Zwift Racing – a newcomer’s experience

In late 2021, Duncan Coombes (DC) recently decided to dip his toe into the Zwift waters, and surely there’s no better way (short of trying it yourself) of finding out what it’s like than by hearing how someone new to it got on.

DC writes:

After purchasing a second hand Tacx smart trainer in the summer for those colder/wetter winter days, I logged into Zwift and started my free trial. Shortly after, I received an email from The Club asking if anyone fancied racing on Zwift. Well, I needed something to do on a Tuesday so I replied saying I’d have a go.

Before I knew what was happening I’d been added to a WhatsApp group for racing and a second one for my team, received (what seemed like) loads of links, and in stepped Steve Hammatt (Zwift Guru Extraordinaire) — I must say at this juncture, I am about as technical as a soft slipper when it comes to IT — anyhoo after creating my profiles for the relevant places, with Steve guiding me through the process step by step, it was time to race.

Race 1, I log in with plenty of time to spare (half an hour), I check my HRM, the connections to the trainer, getting more and more nervous as the clock ticks down. HR check – 101BPM. What happens if I stop pedalling? Will I lose the screen? Have I got enough water? Where are the other people? Have I got time to call and make sure I’m in the right place? HR check – 128BPM! I hadn’t started yet!! Crikey, was I even going to survive?

Slowly, other avatars arrive in the start pen, phew! I will add that I have an iPhone connected to a TV for Zwift, but I can’t wear glasses as I know I won’t be able to see anything once I have started dripping sweat into them. Constant messages popping in – I can’t clear them (I can’t see them on the iPhone!). 1 minute to go. HR check still 128BPM – yikes!

And we’re off! I race into last place as all the riders disappear over the horizon, Whaaaat have I done wrong? I’m here now, so I pedal like I’ve never done before, slowly making ground and finally finishing 4th or 5th from last, shattered but elated – I’d finished my first ever race. Steve told me afterwards, just before the start increase your cadence so that you’re slingshotted off the line. Notwithstanding I’m hooked, and spend the next few weeks racing and training trying to increase my strength, completing a Team Time Trial (TTT) and finishing 23rd out of 48 on my last race of the season.

Do I recommend this? YES! As a preference I would ride outside every day, but I’ll be staying in on a Tuesday going forward to race, and other evenings to train.

Is it Fun? Definitely, especially the TTT where you get to chat to the other riders to stay in formation and laugh about stuff.

Does it hurt? YEP, but it is the most satisfying discomfort I’ve experienced on a bike ride.

Just try it – you’ll be really surprised – I know I was!