Review: The Breakaway App: A Glimpse of Future Zwift?

Review: The Breakaway App: A Glimpse of Future Zwift?

Call me a sucker or a sheep, but around a month ago, Facebook popped up an ad for an intriguing app, and I took the bait.

(Incidentally, this is how I discovered Zwift back in 2015. So I’ve learned to pay attention to Facebook ads, as they’ve turned into a nice discovery tool for all things cycling, including terribly ugly jerseys from oddly-named overseas companies.)

The app is called “The Breakaway” (breakaway.app) and it bills itself as “The Ultimate Cycling Training Companion”. They summarize the app like this:

The Breakaway analyzes your power data and provides Insight with actionable next steps. We break your efforts into Power Skills, and then show you the 12 Power Intervals that you can work on. We offer Challenges to help you improve specific skills and we track you and keep you honest on getting the work done.

Where Do I Stand?

There are two kinds of cyclists: those who constantly compare themselves to others, and those who don’t. The first group would call themselves “competitive”, and you’ll find them racing on the weekends and chasing Strava KOMs whenever the wind is favorable. The second group would call themselves “non-competitive” and say things like “the joy is in the journey” and “I’m just trying to be the best me I can be” while taking exploratory gravel rides and hunting Zwift route badges.

I’m firmly in the first camp, and have a hard time even understanding how someone can live in the second camp. Here’s what’s fun, though: The Breakaway appeals to both camps.

When you first install the app and hook it into your Strava account, it will read in your historic data and display a chart ranking your performance using The Breakaway’s proprietary metrics. Here’s what my charts look like:

This is fascinating stuff. First, the chart shows your power not just on a simple 20-minute interval (or ZwiftPower’s 4 rider phenotype intervals), but on 12 different time intervals (The Breakaway calls them “Power Skills”):

  • 15 seconds
  • 30 seconds
  • 1 minute
  • 2 minutes
  • 3 minutes
  • 5 minutes
  • 10 minutes
  • 15 minutes
  • 20 minutes
  • 30 minutes
  • 45 minutes
  • 60 minutes

Then it shows where your power numbers theoretically place you in the universe of cyclists. I’m firmly in the “elite” camp, which is the 5th of 8 levels that shake out something like this:

  • Level 8 – World Class
  • Level 7 – National Star
  • Level 6 – Semi-Pro
  • Level 5 – Elite
  • Level 4 – Sport
  • Level 3 – Athletic
  • Level 2 – Intermediate
  • Level 1 – Beginner

The data nerd inside me immediately had questions. I loved the sound of being “elite”, but what did that actually mean? Is an elite 42-year-old as strong as an elite 24-year-old? Are age and weight figured into the equation?

I reached out to The Breakaway, and founder Jordan Kobert wrote back. Jordan is a lifelong cyclist who was one of Strava’s first employees (employee #8, Strava user #30). Here’s how he explained the level rankings:

Our benchmarks are the standard for performance across male and female efforts in our 12 defined PowerSkills (15 seconds all the way up to 60 minutes). So when you see your ranking, this isn’t against anyone else, or a leaderboard, but against what’s possible. We built this by looking at male and female world-class performances, then adjusting for performance/age degradation and accounting for body weight. The beauty of this is it’s a standard way of measuring, not a leaderboard of thousands. 

We look at the percentile breakdowns for each category and as we developed this, checked it against other sports, benchmarks, and current and former professional athlete data. We are continuing to dial this data as we learn but we’re incredibly confident in the results and we continue to stress test this with new results, data, etc. Some areas are easier than others. For example, we can look at age-group data for certain things like track events, timed criteriums, etc. The reality though is that there isn’t a benchmark or “defined standard” for what a 46-year-old man or woman can do in 45 min power. So we’re inventing this as we go to create a fun and engaging way to stay motivated and track your progress.

