PowerUps in Zwift add welcome randomness to races, giving riders a short-lived advantage when used effectively. If you aren’t sure when or where to use powerups, this is the article for you: advanced tips to help you (power)up your Zwift game!
Just getting started? For an introduction to powerups, read “Your Guide to PowerUps on Zwift“.
Lightweight (Feather): Climbing + Accelerations
The lightweight (feather) powerup reduces your weight by 10% for 15 seconds, so it offers an obvious advantage on climbs. And since climbs are where attacks always happen in Zwift races, that really is the best place to use a feather powerup–especially on short, punchy climbs where the feather will help you maintain momentum.
But losing weight also helps you move faster on flat ground, and is especially helpful when you are accelerating! So don’t just burn that feather in a flat race–use it heading into an attack, or just before you put the hammer down on your finishing sprint. It won’t help you as much as the aero helmet in this situation, but it will help.
When not to use: the one time the feather hurts you is on descents, where being heavier actually makes you faster.
Draft Boost (Van): Recovery + Well-Timed Sprints
This powerup lasts for 30 seconds, which is twice as long as any other powerup. That’s a big deal, and makes the van especially useful when you’re looking to recover while sitting in the pack. Remember, smart racers conserve their energy as much as possible so they’ve got legs left when it matters most! The van helps you do just that, by increasing whatever draft effect you are currently experiencing by 50%.
Got the van for your final sprint to the line? Timing and heads-up riding will be crucial here. Watch for other riders to jump, then get on their wheel with your draft boost activated. This will let you sit in their draft with much less effort than they’re putting out. Finally, as they’re getting tired, jump on the watts and come around them to take the win at the line!
When not to use: the draft boost is useless if you’re not drafting. So triggering this while you’re on the front of the pack or in the wind on a solo breakaway won’t help you one bit!
Aero Boost (Helmet): Sprinting + Bridging
Everyone’s favorite powerup, the helmet helps you in your battle against the #1 enemy of cycling speed: air resistance! Sure, it’s only virtual air resistance on Zwift, but it’s still the main thing slowing you down unless you’re moving slowly up a steeper climb.
The helmet is most commonly used in the final moments of a race, to give you a speed boost during your sprint finish. Here are a few more places it can be effectively used:
- Downhill attacks: on short, steep descents like Yorkshire’s Pot Bank the helmet can be used to boost your top speed, allowing you to drop other riders or bridge up to a group 5-10 seconds up the road if you hammer for a bit to maintain you increased momentum once the road levels out.
- Grabbing a Wheel: if you get “gapped” (dropped off the back of a hard-charging group) use the helmet to reduce the effort required to get back into the draft.
- Helping Your Group: in a breakaway group, chase race, or team time trial? Get on the front and use your aero boost to help everyone go faster.
When not to use: don’t use the helmet when you’re moving slow, because at low speeds, air resistance simply isn’t an issue and the aero powerup won’t have any noticeable effect.
Burrito: Get Offensive
This lesser-seen powerup removes the draft effect for yourself and any riders within a 2.5m radius for 10 seconds, so it’s the only powerup whose activation can directly slow other riders. If a rider is enjoying the advantage of sitting on your wheel and you activate the burrito, that rider will have to quickly up their watts in order to stay in contact.
The burrito can be used when you are looking to drop other rider(s), although it really needs a good boost of power from your legs in order to be effective. More commonly, it’s used in the middle of a pack of riders to make everyone within 2.5m work harder! Perhaps you’re in a pack and looking to make a solo attack off the front? Use the burrito to make it harder for anyone to follow you. Or maybe you’re in a breakaway with just one or two others in the final minutes of a race, looking to drop them and solo to glory. Deploy the burrito and put in a solid dig, then keep going to the line!
When not to use: if you’re riding with no one within 2.5 meters, activating the burrito won’t speed you up or impact anyone else.
Cloaking (Ghost): Sneak Away
Another lesser-seen powerup (get it?), the ghost gives you 10 seconds of invisibility. Why is that helpful? Because you may want to “get away” in certain race situations: when chasing sprint points, trying to break away off the front, or starting your final sprint a bit early. Like the burrito, this is another “deploy then hammer” powerup, since it’s only going to help you if it’s coupled with increased wattage.
When not to use: of all the powerups, the ghost is probably the most “useless”–that is, it’s only useful in very specific situations described above. It’s not useful if you’re just sitting in the pack, off the back, working with others in a breakaway, etc.
Bonus Tip #1: Know the Route
Effective powerup usage is all about timing, and it’s nearly impossible to time things properly if you aren’t familiar with the course you’re riding. As you grow familiar with Zwift’s roads, you will also improve your ability to maximize whatever powerups you hold.
If you aren’t familiar with a route, look it up on our routes list and familiarize yourself with the key climbs, sprint segments, and overall profile so you can use your powerups as strategically as possible.
Bonus Tip #2: Count Your Banners
Knowing the number of banners on your route is also very important since this is where you get powerups. The Tick Tock route, for example, is 10.5 miles long but only includes one banner. Watopia Hilly, on the other hand, is 5.7 miles long and includes three banners! Your powerup usage should be very different between these two routes.
What About You?
Got some powerup tips we didn’t share above? Share them in the comments below!