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How NOT to join a Zwift group ride

Most every Wednesday night my family and I head over to meet with members of our church for a time praying for one another and Bible study. Typically we will finish around 8 PM and then drive home. Sometimes (often)(okay about every time) the Beautiful Redhead will stay around to talk. I’ll admit that this time I was starting to get a little antsy. There was a ride on Zwift with Ted King.

We ended up arriving home about 8:45 PM. I jumped out of the vehicle and got changed hoping I could make it down to the Low Cadence Lair to catch a few moments riding with the group. Scottie Weiss was leading it and — using the new Zwift mobile app — I noticed a good number of other folks with which I would have enjoyed riding. They were still out there, but passing the 20 mile mark as 9 PM approached.

I made it onto the bike before the top of the hour. I could see Ted’s name on the list of riders out on the course. That is when I made my first error trying to join the group ride on Zwift.

The bad thing is that I knew better, but for some reason thought it wouldn’t be too bad. What was my mistake? I joined the group by clicking to “Ride with Ted.” Well, why not? Isn’t that what I wanted?

There was a great turnout for Ted's most excellent adventure

There was a great turnout for Ted’s most excellent adventure

The deal is that Ted was riding at least at a 20 mph pace. He was also surrounded by a number of other riders. If I made the choice to join a point on the course where Ted was, he wouldn’t be there by the time my avatar got mounted.

Yep, by the time I was pedaling, I could see the group disappearing into the distance just before you enter the town containing the sprint zone. Looking at Strava I see I went from a standstill to 335+ watts for over 3 minutes and 30 seconds.

Enter error number two. The other thing about joining a group ride in the middle of it (or near the end in this case) is that you don’t know the flow of the group. Once I made it into the peloton, I was in a guessing game to determine what effort I needed to hold. It meant that a couple of times I got gapped.

Once again Strava shows that I had three spikes in wattage — all over 1200 watts and the final effort at 1300. That happened during the rolling section just before long run down to the finish. Thankfully, by that time I figured out the pace and was starting to catch my breath.

Unfortunately, the banner was the finish of the ride. I didn’t even get in one lap with the group. It then began to splinter as some kept riding and others signed off. I decided to stay around to get in a 30 minute exercise workout so I could get the satisfaction of seeing my Apple Watch activity tracker fill up all the rings.

The problem is that I was hurting. I say I got stitches, but it was more like my kidney was bothering me. It is that sore spot you feel in the lower left portion of your back that makes you have shortness of breath. I knew I had started out a little too freneticly.

As I was climbing the KOM thinking I would just recover for a bit, Scottie came up behind me. So, I hooked up with him and another rider as we crested the hill. Even getting in Scottie’s draft, I was moving into the 4.0 wkg range here and there. The soreness wasn’t leaving.

Finally, just about the place where I joined the group initially, I let Scottie and the other rider go. I needed to back off. Even so, I felt good about completing a sub-15 minute lap. I continued spinning along to complete a second full lap before calling it a night.

So, what did I learn? 1) If you are joining a group and you want to ride with a certain person, choose a rider well up ahead of the person with whom you wish to ride. 2) Once your avatar is active, keep an eye on the watts per kilogram being put out by the riders coming up behind you. 3) Realize that because it is a group, you cannot expect to join into the ride at that same wattage. 4) Ride at a pace that exceeds the numbers in the group because the group effect will chase you down. 5) You can then merge into the group with less pain and have less of a chance of getting dropped immediately.

Ride On!


First workout on Zwift

A quick review of my first workout session on Zwift. Yeah, it has taken me a bit to get around to it. Frankly, if it wasn’t for the fact that I wanted the achievement that came with completing my first workout, I probably wouldn’t have done it. Now I know for sure I’m waiting until after Thanksgiving to start in earnest!

Recently I went through a pretty low point. I was getting absolutely thrashed in any Zwift race in which I tried to participate. I couldn’t get power for any of the jerseys. I was feeling really old and was ready to throw in the towel.

My Team Xperimental teammates encouraged me to take a break. They warned that I was just burned out from trying to go too hard for too long. So, I took their advice and either didn’t ride at all… I even RAN once!… or I just took some easy spins.

