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Zwift Launches Neokyo Roads: First Ride Thoughts

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Zwift had just released the Neokyo roads, which are an addition to the Makuri Islands that were launched last spring. They connect to the existing Yumezi roads (which are also part of the Makuri Islands map), so you can ride between the two map chunks as you see fit. This map expansion was announced almost exactly a month ago, as part of a slate of new changes coming to Zwift this winter. In other words, this is the first of the new things.

These new routes roughly double the total road mileage within the Yumezi map (which was previously 27.6km/17.1mi miles) – so we’re talking about 50KM of total roadways now within the Makuri Islands.

Unlike all existing maps, the Neokyo routes will only be nighttime roads, as it highlights the neon nature of the scenery. And neon there is…it’s literally as if someone owned stock in a neon sign company, and got paid commission or licensing fees for usage. But kidding aside, it’s also by far the most incredible set of roads visually that Zwift has ever done. The attention to detail and nuance is astounding.

I gave the map a whirl earlier this morning before the roadways opened up, and I think I covered almost all the roads in the process (including re-riding some sections a number of times getting hopelessly lost on top of the buildings). Yes, I said on top.

Note that if you plan to ride Neokyo, you should be able to do so now, but you’ll need to update your Zwift app, and that this particular update is a beefcake, so don’t do it at the last second if jumping in on a scheduled ride with friends.

The Neokyo Routes:

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Given that Neokyo is a part of the Makuri Islands, you can see it on the same map as the existing Yumezi portion. Yumezi is more countryside Japan themed, while Neokyo is more Tokyo themed. Some of the official routes (such as Wandering Flats, shown above), incorporate both. Above you can see for size and scale, the two chunks side by side.

There are 8 new official routes added today, seven of which are fully within Neokyo, and two of which bridge the map pieces.

Here’s the official listing/descriptions of routes from Zwift, along with screenshots I grabbed from the app, which, explains but doesn’t explain why the official Zwift route specs differ from what Zwift says in their app. I’m giving you both from Zwift, because frankly, I don’t know which one is right.

RAILWAYS AND ROOFTOPS:

 

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Take to the upper city where you will race along city railways and rooftops.
Distance: 3.8 mi // 6.1 km, Elevation Gain: 226 ft // 68.9 m

 

ROOFTOP RENDEZVOUS:

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Feel the burn as you climb to the top of Neokyo, scaling rooftops and monorails on the way.
Distance: 2.3 mi // 3.7 km, Elevation Gain: 16.7 ft // 5.1 m

 

NEON FLATS:

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Paint the town as you dominate three sprints along this flat route through the city.
Distance: 8.9 mi // 14.4 km, Elevation Gain: 474.7 ft // 144.7 m

 

SPRINTER’S PLAYGROUND:

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Keep that heart racing as you complete four sprints in a single route.
Distance: 7.6 mi // 12.3 km, Elevation Gain: 157 ft // 51.5 m

 

NEOKYO ALL-NIGHTER:

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Explore everything that Neokyo has to offer including four sprints and a KOM along this challenging route
Distance: 15.1 mi // 24.3 km, Elevation Gain: 562.3 ft // 171.3 m

 

SLEEPLESS CITY:

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Make your way through the heart of the city as you wind along this fast route.
Distance: 5.7 mi // 9.2 km, Elevation Gain: 268 ft // 81.7 m

 

WANDERING FLATS:

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This long flatter route will take you from the scenic countryside to the bustling city.
Distance: 16 mi // 25.7 km, Elevation Gain: 866 ft // 264 m

 

TEMPLES AND TOWERS:

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From downtown rooftops to mystical temples, grind to complete three KOM’s in a single route.
Distance: 20.2 mi // 32.5 km, Elevation Gain: 2,261.2 ft // 689.2 m

My First Neokyo Ride:

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Ok, to get things cooking I started with the the ‘Railways and Rooftops’ route. Namely because I heard something about checking out a train back in October, and if there’s anything I’m eager to go do – it’s play in train traffic.

This route starts out briefly on the ground, before you climb your way up to one of two elevated levels. The first level is basically the elevated tramways:

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I’m not entirely sure if tramway is the right word here, as they also carry cargo. Most importantly is you can ride your bike next to them. The trains/trams/whatever’s loop around on a short circuit, so it won’t take long to see them screaming by.

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I’m sure some will try and sprint and catch them, but I didn’t have enough coffee for that today. Plus, the trainer I was testing was being a PITA and already half-broken, so I didn’t want to push my luck.

