Traditionally, Zwifter complaints about riderless bikes, low framerates, and other goofy behavior have been chalked up to underpowered hardware. But that all changed in the past few weeks…
A Double-Edged Sword
Since early days, Zwift has been compatible with a wide range of devices including budget laptops, Android phones, 4th gen AppleTVs, and some older iOS devices.
That compatibility makes it easier (and more affordable) for people to begin Zwifting, since many people will already own a compatible device.
But it’s a double-edged sword.
Maintaining compatibility with a wide range of devices requires an investment of developer and artist time to optimize the experience across various platforms. When done right, this optimization delivers a lower-quality (but functional) experience on low-end devices and a high-quality experience on high-end hardware.
That optimization has never been perfect – there’s just no way to dial it in perfectly across the universe of devices Zwift supports. So there are times when hardware slips through the cracks, and an underpowered device struggles on Zwift, or a high-powered device delivers a “basic” experience because the game doesn’t know it can run at higher quality settings.
New Peaks, New Problems
While a smattering of complaints from low-powered “potato” users has become a daily expectation in Zwift forums, complaints of system crashes, riderless bikes, framerate drops, and slow ride clocks began to surface in much higher numbers last week. This major uptick coincided with the start of Tour de Zwift 2021 and its unprecedentedly huge events.
And some of these reports were different from the usual “my potato has a low framerate in a 2,000-person event” complaints. Zwifters on high-powered PC’s were describing problems typically only seen on low-powered hardware. And some of the issues were different than typical large-event issues: many users complained that, after riding for 20 minutes, their elapsed time clock in Zwift only showed 5-10 minutes!
Something else was wrong… but nobody knew what. And we all hoped Zwift could figure it out, because it’s no fun celebrating Peak Zwift if it means more people are having Zwift problems.
Then yesterday, Zwift CEO Eric Min posted a reply to our latest Peak Zwift post on Facebook:
This was great news! After poking around a bit, we discovered two posts from co-founder Jon Mayfield over on this Zwift Runners Facebook thread which shine a little light on the problem:
Interesting! Jon’s description of the bug certainly explains the recent uptick in complaints, and it also explains why even high-powered hardware users are experiencing problems.
It also explains why we saw the problem after participating in a large TdZ event recently, and it persisted in free rides afterward. Only a reboot returned our Windows gaming PC to typical performance.
Get the Update
Our sources in Zwift tell us the patch release should happen today or tomorrow, so be sure to check for Zwift updates when you boot up. Not sure how to check if your Zwift version is current? See this post.