Now I’m starting to feel a little better. I’ve even landed some PRs on both he Richmond and the Watopia climbs. However, I still don’t feel excited about any long efforts. So, I’ve given myself until after Thanksgiving before I will begin training again in earnest.

That brings us to yesterday. I climbed on the trainer after work and before going to a symphonic wind band concert with my family. I only had a few minutes to ride. I also wanted to get that “sweat badge” for the Zwift achievement board. So, I went looking for the shortest workout I could do.

Jon's Short Mix

Jon’s Short Mix

I landed on the Jon’s Short Mix. Having not run the Zwift test, I was basing the workout on an FTP of 300 watts. Frankly, I think that was a little ambitious!

  • Warmup at 180 watts
  • 2x 1 minute at 450 watts
  • 2 minutes at 225 watts
  • 10 seconds at 900 watts
  • 1 minute at 225 watts
  • 10 seconds at 900 watts
  • 1 minute at 225 watts
  • 10 seconds at 900 watts
  • 4 minutes at 180 watts
  • 10 minutes at 260 watts
  • 3 minute cool down (around 120 watts)

Right out of the shoot I was shocked! The workout mode had taken control of my trainer and in order to reach 180 watts I was spinning along at 130 to 140 rpm. Hey, this blog isn’t called Low Cadence for nothing! 115 to 125 rpm is what I use for leg speed drills!

During that five minute warmup I was yearning for more resistance so I could lower the rpm. However, no matter what I did… even going to my 53×11… the Kickr forced me into that higher rpm. Thankfully, as I moved into the first 450 watts effort I was getting used to it and the Kickr was now allowing me a more manageable 120 rpm in the 53×11.


I went under the banner to start the 900 watt 10 second section. My crank came to a standstill! I was still in the 53×11 and the resistance immediately kicked in. I couldn’t adjust and suddenly I was at zero watts trying to get my gears changed to something more manageable. I finally got underway and even hit 800 watts, but it was a little too little too late. Zwift stuck a big old FAILED up beside that section.

Now I had a minute to get it right. I tried to find the right cadence and counted down to the next 900 watt effort. I was going to try to time it so that I would be in a better gear. This time I hit it and didn’t come to a standstill. I did better, but still didn’t hit 900 watts with only a peak of 875 watts and averaging only 750 watts for the 10 seconds.

Okay, one more time. After a minute of 225 watts with a very comfortable average of 85 rpm, I hit the last 900 watt section. I transitioned well this time, but the problem was my legs were dead. I peaked at about 835 watts and averaged just under 700 watts. I didn’t get “FAILED” out to the side of these last two 900 watt efforts, but I didn’t get the nice “PERFECT” one either.

By this point the 10 minutes at 260 watts was looking pretty daunting! Thankfully, the 4 minutes I had at 180 watts allowed me to get back on the wagon. My legs — and the rest of me — were feeling a lot better.

I nailed it. I held almost a constant 266 watts for the 10 minutes at an average cadence of 105 rpm. My heart rate did climb into the 170s, but leveled off at around 172 bpm. Some of that heart rate could have been partly due to the fact that I had forgotten to turn on my fan and by this point I was pretty toasty!

After cooling down, I had only spent 31:45 minutes on Zwift. I definitely felt like I had a workout! At the same time, I felt pretty… what could I say… supple? I actually think the higher cadence that I was forced to use was good for my muscles. I do tend to push too hard of a gear and it tends to leave me feeling sore after a hard ride.

On the other hand, when I look through the list of other possible workouts, I see nothing but pain! It really is enough to make me ask myself, “Now, tell me again why you do this? You’re telling me this is fun?” Well, the training isn’t really fun, but the payoff you get for the investment sure is!

I’m looking forward to investing in my fitness bank with the Zwift workout mode.

But after Thanksgiving!

Definitely one to add to the "that was incredible list!"

Here is my virtual passport

Okay, I started this idea way back when I was wanting to hold a race with a payout. Ultimately, I was encouraged by Zwift not to attempt such a race because it would be very hard to assure that the race was fair. Since those days we’ve seen all kinds of discussions going on about the way races and events are conducted. It makes me glad I never went through with my plan!

