If you participate in group rides on Zwift, you’ve probably noticed that the fence hasn’t been in use for the past few weeks. What happened, and is the fence returning? We reached out to Zwift HQ for answers!
Intro to the Fence
The fence’s functionality is quite simple from an end-user’s perspective. The ride leader is able to set how far ahead of themselves the fence appears (default options are 2 seconds, 5 seconds, or 10 seconds). They can also turn the fence off.
If you are far enough behind the fence you won’t see it at all, but if you get close enough you’ll see the red “wall.” Ride through the fence and a countdown warning pops up telling you to return to the group within 1 minute.
If you don’t return to the group within a minute you are automatically booted from the ride.
The Broken Fence
On February 20th, 2020, ride leaders were informed that Zwift was disabling the fence immediately. Here is what Zwift said about the reasons for disabling the fence:
Why did we turn off the fence?
In certain situations and conditions, a non-trivial number of users were being removed from events, even though they were well behind the fence or the leader. In other words, even though some users were riding well, they were still getting removed. Since this is not a good experience for those users, we temporarily removed the fence feature from group rides.
Any Zwifters who regularly participate in group rides can confirm the truth of what Zwift said – there were definitely riders getting booted by the fence even though they were staying behind it. And nobody wants that!
The fence still exists in-game, it’s just disabled for all events. A few events, in fact, have accidentally had the fence enabled in recent days! But this isn’t Zwift testing anything – it’s just an event that wasn’t quite set up properly.
When Will the Fence Return?
This is the question many Zwifters and especially ride leaders are asking. Here’s what Zwift told us yesterday:
We have tracked down a few issues that we feel were impacting event fences and fixed those issues. We’ve also added telemetry specifically for fenced events to get more data if new issues arise. We will be turning the fence back on for select rides with the upcoming game release scheduled for the end of March.
ZHQ will be actively monitoring the rides to evaluate the fixes we’ve put in place. Once we are confident that we’ve solved the issues, the fence will be made available to all rides that wish to use it.
So that’s good news: Zwift has obviously prioritized fixing the fence, and it looks like we’ll see it when the next update arrives at the end of this month.
Do We Need the Fence?
The fence being turned off has led to discussions within the community about whether or not the fence is needed. Some riders like the “freedom” of no fences, while others like the more controlled groups created by the fence. Who’s right? Do we need a fence?
To be sure, some group rides don’t need a fence: long events like Zwift centuries, for example, typically work better if groups are allowed to form naturally. And a small number of group rides use categories as pace groups, allowing riders to select the pace they want to ride.
That said, group ride leaders are overwhelmingly in favor of bringing the fence back. Why? Because without it, group rides get strung out, gaps form, and someone will inevitably complain that the pace is too high even though they’re riding off the front well ahead of the leader’s group.
Here’s a screenshot of me leading this morning’s Pacific Sprintapalooza ride. As you can see, our group was rather small (64 riders), and it routinely split, with half the group riding several seconds ahead. This isn’t what we want for a ride like Sprintapalooza, where the intent is to spin together between group sprint efforts.
In this morning’s ride, the front group was pretty good about returning to the beacon group when I messaged and asked them to ease up and join us. But that’s not always the case, and I would much rather have the group just stay together without constant messaging. (Ride leaders prefer to use their messages to provide encouragement and banter, not to corral those off the front.)
With the fence enabled, group rides stay together as a pack. With it turned off, group rides split into multiple pace groups. For some rides that’s ok – for others it is not. Simple as that!
Have you missed the fence, or are you happy it’s gone? How can ride leaders best control their rides in the absence of a fence? Please share your thoughts below!
When are we getting levels 50 – 100 ?
I lead the two PRTR rides: Wednesday’s 2 w/kg ride and the Thursday progressive ride. For the 2 w/kg ride I’d REALLY like to have the fence back. As the article states, the lower paced rides without a fence will naturally split into multiple pace groups, and a ridership of 200 riders will typically leave a bunch of 50 or less around the yellow beacon. This is all fine and good and I’m all for people riding at their preferred pace, but it generates quite a bit of discontent among those that are staying with the yellow beacon group. If… Read more »
Yes, faster rides definitely need the fence less! It seems like the cutoff is probably around 3 w/kg. Below that and you’ll get flyers, but above that and flyers will most get reeled back in.
