Speed Tests: Supertuck (Solo + 2 Riders, Race vs Free-RIde)

Speed Tests: Supertuck (Solo + 2 Riders, Race vs Free-RIde)

Zwift’s supertuck is a fun feature, a sort of Easter egg which can be combined with strong course knowledge to give the legs a bit of respite during a race. The concept is simple enough: if the road is steep enough, and you’re going fast enough, stop pedaling and your avatar will get into the aero supertuck position. This will allow you to coast at zero watts while keeping pace with riders who are holding some significant power on the descent.

For details of how the supertuck works, read “All About the Supertuck on Zwift

But did you know the supertuck actually behaves differently in races than it does when free-riding? This is because of an update released in May 2019 which changed two key race physics, but only in race events:

  1. The slight braking force when descending is entirely removed. So you will descend faster in a race event than you would in a group ride or free ride, assuming all other variables are equal.
  2. Zwift made the supertuck more aero. Zwift didn’t share the exact numbers, but they’ve said the supertuck’s aero advantage is similar to the aero powerup (which reduces your CdA by 25%).

This means our experience supertucking in group ride events and free rides might vary significantly when compared to races. What does that difference look and feel like? I decided to run some experiments… for science!

Test Goals

This test set out to answer three questions:

  1. How much faster is the supertuck in race vs non-race mode?
  2. Is it faster to supertuck with additional riders vs solo supertucking? If it is faster, how much faster is it?
  3. If I’m supertucking, how hard do riders around me need to pedal in order to drop me from the group? Does this change in race vs non-race mode?

Test Parameters and Methodology

All of the test riders were set to 183cm height, 75kg weight, and rode Zwift Aero bikes with 32mm Zwift wheels.

Tests were done on the Fox Hill descent in London. (I prefer the steady, steep, long descent of the Alpe du Zwift, but no race events ever descend the Alpe, so it wouldn’t work for these tests.) We would hold 300 watts steady once the descent began, then cut power to 0 as soon as the riders hit 60 kph.

Two-rider tests were done either in “Meetup-Only View” or on deserted courses, to eliminate the possibility of speed-influencing interference from other riders.

Test Results

Mode# of RidersPowerFox Hill Descent TimeSpeed
Race10 (Supertuck)2:1862.87 kph (39.07 mph)
Race1225W (3 w/kg)2:2460.25 kph (37.44 mph)
Race1300W (4 w/kg)2:1862.87 kph (39.07 mph)
Race20 (Supertuck)2:1464.75 kph (40.23 mph)
Race 2300W (4 w/kg)2:1763.33 kph (39.35 mph)
Non-Race10 (Supertuck)2:3954.57 kph (33.91 mph)
Non-Race1150W (2 w/kg)2:3057.84 kph (35.94 mph)
Non-Race1200W (2.7 w/kg)2:2559.83 kph (37.18 mph)
Non-Race1225W (3 w/kg)2:2559.83 kph (37.18 mph)
Non-Race1250W (3.3 w/kg)2:2161.53 kph (38.23 mph)
Non-Race1275W (3.7 w/kg)2:2061.97 kph (38.51 mph)
Non-Race20 (Supertuck)2:3456.38 kph (35.01 mph)
Non-Race2150W (2 w/kg)2:2858.62 kph (36.43 mph)
Non-Race2200W (2.7 w/kg)2:2261.1 kph (37.96 mph)

Conclusions

There are several conclusions to draw from the results of our tests:

  1. The supertuck is much faster in race mode: our solo supertuck tests showed a difference of over 8kph between race-mode and non-race mode. And while this difference is magnified somewhat because the non-race supertuckers actually came out of the supertuck on slower portions of the descent, clearly race mode supertucking is significantly faster.
  2. Supertucking works well in pack and solo race situations: it allows you to rest while staying in a pack of riders who are putting out significant wattage (see “Supertucking In a Mixed Group” below). In fact, if the race is strung out and riders are solo, our numbers show that supertucking will let you keep pace with a rider holding 300W. That’s huge!
  3. Supertucking with others is faster than solo: by now smart Zwifters know this – that the “churn” of riders swapping places at the front makes a group go faster than a solo rider could in the same conditions. Here’s a quick video showing the supertuck churn in one of our tests.
  4. Solo supertucking isn’t a fast strategy outside of races: in our test, a solo supertucking rider is 9 seconds slower than a rider holding just 150W (2 w/kg). This tells us that if you supertuck in a free ride or group ride, you’ll probably be slower than if you simply pedaled at a recovery pace. And you certainly won’t keep up with others who are putting out higher wattage – unless you’re sitting in their draft.

