How to Spot a Cruiser

How do you spot us cruisers? As has been discussed in a previous post, you don’t. Not during the race. You may have your suspicions, but you can’t tell for sure until the race is registered with Zwift or ZwiftPower.

So what do you look for on those web sites? The easiest way to catch a cruiser is to look at the HR graph and look for profiles that don’t look like your own. You are looking for riders who had a much easier time in the race than you who did put in a lot of effort. 

There is a grayscale of course. Cruising isn’t black and white. But sometimes it is ridiculously obvious. I will show you one such example. 

Below are two riders participating in the same race. We will keep them anonymous for the sake of decency, and it really doesn’t matter. This is from just an ordinary race on an average weekday, just a random race on the daily schedule. One I didn’t participate in myself, I should perhaps add. You can find plenty of examples like this if you look for yourself. Cruising is common. Almost every race has cruisers.

None of the two racers did a spindown after the race, so there are no extra km’s at low intensity to mess up the pattern. There is an age difference but not that large and none that would really justify the winner’s choice of pace. Both produced the same average W/kg. There is a slight weight difference between them, the winner being the heavier guy, but it isn’t a big difference. Both of them are fairly heavy.

First, let’s look at this guy: 

This was a flattish race but with some short punchy hills, medium distance, under the hour. This is not a flat out effort. You can see that there have been moments where he was able to draft in a group that didn’t go full speed all the time (Zone 3). But boy, did he work hard! Look at the peaks! He spends way more time in the upper Zone 4 (orange) band than anywhere else. That is on the lactate threshold. He is basically doing an FTP test while racing, and you know how pleasant that is.

As if that wasn’t enough suffering in itself (I can picture his pain face throughout the race) there is also something else. Look at the time spent in Zone 5 (red). That’s VO2Max or worse. Now, the zones can’t always be trusted. Not everyone fits into the Coggan model perfectly. But it is probably still safe to assume that he was indeed in the red for quite some time, actually longer than in Zone 3 (yellow), tempo pace. He probably had to fight very hard in climbs to stick with the others in the group.

I don’t know about you, but to me, given a category system with effort limits, or actually, given any system, this guy looks like a deserving winner. Will of steel. He sacrificed a lot to get to the finish line. That’s a worthy winner. Only it wasn’t enough.

I would guess he lost the sprint big time, because he crossed the finish line a couple of seconds behind the winner. Actually, he came in 3rd.

Now let’s look at the winner of the race, according to ZP:

Can you see the difference? This guy spends most of the race fairly comfortably in Zone 3 (yellow) and even manages to squeeze in a little green there. This mass of yellow is what you get on an endurance ride. He is racing in endurance tempo and then pushes up some hills every now and then.

At times he does push hard, probably in climbs or other situations where he wants to decimate the group and drop people left and right. Two of them, at least, he couldn’t drop (for fear of going over limits), but he probably tried to wear them down. Cruisers do that in races. You try deliberately to hurt the others in situations where you are strong. And this guy is obviously strong all the way. So cruisers get to pick and choose when to bring out the hammer.

Are we sure he is a cruiser? I have looked at this rider’s other races and I seriously doubt there is a natural explanation, such as a heart condition that would motivate not going too hard. I have seen him work harder than this in e.g. workouts and apparently he survived. It should be noted, though, that this guy is a winner. He has lots of podiums on his ZP record. And I assume he doesn’t intend to leave his current category anytime soon. 

We have to remember that Zwift wants this guy on top, rather than the bronze guy. It’s part of their system and they have had all the time in the world to change it. But they don’t. They want him to win. They believe it is revenue maximizing to cater to the cheater before at the expense of the others in the race. You have to leave your moral judgements behind. This is Zwift! It is what it is. It is the place where the oversized fish eat smaller fish in an undersized pond. I will eat you next.

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Cruiser Modus Operandi

Cruisers are devious adversaries. We will not stand out much from the crowd. The reason is we must not let our average W/kg go over limit. We have to be strategic with our energy spending and only put in as much as is barely needed. For this reason you might not even see us flying at the start like the average sandbagger. 

Try to lose us and we will still be glued to your wheel. If you somehow manage to drop us in a climb, don’t celebrate just yet. We may have had our reasons. For example, we may have noticed that you are light and easily caught on the flat just past the climb. So we save energy, or rather, save decimals on our average W/kg for later use. We will catch you. And we will drop you.

