Knowledge Level: Intermediate
With four Pace Partners now tapping out their tempos on the roads of Watopia, you can always find an informal group ride at the pace you want.
Who are they?
The four Pace Partners, effectively pacer bots that ride at a constant set pace, are to be found in Watopia each sticking to a different speed and terrain type:
“Diesel” (1-2.4 w/kg)”: Casual-paced group ride with a few gentle hills
“Cadence” (2.5-3.1 w/kg): Moderately-paced group ride with occasional hills
“Brevet” (3.2-3.9 w/kg): Expert-paced group ride with frequent climbs
“Anquetil” (4+ w/kg): Elite-paced ride on a challenging route. Many tough climbs!
As you may have noticed, the Pace Partners’ names and the w/kg range they ride in corresponds to the usual Zwift race categories. So, Anquetil is A cat pace and Diesel is D cat.
How to ride with them
To join one of them, from the drop-in screen, simply choose Watopia and then you’ll see Pace Partners in Join Another Zwifter. Click on them and you can then choose which one you’d like to ride with. You’ll then be spawned in-game with the Pace Partner and given a helping virtual push to ensure you stay with them - you do want to be pedalling though!
What it’s like to ride with them
Chances are, when you join your chosen Pace Partner, there will be a decent sized group gathered around them, so it’s really just like being on any other Group Ride. You can move around in the group and draft off the Pace Partner and other riders.
There’s likely to be some messaging between riders in the group and you’ll also receive “motivational messages” and Ride Ons from the Pace Partner.
What does take a bit of getting used to is that the Pace Partner’s pace will stay exactly the same whether on the flat, climbing or descending. Obviously a “live rider” on Zwift will tend to up their w/kg when a climb kicks in and back it off slightly as the resistance eases on a downhill. This can mean, on a rolling road such as Titan’s Grove where Brevet often roams, you’ll move ahead on the ups and then he’ll pass you on the downs but, with a bit of practice, it’s not hard to stay close.
Why ride with a Pace Partner
There are a number of reasons you might choose to ride with a Pace Partner.
As a Group Ride
If you’re wanting to do a group ride at a certain pace but can’t find one that fits in with your schedule, just drop in with a Pace Partner. You’ll normally find a decent sized group gathered around them and you can ride with them for as long as you need.
As a warm-up
If you’ve got a race, dropping in with a Pace Partner in the Category beneath your race pace and riding with them for 10-15 minutes before you head off to the Start Pens can be a great way to get you warm, especially if you put in a few 5-10 second surges as leg openers. It’s arguably better than a solo warm-up as it’ll also get your head into bunch riding mode too. Try to allow yourself at least 5 minutes just spinning your legs easy in the Start Pens to allow your heart rate to come down before the off.
As a recovery ride
Knowing that a recovery ride should be strict power Zone 1, do some sums and see if there’s a Pace Partner that fits the bills for you - don’t forget you can easily save 0.5 w/kg by sitting in the draft. If you struggle with the discipline of going easy enough on recovery rides, having a Pace Partner to stick with and not overtake will definitely help and it’ll also add a bit of interest to easy spins.
As an even paced workout
If you want to ride a solid extended block at a set pace, whether it’s tempo, sweet-spot or threshold, finding the right Pace Partner can make this far more enjoyable that just using Erg Mode or trying to sit on a set wattage solo. You can also add some variety by attacking the Pace Partner bunch and trying to stay away or easing up and giving them a gap and then trying to chase back on.
As a Category test
On the cusp between Race Categories and not sure if you should take the plunge and upgrade? Test the water by riding with the next Cat up Pace Partner and see how you get on.
As an endurance ride
If you need to get in a solid endurance ride, a Pace Partner will give you a consistent wheel to follow, you’ll get an ever changing bunch of ride mates around you and the minutes and kilometres will definitely pass quicker than if you were plodding away solo.
To practice your Zwift bunch riding skills
Zwift isn’t just about w/kg, there’s a definite skill to conserving energy in the bunch and the Pace Partners give you a great chance to practice this. Drop in with one at or just below your Category, ride for a set period and aim to keep your average wattage as low as possible while staying in the bunch. Minimise time spent on the front but also avoid backing off too much, getting swamped and suddenly finding yourself at the back. Smooth and subtle shifts in power are what you’re looking to develop.
An added bonus to hanging out with Pace Partners is that once you’ve spent 5 minutes within 7m of them, the number of Drops you accumulate goes up so that means more to spend in the Drop Shop.