One of the things characterizing most of the intensive Zwifters I know is that we can have endless heated debates about the most nonsensical and useless topics as if they were a matter of life and death.
Forget politics, religion, who is the NBA, NHL, or NFL GOAT. For a Zwifter there is nothing more important and controversial in the world than:
- What is the best bike for a specific circuit or race: Tron absolutists (Tron for all races) vs Cherry Pickers (each race deserves its specific bike choice). Each participant goes with his own analysis, projection of weight and aerodynamics of the bike combined with his own weight and height, Zwift Insider analysis and consolidated frames and wheels performance Excel file showing you are one second faster with this setup vs this other setup. Then the acid remarks “All this time wasted for just one second in a race? I told you Tron is always the best choice” and the other one going “What do you mean by ‘just one second’??!!! One second means the world to any respectable Zwifter, it is the difference between winners and losers.”
- How close the experience on Zwift is compared to IRL road cycling: goes from 0 to 100% and everybody refers to his own superior racing experience or alleged biomechanical expertise.
- W/kg vs absolute watts: to what extent one performance indicator is prevailing over the other on the flats, the climbs, and the course of an entire race.
- Wahoo, Tacx, or Elite? The bell rings, beginning of round 1. FIGHT!!! The only way to win is by exhaustion as literally nobody will ever disavow their own smart trainer. Mine is more accurate in power measurement vs mine is more realistic, electromagnetic vs kinetic flywheel, connection stability, gradient simulation, is road feel a gimmick or a must… you name it. Endless “mine is bigger than yours” debates.
- How to solve the flawed ZP categorization? I think this one is the one we’ve spent the most time on within the team. How the current system incentivizes or not people to cheat on their weight and/or sandbag, and what would be a better one. Between those rooting for a ranking by points, the ones praising a ponderated average on P5 – P20 – P60 (not only P20), and those advocating for a wild jungle with no categories at all, we never reach a conclusion. We all are perfect devil’s advocates, destroying the idea of the colleague without offering a better alternative ourselves.
There are as many useless and nonsensical topics to debate as there are Zwifters in this world.
One of the most memorable debates I had with my ZRL team was when I dared to say that my preferred circuit, by far, was Bologna, especially when it is an individual time trial (the “Zwift Fast Fridays: Bologna Time Trial” event is the best).
Think about it. You have everything Zwift can offer in 8km:
- From a circuit profile perspective: an almost perfect balance between the flats and this incredibly beautiful and steep climb.
- A tactical choice to make on the distribution and management of your effort: do I start at 100% or do I negative split it (on this precise topic I highly recommend reading this article by Eric).
- An almost perfect circuit to benchmark a 20-minute FTP test until you reach CAT B (then the circuit becomes a little short).
- The scenery: diverse, changing, and most important very realistic. For those who fell in love when visiting Bologna IRL, it brings back the nostalgia, flavors, and sounds of the city.
Enough was enough for Andoni. He would not stand one more word of praise for the Bologna circuit:
“I HATE IT!!!! I HATE IT, HATE IT, HATE IT!!!! This is the worst circuit ever!! A pain. There is no way to find your rhythm in there, and just when you start finding your pace BAM!!! It’s already finished!!! RI-DI-CU-LOUS!!”
Each of those words felt like a bullet slowly breaking through my body and leaving me bleeding to death. As my jaw clinched over such an absurd and ungrounded statement I prepared to shout, “Blasphemy!!!! Let’s solve it with a trial by combat!!!”
But before I could even react, Oskr bounced on Andoni’s initial statement: “Oh yes!!! Bologna is horrible. Whoever likes Bologna has for sure childhood issues to resolve. Liking Bologna is almost as worrying as liking fresh beetroot juice!!”
I felt all by myself, misunderstood by the entire world and ready to retreat forever in silence and isolation to one of the Pyramids of Watopia’s Mayan Jungle.
However, as always when you are drowning in deep waters, a friend catches your hand to get you out. This time my savior was Albert:
“Bologna is the Holy Grail!!! A monthly pilgrimage to Bologna should be mandatory for each Zwifter to keep his Zwift membership! We should have Scotty the Squirrel reminding you that you are not in compliance with your Bologna monthly pilgrimage and at risk to lose a category, or even better, your Tron bike!!!”
Beyond the fact that the mere possibility of losing my Tron bike left me quietly weeping for several minutes, knives started flying around, each camp getting growingly dismissive and inconsiderate towards the other one, and eventually questioning the respectability and honorability of our corresponding mothers (like in most of languages, the basic list of insults in Spanish involves mothers).
So Albert and I were Bologna fans. Andoni and Oskr were Bologna haters. What about the other members of the team?
In each debate you need a Switzerland. A permanently neutral camp which will use fake empathy to try to find a meeting point between fans and haters, almost denying the unsolvable differences between the parties. And it works. The best possible outcome was to agree to disagree, and in the end this is the status we attained. We also agreed to never mention the topic again. Never. It would revive wounds which will never heal. What happens in Watopia stays in Watopia.
Now, jokes aside, hopefully by now you understand that my recollection of events is highly exaggerated and any resemblance with what actually happened is mere coincidence. But I do love passionate debates. For me, those can only happen with the people you feel close enough to expose yourself without feeling judged, because they are as crazy and involved in the game as you are. My ZESP Jerbos team is definitely a safe space for that.