Today I’m publishing a completely rewritten version of this post, because I recently learned something about Zwift’s Breakaway Burrito powerup: it’s worse than we thought.
A Brief Burrito Bio
The Breakaway Burrito, more than any other powerup in Zwift, has a rather sordid past.
It was part of Zwift in early beta days, but was removed before Zwift came out of beta in October 2015. Then in June 2019, it came back. Zwift was embracing esports, and the Burrito, it was thought, could be an interesting offensive weapon. (Importantly, it was and still is an event-only powerup which would only be available if an event was specifically configured to use it.)
More than a year later, the Burrito was modified once more. Now, instead of it “making you undraftable for 10 seconds”, as Zwift originally described it, it would turn off the draft effect for all riders within a 2.5-meter radius.
From August 2020 until this week, Zwifters generally understood the Burrito to work this way: if you deployed it in a group, riders within 2.5 meters of yourself lost any draft benefit they were experiencing. But you still got to draft off of those around you.
Or did you?
This week, rumors began to circulate that the Burrito doesn’t actually work quite like we think. Namely, when you deploy it, it disables any draft benefit you are receiving as well.
This was confirmed by Zwift just yesterday, and in fact is being shared with all racers participating in the 2023 UCI Cycling Esports World Championships today, because there are a lot of Burritos being handed out in those races!
The burrito was already the most hated powerup in the peloton. This revelation just makes it more so. I predict a pile of binned burritos in future races.
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 felt by you and anyone nearby.
When the Burrito powerup is activated, it turns off all drafting within 2.5 meters of yourself. This includes your own drafting, meaning you and nearby riders lose the benefit of the draft. This powerup lasts for 10 seconds.
Where should it be used? When you’re attacking off the front, and want to make it hard for others to follow. That’s basically the only place where the Breakaway Burrito makes sense.
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 other ways the Burrito can be used poorly – ways which can mess up your race much more than a solo deployment would!
Suicide by Burrito
One common mistake we’ve seen repeatedly 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 and yourself. This can easily cause a gap to form 1-2 bikes ahead of you, while the stronger riders near the front of the group are still enjoying a draft and ride away from your draftless pack!
This is how riders get dropped by their own Burritos.
The midpack Burrito drop is probably the most common use of the burrito, but only because many Zwifters don’t understand that the burrito turns off the draft benefit for you as well.
You have to understand that triggering your burrito midpack means you’ll have to work harder just to hang with the group. If you don’t, you and others may just watch the front of the group ride away and you’ll be left with nothing but your draftless, cursing compatriots.
It’s important to remember that the Burrito hurts everyone around you – and that includes yourself and 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. “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 were 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:
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. Chances are it’s smarter to:
- Attack hard with the Burrito, forcing others to chase without being able to sit in your slipstream, or
- Don’t use the Burrito – instead, sit in the draft to conserve energy
The Burrito Leadout
Using the Burrito makes sense when attacking solo off the front, and that’s where most sensible Burrito usage happens.
But there’s a more advanced use case perfectly suited to team racing. Here’s the 3-step process, which really needs Discord comms if you’re going to coordinate it:
- Heading into a finishing (or even intermediate) sprint, the Burrito holder moves to the front of the pack, possibly even pushing a little extra so they’re a bike length or two ahead.
- The Burrito holder’s teammate then jumps from within the pack, slingshotting around the Burrito holder as the Burrito holder activates their powerup.
- Now the teammate is off the front, and everyone behind is gapped and receiving zero draft. The Burrito holder’s job now is to keep pushing, removing the draft from the chasers while staying behind his sprinter.
This was executed perfectly in a ZRL race by my team captain Antoine, who gleefully exclaimed, “I burritoed them!” as teammate and eventual race winner Arjen sprinted away. Watch it below:
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 is only useful in very specific circumstances and can be dangerous to deploy otherwise.
Sitting mid-pack and don’t want to make yourself work harder or risk creating a gap? Perhaps you’ve got riders you’re working with nearby? Binning the Burrito may very well be your best choice.
Questions or Comments?
Yep. It was pretty obvious it works like this for quite some time 😉 Based on observation only.
Exactly, one’s avatar would go back to the drops as soon as the burrito is in use if not using the Tron … just like it does when it loses the draft!
Ermmm, I kind of wish I’d just released the video now?
I have only participated in a few races and I’ve noticed no one around me ever use power ups. I was on Race Scotland Stage 2 today and I got the burrito (I had no idea what it did – that’s why I’m here) but since no one else used power ups I hesitated to use mine too. Is it an unspoken rule that power ups are not to be used in races? Are they negatively seen? Perhaps it was just me.
