The Stages of Every Zwift Ride

Or, at least the stages I go through on just about every ride.

As noted previously I have set myself up with Zwift, the exercise app that lets me ride my stationary exercise bike through a virtual world.

Ride On!

I have further follow ups on the whole thing, but this sort of struck me and I was motivated to bang it out, so here it is.

  • Get on the bike

Kind of a given, but for me this is always a morning thing, or at least a before noon thing.  Being lazy is a full time profession, and one aspect of it in my book is getting all your work tasks out of the way as soon as possible to maximize the time left to screw around.  I want to be on board for the long lunch and a leisurely afternoon.

Also it is much cooler around here in the morning.  And then there is the drought, so I like to combine my morning shower and my very necessary post-exercise shower into a single event.

  • Choose the route

I’ll go into more detail on this at another time, but I like to pick one of the pre-made routes.  You can just free ride through the world, picking whichever turns you like, but completing a route gets you an achievement and some xp and if we’re going to gamify this shit then why wouldn’t I go with something that gets me xp?

There are lots of routes that range from a couple miles to a couple dozen.  Since my goal is 20 minutes, which generally gets me about 7 miles, I look for the shorter routes.  I have learned to be aware of the climb involved, shown on the basic route info.  That 3.3 mile route with the 2,459 foot climb will take me more than 20 minutes because I’ll probably be going 4 MPH for a large part of it.

  • Start to Ride

And we’re off.  I start pumping those legs, usually ramping up to about 85 rpm or so, passing some slow pokes and slackers on the side of the road.

  • The First Crisis

Somewhere between 60 and 120 seconds into the ride my body will start informing me that we have surely out run the bear or whatever the hell prompted this flurry of sudden morning activity must have passed and it would be fine to just stop and go sit on the couch.

This happens every single time.  I want to stop or take a break or skip today.  I’ll make it up on Saturday, I swear.

So I have to negotiate with myself… just make it to 10 minutes, you’ll have started sweating by then so you can pretend you worked out… or sometimes bully myself… you paid how much for this Bluetooth enabled piece of gear to ride for two freaking minutes?

The crisis comes and somehow I manage to get through it most days, though if my body throws in, “Oh, and I have to pee” then things might stop.

  • The Fan

At about the five minute mark the thermal build up in my body will be noticeable.  If I have forgotten to turn on the standing fan sitting in front, off to the side, of the bike, this is when that omission will become apparent.

You can just see the fan behind the bike

I have often had to get off the bike to turn it on.  Lately my wife and I have avoided this issue by simply never turning the fan off.

  • The zone or something like it

There is a point where I will settle in, focus on the screen and the course and whatever and I’ll stop thinking about stopping.  My cadence settles down into what is apparently my natural rhythm, which is exactly 67 rpm.  I try to stay at 75 rpm, but the moment I am not thinking about it, I slide back into my norm.

The cadence is pretty much fixed no matter what resistance setting I have set on the bike.  I have, over time, dialed it up from 25 being the norm, to 38.  That means more power output for the same rpm.  If I dial it up too much… 40 starts to dig in a bit and 50 is comedy… then I start to slow down.

I may speed up a bit to pass somebody or keep somebody from passing me so obviously, but mostly I just cruise.

  • Can we stop now?

This isn’t as dependable as that first two minute crisis, but often between the 12 and 15 minute mark I’ll start wondering if we can’t just take a break.  I’m now sweating and feel like I have some legit claim to have exercised.

When we first got the Schwinn IC4 I actually had to stop somewhere around the 15 minute mark and get off the bike and stretch because my legs would start to stiffen up from the repetitive motion.  I don’t have to do that any more.

This is also the zone where my ass may start to hurt.  A bicycle saddle, even with the gel foam padded cover, isn’t something I am yet used to.  I don’t have any fancy cycling shorts, and my old cotton khaki shorts don’t add much padding.  Still, it is better than the Schwinn 270 recumbent bike, where my back often started hurting at about the 10 minute mark.

At this point I just tell myself I’m almost done, just a couple more minutes and then all of this can stop.

  • 20 minute mark

If I am doing this ride during the week, I am probably squeezing the ride and a shower in between some meetings.  That is probably an hour window, but I’ve probably screwed around a bit before the ride and want my hair to dry before I have to be on camera again, so I am looking to finish up the ride.

  • Wrapping up

If I have not finished up the route, I’ll push on to do that (and collect my achievement and my 10 xp) so long as it is very close to being done.  I’ll also keep going if I am past half way to my next mile, since the game awards xp for every mile completed.

If it is the weekend I might keep going if I am in the zone and/or have picked a longer course.  My longest ride on record so far has been 38 minutes.

Not counting the first few rides where I was figuring things out, most of my rides make it to at least the 20 minute mark.  There are a couple of 15 minute rides, where I clearly didn’t meet the crisis, and one 10 minute ride where I am pretty sure work rang my phone and I had to stop.  But I am mostly keeping to my metric.

Other stages that may occur during a typical ride:

  • I need to sit up and stretch – being hunkered down can get old so I reach up and touch the ceiling
  • Should I pick up the weights? – the bike came with weights, I never pick them up, but I sometimes consider doing so
  • The cats – they will come by and stare at me, standing way too close to the pedals
  • My junk – it sometimes needs to stop moving around so much as I pedal, which I guess is why cyclists wear those tight spandex shorts
  • Screen shot – I will suddenly want to take one, which means fiddling around with the iPad
  • Thirst – I don’t keep a water bottle in the provided slots, but I usually drink some water before a ride

3 thoughts on “The Stages of Every Zwift Ride

  1. potshot

    These resonate regardless of fitness level or experience. A bit like Anger, Denial, Bargaining, Acceptance.

    Saturday, I set off for an obligatory “get some riding in to meet my weekly goal” zwifting where I continued to negotiate with myself the entire way along a series of mental off ramps–

    Just see how I feel at X minutes…
    Just get to at least X miles…
    Just get to at least X feet of climbing…
    Heck, I might as well as top out on the climb at this point…
    Well, heck I finished the climb, so not doing the downhill is really leaving “free miles and XP” on the table…
    Well, I’ve gone this far, might as well just get to the next distance milestone (an extra mile today is less tomorrow)…

    and like you always to the final mile– if I don’t stop before X.5 miles I might as well just roll out to X+1 miles for the XP … (And for vanity’s sake, I always roll to X.1. Stopping at X.0 is too transparently mercenary… or something).

    I find it shocking similar in feeling to doing those quests with just a few too many drops required for comfort. At some point during the progress, the momentum subtly shifts and the drag of the grind turns into the pull of achievement.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Archey

    I’m a runner but I recognize the same stages.
    – I just started, I can do this forever
    – hey, now I remember this is hard
    – surely last time it was easier
    – ok, we’re settling into the new normal now
    – almost done, I can’t take any more of this

    Oddly, the last stage doesn’t happen till the last half mile regardless of how long the run is. That proves to me that it’s psychological, but that’s not a lot of consolation while it’s happening.

    Like

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