Zwift has grown in its popularity by leaps and bounds, now with an estimated half a million users (maybe more) and being the talk of the town among indoor bike riders. For anyone with a smart trainer, they have no doubt heard of Zwift if they aren’t already using it.
While Peloton has the huge commercial presence, with heavy marketing to prove it, Zwift has more grown consistently because of the word-of-mouth of the riding community. It differs from alternatives like Sufferfest and Trainerroad in that it is a true gaming experience, where you can interact with other riders in addition to the trainer.
One of our favorite things to do on Zwift is to climb. The climbs are something we always look forward to on our rides, and they are made even more fun by the fact that they are often timed segments where you can gauge progress against your own PRs as well as other riders. Making the leaderboard for a hard climb is a true accomplishment, given that you are riding with finely-tuned riders from all around the world.
Here are our favorite climbs on Zwift right now.
Fox Hill. Surrey Hills course.
1.86 miles, 512 vertical feet. We start with Fox Hill, which to us is a great test of how good a day we are having. We love the variety of the Surrey Hills rides, and Fox Hill is a nice, short, steady hill
that will put you through a good test. Many consider this portion of the route as a nice recovery during a lovely ride. This means that you won’t lose your pack, even if you’re kind of taking it easy. You can very well rely on Fox Hill whenever you’re in the mood for a ride that doesn’t require loads and loads of effort. What’s most important here is to maintain speed and position. Other details we should mention about the Fox Hill segment is that its lowest elevation is 36m, the highest elevation is 156m, so the elevation difference is 120m. While having an average grade of about 4%, keep in mind that there will be times when you’ll climb at a grade of approximately 11%. Be ready for the start – this hill throws the double-digit grade at you right in the first minute and two. The only real coasting comes toward the very end of the segment. Fox Hill is a pretty popular ride, thus there are a lot of other enthusiast riders you can compare results with. Plus, you can admire some lovely sceneries along the segment, which is another bonus point for this sweet, simple climb.
Innsbruck KOM (forward), Innsbruck course.
7.43 km. Who doesn’t like a great ride through the Austrian Alps? This segment’s lowest elevation is 296m, the highest elevation is 696m, thus the elevation difference is 400m. With an average grade of 5%, the Innsbruck KOM Forward will, from time to time, have you climbing at a grade of about 12%. Nicely heading towards the Cable Carts with the beautiful river in the right, this ride is ideal for a semi-recovery, yet still challenging day that you don’t want to get too laid-back. The Innsbruck KOM Forward will gift you with charming and awe-inspiring natural sceneries all around. Besides that, as you round for the final corner, you can use timing as well as the surrounding landmarks to your very own advantage.
The Forward KOM segment follows the Reverse KOM one. When you’re on this route, enjoy the sprint, conquer the climb, adapt your pace, and stay adequately hydrated. Look to your right and admire the scenic Swarovski Crystal Worlds Giant, a mammoth face that was built, piece by piece, by a talented 3D artist.
Leith Hill, Surrey Hills course.
1.95km. 7% incline. It is funny how a grade averaging 7% may not seem like much, but when you are in the middle of a 10-minute all-out climb like the one on Leith Hill, you will wish it was more like 4%. Truth be told, you will spend some time on this climb at more like a 10%+ grade. Fast enough to be able to keep your chainring turning, and short enough so you can go anaerobic for a bit, this climb can actually be done in the same session as the Fox Hill climb.
Since this course often keeps you off of flat ground, you’ll definitely get plenty of climbing done along the way. Interestingly, the segment starts at a different spawn point compared to other courses along the British capital, bypassing the typical flat London start in order for you to get climbing in a jiffy.
Leith Hill offers you the chance to tour the beautiful English hillside and enjoy one of Zwift’s most scenic climbs. This heart-pumping trek will get you climbing and cruising through the charming countryside. The lovely stretches with steep grades nicely lead up to Surrey’s summit. Hence, all the heavy heart-racing parts are totally worth it.
Moreover, the Leith Hill segment makes it possible for you to ride South England’s highest point right from the comfort of your home. A cool thing we should mention is that the real-life Leith Hill is actually part of the Prudential RideLondon and London-Surrey Classic.
Had we known the Surrey area just Southwest of London had so many rollers, we would have made an effort to get there sooner in-person. For now, Zwift will have to do.
Alpe du Zwift, Watopia course.
The “Road to the Sky” is the granddaddy of all Zwift climbs, just introduced in 2018. Climbing a whopping 3753 feet, this climb will certainly test your meddle and might be one that you only manage to crank out a couple times a year. It is as if Zwift was getting requests for more grueling climbs, and responded with a “be careful what you wish for” ride.
Interestingly, the Watopia segment is the shortest route including Alpe du Zwift, a mammoth climb inspired by the stunning Alp d’Huez. If you choose this course for a smooth freeride, you’ll start on the picturesque pier, right near the seaplane and just before Epic KOM’s start. Shortly after you take off, you’ll meet and greet the first little climb right across the bridge and straight to the jungle’s bottom, prior to hanging a right and starting the Alpe du Zwift ascent. This segment ends at the KOM banner, on top of Alpe du Zwift.
Road to Sky is 19.5 km (12.1 miles) long, with an elevation gain of 1135 meters (3726′) and leading-in 7.7 km (4.8 miles) and 79 meters (260’) from Start Pier. Just like the rest of the Alpe routes, Watopia course is only available for Zwifters level 12 and up. You can, however, access it through an official group ride before reaching level 12.
KOM Climb (Forward), Innsbruck course.
If you ride the Innsbruck course, one of the classic ride options you will have is the UTI Worlds Short Lap. Within that ~14 mile lap is a 1400 foot climb that will give you a great test. The KOM climb is about 7.5 km (about 4.5 miles) long, and although it has an average grade of about 5%, you will spend quite a bit of time climbing at grades of 9% to 11%. For a typical “fit-but-not-elite” cyclist, this is roughly a 30 minute segment, and it is popular so there will be plenty of other riders to compare yourself to. The last time I rode it, there were 750 people on current leaderboard. The route takes you through the scenic Alps and many mountain villages once you leave the Innsbruck area.
The lowest elevation along this segment is 296 meters and the highest one is 696 meters, thus there’s an elevation difference of 400 meters. While the brief city part of this route is pleasantly flat, the mountain one hurts. And as you work your way up the hill, there are various crowds that cheer for you – a nice motivational feature.
Riding this segment is both challenging and rewarding. Plus, its picturesque sceneries will, most probably, make you want to ride the route in real-life, as well.
These superb rides are perfect for testing your abilities, having fun, admiring some fabulous views and engaging with fellow riders. If you want to improve your performance, you can consider staying mostly seated, get a rocket plate for extra comfort, flattening your feet, and staying relaxed. This way, you’ll get faster, stronger and enjoy these virtual segments even more.
So there you have them, five superb Zwift climbs. Give them a try and let us know what you think. Better yet, share your favorite climb below!