I follow a couple of people who do a ton of workouts inside but use Zwift to do them. At the end of the year, they show like 400,000+ ft elevation for the year. Do you feel that this elevation which is mimicked by resistance on the trainer is equivalent to actual elevation in the real world? I would say NO because the resistance is just that, but it would seem that when you ride actual elevation you are essentially lifting yourself up with every pedal stroke and actually working against gravity as well. Maybe I’m wrong.
Whether you are on a bike on a trainer or outside you still are subject to gravity. You still push down and that force is transferred to the pedals.
On free riding in Zwift using ERG I find it’s reasonably like riding outside, if the realism setting is 100%, and it feels harder as the bike can’t be moved as on the road (even with the majority of rocker plate designs).
If they are doing workouts that is a whole different ballgame.
Workouts in Zwift ignore the ‘slope’ in terms of resistance provided but will produce resistance on the basis of the workout commands using feeback through ERG to maintain the prescribed wattage (so depends on cadence as well as torque).
Based on your w/kg output it ‘rides’ you at an appropriate speed for any terrain/slope you might be on. This may give you a mythical effective gear (for example you can climb a 20% incline at 100w, I don’t know what gear that would be in the real world but it would be tiny).
On that basis, assuming a calibrated and accurate trainer setup (not that same) the rider has done the work to do that elevation but it might not represent the sorts of inputs (torque) you need in real life.
You should not care about this if you do indoor workouts. Just as milage doesn’t matter with an indoor workout, elevation also doesn’t matter. It’s all about time in power zone
So it comes down to not comparing your strava year stats with your mates riding zwift, but just beat them because you had a better training plan
from the cycling meme thread:
I think it’s reasonably “equivalent” to the real world insofar as the Zwift algorithm does a decent job of calculating realistic speed and climbing rate based on watts and kg.
Is it a more realistic training experience? Depends. If you want the most physiologically realistic climbing simulation indoors then you want to be riding in a low gear (which more closely simulates the inertia of climbing) and with a raised front wheel (either through a Kickr Climb or a thick book…). You can do this in either Zwift or TR. The difference would be that in TR you probably want to do it in erg mode, so that as you hit an interval the resistance ramps up but you can stay in a low gear (if erg mode is off you likely have to change gears to hit target wattage at a reasonable cadence). In Zwift you can do the same thing in erg mode if you’re doing a structured workout, but you also have the option to just free ride or race, and will need to shift into a lower gear to get over the simulated hills.