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 than heavier riders if both are putting out the same wattage.
  3. 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 bikes 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 started cycling again in early 2015). “Weight doping” does happen on Zwift, of course–people entering lower weights so they can go faster. But that just hurts their workout efforts 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 built-in 6 and 12-week FTP Builder workouts. Digging into these strategies and methods is beyond the scope of this post, but I hope to unpack those in the near future.

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

Keep riding… keep pushing!