Tech & Wearables

Zwift update adds Black hairstyles for avatars, steering for Wahoo Kickr smart bikes

A January 21 update brought a few improvements, including how the game displays larger groups.

Zwift users who have logged in since late in the day on January 21 may have noticed an update to the game during the login process — and perhaps while riding in the game environment. New features include more Black hairstyles, button-controlled steering for Kickr Bike users, and improved display performance in large events.

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In recent weeks, there have been as many as 50,000 simultaneous users  in the game, and there had been reports of performance degradation for events with thousands of participants. The peak loads caused some users to experience jumpy or lagging performance, while others saw riderless bikes, sometimes with only shoes pedaling.

“There was a game code bug that was only exposed by the recent uptick in users. A fix is done and going out soon,” Zwift co-founder Jon Mayfield wrote in a Zwift Facebook group. “The issue can happen on any speed device, from [an] iPad Air 1 up to [a] $5,000 gaming PC, however, the trigger to hit [this issue is] much harder to hit the faster the device is.”

Zwift riderless bikes
Zwift users should see a lot fewer riderless bikes after the most recent game update. Image: Anne Renshaw/Twitter

For years, Zwift claimed some of the issues experienced could be attributed to the use of underpowered devices being used to access and play the game. Zwift recently acknowledged that some of the sub-optimal game performances were a result of intentional programming to allow the “lowest common denominator” gaming devices to be used.

This caused a performance drop for all users, even those with high-end, expensive “gaming rigs.” So, whether a user had a seven-year-old Android with a four-inch screen, or a brand new dedicated RAM-packed, liquid-cooled Corsair One, they would be able to use either device and, with the same internet connection, have comparable performance.

Other patches to the game were improvements to Bluetooth pairing performance and other back-end enhancements that were not user-facing but still resulted in a performance-bump.

The most recent version of the Zwift gaming client is 1.0.61217, and you can find this information in the bottom right corner of the login screen.

Zwift version
The game version is displayed in the lower right side of the login screen. Image: Greg Kaplan

Black hairstyles

Another significant update to Zwift is the addition of a few different Black hairstyles for game avatars.

Changing an avatar’s hairstyle once in the game is done from the My Garage > Me > Hair configuration screen.

Zwift Black Hairstytles
More Black hairstyles are now available in Zwift. Image: Greg Kaplan

All the existing customizations such as hair color and length can be applied to the new hairstyles.

Steering added for Wahoo Kickr Bike riders

Wahoo Kickr Bike owners rejoice: Zwift added a feature to allow steering, now controllable with the thumb buttons on the Wahoo Kickr Bike shifters.

“When we designed Kickr Bike, we intentionally built-in features we knew wouldn’t be usable at launch, but which would be huge assets to our riders once the software platforms caught up to our hardware,” said Wahoo Kickr product manager Tyler Harris. “Now that Zwift is rolling out steering to more users, we’re excited that Kickr Bike will give our riders a seamless way to enjoy Zwifting, and to immerse themselves even more fully in virtual rides and races.”

Kickr Bike-using Zwifters can move left or right in the game by one “lane” at a time simply by clicking the buttons on the bike’s programmable shifters. Tapping the assigned button once moves the Zwift avatar over by one lane, while holding the button moves the avatar multiple lanes.

The significance of the ability to steer is that it allows users to control their position for passing, dropping back, and drafting instead of allowing the game to control it.

Wahoo Kickr Bike steering
Wahoo Kickr Bike owners can steer in Zwift using the programmable buttons on the bike’s shifters. Photo: Courtesy Wahoo Sports

There are a few exceptions to when and where this new steering feature is available; riders will still not yet be able to steer in the Repack Ridge course in Watopia. Zwift indicated that this enhancement is coming in a future update. Some races are set aside as steering events, while most are not.

In August of 2020, Zwift added limited steering functionality for owners of the Elite Sterzo Smart steering block.