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Has Zwift been changing the speed of its bikes?

New Zwift Insider research sheds light on virtual gear differences

Photo by: Zwift

Zwift news and insight website Zwift Insider just published the results of its extensive performance testing of bike frames and wheels in Zwift. Although Zwift says that companies don’t pay to have their virtual products perform better, game engineers will take information about the real-life gear and translate it to its digital counterpart, which creates small discrepancies in performance.

For most Zwift riders, these differences aren’t a big deal and the gear selections they make, paid for with their hard-earned ‘drops’, will likely be based on preference for the real-life products. There are, however, other users that want a competitive advantage for either racing or simply the satisfaction of knowing they’re going as fast as possible.

It’s not the first time Zwift Insider did these tests, but some notable changes were found. Some speed discrepancies were due to differences in Zwift’s pack dynamics, while others were changes to equipment made by the developers for unknown reasons.

Different speeds

Zwift Insider used a 183cm, 75kg bot rider going at a steady 300W for all of its tests. The bot rode up Alpe du Zwift twice for each climbing test and Tempus Fugit twice for the flat test. Both tests took about 50 minutes each time.

124 items were tested: 35 wheelsets, 62 road frames, the Zwift concept Z1 “Tron bike”, 16 time trial frames, five MTB frames and five gravel frames.

The biggest changes were seen when testing equipment on the climbs. Fifty of the tested 124 items were now faster by 1.5 seconds or more compared to their previously measured times. Notably, the Felt AR frame was six seconds faster, giving it the same climbing time as the Specialized Venge S-Works frame. Cannondale’s EVO frame was three seconds faster, which makes it the second-fastest climbing bike (Specialized Aethos was first.) The Trek Madone was also three seconds faster on the climb, moving it up to 36th place on the list.

The Zwift Safety bike and Buffalo Fahrrad bikes are both 17.5 seconds slower than before on the climbs and 15 seconds slower on the flats, making the fun bikes truly a symbol of riders who couldn’t care less about their digital segment times.

Inexplicably, the Lauf True Grit bike was four seconds slower on the flat and 24 seconds slower on the climb, making it much slower than most other gravel bikes in the game.

On the flats, the Roval Alpinist CLX wheels were two seconds slower than previously, while the Zwift 50mm carbon wheels were 3.5 seconds faster. A number of frames also gained 1.5 seconds of speed on the flats: Cannondale Synapse, Giant Propel Advanced SL Disc, Giant TCR Advanced SL, Ridley Noah Fast Disc, Canyon Lux and Specialized Epic S-Works. The Focus Izalco Max 2020 and Pinarello Dogma F went the other way, measuring 1.5 seconds slower than before.