Rubber-Banding in Group Rides: the Mysterious TEST_BIT_10

Rubber-Banding in Group Rides: the Mysterious TEST_BIT_10

Last Monday I got a text from my dad: “I’m riding my first group ride at 11:15 today. It’s the Adidas Runners Group Ride.”

Ride on, Dad! He’s been on Zwift for a couple years now, but this would be his first attempt at a group ride. Since I didn’t know anything about this particular event, I looked it up in Companion to make sure it was a pace my dad could enjoy. The ride’s description was very odd, though:

Especially in times like these, when many have to live in isolation or contact distance, we can meet and train together online.
The group is held together by an invisible rubber band, so that every level can keep up.
Let’s ride together for about 90 minutes, connect and have fun with the movement and effort.

“Held together by an invisible rubber band”? This happens in group workouts, but I’d never heard of it happening on normal group rides. Viewing the ride on ZwiftHacks Events App I noticed it had a setting you don’t see in Companion: TEST_BIT_10.

Now I was intrigued. I told my dad I would be jumping into the ride from here at my desk, using my Zwift Insider test setup to temporarily “participate” in the event. At 8:15am my time (11:15 his time) the ride began… and here’s what followed.

Video 1

I recorded this early in the ride. There are a few things going on here:

  • Everyone is being rubber-banded together, similar to a group workout feel
  • The group speed is unrealistically slow – anywhere from 25-30kph. No group rides on Zwift roll that slow! Again: this artificial slowdown is similar to group workouts.
  • Riders from outside the event are “leaking” into the event, which is odd. I’ve seen this happen before, but I want to mention it here because it’s a bit confusing seeing the blob moving together, while some riders fly through us.
  • It takes a few minutes, but eventually people start messaging, asking how the rubber banding works, why the group is so slow, etc.

Video 2

I decided to do a high-wattage test (using an ANT emulator), to see if I could break away from the group. In this video you’ll see me start off the back of the group, up the power to over 1400 watts, then move to the front of the group. Zwift flags me as having inaccurate data (nice work, Zwift!) but I keep the watts up to see what happens.

You’ll see I keep moving through the group (much slower than I would in a normal ride), but once I get to the front, I just sit there at 26-27kph on flat ground, holding 1413 watts!

Video 3

Finally, for the third video, I wanted to test how low my power could be while still hanging with the group. So I drop my wattage to 94W, then 63W, 31W, 19W, and 13W. When I drop it 6W the group suddenly rides away from me, so the threshold is somewhere between 6-12W.

Was It Good?

Based on this one experience, it’s clear this TEST_BIT_10 enables similar settings as Zwift’s group workout mode, resulting in a rubber banding effect for group workouts. I’m not sure what those settings are, but I’ve never liked the way they alter my speed in group workouts – which is why I haven’t done a full group workout on Zwift in years.

Would I participate in a group ride with this setting? Only for the sake of science. The artificially slowed speed was aggravating, and the speeds would sometimes increase or decrease dramatically for no obvious reason. Overall the experience felt unrealistic and overly slow – nothing like a typical Zwift group ride.

But all of this is based on a single test ride, on a single event using what I can only assume is some sort of test (beta) setting. Perhaps Zwift will dial it in so the experience is more enjoyable and natural in the future.

What Would Be Better?

Zwift’s TEST_BIT_10 has half of the rubber-banding solution done: riders aren’t able to jump off the front (even with massive watts) or get dropped (even with paltry watts).

But they haven’t cracked the speed side of the challenge yet, as far as I’ve seen. Speeds in group workouts and this particular test ride are much too slow, and they also change incomprehensibly (at one point our group speed dropped to ~15kph on flat ground).

The ideal solution would keep the group together (strong riders could still push big watts at the front, and weak riders could hang in with low watts) while moving at a speed that modulates naturally with terrain and group effort levels, and doesn’t feel too slow or fast.

Basically: it needs to feel like a natural group ride, except you can’t jump off the front or fall of the back.

There are lots of ways this could be done, on paper. Implementing any of it, unfortunately, is above my pay grade. I’ll leave that to the Zwift game developers who will need to use some combination of air density, draft strength, power averaging, and black magic to make it all work in a way that makes riders want to come back for more!

Your Thoughts

What do you think of the group ride rubber banding idea? Is it needed? How should is work? Share your thoughts below!

