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Thursday, January 20, 2022

Zwift: Completing All the Routes - COMPLETE! - Part 2 - Route Ranking

Part 2!

Before I started trying to do all of the routes, I didn't really use... routes. Which is kind of a shame, given the really do give you a great overview of all that the worlds have to offer!

So without further ado, here are the Best and Worst Routes of each world, according to... me! 

Watopia

Best: The Mega Pretzel 



I am going to confess right now - I love the Jungle, and the Mega Pretzel hits it twice. Switch to the mountain bike, pass everyone, weeeeeee!

This route also avoids the dreadfully boring Tempus Fugit, has plenty of climbing (but nothing silly like the Alpe!), and is constantly throwing different things at you.  A great tour of the world.


This one is so popular I'm surely the odd one out, but gawd how do people stand doing mind-numbing flat laps on repeat.  Zzzzz.  

If you love riding in a pack through deathly boring terrain and never having to get out of the saddle, this is the route I guess. Good for tallying up a lot of miles, not much else.

Makuri Islands


A new addition and longer route (22.4km) that spans Neokyo and Yumezi (the countryside) - with a decent climb and lots of riders around to mingle and draft off.  Showcases the world well, without the gravely bits that can be a bit annoying (not long enough to switch bikes, long enough to slow you down). 


A 3.2km route to nowhere, not even a loop, why does this exist?

London


Lovely tour of the flat parts of London and, of course, Box Hill!


No, it's not the PRL Full - that at least has a purpose (to be really long) and a vibe (loops!).

The London Pretzel meanders without purpose, duplicating flat sections for no apparent reason other than to maybe beef up the mileage?

New York


Stays on the ground, where New York looks like New York! Always lots of traffic, enough hills and terrain changes to keep a person interested.  Timed loop if you want to challenge yourself.

Worst: Most Of Them

Most of the NYC routes are indifferentiable from each other - just some silly doodle with the KOM in one direction or the other, or both.  I intensely dislike the skyway thing, and they almost all use it.

Stick with Park Perimeter Loop or Astoria 8 Line IMO.

Paris

Not really worth ranking - there are 2 routes, both flat and not terribly interesting.

France

Best: R.G.V.

This is one of my favourite routes in the entire game - flat and fast, but still fun! When you ride it in an Event it's a challenge to stay with the pack, with the little tough climb mid-lap and some quick accelerations when you may not expect it as you blast through little ups and downs and S-bends near the end of the lap.


It's not terrible, but the 3km uphill lead-in is annoying. 

Richmond

Best: 2015 UCI Worlds Course

Lots of fun on this one!  A great little varied course, some stiff climbs, quick descents and fast flats.

Innsbruck


It's short, it's fast, and it has a wicked "Leg Snapper" climb to separate the men from the boys! A lot of fun in a race (except for fatties like me!) as the group gets blown apart and re-assembles in time for the next loop of getting blown apart again!


Whose brilliant idea was it to have a huge climb and over 10km Lead In???

Dumb. If you do it as a meet-up you can skip that, but for some reason the regular route includes this silliness. 

Yorkshire


You're here, might as well do all the roads in both directions, right?  Nice climbs and little town roads.


3km? 1.7km Lead-in?? Why bother?


Zwift: Completing All the Routes - COMPLETE!

 

Who-hoo! All 105 Zwift Routes complete!

2,670km!

132,409 feet of climbing!

52,257 XP!

I started targeting this after most of last year, when I realized I had already done a bunch and it would be an interesting challenge.

It was.  Here's what I learned along the way.

Best Way To Do A Route

Events

There are good events, great events, and terrible events... and which you choose makes a huge difference!

Most events don't have alllll that many people, so they're only useful if the pace of the main group is something you can maintain comfortably. If you can, they can be a huge boost to your speed and motivation.

Great events include the Tour de Zwift, or some of the Fondo series - where you have hundreds and hundreds of riders around of all different abilities.  It's almost impossible to find yourself alone on these, groups will develop at every level of fitness.  Find your match and thrive!

If you find yourself in a terrible event ... where you fly off the back and end up solo?  Sometimes it's best to simply leave it.  If the world is on the calendar, you might find more draft partners than tooling around miles behind the pack.

Solo

Check the World Calendar, select the route and ride!

Simple - except you still want company and most importantly draft partners. Weekends around noon Eastern Time seem to be the best - lots of evening Europe riders plus all the U.S./Canada timezones all at once!  I recently did the PRL Full in London and there were between 4000-7000 riders in the "world" the entire ride - so many people to chase, draft, chat with (if that's your thing).  It's often better than an Event, this is how I did most of my routes.

    A Few Route Awards

    There's a bunch of things that can make a route tough - here's some of my thoughts. YMMV!

