How Can Zwift Develop a Platform for Fair Racing?

How Can Zwift Develop a Platform for Fair Racing?

The proposed removal of weight and height metrics from display in Zwift Power caused quite the community backlash – the common theme of the response was that transparency of these metrics helped the community self-police weight-dopers.

But the truth is, the Zwift community do not have a need or want to see people’s weight and height. What they do have, though, is a strong desire to ensure that racing is as fair as possible – because a fair racing platform is more engaging and more rewarding!

This article explores cheating in Zwift, and looks at ways that it could be tackled in the future, should Zwift determine that community racing is a core part of the platform that deserves development time, money and resources.

Aside: Whilst the total number of active racers on the platform may be a small percentage of the overall user base, I would argue that these are the most engaged Zwifters, and their marketing impact is huge. If you look for Youtube videos or articles about Zwift, racing is nearly always the focus. An active and engaged racing community is critical to the long term success of the platform.

What Factors Contribute to Performance Inaccuracies?

Fundamentally there are four factors that, if not correct, can lead to an ‘enhanced’ racing performance.

  • Weight – a deliberate input
  • Height – a deliberate input
  • Power – determined by the trainer/power meter. This can either be inaccurate by accident (poorly calibrated, poor quality trainer) or deliberate (knowingly using the trainer or power meter in a way to give you an unrealistic advantage, or faking power output)
  • Category manipulation – racing in a lower category than you should, either by ‘cruising’ (managing your output so that you do not get upgraded) or entering a joining a lower pen than your Zwift Power assigned category.

How Can These be Managed?

Remove the incentive and reward gained by cheating

The current category system is founded on the W/Kg metric, so falsification of weight or height can easily give you an advantage by moving you to the top of the category in terms of output, or keeping you in a lower category than you should be racing (reverse weight doping).

A focus on forcing accurate weight and height, perhaps with technology (e.g. smart scales) or by pre-race validation or exposure of weight and height metrics publicly, is a wasted effort in my opinion. Cheaters will always find a way to exploit the system to gain a benefit, so instead we should look at the behavior and the psychology behind it. If falsifying metrics is not really worth it, will they bother?

I have previously proposed a results-based ranking and matchmaking system for Zwift racing. If this were implemented, manipulating weight and height may mean a racer gets an unrealistically high ranking, but their chances of winning would not be increased – they would just race tougher opponents.

In this scenario, is cheating really worth it? (It’s worth noting that, at the highest level where there are more rewards, more stringent validation is already in place to prevent this in the first place).

Anti-cheating tools

Most big online games use anti-cheating tools to recognize cheating – be that manipulated code, or patterns of suspicious behavior. A toolset could be developed to highlight and flag suspicious performances, which either automatically disqualify a rider or flag the rider for race organisers to determine the outcome.

For example, the system may catch changes in height (height is generally consistent, so any changes should probably require a direct request from ZHQ), suspicious changes in weight, suspicious power behavior (large performance gains, sticky watts), etc.

Racing standards

Race organisers should be able to mandate a certain standard of equipment or a certain level of performance validation. I am not really a fan of dual recording, but this could be required, as well as privately submitted weight/height validation or power validation. A standard of trainer could also be required, for example direct drive trainers only, or factory-calibrated direct drive trainers. Of course, limitations like this reduce the potential audience, and would likely be limited to specific competitions.

Commitment Required

All of the above developments would require a big commitment to community racing on the part of ZwiftHQ. I hope that this commitment can be made, and that Zwift can engage with the community as this system progresses to ensure it is fit for purpose.

I truly believe that if this is landed well, it could massively improve the proposition to a large community of users that become more engaged with Zwift, promote the platform, and ultimately drive revenue. The stakes are high: Zwift racers are some of the most passionate users, and if they move across to a system provided by the competition, they will likely bring a large number of more casual users with them.

My Questions To You

I have a few questions to the wider Zwift community. Can you give me your feedback in the comments section below?

  • If the above systems were developed, would there be any need to see height and weight?
  • Would the above systems see you racing on Zwift more often, the same, or less?
  • What other changes could make you feel like Zwift racing is fairer?

About The Author

James Eastwood

James is a triathlete living in the North of England who works as a project manager for a technology company. He runs a small aero sock business (Socks4Watts) whose Zwift team has been dominating the female WTRL TTT and includes the likes of Cecilia Hansen, Alice Lethbridge, and Leah Thorvilson.

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Seb J
Seb J
15 days ago

I love the idea of result-based ranking/matchmaking. Several other competitive games have ranking systems to ensure equal opponents. And the system is already available in the ZwiftPower Rankings.
It is a system much like the one most of us bike racers know from the outside categorization, where if place in the top spots you’ll eventually collect enough points to move into the next category with better opponents.

Mark Wilson
Mark Wilson
15 days ago
Reply to  Seb J

Exactly this, and many more categories so you are always, and automatically, matched with similar riders – the difference between top and bottom of current categories is huge. Could quite easily be 3.2-3.4w/kg based on last three races and it’s automatic. Can only enter the correct category.

Derek
Derek (@dpr4473)
15 days ago

How can Zwift develop a platform for fair racing? They can’t. And, if you take into account their most recent attempt to hide rider weight and height in zwiftpower, fairness isn’t on the agenda.

James Eastwood
15 days ago
Reply to  Derek

TL;DR?

Xavier
Xavier
15 days ago
Reply to  Derek

Fair racing? Not even fit for racing. Zwift cannot see I am 100 meters behind the fence but claims to be able to distinguish first and second racers on the finish line by a fraction of a second, possibly to the level of the latest Amstel Gold race? Be serious, Zwift race results are just not trustworthy.

