How to Lead A Zwift Group Ride – Friday Pacific Sprintapalooza

How to Lead A Zwift Group Ride – Friday Pacific Sprintapalooza

Group events are the beating heart of Zwift, and while some of these events are leaderless, many are led by volunteers.

Over the years I’ve taken part in hundreds of group rides (on Zwift and IRL), and I’ve led my fair share as well. I’ve seen the full spectrum of leadership along the way: upbeat leaders and Negative Nellys, experienced leaders and rookies, those who make the experience smooth and enjoyable and those who make me want to click “Quit Event”.

The crazy thing is, some of those rookie leaders were pro riders! Yep. Being an expert cyclist doesn’t make you a good Zwift ride leader.

There’s not much guidance available online for Zwifters who are just starting out as ride leaders – it’s not a large demographic, after all. So I thought a quick video and post may prove helpful to some.

But first, I want to answer the “elephant in the room” question and offer a disclaimer…

Starting Your Own Group Ride

This article isn’t about “How to get your group ride on Zwift” – that is, how to organize an event that shows up on Zwift’s event calendar. That’s another topic entirely. It’s also a question I see often, so I’ll try to offer some quick guidance…

If you’re part of an established Zwift team which is already hosting events, you stand a good chance of being able to create a new group ride, as long as your team leaders support your ride idea and it has some sort of unique selling proposition such as:

  • being held at a time when other rides aren’t held
  • having a unique (or popular) ride structure
  • offering the possibility of attracting new Zwifters to the platform, or getting those “lone wolf” Zwifters to take part in group events

If you’re not part of an established team, you’ll probably only get your group ride on the calendar if you’re connected to a brand Zwift wants to work with.

In summary: with hundreds of events happening every day, Zwift is far from desperate for more group rides. If you want your ride to happen, you’ll need to sell it to Zwift! (And if you can’t do that, you’ll need to settle for hosting a Meetup. Lucky for you, many of the tips in this video apply to Meetups as well.)

Disclaimer

The video below contains my advice for leading group rides on Zwift, and it’s delivered in the context of a particular ride I lead: the Friday Pacific Sprintapalooza. We’ve got another article dropping soon with ride leading tips from well-known community ride leader Tim “Bacon” Searle. Every group ride is unique, and every ride leader has their own way of doing things. I think you’ll enjoy seeing a “behind the scenes” perspective of ride leading from Tim’s point of view.

It’s impossible to exhaustively cover the topic of Zwift ride leading in one short video, so I tried to keep things fairly high-level and applicable to all group rides.

Watch the Video: How to Lead Group Rides in Zwift

Some of the topics addressed in the video:

  • Set the Stage: join the pens early, message with riders a bit, then message at the start of the ride to set expectations. You’ll always have people there who are first-timers, and it’s entirely possible that they joined without reading the event’s details. Make sure everyone is on the same page.
  • Dealing with Flyers (4:49): despite your event’s well-written description, people will join the ride and fly off the front of the group. This may or may not be a big deal, depending on the structure of your ride. Have a “flyer plan” before your ride begins. Do you let them go without saying a thing? Give them a bit of good-natured ribbing then ignore them (usually my approach)? Or ceaselessly badger them (and the rest of your group)?
  • Banter Level: how much text message banter do you want in your event? And what sort of tone do you want that banter to take? As the leader, you set the tone, and your messages will prompt responses and discussion. So think before you type!
  • Heads Up at Pinch Points: if your ride is going to change pace, be sure to give people a warning beforehand, and a notice when it happens. This is super-important on a ride like Sprintapalooza, where we go from social pace to all-out sprinting several times over the course of the event. Again, it’s about setting expectations and meeting them.
  • Keep It Positive: offer congratulations to anyone and everyone you can. Build others up, keep it positive, and others on the ride will do the same.
  • Give Ride Ons (10:22): part of encouraging your riders is giving Ride Ons to as many participants as possible. Zwift makes this easy with the Companion App, which leaders can tap every few seconds to give Ride Ons to nearby riders.
  • Beware “Gapping the Beacon” (12:13): this awkward situation can easily happen in a fenced ride. I offer a few tips to avoid it.
  • Greet Newcomers (13:02): let first-timers know you’re happy to see them! See the video for a quick trick that makes this easy.
  • Ride-End Housekeeping: don’t be surprised by the ride ending! Message your group before things end, and have a plan for anything else you need to handle before your event wraps up and you sign off.

Three Key Takeaways

  1. Set expectations, then meet them
  2. Set the tone for ride messaging
  3. Keep it super-positive and encouraging

Your Thoughts

Got more tips for ride leaders? Questions I could answer? Comment 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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Tom Smith
Tom Smith
3 months ago

Eric, you should come and check out our early morning rides from the Vikings and Valhalla Teams. Want to see the most positive crowd on zwift, doesn’t get much better then them 🙂

Evan
Evan
3 months ago

Great article and tips. The Sprintapalooza is, imo, one of the best zwift group rides. Contrary to some other group rides, there are other things talked about other than “Stay with the beacon!” It gets really annoying when someone does this. Its also nice to have a bit of competition in it as well. Keep it up!👍

Stephane Tremblay
Stephane Tremblay
3 months ago

Good article! Additional points 1- The group leader should respect what was advertised. When the team leader breaks away from the get go. 2- Don’t make the pack wait for too long if some riders have dropped. If the pack is large and the pace is as expensive expected, it is not fair for the rest. 3- The best indicator for a leader is the level of segmentation of the pack. You will always have flyers but you should not have has many pack as riders. If the course is difficult as it was written communication is key. 4- Don’t… Read more »

Whitney Stidham
Whitney Stidham
3 months ago

After doing the TOW rides, I go into doing more group rides. I’ve found a few groups with great leaders and some groups with not-so-great leaders. SAS is one of my fave groups because it has a coaching feel to it; “SmugPie” is one of my favorite leaders so far. She’s very engaging and upbeat. Dutch Diesel is another group I like. My last group ride was a bit of a disaster with the pace; there were a lot of newbies in the group that pushed the pace starting out and the leader was uninformative about what to expect. I… Read more »

Jeremy Hobbs
Active Member
Jeremy Hobbs (@jeremychobbs)
3 months ago

Hey Eric, good article! As a (relatively) long time grouprider and new-ish leader. I have some observations! I have been fortunate to have overwhelmingly positive experiences on group rides – I honestly can’t think of one where the leader didn’t ride a pace that could reasonably be considered to be consistent with the event description. However, I think one of the things that often causes friction at the start of some group rides is what I would characterize as “misalignment of expectations”. Often, Zwift rides are described as, for example, “2.5 – 3.2 w/kg average” but in practice that means… Read more »

Last edited 3 months ago by Jeremy Hobbs
Neil Tucker
Neil Tucker
3 months ago

I Think sometimes riders are unaware of the effect of double draft. Once you drop there is no catching up.
This is why advertised pace can sometimes mislead riders if they lose the draft

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