Tag Archives: Segment

Strava Segment: Pilot Road Golf Course Climb

The Pilot Road Golf Course Climb Strava segment is one I have ridden many times, but one of which I have never paid much attention. It got my attention about a month ago when riding with my pals from Sunshine Cycle Shop on a Saturday morning shop ride. Then my attention was sealed when I saw John James give it a good effort. I knew I would have to go for the KOM.

The first time I noticed that a segment existed there was when Neal Herring attacked me that Saturday morning. Zac Webb had suddenly upped the pace and I jumped on his wheel. I was pretty tired having just raced on Zwift the day before. Then Neal came sprinting around me and I was left dragging myself behind them.

I made my plans to go back to the location and give the segment a try. Before I could do so, I noticed that John James tied for the KOM. I got to thinking that he might have been out to give Neal his comeuppance after attempting to attack on the shop ride. He bested Neal by over 10 seconds on his attempt. Now I was intrigued.

I wanted go into my first attempt turning the pedals with purpose. Needless to say, I took the KOM, but also opened a can of worms. My winning time was 10 seconds faster than John’s. You can read about it here: Strava App of Garmin. I knew immediately I was going to have to try it again to vindicate my effort.

So it was that I took off at lunch on Friday with plans to head up to Asheville with the Beautiful Redhead. Saturday was our 23 wedding anniversary and we figured a trip up to the mountains and the Blue Ridge Parkway was in in order. The temperature was nearly 10 degrees cooler there.

However, I had a window of time to jump on the bike and go out to Pilot Road to give the segment a try. I was curious to see how it would go. It was hitting 90 degrees and the sun was bright. I had only ridden once this week… so I could be fresh or I could be sluggish.

There was only one way to find out. I followed the same route I did the previous week when the Strava phone app recorded a 46 second time. This time I was running both the Strava app and the Garmin.

My purpose was to 1) see if the Strava app was consistent — if wrong, and 2) compare the two options to see in which one I had the most confidence. Of course, that would only work if I could replicate my earlier effort. The ideal situation would be that I would ride an equivalent route and get a similar time on the Strava app while getting a time close to that on the Garmin.

My legs were feeling good and I was ready for the test. I let the terrain help me build momentum after turning onto Pilot Road. I kept looking for the break in the trees and then the tree line that indicated the start of the segment.

At that point it was time to just put my head down and push. Right off the start I knew I lost some time as an off camber right turn caused me to let up on the wattage. I got back into it up the graduate climb into the left turn that indicates the start of the steeper grade.

This time as soon as I started to feel the resistance building in my drivetrain, I hit the shifter to ease on my gears. It didn’t really seem to matter as the grade still made my cadence drop. I kept pushing until I thought I was nearing the segment end. With my heart rate hitting 180 bpm, I let off and coasted.

Looking back I realize that I let off sooner than the line. That — and the problematic left turn — probably caused me to land the 47 second time that showed up on my Strava app. However, that was only 1 second off the earlier Strava app time.

My first question was answered. It appears that on this segment the Strava app was at least consistent. It was yet to be seen if the Garmin would match.

I loaded the .fit file to Strava and awaited the result. There it was… 49 seconds. So, the Garmin recorded a time 2 seconds slower than the Strava app.

So, the bad news was that my 46 second time was taking advantage of wonky mobile phone GPS readings. The good news was that I still landed the KOM! It was nice to be vindicated by getting the top spot, even if it was slower.

48 seconds? I think I could do it. When I look at the video, I can see a couple of places where I left time on the road. I think I could do it faster…

It also means that someone else could probably do it faster.

Strava Segment: Piney Mountain Road Climb Eastside

Last week I told the story of taking back my Strava segment on Lowndes Hill Road. I’m still waiting for Chris Uberti to show up and strip me of my KOM. Don’t worry, I don’t have a big head about it. Someone took care of that on the Piney Mountain Road Climb Eastside segment.

This is another segment that I created. It was added to Strava back when my then coach Jim Cunningham had me doing repeats of this climb in preparation for the River Falls Race. I held the KOM for sometime. Then my time fell to a rider by 10 seconds!

