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 five different bike setups. Here are the results:
|Zwift Concept Z1 (Tron)||7:36||2:24||1:53||5:12||17:05|
|Canyon Grail (Gravel)|
Zwift Gravel wheels
|Trek Supercaliber (MTB)||7:11||2:20||1:46||5:38||16:55|
|Specialized Crux (Gravel) with|
Zwift Gravel wheels
|Specialized Crux (Gravel) with|
ENVE G23 wheels
A few observations:
- The Gravel and MTB perform nearly identically on the climb, when using the stock Zwift wheels for each. This 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.
- 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.
- The Tron bike grabs a lot of time on the tarmac, but not enough to get a faster overall lap. And while the Gravel bikes with stock wheels are 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.
- The overall winner is the gravel bike with the ENVE G23 wheels (the Roval Terra CLX perform identically), because they have a lower Crr than the stock gravel wheels.
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 exceptions that I can see to this would be
- The Countryside Tour route, which is a great candidate for a one-way bike swap in a single-lap race (see note below).
- Races with a custom distance which end atop the Temple KOM. This means you don’t have to swap back to the gravel bike, so your 15s swap cost will be easily made up by the speed advantage to the top.
- Slower riders: if you ride at 3 w/kg, you’ll see a bigger time advantage by using the gravel bike on the Temple KOM. C and D racers should look more closely at swapping than B and A racers.
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!
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!