Although I didn’t test it here, it’s also worth noting that the steeper the road gets, the smarter it is to supertuck. We know from our w/kg tests that as a decline gets steeper, putting out higher wattage makes less and less of a speed difference. So the steeper the road gets, the more others would have to hammer to keep up with your supertuck.

Supertucking In a Mixed Group

The tests above give us some solid numbers to work from, but they don’t answer our final question: “If I’m supertucking, how hard do riders around me need to pedal in order to drop me from the group? Does this change in race vs non-race mode?”

Based on the race numbers above, we can see that a solo supertucking rider travels at the same speed as a solo rider holding 300W. And two supertucking riders will actually travel significantly faster than two riders holding 300W! So clearly, a supertucking rider can sit in with other riders who are putting out 300W (4 w/kg) on a descent like Fox Hill.

It is possible to supertuck behind one or more “powered” riders in a group ride or free ride situation as well, but the supertuck doesn’t offer as much of an advantage in this situation, due to Zwift’s modified physics for races. Still, we ran a simple test with two riders – on supertucking, and the other holding the highest power we could hold without dropping the supertucker. The results are far from perfect, but our “powered” rider was able to hold 275W with the supertucker still holding on all the way down Fox Hill.

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

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
37 Comments
oldest
newest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
anderfo
anderfo
1 year ago

Beware that if you have a slow power reading, e.g. power meter pedals with a lag or “downslope” when you stop pedaling, it will take you several seconds to achieve supertuck and this can be frustrating in short hills like those in Richmond. I’ve had that issue with the Assioma pedals.

chrisb200sx
chrisb200sx
1 year ago
Reply to  anderfo

I get this with the Elite Kura direct drive trainer. The higher the power, the longer it takes to get to zero

dan
dan
1 year ago
Reply to  chrisb200sx

just think about all those free watts you are getting otherwise on that trainer

Benjamin
Benjamin (@benjamin_pitt)
1 year ago
Reply to  dan

How is it free watts?

Regardless of power meter/trainer, zwift always has lag between when you stop peddling and the avatar stops, but you aren’t getting free watts.

Mark C
Mark C (@rdcyclist)
1 year ago
Reply to  Benjamin

I think Chris is referencing the Elite Kura trainers apparent optimistic power numbers.

Max
Max
1 year ago

Will the effect of supertucking be greater, lesser, or the same on a lighter rider holding the same w/kg?

Eibert Van't Hof
Member
Eibert Van't Hof (@e_vanthof)
1 year ago
Reply to  Max

It makes a huge difference. Something I miss in this article. For me (60kg) I experience that supertuck is rarely possible in races. I instantly drop back to the last position and get spat out of the back few seconds later. For me it is a much better strategy to keep soft pedalling. It even influences my bike and wheel choice. I rarely use my climbing set up, I feel like i would loose way more time on descends if I should drop , then the few seconds I can win uphill. When I supertuck it is a combination of… Read more »

Rob
Rob
1 year ago
Reply to  Max

I’m just shy of 100 kg. Supertucking allows me to blow past people. Weight seems to make a big difference

Mark C
Mark C (@rdcyclist)
1 year ago
Reply to  Rob

So size DOES matter!

Erik van Roode
Erik van Roode
1 year ago
Reply to  Max

I supertucked most of the way down alpe du zwift. I ended up in the top 8%. My weight is 305 lbs, and I was passing other supertuckers like crazy.

Kari
Kari
1 year ago

It seems that it would obviously make sense in a race. I don’t like doing the supertuck in a free ride because collecting drops is disabled while in tuck position…. and I want the drops….not a rest 😀.

Dennis Zimmermann
Dennis Zimmermann
1 year ago
Reply to  Kari

That is a good point that should be mentioned 👍💪

Peter R
Peter R
1 year ago

Probably should include the proverbial warning, “Don’t try this at home.” 🙂

Bernie
Bernie
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter R

Or rather, don’t try this NOT at home.