Winston David is well known in these parts. If for no other reason, he seems to be the perennial first finisher of the Gran Fondo Hincapie. He is a pro rider with the Lupus Racing Team. You’ll see he owns his share of Strava KOMs — including Caesar’s Head (full) and Skyuka Mountain Road Climb. He is also a level 2 cycling coach and pretty much all around good guy.

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Photograph by Justin Keck

Lest you think this comes easy, you should check out Winston’s activities on Strava. It is obvious his ability comes from blue-collar-hard-work. As I was prepping to write this report, I took a look at one of his recent workouts. It confirms that fact.

At first I thought I was looking at a broken record when I saw the number of repeats he did of the first kick up Paris Mountain’s Altamont Road. How about 8 of them and then throw in a couple climbs of the mountain and a loop out around northern Greenville County and then topping it off with another climb up Altamont. It was only 83 miles and nearly 9000 feet climbing.

So, it should come as no surprise that back when Winston first came onto Strava, he put the hurt on me with a number of segments I was holding close. This was one of them. As a matter of fact, he crushed me so badly that for a couple of years I didn’t even attempt to take it back.

My good time on Lowndes Hill against Uberti emboldened me to go out and give it another try. My PR and the top time for several months was one minute and fifty-nine seconds. Knowing how hard I worked to get that time back then, I just didn’t see how I could overtake Winston’s time of one minute and forty-nine seconds.

Not only would this show me how I compared to Winston, but it would also tell me how I was riding now in 2015 compared to how I was back in 2012. So I started out for the ride with two goals… 1) get a PR, and 2) get as close as possible to Winston’s time. I honestly did not think I’d accomplish either.

I hit the start hard averaging about 600 watts for the first half of the climb while spinning at well over 100 rpm. Looking back at the effort comparison, I see that I was staying neck-and-neck with Winston to that point. Even at that moment, I was feeling strong and my confidence grew.

Then the real teeth of the climb started to bite down on my legs. You can see it in the video. My wattage and cadence began to drop. Now I was doing between 400 and 500 watts with my cadence around 85 rpm.

I could sense I was losing momentum, so I attempted to give myself a shot. Like the heart rate of a dying man on an operating table after getting hit with a defibrillator, my power rose for a moment before falling. While I never flatlined, my power slowly diminished for the rest of the attempt. Even as the road began to level off, I could only muster a top of 400 watts.

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There in the last third of the climb I lost six seconds. However, on the good side, I did land my PR by besting my previous time by four seconds. I can’t help but think there is another second or two I could gain… I’ll likely try again, but I do think Winston’s time is safe for awhile!

Standing on top of the world for a little while

If you are reading this update about yesterday’s blog post, then you know something good must have happened. Yep, I went out and bested Chris Uberti on the Lowndes Hill Road Climb. However, that was not the best part of the ride.

After posting yesterday, I dropped a gratuitous link onto Uberti’s twitter feed.

Chris saw the tweet and responded…

I knew then that I needed to get out there and give it a try. When Chris got back into town from racing, I figured he’d find his way over there on a training ride and actually attempt the climb at speed. I communicated my intentions.

@cuberti Well, I guess I’d better get out there and grab it before you get back in town. At least I could hold it for a few days.

So I headed out on my ride, but I didn’t ride in the direction of the segment. Instead, I headed toward Paris Mountain. It was such a beautiful day, I didn’t want to spend it slaving over a Strava segment. I’d save that for the way home. I’m glad I did. I got to enjoy this…

Click the image to see the full gallery on Facebook.

Click the image to see the full gallery on Facebook.

Ultimately, that lead me back to Lowndes Hill Road. Since I had ridden at a leisurely pace, I felt I stood a pretty good chance of laying down a good time. It was time to give it a go. I had my doubts as I started getting up to speed.

This was the first time I had turned my legs at this pace since the start of the ride. They didn’t feel very snappy. When I hit the first portion of the climb, I couldn’t quite read my body. I knew I was spinning at a good cadence. It seemed that I was putting out decent power.

Still, I felt kind of bogged down. I found myself dropping into the seat and then telling myself to get back up and keep my momentum. At one point as I was digging toward the top, I could tell there was a car behind me. However, I just held my line and kept plugging. Thankfully, I think the driver could tell I what I was trying to do and they did not crowd me or go into a road rage.

