Zwift Feature Request: The Virtual Tandem

Zwift Feature Request: The Virtual Tandem

Here’s an idea that’s been knocking around the Zwift community since early days: what if riders located anywhere in the world could virtually partner up to ride a tandem in-game? It could be used for free riding and group rides, but would get really interesting for races.

The first reference we could find to this idea comes from early Zwift race organizer Christian Wiedmann in August of 2015. But there are multiple Feature Request forum posts on the topic as well, with the earliest being from Andrew McLennan in December of 2018.

Next-Level Teamwork

The beauty of this idea isn’t in replicating the outdoor tandem experience for a niche group of riders. Instead, think about how this would bring next-level teamwork to Zwift riding.

Sure, you can work with teammates today – sitting in their draft, letting one attack off the front while you recover in the group, riding in a TTT. But imagine if your speed in Zwift was directly linked to the power output of another rider. If your watts were simply added to your partner’s watts, and this power determined your in-game speed. Now that is what we call working together!

Just like outdoor tandem racing, it’s teamwork taken up a notch. Or perhaps several notches…

How Would It Work?

Physics

The physics of real-world tandem cycling would need to be implemented in Zwift for the idea to work. That means combining the power and physical characteristics of both riders in way that makes their in-game speed fairly realistic.

  • Power: the riders’ power would be summed, so one rider holding 300W with a partner holding 200W would result in a total of 500W
  • Weight: riders’ weights would be summed
  • Frame/wheel physics: aero and weight values for just one tandem frame plus one wheelset would be used in the speed calculations
  • Height: this is perhaps the most interesting calculation Zwift would make. As we know, rider height has a major effect on your Zwift speed, since it’s used to calculate your CdA. How would Zwift calculate a CdA for two riders in a virtual tandem setup? There are various options here, none of them terribly complex.

Matchmaking

In-game functionality would need to be developed which allows Zwifters to pair up into tandem teams. Chances are this would start as something simple, like being able to invite any of your followers to partner with you in an upcoming event or free-ride, Meetup style, on a course of your choosing.

But it could evolve into an automatic matchmaking tool. Perhaps a tandem group ride or race would allow individuals to sign up, then dynamically pair them in the final minutes (based on historic performance numbers) to help ensure each pair’s speed is close to the others.

Communication

The ability to communicate with your partner would be vital in a virtual tandem situation. Third-party solutions like Discord or even a simple phone call could fill the void, but it would be really nice to see Zwift develop a one-to-one voice chat functionality which could be baked into the product.

Rider Data

For the purpose of training, your individual rider data would still be recorded – power, cadence, HR. The only change to recorded info would be your virtual speed, which means some changes would need to be made in terms of Strava and in-game leaderboards (see below for more on this).

To Do List/Roadblocks

Obviously, a feature like this comes with some challenges. Each of these would need to be addressed in order for virtual tandem mode to be successful long-term:

  • Strava segments and activity type: tandem rides on Zwift would, of course, be much faster (at least on flat ground and descents) than solo rides. Strava would need to support a new “Virtual Tandem Ride” activity type in order to make sure leaderboards don’t get ugly and our Zwift times for solo efforts don’t get muddled with tandem times.
  • Split leaderboards: in-game leaderboards would need to filter out tandem efforts. Giving tandem teams their own leaderboards would be ideal.
  • ZwiftPower categories and data handling: tandem race results would need to display as such on ZwiftPower. This may be as simple as indicating which riders are paired together. Their individual data (power, HR, etc) could still be displayed. Additionally, race categories would need to be tweaked to work for a pair of riders.
  • New Zwift physics calculations: as mentioned above, Zwift programmers would need to add some modified physics calculations for tandem teams in order to ensure realistic in-game speeds.
  • New frames required: Zwift’s art team would need to create at least one tandem frame.
  • UI Changes: in-game interface elements would need to be added to allow riders to team up, display their names properly, etc.

Your Thoughts

Does this idea interest you? Does it seem doable, or are there roadblocks which would make it a non-starter?

Share your thoughts below, and if you think the idea has merit, be sure to vote for it on the oldest tandem feature request post we could find.

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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Old Bull
Old Bull
18 days ago

I can’t think of anything that would be more of a waste of development time. Instead why don’t they work on simulating corners on down hills (causing you to have to slow down and re-accelerate)

Eric
Eric
18 days ago
Reply to  Eric Schlange

I would seriously like a paddleboat bike. Let me ride to an island.

