JUMP TO:

Zwift Tidbits from Eurobike: New course specifics, real-life course preview, and other bits

DSC_7965

This won’t be a long post, but darn-it, I went out and rode a beastly loop of the new Austrian course, and thus I’m determined to make something of that time spent in the saddle.  Thus, here we go.

As you may know, Zwift has two new courses planned for the upcoming months.  They’ve kinda announced these via various social media teases, but if you missed it you’ll soon get a New York City course and an Innsbruck (Austria) course.  Zwift is pretty tight-lipped on details on both right now, but I did manage to get a few tidbits that are worthwhile noting, along with the exact route for the Austrian course.

Now you’ll note that while Zwift was at Eurobike, they didn’t have any major Eurobike-specific announcement per se.  The closest you could get to that was the announcement made a few days prior that Zwift was available on Android in beta. A very early beta.  I covered that here.

As a random tidbit, when I talked with Zwift’s CEO Saturday afternoon about the Android bit, he noted that at that point in time the company had seen 4,000 downloads of the Android build in the first 48 hours.  I don’t know whether to consider that high or low given Zwift’s userbase (last year in September it was a bit over 100K).

Innsbruck Courses:

vlcsnap-2018-07-24-16h27m29s168

(Note: All in-game screenshots in these sections via Zwift)

As noted, there are two specific courses coming up, but each one is structured a little bit differently, and neither course has a ton of video/images available yet.  The first course up (both in my post and in real-life) is the Innsbruck course.  This course is modeled after the upcoming UCI Worlds Championship event to be held in September in said city.  Innsbruck sits nestled in the valley between mountains, where almost all routes lead to climbing pain.  Thus, the perfect place for a bike race.

Of course, Zwift is no stranger to UCI courses.  Everyone knows the existing UCI Richmond course is in Zwift, so this is essentially copying that model.  In the case of the Innsbruck course, it wouldn’t make sense to replicate the entire set of courses.  There are different courses for men and women, and some of these routes start a long way out of town, as seen here on the Men’s Elite course:

image

However, all bits of all the race variants include the ‘Olympic Loop’, which is a bit that goes through town and then up a large hill and back.  Everything in Blue is what Zwift is doing.

image

This specifically is the Women’s Elite Road Race, minus the red part coming from out of town.  That first part isn’t included in the Zwift course because…well…it’d probably be boring as a one-way effort.  Also, as an aside the crazy-steep section on the Men’s Elite course isn’t included either – thus, just the Women’s Elite course seen above in blue. I’ve linked it here.

That is precisely the Zwift course being put together that’s set to be released in ‘late summer’ (which basically means August, since the event itself is in September).  In talking to Zwift, they noted that when they go to create courses there’s a bit of a scale for how realistic they are.  For example, Watopia (Zwift Island) is totally fictional, and thus all elements of it are make-believe.

Whereas the UCI Richmond course was meant to be super realistic, and people can see certain building/monument elements throughout the course that if they rode the real thing in real-life would match up. Obviously not every gas station and telephone pole is there – but the two match up.

Zwift says that when it comes to Austria, expect it to be closer to the UCI Richmond side – but not quite as period/geography specific as the Richmond course.  Meaning they’re going to add in various graphical/structural elements to the course that won’t really match in real-life.  I suspect this is probably more on the mountain loop portion where there isn’t really a lot to see there with the exception of a few villages.  But we’ll have to see.  You can see below in the distance the tower of the ski jump center at Innsbruck.  In the case of our ride of this course, this would have been going the opposite direction than we did, so it was at our backs while descending.

vlcsnap-2018-07-24-16h27m36s306

Zwift has released a small teaser reel.  And by small, I’m talking only 15 seconds between the Austrian and NYC courses.  That’s it.  I’ve uploaded a higher resolution version below – but again, I’m warning you there’s not much there.

So what’s it like to ride the Innsbruck route from a terrain standpoint?  Well, on the way back from Eurobike, Shane Miller and I decided to take a detour and find out.  We arrived early afternoon on a weekday, which meant that it immediately became clear to us that doing the city portion of the event was going to be impossible – since in real-life the streets aren’t closed down to miniature pelotons of two cyclists.  So instead, we focused on the mountainside loop instead.  I’ve circled it below:

image

We parked the RV about a mile or so up the hill (and in fact, you can see it in the video wedged on a random turnoff), and got to work.  Here’s the video we put together.  And by ‘we’, I mean Shane.  Well, technically the camera was on my bike – so the way I see it I did all the work in carrying that tremendous amount of weight.

