Whether you’re training for an event or just want to tear the legs off your riding buddies in the virtual world as well as the real world, racing on Zwift is a great way to compete, train and have fun on your bike. Zwift racing is one of the newest and most exciting forms of bike racing out there, and if you’ve not yet taken the plunge, you could be missing out – not only on some great training but also on a lot of fun. If you’ve invested in a smart trainer, racing on Zwift is one of the best ways to get the most out of your lovely new toy because it enables you to compete against other like-minded cyclists from all over the world, whenever suits you, and from the comfort of your own home. And while a Corinthian spirit might be admirable, it’s not all just fun and games – virtual racing can be a serious business. Eight pro teams competed in this year’s Tour de Zwift, for example, and the first ever UCI Cycling Esports World Championships will take place later this year. Maybe you’ve got what it takes too? There’s only one way to find out… If you’re new to Zwift and wondering what it’s all about, don’t forget to check out our complete guide to the online virtual training and racing platform. What you need to get started Before you can start racing, you’ll need to sign up for a Zwift account, if you don’t already have one. You can get a free seven-day trial if you register for a Zwift account online, but after your trial period ends it costs £12.99 / $14.99 per month to continue using it. There are a few things specific to racing, beyond the standard turbo training accessories, that you’ll want to ensure you have in place before you jump into a race. You can race online using any Zwift setup, from budget trainer to the ultimate smart bike, but for the best experience you ideally want to use a smart trainer. If you only have a classic-style trainer you can use an on-bike power meter to race, but you’ll miss out on simulated gradients, which are a key aspect of creating an immersive experience. Just like in the real world, the most important thing is to make sure you’re prepared for the entire duration of the race (races tend to last between 20 and 40 minutes). If you have to stop mid-race to fill your water bottle or grab a towel, you’re going to be dropped immediately. So, make sure you’ve got two full bottles (consider filling one with water and the other with a sports drink), your towel is within reach, your fan is set up correctly and all of your devices are plugged into their chargers. How to sign-up to Zwift Visit the Zwift website to sign-up for a free seven-day trial. After your trial period ends, Zwift costs £12.99 / $14.99 per month. Even the pros race on Zwift these days. Zwift How to find a race on Zwift Races in Zwift are classified as events, so the easiest way to find them is on the Events page in game or to use the Zwift Companion app. You can then filter events according to what kind of race and category (more on this later) you’re looking to enter. Once you’ve found a race you like the look of, simply tap the plus icon next to your category to enter the race. Before signing up, make sure you read the description carefully because each race can have slightly different rules, and you risk getting disqualified from the results if you break any of them. You should also consider signing up for a ZwiftPower account so you can be included in the official race results. Once you’ve done that, you’ll be able to link it to your Zwift account via the connections page of your profile on my.zwift.com. The easiest way to find races is via the Zwift Companion app. Simon Bromley/Immediate Media How to pick which category to enter Similar to how bike races in the real world are organised, Zwift races are split into categories to make each race more of a fair fight. In Zwift, it’s fitness that determines your race category, not points accumulated through your results in previous races. Each category in Zwift is determined by your watts per kilogram (w/kg) at Functional Threshold Power (FTP), so the higher the category, the stronger riders in that race will be. The four categories are: A: 4.0 w/kg or higher B: 3.2-3.9 w/kg C: 2.5-3.1 w/kg D: 2.4 w/kg and below You can work out your w/kg by dividing your FTP (if you don’t know what yours is yet, you can take one of Zwift’s FTP tests to find out) by your weight in kilos. For example, if your FTP is 250 watts and you weigh 65 kilos, your FTP would be 3.85 w/kg, putting you in category B. Once you’ve selected a race, you need to choose which category you want to enter, and you can also set a reminder or add it to your calendar. Simon Bromley/Immediate Media Zwift racing tips: six tips to become a virtual racing supremo 1. Do your homework Knowing the course is a key component to success in Zwift racing. There are short crit races that favour sprinting, speed on the flats and repeated efforts well above FTP, but there are also hilly races that take in lumpier routes, such as the Volcano Climb, or on