Now, this route is named ‘Railways and Rooftops’, and I can confirm that you do indeed go up on rooftops. Because apparently playing in train traffic wasn’t dangerous enough. I’m sure there’s a Squid Games joke in here somewhere, but this is supposed to be Japan, not South Korea (yes, they’re both close by, but not same-same).

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In general, I’m going to avoid riding Neokyo with the Elite Sterzo Smart, because without any guardrails on the tops of these buildings, I’m liable to steer myself off the edge of the building while eating a Haribo gummy bear.

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After I meandered around up top, I attempted to get myself back down. that turned out to be sightly more difficult than I envisioned. As a refresher, this is what the map here looks like. Basically, it’s like a piece of spaghetti stayed up too late, got drunk at the bar, and then passed out:

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Eventually though I got myself back down, not just from the rooftops, but from the rooftops to the elevated train roadway, and then again to the ground.

I visited some food trucks, but regrettably no food was served, not even a burrito.

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I did find some bicycle lanes, which you actually briefly ride in. I thought the detailed roadway signs you see throughout downtown were super well done.

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Along the way I went through an indoor arcade, which had Zwift stations set up with cyclists pedaling on bikes in front of screens, using what appear to be beta editions of Zwift’s upcoming Zwift Bike Hardware.

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Mostly though, you’re just riding through a lot of dark city with bright neon lights, and a ton of people and pets alongside doing all sorts of random things.

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Oh, and there’s even Mt. Fuji off on the distance:

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You can head towards the harbor area, which makes a short loop where the neon fades away, and you’re on a quiet street. I imagine this would be great as part of a fast-paced circuit.

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From there you can meander through some cherry trees as you enter the grounds of the temple:

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This portion of the map feels like a transported bit of the regular countrywide Yumezi area, ported into Neokyo:

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After about 45 minutes of meandering and swerving through the neon lights, I called it a day. I had covered almost all of the roads in the new map, save the connector to the Yumezi map, as well as two alternate connector roads to the harbor. Gotta save something for next time!

Wrap-Up:

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This is unquestionably the most detailed and artistically forward map that Zwift has ever produced. Nothing else comes close, and it really shows how far they’ve come. The visual detail seen here is leagues beyond what we’d see from an older map like Richmond, or even large chunks of Watopia. I’m sure I could ride it 25 times and still not notice some silly little vending machine detail, or random easter egg on the side of the road.

However (look, ya know there was a however coming), my only complaint here, is that it sorta all just become a neon light swerving blur. Which is to say that while specific landmarks became memorable (e.g. next to the train tracks, the food trucks, etc…), much of it just became a never-ending twisting-turning blend of a dark city with bright lights – especially up on the rooftop areas. My screen was rotating with the non-stop turns so quickly that it was hard to appreciate it. Maybe I just need to ride slower, who knows. Does Zwift have a unicycle?

And ultimately, that’s somewhat the tricky situation Zwift is in. They won’t win everyone with every addition, or even the entirety of just someone. In my case, I appreciated the graphical and design elements of it – it’s awesome, and very well done. But from the cycling side of my brain, it just seemed a bit over the top to actually ride a trainer though. I mean like, literally, over the top – you were on people’s rooftops.

Zwift has said that they see the Makuri islands as the next big equal to Watopia. So to that end, we see Mt. Fuji off in the distance at various turns, and in fact, even see closed roadways leading off the map. Undoubtedly, those will eventually be opened up, and likely with different terrain that’ll suit different folks.

Plus, we’ve got the big user interface refresh coming up, which if Zwift is on schedule, means it’ll start hitting people’s computers next month. I’m certainly looking forward to that, and giving it a whirl.

With that – thanks for reading!

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35 Comments

  1. John R

    Is South Korea an island? News to me!

  2. Kevin

    The image for Neon Flats is showing Sleepless City. Looks awesome though!!

  3. CJ

    “…what appear to be beta editions of Zwift’s upcoming Zwift Bike Hardware…”

    Not sure if kidding or low-key hinting their bike is really going to look like the Z1. (that would be one heckuva good looking smart bike…)

  4. Lennart

    The elevation in your descriptions oftentimes does not match the screenshots.
    From those pictures it seems like riding Neokyo is much hillier than I expected.

    • Yeah, I’m not sure what to say on that one. Zwift provided the route specs in a sheet, and then I provided the screenshots from the actual game. I honestly have no idea which one is ‘correct’, since they both come from Zwift. 🙂

    • Crankenstein

      The distances in the route picker (route list in the game) include the leadin for the route. On the shorter routes, the leadins have a decent amount of elevation gain to get to the rooftops, which is why they look hillier than the normal route stats. But you only do those climbs just to get to the route, so doing multiple laps will not add quite so much elevation.