As you can see, it’s actually a relatively simple loop.  You go up, and then you come down.  The climbing isn’t over the top, but it is consistent.  At a nice clip (doing it the day after we did the Stelvio), it took us about 27 or so minutes to get up, and then about 8-10 minutes to get back down again – including being stuck behind a city bus and other traffic for a portion of it.

It’s a nice workout though – and I think would be perfect as a weekday after work workout with about 10-15 minutes of warm-up ‘in the city’ on the flats, and then hit up the climb for a loop.  Plus, the best part is you don’t have to pedal on the way back down if you’ve got one of the fancier smart trainers that drives the wheel for ya. 🙂

The NYC Course:

vlcsnap-2018-07-24-16h27m50s493

When it comes to the NYC course, details are much slimmer – in part because the release timeframe is also further out.  Officially this is slated as ‘Fall 2018’.  My guess is we won’t see it before October though, since UCI Worlds happens September 22nd-30th, 2018 – and it’d make no sense to launch that prior to then, since the attention would largely be on worlds.  Though, Interbike is the week prior – and that could be interesting for that setting.  But again, I’d suspect October sometime.

In any event, Zwift says the NYC course will definitely have Central Park in it as a key centerpiece, that’s of course seen in the tidbits of clips that have been released.  But they noted that the Zwift course will extend beyond that.  They also noted that in the realism scale, this will be less realistic than the UCI courses in terms of the visual aspects around it.  Certainly some elements look very realistic in the screenshots (like the banners and exact road markings of that section in central park), but they plan to have a bit more artistic freedom beyond that.

vlcsnap-2018-07-24-16h28m02s548 vlcsnap-2018-07-24-16h27m45s633 vlcsnap-2018-07-24-16h27m56s353

Personally, this would be one of the few places I could actually imagine ‘getting into’ Zwift running.  At present, I just find Zwift running mostly boring (though, when I did it outside it was kinda fun).  But when it comes to running loops, the main NYC Central Park loop is among my favorites, especially because of the variances in terrain – and how close it is to 10KM – again, making it perfect for a weekday type quick workout.  But as you can expect, that simply isn’t enough roadway for a cycling course – hence the company’s plans to extend beyond that.

It’ll be interesting to see where specifically they go.  There’s lots of options depending on whether they want to make it more city-focused, or if they want to perhaps head out of Manhattan and go elsewhere.  I’d be surprised if we don’t get more teasers along the way till release.

A Sidebar:

[Ok, this next section is a sidebar for industry stuffs, I didn’t think it’d get as long as it did when I started typing it, so I moved it to the end.]

Lastly, Zwift did hold another annual summit of Zwift partners the night before Eurobike started. An off-site of sorts.  They talked about all sorts of trainer-like things, but alas everything at that event was under NDA – so I can’t discuss it.

Interestingly enough though, a more open trainer event was held two nights later (with much the same players, except also other trainer software apps).  That one dove into how to better coordinate between software and hardware manufacturers and the need for some sort of industry alliance/organization to help the indoor training scene.  Things like firming up some standards, perhaps ways to coordinate so that trainer companies can have trainer apps notify users their firmware on their KICKR is 5 years old, and so on.

Both Shane Miller and I spoke briefly at both events.  Without speaking for Shane, I think I can summarize that we think there’s tremendous upside to these organizations actually working together, especially to specify standards on a number of areas:

A) How trainer marketing specs are listed (e.g. grade, max wattages, what constitutes grade, etc…)
B) Specific usages of standards (e.g. not all FTMS or ANT+ implementations seem to be the same)
C) Having trainer firmware updates presented to the users (or at least notified) via their main app (i.e. Zwift, TrainerRoad, Rouvy, SufferFest, etc…)
D) What exactly constitutes a ‘smart trainer’ from a marketing standpoint (is one that doesn’t control but does broadcast metrics like power or speed, still a ‘smart trainer’?)

In our discussions, trainer companies were especially on-board with A&D above.  These would be most likely to benefit them from a sales standpoint, because it’s most likely to push people into higher-end trainers to avoid disappointment. Disappointment in finding out the trainer they thought could simulate a 14% grade can’t for their body weight, or disappointment that the $300 ‘smart trainer’ doesn’t change resistance.

