Eurobike 2019 opened this morning, and Zwift’s booth includes 8 Zwift stations, each with a different trainer/smart bike.
But one station in particular features something new and (literally) game-changing: steering!
Here’s a quick video of one rider at the steering station:
Here at Eurobike, visitors can climb onto a real Canyon MTB and ride a virtual Zwift MTB on a singletrack which branches off from Titans Grove. The short test track is a twisting, rolling trail with a longer climb at the end. Along the way occasional indicators on the trail show you the best line to take, and on-screen text tells you when you’ve done particularly well. You’ll even get a star rating for various sections based on how well you steer.
Steering is accomplished via the Zwift Companion app running on a phone attached to the bike’s handlebars. Simply turn the bars or tilt the bike to steer.
Once steering rolls out to the community, Zwifters will receive a prompt on screen as they approach the steering segment in Titans Grove, asking whether they would like to test steering. Once the steering option is selected, Zwifters will then be transported to the start of the new trail.
For now, steering will only be available on this test track.
How Does It Feel?
I must confess–it was a lot more fun to use than I thought it would be. Talk of steering in game has never been very interesting to me, but actually experiencing it for myself, even this early version, has changed my mind completely.
The steering is quite responsive (and sensitivity is easily adjustable). It even works by leaning, which I appreciate as a rocker plate user.
Was it the steering? Was it the new singletrack? Probably a little of both. But I couldn’t help being pulled in and going harder than planned, because it was that much more engaging.
Mark my words: when racing on Zwift includes steering, the experience will be radically different than Zwift racing of today. Imagine a singletrack course where passing isn’t even possible except in certain areas. And if you veer off trail, your speed drops and you lose placings.
It will all create a more more engaging fitness experience, while adding a new skill element to the game so races so “watt-focused.”
Steering is being rolled out under Zwift’s new “FutureWorks” label, which they will use to debut new game features still in development. This is a smart move, because it will make it very clear which features are in early days and which are not.
FutureWorks will be used to elicit feedback from the Zwift community at large, allowing a diverse user base to test new features and functionality before they are officially rolled out.
Here’s what Eric Min has to say about FutureWorks:
The teams here at Zwift have so many innovative ideas, but Zwifters have historically only been able to try those that have gone through a lengthy development process. FutureWorks will allow us to deliver more of these ideas at a concept phase – allowing Zwifters to give us their direct feedback on what they want to see more of. This is a means of giving the community more of a voice on what they wish to see added in the game.”
When Will Steering Be Available?
While it isn’t yet available for all Zwifters in-game, it will be very soon. My guess is some time in the next 2 weeks.