Derek
Derek (@dpr4473)
14 days ago
Reply to  Xavier

Absolutely, Xavier. I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen my avatar cross the line ahead of another rider, yet Zwift places that rider ahead of me in the results. Now that they have control of zwiftpower to, the “official” result are equally untrustworthy.

BLT
BLT
15 days ago

I am a Cat D rider and I plan my races around weight. I am heavier myself so I am aware of the advantages/disadvantages on a specific course. My race participation would be higher.

Chris Neal
Chris Neal (@humanisinghse)
15 days ago

This would absolutely make a huge difference for me, I’m on Zwift for the training benefit but also because of the community of racers that I am now a part of; if the competition started to supersede the value provided by Zwift in racing, I would change in a heart beat

Ken
Ken
15 days ago

You are spot on that the issue is not about height/weight per se but about ensuring races are fair. I would like to see emphasis put on preventing the cheating because even if cheaters are stripped out of race results after the event they still get whatever cheap thrill it is from appearing at the top of the results, however unfairly (they won’t care) and fleetingly; but also mainly because their presence affects the dynamics of the race in way that means a simple removal of cheaters from results and bumping the fair competitors up positions doesn’t reflect the positions… Read more »

Jimmy
Jimmy
15 days ago
Reply to  Ken

The very fact Zwift Power was needed in the first place speaks volumes to the validity of Zwift results. As you say even if looking on ZP you see you’ve won when the cheats are removed, it’s taken a massive part of the enjoyment away from not crossing the line in your actual position.

Paul Himes
Paul Himes
15 days ago
Reply to  Jimmy

I don’t even look at my results on Zwift anymore. Just go to Zwiftpower. That’s been less satisfying since ZwiftHQ took over ZP.

Alex Quebec
Alex Quebec
14 days ago
Reply to  Paul Himes

I’ll take “things that people who don’t win races say” for $2000….“34th in race, but first in my age group/weight/category/country result on zwiftpower” What is Paul Himes?

rdcyclist (Mark Crane)
rdcyclist (Mark Crane) (@rdcyclist)
15 days ago

Well said, James. Your results based categories would make it very difficult for cheaters/sandbaggers to continue to foul up Zwift racing. I believe the Zwift racing community would welcome such a change. I don’t know how hard it would be to implement in the Zwift game though. Some things which would seem to be easy to change take years to get done. I don’t know if this is due to poor management or crappy code. In the short term, enforcing race entry category to keep riders from racing down category would be a very viable change that would make a… Read more »

Peter Higgins
Peter Higgins
4 days ago

Could folks who are either (1) not registered on ZwiftPower, or (2) racing down-category vs their ZP minimum category be made (electronically) invisible? – their avatars will not be visible to anyone else in the race, they will not show up on the live leaderboard, and they will not show up on Zwift Power at the end. Essentially, they get to have their down-category fun, but no one else sees them? Eventually, they will realize that it is not that much fun (or they can continue, but they don’t bother anyone else with their existence). A sort of electronic shunning.… Read more »

Evan
Evan
15 days ago

Honestly, if you cheat, its on you. But in real life, if you cheat, and you are caught, there WILL be consequences. Big Time. Just don’t cheat, people. Riuns the fun and experience.

Phil
Phil
14 days ago
Reply to  Evan

to the cheats, the fun is in ruining the fun for the non-cheaters

Bruce
Bruce
15 days ago

I think a point based system is an interesting proposal – the category system is poor – My W/KG is about 4.1, so I am only just an A, and have zero chance of winning in an A cat race (I do not sandbag!). But I also think “solutions” should be as simple as possible and not prone to gaming. As cyclists we all know that weight and power matter, especially when the road heads upwards, so I am not sure we can get rid of weight (I think we could simplify by getting rid of height – I know… Read more »

Kris
Kris
14 days ago
Reply to  Bruce

Hi I do quite a few races together with my 13 year old son. His weight is around 42 kg and I can promise you its not an advantage on the flats due to his relativly small Max power output. If the normal power output in the the group we are riding in is around 3w/kg i guesstimate he have to put out at around4 w/kg to avoid being dropped. So races in crit city are hopeless and the downhill sections are allmost as hard as the climbing I suppose based on w/kg he should race in A category but… Read more »

Bruce
Bruce
13 days ago
Reply to  Kris

Thanks Kris for replying. I guess it is difficult if not impossible for Zwift to accommodate all of us – from your son and others through to me (age 52) and beyond.

Jhenck
Jhenck (@jrh26)
15 days ago

I would race all the time if it was fair. Even Zwiftpower has gone down hill so there is just no incentive to race for me. What is wrong with saying that if you want to be in a race and be counted in the finishing results that you have to meet certain criteria. If you don’t care about racing then you can do whatever you want. This shouldn’t affect Zwift’s subscriptions since that seems to be the main concern.

Martijn
Martijn
15 days ago

Good article! I think cheating is not the problem. The problem is feeling that you do not have a chance to win, when you follow the rules. A personal example: I’m a Cat C racer on the edge of Cat B. I I’m neither light nor heavy (72 kg, 177 cm). You’d think I’d have a chance to win. However, it all too often happens that I get dropped from the lead group, nullifying my chances to win. Only to see green cones of shame flying around minutes later. Here the cheaters ruined my chances to win (or at least… Read more »

John Hughes
John Hughes (@jlhughes128)
8 days ago
Reply to  Martijn

Hitthe nail on the head. Nobody wants to race of you just get dropped in the first minuet every time. A good racing experience is about being in the mix, fighting it out up the climbs, sprinting for the finish. You don’t have to win, just be part of the action. I’m not sure there are as many cheaters on zwift as people think, I suspect people just don’t like getting beaten, especially when there ego tells them they’re amazing.  Hit

Gavin
Gavin
15 days ago

Ideas – points based system as IRL racing. Or, a system similar to a racing game like Gran Turismo that throws you into races based on recent races? Zwift should talk to PlayStation or Xbox.
that leads to the other problem, cheating in video games exists and is hard to completely crush, let’s remember Zwift is a video game still, will never replace real life racing.
one other idea would be, as above, some kind of internal points ranking system, but also with separate weight categories as in boxing, featherweight/lightweight/heavyweight divisions?

