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Hands-on: Zwift’s New York City Course is Now Available

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After bits of teasing since earlier this summer, the Zwift New York City course is finally here. And, it’s nothing like what you expected. Well, unless you expected flying cars, levitating translucent roadways, and buses dangling from glowing blue railway systems. Which, is what Zwift sees in 2119 (101 years from now).

See, to Zwift’s credit – all of their drips of info and visual leaks to date have meticulously made you believe they were designing a Central Park focused course that would highlight the natural beauty of New York City’s most famed park. And that’s true. There are, in effect, two concurrent levels to what Zwift has designed for New York City. But, let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Unless you want to of course. In which case, just watch this video I stuck together. It has some awesome B-roll montage sections showing off all the courses in it. Why are they awesome? Because it’s Friday, of course, …everything’s more awesome on Friday:

But, if you skipped the video for some bizarre reason, then we can walk through it all in text and photos. If you watched the video – then frankly you’re not going to get much more out of this post. I’d suggest buying these on Amazon to support the site instead.

The Routes:

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Like most Zwift courses, the New York City map is heavily cycling focused. But unlike all courses – it actually has dedicated running trails too. And not only that, but virtually all cycling roads that I rode also have separate running lanes as well. After all, nobody wants to get a Shiv into the back of them.

All of the courses are ‘in’ Central Park, which at first might sound disappointing (I was initially), but hang tight a moment and it’ll become more clear (unless you watched the video, in which case again, go watch cat videos or something).

Here’s the cycling-specific routes first:

Astoria Line 8: A 7.2mi/11.5km loop that has 465ft/142m of elevation gain. It essentially does a double-figure 8 using the main perimeter loop and then two cut-overs.

Everything Bagel: 21.3mi/34.3km with 1,789ft/545m of gain. As the name implies, this does virtually all of the cycling roads (if not all of them), along with hitting both the sprint and KOM in both directions.

Grand Central Circuit: 4.2mi/6.75km with 472ft/144m of gain. This mostly hangs out in the southern end of the park, and tips into the city portion a bit.

Knickerbocker: This 13.9mi/22.4km long route has 1,198ft/365m of gain. It’s essentially combining the Astoria 8 with the Grand Central Circuit, along with a bit of extra backtracking to cover all the ground.

Lady Liberty: 7.7mi/12.4km with 675ft/206m of elevation. This combines the Grand Central Circuit with an 80% loop of the main Park Perimeter loop.

Mighty Metropolitan: 12.5mi/20.1 with 1,044ft/318m of gain. This route is heavily situated above Central Park, with sweeping views of the skyline.

Park Perimeter Loop: 6.1mi/9.8km with 413ft/126m of gain. The one and only classic NYC Central Park loop that you know and love.

Rising Empire: 12.9mi/20.8km with 1,234ft/379m of gain. A combination of the Grand Central Circuit and portions of the Mighty Metropolitan, mostly above the park.

The 6 Train: 4.0mi/6.4km with 226ft/69m of gain. The fastest route around the park with minimal elevation gain.

The Highline: 6.5mi/10.5km with 586ft/179m of gain. Fully on the elevated roadways over Central Park.

Phew, there ya go!

Oh, wait, you wanted running courses too?

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Ok. Well, to begin you can run any of the above courses. But there are also three run-specific courses that are not open to cyclists (at least the Shuman Trail Loop portion). They are:

Flat Irons: 9.2 miles with 478ft of gain: This is a loop around the lake, followed by a loop around the main Park Perimeter.

Hudson Roll: 5.6 miles with 261ft of gain. A loop around the lake as well as inner portions of the park.

Shuman Trail Loop: 1.6mi with 29ft. Just the lake – but also ideal for doing interval workouts, as it’s basically a pancake.

Now technically speaking it’s really only that 1.6mi loop that’s uniquely bike-free, which is less than the new Zwift Island (Watopia) running routes. I’d like to see Zwift add a few more running-specific routes as well to NYC, perhaps below the elevated roadway as it dips over towards the buildings in one area. Either way, it’s a good start.

Riding it:

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Ok, now, let’s get to those flying cars.

