Misused Zwift Powerups: The Steamroller

Misused Zwift Powerups: The Steamroller

Welcome to the first post in a 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.

While experienced Zwift racers seem to understand powerups well, we see them used incorrectly over and over again.

You won’t get in trouble for incorrect powerup usage, of course. When I say “incorrect”, I mean the powerup is deployed at a time when it doesn’t help you in any way. Some ill-timed powerups can actually hurt you, in fact!

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

The Steamroller: How It Works

To understand the Steamroller powerup, you must first understand a bit about how Zwift works. The Zwift worlds feature different road surfaces: pavement (of course), dirt, cobbles, bricks, wood, ice/snow, and grass. Each of these surfaces has a set Crr (rolling resistance) which affects how fast your virtual tires roll.

To make things even more interesting, there are currently three types of tires/wheels in game: road, mountain, and gravel. Each of these wheels rolls differently on each surface type. So, for example, road wheels roller much faster than mountain wheels on pavement, but mountain wheels are faster than road wheels on dirt.

Want to dig deeper? Read all about Zwift Crr >

When activated, the Steamroller makes whatever surface you’re riding roll as fast as a road tire on pavement. So if you’re using road wheels, it is only effective when deployed on a surface other than pavement. Here’s a table showing the Crr values for each surface and wheel type (lower is faster):

SurfaceRoad Wheels CrrMTB Wheels CrrGravel Wheels Crr
Pavement.004.01.008
Brick.0055.01.008
Wood.0065.01.008
Cobbles.0065.01.008
Ice/Snow.0075.014.018
Dirt.025.014.018
Grass.042

So if you’re using road wheels and you encounter any surface other than pavement, the Steamroller will help you roll faster. It helps the most on dirt, since dirt has the highest rolling resistance of any surface for road tires. The ideal scenario for the Steamroller would be a short patch of dirt like you encounter when climbing out of the Ocean Boulevard tube heading toward Watopia’s fishing village.

Using a mountain or gravel bike? The Steamroller will make any surface significantly faster, but helps the most on ice/snow or dirt. The savings for MTB wheels is substantial: a 75kg rider on a 7kg bike traveling at 40kmh (24.9mph) over dirt (perhaps in a Jungle Circuit race) will save 89 watts when the Steamroller is active!

The Steamroller lasts for 30 seconds, so keep that in mind when timing your deployment.

How It’s Misused

A misused Steamroller on Crit City’s tarmac

Of course, you’ve never misused a Steamroller powerup. But if you are looking to see one misused, join one of the daily Crit City races organized by ZwiftHQ. You’ll see the Steamroller deployed over and over again when riders are on pavement – which means it’s not helping them in any way.

Want to use your Steamroller effectively on Crit City? Use it on the bricks. Brick Crr for road wheels is .0055, compared to pavement Crr of .004. That means a 75kg rider on a 7kg bike traveling at 40kmh (24.9mph) will save 13 watts if they use the Steamroller to “smooth out” the bricks.

It’s not much, but it’s better than a kick in the pants.

Use the Steamroller to make the bricks roll faster

Simply put, a misused Steamroller is one deployed by a road bike rider while on pavement. Using the Steamroller in any other situation will provide the rider some benefit.

To maximize your Steamroller benefit, use the Steamroller on surfaces which roll the slowest – those with the highest Crr. (See table above for numbers).

Event-Only

The Steamroller isn’t part of the “regular” powerup distribution which Zwifters see when free-riding. It’s an event-only powerup, and event organizers must request that it be added to the event’s powerup distribution in order for it to be included.

Because of this, you won’t see the Steamroller when free-riding, and you’ll typically not see it in group rides or races, either. I’d love to see it used in Watopia races which include Ocean Boulevard, though, because it would make those dirt segments super-strategic!

Questions or Comments?

Share 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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ShakeNBakeUK
ShakeNBakeUK (@bakeuk)
7 months ago

hehe it’s not very clear in-game what the different powerups do, so on Crit City most people just slam whatever powerup they have on the rollers after finish line to try and hang on as groups always surge there – when in reality – with steamroller you have to get out the saddle on rollers and suck it up, then when you get to the brickwork you can slam steamroller to either a) rest or b) attack. using it on the rollers does nothing for you.

David
David
7 months ago

Whenever I get this power up I stick my middle finger up to the zwift gods

James(Legs)
James(Legs)
7 months ago
Reply to  David

This and XP -especially on the last lap, get a massive ‘FU’ from me too🖕

Josh
Josh
7 months ago

Are the rolling hills on Crit City dirt or pavement? I sometimes use the steamroller there because I thought it was something over than pavement, but I could be wrong…

Scott
Scott
7 months ago

Nice, so I was right. Did a race the other week in Crit City and assumed steam roller might help smooth the ‘cobbled’ climb. Some smart alec reckoned I’d used it wrong and it instead increased rider weight for descent. Lesson learned…listen to your own intuition sometimes. Perhaps to help this weight weenie who corrected me, we need an anvil power up 🤓

dan
dan
7 months ago

this is maybe a silly question, but what classifies as pavement? ie, the cracked road around the volcano looks like pavement, but does it roll that way? and what about the stone on the mayan bridge?

dan
dan
7 months ago
Reply to  Eric Schlange

thanks!

rdcyclist (Mark Crane)
rdcyclist (Mark Crane) (@rdcyclist)
7 months ago

I have never received a steamroller power up. 😭

PRSboy
PRSboy
7 months ago

Never had that power up. In fact, I seem to get no power up at all more often than not. Do you only get a power up if you get a PR over the relevant section?

PRSboy
PRSboy
7 months ago
Reply to  Eric Schlange

Thanks- I must just be unlucky then 🙄

Clive Norton
Clive Norton
6 months ago
Reply to  PRSboy

Luck isn’t an aspect – power ups (or xp) are always given at the same prescribed locations… unless you are doing a workout.

Paul Smith
Paul Smith (@smithpauld1501)
7 months ago

Well, hell. Ice/snow and grass. I know that I haven’t been exactly adventurous these three years but outside of Repack Ridge, where?

Ryan
Ryan
7 months ago

In the SZR chase race last week, we were on the Beach Island Loop which leaves Volcano Island via the Italian village dirt section. Steamrollers were available and this was an EXCELLENT place to deploy. I increased my effort a little up the switchbacks, and along with the powerup shot through from the back of a fairly stringy pack to the front. I didn’t record, but one of the SZ guys caught the effect wonderfully:
https://youtu.be/xHJEzL59GE4?t=587

Lukas
Lukas
7 months ago

What about the glass in NY? Is that also classified as pavement?

SilentLegs
SilentLegs
7 months ago

Looking forward to the Burrito article and what countermeasures are best deployed against it: get in front by sprinting past? deploy aero helmet or van?

Jack Curzon
Jack Curzon
6 months ago

if I’m reading this correctly, Gravel wheels are crap on every surface??!

Federico
Federico
6 months ago

I’ve literally never seen this once.

Daz Ellis
Daz Ellis
6 months ago

Hi Eric
Tron bike plus kickr climb
Advantage or disadvantage??

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