ShakeNBakeUK
ShakeNBakeUK (@bakeuk)
15 days ago

If the Zwift community didn’t want to see other people’s height/weight details, then why was there such a big community backlash when Zwift tried to remove them..? XD

James Eastwood
15 days ago
Reply to  ShakeNBakeUK

Because, as explained, it was felt that it removed transparency and therefore fairness. If these systems had been delivered at the same time, I am sure no-one would care that they could not see weight and height publicly any more.

paolo cairoli
paolo cairoli
15 days ago
Reply to  James Eastwood
they can do as they want ...
I have put my weight and height next to the name
Daniel Andrews
Member
Daniel Andrews (@sprenten)
7 days ago
Reply to  James Eastwood

Using community as a cover for racing community is a fallacy, there is a clear distinction between causal and fitness users which make up the community along with racers who are in and of themselves a whole different community which require different standards without the visuals we would have to compare against IRL.

Shaun Harris
Shaun Harris (@vgrntbeauxner)
15 days ago

Personally, I don’t spend a lot of energy thinking about fairness in zwift racing. If someone’s cheating, it eventually comes to light – or they go away after theyve lost interest. Maybe its the privilege of racing A where there technically isnt sandbagging. And its even less of a concern in premier divisions.

Cheat all you want, you’re only cheating yourself. And I’ll see you out on the road.

Charles Givens
Charles Givens (@ctgivens)
15 days ago
Reply to  Shaun Harris

Exactly the way I feel….spot on.

W .ally
W .ally
15 days ago
Reply to  Charles Givens

From the perspective of someone who uses e-racing just to prepare for the summer road months… sure. But people who see future in e-racing as a full-fledged cycling discipline will disagree with you 🙂

Brian Bodemann
Brian Bodemann
13 days ago
Reply to  W .ally

As the discipline matures I think the barrier to entry will be raised, and you will see some height/weight verification by 3rd parties come into play. We are at the very birth of eRacing. I think it will grow and grow. Lots people like myself wouldn’t take the risk of jumping in an IRL Crit. I’m too old for a broken collarbone. I like racing without the physical risks and I’m yet to have trouble finding good competition.

Shaun Harris
Shaun Harris (@vgrntbeauxner)
10 days ago
Reply to  W .ally

I’m happy to report that I am one of those people who recognizes the discipline for what it is; I take competition on z very seriously, I work hard to climb the ladder, improving my ranking as I go. I just don’t spend much time thinking about whether or not someone is cheating. Maybe I should? But for now I focus on my results.

Daniel Andrews
Member
Daniel Andrews (@sprenten)
7 days ago
Reply to  Shaun Harris

Focus on your results is fine, but understanding you are riding against 2-3 80kg rider who can hit and hold their 20 minute 3.1 w/kg gives you a visual understanding of those riders you would be racing against in IRL in a virtual setting. If you are 60-65kg you are at a significant disadvantage on the flat against those riders and without not knowing that information before hand you will likely help those riders distance the weaker heavier riders who would help you on the flat. This is the primary reason a lot of zwift races are close to half… Read more »

W .ally
W .ally
15 days ago

Thanks for the article, James. I hope you keep on hammering this nail! I truly believe the system you propose is a key step towards a sustainable competitive system. However, I don’t think it eliminates the need for transparency around weight and height. A central aspect of the satisfaction and motivation people derive from competitive e-cycling lies in the fact it allows them to measure oneself with people around you, to improve upon your ranking, to see where you fit within the distribution of ability of your peer. If that distribution does not mimic the real world, there’s no point… Read more »

James Eastwood
15 days ago
Reply to  W .ally

You some good points, but if riders are getting DQ’d for suspicious behaviour that is managed by pattern recognition technology and then flagged to event organisers or auto-DQ’d, isn’t that more powerful than exposing the data publicly and it not leading to anything?

With regards to IRL racing, I trust that the controls are in place to DQ any racers that cheat. Take drafting for example – I trust that the anti-draft motorbikes and referees will deal with it. I don’t insist on seeing video footage of everybody’s bike leg.

W .ally
W .ally
14 days ago
Reply to  James Eastwood

Right, yes. The above was written assuming just the point-based system will be implemented at some point… given Zwift’s growth strategy (more = better), I don’t have high hopes of cheating tools ever being implemented (effectively) in the near future.

But I will keep an open mind about it regardless… if they ever do implement them, ánd they proof to be effective, I agree that one could indeed consider eliminating those data points.

(wrt to trust in anti-draft motorbikes: we have clearly raced in different events 🙂 🙂 )

James Eastwood
14 days ago
Reply to  W .ally

Yeah that was a terrible example 😂

Charles Givens
Charles Givens (@ctgivens)
15 days ago

Why can’t we use points like IRL and validate the weight from time to time. If you can validate the weight then you become certified or something like that. I weigh 95.25 KG and can hold a great deal amount of power. I race C, because I just now am at 3.0w/KG. I would like to move to B and challenge myself, but I have not won a C race yet. When we start there are always people off the front that are at 5.0w/kg or some crap like that. This year IRL I have done 13 crit races and… Read more »

Chris
Chris
15 days ago

I think ZRL should be something be there for fair racing and all athletes forced to do weight/height verification to compete. Double verification of power at a certain level as the people putting out serious numbers almost all have the resources. At the top end it makes very little difference whether it’s ranking or wkg as you end up with the same riders competing against each other. I have almost no sprint but can hang with most bunches and am therfore unlikely to win many zwift races. This doesn’t mean I can’t be competitive in current races. Leave the rest… Read more »

Paul Himes
Paul Himes
15 days ago
Reply to  Chris

So you’re saying that fairness in racing should only be for the elite???