occasions, the Epic KOM. Knowing when the attacks are likely to come, or where to attack if you’re feeling strong, can be the difference between getting dropped, getting in the bunch or blowing the race to bits with your attack. Just like in the real world, moving up to the front of the bunch before the start of a climb is a great trick to give yourself a greater chance of staying with the group. If you’re sitting at the back you’ll have no choice but to hold the wheel in front when the pace rises, but if you start at the front you can drift back through the pack and get a draft on every wheel in the group. Zwift races will typically surge at the bottom of the climb as everyone fights for position, so be prepared to make an early effort. Sitting too far back in the bunch also puts you at risk of missing an important move. When the going gets tough, riders will start to leave gaps, meaning you’ll have to make surges to try and bridge to the group in front. The pace inevitably heats up on the climbs, so make sure you’re ready for it. Zwift 2. Horse for the course Don’t forget to optimise your bike setup for the course – the bike you choose will have a bearing on your performance, depending on the demands of the terrain. If you’re racing a flat course, forget about weight and focus on aerodynamics, but if there’s a huge climb on the course you might be better served with a lightweight setup. And before anyone thinks it might be worth riding a TT bike on the flat courses, don’t forget that you can’t draft other riders when using one of Zwift’s time-trial setups, so it’s going to leave you at a very significant disadvantage. If the race course features a lot of climbing, picking a heavy bike could slow you down. Zwift 3. Full gas from the gun If you’ve never done a Zwift race before, it’s hard to grasp exactly how hard the first few minutes of the race can be. Get the game loaded up with plenty of time to spare and get in a good warm up. Your avatar will automatically be transported to the start of the race course a few minutes before the start, but if you want a place at the front of the pack (which you really do) then get set up and join the event as early as possible. Once you’re in the race pen, keep on spinning your legs and start pushing some big watts just before the start gun, so you don’t miss the jump. If it’s a big race and you miss the initial sprint off the line, you’ll end up at the back of the pack and it will be very, very hard to move up to the front. The most likely outcome is that someone in front of you will lose the wheel and your entire group will get shelled. Game over. Instead, dig deep into your suitcase of courage and hold that wheel in front. Like cyclocross or criterium racing, the effort will probably be way above your FTP for the first few moments, but it will eventually settle down to a more sustainable level. 4. Surf the wheels Remember to pay close attention to your draft status as well. When you’re in the draft, your avatar will sit up and put their hands on the hoods, but when you’re not they’ll move into the drops. Drafting saves you around 25 per cent of the effort of riding solo, so let everyone else burn themselves out before you attack. As former world champion and Classics legend Hennie Kuiper said, “Racing is licking your opponent’s plate clean before starting on your own”. 5. Get aero Did you know that you can do a ‘supertuck’ on descents too? If you stop pedalling while going fast enough on a steep descent, your avatar will sit on the top tube to coast downhill in a more aero position, helping you stay in the pack while getting a little rest. Timing your attacks and PowerUp use effectively is key to Zwift racing. Zwift 6. PowerUps Lastly, when you’re ready to attack, make good use of PowerUps. We’ve covered PowerUps in more detail in our Zwift guide, but using them in the right place and at the right time can be a game changer. Saving a Helmet Aero Boost (which reduces your avatar’s aerodynamic drag by 25 per cent for 15 seconds) for the sprint to the finish, for example, could be the difference between a good result and finishing in the middle of the pack. The Feather Lightweight PowerUp, on the other hand, reduces your avatar’s weight by a whopping 9kg for 15 seconds, so is best used to attack on a steep climb. To activate a PowerUp, you just need to hit the spacebar on your computer, or the on-screen PowerUp icon in the Zwift Companion app.
