Indoor cycling season is coming: what’s new on Zwift this winter?

The online fitness platform will roll out a number of new features including an expansion of Makuri Islands 

Winter is fast approaching and, with that, comes the inevitable return of riding indoors. Some of us love it, some of us hate it, but we can all agree that there’s one thing that makes it much more fun: Zwift. It might be because it gives an opportunity to ride with friends and be sociable, or because it keeps things exciting with the chance to enter some e-races, but since its first release in 2015, Zwift has lit up the homes of many of us during the long winter slog.

New roads

For the upcoming indoor riding season, Zwift has rolled out a number of new features to make the platform better than ever. Perhaps the biggest announcement and arguably the most exciting is the introduction of new roads with an expansion of Makuri Islands, inspired by the exotic landscapes of the Southern Japanese islands. Road gravel and, for the first time, sand surfaces will be added to the Urukazi map in November, making a route of over 25 miles.

Training

Aside from the expansion of the routes, Zwift has also announced that they have placed a big focus on making the online fitness platform simpler to use in the upcoming season. “We’re continually looking at new ways to make Zwift more accessible, easier to use, and more fun – whether you're new to the platform or have been here for years,” explained Zwift Vice President of Content, Mark Cote.

Zwift’s large library of workouts of training plans will now be more discoverable thanks to updates to the home screen, allowing players to search for a workout based on its duration and perceived effort. Zwift will prioritise the workouts it thinks a user would like in each feed individually and provide improved graphic detail to help riders make a decision before they commit to the workout.

Improved training features have also been added to Zwift for the upcoming season, notably PacePartners, which has been in the FutureWorks beta programme, is due to be rolled out to all users. PacePartners gives Zwifters the ability to join a group ride for a social workout at a variety of paces.

Evolving from PacePartners is Zwift’s all-new HoloReplay feature which gives riders the opportunity to compete against themselves by following a ghost which replicates a previous personal best. This means Zwifters can have a visual target to help them to improve their time. This will be in the FutureWorks programme initially which users are either invited or can apply to be a part of, depending on the feedback Zwift requires.

The offering of Route Based Workouts is the final new training feature being launched on Zwift this month. These workouts use Zwift’s landscapes to create a structured workout with a mix of different efforts without having to follow a pre-decided graph or plan. These workouts will allow riders to determine their FTP and help them understand and address strengths and weaknesses. Route Based Workouts will initially be launched in this year’s Zwift Academy which will run from September 12 to October 9. The Academy involves a series of workouts that allow Zwifters to compete for a professional contract.

Racing

Zwift have also noted that they have made improvements to the racing side of the platform, notably with a new dedicated racing website. The website allows Zwifters to have a clear view of the month’s scheduled individual and team races, dates, routes, distances and ascent. Zwift Racing’s League is the most popular competition league with over 15,000 riders taking part last season, and registrations for the league are open now.

The online training platform has also offered a new structure that makes it easier for users to fit in racing with a busy schedule: ZRacing. A weekly competition, ZRaces allow Zwifters to warm up, race and then cool down in under one hour with the opportunity to earn a monthly badge for taking part.

For those partial to a bit of teamwork, Zwift has also added a new, enhanced team time trial functionality, improving what Zwift say is the most social form of competition on the platform.

Making Zwift Racing fairer has also been a focal point for the American company and Zwift explains that there have been a number of developments to improve this. One of the key changes is category enforcement which ensures Zwifters are matched against riders of similar abilities based on their most recent ride data captured on the platform.

Finally, for those looking to take the next step in their Zwifting careers, Zwift will once again be the host platform for the 2023 UCI Cycling Esports World Championships. Elite competitors can enter qualifying events and, if successful, move on to Continental Championships, with final step being representing your country at the World Championships. 2022 UCI Cycling Esports World Champion, Loes Adegeest, qualified via this pathway which aims to make the race open and accessible to anyone who fancies their chances.