Handcycles Have Arrived at Zwift’s Watopia

·3 min read
Photo credit: Zwift
Photo credit: Zwift

In Zwift’s latest update, the training platform has added an exciting new feature: Now, athletes can opt to ride handcycles, adaptive bikes that are powered by your arms and hands rather than your legs and feet. This update was added to give better representation to adaptive athletes, so that they (and others) can see them cruising around Watopia. And the company didn’t stop with just changing the appearance of the bike: Even the interaction with the bike and the roads has been adjusted to better reflect the ride mechanics of handcycles.

“Handcyclists who use Zwift have been organizing rides and races within their community for a long time, for fun, training, and socialization,” Chris Snook, Director of External Communications at Zwift explained. “We launched the handcycle in conjunction with the Challenged Athletes Foundation, whose members led several group rides on Zwift to celebrate the improved representation on Zwift. In the future, the new Handcycling Club will create further events and races in the game.”

Riders are able to join in handcycle-only rides (with more events designed for handcycles coming soon) or just hop into any group ride.

Photo credit: Zwift
Photo credit: Zwift

And the bike design mattered: Zwift wanted the bikes to be as authentic and true to life as possible. They elected to use a recumbent style of handcycle, where the athlete’s legs are straight out in front of them, though there are other handcycle configurations available IRL.

“The Challenged Athletes Foundation helped us connect with their network of athletes who use adaptive sports equipment, including handcycles,” Snook added. “With input from these athletes, we were able to create a handcycle that looks similar to what athletes ride in the real world. We plan to continue partnering with CAF to ensure that we are adding new products and features into the game to support the adaptive cycling and running communities.”

This handcycle build means an increased aerodynamic capability that edges out other bikes on the platform because of its low profile, but it’s not an ideal climbing machine. And according to Zwift Insider, because it can’t be upgraded with new wheels (yet), its capabilities are fairly standardized. The other key difference is its drafting capabilities: Handcycles can draft each other and upright bikes, but upright bikes can’t draft handcycles.

Photo credit: Zwift
Photo credit: Zwift

To choose the handcycle, riders can head to their garage on Zwift and customize the frame color. While there are no restrictions as far as who can use the handcycles, Zwift does note that they were specifically designed to be used by athletes who are riding handcycles in the real world. And if you’re not riding a handcycle IRL, the power created by your legs will obviously be much greater than someone using an actual handcycle will be able to put out with their arms. You may want to test the handcycle on a solo ride just to see how it feels on Watopia, but definitely don’t use it for group rides or races unless you’re using one in real life.

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