Your speed in Zwift is determined by three things:

  1. Watts: the more power you’re putting into the pedals, the faster you will go.
  2. Weight: lighter riders will go faster on flats and climbs than heavier riders if both are putting out the same wattage. Heavier riders will descend faster.
  3. World (game physics): inclines, draft effects, road surfaces and which bike/wheels you’re using all affect your speed.

So Zwift mirrors the real world, mostly. The most obvious detail missing in the speed equation is the lack of wind. But that’s kind of nice, isn’t it?

So How Do I Get Faster?

You don’t have much control over the game physics, although you can upgrade your wheels and swap out bike frames for small gains.

Experienced cyclists can’t easily lose significant body weight (although new cyclists certainly can: I dropped 25lbs in 3 months when I returned to cycling). “Weight doping”–people entering lower weights so they can go faster–happens in Zwift of course. But that just skews effort data and makes the race experience less enjoyable for everyone else–so let’s stay away from that.

This leaves us with watts: if you want to go faster, you’ve got to power up. There are a variety of training strategies and workouts for doing so, including Zwift’s library of flexible training plans. Digging into these plans and methods is beyond the scope of this post, but you should check them out if you’re looking to add structure and maximize results.

Speaking of watts, here’s a fun little video featuring a guy with big legs, lots of watts, and… toast:

Keep riding… keep pushing!