Very little that we do will seem illegitimate during the actual race. We will just seem very BIG STRONK to you. And our only threat during the race are other cruisers. They are our main competitors for the podium, not you. 

We must also take care not to get carried away by blatant sandbaggers, because sticking to their wheels will drive our average W/kg up to dangerous levels where we risk getting upgraded to the category in which we actually belong. That takes 3 months to undo, which is a long time for a fragile ego. And this, of course, is the reason you might not see us flying at start. Instead we try to find the frontmost seemingly legit group for our pretend category at start and stick with it. 

Sometimes we join a stronger group at start, maybe with a couple of riders from the category above, and then let ourselves drop after some minutes if we think we won’t have to drop solo. It doesn’t hurt our W/kg that much on the whole, but we can gain minutes on you early for hanging on to a group that would send you to max HR. Minutes gained that you will have very little chance to bridge. We are already going at max permissible W/kg and we are not that winded doing so. Exactly how would you legitimately bridge to us without being a cruiser yourself?

How do we stay within cat limits? Isn’t that hard to nail precisely for someone who has the strength to easily go over limits for an undue amount of time? It’s simple really. Your smart-trainer probably came with an app you can download and do workouts in if you are not a Zwift subscriber. That app that you never used since Zwift is much more fun. That app is likely going to tell you your current average Watt during a session. You use this app while racing. If you get problems with Bluetooth channel conflicts you can get around those by running Zwift over ANT+ and the smart-trainer app over Bluetooth on your phone mounted on your handlebars.

You will rarely see us pulling a group. We are good at staying in the draft. It’s not that we don’t have excess energy to spare – we do – but staying in the draft is a very efficient way to keep our average W/kg as low as possible, perhaps as much as 0.3 below the puller who may be going at limit. Thus we save up some wiggle room to drop people with later in hill climbs. You thought climbers were little guys who excel at staying at VO2Max for several minutes and recover fast? You thought this was fair racing? Stop watching TV and think again.

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How to Spot a Sandbagger

As opposed to the other types of cheaters, sandbaggers in general and cruisers are quite easily spotted, if you know what to look for. In a mixed category race sandbaggers will be the riders who fly off the front at start and soon enough end up in a group with the next category above them or worse, their real category. It is really easy to spot a sandbagger. 

These days there are various counter-measures to sandbagging that can be used by race organizers. This is mechanics Zwift added during the spring of 2020. Sandbaggers who go over short-term W/kg limits will get a green cone of shame over their heads and will start to suffer a power brake that will eat away some of the cheater’s unnatural advantage. Some riders get DQ’d at the finish line for going over limits. For a period Zwift also experimented with ghosting the cheaters, i.e. to make cheating riders just disappear from view to others and from the results board, only they don’t notice themselves until the finish line. But these are just desperate measures that won’t the hide the fact that Zwift came up with a uniquely weird category system and that Zwift nevertheless still allows cheating. It’s like gluing extra wings on an ostrich. It’s still an ostrich, and no, it won’t fly regardless.

Remember that with a normal category system, one based on past results rather than past efforts, sandbaggers can only go on for so many races before they get kicked to the next higher category. But we cruisers want to keep the current category system because we are best friends with Zwift. We keep winning and Zwift lets us.

Cruisers are much harder to spot than the blatant sandbaggers during the actual race. The realization will creep up on you slowly and too late, if at all. A lot of zwifters don’t even know that cruisers like me exist, because they never care to look closely at the results board and the profiles on it. I will teach you how to find us after the race in a following post.

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Ways of Cheating in Zwift

Have you ever participated in a Zwift race and had that sinking feeling that someone, or maybe several other riders, were actually cheating. Chances are you were right. Because cheaters like me exist for real. We come in many forms and sizes. I will go through the most common forms of cheating below, so you know what you should look out for in case you didn’t already.


A hacker will manipulate either hardware or software, or both, to gain an unfair advantage. On rare occasions when freeriding you can see somebody zoom past you at superhuman speed and W/kg. Such blatant hacking is very rare in races. If it happens, or rather, to the extent it happens, it is going to be far more subtle. Why expose yourself that much as when going 20 W/kg as it is only going to get you DQ’d, if not for hacking then for going over the set W/kg limits in any race category (no, you couldn’t get away with it even in A+).