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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Joey Jo Jo Junior Shabadoo
Joey Jo Jo Junior Shabadoo
2 months ago

I can see some benefit for social group rides, but I wish they’d just get the fence working properly and ride leaders actually ran their rides properly and in line with the watts they advise.

Larry Bowe
Larry Bowe
2 months ago

Joey!! Right-on! the “fence” 100% agree I was on a ride this morning where for some reason the “leader” instead of using the fence decided to lead for the first 7 kms and basically plead with the “bolters” to stay in line….good luck with that !! I finally asked that the fence be imposed but got no answer…..within less than 5 kms the ride was a shambles stretched out, never to regather…why not use the “fence” and not allow the ride to become a pointless exercise? If Covid has taught us anything ….”nobody listens!”

Dirk Diggler
Dirk Diggler (@eggshapedfred)
2 months ago

Zero thoughts on it 👍🏿

Eloy
Eloy
2 months ago

The rubber banding is the reason that I won’t do a group work out. So I don’t do these rides in Zwift if they are open for everyone. I want the real speeds with a realistic output. I know riding in Zwift is sometimes a bit faster than IRL but more accurate than a Group ride w/ rubber banding!

Mick Such
Mick Such
2 months ago

Find the unrealistic speeds of the 4 Pace Rider Bots the same. Too slow up hills n too fast down them. Not a regular pace at all. Wish that zwift could just set them at a set speed for flat, hills up n hills down. Never mind. They are trying at least.
Merry Christmas everyone.

Benjamin
Benjamin (@benjamin_pitt)
2 months ago
Reply to  Mick Such

I disagree, pace partners are great! If you struggle to ride with them at a constant wattage, you’re zwift skills need work. Set 0% trainer difficulty with Brevet if you struggle to hold his wheel consistently.

I really hope they don’t do something silly like a set speed.

James A Martin
James A Martin
2 months ago
Reply to  Mick Such

I just thought it was because my weight and height were different than the pace bots.

Ringo
Ringo
2 months ago
Reply to  Mick Such

I agree. The bots seem incredible slow climbers. Part of Bowies route I find myself 30 metres ahead after a moment’s distraction. #botscantclimb

Chris
Chris
2 months ago
Reply to  Ringo

It is because bots put out a constant wattage, regardless of terrain, essentially they have zero trainer difficulty.

JAMES Hansen
JAMES Hansen
2 months ago
Reply to  Mick Such

I think this is because two of the pace partners have a weight of 82Kg (or so). I ride with Dutch Diesel all the time, and he’s very slow to climb, but bombs descents. I asked in the group I was in why this was the case, and one of them answered that DD’s weight is 82kg. This completely explains why his speed slows on climbs and accelerates on decents. Personally, I’d like to see the pace partners weights all be similar, and perhaps a little lower than 82kg. I wonder if they could set the pace partners weight dynamically… Read more »

Mike
Mike
2 months ago
Reply to  JAMES Hansen

As a 95kg rider, it’s great having the bots climb and descend at this pace, it seems much more realistic – even when riding with 65kg/70kg friends IRL, they don’t pull away with the same w/kg as people do in Zwift.

Deb Momeyer
Deb Momeyer (@deb-momeyer)
1 month ago
Reply to  JAMES Hansen

I ride with DD. I have had extremely inconsistent experience. I’m 55kg and perhaps that is an issue. I have a good sense at holding another riders wheel so that is not the factor. When i pull ahead on climbs and practically stop to rejoin I end up 30m behind. It’s bizarre. I end up being dropped.

Jwiffle
Jwiffle
2 months ago

You can rubber band meet-up, too. I’ve used it with meet-ups with just one or two others. In those cases, it seems speed is based on the average of the riders’ watts. We end up going slower than I usually go, but faster than my friend usually goes.

Bernie
Bernie
2 months ago
Reply to  Jwiffle

I did a rubber band meet-up with a friend, and we each did different workouts at the same time. I did an SST workout, and he did a sprint workout. I’d pull him and pull him until suddenly, he’d launch past me, and my speed would suddenly rocket without changing my own effort. Odd experience.

Joe K
Joe K
2 months ago
Reply to  Jwiffle

My club has done rubber band meet-ups and they work great. The pace seems to match the average speed of the group, maybe slightly less. The stronger riders seems to be at the front more often. In sprints one can breakaway from the group but will be pulled back in 10-20 seconds. On the steep slope section of the NY Park Loop, some would fall off the back and would not be rubber banded to the main group until the climb levels off, sending each dropped rider one at a time. The experience was a solid workout from trying to… Read more »

Kevin Biggs
Kevin Biggs
2 months ago

What’s different between this and the ‘stay together’ option when creating a group ride?