Norco’s new Sight VLT e-bike is designed for all-mountain use and builds on lessons learned since the Canadian company introduced its first full-suspension electric bike in 2019. The 2020 Sight VLT features 29in wheels and 150mm rear travel paired with a 160mm fork. There are three carbon and two aluminium models available in four sizes each, with geometry almost identical between the two materials. The aluminium bikes aim to bring the “electric all-mountain experience to more riders”, according to Norco, and is the first aluminium full-suspension e-bike launched by the company. Norco Sight range “matches each individual bike to the human who rides it” Shimano gearbox patent for road and mountain bike A Shimano Steps E8000 or E7000 drive system with 630 or 500Wh battery is fully integrated into the frame, with an optional (sold separately) range extender battery mount on the down tube. If you don’t opt for the 50 to 70 per cent increased range, there’s space for a full-size water bottle instead. Norco launched its Ride Aligned bike setup assistance app late in 2019; it can be used with the Sight VLT 29 to help get the bike working at its best in varying conditions, according to Norco. Norco says this helps provide “the same All-Mountain performance and handling as the 2020 Sight non electric platform, with authoritative climbing, eager descending, and high-speed confidence that can only come from the complete integration of rider fit, frame geometry, suspension kinematics and precise bike setup.” Norco Sight VLT 29 range Norco Sight VLT A1 29er e-bike costs £4,695. Norco The A2 is the cheapest in the range at £4,095. Norco Norco’s Sight VLT C1 is the top of the range Sight e-bike and costs £6,995. Norco Three carbon Sight VLT 29s are available. The C2 is priced at £5,995. Norco The carbon Sight VLT C3 is equipped with similar kit to the aluminium A1, but it comes in at £5,295. Norco All of the bikes in the Sight VLT 29 range feature Maxxis Minion tyres with sturdy DoubleDown casing – a nice touch for e-biking. SRAM and Shimano groupsets adorn the bikes at different price points, with specific e-bike forks and four-piston brakes across the board. There are five total price levels in carbon and aluminium, from £4,095 to £6,995, and the bikes will be available this month. All five bikes are pictured in the gallery above; otherwise, we’ve included the full specs of the flagship carbon and alloy models below. Norco Sight VLT C1 29 Norco’s Sight VLT C1 is the top of the range Sight e-bike. Norco The top of the range carbon C1 has a RockShox Lyrik Ultimate fork and SRAM GX parts mixed with a Shimano Deore XT crankset and Steps E-8000 motor. Frame: Carbon main frame, seatstays, aluminium chainstays, 150mm travel Fork: RockShox Lyrik Ultimate 160mm travel, e-rated, Charger 2 RC2, short offset Shock: RockShox Super Deluxe Select + Debonair trunnion mount, custom tune Shifting: SRAM Eagle GX, 12-speed Crankset: Shimano Deore XT Hollowtech II, FC-M8050, 165mm, 34t Cassette: SRAM Eagle Xglide 1230, 11-50t Brakes: SRAM Code RSC four-piston, 200mm discs front/rear Rims: DT Swiss E 1700 Hybrid e-bike rated wheelset Hubs: DT Swiss E-1700 sealed bearing, 15 x 110mm Boost (front) / 12 x 148 Boost (rear) Tyres: Maxxis Minion DHF WT 29 x 2.5in MaxxGRIP DD TR (front) / Maxxis Minion DHR II WT 29 x 2.4in MaxxGRIP DD TR (rear) Motor: Shimano Steps E-8000 Battery: In-Tube 630Wh (range extender compatible) Price: £6,995 / $7,499 / €7,799 Norco Sight VLT A1 29 Norco Sight VLT A1 29er e-bike. Norco The priciest of the two aluminium options, the A1 features the same motor and battery as the C1, albeit with some downgraded components elsewhere. Frame: Aluminum, 150mm travel Fork: RockShox Yari RC 160mm travel, e-Rated, Motion Control, short offset Shock: RockShox Super Deluxe Select + Debonair, trunnion mount, custom tune Shifting: SRAM Eagle SX Crankset: Shimano FC-E8000, 165mm w/34t Cassette: SRAM Eagle Xglide PG 1210 11-50t Brakes: Shimano BR MT520 four-piston, 203mm discs front/rear Rims: e*thirteen LG1 DH 29in Hubs: Shimano Deore HB-6010. 15 x 110mm Boost (front) / 12 x 148 Boost (rear) Tyres: Maxxis Minion DHF WT 29 x 2.5in MaxxGRIP DD TR (front) / Maxxis Minion DHR II WT 29 x 2.4in MaxxGRIP DD TR (rear) Motor: Shimano Steps E8000 Battery: In-Tube 630Wh (range extender compatible) Price: £4,695 / $5,499 / €N/A
This month in MBUK magazine, find out if you can get a trail-smashing full-suspension bike without breaking the bank, demystify the market with the ultimate bike-buying guide and get the lowdown on some great British trails with rides in the Peak District and North Wales’s Revolution Bike Park. The MBUK team speak to YouTube trials-riding superstar Fabio Wibmer and get the latest news from Gee Atherton. There’s also expert advice, tips, tricks and guides from Elliott Heap, Olly Morris and Alan Milway. Plus, first-ride impressions of new bikes from VooDoo, Orbea and Indentiti, and tons of the latest product and bike reviews and news. Wallet-friendly full suspension A grand-and-a-half is the price point where full-sus mountain bikes start to mean business. But can you get a serious trail-destroyer without forking out a lot more? Four affordable full-sussers from Norco, Marin, Vitus and Calibre are put through their paces, to see which of these trail bikes offers solid geometry and kit without an eye-watering entry fee. Calibre’s Triple B – the latest in their lauded Bossnut range of affordable full-sus bikes. One of four bikes in this month’s biketest. Baselayers on test Layering is the key to savvy clothing selection for the trails. And the layer that’s next to your skin is one of the most important, as it contributes to comfort and temperature control more than any other. 