Jeff Green
Jeff Green
1 year ago

Karl, you just mentioned what I was going to say about the drops. I believe if you soft pedal, the drops will continue so it doesn’t take much energy but (going from memory) it does take away the supertuck. After last year’s TdF talk about the SuperTuck, I decided to make my Alias on Zwift S.uperTuck!!

Garry Kirkland II
Garry Kirkland II
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeff Green

Yes, pedaling removes the supertuck, but gives you drops on the descent.

Oliver
Oliver
1 year ago

So supertucking down the cobbles in crit city then?

Steve R
Steve R
1 year ago

When and when not to supertuck also depends a lot on course knowledge. There are a number of downhills on Zwift where it briefly goes to less than -3% just for a second, but that’s enough to break the supertuck and then you either get dropped by the group, or have to put the power back on for the rest of the descent to stay with them. Knowing where these instances are can make or break your race.

James Daley
James Daley
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve R

Bang on the mark Steve. There are very few descents I would supertuck on because of this – the Alpe is ok all the way and steep side of Epic Kom where it’s easy to spot what’s coming up. I see many get caught out down both sides of Innsbruck.

Pmsap
Pmsap
1 year ago

Races vs group rides – then in those zwift fondos group rides not considered races but that everyone races like crazy the supertuck will not be a good strategy, am I wrong?

Bernie
Bernie
1 year ago

Note that if you supertuck in Zwift, that reduces your Sims’ likelihood of having children.

samcooke
samcooke (@samcooke)
1 year ago

surely rider weight has a significant effect on this?!

Benjamin
Benjamin (@benjamin_pitt)
1 year ago
Reply to  samcooke

Depends. If you are tall and light, you will be slower. A light rider who is short will be faster.

Aaron Lipton
Aaron Lipton
1 year ago

Do group rides count as races?

B.G
B.G
1 year ago

I did Alpe du Zwift the other day and on my way down had a guy pedaling and seemed to be racing me. I decided to just sit and watch. I weigh 98 kg. Obviously I was doing 0 watts and he was pedaling around 3 w kg. He and I kept trading places and ended up at the bottom at the same time.

Benjamin
Benjamin (@benjamin_pitt)
1 year ago
Reply to  B.G

Racing? Doubt it. I often do 3wkg or so down the alp because I’m not going to sit doing nothing whilst on a 2 hour training ride.

Rob
Rob
1 year ago
Reply to  B.G

this is my experience as well. I supertuck as often as possible, and it works quite well (same size as you B.G.) Just have to be vigilant about when the road gradient flattens out as it can slow you down rapidly. On the good side, if you know where to hit it, you can hammer for 2-3 seconds, get up to about 600 watts, and blow through several of the flatter areas (or even ‘mini climbs’ such as Epic and areas of Volcano)

York Bratley
York Bratley
1 year ago

I find descending the Alpe I can pass Supertuckers doing around 200w, and I’m 66kg. So this is good to know as that put me off doing it in races.

ShakeNBakeUK
Member
ShakeNBakeUK (@bakeuk)
1 year ago

After watching Ed have to push 6w/kg just to keep up with a super-tucked rider recently down the Alpe, I think these changes are going to penalise light riders heavily if they cannot keep up with heavier super-tucked riders in a race event..! Every time he tucked, he got dropped..

Mark C
Mark C (@rdcyclist)
1 year ago

Apparently does not work on an MTB. I rode in the Wahoo Shred event yesterday and the group I was in descended the 6% grade outside the Jungle and I couldn’t attain ST.

Simon
Simon
1 year ago

I did not know that but put it into practice in the Innsbruck race today – win!

Chan Stevens
Chan Stevens (@chanstevens)
1 year ago

Another great bench test addition to knowledge base. For solo rides I tend to use supertuck because it always seems to be more efficient and faster overall unless I chose to really hammer. Never occurred to me to go around 2 w/kg. Did that yesterday on Alpé and shaved 20% off my previous PR. I’m a wiry 66kg.

James Mountford
James Mountford
1 year ago

Not a tuck specific question/comment but what sunglasses is the rider in the top banner picturing wearing? They look like Oakley Flight jacket esk – how do you unlock them?

Steve
Steve
1 year ago

Hi, I can’t get into Supertuck because it takes about a minute for my watts to drop to zero. Seems to hover at about 20-30 watts for ages after I’ve stopped pedalling. I’m on a wahoo Kickr. How do I fix this?

Free Zwift Trial

Newsletter Subscription

37
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x