But first, the main Central Park Loop. After all, that’s what everyone thought they were getting.  You see, while the Zwift New York Courses at this point does stay fully within Central Park (ok, it goes briefly one block away), it doesn’t do so totally at ground level. Instead, Zwift has basically built two levels.

The lower level is pretty much NYC’s Central Park as you know and love it, while the upper level is fictional and futurist. Of course, both levels can see each other. It’s simply the upper one floats above the lower one on elevated roadways. First, here’s a gallery of screenshots from my loop riding around the lower portion – which is essentially the main roads of Central Park that I’ve run (and ridden) countless times before in real life.

But like other Zwift maps, you can choose one of the various turn-offs to go up onto the elevated roadways, which resembles good ol’ F-Zero from back in the day. My brother and I used to play that game non-stop as kids on SNES. Probably my favorite game.

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Once up on these elevated roadways you see just how futuristic Zwift has made New York City. There are flying cars, crazy bus-monorail floaty things, and pigeons. Because pigeons never die.

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While the vast majority of this elevated section occurs within the boundaries of Central Park, there are some portions that leave it. For example this piece that briefly goes a block away to float at mid-building level:

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Here’s a complete gallery of some of this upper portion from my ride:

As you can see – certainly futurist. What isn’t futurist though is me getting the sprint jersey, ever. Instead, that’s just the beauty of riding the course at a time when nobody else is riding it. Zero peoples. Which is pretty much the only time I’ll ever get that.

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But then I doubled-down on that and also got the route record (lap record) holders jersey too! It’s orange. And they even split across my back to showcase my awesomeness:

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Again, the fact that I was the only one racing isn’t important here. What’s important is that I won.

Oh, speaking of winning – here’s a bit of a gallery from the run route too around the lake. That’s the portion that’s runners only. It’s very…quiet.

And yes, all of this should be available at this very moment for you, hot dog stands and all. You’ll need to update your app though across whatever devices you’re using.

Going Forward:

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There’s no doubt that the New York City course is a welcome addition. It brings us our second course in just a handful of months – a big change from previous years. Of course, it probably won’t appease everyone – but I can’t imagine too many that will be upset by it.

The bigger question in some ways is where Zwift goes from here. Certainly they have plans for world domination, but I can’t help but think that this shows the importance of having functionality like world (map) switching. When I checked in last night there were nearly 4,000 people on Zwift concurrently. And while that might work on a larger map like Zwift Island, it’s less practical on smaller roadway courses like Innsbruck and New York City, which only have about 25KM of roads each. And it’s not even winter yet.

The other aspect I’d like to see Zwift focus on is upping their training game. Certainly the focus on structured training over the past year is good – but I can’t help but feel they’re still lagging behind what others are doing in terms of dynamically looking at performances and suggesting workouts that best fit to that. There are some amazing things that Xert, TrainerRoad, and SufferFest are doing around the holistic aspect of training that Zwift could take cues from.

Still, today’s addition should keep things fresh for a while to come. Plus, who doesn’t like a route named the ‘Everything Bagel’? If only I could get good NYC bagels here in Amsterdam. Mmm…bagels.

With that – thanks for reading and have a good weekend!

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67 Comments

  1. Steve

    Perhaps it’s just me but wouldn’t it be cool if there were “portals” in Zwift maps that would teleport you between maps? That way you could start in London and ride to New York via Watopia! It is a computer game after all.

    I realise that would mess with Strava map uploads a bit but honestly, indoor rides are so different to real rides I don’t think it would matter. The power and metrics would still be valid.

    • Andras Beck

      I think it is a great idea, but I’d place a twist on your idea.

      Make the portals to appear when there is a world change on server, and make it optional to go into the portal. E.g. make it a separate turn on the beach in Watopia, which turn is only active when there is a world change happened, and optional for me to turn into.

      Strava is a thing, yes, it should close the previous activity and start a new one in the new world – so I’d end up two activites, but it’s only strava right? If you want proper data about your indoor efforts, you probably already recording it with Garmin or Wahoo ro sthing separately 🙂

      KR,
      Andras

    • Indeed, Strava is really the main challenge here (and honestly, other platforms as well – since it’s really the limitation of the GPX/FIT/etc file formats). In theory it could split the ride into two activities I suppose. Or in the case of Strava specifically they could do a shim behind the scenes.