  5. Jordi Backx

    Fuji was already at the horizon in the first Makuri release and am confident they’ll release a Fuji climb/KOM in the future.

  6. CJ

    FYI: the wild, decked out trucks are “ Dekotora”, not food trucks: link to en.wikipedia.org

  7. Allen Horrigan

    The makuri and neokyo routes are too small. If you have OCD for the route badges your sessions are stop and start and mess my strava up. They need to make some Pretzl versions for Makuri.

    Also Neokyo will be a nightmare for decent rebel routes

  8. Eggs Tyrone

    Great info. Thanks for the review!

  9. Robert Mang

    Rode there this morning. Really enjoyed it. However, the incessant background noise (apparently trying to simulate traffic) got to be a bit much. And as a side note, the real Tokyo is pretty quiet in most places. I had to turn my sound down after a while. This is a distraction to me.

  10. Now that Zwift is launching more and more detailed textures, maps and terrains, how’s this stacking up against user accessibility in computer spec? Does a lower detailed and resolution map (old Watopia) require less GPU and CPU specs but moving to the newer maps (Neokyo especially) mean that cyclists are going to be needing to upgrade their PC’s as often as their groupsets? How stark a difference can it make? For example if I’m riding and my GPU is at 90% utilisation with 1080p graphics on the main island, will riding into the neon night then push it over the edge and I’ll either crash or have to go blocky and downgrade frame rate or resolution?

    Exciting times as cycling online jumps from early stage gaming towards the higher performance gaming worlds. Zwift although advanced for cycling is still a long way behind online gaming in terms of graphics, maps, textures, details and the associated equipment needed to play it. It would be interesting to know where the cyclists gaming budget snaps – certain online riders will certainly be dropping many thousands on their pain caves while others max out at a couple hundred as they are more interested in Zwift complementing their road riding and only diverts cash away from bike upgrades. Will some of the more casual users get dropped out the bottom based on tech entry barriers?

    Will future “bundles” end up being a Giant TCR with a Wahoo training pack AND a Giant/Wahoo branded gaming PC ready for out the box joining?

    • Mike

      The bottleneck in Zwift is the CPU and not the GPU, and the optimization is remarkably bad. If you want 60fps consistently you’re looking at a 10th gen intel processor and at least a 1660 (but probably need a 3xxx realistically). Watopia only requires moderately-specced hardware but the new areas are ridiculous.

    • MR

      Exactly Mike, Makuri & Neokyo is so badly coded that holding 60FPS is near impossible, even with the latest CPUs.
      I’m getting 35-40fps with an i7-4770 & GTX1070 on Neokyo but can hit 100FPS in parts of Watopia.

    • Duncan Tindall

      I can confirm that the new map area looks shite at low res and frame rates tank on a i3-2100 series processor. Admittedly this is a very discount setup (NZ99 off lease), but is fine/good on the other maps whilst also streaming tv shows to a second screen.

      But neon Tokyo looks really bad with the detail turned down, and even then is very sluggish, especially when you are in the tight part where there’s los of riders around (eg looping course running side by side).

    • JayDee

      I don’t think you are right Mike. It’s just that their engine is total crap. Normally I use Zwift on my ntb, because reasons, but I also have a few yo gaming PC with i5-4460 and GTX 970. I tested the currently live worls, that is Watopia, NY and Makuri and got this data.
      Watopia both cpu and gpu load around 30 % with FPS capped at 60.
      NY cpu load still 30 %, but gpu load 45 % and FPS a bit below 60.
      Old Makuri cpu load 30 %, gpu load 60 % and FPS around 40.
      New Makuri (Neokyo) cpu load 30 %, gpu load 45 % and FPS around 30.
      All of these are at medium settings (720p), because that’s what I use my ntb and… Going to 4k UHD (2160p) changes just ONE thing in Neokyo and thas is gpu load at 70 % now. Cpu load still at 30 % and FPS still around 30.

      That is some funky shit going on, utter crap of an engine, and it makes me mad, because on my ntb, while I have only around 40 fps, it’s almost always smooth, but Neokyo runs around 20 fps and it’s horrible. The detail is also non-existent, since I run it at low settings, because iGPU.

    • Mike

      JayDee the bottleneck is definitely the CPU, and yes the engine is awful, and we can assume all the code in general is a mess given that every time they fix a bug they inadvertently break something else. They really need to spend a few months cleaning up their code, there’s no a game as basic as zwift should need top end computer specs to run at just-acceptable levels.