Agree mostly but in the faster rides, certain spots like top of hills excetra cause a yo-yo effect that leads to a ton more work for those in the back to catch back on. Of course, that’s like any outdoor ride and I’m biased as the sweep, but just sayin. 🙂 And Stephen is the best I’ve seen at watching the group and providing well timed appropriate reminders to those in front.
Hi Eric, If there is a stated pace in a ride announcement, there should be a fence control at the stated pace. Group energy is contagious. I’m like an animal, when a rider speeds up or attacks, I can’t help chasing. Or we start elbowing for the pull and suddenly we are flying. We just can’t help influencing each other to go faster. It’s a kind insanity since it will ALWAYS happen without the sanity of this limitation. We need the fence.
Agreed! It takes a lot of discipline and focus, even for experienced Zwifters, to hang with the beacon on a slower-paced group ride. It’s easy to get swept up in a group that is slowly outpacing the leader.
Why do so many zwifters treat group rides as a race? If you want to be fastest then enter a race. Group rides are aimed at set speeds/power to ensure the group can stay together. If all zwifters understood this we would not need a fence at all.
I think most Zwifters aren’t treating them as a race – but they’re riding just a bit harder than they should, and they drift off the front. It takes focus to stay with the beacon, when there are enough riders spinning along at a pace just slightly higher.
That said–we’re cyclists! So there’s almost always some level of competition going on. I don’t think you can get away from that entirely, so something like the fence is needed to control the effects of our humanity. 😀
I found one ride “Back to Basics” that week after week has flyers that would do 4.0 w/kg. The problem is because of the nature of that ride, a lot of newbies and people that aren’t experiences just follow the wheel in front of them until their heart explodes, then they complain about the leader having too high of a pace. I came to the conclusion that these guys were using it for their own race since most group rides are on Zwiftpower. So I think there are some that are guilty of using them as their own race…but that… Read more »
And why do Zwifters race in lower categories when they need a recovery “ride”. Races are for racing and group rides is for fun and social interaction.
I’m pretty vocally anti-fence in general, though there are certain rides, especially smaller ones where it really helps. I think its unnecessary, if not actually detrimental to rides of more than say 150 (honestly I think 100). You can only see the closest 100 or so riders to you anyway and in my experience once you let some flyers go off the front, a good majority group forms around the beacon and all is well. If you have a fence, then there always seems to be those wannabe flyers constantly pushing the limits an generally disrupting the group from settling… Read more »
If a ride is posted at 2 wpk, then why do some feel the need to surge ahead at 3.0 or 3.5 wpk? One word…EGO. If you feel the need to ride fast, find a fast ride. People will always chase and that in itself will keep the ride unsettled. If there is a fence, the wannabe flyer will be stopped. If you keep cruising through the fence, it means you are on the wrong ride. Discipline is lacking for those who feel the need to fly off the front. I can tear the legs off of most people, but… Read more »
I think this example was a little over pointed! We have also climbing group rides where the riders have different weight (can easily be 20kg difference) and so they are riding a little bit different pace naturally during flat and climbs. However, they can ride in same group ride but 10s fence is much too restrictive.
I think it contradicts to the meaning of the posted w/kg. If you know that you can and want to ride higher the posted w/kg, then join the higher w/kg. Why join a lesser w/kg? is it so you can feel good that you can ride way faster than everyone else in the group? Is it because if you don’t want to join the faster group because you don’t want to the one that got dropped all the time? That’s what I always wonder. What’s the point of joining a group ride with specific w/kg, but you want to ride… Read more »
I miss the fence! I like to ride at the advertised pace and all it takes is one or two riders to string out the whole group. There are many rides that allow you to faster if you are too strong or you can help all the dropped riders by sweeping. My least favorite thing is the griping about flyers with no fence! Just let them go and ride with the lead. That’s where all the fun is happening anyway!