    • Paul

      Zwift could do what it already does when you enter a group activity that is in a different world than the active one. Any riding prior to moving to the start line is saved as a separate activity before you are moved between words and the new one is started. It’s not the neatest solution but it would probably be the easiest to implement.

    • Tim Grose

      Yeah you would have thought would not be overly difficult in a “Virtual” ride/run to see two consecutive timestamps thousands of miles apart to largely ignore for any distance computations. I guess the challenge is the “map” but at least all worlds are somewhere on Earth and not elsewhere (yet!)/ In practice world swopping (and so doing same run/ride on same world) is somewhat more likely than “port holes” to jump through.

    • Camillo

      They could move all maps close to Watopia (effectively expanding it). Is it really important that a map is positioned on real coordinates? They are not real anyway, in London there are roads that are in a different area of England, in NY a futuristic highway and in Watopia we have a hint of this concept, Alp du Zwift.

    • I think there should be a “warm up room” for group events. If it’s gamification, how about a whole auditorium/theatre virtual world were you log in, jump on a spin bike with others joining you around the auditorium. Each riders appears with a towel, bottle, bars, all looking at the stage with the compare going through the map, rules and routes, previous scores, who’s who, shout outs and counting down launch.

      The counter can even count down to zero, stage parts and all riders automatically launch into the workout spawning point and the flag drops!

      Make it dramatic, make it game-y, make it fun!

      (with an option to opt out of course for all those who want to take it uber-serious)

    • To be fair, almost all of what you describe does actually exist today for the warm-up. Minus the route preview bit/etc…

      But I agree, there’s so much that Zwift could do with racing. I actually did my first Zwift Race last night, and in doing that first race there’s a lot of little things that I thought could be improved. Some silly, some not.

      For example:

      1) When you click to ‘Join’ a race/event, it’s actually not obvious you need to click on A, B, C, D. I kept clicking join a crap-ton of times before I realized I had to select a category.
      2) While racing, it doesn’t show how/where you place within a category mid-race. You have to kinda guess. You only see total placement mid-race.
      3) When you finish racing, you get the leaderboard, but the leaderboard covers up the racing scene. I’d love to be able to see the leaderboard somewhere and watch the finishers come in.
      4) Racers that are doubling back on the course show up on the nearby riders list. Which is logical according to the rest of Zwift, but it’s actually relatively confusing in a race scene, especially if they’re climbing (so going slower) and you think you’re gaining on them, but in reality they’re coming towards you.
      5) Why doesn’t it e-mail you later after the race with the final results/placements?

      As much as Zwift talks about racing as the future of the platform, it still feels kinda half-baked. Fun yes, but half-baked.

    • Greg A.

      Ray:

      While you make a few good points, I completely disagree with “half-baked”. Regarding your points:

      2) While this would be nice info, does it really matter in most of the races? As long as the promoter requires your name to include your category, you see who in your category is close behind or ahead of you – the folks you would focus on catching or staying ahead of.

      5) Race results on the Zwift leader board are ignored by pretty much everyone. The only results that matter are handled through ZwiftPower.com , which filters out DQs.

      Thanks.

      Greg

    • Ahh, but let me double-down on that half-baked comment then, based on your suggestions. 🙂

      2) Why should I have to change my display name? That’s the most dorky solution on earth that nobody wants to do (plus, it shows you category anyway next to your name). Plus, it doesn’t actually solve the issue. I can’t see how I’m currently placed mid-race. I can’t see how far ahead the next person is unless they’re right next to me on the course (due to the limit of people displayed on the sidebar).

      5) Again, why do I need to go to a 3rd party site? Don’t get me long – I love 3rd party options and integrations, but this should fundamentally be part of Zwift. If 3rd party sites want to do cool analytics – great! But core and official results absolutely should be the domain of Zwift proper if Zwift wants this to be taken seriously.

      Just my two cents.

    • David Chrisman

      I couldn’t agree with Ray more–I’ve missed several races because I had trouble joining at all and then trying to get to right category (easiest on PC–pretty well impossible on iphone). Seeing results is odd too. But the race itself I find really fun and engaging.