    • Mike

      I should expand…the reason your CPU utilization is only about 30% is because Zwift only uses one core, and it’s maxing that core out. It’s only able to push so much to the GPU so a more powerful GPU won’t gain you anything. Check out people’s benchmarks on neokyo, I’m running an i5-4670 with gtx770 and have better (but still poor) performance than people with an i3-2/3xxx and a gtx1060.

    • MR

      There’s definitely a CPU bottleneck here and its because of the bad coding. My GTX1070 GPU is at 40% utilisation in Neokyo but only pushing 4K/40FPS and that’s because my i7-4770 CPU is struggling.
      One core is getting hammered while the others are just ticking over, total CPU utilisation is low but the core Zwift uses is very high.
      In other worlds it pushes 4K/60FPS at 35% GPU and 70% CPU.

    • JayDee

      Oh wait. That didn’t cross my mind at all. Are we in 2003 or what that we have a ‘game’ utilizing just 1 cpu core?!
      To be honest though, I wouldn’t say that the cpu is really a bottleneck in this case. That is just development gone wrong on so many levels…
      You say they need to spend a few months cleaning up their code. I say that wouldn’t do us any good.
      They simply have to start from ‘scratch’ using a 3rd party engine, since theirs is utter crap.
      I am positive that even if they didn’t have new features for a year, if they published Zwift 2.0 after that time that would behave like an actual video game and not some cheap imitation, they’d win many people back. Yet instead they are cutting off support for older platforms and releasing an expansion that runs at 30 fps on high end rigs.
      Looking forward to mass participation events in Makuri/Neokyo running at < 15 fps.

  11. Fabio

    I agree with Ray, riding it was not a pleasure for me. Too many 90° turns and i hate all that reflections on the tarmac…
    What i’m worried about is that Watopia seems to be forgotten by ZwiftHQ after titan’s groove expansion(i know about the shortcuts expansion…but i can’t consider it a real expansion…)

  12. Hans Esser

    I rode the the All-Nighter yesterday. Well, it’s certainly a great work of programming with lots of crazy lights and effects. But to be honest, in real life I would never ride through urban jungles in the darkness of the night or through arcade halls. I definitely prefer sunny countryside routes. I guess I’m gonna finish the route badges of Neokyo and then return to Watopia, to Surrey Hills of London, to France or to Central Park, NYC.

  13. If I’m counting right there are eight routes… Not nine.

  14. David Stevens

    Agree with your comments about the overload in these new routes. I grabbed a few route badges and then jumped back onto the C pacer train to chill out a bit.

    Will I ride these regularly? I don’t think so

  15. MR

    Not really impressed with the new map, too cluttered and fussy, Watopia is much nicer to ride on.

  16. BNK Racing

    I quite enjoyed the new route. Hopefully they use it to create a new course for crit city races!

  17. Scott Jarvis

    Off the Neokyo topic…but from a Zwift standpoint, I wonder how come your rides are in miles instead of km? There’s more points to be had if you are using the metric system (20/km or 30/mile). Since a mile is more than 1.5x a km, you are losing points…

  18. Wim

    I think the map expansion is a move to Asia for Zwift. People in Korea and Japan both tend to love extremely colorful and artsy views; you just have to visit Tokyo or Seoul. But more importantly, people tend to like what they recognize and off course, this is familiar for people in Japan.

    So us westward people might not feel much for the trippy neon views, but I don’t think we are the target audience. I’m sure this will help increase interest in Zwift in Korea and Japan. I wouldn’t be surprised to see expansions in the world mimic Chinese locations next.

  19. Warren

    As someone who recently spent five years living and cycling in Tokyo and the surrounding beautiful countryside and mountains, I was really disappointed with Yumezi section when released. It looked like whoever had designed it had never visited Japan and only seen it in books. The grass in particular was all wrong. The rice paddies were wrong, the trees were wrong. The buildings were more authentic Japanese but looked like they had been dropped in Thailand, not Japan.
    Thankfully Neokyo is far more like Tokyo at night. All those Neon signs you thought were too numerous are genuinely everywhere in the shopping and eating districts. That “Tram” looks like a genuine Yamamoto train that runs on high level tracks in a large circle round central Tokyo. The harbour track looks like the pedestrian/cycling routes down the side of the river that head to the harbour. I would liked to see one or two more famous Tokyo buildings (e.g. Tokyo tower that is very similar to the Eiffel Tower) but basically it’s good