They weren’t seemingly opposed to B&C either, because that makes their lives easier. Trainer companies don’t want to fight these battles for each app, and app companies don’t want to fight them either.

Interesting times ahead for sure for trainers.  With this season having more trainers than ever on the cards having been announced, or to be announced, there’s certainly demand for this kind of standardization and collaboration to expand – all of which will be good for end users in my opinion (as well as being beneficial for the companies themselves).

With that – thanks for reading!

Post a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked.
If you would like a profile picture, simply register at Gravatar, which works here on DCR and across the web.

 Notify me of followup comments via e-mail.

You can click here to Subscribe without commenting

Add a picture

*

46 Comments

  1. DaveG

    Ray, was there any word from Zwift whether these new courses would coincide with the ability to select a world rather than having a fixed schedule?

    • No word there yet.

      But IMHO if Zwift doesn’t at least allow you to choose between a set of worlds (perhaps 2 worlds on a given date), then I think these new courses will only frustrate users and by extension frustrate peoples experience with Zwift. After-all, when you load up Zwift and keep getting stuck on a course you don’t want to ride (cough, Richmond), it doesn’t do anything other than displease the user. Especially given there are more than enough people to be in multiple words concurrently.

    • Boris

      For me it’s cough… Watopia. Don‘t like virtual hills. Having an option to choose on a daily base would be awsome.

    • Charles Morgan

      I disagree with the requested ability “to choose between a set of worlds”. In the first place, Zwift is a relatively young company and is expanding features I assume as best it can. I also assume that limiting riders to one world at a time is, at this moment in time for this young company, the best it can do, vs. “burning cash” by hiring more server capabilities from Amazon or Google or Microsoft, etc. Zwift has to pick and choose where it places its limited resources and as this article points out, it is currently working on two new “worlds”, which requires resources, labor, talent, time, to develop. Also, part of the fun is seeing other riders while riding. If there are too many choices, you risk being all alone on a lonely stretch of road with few, if any, other riders, which is inconsistent with seeing and comparing yourself to other riders. I am sure that in some fantasy world, the rider can pick any route anywhere in the word. Maybe that will happen in the next 20 years. In the meantime, this interactive video game provides plenty of variety. Freerides, training plans, races. Let’s look at freerides, shall we? Here you can just do your own thing and ignore everyone else. You can also see who is ahead of you and who is behind you and try to catch up with those ahead of you or see how long you can stay ahead of those behind you. You can also use other riders to compare to judge your own abilities. There are also Strava type segments throughout all the worlds, where you can compare yourself to your own previous rides and to others. You also have multiple route choices in a given world, both at the beginning before you ride and also during the ride to decide to go straight or to turn onto a different path left or right. Let’s compare all this to the real world for real riders. I assume that for 99% of the riders, they ride within a few miles of their own house, day in and day out. OK, maybe on your days off from work you load your bike in your car and go to another place a few miles away. But the point is that essentially you are riding the same places everyday in real life. Everyone always wants more, more, more. I say enjoy this wonderful opportunity that never existed before where you don’t have to worry about being run over by a car and you can ride even at night and don’t have to worry about a flat tire, that most riders don’t know how to fix, or have to go to the bathroom or get hungry or other distractions, and get both fun and exercise for your health. I think Zwift is fantastic and I think we should all appreciate it and enjoy it. The end.

    • TW

      Sadly despite your lengthy description as to what ticks your boxes, as a paying user, I want choice.
      There are other players out there, and to keep and grow market share, Zwift needs to implement it’s own solution. There is a need for it, as the various hacks to access other courses have seen them used or downloaded in there thousands.

    • Big Lampar

      Charles Morgan – I’m with you. Well said. Sure i want choices – but i don’t want to be riding alone. Being able to choose worlds/maps would certainly dilute the number of riders available. The big fun of Zwift is being among other cyclist !!!!

      Even with on-line gaming you don’t have the free choice of maps. You play whatever maps that’s available on the server.

    • Steve

      It would seem to me that there are 3 possible reasons the courses have a schedule: financial, technical or strategic, or a combo thereof, OK that’s 4.

      Financial: does it cost more if the run more courses? Presumably since Zwift runs on AWS you’d run Containers eg Docker / Kubernetes, so maybe each course is a Container thus simultaneously more courses = more expense because if a Container / VM is not running you may not need to pay for its runtime?