Smashquatch
Smashquatch
15 days ago

Zwift racing will never be fair until it fixes it’s idiotic w/kg > all. I’m a 205cm 93kg rider who can produce 351w for an hour. On the flats I should do exceptional… And yet time an again (on the flats) I see riders doing 100s of watts less than me fly right on by!

Bruce
Bruce
15 days ago
Reply to  Smashquatch

Yup, that is part of the problem – strong, heavy riders are not rewarded on the flat (see my post about this above)

paolo cairoli
paolo cairoli
15 days ago
Reply to  Smashquatch

You are right!

Bruce
Bruce
14 days ago
Reply to  Smashquatch

Question – who should win on a flat course (Tempus Fugit), 16kms individual time trial (no drafting) between a 60kg rider doing 289watts (rider A) and an 85kgs rider doing 357watts (rider B) – all else the same: both with the best TT bikes and wheels (Zipp 858) … well, .. on Zwift rider A passed B on the road and beat him by 18 seconds (A came 2nd overall, B came 5th). Bikecalculator on the other hand suggests B would have beaten A by over a minute. Zwift seems seriously biased in favour of light riders, even on flat… Read more »

Chris Ovenden (Team Vegan)
14 days ago
Reply to  Bruce

The w/k system favours lighter riders for sure, but the crazy pack mechanics massively favour heavy riders. In a pack of 80 riders in a B race the peace will be about 50kph+ for the first 10-15k on the flat. Lighter riders are shoved to the back by the drafting/overtake mechanics and have to push well above threshold to stay anywhere near in contention. IRL the draft from such a big group would have you knocking out 150 watts to stay in the group. So it’s swings and roundabouts for group races rather than iTTs

Neil
Neil
14 days ago

Completely agree. It’s even worse down hill where heavy riders gain so much speed and there is no slow down on bends.

Jhenck
Jhenck (@jrh26)
9 days ago
Reply to  Neil

I have to disagree slightly with that being a heavy rider. I am 6 foot one 200 pounds and I cannot just fly down the hill because you have that little thing called coefficient of drag because I am so big it is the big equalizer. Honestly I feel lighter riders have a better advantage because they can fly up hills and they are gone before we ever get a chance to take that ever so slight advantage of our weight going downhill. Just try it once add about 5 inches to your height and double your weight and see… Read more »

Bruce
Bruce
14 days ago

The individual time trial (on the flat) is the simplest, purest form of cycling. If Zwift can’t get the physics right on that then god help them with anything more complex. In the race I referred to none of the top 3 should have been on the podium according to bikecalculator. … it is just not serious (and shouldn’t be taken seriously)

James Annan
James Annan
14 days ago
Reply to  Bruce

Zwift uses height and weight to estimate your frontal area. This seems reasonable to me (though obviously just an approximation). I don’t think bikecalculator does this, so its power calculation doesn’t change much at all with height and weight.

Alex
Alex
14 days ago
Reply to  Smashquatch

On the flats, people draft behind you like they do in IRL races. The bigger the rider, the easier to draft behind them. At your size, you’re basically building a wall that blocks for small riders.

FWIW, if we want to play that “those guys have an unfair advantage” game, steep downhills on Zwift unfairly favor heavy riders because you don’t break in game. IRL on a downhill like the Alpe no recreational rider with kids at home goes >50mph. Riding outside the most important factor for downhill speed often isn’t your weight but your personal risk tolerance.

Bruce
Bruce
14 days ago
Reply to  Alex

No drafting involved in an individual time trial. I say again, if Zwift can’t get the physics right on individual time trials, on the flat in which people essentially try to hold a constant power for a set distance then there can be little hope that they will get it right in complex situations involving climbing and descending, drafting, accelerations, etc.

James Annan
James Annan
14 days ago
Reply to  Bruce

An obvious question is why you think bikecalculator has it right and zwift has it wrong. Don’t you think a taller rider has a greater frontal area? In general, I’m sure they do, though there may be exceptions.

Bruce
Bruce
13 days ago
Reply to  James Annan

It’s pretty basic physics. Numerous analyses show that essentially power matters on the flat and power to weight on the climbs.

James Annan
James Annan
12 days ago
Reply to  Bruce

Only if you assume that frontal area doesn’t change with rider height and weight. How much it changes is debatable. That I have a much larger frontal area than my wife who weighs less than 2/3rds of me, and is a full 30cm shorter, is not..

Bruce
Bruce
11 days ago
Reply to  James Annan

Obviously a larger rider has a bigger frontal area, which implies greater effort is required to push the wind, but the effect is relatively small, compared with other factors, most importantly power. Just look at real world experience. Do you have more power than your wife? Who would win on a flat time trial?