Luk
Luk
2 months ago

Isn’t simply “Stay together” option enabled?

It would explain at least “slowness” perception due to many other riders just cruising?

Benjamin
Benjamin (@benjamin_pitt)
2 months ago

Yep, the extremely slow and artificial speed is why I stay away from rubber banded rides. And hate it when I see them in free ride, riding along and joining in with a group of riders, speeding up to hold a wheel and suddenly I realise I’m doing 600 watts and they are still pulling away…..

Kelley Wegeng
Kelley Wegeng (@kwegeng)
2 months ago

I’ve experienced rubber banding on two Meetups, and it wasn’t so slow. On one, with my Wild Card teammates in the spring, I was definitely the weakest link and yet I ended up with a QOM. Maybe that wasn’t fair, so maybe they’ve slowed it down now.

MarkE
MarkE
2 months ago

The rubber band effect is one of the worst things about zwift. The disconnect between effort and on screen results completely brings me out of the game. I’d rather just pedal and watch netflix.

Stewart G
Stewart G
2 months ago
Reply to  MarkE

I would prefer the pace to be a bit faster myself but you just need to concentrate on your own power numbers whilst doing a workout or group ride and enjoy the companyr beside others with varying levels of fitness.
I think the rubber band, whilst not perfect or indeed for everyone, is a fantastic addition to Zwift these last few years.

sarah b
2 months ago

Like others: is this just the meetup option, or are the dynamics yet another variation on it? I’m fat + slow, so the rubber-band in meetups usually pulls me faster, not slower, except occasionally downhill where I can feel it reeling me back in. And group workout rolling pace doesn’t feel slow, although on the flats it doesn’t feel fast, either — it’s about what I’d average at the wattage a workout averages out to. (I could average slightly higher watts if I was going for a constant tempo workout than most interval sets.) We definitely do slow down in… Read more »

Rik Lee
Rik Lee
2 months ago

Zwift really needs to update their 1985 Nintendo graphics.

James Eastwood
James Eastwood
2 months ago
Reply to  Rik Lee

It’s a lot better than you think, if you’re not running it on a potato.

Stewart G
Stewart G
2 months ago
Reply to  James Eastwood

I agree. Not that bad on a decent system.
They could push the graphics quite a lot higher but would mean a good portion of their subscribers would be unable to play it on their devices.

Jim
Jim
2 months ago
Reply to  Rik Lee

Fantastic with gaming PC and 4k TV.

Nick Harman
Nick Harman
2 months ago

It’s interesting that they have it limited to artificial speeds. I was in a CIS ride a few weeks back where they were testing out a new beta setting which felt sort of like a soft rubberbanding where it helped the group bunch but you could still break away and the group rolled normally. Pulling the rubberbanding from the workout side seems like a useless feature for most rides.

Tislz
Tislz
2 months ago

It’s look similar to meetup with stay together rule with unrealistic speeds

Zach Bordeau
Zach Bordeau
2 months ago
Reply to  Tislz

Yea me and a buddy did a meetup pushing a modest 3wkg in fuego and it pegged us at 11mph…normally that should be around 20mph. No way for us to change the speed either, and it was just 2 of us.

Jeremy Hopwood
2 months ago

For social chat orientated group rides (especially recovery focussed) I see this being fantastic.

i know some groups are doing rubber banded badge hunting.

perfect world the pace of the group should be dictated by the average wattage of the group as would encourage strong riders to put out more watts and pull the group.

Bingo
Bingo
2 months ago

I find rubber banding frustrating and unrealistic and quickly leave the event once I realise.

Jim Harley
2 months ago

I’ve been doing these for a while with my juniors, a group ride that the 13 year old and 6 year old riders can stick together on, plus their parents.
I’ve found though that it appears that the Watts or W/kg, whatever Zwift uses to decide on the pace, is averaged not from all riders participating, but from all those signed up. So if ten sign up and only five ride, we’ll do about half the pace we should be. I have flagged this with a support ticket.

