Three Ways to Maximize Experience Points (XP) in Zwift

Zwift has turned my indoor winter training sessions into a cycling game. Like most games, the goal of Zwift is to overcome challenges and achieve goals, giving the player a sense of accomplishment as they progress up levels and accumulate points. Here are a few tips and tricks that will help you to maximized points to move up levels faster.

Zwift Route Achievement Badge
Route Achievement Badge
  1. Complete Route Badges – When you complete a route for the first time you earn a route achievement badge. In addition to earning the points for the distance completed, you also receive a one-time XP bonus equal to the XP you already earned for the route. In essence you double your XP points for riding a route for the first time.
  2. Riding Streaks – A ride streak is the number of weeks you ride consecutively in Zwift. You must ride at least 2 kilometers, or 1.25 miles, for your ride to count.  Achieving a ride streak awards you with additional XP:
    • 300 bonus XP for each of the first two rides of week 1.
    • 400 bonus XP for each of the first two rides of week 2.
    • 500 bonus XP for each of the first two rides of week 3 and subsequent weeks in the same ride streak.
  3. Complete the last kilometer or mile – XP are earned for every km (20 XP) or mile (32 XP) completed, so it pays to complete partial miles remaining at the end of your ride. For example, if I complete 1.9 miles I earn 32 XP. However, if I ride another .1 mile making my distance 2 miles, I earn 64 XP. While this is not a big gain, it does pay to complete that last km or mile.

In every game, a strategy is crucial to success. These three strategies will help you maximize your XP in Zwift, which in turn get you better equipment and access to some level restricted areas in Zwift.

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Ken Whittaker


Best Strategy on Zwift

At first glance, Zwift looks like it’s designed for a road racing cyclist. However, the more I ride on Zwift the more I realize that a bicycle touring mindset is a much better game strategy and here is why.

Screen shot of the 120 Experience Point Bonus for completing the Railways and Rooftop Route Badge on Zwift.
120 XP Bonus for the Railways and Rooftop Route Badge on Zwift.

Remember, Zwift is a game where you earn points and the more points you earn, the higher your level in the game. A road racing strategy is all about speed. The faster you ride the faster you accumulate points. However, if you wanted to double your points in a Zwift session, that means you would have to ride twice as fast as your normal pace. Not a realistic strategy.

A bicycle touring mindset on the other hand is not about speed. A touring cycist focuses on traveling down roads and trails that they never traveled before, new environments, and the satisfaction of knowing they’ve the got the guts to continue the journey no matter what conditions they encounter. As a result, a bicycle touring strategy can easily double their points riding at their normal pace on Zwift by simply focusing on riding new routes. When a rider completes a route for the first time, they earn a route achievement badge. In addition to earning the points for the distance ridden on the route, they also receive a one-time XP bonus equal to the XP already earned for the route. And there is no shortage of new routes to doubles point with currently 129 routes on Zwift.

Screen shot of the 500 Experience Point Bonus for a three-week training streak on Zwift.
500 XP Bonus for a 3 Week Streak on Zwift

In addition, that daily determination of a bicycle touring mindset is also rewarded on Zwift. When I cycled across the United States, I realized that the real challenge was not the daily milage. Rather, it was all about the determination to get up and ride again day after day for almost two months. Similarly, Zwift rewards a bicycle touring mindset by giving bonus points for consecutive Riding Streaks.

So, the best strategy on Zwift is to ride like you’re bicycle touring. To illustrate, at the completion of my last 9.2 mile I would have received 288 XP no matter how fast I rode. Yet, I earned 912 XP as follows: Milage 288XP (9X32), Route Badge bonus 124 XP and a Training Streak bonus 500XP. It pays to ride Zwift with a bicycle touring mindset. Ride On!