Ziizii
Ziizii
18 days ago
Reply to  Old Bull

Well… what we have here, is a difference of opinion. I care as little for “simulated corners” as I care of simulation of bugs flying into my mouth at high speed.

In my humble opinion, Zwift lacks features for the “average” rider. Lots of focus on TTT and stuff for the top tier of riders. This is a feature where friends of very different levels could compete together. Thumbs up from me!

Darren Ellis
Darren Ellis
18 days ago

More routes ,better stability
No bloody tandem bikes

MATTHEW YANKOW
MATTHEW YANKOW
18 days ago

8 person TTT tandem races please 🙂

Jason M
Jason M
18 days ago
Reply to  MATTHEW YANKOW

8 person tandem bike… used in the wrtl ttt races. That should fix the blob formations.

Viktor
Viktor (@viktor_icarus)
18 days ago

The way I see it, there’s one massive flaw there at the end. UI changes, we all know how Zwift feel about those.

M. D. S. Günther
M. D. S. Günther
18 days ago

Look, I’m all for plurality, choice and content for everyone. And you made a good job of highlighting that it’s not very Ressource-heavy to implement.

BUT: If we get Tandems before rowing I’m gonna be pissed 😅

M. d. s. Günther
M. d. s. Günther
18 days ago
Reply to  Eric Schlange

That is a good point that i somehow missed 😀

Jhenck
Jhenck (@jrh26)
18 days ago

I think there are a lot more important features that need attention especially all those related to fair racing. Fix racing above all.

Buck Buchanan
Buck Buchanan
18 days ago

Why not. It would be cool.

Steve Short
Steve Short
18 days ago

Has Eric also been bought by Zwift, just like Zwift Power? Quality has been going downhill here too. Write about stuff that matters man!

M. D. S. Günther
M. D. S. Günther
18 days ago
Reply to  Steve Short

Thanks for the demonstration on how to be rude and entitled. I sincerely hope people behave towards your work the same way.

Martijn
Martijn
18 days ago
Reply to  Eric Schlange

Best possible response!

Steve Short
Steve Short
18 days ago
Reply to  Eric Schlange

I do, and I’m not the only one. 1. New roads. 2. Honest categories for racing. 3. User interface (why don’t we have the option to select what we want to see in our screen. 4. Why can’t we have a red Tron bike? Freedom to color your bike any way you want (hex codes). 5. Time gaps that are accurate, also on the Volcano. 6. Promotion/degradation to move up/down categories instead of using w/kg. 7. What the hell is Zwift doing with our money? It seems all they care about is implementing anti-fatshaming and anti-eatingdisorder policies. 8. Where are… Read more »

Steve Short
Steve Short
17 days ago
Reply to  Steve Short

9 thumbs down. You guys should do a group hug.

Steve Short
Steve Short
18 days ago
Reply to  Eric Schlange

I suppose you don’t want to write about Veloton and how awesome it is. As soon as I can join them, it is bye bye Zwift. You could discuss similarities and differences and what Zwift can learn from them.

Mike
Mike
17 days ago
Reply to  Steve Short

Let’s be honest. We have spent years asking for new UI, new roads, and fix racing. Eric has written extensively on ways to fix racing and the fixes that have been done so far. On top of this zwift cast heavily covered the topic of racing and its problems and improvements. do we really need another 4 part series write up as to why we need a new UI and new roads and to fix racing. Tandem adds a new feature to the game that can drastically change how we interact with zwift. adding a new road is….a new road… Read more »

Scrubby duff
Scrubby duff
15 days ago
Reply to  Eric Schlange

World Peace Eric!

No you are not Lehnsherr… Nvm.

Ziizii
Ziizii
18 days ago
Reply to  Steve Short

I think you may have phrased that a bit wrong. You probably meant to say: “Write about things I care about, and ignore everyone else”.

Mick Such
Mick Such
18 days ago

Can’t we just have a PENNY FARTHING instead. That would be mega cool. 😎 😎

Ziizii
Ziizii
18 days ago
Reply to  Mick Such

Haha, that would be cool 😂

Paul Rayner
Paul Rayner (@paulrayner)
18 days ago
Reply to  Mick Such

I wonder if someone at Zwift already has that on the list of possible options for April 1st 2022?

