2020 was a tough year for cyclists, particularly those like me who thrive on the social aspect of riding. Club rides? Cancelled. Charity rides? cancelled. Week-long tour rides? Cancelled. Cruzbike Ride Retreat? Cancelled. Nooooooooo!
For people who ride solo all the time the relatively open road didn't change much. Your favorite mid-ride lunch spot may be closed, but you are still able to ride.
For me, riding is all about the social context. My annual schedule consists of six to eight group rides per year culminating in the week long Cycle Oregon and the icing on the cake, the Cruzbike Ride Retreat. These trips are like oxygen for me. Last year Covid took all that oxygen right out of the room.
Enter Zwift. I joined quite a long time ago near the end of 2018 but it really did not hit me how invaluable it would become to my sanity until this past summer. My enjoyment of this online platform reminds me of the online communities I was part of back in my online XBox gaming days nearly 17 years ago, only now with exercise.
I won't go over the intricacies of setting up a trainer and a Zwift account in this post (you’ll find a few links to helpful resources at the end of this post). But I'll say that my personal 2020 Zwift setup evolved slightly from an old small TV screen to what is now a very affordable 1080p projector and a pull-down screen resulting in an 80" diagonal HD big screen right in front of my eyes. It's almost like being there - and immersion is everything to really get into the experience.
Now riding on a trainer is not a new thing, of course. I have tried in the past to do it in the off-season, but boredom sets in very quickly. You are alone. Maybe in a slightly cold basement... just pedalling to nowhere staring at the tools hanging on the wall. No people. No change of scenery. No real change in challenge. Boooooring! I only ever lasted a few "rides" doing this - for years.
Having found this virtual world of cycling has been a life saver. Thousands of other riders from all over the world are online at the same time. At first I was just riding around in the different online worlds by myself but enjoying the comforting fact that there were thousands of others doing the same thing. I couldn't talk to them, but knowing this was one massive group experience was a comfort. The world is not as vast and empty a place as you might think once you experience riding a bicycle together online with people from every corner of the globe.
After a short time, I joined a few groups who schedule casual low wattage fun rides. Then I did a few actual races. I participated in a "mileage challenge" for a friend’s Cystic Fibrosis charity. Then I joined the Time Trial races with several other Cruzbikers. Coupling Zwift with an app called Discord (originally aimed at the gaming community but increasingly used by Zwift groups) had me able to chat with others I was riding with. Now this was fun - riding and racing the same virtual course with other real people from all over the country and even the world. Awesome!
Now I have several group rides that I try to join every week. One has hundreds of riders each time. Seeing familiar user names each ride reminds me that riding groups are still out there! These rides find their way onto my calendar and if I accidentally sleep in on a Sunday when I had hoped to be in a ride panic sets in just as if I was late to that favorite charity ride I’d do every year or the Sunday group ride with the club.
Some of the rides I have enjoyed:
- Sunday "Seattle Baby Steps" https://www.zwift.com/events/view/1129136
- A low wattage ride for 60 minutes... usually about 17-20 miles and one time there were 280 riders in it.
- PACK 1.5 Beginners Ride - Breakfast with Beanie https://www.zwift.com/events/view/1356480
- This is a fun, very early AM ride for those of us on the west coast.
- The HERD Morning Ride https://www.zwift.com/events/view/1104540
- Crit City Race https://www.zwift.com/events/view/999577
- This one is super fun as you can get into a shorter one of like 6-8 laps and they are short little 1 mile laps - with classes for fast guys and people who just want to do it for fun.
I am confident that the days of epic group rides in the real world will return post-Covid. When that will be is still unknown. Until then, the online cycling community is definitely growing and a great place to find the missing social element for your rides - and you might end up making a lot of new friends from all over the world.
See you online!
Cruzbike Product and Customer Experience Manager
Note from Maria: My experience has been very similar to Robert’s. I love outside riding, but racing on Zwift has been incredibly fun. It has really motivated me to stay fit in the winter and created a new community of friends from all over the world. One of our customers, Hardy Swinson, finally bugged me enough to get me to give it a try. He has volunteered to help anyone interested in getting started with any of the technical details. You can contact Hardy through Facebook here or e-mail at email@example.com or on the Cruzbike Forum @trplay
Links to Resources that can help you get started:
- Blog Post: Indoor Trainers that work with Cruzbikes
- Hardy’s World Time Trial Racing League teams guide (racing is super fun and open to all!) https://recumbentracing.wordpress.com/zwift-ttt-setup/
- The Cruzbike Forum a great place to see what the community is doing on Zwift and place to ask questions and share experience. We just created a board dedicated to Zwift. Join us!