Honestly, when I reached the top, I didn’t know how I might have done. I figured that I had to have improved over my last time, but it could have been by only a fraction. I’d have to get home before I could know the answer.

My Garmin 1000 uploaded my data as soon as I stopped the ride in my driveway. So, by the time I got off my bicycle, the Strava activity was active. I brought it up on my phone. I could see one trophy in the ride summary. That was a good thing.

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I scrolled down to the last listed segment and there is was… the KOM crown! Next I took a look at the time: One minute and twenty-nine seconds. I now held a 2 second lead over Chris.

On my effort 10 days ago, I averaged 22.2 mph over the half mile. It took an average of 539 watts over 1:32 to record that speed. I think a key thing I take from this is that my average cadence for that attempt was 69 rpm with my highest effort being 95 rpm.

I gained 3 seconds on that attempt with yesterday’s effort. I averaged 22.9 mph over the distance with an average of 593 watts. My cadence was definitely a difference maker. I averaged  82 rpm during the effort and got up to 114 rpm at one point.

Could I do it faster? Actually, I think I could. However, I’m not sure how significant it would be. I can just see that I really dropped off toward the end instead of pushing through. Of course, that is the story of my life!

Now it is time to see what Chris can do…

Bridesmaid but never a bride

Yep, I went out yesterday and tried to take back the Woodland Way Sprint Climb segment. As has been the case often recently, I came up just a tad bit short. It was great to get a personal record, but I missed the KOM by 1 measly second.

I’ll come back to that effort in another post. Today I’m going back in time a bit to another time when I was a bridesmaid. Or, I guess I should say a groomsman…

Yes, this time I came up short behind Christopher Uberti. He has raced for several continental pro and elite cycling teams. You may have seen him a few years in the SmartStop colors. Most recently you may have seen him doing yeoman’s work in the Athens Twilight criterium race.

Chris is one of those guys on Strava with a little PRO badge by his name.  You’ll see a few of these on the Strava leaderboards around Greenville, SC. I think it might be time for Mr. Hematocrit to pay this place a visit!

There are a number of professional riders that live in the area. However, Greenville for many years was the location for the USA Cycling Professional Road Racing Championships. Some of the times up and over Paris Mountain still refer back to Strava data uploaded from those races.

This segment isn’t one of those. It is somewhat unique in that it is one of the few segments I created myself. It is long enough, safe enough, and challenging enough to be a segment. It doesn’t hurt that it is relatively close to my home.

I enjoyed the KOM for a bit back in 2013 before Mr. Uberti showed up one day and crushed my time by about 16 seconds. It was just about this time I started seeing his times popping up on other Strava segments I enjoyed. This wasn’t the last one I would see fall to him.

Screen Shot 2015-05-22 at 8.55.26 AMHere is the thing. I make getting this KOM a goal in my old man cycling world. Chris picks it up just out doing what he does. If you look at the ride where he claimed the top spot you will see he named it, “Tooling around.” On this ride he claimed three KOMs and a number of PRs.

I don’t be grudge these guys their KOMs. Frankly, I am glad there are some times posted by pros. It gives me a chance to see the speeds and efforts it takes to ride at that level.

However, I freely admit that when it comes to pro times on Strava, I feel no shame in cherry picking. I figure it is only fair to level the playing field and give us amateurs a chance on the leaderboard. Sometimes you do what you can to avoid having to catch another bouquet.

Brainy brawn beats brawn

When publishing my last Strava Segment Series video, I was pretty happy with myself. I told the story of losing my KOM on a segment in Cleveland Park and then tying for it the following day. At that point, I didn’t see how anyone could go much below the 40 second time set by Nathan Race and myself. Well, the next day that record fell.

Ron Babington is there on the left.

Ron (left) helping his friend Matt attempt Everesting .

Ron Babington is a certified stud. You have to be when you do the Tour Divide on a single speed! I’ve also come across him helping a friend attempt to climb Mt. Everest on a bicycle. Okay, so the attempt was to climb the equivalent of the height of that peak in the Himalayas… but still, that’s a lot of suffering.

So, it shouldn’t be a surprise that he would give me a run for my money on the Woodland Way Sprint Climb segment. However, I didn’t expect it to lose it by 5 seconds! Yep, Ron thrashed us by covering the .2 mile distance in 35 seconds.