      Technical: some reason its not possible to run multiple courses?

      Strategic: part of the attraction is seeing all those other folks out there, so only having one courses at a time concentrates the user base

      Combo: bits of all 3

    • Neil Jones

      The fact that you can easily hack Zwift to ride any course you want means that those technical/cost reasons seem to go out of the window – each course is clearly ‘up and running’ every day irrespective of what the course of the day is. That only really seems to leave the ‘dilution’ of riders on each course as a viable explanation for preventing choice. Maybe like Ray suggests, giving the option of 2 distinctly different courses each day would be a good compromise.

    • DaveG

      Agree. Users have been requesting this for long time, and Zwift has never stated it was technical or performance issue and that they limited it so they there were sufficient riders on the course. There are so many more users now that I cant see this being a problem unless you are one of the 7 people that like Richmond

    • NorthVanMark

      “Strategic: part of the attraction is seeing all those other folks out there, so only having one courses at a time concentrates the user base”

      I may be imagining this, but I seem to remember a podcast where Eric Min was asked a question about user choice of worlds and he said exactly this. They didn’t want to dilute the user experience by having riders alone…they were promoting the social side of Zwift.
      Not sure that still holds true with a larger user base but as someone who hates Richmond, I’d rather ride solo on Watopia than in a bunch in Richmond (organized racers/group training sessions aside).

      As others have said, there are hacks to choose worlds so all the “infrastructure” is in place 24/7 already so there are no real technical reasons for preventing user choice…

  2. AndySingh

    I am glad Zwift decided to add NYC. I have a friend who lives in Manhattan, and rides his Emonda SL6 through Central Park 2-3 times a week. Pretty soon I too can ride those 19-odd miles on my Wahoo Kickr Core in metro Detroit 😛

  3. Matthew Weigel

    Ray, did you not quite finish your thought for point D? I think I understand where you were going, but…

  4. MAGNUS

    Looking forward to the new ‘worlds’… especially the Innsbruck quickie climb… Sounds like a great place for some hill repeats on my new KICKR Climb.

    Also, always nice to have more options… And with marathon training kicking off this week, the NYC course should make for early morning loop. Side note; I’ve been to NYC about 5-6 times and each time I take my running shoes with the intent to run Central Park but have never actually made it out. Looking forward to this.

  5. How about a more open way to specify the angle of the road for control of devices like the kickr climb. That way it can be told directly what to do independent of the trainer and be told an angle to be at even if in erg mode. (I’m assuming others will come out at some point as computrainer did have a version of it so can’t be fully patented)

    No news of an API from zwift?

    • Actually, that already exists. The Wahoo API for CLIMB supports exactly that today. The use case was aimed more at companies like SufferFest and TrainerRoad, but there’s actually usefulness in it for Zwift too – where the ramp rates between how fast the KICKR and CLIMB and independently move can be more closely tied.

    • Was also thinking the use case of the way I currently use xert to control the trainer in erg mode but use zwift as a distraction so would be nice for zwift to control the angle of the bike without xert being impacted.

      Though if xert does decide to add bike angle in some way will want angle control to be taken by xert and not zwift.

      As for zwift API, I’m thinking along the line of having an external app be able to control a zwift workout. Zwift has a great UI, Xert doesn’t. Xert has a great workout, zwift doesn’t. If zwift had an API that external training software like xert, trainer road, sufferfest , etc could use I’d love that

    • I think there’s many good uses for an API, perhaps that’s just one of them.

      But I think as Zwift continues to evolve, the lack of API for such a platform only becomes more and more obvious – especially once you look at ways the ‘community’ can help elevate Zwift. I’ve got some really cool ideas for integrations, but no practical way to integrate them. :-/

  6. a8

    from SWMBO ref NYC : ‘Are they going to add pedestrians and horse shit?’

  7. Phil

    Thanks for the info Ray.

    Just as a question which I’m sure people have asked before and there is a perfectly logical answer to, why isn’t there a Zwift “Lite”?

    So much is made for the need of the hardware to have a high end 3D graphics capability, but for those of us who don’t really care as much about the graphics as opposed to the riding. Is there any future in making a lower res version that runs on more lower end gear.
    I ask this as I can imagine the requirements for running zwift will continue to evolve so that what can run it today will be insufficient in a year or two.