Martin
Martin
2 months ago
Reply to  Jim Harley

Interesting explanation for some of the strange behaviour I have seen/ Thanks

TeePee
TeePee
2 months ago

Why would you even care about the speed ? You’re on a trainer going nowhere, the only things that count are output and duration.

Scott Nei
Scott Nei
2 months ago

I joined my first meet up ever and it was organized by another rider. They had the stay together function enabled. Even though I am technically in the Clydesdale category I felt it unnatural that no matter how many watts I put into it that the group stayed together. While it was enjoyable for a while I doubt that I would join a ride like that again as even I like to push myself a bit to see the results I can produce. The neat thing about this ride is that it was organized by a local person in my… Read more »

Lars
Lars
2 months ago

How about mathematically making one giant rider out of the group and use the resulting w/kg to determine speed. Simplified example: 10 riders at 80k each putting out 200 watts. 800 kg rider putting out 2000 watts = 2.5 w/kg and the group moves accordingly.

JayDee
JayDee
2 months ago

Just average the power of the whole group, make a lower and upper boundary and distribute the wattage in this interval depending on the actual wattage a person does.

Mac Weelz
Mac Weelz (@wongsol)
2 months ago

My experience with rubber banding in meetups was abysmal. Only two of us in the meet up, both going 35-45 km/h. I started late and as soon as I caught up and we were grouped, we both drop to 18 km/h on the flats pushing 350 watts. I decided to stop altogether and let the gap grow. Once we weren’t tethered anymore, we both were moving at the regular speed at HALF the wattage. I might do a group workout with the rubber band on where I don’t care about the ground we cover, but my friend and I were… Read more »

Martin
Martin
2 months ago

We can do this in meetups. There is a “Keep everybody together” setting. I use it all the time when riding with friends so we can all put the effort we want and still remain grouped. The group speed is some average of everybody’s effort. So if the functionality is there in meetups already it must also be there for event organizers to use.

Fabian
2 months ago
Reply to  Eric Schlange

I almost exclusively use the “stay together” feature when i schedule meetups as the people i ride with have vastly different total and relative power outputs. Most of the time it works great. The strong riders pull at the front and the weaker ones can hang on. If the difference is too big, slower riders tend to drop off the back but most of the time they stay within sight. It is still annoying for them to be chasing all the time. Another issue are the occasional drops in speed. For some reason the speed may drop significantly during a… Read more »

RONNIE MCILWAINE
RONNIE MCILWAINE
2 months ago
Reply to  Eric Schlange

Glad you wrote about it Eric….. I joined this ride once unaware of the dynamics and wondered what was going on! didn’t like it and left. (I have done club group rides with stay together enabled so understand that)

Shawn
Shawn
2 months ago

I have been after banding for years (especially amongst the pros) and as I told the Zwift Social Media person, that of course there will be ones who don’t like it (more then likely the fliers) but I suggested they just put in the ride description in the app that this ride is banded. I on triathlete Holly Lawrence also wanted banding for her Monday social rides but kept asking and no answer from HQ. Great start and hopefully it makes its way to official rides sooner rather then later. I don’t know how it will work on non official… Read more »

Anton
Anton
2 months ago

Well let’s be fair here, very little in zwift feels natural. You only need to do a single irl ride or jump onto another app such as GRT, and Bkool or Rouvy to see this. Zwift continues to try and emulate physics I know little about and apparently they even less.

Stewart G
Stewart G
2 months ago
Reply to  Anton

Zwift is still the most fun to use compared to the others though. RGT is nice but still not as enjoyable. The video apps are very nice but I just get bored after about 20 minutes on my own. Rouvy is OK but hated the augmented reality function. Maybe a few tweaks and it would improve.
I always say to people to give most apps a try and see what works for you.

Chris
Chris
2 months ago

The issue of increasing the speed is people could set PBs riding at 12 W. I believe the cut off will be 11 watts, as I think this is also the cut off for supertucks.

Paul Rayner
Paul Rayner (@paulrayner)
2 months ago
Reply to  Chris

I think you’ve got a great point here. A couple of months ago I did a Zwift Academy group workout where most of the field got PBs on the sprint section, and we weren’t going anything like flat out at the time.