I just had to take a look at his attempt and try to figure out how he pulled it off. This can be done by pulling up Strava and utilizing the Strava Effort Comparison feature that you find on each segment leaderboard page. It was easy to see that by the time we crested the initial kick about halfway through Ron had a 3 second gain on me. At that point, things kind of leveled off until the very end when it shows Ron picking up another second.

Click image to access Strava page.

Click image to access Strava page.

Well, he definitely schooled me on that one. That lead me to take a closer look at his effort. I could see that he averaged 784 watts. On my attempt with 40 seconds I averaged 901 watts. It was going to be really hard to overcome that. The only way I would be able to beat Ron would be to 1) become a monster able to average 1200 watts plus for 35 seconds, or 2) find out how I could go faster without using as many watts.

Then I noticed something. I entered the segment at around 24 mph. Ron hit the start at over 35 mph. While it would not explain the entire 4 seconds, it certainly helps explain that initial jump of 3 seconds and some of the lower average wattage. Momentum is a wonderful thing!

That raised another question. How did he do it? How did he get up to 35 mph in that short run up from the stop sign to the segment start point? You would have to ramp up your wattage pretty high to hit that and then you would be going right into the climb. You would think that would have led him to burn out more toward the end.

Then an idea hit me and I confirmed it by going back to trace Ron’s route on Strava. What he did was to come off Washington Street which would have given him more distance to build up speed. Plus, it is a natural ramp that would help him get up to speed without having to put out as much power. He was using gravity to help him gain momentum.

Now, all that does not explain the burst of power toward the end of his attempt. Gravity would definitely be working against him at that point and any momentum gained by his rolling start would have been scrubbed off yards before. That can only be chalked up to a hard man giving it a go when his legs are rocks and his lungs looking for that next gulp of oxygen!

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Bottom line is that Ron bested me with his brain and his brawn. The fastest person isn’t always the strongest, but when you combine strength with synapses… that is a hard man to best. So, kudos to you, Ron.

Of course, that doesn’t mean I’m not going to go out there and give it a go. I figured Ron learned a little about how to attack the climb from my video. I can at least attempt to return the favor by learning from his Strava profile!

Strava gives us a chance to better ourselves and compete against our friends. That’s what makes it fun! That, and Ron’s cool facial hair.

Strava Segment: Woodland Way Sprint Climb

I could have headed over to Donaldson Center for the Tuesday Night World Championships or stayed home for the throw down on Watopia. Instead, I made my way to Cleveland Park to make an attempt at earning back my KOM on the Woodland Way Sprint Climb segment.

My secondary objective was to get some video of the attempt in order to create another installment of my YouTube Strava Segments series. The cameras were prepped and the lighting was great. So I had no doubt I’d get some some good video. Whether I would get the KOM was not so certain.

Woodland Way Sprint Climb is .2 miles long with a 3% average grade. That average is a bit deceitful when it comes to understanding how much that segment can hurt. If you divide the climb into two sections you find the first portion averages more like 6%. The second section even has some negative grade. This combination actually adds to the challenge.

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I rolled into the park feeling kind of fatigued. The night before I climbed on the trainer to help get in some miles for the $5000 fundraising campaign on Watopia. As I was spinning, I felt that my legs were very flat. I made an attempt on the Watopia climb and it was as if my legs were telling me to “Shut up, Jonathan.”

After several laps of the abbreviated park route due to bridge construction, I decided it didn’t matter how my legs felt. I was going to have to give it an attempt at some point. It was now or I might as well go home.

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“Pain is good. Pain means you are going fast.” This is what I told myself. “Your legs might feel tired, but you’ve got power. This is yours.” I picked up the pace and my confidence lifted with my cadence.

I hit the base of the climb in 53×11. The Felt surged forward and I could feel the power transferring to the rubber on the road. As I fought against the grade, there were times when the bicycle seemed to want to buck to the right or left. I worked to keep it going as straight as possible to avoid any waste of movement.

I had no idea what power I was putting out. I just went hard. With the top in sight the effort began to catch up with me. I did feel that fatigue, but what I felt beneath it was power. The training was making itself known. My legs were riding through it.