Dana Candella
Dana Candella
18 days ago

You have to be kidding right? Can we start by putting all settings on the home page please? How about making back buttons go back not forward? How about time to beat and distance remaining? Zwift wins the award for best app with THE worst UI.

Bernie
Bernie
18 days ago

For free riding and workouts, the “Keep riders close” tethered meetup has a similar effect. Obviously, doesn’t work for races.

ChrisB200SX
ChrisB200SX
18 days ago

Would it be better to provide a hand-bike option for people with disabilities?

Paul Rayner
Paul Rayner (@paulrayner)
18 days ago
Reply to  ChrisB200SX

Actually, tandems are one of four main types of cycle used in paracycling competition by people with disabilities.

I recommend anyone who believes hand cycles are the only type of cycles used by people with disabilities spends a few minutes getting to understand the incredible variety of the world of paracycling.

Here’s a video on the subject, from the UCI:
https://youtu.be/nQbuRGdKTXQ

MATHEW M ROSE
MATHEW M ROSE (@matrose617)
18 days ago

In a way, it already exists. Case in point, I rode Alpe du Zwift at max effort and finished in 40:08 for the climb. Two day’s later, I set a meetup with my 9 year-old son and did the same route, selecting “keep everyone together.” For the same 297 watts held over an hour, we finished 59:35 during the meetup ride. Something tells me that the meetup banding algorithm already averages w/kg as it stands. The only thing missing is the graphics displaying a tandem bike.

Boone
Boone
18 days ago

Best idea ever! That way you can ride me all around Wah Topia while I sit on my bike and do nothing

Bikelink
Bikelink (@darren-r-linkin)
18 days ago

I love it to get newer riders … especially if new to riding AND zwift) on Zwift and riding well. I totally agree with another commenter that rubber banding does much of the same effect. But even many ‘experienced riders don’t draft well and being on a tandem is a first person view of how to do things well (assuming the more experienced rider does) and the communication and interaction are TIGHT since both riders feel the partial control of the other. So I’m riding hard with someone and a size-able gap opens they start to pedal harder I stop… Read more »

Bikelink
Bikelink (@darren-r-linkin)
18 days ago
Reply to  Bikelink

I’m assuming some people will counter argue without really understanding … I agree in part with everything (you if posted) said including priorities (I won’t argue priorities it’s just an idea and agree it’s not #1 or close on my list either). If you think I’m wrong about why it would be good, though, pose your counter argument as a question like ‘but then aren’t you doing the work for them so they won’t learn.’ Or ‘but since power is overwhelmingly important won’t these other things not make much of a difference?’

mitchibob
mitchibob
18 days ago

Need a range of Bromptons in the drop shop first!

Martijn
Martijn
18 days ago

Personally I would like this tandem option. As well as other options to keep it interesting. For example a mario kart like experience or dirt jump track, where you have to put on the right power at the right time. A sort of Zwift party mode with various minigames

Chris H
Chris H
18 days ago

Does Zwift have an official feature request page/form.

I’ve often asked myself this question because for the life of me I can’t understand why we don’t have a lap button function for free rides.

Evan
Evan
18 days ago

On the topic of new feature requests, when is Zwift going to make gravel bike roads?!! Right now it is accumulating dust in my garage – would be nice for it to be useful for once

Dennis Zimmermann
Dennis Zimmermann
18 days ago

no need here

Dennis Zimmermann
Dennis Zimmermann
18 days ago

other toppic: what about Boone? The weekly update is very late. Hope nothing happened!

rdcyclist (Mark Crane)
rdcyclist (Mark Crane) (@rdcyclist)
18 days ago

He posted about 7 posts up from here. No update but at least he’s alive and kicking…

IanS
IanS
18 days ago

I love the idea as an additional fun element and even as a relative newbie I’d thought about it some time ago. More seriously though, having watched blind/partially-sighted riders race tandems with a guide/lead, the speeds are phenomenal and it’s a very inclusive, exciting cycling discipline. Also love the idea of Penny-farthings and unicycles too; who wouldn’t want to see a penny-farthing TTT or a unicycle race up the Alpe? With all the water around Watopia, why not pedalos too, with steering only done by rider power? Like everyone, I’d like to see some of the technical, race and cheat… Read more »

Diogo Velosa
Diogo Velosa
18 days ago

Well..that would be “too gaming” .. maybe not!

bobvz
bobvz
18 days ago

As an irl tandem rider, I would say this should be low priority for the Zwift devs, as has been suggested.