Before you read this… I’m definitely not saying that everyone should do what I propose. I am not advocating it as a standard for all races and events on Zwift. This was an idea for a particular race series in which people would choose to participate. Feel free to critique the idea, but, please, don’t go off on how you’re not going to let someone force you to do this or that. No one is!

I did mention in a previous blog that I would lay out what I thought would be an answer to making an attempt at fair racing. It would involve some sort of way to verify the abilities of those participating. So, this was my plan…

    1. Weight verification. Don’t diss me too much on this idea. It actually wasn’t mine. It was given to me by the folks at Zwift. The idea here is that you would go to your local bicycle shop — or maybe a notary public 😉 — and do a weigh in. You would then put that number on a paper with the signature of the “official” who witnessed your weigh in.
      Weigh in at the local bike shop

      Weigh in at the local bike shop

      Here is a problem I discovered. You can see that when I did this weigh in it shows me at 174 pounds. Well, with a little diet discipline and some exercise, I’ve gotten down to around 171 pounds. So, the consistency of this aspect of the “virtual passport” is a problem. What would be cool is a way to upload your weight from a scale just before the race, but then you would have the issue of verification.

    2. Visual verification

      Visual verification

      Visual verification. Okay, I admit this was the more harebrained of my ideas. My thought was that adding another component to the weigh in would be a photograph showing the physical makeup of the rider. I thought this would give more credence to the weight submitted, would give visual cues to the age, fitness, etc. of the rider.

      It would be a little like the way you do when you show up for a race. Everyone lines up at the start. Immediately, you recognize the usual suspects, but then you start evaluating the folks you don’t know. You can tell a lot about a racer by the way he dresses, holds himself on the bike, how lean he is, and his muscle tone. That was my thought…

      Well, it was pointed out that with no frame of reference, you couldn’t adequately verify weight, height, etc. from a photograph. Not only that, this was the aspect of my idea that got the most negative feedback! Frankly, the more I thought about it, the more creepy it did seem.

      But so you can see I’m practicing what I preach, I’ve included a photograph taken on the day I had my weigh in at the bicycle shop. The criticisms are valid. You can’t tell from the photograph whether 174 pounds was accurate or even confirm that my height is 6 feet.

    3. FTP report. Back when I originally had the idea there was no workout mode on Zwift. Now, it would be pretty easy to have a report for FTP because participants could conduct an FTP test right there in Zwift. My thought back when I was thinking of a race series was for people to go out and do their best 20 minute effort, take a screenshot of the ride data, and then post it with the other virtual passport data.
      The concept was to show the Zwift report of a solid 20 minute effort.

      The concept was to show the Zwift report of a solid 20 minute effort.

      Here is mine from the same period when I did the weigh in, etc. In this case, it put me at 295 watts.  I guess it is also of interest to see the other increments, though I don’t think the 5 seconds, 1 minute, and 5 minute records are my “best” efforts as I was doing a more sustained effort.

      Again, I believe that the FTP test in the workout mode would be a better standard, but I have not yet attempted one. I’ve been sick for the last week and am just now getting back on the bicycle. Actually, I don’t think I’m going to attempt the test until after Thanksgiving when I’ll start thinking of training again.

    4. Equipment. This primarily is the trainer used by the rider. For the particular series I was wanting to conduct, it would limit participants to those with smart trainers. Of course, you could also have different categories for zPower riders and smart trainers.For me, I would be racing with a Wahoo Kickr.
    5. Outside references. For this, I was thinking of some sort of record of performance outside of Zwift. Primarily I was thinking about riding in the “real world.” This could be a link to a rider’s Strava profile and/or race results from a licensing body. Of course, that supposes that the participants track their information on Strava and hold a racing license with an organization such as USACycling.

So, there you go. I’ve exposed myself! You now know that I am a 47-year old bald dude at 6 feet (shrunk down from 6′ 1″), at between 171 – 174 pounds (with a little too much of that around the middle), who hasn’t raced competitively in the real world for several years, and struggles to get his FTP up near 300 watts. Keep that in mind when you are leaving me as we climb the Watopia KOM!