Then I crested the major part of the climb and now I had to deal with something else. While earlier I was fighting getting bogged down, now I was fighting to get power and speed from a more rapidly turning crank. The problem was it still wasn’t turning fast enough.

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The slow twitch muscle that helped me on the climb was now working against me. I couldn’t get my cadence up enough to take advantage of the negative to shallow grade. My wattage dropped and my speed increased, but not by as much as it could have. In the words of Jeremy Clarkson, “More powaaarrrr!”

As I crossed the line I was done. It wasn’t that I was gasping for air or felt nausea. It was that my legs felt like two sticks of wood. With the effort done, so were they. Had I been in a race, I would have been dropped right there.

It was with some surprise I arrived home to find I had indeed earned back my crown. However, it wasn’t an out-and-out victory. I had tied Nathan Race’s KOM of 40 seconds.

I’ll take it! A PR and sharing the KOM isn’t so bad. Yes, I do believe it can be done faster. However, I’m not sure I could get the speed I would need to make the jump to 39 seconds. Frankly, I think this one will stand for a bit.

That is just fine with me! My legs aren’t ready to go out there to defend it.

The shorter they are the harder they fall

Got another alert from Strava last night. Seems I just lost another KOM. This one has me concerned. I’m not sure I’ll be getting this one back.

The segment is the Woodland Way Sprint Climb… or is it the Woodland Way Burst? This is an example of one of the annoying things about Strava. These two segments are basically the same thing with the later being a bit shorter than the former. There is also a Woodland Sprint Interval which is shorter still. I removed my 7 second KOM from that leaderboard because I realize there was absolutely no way I went up that segment at 56 mph!

That leads us to a second thing you have to keep in mind when you are looking at the leaderboards with your mouth dropped open as you consider some of the times posted. In some cases you may even think that someone rode through the segment in their car. However, that isn’t always the case, and the shorter the segment the more likely you’ll see these wildly varying times.

The point is, it takes time and distance to make up a segment. Time is measured by the distance. Gimpy GPS data can lead to suspect time. My 7 second climb up the first part of Woodland Way is a perfect example. The more real estate Strava has to work with, the more accurate the time will be. Throw is the fact that Woodland Way is heavily covered in foliage and Woodland Sprint Interval can be a Strava tracking nightmare.

I had this confirmed from Strava when I once created a segment called Wellington Wall. I was frustrated because people were actually getting the KOM (which is a tough one to claim!) by simply riding down a perpendicular street. I went to Strava to see if I could find out what was going on and they let me know that the segment was too short. Also, it was in a wooded area that at times led to errant GPS readings.

So, I went back and increased the length of the segment. It is still a tough one with an average 17% grade! However, there are no longer any false-positive KOMs.

For this reason, I’m putting my focus on the Woodland Way Sprint Climb. While the Woodland Sprint Interval segment was the first created of the three, it can’t be trusted to be an accurate leaderboard. Woodland Burst is longer than the Interval, but I figure if you get the Woodland Way Sprint Climb, you are probably going to land the Burst anyway.

I am going to give it a try, but I’m not holding out much hope on this one. I know how hard I’ve gone up this segment. That one second looms large!

That is the other thing about short segments. The shorter the distance the less you have to work with to gain speed. The amount of speed you need to shave off a second grows each time a rider chops it down. At some point, you reach the lowest time humanly possible.

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When I took the KOM back in 2012, I crossed the segment in 41 seconds at 25.9 mph. I had to put out 710 watts to make it happen. Yesterday, Nathan Race knocked out a 40 second time at 26.6 mph. Strava shows he averaged 861 watts for the climb with a max of 1404 watts!

It doesn’t matter if Nathan did it in 40.9 seconds and I do it in 40.1 seconds. It still shows up as 40 seconds on Strava. Best case scenario there is that I manage a tie.

To get down in the 39 second range will require me to average over 27.5 mph. That will require quite an increase in power output! The closest segment I’ve done recently to this is the Walker Wimps. It is the same distance, but most of the climb is at the end instead of the start — kind of the opposite of my target segment. Also the average grade is 7% while Woodland Way Sprint Climb is 3%.

The question becomes… “Can I put out around 900 watts for 39 seconds?” My lungs and legs are screaming at me just thinking about it! However, I’m thinking that is what it is going to take if I’m to reclaim the crown.