Just did a ride last night. My wife and I ride side by side trainers. We both have a FTP w/k of about 3.1 or so. So we are decent riders and have been on Zwift for years and know the deal with most everything. We understand how weight affects things, drafting, double draft…. all that stuff. The ride was advertised at 2.0-2.5 which we take to mean 2.5 out the gate and hold it. They always seem to push the upper limit. No big deal. The fence was off obviously and riders went off the front like they normally… Read more »
I’d say double draft should help in her situation, as long as riders aren’t pushing the pace too much at the front. Comparing two rides where the group’s riders are holding the same effort level, the double draft ride should be easier to “sit in” with.
But if the pace is too high and she gets gapped, double draft definitely does NOT help, because the group travels faster with double draft, which means it’s harder to grab back on if you get dropped.
I am a light rider – usually the lightest on a group ride and my 15 second power is lower than their 20 min – and I can tell you the double draft is a HUGE problem for me on flats. I always check the leader’s weight on ZP ahead so I know how fast I will need to go to keep up at the ‘stated’ pace ((their weight x the high end of the stated pace ) / my weight ) and add +0.5 wkg), but being in the pack around the leader is like a vortex, and I… Read more »
You’re doing the right thing, stay at the front right from the start so if you slow down for any reason, you wont get dropped from the group and have to really struggle to get back. Surf the peloton at the front and mitigate getting dropped from the group completely.
I agree with you. I’m pretty light rider (5.2/108 lbs). I really don’t like riding around the leader. I felt the surge almost all the time. I usually ended up riding on w/kg than people around me if I ride around the leader. So I prefer to ride way in the front of the leader because I can ride the prescribe w/kg a lot better. And I personally don’t like riding in the blob (middle and back peloton). People are constantly jostling around each other. And as soon as they saw someone pass them, they surge. As much as there… Read more »
This has been my exact same struggle for the past three weeks. Advertising of a 2.5 w/kg ride means 2.8-3.0 for my 132 lb body. I see the leaders pushing above, too. If a gap forms at the start, I’ve had to push over 4.0 for several minutes to latch on. Frustrating.
Not fence related
I’m making a return to cyclo Cross
Next year and I’m looking for a zwifting training partner
This is my avatar next to the above comment, but I did not post it. How come?
As a rider I think it would be ok to omitt the fence in group rides with over say 200 participants, where some people will find their own groups but there will still be enough riders for a solid blob round the Ride Leader.
Furthermore it’s not a great solution to just cancel the ride for those who fry on the fence. Better to pop them back in the ride behind the blob I think.
Teleporting the riders to the back of the blob is a great idea. Not as harsh but just as effective.
That’s a great idea.
That’s a great idea. Some people probably don’t mean it (at least I did. Didn’t know what the count down and I wasn’t close to the fence). But it would be hilarious for the fliers. Keep going off the fence and get spit back to the back of the group. Then go upfront again, get spit off again.. like a hamster wheel. Maybe that should teach them a lesson..
I have seen the idea for people who do not like a fence as an option to not have a predetermined route. The ride leader chooses and if you are way off the front, well, you get lost. Just like in real life. There are some logistics to work out here like the time you have to react to turns. Maybe if you are within a certain distance of the leader you stick to them, who know, but I kind of like that idea. It is a fence sort of without actually having a fence. If they did it and… Read more »
Bring Back the Fence!! The fence brings order to chaos. I feel sorry for our amazing ride leaders because they put so much time into organising a fantastic group ride experience and end up having to type “ease front” every 60 seconds. Front think “what’s the problem?” But they don’t realise that others try to keep up with them, and the average speed of the group (and power) incrementally lifts; humans are social pack animals, like sheep. This increase makes it very difficult for riders in the lower quartile of power for the group, as they regularly get dropped and… Read more »
I like the concept of your Sprintapalooza ride. The IRL Pittsburgh Dirty Dozen operates similarly. Each group has a ride leader that guides the ride. When we get to one the Dirty Dozen climbs, it’s all out warfare to the top. We all wait and regroup and mosy on to the next climb together. I see where the fence has it’s place and where other rides could benefit from not having it.