No limits

After much discussion and looking at how things are playing out practically, I’ve reached the conclusion to remove the limits on the number of people who can be members of a team on the Unofficial Zwift Team and Club Listing. A number of teams have reached the limit. You will now see those teams listing more that 15 riders.

Why the change?

  1. The problem we were trying to avoid has not happened.

A concern with larger teams is that they could take over a race with sheer numbers. However, there are a couple of reasons why that has not been an issue. 1) Numbers are not necessarily a help on Zwift. It is harder to control a race in this virtual world, and the draft created by a large group is easily taken advantage of by all riders. 2) The international flavor of teams on Zwift mean not all team members can easily participate in races. You will find out of 15 teammates, 10 might gravitate to one particular timezone and 5 to another.

2.  “The List” is not the place to manage team size.

Primarily based on the second reason above, I don’t think that “The List” is the best place to manage participants in a race. I think that is best handled by the organizers of the race. IF there are going to be limits, the organizers can communicate that to the teams. The team managers could then draw from their rosters to formulate the representative team for that event. This takes us back to the second point above, too limited of a roster and it would be hard for a manager to get riders in the ever growing number of races in multiple time zones.

3. “The List” is just that… a list.

Tam Burns has a pretty cool set up for controlling the World Championships. The teams created in his system are limited for that particular race. He is able to enforce that because he controls it. With this list, there is no way to control who shows up and races. There are not ramifications for any team that shows up with riders who are not on the official unofficial roster! If there is one thing people can’t stand, it is setting up rules that you can’t or don’t plan to enforce.

So, there you have it. The teams will continue to grow. Should a problem arise we’ll all deal with it then. Until then… Ride On! and Race On!

Enjoy the Halloween weight loss!

Enjoy the Halloween weight loss!


Clubbing on the Island

It has been a busy weekend and an even busier start of probably my busiest week of the year. However, I just have to stop and say thank you to those folks who have joined me in forming the I Do It For ___ Cycling Club on Zwift. I would be remiss not to mention our first ever club ride that took place Friday evening, October 16, 2015.

8 o’clock that evening was the best time for our international group of cyclists. Kev Wells from Australia was the one who actually rode with us on Saturday in order to make it. Julynn Washington and Jessee Bennett joined us from North Carolina. There there was me from here in South Carolina.

Sure, it was only four of the possible 10 riders at that time. However, by the time Monday was done the club had grown to 17 members. I think it was partly due to the good time others on Zwift saw us having while we rode together.

I’d also like to think that deep in everyone’s hearts there is a desire to help others. The I Do It For ___ Cycling Club is all about that. It isn’t just about riding the bicycle — or the trainer. It is to use that device as a tool to help others.

The first club ride (left to right): Julynn Washington, Kev Wells, Jonathan Pait, and Jesse Bennett

The first club ride (left to right): Julynn Washington, Kev Wells, Jonathan Pait, and Jesse Bennett

That is what the club is about. First, it is to support and encourage each other. While I love a good hard ride and a competitive race as much as the next person, there is also something satisfying about a group ride with many people of varying abilities. I enjoyed pulling along sometimes and other times getting pushed.

Second, the club is about the I Do It For Foundation. I hope the club continues to grow and that the members will catch the vision to help others by doing their own I Do It For campaigns. I also hope that Zwift will be a part of those efforts.

If you would like to join us, I invite you to check out the Unofficial Zwift Team and Club Listing. You will find the link in the menu at the top of this page. Once there, click to join a club and choose I Do It For ___ Cycling Club as the one you wish to join. We’ll get you on the roster and connected in our Facebook group and then you can join us for our next club ride!

Ride On!



Zwifters are cyclists, but there is no classification for them under the governance of the Union Cycliste Internationale. The landscape of team racing on Zwift looks more like the wild wild west than the sweeping paved turns of the Alps. This means that the Zwfit community needs to work through some things.

Now, I’m not proposing a Union Zwift Internationale. Fact is, the UCI — or rather the long established etiquette and rules of the road — has given us a framework for racing in our virtual, but oh so real, cycling world. However, while the rules of the road are pretty set, the organization of races and rides and the formulation and maintenance of clubs and teams are not.

Several weeks ago I started the Unofficial Zwift Team and Club Listing. I thought a couple of teams would form and we’d have fun racing against the few of us. I figured someone with more time and a better idea would come along and the List would fade away.

