Racing on Zwift is absolutely the most challenging and exciting thing you can do inside on a bike. If you’ve never tried it, you owe it to yourself to give it a go, no matter your abilities!
And while Zwift racing is a heart-pumping, leg-burning experience, getting set up properly can be a little daunting. The reason for this is simple enough: racing has been largely brought into Zwift through the grassroots efforts of the community. While Zwift HQ has added many race-friendly features over time, getting set up to race properly on Zwift is still not a completely intuitive and easy thing.
But we’re here to help. Here’s a guide covering the essential key tips to racing on Zwift.
Getting Set Up
This is a very important one-time step many Zwifters miss! You must opt-in to share your ride data with ZwiftPower.com, or you will not be included in official race results. Log into your account at https://my.zwift.com/, click Profile>Connections, and click to enable sharing with ZwiftPower.
While you’re on the connections page, double-check to make sure you’ve connected your Zwift account to Strava, as this is helpful if ride organizers need to verify your numbers.
Visit ZwiftPower.comd and create an account. Follow the instructions and make sure you enter your ZwiftID. You will need to verify account ownership by adding a 4-digit code to your Zwift surname, then logging into Zwift for at least a minute before clicking “Connect Account” on ZwiftPower.
Get a Heart Rate Monitor
Most races require you to transmit heart rate data, as this helps reduce cheating. If you don’t already own a heart rate monitor, we highly recommend the Wahoo Tickr line due to its durability and connectivity.
Before Your Race
Head over to the Zwift calendar or use the Zwift Companion app to see a list of upcoming races. Pro tip: the events app at ZwiftHacks has more powerful event filtering tools than Zwift’s own calendar.
Once you’ve chosen a race, read the race description. It should contain everything you need to know about that race’s rules, route, etc. Different races have different rules and routes. Reading the race details completely will help you perform well and not get disqualified.
Choose Your Category
Just like real-life racing, most Zwift races organize riders into categories based on fitness level. Different races use different categorization schemes, but most use this:
A: 4.0 w/kg FTP or higher
B: 3.2 w/kg to 4.0 w/kg FTP
C: 2.5 w/kg to 3.2 w/kg FTP
D: Under 2.5 w/kg FTP
If you don’t know what “FTP” is referring to check out What is FTP (Functional Threshold Power) and why does it matter on Zwift? If you don’t know your FTP, check out How can I measure my FTP?
Some races have no categories at all, while others base their categorization on other criteria. This should be made clear in the event description.
Join the Race
Joining most races is just like joining any other group ride on Zwift: simply join the event in game and go! But again, be sure to read the event description as some races request or require that you add the race abbreviation and your category to your profile’s last name (my name for a recent race was “Eric Schlange ZTR (B)”) and some races may even require pre-registration.
After Your Race
Save Your Ride
Save your ride in Zwift, which will keep the data on Zwift’s systems and send it to Strava as well. This allows ZwiftPower to pull your segment times and other race data.
View Results at ZwiftPower.com
Head over to ZwiftPower.com to see how you placed against fellow racers. Most races will show provisional results immediately after the event, with finalized results available a few hours later once the race organizer finalizes the event.
Strategy & Tips
Much could be written about race strategy, but here are a few important tips specific to Zwift racing:
- Be ready for a fast start: the first few minutes of most Zwift races are tough, with riders pushing hard to establish groups. Be warmed up before the race, time your start so you’re pushing big watts when the clock hits 0, and be ready to dig deep to avoid being dropped right away from the faster groups.
- Stay out of the wind: the draft effect in Zwift is strong, and you won’t come close to winning unless you take advantage of it for most of the race. Just like the real world, drafting lets you conserve energy so you’ve got something left in the tank when it’s time to break away. Learn more here >
- Know your course and plan your attacks: different races are different lengths on different routes. Get familiar with the route so you can properly pace yourself and attack your group at just the right times if you’ve still got legs.
- Be prepared: if you have to stop riding to grab water or turn on the fan, you’ve lost. Make sure you’re prepared before the race starts! Check out this Pre-Ride Checklist.
- Upgrade your ride: as you hit higher levels and achievements in Zwift you unlock faster bikes and wheels. Use them, because the time difference between the “basic” and fastest Zwift setups in a 1-hour race is over 60 seconds! See Test Lap Data for hard numbers on bike/wheel speeds, or the 5 fastest bikes in Zwift, and how to get them if you just want to know which bike to use.
- Use power-ups strategically: if the race allows them, power-ups give you a slight edge when used smartly. Read the guide to power ups in Zwift >
- Unsure of your category? Take the high road and place yourself in the tougher category for your first race. This shows respect for fellow racers, and you can always gracefully drop to an easier category next race if you discover that’s where you belong.
- Use the ride tag if requested: your fellow racers need to know who they’re competing against, so place that race tag (eg, “KISS (B)”) after your last name to make it clear if the race rules request it. Using the tag also helps get the word out about the race to non-racers on course.
- Be kind to race organizers and leaders: the good folks organizing these races are just volunteers, so please treat them respectfully.