14 of the best baselayers around are tested for cosiness, efficiency, fabric and build quality to find out which one deserves to claim your hard-earned cash. The FINDRA Leithen Merino Striped baselayer, one of 14 tested head-to-head for this month’s grouptest. MBUK’s ultimate bike buyer’s guide With more choice than ever before and technology advancing faster and further each year, buying a mountain bike can be a mind-boggling challenge. MBUK want to end that confusion, so they’ve put together a comprehensive buyer’s guide, explaining exactly what to look out for when choosing a new ride. From wheel sizes to riding disciplines, the team show you how to find that one bike out there that’s a perfect fit, without bamboozling you with heaps of jargon along the way. With so many bikes to choose from, MBUK have made a handy guide to make finding your next steed an easy and enjoyable experience. Ain’t no mountain high enough MBUK‘s production editor Chris and art editor Jimmer take a trip to the Alps with a difference – using the electronic assistance of e-MTBs to ride higher, faster and further. From snow-blasted ridgetops to sweltering forest ravines, they discover the beautiful sights of France’s Queyras national park (and the legendary hospitality of its inhabitants), and are amazed by how far it’s possible to go with a little extra push in the pedals (and a bellyful of fondue). Chris and Jimmer take an alpine riding trip with a difference – using e-MTBs to get farther and higher than they ever have before. Progression Sessions The team’s staff writer Luke is no stranger to throwing himself down a mountain as fast as he can between the tapes. He’s stood on a podium or two in his time, but can you teach an old dog new tricks? MBUK enlist the talents of EWS pro racer Joe Connell to sharpen up Luke’s racecraft skills – and find out what it takes to go from a good racer to a great one. Joe Connell and Luke Marshall riding at Cwmcarn Forest in South Wales, for part two of MBUK’s Progression Sessions series. Peak District Dirty Weekender MBUK‘s resident man of maps, Max Darkins, heads to Derbyshire’s Peak District and returns with three superb riding routes around the High Peak. As part of the Dirty Weekender series, Max tells you how to make the most of trip to the Peaks and cram in all the amazing riding that you can. There’s a wealth of technical rocky trails out on the barren moorland of the Peak District. Revolution Bike Park Trail Crew What could be better than heading to deepest Wales for a day at Revs to ride Veronique Sandler’s acclaimed ‘Vision Line’? Riding it with Veronique herself, of course! MBUK‘s Luke gets to do the honours, riding some seriously crazy jump lines with Vero, her brother Leo and the rest of this month’s Trail Crew. Veronique Sandler at Revolution Bike Park in Wales – the home of her own Vision Line. And that’s not all… This issue of MBUK is jam-packed with all the latest and greatest bikes, product reviews and news stories from the mountain biking world. There are first rides of VooDoo’s Bizango Carbon, Orbea’s Oiz and Identiti’s Mettle Mk.2, and pages of product reviews, including Troy Lee Designs’ brand-new D4 full-face helmet. MBUK features editor Ed rides an Identiti Mettle II RC at Cwmcarn Forest in South Wales. 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If mountain biking isn’t the first thing to pop into your head at the mention of indoor training, you’re probably not alone. After all, up until recently it’s almost exclusively been the domain of road cyclists and triathletes looking to get the miles in and maintain a structured training plan over the winter period. However, that’s all changing with the wide range of MTB-compatible smart trainers and riding software now available, where indoor riding has become a way for mountain bikers to supplement their weekly time on the trails. Let’s take a look at some of the ways that indoor trainers and apps like Zwift can enhance your mountain biking and help make you a stronger rider on your favourite trails. Best Zwift setups for every rider – from budget to ultimate 10 Zwift tips for beginners Improved pedalling force Having an efficient pedal stroke and being able to ride smoothly at lower cadences are key abilities for mountain bikers. Steep terrain and loose conditions mean you have to maintain traction with a circular, consistent pedal stroke, all while laying down plenty of power to keep moving forwards. By creating custom workouts within Zwift you can take advantage of the high levels of resistance modern-day smart trainers can produce. It’s very quick and easy to create specific training conditions that closely mimic the demands of a challenging climb or tricky section of trail. Zwift also has several mountain bike training plans and workouts built right into the game, meaning you can be sure all the sessions