Bruce
Bruce
11 days ago
Reply to  Bruce

I was wrong to say above that “it is pretty basic physics”. What I should have said is that is is complicated but well understood physics. Go to bikecalculator or other similar sites and you can see both the number of factors involved and discover what matters most in different circumstances. Simplifying a lot, what matters when climbing, and especially longer, steeper climbs is power to weight (including the weight of the bike, which people often forget, although the weight of the bike is proportionately larger for light riders), whereas power is king on the flat. Zwifts problem is that… Read more »

Willie
Willie
15 days ago

Just like a real life scenario its very difficult to see whether someone is cheating/doping or not, and most of the time cheating/doping can only be controlled or checked by constant monitoring. If I’m not mistaken, weight and height can be changed any time when using Zwift, before, while, after even when saving. My opinion is that everything should be as transparent as possible. 1. All riders, if you want to partake in racing as such should be able to see each others stats and inputs, like ave w/kg for recent races, height and weight with recent changes, ftp with… Read more »

Bruce
Bruce
14 days ago
Reply to  Willie

Sorry, but it is not just like real life. If I turn up for a bike race in real life and weight 85 kilos I can pretend I weigh 65. You can weigh whatever you want on Zwift, and in the privacy of your own pain cave you have only your conscious stopping you being less than truthful. It is not so easy to cheat in the real world, but extremely easy in Zwift. The first thing to think about is who to stop incentivising cheating (which largely comes down to manipulating weight) … while it is possible to cheat… Read more »

El Debarge
El Debarge
15 days ago

I have been racing for quite a few years, and I think the first step should be results based ranking which would be very easy to implement within ZP using your race ranking points to draw categorization levels. The bigger issue to me is the vast differential between power meter inputs. Highly accurate Direct Drive trainers / dual sided power meters are very expensive. I would imagine their are a lot of racers out there in the lower categories racing on suspect power numbers and not even knowing it due to less than accurate budget trainers/single sided power meters. Just… Read more »

Ole
Ole
13 days ago
Reply to  El Debarge

As long as there is no money involved, it does not matter if one rider produces his watts from an accurate dual-sided power meter or a wheel-on trainer, as long as they end up racing others performing on the same level. Real power or not. A result-based ranking system will take care of this. If we get some anti-cheating systems as well, it will be enough for competitive racing. A more advanced model could have racing points for race quality levels (zpower+heart rate, wheel-on, direct-drive, dual-power, verified weight/height etc.).

Paul Himes
Paul Himes
15 days ago

The easiest thing (would require the fewest changes/least resources from Zwift HQ) would be to simply allow event organizers to toggle it so that people can race up as many categories as they want but not race down the way that women can race in women-only categories or mixed categories for certain events but men can’t race in women’s categories. Won’t get rid of the “cruisers” but would make things better. I think that with a race ranking system (much needed), it would be good if event organizers could choose to set up the categories by race ranking ranges OR… Read more »

Ole
Ole
14 days ago

If the above systems were developed, would there be any need to see height and weight? No, but we should have the same visual data as we have IRL. I mean, the size of the avatar should have a closer resemblance to how a person of height x, weight y, and FTP z looks like. E.g. a 120kg, 170cm, 200W FTP will not look like a bodybuilder (“Strong/Sprinter”), and a 55kg, 155cm, 150W FTP kid will not just look like a thin adult with the height of the smallest male avatar we have today (“Climber”). We should be able to… Read more »

Hybrid Noob
Hybrid Noob
14 days ago

Results based racing, rather than totally arbitrary FTP cat, please! This would make the single biggest difference imo. I can add a slight amendment to the inaccurate power issue, having recently upgraded to dual sided power. I even knew I had a left sided bias from previous Watt Bike rides and so slightly scaled my single sided 4iiii…turns out not enough. I think I was very actively/falsely trying to balance my power with the live watt Bike display resulting in that underestimate. I am actually now down 4-5%, even further towards the bottom end of A riding than before!

Hybrid Noob
Hybrid Noob
14 days ago
Reply to  Hybrid Noob

P.S. …and even if I had scaled more the difference varies – less imbalance at lower cadence and higher power but likewise more when the reverse is true. Plus it levels out when I stand and, when outside, when the gradient increases. Almost impossible to scale accurately, even with all the knowledge. What to do as racing has to be inclusive too, I know.

Maarten
Maarten
14 days ago

Having re-read your post (https://zwiftinsider.com/matchmaking/) I cannot find one single argument for ZHQ to not implement this. In every aspect the system you propose is way better than the current system. It will probably take some coding and testing and recoding but is an absolute must to enhance the Zwift racing experience. What’s really disappointing though is not the fact that ZHQ hasn’t built this yet, but the fact that ZHQ – as far as I know – doesn’t keep us up to date about the steps they are taking. Unless of course, there’s nothing to keep us up to… Read more »

EndUser2021
EndUser2021
14 days ago

For me anyway I just get on and pedal my race as I expect there to be cheaters onboard or others who make some excuse to purposely out themselves in a lower bracket I race myself and just get a goal for a range of spots to finish in .. if I meet that personal expectation I am pleased with myself … If I get a mythical trophy via Zwift power … Yay … But I don’t lose sleep over it if I don’t Point is to have fun and I do .. If I not raced for awhile I… Read more »

Bert S
Bert S
14 days ago

Matchmaking has long been used in the video game industry to enable better matchups of players who are at the same level of ability. This seems like a good avenue for Zwift to travel down. In addition, anti-cheating measures have also been a long been used in video games – these items could be created as scripts to catch behaviours that need to be reviewed or an account be flagged – change in height over time (allowable range would be like 1-3 cm), change in weight over time (2-4 kg would be normal, but there can be acceptable exceptions that… Read more »

Daren Chandisingh
Super Member
Daren Chandisingh (@dchandisingh)
14 days ago

“they would just race tougher opponents” – I’d say this is not _necessarily_ the best thing. It might be just “how cycling works”, but there are plenty of sports where someone can be the best in a given range, without being forced to compete against tougher opponents.

If I’m a LWT rower and winning everything, so be it. I don’t get forced to row in the HWT division. Similarly with a Flyweight boxer. Sometimes, being the best in your arena is fine.