Andrew
Andrew
2 months ago

I’d have though the best way to set the Speed at a realistic pace would be for it to be based around the speed of the Group Leader, so if thy are doing a noraj pace at a roughly agreed w/kg then everyone else’s pace would mirror theirs and then maybe just adjust individual speeds based on their location in front of or behind the leader, the further behind you are from them the more your speed is artificially inflated to match theirs but becomes more your own actual pace the closer you get to the leader and the further… Read more »

Shannon
Shannon
2 months ago

Did a group ride today and it broke into two groups like you suggested with one group doing 6w/kg and another in the 2-3 range. But the band one was in seemed based on proximity when the break happened. Several were getting a free ride up the Alp while others were trying to stretch off the front of the slower group

Brenton
Brenton
2 months ago

I created a meetup for Tempus on the 24th. I had turned on banding and things were seemingly normal for the first half of the ride – with 4 of us. After 2 riders dropped out mid-ride, we started to experience “irregularities” – to put it lightly. Between 1-2 times each lap, our speed would grind to a halt and sit at around 15-20kmh, regardless of whether we were spinning lightly at 1.5w/kg or hammering at 5w/kg. Each time, it would last for 10-15 min before we’d then find ourselves rocketing along at 45kmh. We still don’t know the exact… Read more »

tim keffer
tim keffer
2 months ago

Love !this idea! Whether I ride with wife, daughter, or friends at a different fitness level it keeps us together. Plus I can still get a work out in. All for it

JAMES Hansen
JAMES Hansen
2 months ago

I pretty much feel the same way about group workouts. I feel like I’m trudging along way too slow. While speed doesn’t really matter (it’s a virtual world anyway), it seems to have a psychological affect on me and makes me not want to do them.

For group rides, the fence in front is fine, but you have to be careful about dragging people along who aren’t putting in effort. There needs to be a minimum effort significantly north of “6-12 Watts”. Maybe a W/Kg computation based on a riders weight and the groups average speed (or something).

권태환
권태환
2 months ago

Even if I don’t try, the people in the front pull me, so I don’t do my best.
Therefore, it is not good.

tim keffer
tim keffer
2 months ago

My question would be are you doing the workout to hit your zone numbers or for what it looks like? My workouts I really don’t care what my visual looks like or what my mph are. I’m trying to stay in my workout zones. For me feel, visual, and mph are for race days.

Flo Pietzsch
Flo Pietzsch
2 months ago

this is an interesting concept and warrants further discussion. My wife joined a ride like this going up Ven top. she ended up smashing the climb in 1hr 40 mins (d cat rider) and I was slightly offended that the segment time stands and is now something that will be attached to her profile. Clearly there were a bunch of a riders within the group and the group average was clearly pretty high. Should segments stand in banded rides? another debate!

Rachael Hamblin
Rachael Hamblin
11 days ago
Reply to  Flo Pietzsch

No – I like to use segments to see how I am progressing both against previous efforts and other people. I find it quite frustrating that rubber-banded times are allowed especially over long segments (5 miles) and well-known hills as it means I can no longer judge what would be a realistic best time for me.

Jen
Jen
2 months ago

I have done some banded meetups with a somewhat large group of about 15 to 20 people, during which people are able to break off the front or back in smaller groups, which then seem to have their own band. It’s frustrating. It doesn’t seem to match what you’re describing about keeping people from getting off the front or back.

Mike Wood
Mike Wood
2 months ago
Reply to  Jen

Did a banded ride today. Power didn’t work from the start so ended up 2 mins behind. No matter how much I put in I was getting no closer until I backed off to the 3.2 ride limit. Eventually I got back in but couldn’t get past a couple of riders so ended up out the back in a group of 4. Again, no matter what I put in, even if it was more than the other 3 put together, we got no closer until I backed off to 3.2. I couldn’t even get to the front of the group… Read more »

Glenn Gundermann
Glenn Gundermann
2 months ago

I like the rubber band for group rides. The idea is to keep people together. We see our avatars riding together and everyone is having fun. One issue is when someone has to go to the bathroom and can’t catch up. Can the group all stop and wait? Another issue is that a weaker rider has the same distance covered as the same time. They get the route badge in half the time it would have taken them riding solo.

Hutch
Hutch
1 month ago

The trouble is what you want is accurate speeds for all whilst everyone holds anything betweenonster power and say 10nwayys.. Explain how the person doing ten Watts thinks the group is moving to slowly.. Why even care about the “speed” especially if your doing a workout. It’s the work done ie power vs time. Not the made up speed distance zwift gives you.. If your so strong you feel its way to slow/unrealistic for not you guess what.. Do the non rubber banded group rides.. Pretty simple really

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