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Ken Whittaker


How to Eliminate Disc Brake Squeal

Picture of Finish Line Bicycle Disc Brake Cleaner.
Finish Line Bicycle Disc Brake Cleaner

I rarely write product reviews. When I do, it is always of a product that I use and paid for myself.  I do not benefit in any way by my product reviews. I share my opinion of a product with the visitors to this website so they might benefit from my experience with that product. With that said, let me tell you about Finish Line Bicycle Disc Brake Cleaner Aerosol

I made the transition to disc brakes when Avid bb7 cable disc brakes were introduced in the late 1990’s and I’ve never regretted it.  In fact, I’m still using those brakes today, decades later.  I love disc brakes, BUT I HATE THE SQUEAL.  While there are many things that can cause disc brake squeal, generally with well-maintained brakes in good working condition contamination of the disc and rotor has always been the cause of my brake squeal.

Over the years I have used Dove dish soap and Isopropyl Alcohol to clean my brake with good results.  While these products work for me, I did have to remove the pad to use them.  With Finish Line Bicycle Disc Brake Cleaner Aerosol, I simply sprayed the brakes and rotors, and the squeal was gone.  It is a product well worth trying if you are plagued with disc brake squeal.

Ken Whittaker


Bicycle Tire Bead Tool

Kool Stop Bicycle Tire Jack Tool

I’ve been using the Kool Stop bicycle tire jack ever since I first learned about it when I was cycling across the United States, see Day 35 – Silsbee, TX to De Ridder, LA – Cycle Across America. It is a fantastic tool for mounting tight fitting bicycle tires. While I would still highly recommend the Kool Stop as a great compact tool to stuff in a seat bag for quick puncture repair when touring, in my home shop I’ve switched to a generic plier-like tire jack pictured below.

Generic Plier-type Bicycle Tire Jack Tool.

The plier-like tire jack makes grabbing the tire bead and rim a faster and easier one-handed operation. However, although the plier-type jack is easier to use, I don’t think I would ever carry this bulky tool in a seat bag for emergency tire repairs. Nevertheless, I found it easier to use while servicing my tires in my home shop.

If you struggle with mounting bicycle tires like I do, I highly recommend the Kool-Stop Tire Bead Jack or the generic plier-like tire jack. Pick one or both up at your local bike shop. If your local bike shop doesn’t have them (many bike shops don’t), they can easily be found online.

Ken Whittaker


Cannondale Neo 1 E-bike Creaking

After pedaling my Cannondale Neo 1 more than a thousand miles I developed a very annoying creaking. It was driving me crazy. I was sure the bottom bracket or motor mounting bolts were causing the creak because it seemed to correspond to each rotation of the pedals. However, after servicing both the creaking continued.

Not to be defeated by the problem, I moved on to the other common causes of creaking. I checked the seat post, pedals, handlebars and even spoke tension. Yet the creaking continued. I was baffled. So I just started grabbing, twisting and jiggling every part on the bike. When I grabbed and jiggled the battery I heard the dreaded creak. When I moved down to the motor housing I heard more creaking. The plastic parts rubbing on each other was the cause of my creaking.

Silicone Lubricating Grease

Clearly, lubricating the parts would be my best defense to eliminate the creaking. However, a petroleum based lubricant could decay the rubber and plastic components. Instead, I used a silicone lubricating grease with PTFE (polytetrafluoroethylene) that not only eliminated the creaking but also helps to repel water and stop grit and grime from getting between the parts.

Ken Whittaker


A Secret Use For Koozies

Nothing says swag, the promotional items that are given away to advertise a company or product, like a can or bottle koozie. Koozies are those collapsible neoprene or foam rubber insulating sleeves designed to keep a canned or bottled drink cold.

Generally, most of the swag I get at bicycle events is useless junk and gets tossed in the trash immediately, except for koozies. While I’ve never used a koozie to keep a drink cold, they’re ideal for transporting a bicycle packed in tight spaces. Since the cleats on my touring pedals can easily scratch the interior of my car or other items packed in with my bike, I’ve found that slipping a koozie over the pedals is an ideal way to prevent scratches from my pedals. They work great!