Well, the List is still here. There are multiple teams and clubs formed and some of them are getting larger. In some cases the teams have split into different levels of riders. So, A class riders going under one banner and B class riders under another. This was done in part to meet the 15 rider limit for the competitive teams.

I set this limit arbitrarily in order to match “real world” scenarios. Most local teams I’ve been associated with have a limit of team members. Obviously, professional races always have a limit on how many riders can be in a particular race.

However, another reason I set the limit was because a mass of riders from one team could definitely have a bearing on a race in Zwift simply due to their huge numbers. With the way drafting works in the game, numbers is power! That concerned me.

There are several counter arguments. Isn’t it true that several teams riding under different names, but representing the same banner still a single team? Even though a team may have a large number of riders, do you really think they will all show up at the same time? And, of course, “Hey, who do you think you are to say how many riders can be on a team!?!”

I guess that final argument is the one that bothers me the most. While setting up the List, I tried to involve the Zwift community in what shape it would take. I want it to be useful, and not a burden. I want it to be a structure that can help us move toward better racing on Zwift, but not a restriction that keeps our community from enjoying the fun and camaraderie that comes from racing on a team.

So, I’m coming to you all to get your feedback. I’ll be checking out any conversations this post might generate in the forums, here on the site, and with any direct messages to me. Then I’ll put out a poll and we’ll all vote on it.

If we are to organize into teams, how do you think we should handle it? Should there be a limit to the number of riders? If so, how many should that be? If we have no limit to how many can be on a team roster, do we limit the number of riders who can participate in a given event?

Granted, all of this is hardly enforceable. It would have to be carried out under an honor system. We don’t have the UZI after all.

Now, about that those flyers…


Do it for someone you love!

It is that time again — time to place your order for the I Do It For Foundation “I Ride For ___” jersey and shorts. You can show your support for the foundation and more importantly for someone you wish to encourage by wearing the I Ride For ___ jersey in your next event or just anytime you ride. We have the custom order store open until October 26, 2015.

I Ride for Mike. Who do you ride for?

I Ride for Mike. Who do you ride for?

The jersey and shorts are high quality pieces by Starlight Apparel and were designed by Scottie Weiss. We were going for a classic look that is noticeable and yet useful. You’ll love the fit and the finish of this gear. You can also top it off with a wind vest for the cooler days.


Thank you for considering supporting the I Do It For Foundation in this way. The foundation has gone through some challenges over the last year and we have not been able to back as many campaigns as we would like. We would love to gear up to make the 2016 season our best. You can help by gearing up with the I Ride For ___ kit!


More Than Sport 112 mile charity ride on Zwift

I decided Friday evening to climb on my bike Saturday afternoon to ride 112 miles to raise $112 to go to More Than Sport. That doesn’t seem like much, but judging from all the other folks out there on Watopia island there were a number $112 donations coming in!


To see the details of the ride, you can check out the Stava activity report. Want to know why I did it? Why did I ride as “I Ride For Manish”? I share that in Saturday’s blog post.

Oh, and I did get one other achievement from the effort…


Now, who are you going to Do It For?


I Ride For Manish

Today I’ll be attempting a 112 mile journey on my trainer. Zwift is donating $112 to for every Zwift user who completes the challenge. Today is the last day to pull it off.

So, I went to learn a bit more about More Than Sport before I put myself through this suffering. I learned that the organization is raising money for five particular categories… Water, Food, Medicine, Shelter, and Education. All of those things are good things and worth supporting. I learned from the website how just a $1 could make a difference… what difference could $112 make?

However, I was reminded why I started the I Do It For Foundation. As I looked at the site, I could see how the organization would be supporting broad initiatives that would create and maintain an infrastructure for meeting a need. What I had a hard time finding where the individual instances where all this work was making a difference.

What are their stories? Exactly how much of my $112 was going to end up actually touching an individual? It is awesome to feel that you are being a part of something big, but what is more important is the people that big thing is touching.

I’m thankful for More Than Sport and other organizations that are doing these “big things.” We need them! However, I think there is a place for an organization like the I Do It For Foundation that allows people to focus in on the individual and bring 100% of a resource — no matter how small — to the individual. Often, the personal nature of the attempt means more that the amount of money you might raise.