Defining ‘Elite’ is different if you’re 35 vs 65. Watts are also a meaningless number if they’re not looked at on a weight-based standard. Leaderboards are great but more and more, if you’re not in the top echelon they lose meaning. What we’ve heard over and over again from customers is they want to know how they’re doing against themselves, people like them, and their inner circle of friends/training partners…

That’s a solid answer. And of course Jordan is right: there simply is no objective standard available which says “If you’re a X-year-old male and weigh X your 15s power of X places you at the semi-pro level.” The closest thing to such a standard may be Coggan’s chart which shows rankings based on 5-second, 1 minute, 5 minute, and FTP. But that chart doesn’t take age into account, and it ranks me somewhere between a Cat 5 and a Cat 3.

So I’m going to go with The Breakaway’s “Elite” status. It feels much better.

What The Breakaway’s level says to me is that I’m performing at an Elite level for my age. And they take weight into account as well, so if I dropped 10 pounds but kept my power numbers the same, I’d move closer to the higher “semi-pro” level. Which begs the question: how many cookies am I willing to skip in order to be a semi-pro? (Answer: not enough.)

How Did I Do?

While knowing where you stand in the universe of cyclists may not appeal to the “non-competitive” types, The Breakaway analyzes every Strava ride you post, and alerts you when you get a PR, 2nd best, or 3rd best for any of the 12 Power Skills. Even if you’re only comparing yourself to yourself, seeing that you set a new 2-minute power PR feels good.

Screenshots from my Achievements page:

It’s worth noting that you’ll only see new PRs if you pay for the app. (You can also sign up for the free month-long trial to check it out. More on that below.)

What Should I Do Next?

So The Breakaway can tell you your “Level”, and track new PRs. But neither of those features tells you how to improve. And this, dear reader, is where I see massive potential for The Breakaway.

They’ve already created a “Challenges” feature where you can choose to work on a particular power interval in order to level up. For example, the app tells me if I added 25 watts to my 15-second power, I would move up to the semi-pro level. And if I decide to set that goal, I’m now given a screen with video tips from founding team member Christian Vande Velde as well as recommended workouts.

Here’s what my screen looks like:

The “Challenges” idea is a good one, and well-developed in the app. But the biggest weakness I see is a lack of training direction. Christian’s videos offer some very high-level tips focused on how to perform best when testing your power, but they don’t tell you how to train to improve.

There are some recommended workouts listed which vary depending on which Challenge you take on, but they seem to all be pulled from Peloton (*gasp!*) – you would need to manually create them in Zwift in order to execute them in ERG mode.

It’s early days for The Breakaway. But if they could integrate the app with Zwift so you could click a button and pop the recommended workout into your Zwift workouts folder, it would be a killer training tool, as long as the workouts were solid.

I would also love to see them add more videos from coaches – explaining key principles for training 15-second power, for example. I think we’ll see this eventually, as Jordan explained to me, “…we are very early and we have a lot more coming in recommended workouts, content, and more.”

Free vs Paid

You can install the app for free, and it will read in your Strava history, showing you your current level based on recent activity. But that’s just scratching the surface of what The Breakaway was created to do.

In order to have it read in your activities moving forward, you’ll need to pay (or sign up for the free month trial). Cost is $7.99/month, or $89.99/year. It is only available in the Apple App Store at this time (sorry, Android users).

More Coming Soon

The Breakaway team started working on the product in mid-2020, with the motivation of “looking at this opportunity for how we can do more with all of the data people are generating across platforms like Strava, Zwift, and Peloton.” I’d say they’ve built an impressive product in that time – and the future is bright.

I asked Jordan if they had any upcoming features he could tell me about. He explained that they are working on a lot of ideas right now, some of which need to remain secret. But one thing they’ll be rolling out is the ability to create a “Team” to see how you stack up against your friends. Jordan says:

This isn’t another social network, but a way to invite/follow your close training partners and see how you rank. What makes it fun is you can do this with people all over the world, and at different levels. Christian here can tell you about his feelings of being ‘beaten’ by me on our internal leaderboard… 

Clearly Jordan, Christian, and the rest of the team are having fun building The Breakaway. Kudos to them!

