If it previously seemed like a scarce amount of features on the platform for juniors, this is going to be quite hard to hear. Disclaimer: this is going to be a bit of a rant, but the post does have meaning to it.
With Zwift Companion 3.43, people can no longer see kids activities or age. While this appears to be a good thing, it removes a few major social aspects of the platform.
- Kids can no longer identify who is a kid. This means that when you think you’ve found another kid like yourself, you’ll never know that they are really a kid.
- Kids can no longer socialize through the comments on Zwift rides. Now, since all activities are set as private, other riders cannot see it and comment. I often get comments asking me when the next Tour4Kids will be, or how to join Bikely Youth Team. Welp, so much for that…
What Was Zwift Thinking?
The current tone of this post makes it seem like Zwift did this for no reason. They didn’t. Of course, they are going to have reason for everything that they do. Recently, there have been people going after some U16 riders who had “unrealistic” power—this likely involved commenting on their rides, etc. Making all kids activities private makes it so that adults do not have the ability to comments on their rides. Instead, clicking on their activity will return an error. These are three things that I think that this will cause:
- When you think someone is cheating and you click on their activity, hoping to get some sort of explanation as to why they are putting out 5 w/kg at only 150 watts, it makes it even more suspicious when the activity returns an error. This will only further the accusations of cheating towards other junior riders.
- Formerly, people could check other riders profiles and see how old the rider is. Oftentimes, when they realize the rider is a junior, they back off as it explains the low power and high w/kg. However, people can no longer do that.
- I know plenty of juniors who love racing on the platform and use Zwift Power to monitor their progress. Now, activities will not upload to Zwift Power because Zwift Power does not have access to private activities. Ugh
Recap of the Last 4 Years
The last 4 years on Zwift have been rough. Understandably, they are are trying to expand their business and deliver features as fast as possible, so kids simply are not the priority. However, there has been one thing that Zwift has done for juniors over the past 4 years.
- They decreased the weight limit. Yep, that’s it.
Here is a list of things that kids currently cannot do on Zwift:
- Participate in Zwift Racing League
- Create clubs
- Join clubs
- Manage privacy settings
- Create private events for other kids
- Create public events
- Socialize with other kids
Zwift Could Be More
While many juniors just use Zwift for training and doing workouts, I personally think that Zwift could be so much more. I have met hundreds of other kids on Zwift that I never would have met otherwise. For me, Zwift is more than just a place to train. It is a place where I can find other kids who share the same passion. A place that I can ride with other kids. A place where I can go and chill after a long day at school.
Yes, there are privacy concerns with Zwift accounts, but kids accounts have so much potential. Zwift essentially combines the typical kids addiction to video games with fitness—making it perfect for juniors. Additionally, the existing junior audience that Zwift has is the next generation on Zwift. If Zwift can make a good first impression, kids would be willing to continue their subscription after they are 16 years old(kids accounts are free until the age of 16).
One of the major things that kids often ask is: “Are there events for kids”. The answer is: “No”. My events are not official and involve hours of work to manage, create, and promote. For Zwift to sanction events for kids would be extremely beneficial to help kids engage in the platform and discover other kids like themselves. Currently, the only way to interact with other riders is through Discord, as kids activities are now private. Often, parents do not feel safe letting their children use Discord, making it hard for kids to find other kids to ride with.
What You Can Do
Currently, I am trying to support the youth community, but this cannot be done alone. I’d like to ask all the kids on Zwift to fill out this Google Form(Adult version here) so that I can share this information with Zwift and show them that there are kids out there who would want to have these abilities.
At this point, I do not know how much I can do, but I will continue to try. Honestly, these recent decisions by Zwift have removed my incentive to ride on Zwift—so until changes are made, Zwift simply will not be the same. BTW, 5 Monuments p/b BYT has been announced, so be sure to sign up: https://zracecentral.com/5-monuments-p-b-byt-announced/. If you have any thoughts or questions on this topic, please let me know.