As I searched through the More Than Sport blog, I came upon Manish. He is a 13-year old boy whose mother was injured during the devastating natural disasters in Nepal. Through Convoy of Hope (a More Than Sport supported group), Manish was able to find some relief.

He took on the role as provider and protector for his family. He cut grass for cattle to make money, while worrying what his family would eat. That’s until he heard about Convoy of Hope’s food distribution near the remote village of Lamosangu. Manish hiked down the mountain to get the food-kit consisting of rice, lentils, salt and oil.

I don’t know if any of my pedal strokes will actually bring relief to Manish. However, as I pedal today, I will be Riding For Manish. Needs have faces. Manish represents those faces to me.

For you next triathlon, ironman, marathon, fondo… or whatever event you are already training for… why not turn it into something more by finding a person near you who has a need and turn that event into your I Do It For ___ campaign? You’re already training for it… why not make it something more?

Today, I’ll be riding for Manish.


Time or Scenery

Yesterday there was a Zwift race at 1:30 EDT. My Team Experimental One was going to be racing. I hated to miss it, but because it is in the middle of the day it cuts right into my afternoon work schedule. It means that most weeks I can’t do it. However, we were going to take a “team photo”, so I took a late lunch and hopped on the trainer for a couple of minutes.

After watching the guys roll off from the start, I headed back to the office. As I drove through the beautiful fall weather (mid-70s and sunny), I had a battle start waging in my mind. There would be another race that evening. Still pumped from seeing the huge roll-off from the line on the afternoon race, I was feeling the pull to jump back on the trainer for a six o’clock event.

The thing was, I had made my plans to ride on the road that evening. The weather is absolutely stunning and the days will soon be gone where there is enough light after work for riding. Make miles while the sun shines!

By the time I left work, my mind was made up. I was going to go climb Paris Mountain. If I left at 6 p.m., I would be able to get in an hour before the sun started to fade. It would also be interesting to see how 20 miles on the road would compare to 20 miles on Zwift’s Richmond course.

The ride turned out to be great! Altamont Road, which runs along the upper ridge of Paris Mountain and was featured in the USA Cycling National Road Race Championships for seven years, is being newly paved. Most of the sections are done. So, the ride was smooth and fast. Well, the road was fast… I don’t know if I was!

I met a rider I had not known before and Brock and I enjoyed the descent from the top and then turned around to climb back up the famous 2.1 mile “Furman Side” of the mountain. We talked along the way and admired the scenery looking out toward the Appalachians. I was glad I had chosen the road!

So, how did the two rides compare? I looked at this on-the-road ride and compared it with a Zwift ride of similar length where I felt that I was giving the same level of effort. Here is a snapshot of the two rides linked to the Strava activities.

Paris Mountain over and back from home.

Paris Mountain over and back from home.

Two laps of Richmond on a TT bike with only one hard lap

Two laps of Richmond on a TT bike with only one hard lap

So, I immediately noticed the difference in the “suffer score.” Everything else seemed to be pretty close — other than the elevation climbed! Also, the feeling of effort at the conclusion of my road ride was one of much more fatigue.

I decided then to bring out a recent Zwift effort where I recalled having a feeling of the same level of fatigue. It was an effort where I first tried out the TT bike on Zwift. This time I was on Watopia. That one hurt! How would it compare?

TT ride on Watopia

TT ride on Watopia

Ah, this one came out closer. I rode for 13 more miles and about 15 minutes longer. However, the road ride had several stops where Brock and I talked. It also had more downhill than Zwift. What I mean is you have to work more on Zwift to get your speed on the downhill than you do on the road. Of course, looking at the Max Speeds, they are all pretty close to the same. Those stops would also have an effect on my power averages since I didn’t stop the Garmin — so I got a few 0’s added into the average!


What is my conclusion? I really think it comes down to Time and Scenery. If I have the time to get out on the road and ride, it is definitely the way to go. However, especially in the winter months when the days are so short, it is pretty clear that Zwift is — while maybe not as good as the road — a great option for keeping your fitness and also enjoying the social aspects of cycling.