Which Bike Should I Use on Zwift’s Makuri Islands Routes?

Which Bike Should I Use on Zwift’s Makuri Islands Routes?

Zwift launched Yumezi, the first map on its new Makuri Islands world, early this week. It includes ~27.6km of roads, and ~8.6km of those roads are dirt.

This has some astute Zwifters asking the question – which bike should I use for these mixed routes? On Zwift, different road surfaces roll at different speeds depending on which wheels you are using (read “Crr and Watt Savings of Zwift Wheel Types” for details).

Standard road bike wheels are the fastest choice on Pavement, Brick, Wood, Cobbles, and Ice/Snow surfaces. Mountain bike wheels roll fastest on Dirt surfaces. And Gravel wheels fall somewhere in between, rolling faster on Pavement than MTB wheels, but slower than road bike wheels.

Things start getting complex when you’re talking about routes that have climbs and descents, because gravel bikes are much lighter than MTB, meaning they will outclimb them, especially if the dirt gets steep. And it gets even more complex when you’re talking about routes with a mixture of surfaces!

One such route is Kappa Quest. This route is essentially a dirt KOM climb, a dirt descent, then a mixed dirt/pavement connector road from the bottom of the KOM descent to the start of the climb.

We ran some Kappa Quest test laps at 300W steady with a 75kg rider using three different bikes. Here are the results:

BikeClimbDescentForestTarmacLap
Zwift Concept Z1 (Tron)7:362:241:535:1217:05
Canyon Grail (Gravel)7:102:221:495:2816:49
Trek Supercaliber (MTB)7:112:201:465:3816:55

A few observations:

  1. The Gravel and MTB perform nearly identically on the climb, which means the faster-rolling MTB Crr is being equalized by the Gravel bike’s lighter weight. If the road got steeper, the Gravel bike’s lead would increase. If it got flatter, the MTB would move ahead.
  2. The MTB is the best dirt descender, which isn’t a surprise, since it’s the heaviest of the three and the has the lowest Crr in the dirt.
  3. The Tron bike grabs a lot of time on the tarmac, but not enough to get a faster overall lap. And while the Gravel bike is slightly slower than the MTB on the dirt sections, it makes up for that lost time by outperforming the MTB on the tarmac by 10 seconds.

Where Do You Want Your Advantage?

Bike choice on some Yumezi routes may come down to picking your advantage. Do you want an edge on the dirt climb? The dirt descent? Or the pavement? The advantage you select will mean a disadvantage elsewhere, so choose carefully!

On a race around Kappa Quest, the big moves will happen on the KOM climb. So it would seem that the Gravel bike would be the smartest choice for this route, since it gives the biggest advantage on the crucial climb where effort is highest. It also rolls faster than the MTB on pavement, and turns in the overall fastest times.

To Swap, Or Not to Swap?

Swapping from one bike to another is often done heading in and out of the Jungle Circuit in Watopia. With a little practice, it takes around 15 seconds to hit the brakes, make the switch, then get back up to speed.

Does swapping bikes make sense on Yumezi? Probably not, since the overall advantage gained isn’t enough to outweigh the 30-second cost of swapping to one bike then swapping back again.

The only exception that I can see to this may be the Countryside Tour route, which is a great candidate for a one-way bike swap in a single-lap race (see note below).

Route Recommendations

Given all this, here are my recommendations for which type of bike to use on each Yumezi route during a race:

  • Chain Chomper: go with a Road bike since there’s so much tarmac. Try to drop any MTB and Gravel riders early, before the dirt begins. And just be confident that even if the MTB or Gravel riders drop you on the dirt climb, you’ll be able to claw them back on the long paved descent to the finish line.
  • Countryside Tour: go with a Road bike since there’s so much tarmac. But consider swapping to Gravel before starting the climb, then staying on your Gravel bike through the paved descent to the finish line (it’s not worth the time lost to swap back).
  • Flatland Loop: definitely Road bike. No dirt roads on this route!
  • Kappa Quest: Gravel bikes gives you the most balanced advantage.
  • Sea to Tree: definitely Gravel bike, as this is almost entirely a dirt climb.
  • Spirit Forest: Gravel bikes gives you the most balanced advantage.
  • Three Village Loop: definitely Road bike. No dirt roads on this route!
  • Two Village Loop: tough call. 3km of dirt, 9.8km of paved roads. Pick the gravel or road bike, then use your advantage to ride strategically and drop anyone who made the opposite pick!

If you’re not sure which Gravel or MTB to pick, read our report on Gravel Bike Performance and Mountain Bike Performance.

Your Thoughts

What do you think of my bike picks, and the logic behind them? Have you tried different bikes on Yumezi yet? 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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Mark Wilson
Mark Wilson
3 months ago

I’ve done some slightly less scientific test rides & concluded that the gravel bike is a good option on the mixed routes here – will be interesting to have races over the mixed terrain! Good to have a dirt KOM also – nice new options in this map, enjoying it so far!