Martin Gill
Martin Gill
14 days ago

The thing is that in most IRL sports geography is an issue. For your lightweight rower, they would have started off at a local level and achieved a lot of success. Then moved to regional and national level, and finally international level. Things got harder as a result of their success. You are right that they wouldn’t get forced to race HWT, but I knew plenty of LWTs that raced Open weight on a regular basis for a better race. I don’t know where you are in the world, but England rowing has a points based system whereby your ranking… Read more »

Daren Chandisingh
Super Member
Daren Chandisingh (@dchandisingh)
14 days ago
Reply to  Martin Gill

I’m in England, but I’m only an armchair fan of rowing. My only competition is indoor/BIRC. I agree there are Open events, but it’s a choice to row those, so I think it’s still reasonable to assert that being the best in a certain cohort is acceptable. Not everything has to be a ladder or a league.

Rob
Rob
14 days ago

Results-based ranking and matchmaking system for Zwift racing it is the best idea. With that no weight and height visibility is needed. Second thing is division for races and event for smart trainers only. it also decrease posibbility of cheating.

Scrubby duff
Scrubby duff
14 days ago

Loool

Racing is fair? Come on now, those with better physiology, lighter, Better team management, more money to throw around will have advantage.

Virtual racing you cant think the same. You have to take what’s unique to the individual out.

No weight, no height, just watts.

steve vinck
steve vinck
14 days ago

First problem is the draft , if that would be realistic more race intelligence would be required . Now it is al about watts/kg even on flats. Which is the second biggest problem, you just can’t compete against light racers because of their advantage. IRL they’re dropped easily on the flats.
Third indeed is to base ranking on winnings more than on watts/kg .
Fourth why let A riders compete against A+ riders ??? those guys do 5 watts/kg I can “only just ” do 4.5 and therefore never have any chance of winning

Pete
Pete
14 days ago

My thoughts are:
# Zwift have put on record that the majority of regular Zwifters never race on the platform, they only train or socialise. It’s a mistake to describe those of us who race as “The Zwift Community” which will serve to further irritate the majority.
# The suggested points based divisions seems sound & would make even more sense if, in races, Zwift calculated speed simply from power – i.e. give all racers the same nominal height & weight for the duration of the event.

TeePee
TeePee
14 days ago
Reply to  Pete

Wouldn’t that just mean that bigger riders always win as they simply put out more power?

supernaut
supernaut
14 days ago

I think a match-making system makes a ton of sense, if it can be pulled off. One discouraging aspect to me about the current racing tiers is that there is such a wide gap in skill between A and A+ riders. There should be another tier added (or taken care of by the match making system) to further segment this rider grouping. An A tier rider can be racing hard and riding at threshold the entire race while the A+s are riding in zone 2. It’s way too big of a gap and demotivating. Would rather stay in B where… Read more »

Adrian Amos
Adrian Amos (@ahamos)
14 days ago

I don’t give a crap how tall/short or heavy/light someone is, and I’ve agreed before that results-based rankings would allow cheaters to CAT up to 1,000,000+ and nobody would care. It would end sandbagging, because let’s be honest: we are ALL sandbagging for the final sprint in real life. And it would make racing more fun to go head-to-head with people of similar skill, rather than being “just an A” facing a field of 5.5W/kg+ neo-pros. That’s been a bigger factor in my recent waning interest in Zwift racing than the cheaters, but having to cross the finish line, wait… Read more »

Aaron
Aaron
14 days ago
Reply to  Adrian Amos

I understand your idea about neutral rollout, but Im still going to drop watt bombs as soon as the flag properly drops. You cant stop the inevitable sorry 🙏

Paul Rayner
Paul Rayner (@paulrayner)
14 days ago

James, you speak a lot of sense – on this and on your article on matchmaking. I’d be really interested to know what percentage of Zwifters update their weight regularly – among the Zwift population and the racing community. It could be a good reality check to see how seriously (or not) most people consider accuracy to be. I’d also be interested to know how often “the average Zwift racer” competes. If there are lots of people who only race once every month or two, then a results-based system may also need to lean on data from outside of races… Read more »

ShermanO
ShermanO
14 days ago

I’d like to see the riders not on Zwift Power not appear on the screen during a race—to become ghosts. On their screens, they see themselves in the mix. But registered riders never see them at all. They don’t affect positioning or the draft, and the results that a ZP registered rider sees at the end are what appears on the website. Sandbaggers who now cruise through most of a race but make big efforts that blow up in-category riders who try to follow have no effect. Cheaters who lighten their load by 20kg get to throw up their arms… Read more »

PANAGIOTIS Theocharis
PANAGIOTIS Theocharis (@bikepointcorinth)
14 days ago

The solution is simple ,races only in specific places with the same equipment. So is necessary from zwift to organize one ride center network and all the official races be on it.

Mark Gallagher
Mark Gallagher
14 days ago

Making height changes something that has to be requested rather than is done by the user would be a easy start.

Blocking people entering the wrong category in the first place would be another great improvement. Currently almost all the control is done post event.

Treat racing as not part of the standard price of Zwift. No, I’m not saying charge more. Make it clear its a free add-on but one from which you will be locked out after more than N infringements.

