When I first started riding on Zwift, I rode alone or with the people I also ride with in real life. We rode at the Bike Shed, a bike studio that had about eight trainers set up for Zwift so you could bring your own bike in and ride. On Zwift, I collected badges, I rode new routes, and I started to accumulate ‘drops’ or Zwift experience points to buy cool virtual stuff. I joined some challenges, such as the Everest challenge, and I enjoyed it.
Later, once we bought our own trainer and started to ride at home, I started to branch out, I joined some group rides and some group workouts. Group workouts use erg mode on the trainer. “ERG mode, which is a checkbox option when you go to select a Zwift workout, makes you pedal precisely at the power levels laid out by the workout you choose.” See more here. They’re also “rubber banded” so you stay with the other people in your group even if you’re putting out a lot more or a lot less power.
Why ride in a group in Zwift? I think there are two different sorts of reasons.
One is motivation. You pick your group ride, you schedule it on the Companion app, and you’re more likely to ride. The company is nice. I love seeing riders from all over the world. I also like the chatter. There’s two ways to chat in a group ride. Some rides use discord and so you can talk to actual people on Discord. What’s Discord? See How an App for Gamers Went Mainstream. Or you can text in the Companion app. I do both. But I can’t type while riding easily and there are lots of amusing voice to text errors. Mostly with strangers I text chat and mostly with teammates I voice chat in Discord.
The second reason to prefer a group ride over riding solo is you’ll be encouraged to ride at the pace the group is going. Sometimes you might choose a speedy group to practice going faster and to improve your speed. I’ve ridden with my bike club’s fast group for that purpose. On our own we all have a speed we like to ride but often it’s better, for training purposes, to deliberately ride fast or ride slow.
Group rides are important for me as they are, among other things, a way to go slow. And going slow is super important. See why here. I am not very good at it. I see a sprint segment, I sprint. It’s not that I always go uncomfortably fast. Rather, it’s that on my own there’s a speed I like to ride at. I train and race to make myself go faster than that comfortable speed. I often do group rides to ride socially, chat, and go at a slower pace than I ride on my own by selecting rides that go at slower paces.
Back when I did most of my riding out in the world, I accomplished this by riding with friends of different speeds.
So what are some of my fave group rides on Zwift?
Chicks Who Ride Bikes
Here’s their website.
They describe their rides this way, “The focus for this group ride is to have fun and encourage all women to join, especially those new to Zwift, or wanting a more ‘relaxed’ way to start the week. The pace will be between 1.3wkg-1.8wkg throughout the 50min duration. So join in and let’s keep growing the women’s community on Zwift!
This ride is lead by Chicks Who Ride Bikes, and we are all for starting it slow and steady. From women who are just getting into cycling, to previous World Champions and Olympic cyclists, each ride is always full of banter and fun! Plus, if you love this group ride, we also have a group workout at the same time Friday mornings (AEST).
Chicks Who Ride Bikes is a community of women who share a passion and a zest for life. Whether your garage is chock full of bikes, or you’re on your first! They see the world as it could be – a place where women are respected, connected, empowered and exhilarated.”
DIRT (dads inside riding trainers)
You don’t need to be a Dad to do these rides. There are moms there too. Also some cat moms and dog dads. The parental role isn’t essential at all but what is essential is a sense of humour, helping others, and not taking the whole thing very seriously.
From Zwift News: “For an event that puts the “social” in “social ride,” check out the DIRT Family Values Ride on Zwift. You’ll find a slower pace, a helpful team of leaders and sweepers, and lots of corny humor. Take it from team member Dave Hardenburger: “We pride ourselves on an easy cruise at 1.5-2.0 (w/kg) and the best Dad/Mom jokes in Zwift!”
In 2015 the HERD was called the friendliest group ride in the world by Bicycling Magazine. I don’t know about the world but it’s still a super friendly experience.
From Zwift News more recently: “If you’re looking for a social ride whose length and pace is manageable by just about anyone, The Herd’s “Tuesday Social Group Ride” is an excellent option. Add in solid leadership and some fun banter via Discord voice chat and you’ve got a weekly event that shows off what’s best about the Zwift Community. You’ll never ride alone with The Herd. It’s in their name! This ride typically hosts 350-700 riders, and a strong team of helpful sweepers makes sure anyone who falls behind the main pack gets helped back to the group.”
The HERD has great sweeps who come back and get dropped riders. You can read about that in LESSONS FROM THE HERD: MY FIRST GROUP RIDE.
TFC Sunday Group Ride
I’m racing with TFC these days and they also have a friendly, chatty social ride. If you’re going to join us, let me know, and I’ll happily ride with you.
Each Sunday join us for the Team TFC Social Sunday Evening ride at 8:15pm UK / 3:15pm EST. Completing the ride gives your avatar access to the team kit.
There are two groups and they do stick to the advertised pace and use The Fence if it’s needed. People do sprint the sprint segments and regroup and if the course is multi laps of a short distance on the last lap, we drop the fence and race.
You can look up rides here in the Zwift event schedule or on the Companion app.
Advice for first-timers:
- Use the chat to introduce yourself as a first-timer.
- Don’t ride off the front.
- Stick to the advertised pace. You want to be near the ride leader who has a yellow beacon floating above their head. The rider with the red beacon is the sweep.
- Get into the pack and enjoy yourself.
- Some groups even have crowd sourced playlists. I like Power Up, Pedal Hard from the Swarm rides. There’s a Pride On playlist. And the HERD has a rock playlist and a pop playlist.
See you there!
UPDATE: Some more suggestions from other bloggers and Zwifters added here!