  2. Andrea

    Hi Ray,
    Please can you write also Metrics value instead of only imperial units?
    I think Could be a good things, at least you live in europe 😉
    Anyway thanks for your great works.
    Andrea

    • Patrick Utrecht

      You forget the metric units for the running courses.

    • Greg A.

      Ray:

      If Zwift wants eSports to be a much bigger part of their future, then of course they will have to focus on providing a better platform, as you suggest.

      At this point, Zwift uses more of an “open source” approach to events. The individual event promoter provides the format and rules (such as add your category to your display name). This approach lets the promoter be more creative with the types of events offered and probably gives us more choice, than if Zwift decided what events were offered.

      Maybe I overlooked them, but I have not noticed any of the complaints you have mentioned, from the people who race. The main concerns seem to be an experience that approximates IRL racing and the integrity of results. Allowing Zwiftpower to handle results makes some sense, from a business perspective. That way Zwift can avoid having to tell paying customers that they were DQ’d from an event for whatever reason. That’s, potentially, a big headache, that Zwift does not have to deal with.

      We get to race for free, get a great workout and results seem to be reasonably accurate. Mine is only one opinion, so why not ask the group? link to facebook.com

      Greg
      – software developer, IRL race promoter & former mediocre IRL racer

  3. Jsttlmn

    You have a 404 on your Amazon link. Now I’m stuck 😉

  4. Tom

    Hi – any plans to do an updated trainer-app guide? I think that would be great!

    Thanks and have a nice weekend!

    • Yup, but trainer guide coming up first!

      For the trainer app guide, I’ll be limiting it a bit more this year to the top 5-7 apps, and then more of a listing of the remainder of the apps (about 15-20 in total). Otherwise it honestly just becomes so unwieldy and the number of people that seem to care about the other 15 apps seems…well…non-existent in some cases (especially for apps that haven’t been updated recently/much).

    • Tom

      Great, thanks!

  5. Warren

    Are there any sections that you need to be a certain level to access?
    That really annoyed me when they added the mountain section to Watopia and I stopped using Zwift after that. It’s all very well encouraging you to use Zwift more to uncover things but denying access to large parts of the course until you have spent 50 hours on it, was not on.

    • dan

      I AGREE! I PAY for the service they provide. Why am I restricted? I did not pay to play a game or to “earn” the use of the software…I PAY for it. I have no problem not paying at all if they continue to basically say I do not have the same access as others.

    • portemat

      I strongly disagree.
      It is completely normal to earn your way through computer games – and always has been. To me, Zwift should use more of the restricted areas. Otherwise, what is the reward for working more?
      Getting up to Level 12 to be able to ride the Alpe was really motivating. I was happy to pay for Zwift before the Alpe was added (it’s not like existing pieces were taken away). Likewise I was happy to pay for it before NYC was added, and restricting parts of it while I earn access to them would add a lot of interest & motivation.
      However, I do think they should let us choose which course to ride. There are certainly days when I see Richmond is on, and just don’t bother!

    • Dan

      The point is I am paying for the service and wish to use it how I see fit. You wish to use it to reward yourself for working hard….good for you. That’s your choice . Now how about supporting my choice. It’s why I stopped playing computer games. I used to receive a disc. I owned the game. I could play it when and how I wanted and if I wanted to access all the features I could through the use of codes at the very least. Now I have to download software and then play by someone else’s rules.

      Besides the pre req is simply miles? I can put my trainer in dumb mode so there is no resistance and simply spin without effort using a big gear and no weight on my profile and rack up 40 miles an hour or more uphill and down until i get to a certain level?…..it’s dumb. Give paying customers all the features they are entitled to. I’ll go rig a motor to spin a magnet past a cadence and speed sensor and rack up miles stupid crazy. What’s the point? You use it how you see fit and so will I

    • MIke

      I’m level 25 Dan so I get access to everything anyway, but I am in complete agreement with you, you pay the same amount of money as everybody else (ignoring the discount for older members) you should have the same features, it is like going to a restaurant and ordering a dish and it is missing some of the food, the waiter saying… sorry sir, to get your fries you have to eat here 20 times, you pay the same amount, you should get the same features, also Zwift is not a video game, it is an exercise platform.