Zwift: Please Take Note

Many Zwifters seem to endlessly clamor for more roads, new maps. And I get it. We all love new roads. But wouldn’t it be amazing if Zwift could flesh out our rider profiles, displaying metrics like The Breakaway?

Don’t get me wrong – I love what The Breakaway is doing, and I hope they keep up the good work. But Zwift competitor The Sufferfest features their 4DP (4 dimensional power) profile which includes 5-second, 1-minute, 5-minute, and 20-minute power numbers. Why shouldn’t Zwift offer all that, and more?

Imagine completing a Zwift race and getting a popup notifying you of a new 2-minute power PR.

Then imagine Zwift taking it a step further by allowing you to set a training goal and recommending workouts to meet that goal. Want to boost your 20-minute power by 10 watts? Here are 5 recommended workouts to make it happen. Better yet, here’s a training plan that will help you get it done in 4 weeks.

The possibilities for this sort of “virtual coaching” are massive, and Zwift hasn’t even scratched the surface. Yet. Whether or not they’ll develop these features or leave it to third-party apps like The Breakaway remains to be seen. But I’d sure love to see it in-game. And I think you would, too.

Your Thoughts

Have you tried The Breakaway yet? How stoked would you be if Zwift could offer some quality virtual coaching tools along the same lines? Share your thoughts 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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Sherpa Dave
Sherpa Dave (@dashton)
3 months ago

Just downloaded based on your article. First impressions are very positive. First impressions are that it’s professionally put together – I love the little videos which despite being generic commentary for my category, actually felt very personal. I picked a few challenges to try and will use those to select workouts in Zwift.

I would love to see them align more closely with Zwift by creating a library of workouts to download or even just recommending from the library Zwift has. Early days yet though. looking forward to seeing whether the app helps me focus or increase motivation.

Marco Ekelo
Marco Ekelo
3 months ago

Seems like a nice app, integration in Zwift would be top. Basically, the ultimate changes to Zwift would be to combine all the goodies from apps like Veloviewer (Leaderboards), Xert / Trainerroad (Trainingplans / adaptive training) and power analysis like intervals icu, golden cheetah and to some extent strava. Unfortunately, now liking data analysis and learning more about training, I keep using 5-6 applications to keep track of progress, records etc. 😉

Dan
Dan
3 months ago

IOS only. Fail from me, shame. For now….

Mark Crane
Mark Crane (@rdcyclist)
3 months ago
Reply to  Dan

Major Major Bummer for me too.

Mark Crane
Mark Crane (@rdcyclist)
3 months ago
Reply to  Dan

Any word on when they’re going to The Dark Side?

chris
chris (@chris-benten)
3 months ago
Reply to  Mark Crane

I believe you have this backward…they need to see the light.

molly despondent
Member
molly despondent (@mollydespondent)
3 months ago

Thanks. I like data. Someday it will finish analyzing my rides on Strava, I assume.
.

PedalMonkey
PedalMonkey
3 months ago

Seems like everybody has downloaded the app today, I have spent the last couple of hours waiting for it to process my data 🙁

Jordan Kobert
Active Member
Jordan Kobert (@jordankobert)
3 months ago
Reply to  PedalMonkey

Hi – we apologize for the issues/delay. We will be fixing everyone’s data in the coming days and emailing anyone who signed up when their account is updated. We were overwhelmed with new accounts today and again, my apologies for the hassle.

Thanks, Jordan.

andre nascimento
andre nascimento
3 months ago
Reply to  Jordan Kobert

Hi Jordan, I would like to test the app but it is not available at Brazil app Store, any chance to have the app deployed for us?

Wally
Wally
3 months ago

The recommended workouts are nice but intervals.icu will already compare you to other users and notify you of PRs, and Golden Cheetah has much deeper analysis and workout design, both for free. GC has a learning curve but I’d recommend any data-minded Zwift user be using intervals.icu . If I was going to pay this much monthly/annually for recommended workouts I’d just renew my TrainerRoad account. (Also, I can’t run this anyway, no iStuff.)

