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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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 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.
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.
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
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.
Semi-retired as owner and director of his private Orthopedic Physical Therapy practice after over 20 years, Chris is blessed with the freedom to pursue his passion for virtual cycling and writing. On a continual quest to give back to his bike for all the rewarding experiences and relationships it has provided him, he created a non-profit. Chris is committed to helping others with his bike through its work and the pages of his site.
In the summer of 2022, he rode 3,900 miles from San Francisco to New York to support the charity he founded, TheDIRTDadFund. His “Gain Cave” resides on the North Fork of Long Island, where he lives with his beautiful wife and is proud of his two independent children.
You will read him promoting his passion on the pages of Cycling Weekly, Cycling News, road.cc, Zwift Insider, Endurance.biz, and Bicycling. Chris is co-host of The Virtual Velo Podcast, too!