  6. Claude

    Did a ride this morning. Course looks good but a glitch happened 3 times that caused me to go into the woods and gonin circles. Each time had to exit and restart Zwift.

  7. City Goat

    Central Park is pretty flat. I presume the elevated sections add some climbing?

  8. Graham R

    NYC Bagels in Amsterdam eh? Maybe that’s the next new opportunity instead of cupcakes 🙂

  9. Tim

    Just finished first WBR race on the NY course. The short(er) hard laps make for good racing, had a rather big Xert breakthrough. but I think it would grow stale having only NY courses available.

  10. Brian

    I rode the main loop a few laps this morning, and enjoyed it. Now that I read there are floating roads / cars (my route was the main park circle only) the weird looking buildings in the distance make more sense as do the neon bridges/etc….

    Can’t wait to use my TRON bike on the floating highways!! LOL

  11. Juan Becerra

    Holy sh*t!!!!!!! I literally just rode by my own door! This is amazing! Nothing like riding “local” from the warmth of your home

  12. Steve Switzky

    Is there tourist mode where 20 bikes weave in front of you at 10mph? Kicker dog mode where small furry creatures cross your path randomly? Urban legend mode where kids stretch piano wire across the descent to the ice rink?

    If not, it’s pure fantasy!

    Thanks, Ray!

  13. Geoffrey

    Hoping they take DC’s comment about upgrading the training plans seriously. That would be a game changer.

    • Alex

      Agreed. I was doing TR workouts with Z running in the background. The workout plans seemed dis-jointed with no particular focus. Training rides always ran 0.5 to 1.0 W/kg higher than advertised. With the price increase, I quit Z and will now stay with TR and run YouTube videos in the background. When it comes time to start put in some harder efforts (April/May), maybe I’ll rejoin Z for two months before outdoor riding begins.

  14. Graham

    Really, in 2119 we’re still riding 20th century road bikes? We should all be on recumbents by then, surely?

  15. Wish they would just make an api that others could plug into for workout mode. That way an app like xert could fully control a workout telling it how to control the trainer. I use xert specifically as the example cause of how it isn’t just a workout plan that could be loaded at the start as it needs to get data about the progress of the workout and actively change the workout while in progress.

    Would seem like Zwift would have a very large burden if they tried to compete with those that are more concentrated on how and what workouts should be done. But zwift has a much better UI to distract yourself during a workout session.

  16. Brian Faure

    Took NY map for a spin today. The KOM is a nice short climb. Later I will do some runs on the map.

  17. Benjamin

    The running around the reservoir (Shuman Trail) is horrible – you’re running the wrong way around! All the signs there (IRL) tell you to go anti-clockwise, yet Zwift defaults to you going clockwise. I envision many lawsuits coming from this…

    • Tim Grose

      yeah I noticed that. Do people really run one way IRL? Street view suggesting people at least walking in either direction. I did try a U-turn in game though…

    • Nick S

      Yes. IRL it’s all counter-clockwise for both the path around the reservoir and the main Central Park loop. A handful of runners will go the other direction (clockwise) and it’s no big deal. The bikes on the other hand…

  18. Casey Cook

    Looks slippery. I would be very concerned when it rains.

  19. Just rode it and it’s amazing. But I have to ride it in “dumb trainer mode” even though I have a Direto smart trainer because I, like many others, are suffering from the issue where the resistance is constantly fluctuating. It was fine until they did that update a couple months ago that supposedly improved the road feel of trainers. Any news of when they are going to fix this problem?

  20. Hannes

    I hate it so far, every single route seems to have a bunch of steep climbs, and yes sometimes they are very short, but I would like the option to just do a route that is flat and not be forced every ride to go up steep, boring and slow things when my legs are a bit tired.

    • I think I should just maybe add that I am riding the Zwift Concept Bike and at this moment I am in the top 10 on the Zwift Strava Club (/clubs/gozwift) with 695.4 km.

      I realize this isn’t anything special, my point is just I am no stranger to Zwift and not some noob who started to ride on Friday and is now already complaining.

    • Thomas Wylie

      Agree, the only one that looks remotely flat is the shortest one. I don’t know how the simple park loop has so much elevation when the park is largely flat.