I am not going to point you in any direction, but if you google around a little, you will find examples of tech savvy guys who have invented ways to manipulate the power reporting in smart trainer hardware or in software, just to prove that they could. What you will not find are the ones who didn’t tell you about it and who might actually be using it in real Zwift races against you.

Fortunately, I am convinced this form of cheating is very rare and nothing you will generally have to worry too much about. Cheating this way requires special know-how that few possess. It could also be too hard for you to spot anyway. Likely, Zwift itself is probably in the best position to detect deviances in power input or similar that should raise suspicions.

There are cases – you can google for those too – where suspected hackers have been DQ’d for performing ‘too well’. There is, for example, the case with a Swedish MTB rider, mostly unknown on the international scene, who got DQ’d in a big Zwift event for this reason. He disputed the DQ and Zwift sent him a Tacx Neo for referencing his W/kg. He could reproduce his Watts even on the new rig but from what I heard Zwift wouldn’t lift the DQ. Was he cheating? Probably not, or I don’t know. What we learn from it, though, is that Zwift takes hacking seriously. In that regard they are probably not much different from any other online game provider, which will typically ban subscribers on indications of hacking.

But the case with the Swedish MTB rider also leads us into another form of cheating. Sometimes you don’t have to actively manipulate hardware to gain an unfair advantage. It can be enough to – purposely or not – neglect to maintain your hardware properly. A miscalibrated smart trainer can produce excessive Watt reporting. Can it be systematically exploited in races? Of course!

Know this: I will never hack in order to cheat in Zwift.

Weight Watchers

Want to do better in Zwift? Improve your W/kg! This can be done in either of two ways, looking at W/kg as a mathematical expression. Either you start producing higher Watts, i.e. you have to become stronger or more aerobically fit, or you lose weight. Oh, and there is a third option as well. You can just enter a false weight in your Zwift profile. People who underreport their weight in Zwift gain an unfair advantage. This is cheating. Sometimes people will even overreport their weight in order to cheat, but that is a special case we will discuss later and under a different heading.

How can you tell that somebody is cheating with his weight? You can’t. Normally, you can’t. Sometimes, when looking at people’s ZwiftPower profiles, you notice they have suddenly dropped significantly in weight from one day to the next. It could be a case of “I didn’t want to get on the scales until I knew for sure I had lost weight as to keep motivation and not disappoint myself, sorry!” That would be unintentional cheating. But most of the time it is somebody who got tired of getting ‘bad results’ and decided to take a little shortcut, i.e. a regular cheater. 

Know this: I don’t weigh in before a race. I base my weight on the last morning weight. I check my weight fairly frequently although sometimes I might be sloppy and won’t check for some time, but I will never cheat with weight on purpose.


A perhaps lesser known fact is that not only weight but also your height affects your speed in Zwift (and IRL). It does so because it affects air resistance. There is no wind in Zwift but the air resistance is very real and noticeable and is modeled on real life, or real physics. 

Air resistance is an exponential counter-force to your pedaling. The faster you try to go on a bike, the more you will notice that counter-force. At speeds up to 25-26 km/h it isn’t so bad, but above that it gets worse and worse for every little speed increase. Accelerating from 20 km/h to 30 km/h isn’t hard. It is far harder to go from 30 to 40 on the flat, even though the relative speed increase is the same! 

That is the effect of air resistance and it is a function of air density, which depends on altitude, and on the expression CdA, or Cd x A. Cd, or drag coefficient, depends on your geometrical aerodynamic shape. Low is better here. A cardboard box has a higher Cd than a ball. Note that it says nothing of the size of the object, just the shape, so a big ball has the same Cd as a small one. IRL you can affect your Cd by getting an aero bike, getting into the drops, tucking etc. Or by losing weight and getting thinner. Then we have the A component, and that is your frontal area. Now, Zwift reckons that if you are tall, then you have a bigger frontal area. It seems to be true that weight does affect your frontal area in Zwift, like it should.

At any rate, as with W/kg, if you want to go faster by reducing your CdA, there are two ways about it. Either you decrease your Cd, and you can’t, not in Zwift, except when changing bikes or going into the so-called ‘supertuck’ in descents at speeds at or above 57 km/h. Or you decrease your frontal area, A. This you can do easily. You just enter a lower number in the height field in your Zwift profile. 

