Zwift Group Rides Etiquette
If you’re joining a Group Ride on Zwift, such as the Hotchillee Gain Train or the Hotchillee Race, Ride or Conquer Sunday Endurance Series, here are a few tips to help you and other riders enjoy the experience.
They’re not races
You wouldn’t treat a Sunday Club run as a race, so don’t do this on a Zwift Group Ride. If you do want to race, there are loads of options on the Event Calendar for you. Some Group Rides, such as the Hotchillee Gain Train, might finish with a fun “mini-race” but don’t expect of anticipate this. Wait for the go ahead from the Ride Leader before pressing the accelerator.
Read the ride information beforehand
When you join a ride on the Event Calendar, take a moment to check out the ride information. What will be there varies from ride to ride but generally you’ll get a good idea of the tone of the ride, paces of the sub-groups and what to expect. Don’t be that rider sat in the start pen asking for a full description of the ride. If you haven’t had a chance to read the info, just stick close to the Ride Leader.
Enter your correct Cat or ride appropriately to the group you’re in
Most groups rides will use the Zwift category system to indicate the overall pace/level of the ride or the pace of the sub-groups.
You can easily get an idea of your Cat by taking your FTP and dividing by your weight to get a w/kg number. You can then compare this to the ranges below to see where you sit.
A = 4.0 w/kg >
B = 3.2 – 3.9 w/kg (First Class on Gain Train)
C = 2.5 – 3.1 w/kg (Second Class on Gain Train)
D = < 2.4 w/kg (Buffet Class on Gain Train)
Do note that, especially for some of the longer Group Rides on the Calendar, that the Cat is more of a pace guide rather than an absolute of who it’s for. For example the EVO CC Aguante 100km ride on a Friday morning is classed as B as you’ll average 3.5 w/kg but you’ll be holding that for 2.5 hours. Again, read the ride information.
It’s fine if you want an easier spin to join a lower Cat ride or group but don’t do this and then ride above the advertised pace. You might not think it does any harm but, because of the draft and a natural tendency of some riders to follow any wheel, you just end up raising the pace of the group and ruining it for those riders who are in their correct Cat.
Don’t “Watt-bomb” off the line or “fly” off the front of the group
Zwift races start notoriously fast but remember, Group Rides are NOT RACES. Yes make sure you are pedalling at the required pace before the countdown timer gets to zero to avoid being left in the pen but there’s no need to launch off the line. If you do “watt-bomb or fly”, inevitably some riders will chase you which just splits the ride up and raises the pace unnecessarily.
Don’t sprint Sprint Sections, attach KOM’s or up the pace on ramps
Unless instructed to do so. Especially if you’re on the front of your group, keep your w/kg steady and inline with the ride instructions or what the Ride Leader has requested. You may think that individual efforts do no harm but, because of the draft and the competitive nature of other riders, any solo surges are guaranteed to lift the pace of the blob, split it up and ruin the rhythm.
If there’s a fence up, take notice of it
If the Ride Leader deploys the fence and you see that you’re on the wrong side of it – seeing the “Return to Group” message on your screen, take notice of it. This means easing right off your pace and drifting back to the Ride Leader and not continuing riding as you were muttering “well, I’m sticking to the requested pace”. On Hotchillee Group Rides, we have a “live fence” so, if you ignore the “Return to Group” message and trigger the 60-second countdown, you will be zapped and booted from the ride.
Don’t be a w/kg whinger
Ride Leaders will do their best to hold the group close to the advertised w/kg but, they’re not pacing bots, the behaviour of other riders impacts the blob’s pace and the w/kg and pace relationship is impacted by draft, rider weight and virtual terrain.
If you were on a group ride IRL, you wouldn’t be fixating on w/kg, you’d be focussing on holding the wheel in front and staying in the group. Try adopting this mindset on virtual rides and save the w/kg analysis for afterwards.
React to the Mini-Map
The Mini-Map, either onscreen or on the Companion App, is a great tool for group rides. It’ll show you where the Ride Leader is, where the fence is, any splits and whether the group is a nice blob or a strung out snake.
If you see you’re off the front or part of a group that’s splitting the bunch or leaving the Ride Leader behind, back it off and drift back.
Ride Leaders on Group Rides are volunteers who are giving their time and probably sacrificing their own training to lead. If a ride isn’t panning out how you expected or not delivering what the Ride Info said, be polite and don’t throw a hissy fit.
It can be frustrating when things don’t go according to plan but technology isn’t 100% and glitches can and do happen.
Before behaving in a certain way or saying something, just ask yourself “would I do or say that on a real life group ride?” If the answer’s no, then don’t do or say it on Zwift.
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Glen is usually behind the scenes making sure that the Hotchillee Ride Captains and event participants have fully functioning bicycles to ride but he occasionally makes an appearance in front of the camera to share his wisdom. If he’s not fixing or building bikes he’ll be out riding in #SweetSussex. If you want to know anything about Cyclocross, Glen is the man to ask.
Consultant with British Cycling and author of the Road Cycling Performance Manual. Lover of cobbles, gravel and Siberian Pine – not so keen on climbs! Nik is the author of all of the Hotchillee Training Plans, Zwift workout files and regularly posts tips and advice on the Hotchillee app. He’s also the evil genius behind the now infamous Hotchillee Gain Train.
Adele has worked within the health and fitness industry for over 25 years starting with a ballet and dance background herself, she has progressed to training and teaching all styles of fitness and offers Pilates, barre & yoga. As a keen runner, Adele appreciates the need for a strong healthy body and mind and incorporates many elements of Pilates, yoga and barre into her own training to ensure her strength and stamina remain.