It’s been an interesting period without the fence. My basic observation is that for slower D cat group rides, without a fence the field will split. But for faster rides, either driven by higher cat such as C and above or just pan flat routes, then actually the group seems to stick together well. Simply because it takes a lot more effort to break free. Anyway, since I’m a big fan of the social big group D rides such as the Vikings Fatburn rides, I can’t wait for the fence to return.
The sprintpalooza ride is awesome, sorry I couldn’t make it this morning but it clashed with Watopia Stage 2. I pretty much stopped doing group rides on Zwift because of some riders getting militant about flyers. Endless ranting about kicking flyers off the ride, telling them to slow down, telling them they are antisocial and much much worse is just unpleasant, unnecessary and it is that ranting which the spoils the group rides and not the flyers themselves imho.
Flyers should just find faster rides. I dont understand why they cant. Because they are actually too slow to ride in a faster group? Flyers lack consideration or respect for fellow Zwifters and ride leaders. Would you brag about scoring 5 goals in a pee wee hockey game? Would you instagram dunking on an 11 yr old kid in pick up basketball? I feel it’s kinda of the same thing. Just ride in the fricken posted wpk. OR MAN UP AND FIND A FASTER RIDE. It’s cowardly to blow up a social ride.
Gave me an interesting idea! What if instead of drop from Zwift it just bumped you up to the next category? Hmmm…so say you enter as a D group. Then if you ride past the fence for a specific distance…then you get bumped into the C category (along with a message that lets you know)….Could also have a clean up fence…So that if you drop off too far on a C ride then you are regrouped with a D level ride. Not sure how hard the programming would be…
well said. Amen to that.
Just glade that is gone, and sad that it will return.
I’ve been booted off a ride on a couple of occasions when I have been clearly behind the fence but would still like to see it in place once the issues have been rectified!!
This is what we’re hoping to resolve for sure Stephen. Certainly no fun to be removed from an event when you’re riding it “right”.
Love the idea that instead of the fence, elastic banding is used on the front. Get more than x seconds ahead and rolling/air resistance will start increasingly exponentially the further ahead you go. Once in that situation a button would pop up asking if you want to leave the group.
Feels like a more natural consequence. Ideally the time off the front and aggressiveness of the resistance curve would both be leader choice.
That elastic band idea is a great idea for sure.
This is a good idea and something I imagine Zwift could implement without too much fuss by borrowing some logic from the group workout stuff.
I am nearly 81 and I regularly ride with the group rides I think the fence should come back for these rides as it does split up the riders and spoils the point of a group ride.
Agree…keep the fence. Agree 100% with Eric and others…
As someone that primarily sweeps on group rides, I never see the fence and wish those that want more effort would drop and help riders struggling off the back. Fliers will be fliers, I just sympathize with newer riders that get suckered into chasing them and have an awful group ride experience. Join a group ride = pace with the Yellow Beacon/Leader.
I miss the fence enormously. Riders take off from the start, making it a race. The fence keeps the group together. Please return the fence.
I love the fence. I feel like there is a real skill to staying at the right pace and keeping yourself in the peloton. Makes it feel more like a real outdoor group ride where you are constantly changing your power to stay within the group. Much more engaging and fun then rides without the fence which to me feel more like a time trial then a group ride.
If you want to ride off the front then just ride solo. Why bother signing up for an event?
I much prefer events that the don’t use a fence. I think the problem is that many people seem a little too fragile, and should harden up physically and mentally. In my opinion, when everyone rides too clinically, it sucks the fluidity and spontaneity out of the sport. For me, a ride with a fence scarifies passion and beauty for abstract, bloodless numbers.
@Dan – Sitting indoors on a turbo staring at animations on a screen is what sacrifices passion and beauty for abstract, bloodless numbers! 😂
I hated the fence at first, but certain virtual group rides do benefit from it.
Here the thing – the pace is never going to be exact for everyone because of weight differences and the terrain. If it’s a small group and is disruptive, that’s one thing. Same thing if people are playing cat and mouse. But if a few people are feeling a little stronger and want to ride together and pull others around I don’t see the problem. Everyone should ride with more conviction, particularly the beacons. Just hit the advertised numbers and if people want to follow they will, and if they don’t they won’t. But I think sometimes beacons get upset… Read more »
When you are 65 and your best riding years are behind you, when your back is arthritic and your hips don’t quite work without hurting, and you are trying to stay with a D ride that is 15% over advertised w/kg, I hope some asshole comes up to you and just says “harden up”.