Here is my one hope. You see, I’ve never actually set out to claim this segment. I landed the KOM back when I was attempting to get the KOM for the Cleveland Loop. That means I was not going all out up the climb because I was having to conserve a bit for the best time over a 2 mile effort. I landed the Cleveland Loop KOM that day with a time of 6:15 and then reclaimed it at 6:05, but I’m pretty certain I’ve lost it for good to Christopher Uberti (a continental professional who races for Smart Stop) who owns the KOM at 5:02.

Well, stay tuned… I’ll go for it and hopefully won’t die trying!

UPDATE: So what happened when an attempt was made to take back the KOM?

Strava Segment: Paris Mountain

When it comes to Strava segments, Paris Mountain is iconic. As I have ridden about capturing video for these installments this is the one I wanted to do first, but the one I feared to do most. Finally, I just had to decide that if it was going to happen I couldn’t wait until the perfect time. No attempt up the mountain is perfect because I always want to climb it faster.

The Paris Mountain segment is what a segment should be. It isn’t a quick and done effort. Trying to team time trial up might give you a little help pacing. A bunch of average riders can take the time from a good single rider on a flat stage, but a good single rider can out climb a group of average riders.

For this particular attempt, I knew I would come nowhere near the KOM (Nathan English at 8:52). I knew I couldn’t beat my PR (11:24 in the pre-Strava era and 11:51 on Strava). Climbing in 12:30 is now considered an exceptional attempt for me. However, I needed something for which to aim. So, I set my goal to climb during this video at an average of 310 watts. Based on my current FTP, that seemed reasonable and would have me climbing the road in 13:36.

How did I arrive at that? Well, I won’t go into it here. You can read more details in my post where I talk about the climbing formula: watts = (kg*9.8*e/t)+(kg*9.8*e/t)*r. I’ll just say that I ended up making the climb in 13:06 by averaging 322 watts. I’m thinking I’m headed for some low 12 minute climbs this season.

Anyway, enjoy the video. I know it is long and that does not make for very compelling viewing. However, I threw in some extra footage of a following rider and a split screen view showing some of the downhill from both a front and rear camera view. I hope that will make it worth it.

Thanks for reading and thanks for watching!

You can go pretty fast without moving

Over the two weeks leading up to this one, I have pretty much worn myself out. I moved my fitness level from an “18” to a “38” in just a matter of days and then maintained it. By this past weekend, I was a quivering mess. However, that was right along with my plan.

The plan was to pack in enough fitness as possible — which always leads to fatigue — and then this last week recover in hopes to have as much form as possible for Saturday’s race. Well, turns out it isn’t going to be much. It will be more than it could have been if I did nothing. So, I have to be happy with what I’ve got.

This week I have been climbing aboard the trainer for a few minutes just to keep my legs moving. That brings me to Zwift and Jarvis Island. I used the time to capture some video of another segment on the island. I already posted the Col d’ Zwift Strava segment which is all about a measured effort for about a minute.

Today, it is all about top end speed over a very short distance — 0.1 of a mile to be exact. The fastest Zwifters are getting it done in 6 seconds. I’m very happy just to get it under 8 seconds. Check out the video as I bring it home at 7.9 seconds and take the green jersey — for a little bit.

I’m still impressed with Zwift. Not only are they building a cool software platform, but they know what they are doing when it comes to building a community. I guess some of that could change when people have to plunk down cash for the opportunity to participate, but 3 months of access will cost less than my single race this weekend.

The best compliment I can pay to program is that it is truly immersive. As you ride you react to the environment around you. You know that the riders coming up beside you are not simply a video recording of a previous ride. No, this is Scottie Weiss in Virginia, Howie Schulman in New York, Nate Robinson in Ohio, Nathan Guerra in Wisconsin, Hendrik Hirsch in Germany, and… you get the idea. The final step is to bring voice chat capability to riders within a proximity of your avatar.

I believe you can see in the video that the speed matches the effort. Sure, I know I can produce more wattage on the road. I can’t wait to get back on the road with consistency. Even then Zwift will be a part of my weekly workouts. I’ve enjoyed meeting old friends there and making new ones.

You can go fast without moving an inch.