There are a number of climbs in Zwift, but there is a distinct lack of information about them and how difficult each climb is within the app. So, I pulled all the info I could find on each climb available across all Zwift’s worlds and courses and ranked them here.
Zwift’s “Trainer Difficulty” Setting
First thing first, before you start tackling climbs in Zwift, dial in your trainer difficulty setting. The Trainer Difficulty slider is a little bit voodoo and a lot of try it until it feels right.
Officially, Zwift says the slider changes the gradient while riding. I think this is the entirely wrong way to think about the setting. The reality is, it changes your gearing. Here’s how that works.
If the slider is at 100%, you’re riding your actual gearing. So, if I have my crit bike on the trainer with it’s 11-23 cassette and 53/39 crankset, I’m going to have a hell of a time trying to do any steep climb in Zwift.
This is where the Trainer Difficulty slider comes in. At 100%, I’m going to have to struggle at 40 rpm up the Alpe Du Zwift, but if I bring the slider down, I can mimic smaller gear ratios. At somewhere around 50%, my 53/39 x 11-23 feels much more like my climbing bike which is geared at 50/34 x 11-34. And if I bring it down to 10-20% it feels like my gravel bike with its 32 x 11-42 gearing.
Conversly, if I put my gravel bike on the trainer, I up the Trainer Difficulty setting to 100% and feel exactly what the climb would be like on that bike.
Categorizing Zwift Climbs
The Zwift climbs below are ranked by Strava climb categorization. The system is similar to how the UCI categorizes climbs but with some modifications.
When a climb is categorized, for the Tour de France for example, there is a subjective component to the categorization. If a climb is at the end of the stage it could get a tougher category than if it was earlier in the stage. Strava’s method is objective, so if a climb is category 1 climb it will always be a category 1. You will see that a segment is categorized by the number on both the segment page and at the list of segments on your activity page.
To decide the category of a climb Strava multiplies the length of the climb (in meters) with the grade of the climb. If that number is greater than 8000 then it is a categorized climb.
- Cat 4 > 8000
- Cat 3 > 16000
- Cat 2 > 32000
- Cat 1 > 64000
- HC (Hors Categorie) > 80000
This information is taken from Strava support.