Notes from the Grup­petto

And why you should get out of the dig­i­tal pelo­ton

Canadian Cycling Magazine - - CONTENTS - by Bart Eg­nal

Why I won’t be rac­ing vir­tu­ally any time soon

It’s sum­mer. The birds are chirp­ing. The sun is out. The roads haven’t seen salt for months. So ask your­self this ques­tion: are you still rid­ing on Zwift? Are you choos­ing to race on Zwift in­stead of rac­ing peo­ple in the real world? If you are – dur­ing the peak of our all-too-short Cana­dian sum­mer– for the love of God, stop now.

A lit­tle back­ground for the unini­ti­ated: Zwift is an on­line vir­tual train­ing world that you can use to make the monotony of in­door train­ing not only more palat­able but, I dare say, en­joy­able. The abil­ity to “ride” with friends, to “climb” moun­tains and to push your­self for per­sonal records makes in­door train­ing much more fun.

The plat­form is not just for train­ing. Dur­ing the past year, I’ve learned that there is a whole world of rac­ing on Zwift. You can sign on to race in a league in which you com­pete against ath­letes of sim­i­lar strength to see who can pedal hard enough to be­come the first to hurl in the home pain cave. Ap­par­ently, a lot of peo­ple en­joy this kind of iso­lated yet com­mu­nal self-flag­el­la­tion – so much so that an en­tire league (called Cy­cli­gent) has formed to not only get peo­ple rac­ing on Zwift but also to cre­ate a spec­ta­tor sport that al­lows ador­ing masses to watch peo­ple race on train­ers.

Let’s just pause for a mo­ment to con­sider what this all means. We are reach­ing a point where we would like to watch peo­ple spin their legs on an in­door trainer while we sit and watch. Now, I know some peo­ple de­cry bike rac­ing as bor­ing, but watch­ing some mid­dling Bel­gian bike race fea­tur­ing pro con­ti­nen­tal rid­ers still is 10 times more en­joy­able than this pro­posed trav­esty of a vir­tual sport.

What’s more, as much as I like Zwift as a win­ter train­ing tool (which is more than stan­dard in­door train­ing but far less than the real world), the ex­pe­ri­ence of rac­ing in it leaves much to be de­sired. These races are more like wattage com­pe­ti­tions. They tend to be less than an hour and are ab­so­lutely full gas from the gun. There’s no roll­out, no eas­ing into it. It’s just 350 watts from the gun. And vir­tual draft­ing aside, it re­ally does seem to come down to who can time trial for the full race.

If you haven’t rid­den in Zwift, well, you are not ac­tu­ally turn­ing your han­dle­bars or near other peo­ple. You are in your base­ment. Pedalling. The ex­cite­ment of a road or cy­clocross or moun­tain bike race comes from be­ing present with others. With Zwift, you miss out on phys­i­cal things that make bike rac­ing so ex­cit­ing: feel­ing the draft, mov­ing within the pelo­ton when you have to get to the front and feel­ing the ef­fect of the wind af­ter you make a turn. Zwift just can’t repli­cate any of these el­e­ments.

And of course, peo­ple dope in Zwift. I have learned that peo­ple “weight dope” or “trainer dope,” which ap­par­ently con­sists of ad­just­ing your recorded kilo­grams so you go faster up­hill, or so your trainer pro­duces more watts than you ac­tu­ally gen­er­ate. C’mon peo­ple!

Now, I’m not poo-poo­ing Zwift in gen­eral. I much pre­fer rid­ing in Watopia to Bore­dom-topia, where I was re­signed to train­ing in the win­ter. But the idea that we have leagues and race se­ries that won’t just serve as win­ter train­ing but rather an ac­tual sub­sti­tute for road rac­ing is just tragic to me. What makes bike rid­ing and rac­ing spe­cial isn’t just the wattage we pro­duce and the calo­ries we burn (vis­ually rep­re­sented by pizza slices in Zwift). It’s the friend­ships, con­nec­tions and ri­val­ries that we form do­ing this rac­ing thing inches apart from one an­other, united by our de­sire to com­pete.

So shut off the com­puter. Get out there and pin a num­ber on, irl (in real life). We’ll all be hap­pier for it.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.