Breaking the Mold: indieVelo is Empowering Women in Cycling Esports Racing

By Em Nyquist

A seasoned virtual cyclist shares her evolution from a Beta tester to a true believer, highlighting how indieVelo is revolutionizing the game for female cyclists.

"What makes racing on indieVelo so cool?"

It’s a question I have heard a lot recently. The short answer is most certainly that the racing is top-notch. However, there are so many more positive reasons why women like me love racing on indieVelo. I want to share my experience, along with some feedback from other women Beta testers.

"I love the weather and the blue sky. I find it realistic, and it makes me feel like I'm outdoors."

cycling esports indievelo female perspective

A Unique and Refreshing Experience

My experience on indieVelo began in February 2023 when there was still a nondisclosure agreement in place. I instinctively accepted the invitation from my teammates, as I love trying new things and often dive into a unique experience without hesitation, especially if it involves competition. 


Upon starting up the game for the first time, the environment felt different from what I was used to, and yet, it was refreshing and appealing in a new, virtual way. 


It was like that scene from the James Cameron film Avatar when Jake wakes up in his Na’vi avatar for the first time. I knew how to push my avatar and ride around, but I needed to explore and find my way through new features. 


It was exciting and different! With features like wind and braking on corners, dual power data, and speed displays on the user interface instead of watt-per-kilogram averages! It brought hope that this could be where virtual cycling racing becomes a legitimate Olympic sport.

“I’ve never been more excited about a new platform and I honestly can’t see a future where indieVelo isn’t leading the e-racing world based on what I’ve seen so far.”

Facing My Fear of Defeat-By-Automatons

After a month of adjusting to the indieVelo environment by trying workouts, pacing with the various pace bots, and getting lost on the roadways of indieVelo Island, I finally faced my fear of defeat-by-automatons (bots), who know no pain, and signed up for my first race. A few hours before the start time, I shared my race plans with the indieVelo community in Discord, and a couple of fellow testers joined me. 


The game categorized the three of us and placed us in different start pens, meaning I was the only human in my race. A peloton of bots in a field of more than 50 surrounded me! I thought it would be unappealing, or at least strange, to race against AI avatars, but as it turns out, I wanted to beat them just as much as any human. 


My fellow Beta testers and I were racing the same course with bots matching our fitness levels. During the race, the three of us exchanged updates. We called out the moves of the bots via voice channel on the indieVelo community discord in hopes of tackling the predictions of our robotic competitors. 


We were each challenged and pushed to the max with a personalized race experience. As it turns out, these bots are tactically interactive. I could “tuck in” and draft in a group, then attack off the front or get dropped after a sprint banner or counterattack. 


It was exhilarating, wicked hard, and one of the most dynamic races I had ever participated in. I was all by myself, and yet, I was never alone.

indieVelo women's racing RIOT team kit picture

“I love the personalization of the entire platform.  From being able to design my own races with me + bots, I can really tailor my experience while building confidence.  I don’t have to be blown out of my league just to compete on a semi regular basis.  I can rely on the bots to gently push me in and out of my comfort zone.”

Custom Event Organization Means Never Racing Alone

Another perk of indieVelo is that users can create customized events. Within 10 minutes, anyone can create an event type that correlates to an actual racing style: team racing, points or scratch, elimination, time trial, group rides, etc. There’s even a Moto Pace bot for Keirin racing!

cycling esports indievelo female perspective streaming while riding bike online

“There is an opportunity for women to race in all categories together because there will be bots of every level to work and race with.”

Finding women to race with can be difficult, especially in the virtual realm. Outside the grid of league racing, where race field numbers tend to be highest, it isn’t easy to find a virtual race with more than one or two other female competitors, especially in the upper-level categories. 


On indieVelo, users can allow all participants to compete in a single pen when creating an event. Everyone races together, and indieVelo populates the remaining spots with bots matched to the various levels of human participants. My friends and I have bonded over this hard-core racing, spanning all category levels. With indieVelo bots, we never find ourselves racing alone.

"The other appealing aspect is the non-gamification environment–no power ups or racing aids. It’s all you, your trainer, and the in-game draft, wind, and wait for it…auto-braking."

Compelling Racing Without the Anxiety

Many women are hesitant to race outdoors, myself included. While I have dabbled with road and gravel racing and found both to be adrenaline-inducing fun, the risk of injury is too great for me, given my current life responsibilities. 


I find it thrilling to race on indieVelo, especially with the added real-world physical elements. The wind can be light, medium, or strong, and the race experience changes drastically with each! Echelons actually form with a strong crosswind, and I have to put in a hard effort to stay in the bunch with a strong tailwind.


The drafting dynamics are relatable as the game creator, Dr. George Gilbert uses real-life physics, and he continues to fine-tune the draft feel with feedback from the community.

"I love the fact that we as a community have been able to give feedback and develop the direction and functionality of indieVelo.  Although the female community is small, I feel George listens to us and takes onboard our feedback just as much as anyone else’s."

Women's team racing on indieVelo

I am delighted by the auto-braking on corners because it allows me, as a lighter rider, to hold a gap that I earned on a climb. A rider can also close gaps if descending correctly, and I have been able to catch those ahead of me if I take the corners well.

"The monthly challenges are a great tool to help motivate riders to push and test their limits. Thirty days allowance gives the athlete the ability to see their progress on a specific challenge and compare their times to other humans on Indie Velo in a friendly competitive community/environment."

indieVelo user interface image

"By taking the focus off of weight, indieVelo supports a healthy mindset."

No WKG and Personal Expression Supports a Healthy Mindset

Watts per kilogram are nowhere to be found on indieVelo, which Gilbert intentionally set as a priority. Plus, the watts per kilogram average doesn’t help racing anyway. Speed gives you everything you need, and it’s another feature that feels more like IRL racing.


Did I mention that you can customize the color of your hair? Yeah, mine is currently cerulean blue! IndieVelo allows the user to customize almost anything. There are many options, from creating your customized in-game kit to choosing the color of your handlebars and even choosing which data your HUD displays.

indieVelo User Interface image from the female perspective

I hope to see you on the roads of indieVelo soon. Be sure to drop a greeting in the island-wide chat, as you’ll most certainly receive a friendly reply.

About The Author - Em Nyquist

Em Nyquist indieVelo Women's race perspective

Emily “Em” Nyquist is a busy mother of 3 and still chasing athletic dreams at the age of 43. Em has loved riding bikes ever since teaching herself as a young girl. 

An avid recreational cyclist and former competitive runner, Em got into esports cycling in the spring of 2021.  She was delighted to discover that virtual racing fit her lifestyle perfectly and has embraced it ever since. 

Em joined Saris | Nopinz to race the Zwift Grand Prix last winter. She also joined RIOT and will be racing in the upcoming Zwift Racing League and Chase the Yellow on indieVelo.

When Em isn’t riding, she enjoys coaching her daughter’s sports teams, helping with youth events at church, and walking her dog through the wooded paths of northern Virginia.

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J diddy
J diddy
3 months ago

” I finally faced my fear of defeat-by-automatons (bots), who know no pain, and signed up for my first race.”

Great article!

3 months ago

Great article by Em Nyqyuist. She kept it interesting and entertaining. I may have to check this esport out.

3 months ago

Cerulean blue would be my choice for hair, too!

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