Join us Thursday evening (US), Slowtwitchindoors Hilly Vanilli Chase D group.
Pace 2.0 – 2.5 W/Kg.
If the D group ride leader does not maintain the listed pace, call him out on it because he would like to know.
Then you need to race period.
Rather enter a race then. Group rides have an advertised pace. Someone for whom that pace may be challenging or maybe what he feels is what he needs after whatever he did the previous day then enters for a group ride which is more social than solo and easier (supposed) than a race or interval training session. Then it becomes a race. The fence should prevent that
Every 5 km you get a ticket if within X seconds of the beacon or behind, and then a random ticket is drawn (all this is just automatic within the software) and the winner gets a free month of Zwift. At year end a ticket is drawn for a free lifetime of Zwift.
I don’t understand; if you don’t like the fence, isn’t it just a simple matter of avoiding those rides which use a fence?
So far on Zwift, I haven’t been tempted by fixed pace group rides because I like the flexibility to go at my own pace. Why on earth would you sign up for a fixed pace ride and then want to ride at a different pace!?
exactly! Don’t join the ride if you don’t like the pace. There are plenty of races and one can ride solo at whatever pace they like.
I don’t really understand the logic either! Maybe some simply can’t help their competitive spirit winning out. Perhaps also it’s herd mentality, if a small group around goes ahead, it’s perhaps easy to get sucked in without prompts and awareness of the beacon position. It does take focus and concentration to stay with the beacon, I think the fence takes this cognitive load away and is generally an asset to rides, at the compromise of removing a little of the spontaneous/natural feel.
If the fence is an option to the organizer and it’s advertised in the event whether a group ride is fenced/no fence, where’s the problem? Don’t like a fence, don’t sign up for fenced group rides. Simple. Myself, i like a fenced group ride. When I want to race, I enter a race.
Keep the fence.
I am a Cat C on zp so I do Group C events even when I running at the pace I still find myself out ahead on group rides at times I guess depending on the course type.. Done with and without the fence I find it plenty enjoyable …
There just no satisfying everyone … I suppose hide the position counters so they cannot get a screenshot of them being number 1 in a group ride of 200
In my experience, many riders lack the ability to exercise intensity discipline. It’s not difficult to sit within a w/per kilo range. Even when climbing you just ride up slower rather than pushing the watts unless this is the predetermined expectation to go harder. For me, Zwift group rides make lousy endurance or tempo rides because of this indiscipline. But they work well for threshold or race simulation. However, the lack of discipline makes them generally irksome. In short: bring back the fence!
“In certain situations and conditions, a non-trivial number of users were being removed from events, even though they were well behind the fence or the leader.”
A couple of weeks ago, I was well behind the leader, so far back, that they ended up lapping me (think I started late). And lo and behold, when the leader caught up to me, there was the fence, and I started getting the warnings
simple, bring back the fence and let the ride leaders decide if they want to use it or not and let the riders choose to ride in groups that use or do not use it as they want, choice is what we want
Miss the fence.
I appreciate the ride leaders, and will go with their judgement. It is good to have a marker of where the leader is thinking the group should be.
Why not have the fence as an option for the ride leader? People that want the fence will go on a ride that has a fence, and vice versa for no fence.
The fence IS an option. It’s configured when the event is set up by Zwift, along with various other parameters like route, ride length, drafting type, etc, etc.
Plus the leader can always just leave it off, even if the fence is enabled. So leaders definitely have control over fence usage!
I don’t need the fence.
It’s not about what you need although that’s great. There are a number of reasons why a fence can be useful, but to me it seems one significant benefit is to newer, older, or weaker riders who get to share in a community ride without being left behind by half the peloton.
or for people who want to ride long base miles in a set range with others.