    • DaveG

      Phil, seems to me that the Apple TV works pretty well and does not cost that much. I don’t see how you can get all that much less expensive than that

    • Most systems can handle it today and doesn’t seem like they are planning to add anything that would cause a greater load on the 3d graphics sub system. Well, besides vr goggle support but that wouldn’t replace the current 2d rendering so wouldn’t impact that.

      link to zwiftalizer.com

      You can lower the resolution to 576 and switch to basic graphics now.

      So It would seem like a wasted effort in making the 3d renderer more complex for very little gain

    • My six year old laptop can run Zwift with low resolution just fine. I don’t get all the nifty graphics effects that I just saw for the first time on my Android phone, but during workouts I really don’t notice all the tiny details as long as the frame rate is smooth.

  8. Roy Galvin

    My sentiments! *cough. Does the CompuTrainer count as a smart trainer? :). Still going strong, it just works.

  9. EspenT

    Do you know if Zwift have talked about the possibility to release a SDK so that we can get community-generated maps? That would be pretty sweet.

    Just like in the Flight Sim community you could have users or companies selling new maps for like $20-50 dollars depending on size and the level of details.

  10. Roy Galvin

    Haha! TextEdit 😀

  11. Fabian

    Hi Ray,

    in zwift hype facebook page it’s benn found something like a price list for bikes or jersey in zwift…something like a marketplace.

    And Eric Minn confirmed that a marketplace for zwift is coming…(i don’t think it will be out in august but..have a look at the image..or directly to the facebook page)

    Have u heard something about it ?

  12. Mattv

    Hmm. Central Park? I guess I see where Zwift is headed with their platform. Make it the route of the Apple Lap (the 5 borough race), now that would be an epic ride with the bridges, the traffic, the homeless cart people, and it would be a different story.

    Of course, probably no one reading this will know the the Apple lap was…..

    • pat

      it’s gonna be more like the 5 Borough tour every May except with far less skin lost when the rain hits. And no wait at the end for the ferry to arrive so you can get back to Manhattan.

    • Sausage of Doom

      “with bridges” would be the version that started on Staten Island, won by Ian Jackson, I believe. That would be cool, but the course was not a loop, so they would have to change it. The version that finished on 5th Ave, won by Harvey Nitz, would not add much more variety than if the course was Central Park alone.

    • Mattv

      All I remember is being in the center of a huge pack with with the widest and craziest assortment of riders of all experience levels. I seem to remember it was an open race. So many people jumped in that clearly were not experience or categorized racers. I think Jackson did win that one. It was SO much fun. I went down to jersey shore with some girls I meet and…

  13. Steve

    Any mileage in the possibility of the New York world being run only? Timing of the release in Autumn would link with the NYC marathon date which of course finishes in Central Park. Maybe the extra roads they have in mind are the route from Staaten Island through the boroughs?

    The other piece of thinking that sent me in that direction is that a full marathon course would be a great hook as Zwift look to move running out of beta phase (if I recall this was due early 2019?).

    • Nah, Eric noted it’s both bike/run. Though, I suspect there’s definitely a driving force behind this to make the NYC routes more run friendly than other courses.

  14. Baron ZuZu

    Be nice to get another terrain, it gets a bit repetitive alas. Not to mention that the Richmond course is about as interesting as watching paint dry. Mind you the London one is not much better. So hopefully, they get it ‘right’ this time. Roll on… nothing to see here :p

  15. Joey

    Any info on studio version?

  16. Fabian

    My 2 cents but…

    Innsbruck debuts on 4th august…i hope a world selector will be realised asap… i only like watopia when i need to ride more than 50/60 kms.

  17. Daf

    Ray, as an aside to Zwift making more real world courses, have you heard anything about Rouvy’s augmented reality Beta?

    I’m assuming that it’s something similar to having multiple riders (similar to Zwift) all riding the same video course at the same time, but it’s not completely clear. I wonder if that might put a little pressure on Zwift if that is the case.

    • Yup, here ya go: link to youtube.com

      I put together a video, though not yet a post to accompany it.

    • Daf

      Thanks Ray
      So my understanding of your video is that the avatars aren’t real time other riders, but instead are virtual from other times people have ridden that video in Rouvy? I guess that will reduce the amount of computing power that they’ll need to run it. Although I presume it will need a live wifi connection to run the augmented reality? I currently use Rouvy because the garage has limited connectivity and I can download a video ride before I start.

      Anyway, as always, I’ll look forward to the post.