Misused Zwift Powerups: the Breakaway Burrito

Misused Zwift Powerups: the Breakaway Burrito

Welcome to another post in our series aimed at helping you avoid n00b powerup mistakes in Zwift races.

Powerups add a fun element of randomness and strategy to Zwift racing. While some purists deride their use, most racers welcome their addition to an indoor racing experience which can feel a bit oversimplified since it has fewer variables than outdoor riding.

Experienced Zwift racers understand how powerups work, but we see them used incorrectly over and over again. Hopefully this series can help.

Still learning? Read our “Guide to Powerups in Zwift” >

The Breakaway Burrito: How It Works

As the name lightly suggests, the Breakaway Burrito is the only powerup that affects those around you. All the other powerups directly affect the speed of your own avatar by making you more aero, lighter, etc… but the Burrito is only felt by those nearby.

Zwift powerup trivia: the burrito appeared in very early (beta) versions of the game, but was removed until the June 2019 update. Its behavior was later revised to make it much more powerful.

When the Burrito powerup is activated, riders within 2.5m of you will receive zero draft benefit, forcing them to work harder to maintain speed. This powerup lasts for 10 seconds.

While it was originally intended to help riders break away solo (hence the name), it is more often used in packs nowadays, to inflict a little extra pain on your competition.

How It’s Misused

The most obvious misuse of the Burrito would be if you’re riding solo. Using it in this scenario is the same as throwing it away, since there is no one nearby whose draft you can disable.

But there are many, many other ways the Burrito can be used poorly!

Suicide by Burrito

One common mistake we’ve seen repeatedly in Crit City races happens when you are sitting toward the middle or back of the pack and deploy the Burrito on a difficult section. Remember, this disables the draft for all riders within 2.5m, including riders ahead of you. This can easily cause a gap to form 1-2 bikes ahead of you (since those riders have lost the draft), while the stronger riders near the front of the group are still enjoying a draft and ride away from your draftless pack!

We’ve seen many Burrito owners dropped by their own Burritos in this way.

Now, don’t misunderstand: deploying a Burrito mid-pack isn’t a bad tactic. In fact, it’s probably the best use of the Burrito. But you have to be aware of the risk you run, and watch closely for gaps to open just ahead. If that begins to happen, you’ll have to ramp up your own power and grab a wheel of the front group that is riding away from your draftless, cursing compatriots.

Mutually Assured Destruction

A derivative of the “suicide by burrito” occurs when multiple nearby riders deploy the Burrito at the same time. This is often seen on Crit City, usually at the start of a climb or just after the start/finish banner. One rider will deploy a Burrito, then a nearby rider deploys theirs, hoping to give the original aggressor a taste of their own medicine.

Meanwhile, all the unaffected riders up ahead are pulling away from the Burrito battle behind.

This just reinforces the idea that, if you’re going to deploy a Burrito mid-pack, you need to be prepared to put in extra work in order to hang with the front of your group. Because it can get real ugly, real quick.

Friendly Fire

It’s important to remember that the Burrito hurts everyone around you – and that includes your teammates. Don’t be “that guy” who activates a Burrito next to a struggling team member!

I had this happen in the ZRL Season 2 playoffs just a couple weeks ago. “B. Owens” was riding for a separate DIRT team, so technically not on my ZRL team – but we DIRT generally try to help each other out. He activated the Burrito during the first and fastest sprint of the race, as the strongest riders in the pack where pushing off the front. It caused a gap to open, and I had to burn a match to avoid getting dropped. Note: this is a good example of “Suicide by Burrito” as well. Watch it below – I’ve cued the video to just a few seconds before the Burrito is dropped:

How do you do it right? Communicate with teammates via Discord or other team comms. Here’s an example from a recent intra-squad DIRT race that included my ZRL Hellhounds team. I’ve cued it to the spot where teammate Alex warns us that he’s got a Burrito and we need to move toward the front so he can activate it, hurting those nearby but not his teammates. Then he tells us when he’s activating it a bit later. Nicely done!

If you’re in a Cat & Mouse (Handicap) race and still riding with just your category, deploying the Burrito is seen as bad form, since it hurts the team you’re working with.

The same feelings may apply if you’re in a small group working together, perhaps in a breakaway. Deploying a Burrito in this situation signals that you’re not interested in working with the other riders in your group.

Burrito On the Front

Sometimes riders move to the very front of the pack in order to deploy their Burrito. But this is just a waste of energy.

If you are pushing extra watts in the wind at the front of your group just so you can activate your Burrito, rethink your strategy. Instead of sitting in the wind, drop behind the front rider(s) and activate your Burrito from there. It’ll make those same front riders work extra hard, but you’ll still have the benefit of a draft.

Sometimes riders are just off the front of a group with the Burrito because they were attempting an attack/breakaway. But if you don’t have the legs to get more than a second or two off the front with your Burrito, you’re wasting energy. Better to use it in the pack and make your opponents hurt a bit.

Will You Be Eating That?

There’s a good reason why Zwift added the ability to dump a powerup around the same time they added the Burrito. This is surely the most-commonly trashed Powerup, because smart racers know it can be dangerous to deploy.

Sitting mid-pack and don’t want to risk creating a gap? Perhaps you’ve got riders you’re working with nearby? Binning the Burrito may very well be your best choice. Shane shows us how to do it:

Questions or Comments?

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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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Derek (@dpr4473)
6 months ago

I hate power ups! Where’s the realism is an aero boost or a lightweight feather? You don’t have them in real life, so why in an esports platform where everyone demands accuracy in everything from power to rider height and weight and virtual equipment performance? Adding these new asinine power ups like the steamroller, ghost, and burrito into the mix is the reason I now only chose races where they aren’t used.

Ben Pitt
Ben Pitt (@benjamin_pitt)
6 months ago
Reply to  Derek

You don’t have crosswinds or proper domestiques in zwift, so I don’t see what your problem is with adding power ups to create some strategy and unpredictability…. don’t be that guy.

5 months ago
Reply to  Derek

Sounds like you solved your own problem. Tomato, tomato.

Brian Owens
Brian Owens
6 months ago

Hey Eric – I’m Brian Owens and that was me. I’m totally sorry that I hurt a fellow DIRT rider. I did want to use it there to try and cause a break and split the group a bit. Which almost happened. There is actually a really good example of the burrito helping me to get 3rd in that same race. https://youtu.be/XULQV45a-Zc. At 45:15 the lead group was cresting the last hill. As a lighter rider I’ve been burned on that final straight away on the final sprint so armed with an aero I went to the front on the… Read more »

5 months ago

What does 2.5m mean in practice when the position displayed for each user is not an actual position as far as I understand it (at least not in left/right sense)? (consider e.g. cornering where we are all on the outside path)

5 months ago

Timely article! That indiscriminate burrito firing is just plain annoying. It is indeed very true that the best you can do with a burrito is to ditch it, because firing it off will mostly come to your own disadvantage, unless you are of the few riders who has a good shot of winning a race any way. Fact of the matter is, those burritos only come to the benefit of riders at the very top of the category. It’s of no use to you if you are struggling to keep up with the 2-3 ‘6’ wkg miracles that seem to… Read more »

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