While I hope you will share this tip about koozies with your cycling friends, please don’t let anyone in the bicycle industry know. Otherwise, instead of getting koozies free at cycling events, they’ll be selling for $50 a pair at your local bike shop.

Ken Whittaker

How to Prevent and Treat Cycling Saddle Sores


When you think about it, cyclists get saddle sores for the same reason babies get diaper rash, mostly from chaffing, wetness and bacteria. So, it only makes sense for cyclists to use the same strategies moms do to prevent diaper rash. Accordingly, here is a modified version of Mayo Clinic’s online article on Diaper Rash adapted for cyclists:

• Remove wet diapers promptly. This translates to get out of your wet cycling shorts immediately after completing your ride. While it is tempting to relax with a cold beverage before showering, this is akin to sitting in a bacteria brew incubating an infection.

• Wash baby’s bottom with diaper change. Besides getting out of those wet shorts, get into the shower too. If you’re touring and a shower isn’t available, use a baby wipe to clean the area.

• Dry with a clean towel or let it air dry. Use a clean dry towel and give yourself some time to air out before putting on clean dry underwear.

• Give baby’s bottom time without a diaper. While this may not sound practical for cyclists, I have a friend who tells me that she has let her bottom air at night in the privacy of her tent when she’s touring.

• Consider using ointment. While I rarely get saddle sores, at the first sign of a potential problem, I immediately apply baby ointment to prevent further skin irritation.  This has always worked well for me.  While many cyclists swear by one brand or another, the active ingredient in most brands is zinc oxide. 

It should be noted that the Mayo Clinic doesn’t recommend anything comparable to chamois cream to prevent diaper rash. My guess is that although chamois cream is designed to reduce friction, a similar product is not used on a baby’s bottom because an anti-friction cream would also prevent a baby’s skin from airing and could also trap bacteria. For this reason I never used chamois cream. I do, however, use a powder like Anti Monkey Butt to reduce chafing and keep my skin dry while cycling.

Finally, while it seems every cyclist has their own remedies for saddle sores, if you can’t find one that works for you, you might consider asking your mom.  Even if she doesn’t ride a bike she does know what worked for you when you were a baby.  There is something to be said about a mother tested and approved remedy. 

Ken Whittaker


How to Eliminate Broken Spokes

I don’t want to jinx myself, but I’ve never broken a spoke. Never, not even while cycling coast to coast across America on light weight 16 spoke wheels over some of the worst roads I’ve ever seen. I can’t say for sure to what I owe my good fortune, but I believe it has a lot to do with  maintaining properly tensioned spokes.

While nothing will last for ever, properly tensioned spokes are critical for strong reliable wheels and reducing broken spokes.  I’ve found that just because a wheel is true, it doesn’t mean the spokes are properly tensioned.  To illustrate, my Cannondale Synapse Neo 1 came new from the bike shop with a  spoke so loose that I could barely get a tension reading on it with my spoke tension meter. 

Even a true wheel can have spokes that are overly tight while others can be extremely loose.  Consequently, it is important to check spoke tension even on a true round wheel.  In my home shop I use a Park Tool TM-1 Spoke Tension Meter to check spoke tension.  However, if you are on a tight budget you can find low cost spoke tension meters online at sites like aliexpress.com.

But how do you check spoke tension while touring? Unless you are tone deaf, plucking the spokes is a quick and easy method to determine if the spokes’ tensions are  significantly different. I simply pluck all the spokes on the same side of the wheel. Similarly tensioned spokes will be close in pitch. However, if a spoke has a much higher pitch, it is much tighter than the rest. If it has a much lower pitch it is much looser. Therefore, it is easy to hear an unevenly tensioned wheel and correct the problem before you break a spoke.

Ken Whittaker


9 Ways to Avoid Getting a Sore Butt While Riding a Bicycle

One of the biggest complaints I hear from new cyclists is that they get a sore butt from riding a bike. Unfortunately, many new cyclists give up on the joy of cycling before they overcome the pain. Here are nine common and some not so common tricks I use to eliminate the problem.