Mick Such
Mick Such
14 days ago

As I have said before all this enforcement of weight recording and height recording is useless in zwift unless your Pro riding and there are accredited referee in attendance. There is nothing to stop a simple cheat on zwift from your own garage. Person A stands on the scales and against the wall with a tape measure. Rider B then rides the race. How can anyone verify what has just happened. You can’t. Cheaters will cheat A, because they can. B, because they are allowed. C. For the prestige of a win regardless of what it took to do it.… Read more »

Alex Quebec
Alex Quebec
14 days ago

The amount of people who’s root problem is that THEY do not have a chance to win speaks volumes about peoples delusion of what they deserve. I sign up for races all the time that I have ZERO chance of winning. I don’t think anything should be changed to make it so the system favors my personal characteristics so I can get my trophy. Should basketball hoops be lowered to 8’ so you short dudes can experience what it feels like to dunk?? Just accept people go their whole lives without dunking. And that may be a metaphor for you… Read more »

Adrian Amos
Adrian Amos (@ahamos)
14 days ago
Reply to  Alex Quebec

Then why even bother with categorization at all? Let’s all race in the world tour and just accept that some of us won’t make it. Again the goal is to encourage participation, and we all race for different reasons. Personally I like to do well in a race, and if I’m constantly getting beaten up by dudes a full W/kg higher, the shiny wears off and I get bored. If I’m bored, I’m going outside and pausing my membership, and Zwift loses money, meaning you have to wait yet another month for new roads. So let’s lower that hoop and… Read more »

Alex Quebec
Alex Quebec
13 days ago
Reply to  Adrian Amos

That’s how it is once you race A. The categories below A all have a range low/high. The A group only has a low. So from 4.0wkg to infinity is what you race against. I accept that some days, depending on who shows up, I wont make it and get 60th. Some days, courses and competition suit me and I get a win. Just like in real life. Its all about who shows up. If I want to race better I can work harder and improve. I started road cycling Jan 2019 and Zwift August 2019 at 37 years old… Read more »

Jamie Bishop
Jamie Bishop (@jamie_bishop)
13 days ago
Reply to  Alex Quebec

What about A+? Anyway I thinking you’re missing the point. At the top of any league or category there is nowhere to go and some will be better than others at highest level. The issue is when these people choose to race at a lower level to win every race. Imagine if WVA, MDVP and Tom Pidcock raced your local CX race every week, rode round in Z2 and then rode away on the last lap instead taking the podium away from good local riders turning themselves inside. I don’t think I have right to win. Previously I have always… Read more »

Bruce
Bruce
14 days ago
Reply to  Alex Quebec

i don’t expect to win, I know I am not a world class cyclists. But it is nice to win or podium on a race against a random set of people on Zwift. What is annoying is where you do less well than others because of Zwifts biases – in my case I grumble about individual time trials on the flat for which I can hold high power but am heavy. I get overtaken and beaten by very light riders with moderate power. Came 5th yesterday – should have been 2nd. .. ok, it’s not the end of the world,… Read more »

TeePee
TeePee
14 days ago
Reply to  Bruce

You have to accept its a game and not real life.
The only way to race properly is to do it IRL.

Bruce
Bruce
14 days ago
Reply to  TeePee

Seems a rather defeatist attitude. Why not identify and call out the problems with the hope that something might be done to make the game more fair. That is what this thread is all about, and why I have participated on it.

M.Baker
M.Baker
14 days ago

This is a fascinating topic and discussion. I’m a 60-year old (no idea how that happened) who has always done fairly well at many different sports. I like to win, but frankly at this point in my life winning is relative. I’m in the unenviable position of apparently being too fast now to race C, but I seem to be a perennial low B. I can’t blame my bike because it has three power meters (SB20). I might never win a B race that has another racer in it but that’s not the point for me. Improving is really what… Read more »

Javilevac3
Javilevac3
14 days ago

Having raced IRL and knowing my strengths and weaknesses, they just don’t correlate in Zwift. Like others have mentioned, heavier riders who excel on the flats and smaller rollers get passed easily by lighter riders. To me, it’s discouraging to think that I have no chance to win any races I enter. Plus, I’d like to see rolling starts versus the mass pedal fest once the banner drops. I’ve never been in an IRL race that started out like Zwift races. The closer Zwift can get to mimic IRL riding the better.

Aaron
Aaron
14 days ago
Reply to  Javilevac3

Cyclocross races, MTB races, and some crit races start exactly like a Zwift race! In fact I would say a cx or MTB race is a more brutal start. As a CX and MTBer and (TTer) zwift starts are fine, just takes getting used to. If you win IRL then you can win in Zwift. If you dont win IRL them you probably wont win in zwift-and you shouldnt expect to. The algorithm can use alot of work though. IRL I can take care of smaller riders waaaay easier than zwift on flats/rollers. And I have lost iTT in Zwift… Read more »

Derekandroll
Derekandroll
14 days ago

I think people often assume others are cheating when others are just stronger then they are, not to say cheating doesnt occur but I think the majority of users are truthful.

Its the ranking and category system which is broken (non existent).
Implementing a ranking system and dividing riders on the start linw based on entries and participants would be where to start.

All in all we just want competitive races where we feel we have a shot.

Chris Ovenden (Team Vegan)
14 days ago

One thing to remember is that the cat based system is actually pretty important for average zwift users, so you can’t do away with it altogether. If you want a group ride for instance that you can comfortably Keep up with, or one that will challenge you, it’s useful to see what power the group will (by and large) be putting out. For those riders who don’t race, your can’t use a ranking system to help them see which rides they should do, as they won’t have a rank. So the race system would need to be a separate avenue… Read more »

Peter
Peter
3 days ago

I think if the category system were better enforced it could work well. Another big problem with many races is that all the categories start together which gives a B or C rider with a strong 2-3 minute power out of the gate the opportunity to draft in a lead group with A riders for a good portion of the race. Different categories should have staggered start times to avoid this and have people racing against their categories.
Any races that I’ve done in real life generally have different starts for different categories.

