
3 months ago
Reply to  Eric

But how would absolute watts help anything? A 50kg rider going 150 watts (3.0 w/kg) is a lot different than a 100kg rider going 150 watts (1.5 w/kg).

Doug
Doug
3 months ago
Reply to  Evan

Would be helpful on the flat where watts matter more. If the ride leader on the flat is 100kg and riding 3w/kg, it’s going to be a lot harder to sit in than if they were 50kg at 3 w/kg

JTWO
JTWO
3 months ago

I like your ideas. However there should be a more open dev environment IMHO. This will bring yours and others ideas to fruition.

John Ferro
John Ferro
3 months ago

I like the idea. Unfortunately people are people and some will use such a platform to vent negativity. But overall, it will offer those trying a new ride what to expect. Years ago, I actually kept my own record of which rides I liked and which I would not return to ride on. I also like the use of the fence. I do not see why a group ride has to deal with flyers. I get tired of seeing the group ride leader begging for riders who go ahead of the fence to return to the group. There are enough… Read more »

MsSakushi
MsSakushi
3 months ago

I’m an admin for Team Fearless. We have quite a few scheduled events for both riding and running on Zwift. All of our ride leaders are volunteers. We had a discussion about this article and it was unanimous that we do not need a review system. If people don’t like the ride or run, they can quit and do something else. We think that more events is better. It provides choices. Plus, many times when I’m look at zwifting, I can’t find events at that time. We think that a review system would provide too much negativity. Zwifting should be… Read more »

James
James
3 months ago
Reply to  MsSakushi

This isn’t primarily for you as the organiser, it’s for me as the potential attendee to be able to discover good events.

As for negativity then maybe that comes in the comments but overwhelming star ratings skew positively (see podcasts, Amazon etc)

MsSakushi
MsSakushi
3 months ago
Reply to  James

I hear what you are saying. “Good events” though is defined differently as its depends why a person Zwifts or what they are looking for at the time. Does lots of people joining it make it a good event? Does having a fence or not having a fence make it a good event? Does sticking to a strict w/kg or being flexible depending on the group make it a good event? I think the best way to find an event you like, is try it out. If you don’t like it, quit and do something else or finish it and… Read more »

MsSakushi
MsSakushi
3 months ago
Reply to  MsSakushi

Or read ZwiftInsider articles that recommend certain events of the week. 😁

Tim Perkin
Tim Perkin (@tperkin)
3 months ago
Reply to  MsSakushi

I like that suggestion – I am always looking at the events and trying to think who they would appeal to and promote what catches my eye. Sometimes I stick to a theme, or like last week, ones which are just unique events. I try to be fair as I know much work goes into the events having hosted and led them for the purpose of explaining to the community. This week I have been writing about the excellent “Roll with Castelli” rides which have been hosted for many years and is expanding. A favourite of mine because it is… Read more »

Jeremy Hobbs
Active Member
Jeremy Hobbs (@jeremychobbs)
3 months ago
Reply to  MsSakushi

I’m with you on this and I’m not even a ride leader.

MsSakushi
MsSakushi
3 months ago
Reply to  Eric Schlange

Eric, I agree with this. I can see this being helpful for our non-led events to know if people are using them and would use them again. If not, we can change it up to see if there’s ways to set up events that are more useful to people.

David White (NZ)
David White (NZ)
3 months ago
Reply to  Eric Schlange

Why not start simple eg with these ideas of Eric’s? No comments allowed in the first iteration. Then see how it goes.

Paul Himes
Paul Himes
3 months ago

It does seem like number of repeat riders, number of new riders, and a comment field would be a useful thing. As long as the survey isn’t too obtrusive. Every time after a pace partner ride, it asks me how the ride was, how likely I’ll be to use it again and for comments. Even if the ride was garbage (and I did leave comments when they mucked with the algorithm or there were bugs), I was always hitting maximum stars for if I would use it again because the pace partner is an essential part of my warm up… Read more »

Jeremy Hobbs
Active Member
Jeremy Hobbs (@jeremychobbs)
3 months ago

I don’t know that what the world needs now is yet another forum for people to air their strong opinions…it depends on what problem you are trying to solve. If the issue is giving people a sense of the extent to which a given (recurring) ride conforms to the ride description, I don’t believe a subjective rating system is the most effective way to solve the problem. As I laid out in another comment, I think Zwift could benefit from having more explicit, and shared definitions for how events are described. For example, I’ve been on lots of rides advertised… Read more »

Paul Rayner
Paul Rayner (@paulrayner)
3 months ago

Having worked for a sports governing body, I think there is a careful balance to be struck between gaining constructive feedback and scaring off volunteers. Some brilliant volunteers, who get 99% brilliant feedback, can unfortunately get put off by the 1% who will never be happy. Because of this, if I was at Zwift I”d consider putting this rating system in and sharing the star ratings with ride leaders, but only looking into the comments from those rides (or clubs) which get the lowest ratings. And if particular clubs get poor ratings for a lack of enforcement in races, or… Read more »

Jeroen Speelmans
Jeroen Speelmans (@jeroenspeelmans)
3 months ago
Reply to  Paul Rayner

Totally agree. You don’t want a great ride leader to feel bad over 1 negative comment.