1. Padded shorts – Padded shorts have become a cycling standard because they work by reducing soreness from cycling. A little bit of padding goes a long way, so don’t overdo a good thing. Your shorts don’t need to be Lycra. There are plenty of baggy padded cycling shorts available. However, tight fitting Lycra shorts don’t bunch up into a wedgie like baggy shorts can.

2. Go Commando – Lose the underwear when wearing cycling shorts. Cycling shorts are designed to be worn without underwear. Wearing underwear only causes problems such as bunching. While Lycra shorts may have a “freeing” feeling that may take a little getting used to, they also have a modesty panel built in so the “freeing” feeling is not also revealing.

3. Get a gender specific saddle – There are saddles designed specifically for men’s and women’s anatomies. Make sure you have a saddle designed to fit your anatomy that helps to relieve pressure where it counts.

4. Get off your butt – You can greatly reduce the beating your butt takes simply by taking your weight off the saddle when riding on rough sections of road or when encountering bumps.

5. Change Positions – Luckily, touring bicycles have drop handle bars that allow you to change your position on the bike easily. In doing so, you are also reducing the pressure on the same points on your butt.

6. Keep riding – Toughen up the tissue around the sit-bones by continuing to ride. Most seasoned cyclists do not experience a sore butt except on very long rides because they have toughened up this area over time.

7. Wax the saddle – This is a secret I’ve used for years but I find many cyclists don’t believe me when I tell them. While it is a common practice for riders with an unpadded leather saddle to wax their saddle, I’ve found that it is just as useful for padded saddles as well. I use spray furniture wax on my saddle. A waxed saddle helps me to easily slide to a new position. Frequently changing my position on the seat helps prevent pain caused by remaining in one spot too long.

8. Massage – It’s always worth a laugh when I tell a new rider to get a butt massage. However, I find that massaging the sore area after my ride eases the inflammation, improves blood flow and reduces the soreness in my butt for me.

9. Reduce tire pressure – While cycling across the United States in 2015, the chip seal road surface throughout most of Texas was a jarring experience not quickly forgotten. To reduce the beating on our bodies at the contact points at the handlebars and saddle, we reduced the air pressure in our tires by several pounds per square inch (PSI). Let your tires absorb some of the beating rather than your butt.  Thankfully,  with today’s tubeless tires you can ride in comfort with much lower tire pressure.

I hope these nine tricks help to get you back in the saddle again.

Ken Whittaker


How to Perfectly Align Bicycle Disc Brake Pads in Just Seconds

Disc Brake Pad Alignment Tool

Almost every time I remove the wheel from my bicycle, I struggle to realign the disc pads with the rotor when I reinstall the wheel. Even with thru axles, sometimes the disc brakes can be slightly out of alignment. As a result, I used to spend a considerable amount of time trying to tweak the alignment by eye.

But, not anymore. In less than a minute I can have the rotor spinning smoothly and the pads perfectly aligned.

Here is how:

    • Simply place the disc brake alignment tool over the rotor,
    • loosen the brake mounting bolts,
    • rotate the rotor until the alignment tool is positioned between the rotor and the pads,
    • squeezing the brake lever,
    • and retighten the brake mounting bolts.

That’s all there is to it. Everything is in perfect alignment.

While a common hack is to use a folded business card to do the same thing, it doesn’t make sense not to have this little gadget handy in your tool kit. You can find the tool online for about 50¢ at sites like aliexpress.com or spend a bit more and get it the next day from Amazon.com. Either way, it is a valuable addition to your tool kit. Also, I prefer an alignment tool with the hole (as pictured). I can slip a pin through the hole in the tool and a hole in the rotor if necessary to hold the tool in place as I rotate the alignment tool between the pads. Works like a charm ever time.

Ken Whittaker