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!
I’ve been on for about 4 years now, and don’t recall ever hearing about the Cloaking (Ghost) one before
Have heard of the mythical Burrito, but though that it was removed pretty early on? Are there events where it’s enabled?
I’m pretty sure it’s only an option for race organizers to enable. You won’t see it freeriding.
IIRC The Burrito was recently reactivated and at the same time the Ghost was introduced. So neither have been around for that long. I have yet to see either myself. BTW I think the burrito looks like a bandaged foot!
It’s up to event organizers to request them to be enabled, and they rarely do. They’ve been enabled in the TdZ pro-am races though!
Is there something on the ZwiftHacks or ZP event listings that indicates whether these will be available in a race? I’ve looked but not found anything.
On ZwiftPower there is sometimes an icon that looks like a battery next to rides. If it’s empty, it means no powerups, if it’s full it means custom powerups, although you don’t know what the customisation is – it might not be the burrito/ghost, but maybe say, always an aero helmet and no others (seen that before). If there’s no icon, then it’s standard powerups.
“Another lesser-seen powerup (pun intended)” < not a pun. Sorry if this comment wasn't in the spirit of things.
Good point, @guest_30397. Fixed!
Let’s say you wanted to break 100KPH on the radio tower downhill. Would it be more advantages to use an aero helmet or switch to a TT bike?
That’s a good question. I’d say the aero helmet’s CdA reduction is greater than what the TT will give you. BUT it only lasts 15 seconds.
Why not get both? That would be the way to really go fast!
Can’t get power ups with the TT, so wouldn’t be able to have both.
Unless you mean an actual aero helmet, but didn’t think they really helped out
Well, you’d switch to the TT before starting the 100kph attempt, of course. And only once you had your powerup. Come on now, this is Zwift Hacking 101! 😀
Hah! I stand corrected. Slight brain malfunction.
What happens if you have a power up and and then swap to a TT bike? Is the power up still available to use? I know you cant get any new ones.
I was planning on saving a aero helmet and then switch to a P5 at the radio tower for a 100kph attempt. Will have to test if I can do this.
Yes, powerup is still available. Let us know how your attempt goes!
I got the 100kph achievement. It is a 20 second sprint from where the roads meet at the top of the radio tower to the last bend where the gradient maxes out at -15%. I ramped up from 400W to 640W during that with an aero power up and a TT bike (P5). It was boring getting up there tho because i was chilling in zone 2 and trainer difficulty 0 for an hour.
how about some help for riders above 100 KG ????????
I’m not sure what you’re asking for… all the powerups help you regardless of weight!
lightweight(feather) reduces exactly 9kg? No percentage? It’s so unfair for heavier riders already struggling in the steep climbs 😥
If it was a percentage, the lightweight riders would probably say the heavier ones get an unfair advantage… it is what it is!
When your referring to weight do you mean physical weight or what we enter on Zwift ? Thanks
I’m not sure what the difference is. I enter whatever I physically weigh as my weight in Zwift.
I always thought you had to use them or they would disappear. Can u save power ups and have multiple to use at different times or do you have to use it before you get the next one?
You can only hold one powerup at a time.
Do you need to have you powerup depleted once you reach a banner to get a new one? Thinking about the situation when I’m approaching a banner and using my saved powerup right before crossing the banner. Would I received a new one or screwed it up? Thanks for your experience
As long as you ACTIVATE your powerup before crossing the banner, you’ll get a new one.
I generally don’t race much, and actually prefer leveling up quicker. The +250 point bonus seems to be the stingiest of all. Is there a a way to improve the likelihood of the +10 and +250 bonuses?
Sure–ride a TT bike. Then those are the only “powerups” you’ll get!
You don’t automatically get a power up at a banner. You only get a chance for a power up. If you’ve got the power you want and are nearing the end of a race. I would not burn that power up unless you really really had to. Skip taking the chance for a power at the last banner because you may end up with something you don’t want or nothing at all. Maybe even the last 2 banners.
I don’t think the feather Power up is fair to heavy riders. Lets take a 100kg rider 9kg is 9% weight reduction but for a 70kg rider 9kg is 13% weight reduction. SO I would suggest Zwift use a percentage of weight. 10% for 15 seconds.
In race, when passing a arch, zwift right side riders list shows that most guys in group would be given “ride on”, but without me, whys that? 🙁 @Eric Schlange
Because they just got a PR on the segment. It doesn’t pop up for you, of course, because you can’t give yourself a Ride On! 😀
So…how do we know which of the banners will work nowadays? I experienced recently in Tour of Watopia Stage 2 that some of the banners (like the one at Titan’s Grove) don’t give any powerup. Also during Stage 1 I found something similar, one of the banners did not work. Is this by design or just another bug?
Recently on Zwift Companion I’ve noticed 2 new icons.
one looks like it deletes your Power-Up And the other seems to be something about flattering the road.
Anyone know what these are..?
Thanks for the article.
Is there a list of where the banners are situated? Or, a list of how many banners in which route?
Any plans to add power up functionality to Meet Ups??
Not sure what you mean. You already receive powerups when riding in Meetups…?
Your work is constantly excellent, including this. There’s a lot of subtlety in when to use a power-up. For example, suppose a rider is a weaker climber. There’s three options for the power-up: use it to recover in the pack, moving towards the front, before the climb, then hammer the climb to lag-climb and stay in the group. use it on the climb itself, which doesn’t save much power, but when close to the max even a little bit can be the difference, and this is the crux of the race. get dropped on the climb, riding a controlled… Read more »
Seems like other racers have more boosts than I do. I’ve been doing the Fearless Women’s Crit and I see the power ups scrolling through each time I finish a lap but not sure how to grab them! They scroll through and then disappear…. and I’m left with nothing! Please help!!
Some power up icons turn red during races. Do you know why and what is the outcome ? Thanks
Eric, you might want to update the feather power up to be 10% on this page too.
Good catch! Just did. And updated the burrito, too.