Where the wave finally broke.

It has been an odd couple of weeks.
My solitude has been revoked.
It's like I had a world to myself, and now suddenly, everyone's come over.

What's this? Keep reading.

~30K simultaneous riders on Zwift. Wow.
I remember when there were 500. I remember the 1000 milestone. I rode those roads a little after Jarvis on the Open Beta, well before the Ocean Route, KOM & Mountain route, the Volcano, and the Alpe du Zwift, of course.
We had the flat route, the hilly route, and figure 8 basically.
(Zwift newbies will always complain that there "aren't enough roads"... sheesh, you know nothing).
I took a little time off Zwift right after the Volcano release because my 3rd infant had something against me sleeping at night, and I struggled to maintain a routine, let alone train at the level I wanted to.
Brief strength/weight sufficed for that period until my comeback in June 2018.

I've ridden well over 20,000km on Zwift, unlocked nearly everything, and have ridden all the routes. With the recent intro of the Route Badges, I went ahead and rode everything all over again, and have just a couple more to go (Full PRL anyone? Mon 4/27).
I'm at a steady +1000km/month rate.

Watopia was my little hideout. I go there instead of the Saturday morning group ride, instead of scorching hot sunny days, and instead of deadly roadside peril.
I train there every day, riding to a structured training program with a purpose, focus, determination, and passion.
Yes, "Indoor Specialist" took ownership of that phrase for their team, but I'm certainly one, even if not on the roster.

But now... what's all this?!

Everyone's here—literally everyone.
We got the Pros. We got club riders, noobs, racers, MTBer; everyone's on Zwift. Well, except fixie heads, that's not their thing - they go skateboarding instead.
I'm getting more followers and more RideOns exponentially. Riding with Cancellara twice a week all of a sudden. Meeting Greipel daily... You ride now and see multiple Pros every few km's. Two months ago, it was just Gesink and the odd marketing event.
I randomly checked-in with Zwift Companion now, sending a blind "Ride On" to 27 riders I follow, including
Juan Antonio Flecha and Andre Greipel. Before COVID, there were 2 or 3 riders, and I don't mass-follow or follow-back reciprocally. Instead, take an interest in those I follow or drop them eventually.
I see peeps from the clubs that are riding their first kilometers on Zwift these days.
You can actually hover the cam a couple of hundred meters before the start line Downtown and watch new Zwifters being born into their intro ride.
We got Zoom streamed club rides, no-drop sessions, races, meetups, events... boom.
I'm getting 502 Server errors when logging in for crying out loud!

Where is all this going?

Let's speculate.
COVID will go away sooner or later.
Then what?
I assume that a good percentage of the Zwift newbies will vanish as quickly as they arrived. For them, riding indoors is a chore and only a substitute. You see them complaining and "hating it" on their Insta stories; I feel sorry for most freewheelers who can't sit on an indoor trainer for more than an hour, but that's ok, it's not their thing.
Some will remain: gamers, and addicts who are as easily seduced and lured into frequent flyer programs (ooh me!)
The Pros will disappear as well, going back to their routine and The Great Outdoors, some with battle scars having lost races to online geeks riding their bikes in the living room as a second career.

At that point, I think Zwift will be hard-pressed for new events, ideas, tours, and series.
Today, with the Tour Of Watopia showcasing many celeb Pro appearances each day (!), it's setting an entertainment level that will be very hard to maintain once things go back to "normal."
Those joining Zwift today will undoubtedly feel, and not fill, the void of the return to "your regular scheduled programming."

For us Zwift vets, it will be the fade of the crescendo, and a welcome return to routine.

Yet, there's a lesson in every aspect of life thanks to COVID. And with regards to the essential things in life (indoor training) the world of cycling has learned a lesson that will have further implications.

There will be a significant investment of resources and planning to make Zwift a platform that is standing by for the next apocalyptic pandemic. I would love to be a fly on the wall at some of the infrastructure and scaling meetings at Zwift these days. What an accomplishment on all fronts: technological, structural, promotional, and operational.
Chapeau, even though I had an hour of 502 Server error trying to log in and ride with Greipel for Double XP.

There's also a community-building phenomenon I've noticed, especially amongst Zwift vets. When you come across another guy or gal on a Zwift Concept bike, multi-color, wearing the Level 50 kit, or some other discreet yet recognizable item, there's a little bond. An F2 wave perhaps and an F3 RideOn for good measure. We form a pillar of the community; we're part of the road the same as those pixels that make up the tarmac. We were there before and will be after.

With that, there is only one thing that comes to my mind about this episode, and with that, I shall leave you until next time:

"Strange memories on this nervous night in Downtown Watopia. Five years later? Six? It seems like a lifetime, or at least a Main Era—the kind of peak that never comes again. Watopia in early 2020 was a very special time and place to be a part of. Maybe it meant something. Maybe not, in the long run... but no explanation, no mix of words or music or memories can touch that sense of knowing that you were there and alive in that corner of time and the world. Whatever it meant...

History is hard to know, because of all the hired bullshit, but even without being sure of "history" it seems entirely reasonable to think that every now and then the energy of a whole generation comes to a head in a long fine flash, for reasons that nobody really understands at the time—and which never explain, in retrospect, what actually happened.

My central memory of that time seems to hang on one or five or maybe forty nights—or very early mornings—when I left the pens half-crazy and, instead of going home, aimed for the big Radio Tower across the Bay at a hundred miles an hour wearing Zwift Gran Fondo jersey and a L'Etape cap... booming through the Island tunnel at the lights of the Italian Villas and Volcano and maybe The Jungle, not quite sure which turn-off to take when I got to the other end (always stalling at the KOM, too twisted to find the granny while I fumbled for a bidon)... but being absolutely certain that no matter which way I went I would come to a place where people were just as high and wild as I was: No doubt at all about that...

There was madness in any direction, at any hour. If not across the Bay, then up the Alpe or down Ocean Boulevard to The Flats or Titan's Grove... You could strike sparks anywhere. There was a fantastic universal sense that whatever we were doing was right, that we were winning...

And that, I think, was the handle—that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of Old and Evil. Not in any mean or military sense; we didn't need that. Our energy would simply prevail. There was no point in fighting—on our side or theirs. We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave...

So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill on Alpe du Zwift and look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark—that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back."

- (Adapted by Sir Yotam Tavor) Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas