On July 31st, Zwift released the latest version of its Cycling Esports Ruleset governing a small number of high-level racing events on the platform.
While these rules don’t apply to the vast majority of races on the platform, it’s interesting to track their evolution and see loopholes which are being closed and rules which may eventually trickle down to the Zwifting masses.
Zwift summarizes the changes in the latest version as follows:
- Clarified minimum age for event and event series participation.
- Smart trainers/smart bikes must have manufacturer claim of power accuracy of at least +/- 2%.
- Equipment and techniques not permitted or effective in IRL cycling sport are prohibited.
- Rules applicable in IRL events of a particular format shall be applicable to Zwift Cycling Esports version of that event format.
- Revised performance verification process.
- Pre-race test data must be submitted at least 14 days before the applicable event.
- Updated pre-race test course instructions
Here are a few comments and details pertaining to some of the latest changes.
+/- 2% Trainer Accuracy
First Zwift required direct-drive trainers (because wheel-on trainers are notoriously fickle when it comes to power accuracy). Now they are requiring “a manufacturer claimed power reading accuracy of +/- 2% or better”. This is a logical next step as Zwift seeks to require more precision for top-level racers, and smart trainers continue to improve.
Which direct drive trainers are now ineligible for Zwift Cycling Esports events? A surprising number, actually. A quick look at our Smart Trainer Index of current models shows the following disqualified direct-drive trainers:
- Elite Suito (+/- 2.5%)
- Elite Zumo (+/- 3%)
- JetBlack Volt (+/- 2.5%)
- Kinetic R1 (+/- 3%)
- Magene T100 (+/- 3%)
- Tacx Flux 2 (+/- 2.5%)
- Tacx Flux S (+/- 3%)
- Thinkrider Power (+/- 3%)
- Xplova Noza S (+/- 2.5%)
Notably, the flagship models of two smaller manufacturers (Kinetic and JetBlack) are disallowed. Additionally, there are some discontinued trainers which no longer qualify:
- CycleOps Hammer (+/- 3%)
- Elite Direto (+/- 2.5%)
- Magene Gravat (+/- 3%)
- Magene Gravat2 (+/- 3%)
- Saris H2 (+/- 3%)
- Tacx Flux (+/- 5%)
The rules also state:
Zwift reserves the right to prohibit the use of smart trainers or smart bikes for which the manufacturer does not currently provide product support. For purposes of this section, “product support” shall mean software or firmware updates, troubleshooting, and help instructions.
This would probably rule out the use of any BKool trainers, since they exited the smart trainer business in late 2019.
With this rule change, Zwift is drawing a line in the sand with smart trainer manufacturers. If you want your products used in Zwift racing, you’ll need to ensure at least +/- 2% accuracy. Because yes, these rules only apply to top-tier Zwift races… but the racing community as a whole will follow the lead of the top racers.
Equipment and Technique Restrictions
New section 2.5.9 states:
Riders shall use equipment in a manner that is consistent with Zwift Cycling Esports events being cycling events. Use of techniques or equipment (other than a smart trainer or smart bike, or those relating to body heat management – fans, towels, etc.) that would not be permitted, or not be effective, in real life cycling events, shall be prohibited.
Note: This rule is not intended to prevent innovation, but simply to avoid the exploitation of “non-sporting” loopholes presented by the nature of esport. This includes, but is not limited to, exploitation of disconnections / lag / dropouts / software bugs, unusual pedalling styles, or use of equipment that is beyond what might reasonably be considered “sporting”. Any riders who
are concerned that an innovation may be limited by this rule are strongly encouraged to seek the advice of Zwift before using it in competition.
This is Zwift tightening the rules to discourage the actions of a few bad actors. Most interesting in paragraph two is the restriction of “unusual pedalling styles”. This is doubtless refering to exploitation of Zwift’s “sticky watts” issue wherein a rider can pedal hard for a few strokes, then stop pedaling and effectively “coast” at a high wattage for a few seconds.
The interesting thing here is that, as far as we know, sticky watts is only an issue if you’re using an event-based power meter as your Zwift power source. But racers in these top-tier racers are required to use their smart trainer (which are typically time-based) as their primary source, so sticky watts would seem to not apply.
In the wild west of Zwift community racing, though, this rule could clean up a few sticky watters. Perhaps this rule will have some effect in those circles as well.
IRL Rules + Zwift Events
New Section 2.6.1 states:
Unless otherwise explicitly communicated by Zwift, the results of a race shall be judged by the standard real-world rules of racing for the applicable format of a race. For example, in a Zwift Cycling Esports event that takes the format of a Circuit Race, standard In Real Life Circuit Race rules and regulations (such as lapped riders not being permitted to interfere with the leaders) shall apply.
This is interesting, as there has been discussion in Zwift races about whether IRL rules should apply on Zwift. Generally the understanding has been “if you’re able to do it on Zwift, then it’s allowed” – because it’s simply too difficult to police such actions.
But Zwift is saying that, at least for its top-tier races, standard IRL rules will now apply. This is especially important in shorter circuit races as mentioned in the rule, where it’s easy for riders to jump back in when they’re lapped, and begin to affect the race. This is no longer allowed.
Revised Performance Verification and Pre-Race Data
Zwift (ZADA, actually) requires a substantial amount of information from riders before they are able to race. They may also do performance verification after a race.
Performance verification hasn’t really changed much in this latest ruleset – just a flowchart update to clarify precisely how the process unfolds, by the looks of it.
The more substantial changes are on the pre-race side of things. These changes are too detailed to lay out here, but racers are encouraged to read the rules document in detail if they’re looking to participate in a Zwift Cycling Esports event.