Scotty
Scotty
14 days ago

I have been reading the various responses and do think that to satisfy their customer base, Zwift need to make the whole racing system both fair and transparent. This is, as @JamesEastwood succinctly describes not an easy feat.The results based and match making system does seem like a viable solution, however you could end up with cheaters (undetected) racing their own kind in any upper echelons of racing league – with where you say ” …they would just race tougher opponents…” , maybe they would just race ‘better’ cheaters; with the fair performers one level below. You dismiss the use… Read more »

Rob
Rob
14 days ago

I love racing on zwift, however I’m often left feeling a little frustrated with people that cheat. Zwiftpower.com is where l concentrate my interest in results as it on most occasions weeds out the cheats. It’s amazing how many users blatantly weight dope during the current TOW. I’m a top 10 A grader in most races l do, but then get blasted in ‘group’ rides that don’t influence standings on zwiftpower.com. It’s really obvious who is and isn’t legit. In my experience I’d say 5% are manipulating the system. I guess my expectations of zwift itself policing fairness has waned… Read more »

James Annan
James Annan
13 days ago
Reply to  Rob

There are quite a lot of women-only events, which my wife enjoys. Recommend your wife searches them out.

Rob
Rob
13 days ago
Reply to  James Annan

Thanks James, she certainly does aim for all women events however I’m sure your wife also experiences events with extremely low numbers or late discrepancies in ability. I think zwift should alter the w/kg caps for each cat me generously for women.

Pete
Pete
8 days ago
Reply to  Rob

It seems that everyone has a specific circumstance that they want zwift to change so that it’s easier for them to win.
It’s unfortunate the women’s only races are fewer and there are lower numbers, but the reality is that she would most likely get beaten in real life sprints in men’s races as well. Should zwift alter the categories to level the playing field in sprints between men and women because of this?

dirk
dirk
14 days ago

Forced result-based categories together with ghosting out (they can race but others won’t see them and can’t draft them) Zpower riders will make racing a lot more fun for me. Throw in minimal possibilities to changes height (max 1 cm a year?) and some AI/algorithm on weight, e.g. unrealistic combinations of weight and height or high changes in weight, and you will have a system that is probably good enough for non-elite level of racing. As mentioned in the article, I don’t have the need to see riders height or weight, but want fair racing. Lately I’ve enjoyed racing less… Read more »

Marco NL
Marco NL
14 days ago

Agree on pretty much all accounts and it would make the public display of weight and height superfluous for me personally. There are many issues intertwined with the current wkg-based category system for racing (creating questionable incentives, body profile manufacturing, separating riders of equal ability due to weight differences), so the sooner we depart from it and start rewarding tactics and results the better. The major benefit I see is that it provides a better grouping of riders of similar abilities, whilst these could still have completely different rider profiles i.e. sprinter, climber, puncher, time triallist, all-rounder thus allowing each… Read more »

Pierre
Pierre
14 days ago

Most of the “serious” riders got a Strava account. When I observe some impressive performances in a race I try to have a look on the Strava of the rider. If he got no KOM IRL I became suspicious… My Alpe or Ventoux personal best are quite similar on Zwift and IRL (2mn better on Zwift, probably because Zwift doesn’t integrate the weight of the water bottle and the wind). I believe most of the serious riders have climbed long climb where it’s possible to derive there real w/kg. A link between strava and Zwift may reduce the incentive to… Read more »

Neil
Neil
13 days ago
Reply to  Pierre

Unless they live somewhere where there are no big climbs, and don’t travel to cycle, like many people who ride for fun and fitness, and have discovered more opportunities in e-riding than iRL

Pierre
Pierre
13 days ago
Reply to  Neil

Sure, but those cyclists aren’t the ones I am calling “serious” riders. I guess 95% of the racers have already done a significant climb (at least in cat A & A+).

Neil
Neil
13 days ago
Reply to  Pierre

I guess that we just have different definitions of serious 🙂 Mine doesn’t require a particular level physiological gifting or spending your holidays cycling, yours does – thanks for clarifying.

Pierre
Pierre
13 days ago
Reply to  Neil

True, we have different definitions of “serious”. Mine consider passionate riders who train hard in order to perform in races (mainly in cat A and A+). People focus on sandbagger in lower cat. But there is also problems in cat A/A+: people using a poorly calibrated HT and averaging 400W on a race without realizing that’s impossible (and without realizing that IRL they average 150W). A connection with Strava make it easy to “ZP” them on Zwift Power. On many race we observe this kind of rider. I believe they even no intend to cheat. They just don’t care that… Read more »

Neil
Neil
12 days ago
Reply to  Pierre

I think we probably do agree that there are real challenges with the current way of categorisation because of all sorts of power based issues. Some, but not all, would be made better by results based systems. Obviously the challenge you highlight would be solved. However, I have wondered why the most recent trainer calibration date, make, and model isn’t transmitted in the race data (.fit file?) from then zwift app to Strava etc. That could start to highlight the situation, and gradually a list of acceptable trainers and calibration timings could get set, and eventually enforced.

Jamie Bishop
Jamie Bishop (@jamie_bishop)
13 days ago

I’ve raced on Zwift for years but it has been getting worse and worse lately to the point that I will no longer race. I took a break last Autumn from racing and went back early this year and joined ZRL thinking it would be a better experience (it wasn’t) low and behold the front of race is flying just inside cat limits. The same people can race 0.05wkg within the limits winning race after race, never getter any better, never getting upgraded. This is not how IRL racing works or most other sports with leagues/categories. If you constantly win… Read more »

Brian Bodemann
Brian Bodemann
13 days ago

The category system destroys team-building in the ZRL. Ladder League structure is the way to go. And the new restrictive rosters rules are helping.

Neil
Neil
13 days ago

Moving to a racer ranking system would be an excellent idea in my opinion. I would note that rowing is another sport where people regularly recombine to form different teams over a season, and British rowing have développés a system that allows for ranking individuals who compete both as individuals and in constantly changing teams. In my view their system has a lot of merit e-racing on cycles. this would also help to separate a bit the racing categories issue from the eating disorders issue. Both are significant, and the current system means that they are deeply intertwined. It would… Read more »

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