January 12th, the Zwift & Tacx European Tour makes its last stop in Paris, at the Km0 bikeshop. For the casual passer-by, this building is like any other. For the Zwifter though, it’s the place where magic happens. The moment you pass the front porch, you get transported in another dimension where London is seconds away from Paris, and where the entire world awaits to ride with you. Let’s take a quick “tour” of the place, shall we ?
Before anyone arrives, the place has to be set up. The whole crew, speakers included, gets the job done. Murals, decor, loudspeakers… and of course, the bikes. Here in Paris, it’s 3 Tacx Neo side by side, each with a computer running Zwift in front of them, for the Sprint Challenge. On the other side, the Tacx Flux, to test the VR. In the middle is a screen is ready to receive the sprint challenge’s results.
7 minutes in cyclist’s paradise
Then, the time comes. Speakers review the how-to’s as the crowd arrives. Since the London Course is on, it’s a sprint challenge that the public will take on. It’s hard to describe the ambiance with words, but we’ll try: the crowd roars as the riders sprint side by side under the never-ending “UP UP UP” of the speaker, the dehydrated sprinters and followers make the beer flow in the next room (the water too, french people are not raging alcoholics… or they hide it well), each sprint begins with the sound of the gun as the speaker channeling Freddie Mercury on the microphone screaming the traditional “3…2…1…GO !”
It’s the classic you-against-you battle, the 200-meter sprint on the red road of the Mall, with the crowd cheering right next to you and the expert camera of Leon Van Bon to capture the moment. In a word, it’s the place to be!
Zwift dreams (are made of this)
On the other side of the room, visitors try on the Zwift VR. It can be said, without a bit of hyperbole, that this might be the most amazing thing ever. When you put on the helmet, equipped with 3D glasses and headphones, you’re transported in the world of Zwift. Your head can’t stop spinning to watch every detail of the virtual roads we know so well.
Picture it: it’s raining outside, you get in your cave (or living room, wherever), you put on the VR helmet. Then in a second, you’re in Watopia, alongside the beach. You ride through the water tunnel, you take a left… and you go all the way to the tower. Once there, you stop, and watch the sun rise over Watopia. It took you less than an hour from your cave, and you’re (almost) literally sitting on top of the world.
This said (and some dreams might be broken right here): this VR helmet is not likely to be made public, as a big part of it is made of foam, which doesn’t react well to sweat, and it would become unbearable pretty fast. But nonetheless, great stuff!
Now, you’ve done the challenge, you’ve experienced the VR, you’ve had some drinks with fellow riders… how do you improve on a night like this? Answer: you can’t. But you can attend the next one! USA, Canada, England, Scandinavia, Benelux, France… Zwift Tour‘s events go all around and only get better with time. So next time you see one in your area, don’t hesitate: you have to be there !
-the q/l Report-
Special thanks to the Zwift Tour crew, Dan, Jesper, Leon, Tom and Bohdan, for letting me in on this.