you’re doing are perfectly tailored to improving your fitness. These include the challenging Cape Epic workout series and the intermediate Dirt Destroyer training plan, as well as more coming down the line. How to sign-up to Zwift Visit the Zwift website to sign-up for a free 7-day trial. After your trial period ends, Zwift costs £12.99 / $14.99 per month. The Zwift Drop Shop contains a wide range of mountain bikes and off-road gear to kit out your avatar. Zwift More power, more momentum Any experienced mountain biker knows how ‘punchy’ off-road riding can be, where constant bursts of power are needed to maintain momentum over steep terrain or to quickly accelerate back up to speed after slowing down for a sharp corner. In the absence of regular training on the trails to improve this power, you can find yourself lacking endurance in your longer outdoor rides, while the ability to recover quickly from these hard efforts can also suffer. Zwift’s pre-built interval workouts offer a perfect training platform to work on quicker recovery and the ability to repeatedly produce strong surges of power over and over again, allowing for better momentum and speed preservation on the singletrack. Stay sociable Part of what makes mountain biking so appealing is meeting up with like-minded friends and having a chat on the trails. Traditionally though, bad weather or a sudden change of circumstances would likely mean abandoning a ride entirely and missing out. While the full off-road riding experience is hard to fully replicate on a turbo trainer, Zwift’s wealth of routes, combined with plenty of organised group ride, workout and even racing options, mean that immersive rides aren’t exclusive to being outdoors. On top of that, you can use the Zwift Companion App on a phone or tablet device to create private meetups with friends to ensure you don’t miss out on any of the chat that the original ride promised. Because of the sheer amount of cyclists riding around in Zwift’s virtual courses at any one time, it’s also a great way to connect with other mountain bikers from around the world too. Zwift’s in-game steering offers real-time feedback on your line choice. Zwift Keep it fun Riding an MTB isn’t just about pushing on the pedals hard – there are many subtle maneuvers and skills that contribute to the fun factor of off-road riding. When the bad weather rolls in or your schedule doesn’t allow for much time on the trails, it’s this dynamism that can be missed the most. Fortunately, there’s now a fun and intuitive way for mountain bikers to practice similar movements without needing to leave the house. The new steering function on Zwift’s off-road course uses your phone’s accelerometers to cleverly track the position of your front wheel. This adds a new element to indoor training, which has traditionally been very static compared to riding outside. Simply by mounting your phone on your handlebars, you can turn the wheel left and right to move your avatar in the game in real time, making your virtual mountain bike ride that much more engaging. Zwift will then give you feedback on how you rode a particular feature on the course, so that you can work on getting it faster and faster each time. Okay, it may not be the same as hitting the trails, but it gives you a fun way to practice similar movements when you otherwise might not get on the bike. The Zwift companion app uses your phone’s accelerometers to track the position of your front wheel. Zwift Set fitness benchmarks For mountain bikers interested in tracking their improvements in fitness, Zwift is one of the best cycling software tools available for structured, repeatable testing. These tests have a number of benefits for off-road riders, from the ability to lay down a benchmark of fitness to measure against in the future (e.g. establishing your Functional Threshold Power or FTP) to setting training intensity zones with which to structure your training. Once you have these training zones set up, you can track how much time you’re spending in each zone and target the specific training adaptations you want to see. Zwift offers a range of MTB-specific workouts and training plans. Zwift More riding time! Finally, it’s a sad truth that mountain biking isn’t always the most time efficient sport. After all, there’s a whole lot of clothing, components and gadgets involved in getting out on the trails and often a long clean up process needed post-ride. This all serves to make off-road riding out of reach for a lot of mountain bikers during the working week and, heaven-forbid, even on some busier weekends too. Using a mountain bike on a smart trainer makes the whole process much more streamlined when time is tight, and makes getting in an additional 2-3 hours of riding time each week a much more realistic prospect than it ever was before. Even 30-45 minutes of structured indoor riding a few times per week can result in big performance improvements down the line, helping you to get the most out of your time on the trails