    Toughest Climbing Route

    Four Horsemen is my choice here. There are a bunch of routes that go up the Alpe du Zwift, but this one puts the Epic climb (PLUS the bonus climb!) right before it.  No breaks, just Epic+ then Alpe.

    Toughest Long Route

    Uber Pretzel or PRL Full?  Tough call.  I had a tougher time with the PRL Full but it was probably the time of year and my fitness more than the route - the loops are actually quite digestible, and the climb not so tough.   

    The Alpe at the end of the Uber Pretzel, when you've already got 115km in your legs is hard... but you've also been tooling around on the Fuego Flats at 40-50km/h with an awesome draft (if you're free-riding it!) so you have a lot of time to recover and chill between climbs.

    I'm giving the edge to PRL Full, it's just so long.

    Worst World for Routes

    New York, and it's not even close.

    Other worlds this size have 5 or 6 routes, for some reason they decided to have 11 routes that are pretty much carbon copies of each other in New York.  Blurgh.

    Don't get me wrong - I love the Park Loop. But that elevated glass section is so repetitive, and it's in almost every route.  How many times do I need to do the same bloody climb... I dreaded it every time.

    Best and Worst Routes By World

    I will do a follow-up post with this ... stay tuned!

    What's Next?

    I still have to earn my TRON bike so there's the climbing challenge - then I'm not sure!


    Sunday, January 16, 2022

    Ride Report: Zwift "The PRL Full"

    PRL Full

    The distance (173km) is daunting, the total climbing (8,198 feet) is bananas.

    And the route... I mean there's nothing wrong with the "London Loop" or Box Hill, but... 11 times??

    Up Box Hill the first time, 10 more to go!

    Mentally challenging!

    There are two options for this one - try find an organized ride or free ride it on a London day.  I had previously done the Half PRL in an organized ride, got dropped a couple loops in and had a rough day - so figured I would have better luck free riding it.

    So when I saw London on the schedule for a Saturday?  I circled it.

    My Ride

    One hot tip - if you set your last name in Zwift to include (PRL Full) - people cheer you on, give you Ride Ons, etc. Also saw a few others doing the same ride which was neat!

    At one point there were over 7,000 riders in London!!!  Lots of folks to interact with, draft off (especially on the flat parts!), be inspired by.  

    First Few Laps

    It hard to not get excited starting out something like this... so I probably went out a little hot.  Fastest climb up Box Hill was Lap 1!

    A little over an hour in - disaster! Complete power drop-out. What a time for a battery to die!

    I stopped, messed with it for a bunch, found a spare battery... about 5 minutes to get going again, and another 15 or 20 to get back into a groove.

    After that every lap was kind of the same
    • Easy on the London flats
    • 2.5-2.9w/kg on Box Hill (~11 minutes)
    • Easy (or off entirely!) down Fox Hill - snack, lube, stretch
    • Up that damn subway escalator thing
    • Easy back to the London Loop Start/Finish
    Laps 9, 10 and 11 

    ... were pretty death-marchy, as you can see from my Box Hill lap times. I'm not in summer shape here so almost 6 hours on the bike was hard.  Had a tough time holding 2.5w/kg even on Box Hill climb, just kept giving what I could. Stuffed myself as full as my stomach would allow for!

    The Last 8km

    One of the goofy things about this ride is that after you've done 11 London Loop laps, there's still 8km to go... for some reason you cross over the Thames again to do a loop near the Box Hill start then return to London and finish at The Mall.  I'm assuming this is to match the distance of the "IRL" PRL ride??

    It's a bit diabolical, but I mostly used it as a cool down.  Spin spin spin, survive, finish.

    Never again.
     
    Final Thoughts

    Honestly, doing laps wasn't that bad - it was nice to know the course and use some of that knowledge to have a strategy the next lap. Knowing where the Power Ups were and when to use them (save the feather for the escalator!!!) was nice.  

    First couple laps I tried to get into a pack on the way down Fox Hill, but realized there were always other riders joining in at the bottom from other routes - so didn't need to worry to set up a draft up to the escalator.

    People said this was easier than the Uber Pretzel - I'm not sure. Maybe!?  For me that extra hour really hurt, even though the Uber Pretzel ends up the Alpe... Uber also has the long Fuego Flats sections in the middle, so lots of easy recovery riding. YMMV!

    I'm pretty sure I'll never do this again, though... I might Uber it up someday though.

    Friday, January 14, 2022

    Zwift: Completing All the Routes - Update #6 and the FULL PRL STILL looms

     

    More Routes!

    Since my last update, the number of Badge-Earning Routes has grown from 101 to 106!

    I managed to get in the ones they added last update (even the Event-Only one) and then ... they added 2 more!

    So I thought this weekend would bring my quest to an end, but alas, I will still have a couple to go.