Meyoo
Meyoo
3 months ago

If Zwift wants to get rid of truly bad led group rides, especially if they are doing sponsored rides with Pros, Zwift should do/offer standard quality assurance and train their leaders with the basics of group leading (how to pace, how to advertise, how to motivate the blob to regroup etc.) And tell their “special guests” what they are expected to do! (I guess, they are notoriously thrown into cold water – that’s why. In many cases, at least.) Based on surveys what’s a well led ride for their customers in general – not specific rides. Personally I appreciate the… Read more »

David Kelly
David Kelly
3 months ago

What would be very helpful is a slider showing how many watts will be required given one’s weight in comparison to the ride leader. The other main issue how fast will climbs be ridden in comparison to flat watts. This is a simple answer. Of course, one can sus some information out in advance by using the “Last Week” button on Zwift Power. That is if the course and ride leader are the same. OTOH, My favorite ride leader used to advertise as being the meanest one on Zwift. His high C rides were a bear and the more people… Read more »

M. d. s. Günther
M. d. s. Günther
3 months ago

The amount of events has another negative side (although oerall of course it’s a positive thing): Many events are not very populated.
Today i was looking to join a big race, could be anywhere from 3pm until 9pm CEST. I was looking for a race with 20+ riders in my cat so that i would have the possibility to drop out of the probably too fast front group but not ride alone.
Nothing.

Andre
Andre
3 months ago

As a relatively new Zwifter (about 3 months) and so far having done no organized events, I think a big thing that has kept me from doing organized events and only riding on my own is how unorganized the whole thing actually looks. I think there’s a lot of people giving their time and organizing events but from the point of view of a newcomer this is very badly shown and presented in the application itself which I think is a shame. Knowning that if I joined an event providing feedback would be difficult is indeed not a very good… Read more »

Mwuaa
Mwuaa
3 months ago
Reply to  Andre

Just join an event. It’s not a big deal. Hit me up, I’ll hold your hand (virtually) if you like.

Rob GZ
Rob GZ (@robgrootzwaaftink)
3 months ago

Great article for a discussion! Personally I have small children and have little time to Zwift. When I put my children in bed, I hop on the bike and see what rides I can join. It would be great if on the home screen I could see the w/kg. Now I have to also open zwifthacks to check that (I always look for around 2 w/kg). I definitely like the idea of giving feedback after the ride, the same way as done with the Pacer bots: how would you rate your experience? And: Would you ride again with this group?… Read more »

Catering for babies
Catering for babies
3 months ago

Too complex and completely unnecessary. Please don’t mess things up for those of us that are not babies. I don’t need my hand held to join an event. If I don’t like it then I’ll do something else.

Henry Ashman
Super Member
Henry Ashman (@h_j_ashman)
3 months ago

I feel that would be useful, another metric that might be of interest (if Zwift can get it) would be a breakdown around the distance/finish times for the ride. As that would give you an indication of the group spread, whether people got spat out the back etc.

Another key thing as a participant, is that I’d like a detailed filtering system around finding events. Is a ride series <4 star average? Is it just 5 people? Does it have a women's only version? Is it on a route I'm bored of (e.g. Tempus Fugit)? Stuff like that.

Rob GZ
Rob GZ (@robgrootzwaaftink)
3 months ago
Reply to  Henry Ashman

Hey Henry. Check Zwifthacks for all the information about events you mention.

Xavier
Xavier
3 months ago

Let people give 1-5 thumbs after an event? Maybe. Anything more sounds like a lot of work to collect subjective data from a vocal minority.
Objective data would be more useful and Zwift has it already.
Why not publish the number of riders and %age that finished close to the leader, and the average w/kg of those riders? That would be enough to give any idea on how social the event is and how close to advertised power one needs to ride.

With those stats published, kicking flyers and helping struggling riders would naturally improve ride ratings.

My 2 cents.

David Bennett
David Bennett
3 months ago

I’ve just completed the fun is fast time trial. It may be just me but the distance bar ran out and went back to the beginning, although I had not passed the completion banner. I stopped to check and remounted and completed the event after a further 700m of riding all of which added around a further minute plus to my finishing time. Although I would not have been anywhere near winning it we would have moved me a few positions up the leader board, average speed / power etc would all have improved

Chris
Chris
3 months ago

I have only ever encountered one group ride that was poorly organised (advertised as Cat D, but also 3.0-3.2?!, led by a former TdF winner, who didn’t turn up until 25 minutes in!). My only gripe with ride leaders is they almost always ride Trons, which distorts the speed they can ride at their advertised w/kg. I think ride leaders should be on zwift carbon bikes and 32 wheels.

Karen
Karen
3 months ago

I think it is a good idea. I would like to give feedback for some group rides I have done. Some have been way faster than what was expected and it would be nice to give that feedback and nice to find a group ride that fitted better with my speed. There would be times I would join a faster ride to extend myself but that’s not all the time. I like your suggstions. The ride leaders could then earn from the feedback to make their rides even better.

James Eppich
James Eppich
3 months ago

I think something like this would just add a lot of noise to any real data. Often it’s the minority that are louder than hell while the majority is just silent and happy. If there are issues, sure, work towards making them better. And sometimes companies can just not be aware problems exist because they are not reported. When I had a problem once I found zwift’s technical support amazing and quick. I guess I’m saying if you put the panic button right in everyone’s face, they will mash it a lot more, kind of like the boy that cried… Read more »

sarah b
3 months ago

One note: there’s a pattern across society that some people like to give nasty feedback through any mechanism necessary because they have some sort of prejudice against some demographic of the organizer, and people in that group can get really tired/burnt out dealing with the constant nastiness. We don’t want to lose women leading rides because some asses feel the need to say creepy things in the feedback form for any women-led ride. And if any of the “average ratings” or anything are publically visible, the system would need to avoid people being steered away from rides because a handful… Read more »

Brian Barlow
Brian Barlow
3 months ago

Ride leaders. Most are rubbish with their own little clique. Some even have a private profile. So you want me to follow someone who won’t even show their stats! Who needs them, just have more levels of pace partners and the ability to switch levels while riding. It’s the group that matters not the leader.

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