Mike
Mike
3 months ago

Downloaded today, imported historical Strava data.
Just completed a group workout, data on Strava but not imported into this app yet.
Paid up, May only have it for 1st month free,

Jordan Kobert
Active Member
Jordan Kobert (@jordankobert)
3 months ago

Hi folks – Jordan from The Breakaway here… Wow, what a response. We are overwhelmed with the spirit…and quite literally with the traffic. Our system is slammed with downloads and sign-ups today and we are grateful, but we apologize that many of you are having issues syncing data. We are working to restore and sync all of your accounts and will keep you posted as we resolve the issues in the coming days. Thank you in advance for your patience, and please feel free to reach out with any questions or feedback (jordan – at – breakaway – dot –… Read more »

Mark Murawski
Mark Murawski
3 months ago
Reply to  Jordan Kobert

I hope the Zwift world response dwarfs the Peleton one. Support Zwift!

Dmitry Gorenburg
Dmitry Gorenburg
3 months ago
Reply to  Jordan Kobert

Speaking for, I’m sure, many many Android users, can you tell us anything about whether (when?) the Breakaway might be available in the Play Store?

Jan
Jan
3 months ago
Reply to  Jordan Kobert

Why can I see only the last 30 rides?

Joe
Joe
3 months ago
Reply to  Jordan Kobert

Do you have an ETA regarding when this issue might be resolved?

James Orton
James Orton
3 months ago

Would have loved this, Apple only 😰

BikePower
Super Member
BikePower (@bikepower)
3 months ago

Seems expensive when you compare it to something like Strava. Still, I would have checked it out … had in been available for Android.

Rich
Rich
3 months ago

Personally I think zwift should concentrate on doing what it already does better rather than adopting features that are already done very well by Strava and Xert and apparently this iOS app. do one thing and do it well, rather than do everything in a kinda mediocre way. For me, make zwift racing better, focus on that, incorporate zp properly and sort out rankings and making racing as competitive as possible.

Brian
Brian
3 months ago

The service looks great though when trying to get my data into the service, it eventually timed out or mentioned I have not WATTS info (which is not true based on my 300 ride in ZWIFT with a Wahoo KICKR)…I did receive an informative note that the service has been overwhelmed with the response and I will get an email when my data is available. I hope the data is available soon so I can review the service fully

Peter Higgins
Peter Higgins
3 months ago

Hi Eric,
Sounds cool, and a potential direction a team at ZHQ could take.
Do you check eric@zwiftinsider.com ?
email draft https://rpubs.com/phiggins/776623

david
david
3 months ago

It looks like an interesting product and contains some really good information but $8.99 a month is a lot of money for what it is, if you put that next to other subscription services and consider what you get it doesnt stack up well. The whole of zwift is less than double the cost

mike
mike
3 months ago

This sounds really neat. How much access do they get to our strava? IE is this looking at just your miles, heart rate, weight, estimated power or is it collecting address, names etc on top of this? I am quite intrigued by what there offering but wanted to know if you saw any red flags on the privacy side.

whiskyecho
whiskyecho
3 months ago

Interesting presentation and nicely designed. But for the price to less given. I knew before that i am better in climbing and TT instead of sprinting. Therefore no need to register for money. But keeping an eye on it.

Philip
Philip
2 months ago
Reply to  whiskyecho

I am the same as yourself it confirmed what I already knew from using WKO5 which is cheaper overall and has far more functionality. I can’t really see what the point in this program is long term unfortunately.

Kenneth Thoman
Kenneth Thoman
3 months ago

Trying it out, but having sync issues with Strava.

Joe Fernley
Joe Fernley
2 months ago
Reply to  Eric Schlange

Two extra weeks will disappear in five days. Doesn’t look good. Not their fault if rate limited but probably should have limited users initially. Any news when it is going to work?

stell
stell
17 days ago

no strava link option just garmin ☹️ and zwift link saying i have no power records yet i have 😶‍🌫️☹️ so fail for me too

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