Change is on the horizon in Watopia: Zwift announces a batch of updates through 2022

·7 min read

This article originally appeared on Velo News

Zwift is practically synonymous with virtual training at this point. The brand aims to keep it that way by continually improving the experience and rolling out new features. And throughout the rest of 2022, there are quote a few updates and fresh features coming to the platform.

Zwift invited VeloNews to a presentation at its Long Beach, California offices to learn more about what's on the horizon.

Also read: Power analysis: How did the Zwift Academy winner drop Evenepoel to win a stage at the Vuelta a Espana?

New training features

At its core, Zwift is a training platform that allows cyclists to stay fit through the winter months, jump in for quick sessions, or augment a training plan during race season. The new updates bring that all front and center, aiming to help more people get more out of the platform.

Also read: How to set up your indoor training arsenal to take full advantage of Zwift

New interface

Zwift has already been working on a redesigned interface that helps users more easily find everything that is available on the platform. The next goal is to make discovering workouts easier by placing them in the first row of the home page, with the first one listed being one the Zwift thinks you'll most enjoy.

Going forward, Zwift is improving the search functionality to more easily find specific workouts, as well as adding more information about each kind of workout.

Welcoming newer cyclists with simplified training

Zwift has caught on among serious cyclists, with the company reporting an incredible total of 3.37 billion miles logged in the game, with a peak of 47,000 concurrent users. Increasingly, the platform is welcoming not just racers or hardcore fitness junkies, but a broad range of cyclists. Self identified entry level and beginner riders now account for over half of new users.

Zwift is trying to make it easier for someone new to cycling to start training without learning an alphabet soup of acronyms or taking fitness tests just to get started.

Also read: The best smart bikes for Zwift -- a head-to-head group test

Going forward, users will be able to filter workouts based on a numerical scale of effort from one to five -- one being "very easy" and five being "very difficult." Advanced users may not be as excited about the move to a numerical difficulty scale, but they will still have access to the same types of difficult or advanced workouts as before.

<span class="article__caption">Zwift has introduced numerical difficulty settings and search by workout length.</span>
Zwift has introduced numerical difficulty settings and search by workout length.

Zwift says there has also been an increased demand for shorter sessions, so riders can search for workouts by time, including ones that are 30 minutes or less.

<span class="article__caption">Zwift is adding more information about each workout. </span>
Zwift is adding more information about each workout.

Route based workouts

Another step in making getting started with workouts in Zwift easier is route based workouts. Unlike other structured workouts, riders won't need to do an FTP test and can jump right in, making getting started with training less complicated, and likely less intimidating for many novice riders.

Route based workouts take place on current Zwift routes, using features in the course like climbs to create areas for different levels of exertion and recovery. This feature will also be able to help gauge a rider's FTP without an actual FTP race, letting them jump into other structured workouts.

At first, route based workouts will be available through the Zwift Academy Road program before expanding with more workout plans.

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PacePartners is now a standard feature

Sometimes you don't want to do a workout and would prefer to cruise along at a set pace. For those times there's PacePartners, a big group ride like feature that had been in testing and now will become a regular option in Zwift.

It's already proven popular in testing, with 30% of riders who use Zwift at least once a week using the feature weekly. Riders can choose from four levels of pace, A,B,C, and D, with D being the easiest and most used option.

This feature will also be in the first row on the home screen as part of the user interface update, making it simple to access.

Race yourself

On the bike, we're all chasing PRs and trying to be better than yesterday. What better way to track that progress than by actually racing yourself? The new Holographic Replay feature lets you chase around hologram of your avatar based on data from a previous ride, either your 90-day PR or most recent segment attempt. Or you can race both ghost files at once to see how you are progressing.

The feature has grown out of PacePartners and is currently in the brand's FutureWorks program, essentially a beta test version of the feature, which is where PacePartners was also developed.

Zwift racing

Zwift racing became popular during the early days of COVID, and now there are more options than ever to join in, along with efforts to make to fairer and more enjoyable for all.

ZRacing

Starting now, racers can join a thematic monthly race series which features a different stage every week. Races take place around the clock and are designed to be easy to fit into your day, with the entire warm up, race, and cool down taking place in under an hour. Each month features a different badge to earn as well.

Auto categorization

Everyone wants fairer competition, so Zwift has also been rolling out auto categorization based on recent ride data from your rides and workouts in the platform. Sandbaggers beware!

Zwift Racing League

For riders looking for more competition in a team environment, Zwift Racing League is returning soon.

Last year over 1,800 teams and 15,000 riders of all abilities participated across the globe. The format is three six-week "seasons," picking up soon on September 13 and lasting until October 18. Seasons two and three follow on November 7-December 13 and January 10-February 14, with championships following in March.

Registration is open now and there are similar leagues for running and duathlon as well.

UCI Cycling Esports World Championships returns to Zwift in 2023

The top level of virtual racing will once again be hosted on Zwift in 2023. The UCI Cycling Esports World Championships returns for its third edition, the first two of which were also held on the platform.

The formate will be a series of three races that pares down a field of about 100 starters. The first route, a 14.5-kilometer, rolling stage with 100 meters of climbing, slashes the field down to 30. The second race, a 8.8-kilometer climb with 200 meters of climbing cuts it down again to 10. The final race is an elimination race on a short circuit where the final rider each lap gets cut until there is a winner.

Urukazi: A whole new world (and type of road) to ride

Urukazi will feature new road types combining asphalt, dirt, and sand.
Urukazi will feature new road types combining asphalt, dirt, and sand.

Even the best, most beautiful roads in the world can get boring after riding them for the umpteenth time. The same goes for digital ones, so luckily Zwift is releasing new places to ride later this year.

The Japan-inspired Makuri Islands will expand in November with new paved, gravel, and dirt surfaces through the new Urukazi map. There will also be new road types combining asphalt, dirt, and sand.

There will be 10 to 12 miles on new roads connecting all of Makuri, in addition to the eight new routes at launch for Urukazi, including one spanning over 25 miles.

New club features

Zwift isn't just about training by yourself; it has fostered a community element as well. The Clubs feature has allowed people to find groups to ride, train, and connect with all over the world (the real one, not Watopia).

Zwift has already refined this feature since first launching it, making clubs easier to find, increasing member limits to 10,000, and adding group workouts as well as chat with push notifications. Planned future improvements include testing out brand clubs, providing more control over event settings like power ups and drafting, and making clubs more easily discoverable.

Final things to know

There's quite a bit happening on Zwift this year. There are a couple more to be aware of as well: There's a brand new logo to go along with all of these changes, and the maximum level users can reach has increased from 50 to 60.

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