We’re approaching the quarter mark of the 21st century, so by now we’ve all just accepted that socialising is a thing done online, right?
Good, we’re glad everyone’s on the same page.
Whether it’s meeting your partner or finding social events to attend in a new city, the digital age has transformed how we socialise – and cycling is no different.
Thanks to Zwift, it is now easier than ever to meet fellow cyclists, go for a ride with them and chat until your heart’s content about the excuses reasons as to why you’re just not at 100% of your level today.
Largely thanks to the explosion in group rides, Zwift allows users to ride with current or new friends in a variety of ways and in a mixture of virtual locations; it may have seemed incongruous two decades ago to be talking to your screen or typing out messages all in the name of socialising, but many Zwifers will attest to the social benefits of the platform.
“It presents such a great opportunity to meet people,” says coach Ben Thomas. “You can still go on a traditional Sunday club run, but log onto Zwift and in this condensed world there are more people riding around, many of whom are from the other side of the world who you wouldn’t otherwise get the chance to ride with.
“It’s fantastic to meet new people, and if you’ve got a friend in another country it means you can ride with them. Being able to chat and ride with other people makes the time pass so much quicker and has all the same benefits as a standard group ride.”
The Covid-induced lockdowns saw more people than ever logging onto Zwift to get their social hit. Even though we’re now largely in restriction-free times, the legacy of the shutdowns is that those same people are still riding around their virtual worlds on a regular basis.
“We all did it just to interact with people during Covid,” says coach Ian Jenner. “It was great to be able to ask some mates if they wanted to ride up Alpe du Zwift tomorrow, or simply find who else was online if you fancied a quick spin or blast.
“That social element of Zwift has stayed after Covid. It’s a big positive, and for a beginner cyclist it can really help them.
“A novice might be nervous about joining a cycling club or doing things with other cyclists, thinking that they might not have the desired equipment or kit, or that they’re not good enough. But join a social ride on Zwift and you’re in the comfort of your own home, essentially looking at a PC screen like you would if you were playing a computer game. Those barriers to feeling involved are removed.”
The best way to get social on Zwift is by joining or creating a group ride. There are hundreds each day on the platform, some of which have hundreds and hundreds of riders. From time to time pros and teams even create open group events where users can ride and chat alongside the best in the business
If you want to prioritise chatting and gossiping, it’s best to join a ride that isn’t as demanding; think of one that will be mainly based around Zone 2 riding. It is possible to join a race or a workout for social reasons, but be aware that the level (and quality?) of banter won’t be as high given the intensity of the session.
Big tip: if you’re hoping to establish a regular network of Zwift friends, join the same group ride on a consistent basis, that way your once strange avatar will become a familiar one.
Once you’re in the group, download the free Zwift Companion app and start chatting with fellow Zwifters, either by typing out a message or using the voice-to-text function.
To better improve the level of interaction, many Zwifters set up a video call on WhatsApp, Messenger or Discord that allows for a much more natural, flowing conversation – as well affording each rider the chance to show off their sweaty side. If you don’t want to partake in video calls, specific groups on the channels permit the users to send written or audio messages.
Aside from being the original hub of communication, Zwift Companion is also essential to finding new events and clubs to join and fellow users, via the Find Zwifters function.
Through the app you can also give Ride Ons, which is a notification of encouragement to another user. It’s the digital equivalent of patting a rode colleague on the shoulder or applauding them for their turn on the front.
Convinced that Zwift is a byword for socialising? Of course you are.