You probably have a display bug I’d say because in all the races/group rides with PU enabled, people do use them; wrongly most of the time; but they use them
And especially during Race Scotland Stage 2 with only the Burrito which caused a lot of ranting from people being dropped and putting that on the use of the Burrito, not on their poor riding skills
The Race Scotland Race 2 is absolutely horrible due to this powerup alone. Racers get no less then 10 of these over the course of the 15km race and 90-95% of people obviously don´t know what it does. The amounts of “suicide by Burrito” was absolutely ridiculous…
It’s worse than that, it’s 15! You get a bonus one as you pass Central Station just before the Kicker.
Count me among the morons. I deployed them on all the downhills to try to create a break behind me and then on the final sprint. No wonder I didn’t catch the people in front of me on the sprint.
Yep, I’m a moron too! I’ve only raced a couple of times and didn’t fully understand the burrito. Probably a good thing there’s not a middle finger gesture in Zwift.
Of all the articles to recycle you had to pick the one with me in it. I’m suing for slander!
Worth noting that B. Owens went on to podium in that race!
Certainly a stronger performance than I turned in that day!
This post should be compulsory viewing for anyone racing on Zwift. I noticed in the Zwift Insider Cat A race today that most riders were using them every lap, normally together, so there’s suddenly a bank of 20 Burritos all around you. I suppose that at least when everyone uses them together the whole pack is disadvantaged.
I guess i wil never get the full Race Scotland badge/kit/socks (whatever is up for grabs). Tried race 2 this evening, didn’t even make it 1 full lap. It was horrible constantly fighting the burritos..
No, I’m no front runner in C cat. But with some tactics i can normally keep up with the front group quite a while (at least untill I have to hoist up my 93kg up a hill..). But constantly having to close the gap after someone committing Suicide by Burrito is no fun for me. I’ve quitted.
Just came from that race to find this article. Definitely guilty of overuse and will bin from now on
Don’t quit, just finish the laps and you get the credit. Nobody get any prize money or fame for winning. Its for fun and fitness
this is exactly the issue. Even assuming a good majority will ever understand its use…it only makes things harder fore those already struggling… worthless feature
It has another benefit you didn’t mention – it gets lots of people angry when used incorrectly. Anger = wasted energy.
I’ve also used it to motivate people to help chase a smaller group a few second off the front. Sure, you lose the draft for 10 seconds but usually it starts something that doesn’t end until everyone is back together.
Disagree. Two best sprints I’ve done were when angry. First when someone accused me of cheating and second when a sandbagger spoiled the C cat race
Anger when sprinting might be beneficial for some (although it could be argued that it shouldn’t take anger to reach peak output), but anger throughout the race is surely a hindrance?
Okay, I am at level 47 and having been zwifting for a number of years…I have never received a burrito power up! What am missing or doing wrong?
It’s only in specific events and races. The Scotland races were the first time I got burrito PU’s.
Having watched the World Championships yesterday, it was clear that even the “pros” don’t know what to do with the burrito… They should just get rid of it, it’s never going to work.
Everyone hates them… why program them in 2 out of 3 ZI races?
Forevermore it will be known as The Scottish Powerup.
A short crit course with two The Scottish Powerups per lap for five laps was a perfect lab experiment to see how it worked.
The ONLY time the cursed Scottish Powerup can be used without consequences is if you are the lead rider and therefore not getting any draft anyway.
It needs to be renamed (and only very slightly redrawn) as “The Haggis” in honor of how awful it’s made Scotland races.
Ugh, so that Race Scotland Stage 2 on the Glascow Crit Circuit this past week where the only power up was the burrito was even worse and more evil than I’d thought. That thing sucked. I was definitely glad that I was on the most aero setup I had with disk wheels, but, even still, it was awful as there were clouds of burritos flying through the pack (you got one roughly every km and everyone felt the need to use it).
I can see that sometimes people would use the thing in seemingly inappropriate ways just to get rid of it in the hopes that they get something more useful at the next arch.
Having raced the Scottish Crit Circuit a few times, I now hate the burrito with a passion!
They should at least add an in-game soundeffect whenever you use it. Maybe that could keep just a few people from using it in the long run…
Maybe worth mentioning that a “2.5 meter radius” is ill-defined on Zwift, as the source of truth for positions is in the server. Partricularly important in big groups when you’re riding on one side of the peloton and somebody on the other side uses a burrito, presumably more than 2.5 meters away by the looks on your screen, but for all you know you’re affected as well.
Actually, I believe the source of truth would be your client. That’s how most things in Zwift work – the client computes your drafting status based on the rider positions it sees.
That said – Zwift’s servers now see your position left to right very similarly to the client. It used to be much less accurate (client vs server) but now is fairly synced up.
Yes, it used to be quite wild, and I remember people doing experiments riding on the same group and seeing very different positions. I don’t remember this being mentioned in any release notes, though, but maybe I just missed it, or maybe it’s something internal and too obscure to put there.
Apparently I am in the very small minority of Zwifters who likes the burrito, even if it kills my draft too.
At least if I’m the one using it, I know I’ll need to work a little harder for that 10 seconds.
Wait…it kills your own draft? What kind of stupidity is that?!