Most people who start a Zwift subscription, even most people who sign up on the 3rd party ZwiftPower website to get their race results validated, don’t know about the importance of height when they sign up. So it is often quite obvious when people cheat with height. Suddenly, from one day to the next in their ZwiftPower profile, they drop 10 cm in height. That’s a cheater. You gain and lose weight but you don’t swing up and down like that in height. Any changes to somebody’s height is highly suspicious.

Know this: I will never cheat with height. I am 185 cm tall and fairly skinny. Or have been for all of my adult life. Eventually I might shrink a little from old age but I doubt I will be zwifting then.


A sandbagger is a broad, fuzzy and frankly quite bad term for any zwifter who signs up to a race category below his abilities in order to get an unfair advantage. You thought he was your peer and that you would race fair against him, but then it turns out that he has superpowers and hits you by surprise from behind, often already at the start. Formally, this is not cheating since Zwift will allow an A+ rider to join a D race. 

In order to prevent sandbaggers ZwiftPower (ZP) arrived at the scene as some kind of UN forces, since Zwift itself wouldn’t deal with the villains. ZP makes sure, sort of, that nobody with known better performance in a recent past can join a lower category, and get away with it. Well, you do get away with it. You will still show up as no 1 in the Zwift race report, but ZP will DQ you. So many riders disregard the Zwift results and only look at the ZP results. A bit frustrating to win a race without actually crossing the finish line first, though, don’t you think?


In Zwift you can cheat by exploiting the category system in a way you cannot in e.g. the US cycling federation categories or any other categorization that, similarly, is based on a participants past results. In Zwift categorization is instead based on past perfomance (W/kg), which is not the same as results. 

There is no external validation of past performance, meaning as long as you stay within a certain performance band, e.g. an average of 2.6-3.1 W/kg (cat C), in your races, then you ‘belong’ to that category. Zwift will allow you. ZwiftPower will allow you too, as long as you don’t have considerably better performances in your recent (3 months) history. Can you see the opportunities that open up for a cheater here? 

You can sign up for races in a category that you are way too strong for and you can win every time and still stay in category, even in the eyes of ZP. In US IRL racing and any other sport or computer game where a results-based category or ranking system is used, this is not possible. Keep winning and you will be auto-moved to the next higher category, against your will if need be. Perform worse than your peers and you will be offered to move down a cat.

So how do you do it? How do you stay in a category, keep winning more than your fair share, keep fooling ZP? It’s called managed underperformance, or cruising.

What you do is you enter a category below your abilities, keep an eye on your W/kg throughout the race, and try to keep your average W/kg at or below the upper limit of the category. You basically just cruise the race, until you hit a hill or a finish line. That’s when you bring the hammer down and beat the shit out of the low-category low-life peasants! 

As long as you don’t hammer your average above the limit you’re fine and in a very good position to win. The only thing you need to worry about are other cheaters like you. You can get carried away racing against them and inadvertently go over limit. The true member of the cat you are racing in, on the other hand, will mostly be at VO2Max at critical moments. They will drop like flies, all while you are merely cruising along.

Know this: I am a cruiser. I will keep cheating by crusing as long as Zwift will allow me. The only thing you can do to stop me is to try bait me above limit. If you succeed you will likely get DQ’d too.

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Hello fellow Zwifters!

Let us get properly introduced. I am Zwiftcruiser, your average Zwift cruiser. I live in Sweden. I like to ride my bike and to eat icecream. I like the color blue. Red is OK too.

What is a cruiser exactly? A cruiser is a special form of cheater in Zwift races. Does that mean that I am a cheater? Yes, it does! And you should be one too!

There are many ways to cheat in Zwift, but I will consistently use one single method alone to cheat indiscriminately in order to get podium placings. I do so supported by Zwift race rules and ZwiftPower race rules.

As you see me line up next to you at the warmup before a race, I am out to steal your legitimate win and will try my best to do so. I saved a hammer just for you!

Why do I cheat? What is my motivation? You are going to have to figure that out yourself here on the blog. Or create your own hypothetical explanation. In a sense, it really doesn’t matter anyway. The only thing that matters is that I still can cheat, and Zwift says there is absolutely nothing you can do about it. I’m not so sure about that though.

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