C.L.F.
C.L.F.
17 days ago
Reply to  bobvz

Hi bobvz! IRL, would you have to use the same cadence or at least a fixed cadence ratio?

If so, wouldn’t it be a very distinctive feature and should therefore be implemented for the proposed Zwift tandem, too?

C.L.F.
C.L.F.
17 days ago
Reply to  C.L.F.

By the way, speaking of feature requests:
I would love to see a feature like a simple route planning tool. For example:
1) give a starting pen
2) put in a row of turns (like you would in free ride mode approaching the junctions)
3) give a distance at which the finish will be.
Using that tool would add countless interesting courses for racing AND might also come in handy for the non-racers cruising around.

Simon Collins
Simon Collins
17 days ago

No, can’t think of anything more that I want less. Terrible idea

Rick Steiger
Rick Steiger
17 days ago

I’d settle for some new roads at this point

Jeroen van Bergen
Jeroen van Bergen
17 days ago

I am in the ‘fix the basics first’ camp. Since Zwift is software only, anything should be possible, including a consistent GUI, reasonable simulation of real world physics and more useful information on-screen. Zwift currently looks like an odd mix of beginner friendly simplicity and hard to grasp advanced features as well as it being a simulation and a game at the same time. This also depends on how people use Zwift and what their expectations are. I started Zwifting in October last year and had a lot of fun. My suggestions: Zwift can be used in different modes. The… Read more »

Dave
Dave (@daveroberts)
17 days ago

No tandem. More to do first to make the platform more immersive. How about a Draft Meter to communicate you draft benefit, how about a Drop Shop Classified to dispose of the early purchases no longer needed and how about Bots at 2.0 in Watopia?

Gregg
Gregg
17 days ago

Well, I think it would be great idea. In fact, I sent Eric an e-mail about this a year ago. Should it be high on the development mix? Probably not, but I could see my wife and I have a good time zipping around Watopia on a tandem. (I would like to see it before rowing comes out, that’s for sure.)

Jane Atack
Jane Atack
16 days ago

I personally would love it. Would mean I could ride WITH the husband instead of him having to compromise and slow, or me killing myself trying to catch up and then running out of steam. And before the haters chip in with their helpful “get fitter” comments, I have been Zwifting seriously for over 2 years now, but I am also a para rider. I fight every day to bring the best version of me to the table and Zwift helps me enormously in that regard. I will never be a “good” cyclist. I am however a determined one. The… Read more »

Kenneth Rehme
Kenneth Rehme (@kennethrehme)
16 days ago

Hi Eric, I really hope Zwift can stay the course on this topic. I realize, from the number of tandem teams I see on the local roads around here, that we are a small segment of the overall users out there, but I would get a lot of value out of this feature. My wife does get frustrated when we ride together on Zwift because she is not as strong on the hills as I am.

Robert
Robert
15 days ago

I would like to see a bierfiets ! That would be the mother of all teamwork.

Bob Laipply
Bob Laipply
15 days ago

My wife and I ride together all the time, this would be great!

Scrubby duff
Scrubby duff
15 days ago

Features… Mini games would be nice…

1. Shave a roadie ham simulation!
2. Can you fit that lycra barbie mini game
3. Toast them wheats! Toaster oven game!
4. Flyers chatterbox game, a typing game while holding 550w erg game! Two races at once! Gotta boost that ergo!… Uh i mean ego.

As to weight, limit how many times you can change it manually. Any additional changes will cost $9.99. But auto sync is ok. Lets see who’s got the smallest dingo to use their GF, niece, mom, hooker, to weigh in.

Scott Brady
Scott Brady
14 days ago

This is a great idea. Even if you could do this outside of races for training/leisure would be worth it.

Doug Biggs
Doug Biggs
13 days ago

I would much rather see them focus on developing adaptive bikes that represent those being used by the growing disabled rider population – handcycles, etc.

Dan Connelly
11 days ago

Tandem riding is a social activity. A lot of people here seem to think this is a frivolous suggestion. Maybe they’re anti-social, which is fine, but I think it would be a great way to share effort in a competitive context (something not available with “stay together”). Others say “but Zwift should be doing X instead of this.” This is a tiresome argument, and stifles creativity. Every time someone suggests something, it gets knocked down, as if Zwift only has the resources to do one thing at a time. Road design is completely separate, for example. As to how hard… Read more »

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