I think the fence is a great idea. At first i was all against it , but my wife needed it and i supported her. We have 2 set-ups and i would join so she has a wheel. I always enter a event to race. There r times when i want to do a recovery with a group and the fence is nice. Thank you very much for letting me put my input in.
Bring the fence back.. every group ride that I have participated in as been way beyond the adversities watts and the entire group is shattered from the start… it’s ridiculous. .
I tried leading a couple of group rides before the fence. I rode at the advertised w/kg, flyers went off the front, I asked to slow to advertised pace, was ignored. I ended up increasing speed to keep in the 50th percentile, this caused people at the back to be dropped even more. In the end it seemed like it would be impossible to keep everyone happy. In the end I stopped leading events. I think the fence would help, although I wish it added weight/resistance instead of kicking riders out….or even better, I wish it took 1 w/kg and… Read more »
Keep the fence. Flyers are no good for group rides, even though they seem to be the ones who don’t like the fence.
Yesterday I did Hive group ride advertised at 1.5w/kg. My FTP currently is 1.74w/kg. I was not at 1.5 yet found myself off front often and having to ride slower to return to group. My avg w/kg for ride was 1.25. I don’t have firm grasp of how w/kg is used to keep folks together.
Depends on your weight. On a flat route, if you’re heavier… your 1.25 may be a lot more watts than the leader’s 1.5.
Without the fence I find myself working harder not to get dropped, an instinct developed from 35 years of cat. 3 racing, rather than maintaining a group ride advertised level. Bring back the fence. If I want to go all out and keep up, there are categorized races.
I think the fence is essential for ANY group ride under 3.0w/kg, with the possible exception of large group event rides where the in game experience deteriorates with too many Zwifters occupying the same inch of road (FPS issues, messy visual etc) If a stronger rider wants to participate in a lower group, then they should show respect and stay under limits. Perhaps if it’s a club ride like DIRT and you just want to support your fellow members then put your hand up to sweep. It’s a waaayy more satisfying feeling to have someone thank you for lending them… Read more »
The fence is needed for some group rides, especially when they advertise a specific w/kg, either average or range. Some riders mistakenly believe that a 2.0 – 2.5 w/kg ride is a 2.5 w/kg avg. Not so. Especially if it has a sprint area, like London. Just for numbers, say a ride is a 2.0 w/kg avg. The sprint is 3.5 w/kg. Those who elect not to sprint can never catch back on because the front has to free wheel at .5 w/kg for the same sprint duration to get back to the average. Which, of course, never happens. As… Read more »
I think I miss the fence but I miss rider’s common sense more! You see a ride posted as a ‘C’ group ride, you should expect to be a little bit easier for you if you are a ‘B’ or even an ‘A’ rider. So it only makes sense that you shouldn’t sign up for that ride unless you are disciplined enough to ride sub threshold or even recovery level. My next comment will upset those that are disciplined enough to go for a recovery ride in a lower cat group. If Zwift can prevent me from entering a women’s… Read more »
yep very happy the fence has gone – hated it
From my experience the fence isn’t all that. You end up with two separate groups, fence huggers and those with the leader at 10 seconds. Plus snakes seem more common with the fence than the blob we’re all aiming for. Before the fence, fliers would go off, and the rest of us got on with the ride. With the fence, the subtle skills of pace management seem to have been lost and now the fence has been turned off, the group rides are worse than they were before the fence was implemented. Also, I find ride leaders are often not… Read more »
The “two groups” phenomenon can definitely happen–I’ve had that happen when leading myself! The way to solve that is to pull the fence in to 5s. It’s tough, because you don’t want the fence so close that the group can’t stretch out a bit… but you don’t want it to far away that you end up with multiple groups.
As for ride leaders – yeah, that happens sometimes too. A separate but related issue!
For me, if the ride says its about riding together then thats that, the discipline of keeping the group together is something the riders should respect
If riders want to split the group up, why do they ride in an event that says its a group ride??
Keep the fence to keep the discipline
Of you want to form a breakaway, join a race!
The problem with the fence is it’s linked to the ride leader , I see many times leaders moving up and down the group so the fence moves too.
I think the fence is useful keeps us together and should be used
I think till fence is back we should ride behind the group leader