Jimmy
Jimmy
3 months ago
Reply to  Mark Wilson

Yeah I did the same – took the plunge and got myself a Canyon gravel bike and been surprised on the mixed routes how it’s a decent choice. Worked really well on Kappa Quest up the KOM and was manageable on the road. Saves having to change bikes anyway and it’s nice to actually have a reason for using them now.

eugene kaub
eugene kaub
3 months ago

I just want to ride the gravel bike occasionally, this will be my go to since i don’t plan to race, maybe on a group ride if everybody does a switch i will join the majority.

Temps 09
Temps 09 (@quatre24)
3 months ago

Tried both aspero with the tron over the past two days and agree. Just free riding without the routes to get a sense of the map. Countryside is mostly road with some wood, till last 1/3 of route. Two others are road (flat and 3V). Then others it is mix route enough where the gravel is the best as the MTB will slow on pavement and not enough pavement for a road. Plus some of the the dirt paths are steeper than the jungle on watopia where the kg come into play. See to Tree route in a race/event is… Read more »

Evan
Evan
3 months ago

Yay! finally get to dust of my canyon grail – i think it was getting rusty in my garage just sitting there!

MATHEW M ROSE
MATHEW M ROSE (@matrose617)
3 months ago
Reply to  Evan

I hadn’t added a Zwift gravel bike yet, but with four million extra drops to burn, the game finally gave me a reason to spend some of them.

Paul Himes
Paul Himes
3 months ago
Reply to  MATHEW M ROSE

I’m not quite there but many km until the next bike I want to buy this was as good of a time as any to upgrade my mtb and buy the Grail.

Taicho Cyclist
Taicho Cyclist (@cyclistsg)
3 months ago

I rode the Cervelo Aspero today up Makuri Island Spiritual Tree KOM just below 8 minutes while the MTB was pegged by its weight penaltý simply cannot matched that time and lost by over a minute.

Those guys who flew past me on the tarmac on the way there got chewed up by the gravel bike. Amazing found indeed.

Jim
Jim
3 months ago

Brilliant. Cheers Eric, I’ve been waiting for this advice, and here it is. Top marks as ever!

Fred Erik
Fred Erik
3 months ago

Thanks for the report. To be sure, there was no change in the gravel bikes itself? So Maya jungle still MTB is best choice?

Evan
Evan
3 months ago
Reply to  Fred Erik

Yes, i think the mtb will always win in the jungle

Evan
Evan
3 months ago

Was there another update today? Version 1.13.1?

Aoi Niigaki
Aoi Niigaki
3 months ago
Reply to  Evan

I think that was to resolve the issue with people on Apple Macs not being able to log in.

Diederik
Diederik
3 months ago

What about a strong climbing road bike (e.g. Specialized Tarmac) vs a gravel bike for the Temple KOM? Cause we all know the Tron Bike is not a strong climber!

Temps09
Temps09 (@quatre24)
3 months ago
Reply to  Diederik

Guessing the drit crr number will slow it alot so gravel will beat it if just the dirt climb not a whole route of mostly pavement.

Alex
Alex
3 months ago
Reply to  Diederik

No scientific test, just from riding Sea to Tree (longer side of Temple KOM) around FTP effort:
Tron and Tarmac Pro both right around 5:30, Canyon Grail a little over 5:10.

disclaimer: times are hard to compare because a lot actually depends on shifting gears to keep power up when the climb flattens out several times. Not a KOM where you can just power through in the same gear without losing a lot of time.

Max Janssen
Max Janssen
3 months ago

Great article! I suspected that Zwift built this world in such a way that gravel bikes would finally have a use case, and this definitely proves it does. Thanks!

M. d. s. Günther
M. d. s. Günther
3 months ago

A performance reason to buy a gravel bike, awesome!

Tom
Tom
3 months ago

Zwift should design mixed courses that have exact same time for all bike types so that it’s a gamble which bike type group is bigger (assuming people would become used to picking different bikes…which could be achieved by putting a little disadvantage for road bikes in the beginning). da different power ups for different bike types would be another nice element.

Alan Howlett
Alan Howlett
3 months ago

Ride the bike you’re riding IRL. Job done

Simon
Simon
3 months ago
Reply to  Alan Howlett

Given the weather here recently, that would be the bike with mudguards then.

Daniel
Daniel
3 months ago

It would be great if Zwift add some (new) wheel option to the Gravel Bikes. Also different tiers might be a good option.

Paul Himes
Paul Himes
3 months ago
Reply to  Daniel

They’re going to eventually have to increase the number of levels beyond 50. Gravel and mtb wheels would be one good place to go. Probably be better to re-arrange everything than force people to wait that long to update those two bike styles however.

Kristian
Kristian
3 months ago

Eric, Can you tell us at least qualitatively how these numbers (or advantages) would change at lower Watts (like say 200). Thanks!

Eric W
Eric W
3 months ago

I’m thinking you could tease out some interesting CdA information by doing perfectly flat laps of Onsen

Robert Markle
Robert Markle
3 months ago

Let me ride any damn world any time I want without having to pretend I want to form a meetup! And show the freaking profile of the course for Pete’s sake l, don’t be so cheap and lazy!

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