    (I'm not really complaining - I love having more routes to tackle, keep it going Zwift!)

    Full PRL

    173km. 6+ hours. Shudder.

    I tried the Full PRL before Christmas, but just didn't have it that day and cut it short very early.

    Bright side - I learned that doing it as part of an event wasn't great.  Too much pressure to keep with a group, and it wasn't a large enough event to be super choosey on one's pace.  Worse, it wasn't on a day where London was one of the worlds, so even if you left the event you were all alone!

    So this time I'm doing it on just a regular Saturday "London" Day.  There should be plenty of people to draft off when I need it, and I can do it at my own pace.

    Tomorrow's the Big Day!  Wish me luck. I will need it. 

    Wednesday, December 8, 2021

    Zwift: Completing All the Routes - Update #5 and the FULL PRL looms

     

    91 done, 10 to go! 


    I hit Ven-Top this weekend, the longest climb in the game - that was pretty cool.  It wasn't as steep as Alpe de Zwift, and it was busy that day in France so lots of company.

    Three big rides still loom - and this Saturday it's time for The PRL Full.


    PRL Full

    173km on the trainer sounds horrible... but so did the Uber Pretzel, and that ended up being kind of fun.

    Box Hill 11 times, though??  The same London Loop, 11 times? 

    I was originally planning to do it on a weekend when London was on the Guest World calendar, but then it popped up in this Badge Hunters Series for Saturday.  Misery loves company!

    Bike choice - I'm going to go with a mixed set-up here, I think drafting will be important but so will climbing.  Aeroroad with Zipp 454s. 

    Lots of water, calories, coasting, try find a few friends to draft when I can... and keep them pedals turning!


    Sunday, November 28, 2021

    Ride Report: Zwift Uber Pretzel

     I have been working on completing all the routes on Zwift, which is all fun and games...

    ... except for a few torture rides.

    The Uber Pretzel is one of those.


    128km and it includes the Epic KOM (with the bonus radar tour!) and finishes with the grueling Alpe du Zwift!

    Or, put another way, about 5 hours on the indoor trainer for me turning around 2.5w/kg.

    There's a really great route description at Zwift Insider if you want to get a broad idea of what this ride is, but I'll give you some of the nitty-gritty.

    When To Do It

    The two choices you really have are an Event or Freeride and choose the route.

    I decided to Freeride it, for the simple reason that the events were reasonably under-subscribed.  If there are only a handful of riders doing it together, you don't get the benefit of the draft - and there are a lot of opportunities on this one to draft!

    I chose a Saturday morning as it seemed like when Zwift has the most active riders.

    This worked out great - I had company most of the ride!

    What Bike To Use

    This was a bit trickier because this route visits almost every corner of Watopia.

    Some people are allergic to bike switching, but I always hate having the wrong bike for the job... a bad climber or bad aero for hours sucks.  And there's nothing worse than a road bike in the Jungle!  Other than maybe a TT bike haha.

    Here is what I ultimately decided... 


    I had planned to do the Optional bike switches as well, but when it came down to it... I didn't bother.  Went Climber-MTB-Aero-Climber, so only 3 switches.

    My lightest climbing bike was the Cannondale Evo with the Lightweight Meilensteins.

    My best mountain bike is the Trek Super Caliber.

    My best aero setup is the Cervelo S5 2020 with the Zipp 808's.

    Is switching the fastest way to cover the course?  I mean, who cares... it's 5 hours!!!  Taking 20 seconds to switch bikes won't ruin your day, it just made it a lot more enjoyable for me.  I suspect it's well worth it given the long stretches you spend on each, and the Jungle for sure favours a MTB by almost a minute over the full loop.

    Keys To Success

    Like any long ride on the road - hydrate, eat, take a pee break... have lube handy... 

    Careful with pushing too hard at any point just to keep up - although I found it worth burning a few matches here and there to grab a good Fuego Flats wheel!

    Rest when you are by yourself but take advantage of a good wheel when you can.

    And most of all... save something - a LOT of something - for the Alpe du Zwift.  At my power output (2.5-3w/kg) it took about 1h10 and at the end of a 5h ride it was tough... mentally and physically.

    Good luck!

    Friday, November 19, 2021

    Zwift: Completing All The Routes - Update #4


    Just when I thought I was making progress... they added more routes!


    These 8 new routes are part of the Neokyo area of the Makuri Islands in Zwift.

    I'm pretty excited to ride them, so I won't complain!  And they're all pretty short so great for those mid-week hour long rides.

    There are now 100 routes on Zwift plus the Volcano "On Fire!" Badge (has to be done in one ride so figured it's as good as a route!).

    30 to go, including the toughest (Full PRL and Uber Pretzel)!  Should be able to get 'er done this winter.