Zwift Community Q&A: Matt Wheeler

Zwift Community Q&A: Matt Wheeler

Something that we believe is extremely important in our Zwift community is highlighting those people who make Zwift racing and riding what it is: Indoor Specialists.

This week we asked avid Zwifter, Matt Wheeler, some questions so the community could get to know more about him.  Read up below!

How did you get into Zwift?: Living in Wisconsin my cycling has been very seasonal and I was looking for a way to keep fitness through winter. Late 2017 I went to my local bike shop searching for some winter gear but saw a Zwift set up. The demo was pretty easy for 30 seconds but then turned up the forward KOM and I was hooked instantly.

How long have you been riding or racing a bike?: I grew up in the Peak District in the UK. I’ve been “racing” bikes with friends since I was 10, any bike, any downhill (outlaw style). My competitive sport was Canoe Slalom, a purely anaerobic upper body effort, and cycling was a good compliment to it. I didn’t learn to drive until I was 35, so if I wanted to go somewhere I had to bike.

What team on Zwift are you on?: Velocity Vixen/Fox. We’re a great mix of people and I’m constantly inspired by the adventure and competitive feats that people post to FB and strava.

What trainer/power meter do you utilize?: The Zwift demo I tried was on a discounted hammer so I bought that and I still have it. As I’ve become more focused on racing I decided that I needed a second power source and bought some Favero Assioma pedals. Starting with Zwift classics I’ve been posting power comparisons to Strava. I record power from the pedals and use the trainer for resistance. The Hammer is a great trainer and I love the feedback from terrain changes. I prefer the pedals for power since I can compare with outdoor rides and find that they respond more naturally to changes in effort.

What kind of fan do you use for cooling?:November to March I just crack a window and I’m good. In summer however…  I normally train with 3 fans, 2 either side of the screen to create a flow across head and upper body. 1 to keep the trainer and my shoes cooler.

Cooling feels like the main source of marginal gains for Zwift. For the first classics race I kept a stock of freezer blocks to stuff down the back of my kit and closed all the air conditioning vents that weren’t in the pain cave.

Are you a morning person or a night owl?: I’m a morning person but I also start work at 7:30 so I race/train in the evening during the week and then bright and early on the weekends.

What’s your pre-race ritual?: About 6 months ago I started a FB thread about terrible warm ups because my ritual used to be rush home and still be changing while on the trainer with 1 min to go. I’ve been getting better at this for races; my current routine is to do a yoga flow designed to warm up my leg muscles and open my hips, then jump on the trainer for 15 minutes at 75% with a few efforts mixed in.

What’s your favorite “staple” (regular) race?: I look for races with aggressive riders and interesting routes. TFC Friday 1pm CST has been perfect for this. Chasing Cryo-Gen A’s for as long as I can is a great workout. The Saturday morning P Race is another favorite because there isn’t a spot someone won’t launch an attack on. I’m a huge admirer of what WTRL is doing to find innovative formats. 

What’s your favorite Zwift group ride?: I don’t have a favorite but I do enjoy jumping into different groups and interacting with the community. Bacon Rolls is always a fun ride. KISS AT Base. 3R Rally.

Do you think Zwift racing is different from outdoor bike racing? If so, how is it different to you? Hard to compare.

What kind of fuel do you use to keep yourself going while riding?: One of my favorite things about indoor riding is that I can take coffee with me. For races or hard sessions I’ll have a SIS gel or two. For longer endurance rides I’ll keep various chocolate or other sugar treats as rewards for clearing hills or milestones.

If you could race anyone head to head on Zwift, who would you pick?: Frank Deal. He’s my nemesis. We’re the same weight and FTP but he’s always beaten me because of his craftiness.

Do you ride/race outside in addition to Zwift? If so, what discipline(s)?: I used to ride outside exclusively but find that Zwift is giving me a better workout. The road surfaces and bike paths aren’t great and the amount of stop start was a frustration. The convenience and safety is also appealing. Now that I have a power meter I’ll try again.  

What one tip would you give to Zwifters looking to improve their racing in-game?: I’ve got two!

Tip 1: Don’t just race. Take the time to do intervals of different intensity. Practice sprinting when you are fresh and you’ll have a better sprint at the end of the race. Practice 2 min and 3 min efforts and you’ll learn to surge with groups and recover after. Just racing you can get demoralized and plateau.

Tip 2: Race up a category. I’m technically a B (3.99 w/kg) but racing with B’s wasn’t leading to improvements since I could comfortably hold the group and then sprint. Racing with A’s and I’m constantly on the limit and forcing myself to learn better tactics and craft around resting in the pack. Yes it sucks at times but it’s made me a better racer.

Where do you see eSports for cycling going?: I think it will continue to grow as a platform to support short format racing and challenges between riders. The merging of pro and community riders in Classics is a great step and I hope to see it expand. As the sport matures I can see formats being declared between “fun and gamified” and more serious racing. Either way I’m hopeful that the next generation of trainers are capable of providing transparency to their settings and calibration, and better ways to report accurate data from existing trainers. 

What’s your favorite Zwift memory?: I watch a lot of streamed racing and I think cheering on the community teams in KISS Super League was a fantastic moment. Watching Casey Schumm and Justin Purificati use their knowledge of the platform to close a gap off the Epic KOM and fly by some pros was hilarious to me. (I’m also partial to the KISS Community League Richmond UCI Conegate race). 

What’s something your competition on Zwift might not know about you ? When I was a canoeist I weighed 85kg, I became allergic to gluten and dairy and dropped to 65kg. Bizarrely it wasn’t until I started consistently biking that I found a way to gain weight again, stable around the 72kg mark.

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