cycling · fitness

Sam goes SWARM-ing!

This March, in a special collaboration with Machines for Freedom, women are taking Zwift by swarm. Find out about the ride schedule here.

Pink swarm jerseys

I’ve been riding in Zwift for awhile now but mostly it’s been with friends in the real world, riding side by side in the bike studio, while also riding together virtually. Hi Sarah and Susan and Ellen and Kim and David and Jeff!

That’s fun and for me it’s the closest thing to a real world weekend ride with friends, right down to the brunch afterwards. But on weeknights friends aren’t always free and Sarah’s workdays can end pretty late. So when I saw the social media campaigns around Machines For Freedom March women’s social group rides in honor of International Women’s Day I thought I’d give it a try.

Sam at the Bike Shed

How was it? Fun! The hour passed quickly which I like. I was there early because I was worried about missing the start due to a technical glitch. But I wasn’t sure once I joined the event if I’d get to warm up and how that would work. I didn’t want to ride away early in the virtual world of Watopia. Luckily though there were virtual trainers in addition to the real world trainer my bike was hooked up to.

There was some chatter and introductions by text that scrolled on the right side while we waited. There were about 50 women there early, more joined later, and I don’t know the total number. When you’re riding in Zwift you don’t much care about speed as watts, and about watts per kilo. This ride was advertised at 1.5 watts per kilo. Speed in cycling is all about power and weight but I like it that it shows your watts per kilo and your watts but people have to do some math to determine your weight.

I was nervous about getting dropped and so I took off far too fast (classic problem, rookie mistake, I’ve done this in the real world too) and I was at the front with a bunch of speedsters. I slowed down and tried to wait up for the main group and that didn’t work. Or I wasn’t patient enough. You guess. Anyway, I sped back up and met up with the front group. We slowed down to the advertised watts per kilo and rode together for most of the ride. Sarah joined us at the 2/3 done point (traffic on her way home from work in Toronto) but she couldn’t join in an the official event. That made communication tricky as she could see virtual me but I could only see event participants.

There was a ride leader with a yellow cone floating above her head and a ride sweep with an orange cone. You could see them in the list of riders on the right.

Zwift photos. Me on my virtual blue trainer. Above me and my gang of fellow cyclists all wearing the spiffy pink kit.

The ride hosts were excellent and answered lots of beginner Zwift questions.

Like, why do people have blue things stuffed in their back pockets? (Answer: They are “ride-ons” or the Zwift equivalent of “likes.” They appear as floating thumbs up over your ride and land in your jersey pocket.)

There were lots of Canadians on this ride. The time of day made sense for East coast folks. It was 8 pm EDT. But there were also people from warm places and that surprised me. Turned out there were a bunch of the riders who were quarantined for covid-19 reasons and this was the only kind of group riding they could do.

The way things are going Zwift could be a busy place over the summer. Road cyclists sometime joke that in the summer Zwift is a ghost town but for triathletes doing laps around Watopia. (I would never say that. Some of my best friends are triathletes.) That might change this year.

I’ll definitely try to ride with them again. I confess I’m even tempted to buy the kit. My avatar got the virtual version free for doing the ride and I can buy the IRL version from Machines for Freedom. Isn’t capitalism wonderful?

“This special jersey is part of the HIVE Collection, a collab from the badass bees at Machines. Bees are a symbol of light, power, celebration and community. They thrive with the hive and are led by a Queen. Busy and hardworking, they always find time to stop and smell the roses. Sounds just like the women we know, and love to ride with! All women will unlock the HIVE Collection limited edition kit after completing any event in the series. The kit, along with a cap and water bottle, are also available for your IRL rides here!”

Interested in trying Zwift? Here are some tips for beginning Zwifters.