      I also have been riding swift for a while but I’m heavy relative to my power and I mostly ride indoors to do easier rides as it’s hilly where I live so I can’t keep in Z1 or Z2 outdoors.

    • Wyatt

      I agree that it’s a lot more hilly than one would expect, but can’t you just turn off the automatic resistance changes (Erg mode vs slope mode?) and “free ride” to your heart’s content? Obviously you’d be missing out on that aspect of the smart trainers you seem to have, but you can still log your miles in Zwift in the zone you want to be in and just ride steady. I only have a dumb trainer so it only bothers me by slowing down how many miles I’m accumulating 😂.

    • portemat

      Or create a workout – flat at 75% (or whatever) of your FTP. I do this a lot for recovery rides (otherwise, I always get sucked into riding too hard, especially on the KOMs!)

    • Nick S

      IRL Central Park is anything but flat. It is 10k of rollers. Each loop has approx 275-300′ of climbing (my Garmin tends to show anywhere from 250′ to 350′ per loop/lap though).

  21. Nicolas

    More that world switching, I think what they need to do is connect all worlds together through strategically placed wormholes. With custom routes that could open some interesting possibilities for races and group rides.

  22. Gabe

    Wait ray is no longer in Paris?

  23. gingerneil

    I need to spend some time on the treadmill giving zwift a go….. especially now that they have updated the android app to support heart rate monitors. I wondered why I couldn’t get my tickr fit to connect!!
    Just to clarify – you can’t have ‘single player’ mode where you are there in the world by yourself ?! You *have* to share with everyone else ? Surely that’s got to change at some point, especially as its gets more popular? An instance for you if you want to be lonely, one for a team of friends who are competing against each other but don’t want a crowd, and then public worlds that anyone can join… a bit like other online gaming platforms.
    Or have I got this wrong ?

    • You can ride solo, but the solution is not ideal. It’s a workaround You need to log into Zwift and start a ride, then disconnect your internet connection! Everyone else will disappear and you can ride the course solo. You just need to manually upload your ride after or re-connect before finishing.

      You can’t have a private group as yet though. Would be a neat addition though!

  24. Jake

    They have too many maps without having a choice where to go. There needs to be a main drop down for map then one for course. I actually enjoy Watopia the best still

  25. JMS

    The reservoir. Not the lake. The reservoir.

  26. giorgitd

    I rode the Mighy Metropol Sunday. The graphics show off the programming and creative chops at Zwift – you’re on a semi-transparent road and can see what is beneath you. It’s a neat look and the flying cars and all are pretty cute. BUT…I would ride/run CP in Zwift (or IRL) for the natural beauty and there is precious little of that in Zwift CP, at least on this route. In fact, once your get over the ‘gee whiz’ of the futuristic virtual world appearance…well…I’m just not interested. I suppose if you are in trainer mode or racing, the virtual world aspect is secondary. But if you’re riding around and looking for interesting details – it’s too repetitive. And isn’t the attraction of the virtual world appearance a part of the draw for Zwift? If I want to bust my a$$ training without the virtual world, I have plenty of choices, some free (for now). I think that CP is a brilliant idea, but the implementation is a total mistake.

    • Suddy

      I felt the same in the first tour NY stage. I had very little sense of where I was on all the high futuristic bits. I’m hoping stage 2 shows me more of ground level.

  27. Rosko

    Wish they would actually design a decent menu & GUI as more of a priority.

  28. Clayton Bigsby

    I just rode NY (and ZWIFT) for the 1st time this season. Did about 800 miles earlier this winter..I’m at live 12.
    Ive always had the difficulty or REALISM set to 100%..like since Day One…and it has seemed pretty real if maybe somewhat easier than reality.
    But today it seems very sporadic and inconsistent with gradients rapidly changing and a 3% feeling like a 10% or vice versa…like going from 1% to 3% and almost not being able to downshift far enough fast enough and WAY more than I should need to….

    Anybody else sensing something like this?

    • Clayton Bigsby

      BTW I have a Direto….and just now saw post #48….. and previous should have said “LEVEL 12″…

      Question still stands…Anyone else having similar issues? or is it the Direto’s and Zwift’s “update”?