Whether you’re a longstanding member of the cafe stop crew, or constantly trying to take the KOMs off of your cycling pals, the social side of cycling is an important element of the sport. Time on the trainer or in the pain cave, on the other hand, can sometimes feel a little lonely.
If you’re lacking in motivation, or simply could do with your buddies to help you power through a big session, you can still do it all indoors. One group of Wattbike Atom smart bike owners have taken it even further. Using Zwift as their platform of choice- a social hub for many indoor riders- these Atom owners decided to add an extra element to their indoor training and came together to start the Atom Racing Team (ART).
Borne from the Wattbike Atom Owners group on Facebook (a group of enthusiasts and owners with no official link to Wattbike), ART admin, Aram, got the gang together by organising a few social rides. With performance and a certain competitive streak at every Wattbiker’s core, this quickly became something a little more serious. We caught up with Aram to find out a little more about his project, and how Wattbikers from around the world can get involved.
HI ARAM, CAN YOU TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT WHEN YOU FIRST CAME ACROSS WATTBIKE?
For me, it was 2019. Some ART members go further back than that and many have ridden or owned the [Wattbike] Trainer or Pro machines too. I had a couple of nasty outdoor crashes and was looking for something to keep me motivated to use indoors. I had other smart trainers but when I saw Wattbike Atom it looked like something rather different and I got myself one.
WHAT DO YOU MOST LIKE ABOUT THE ATOM?
It is, of course, a good looker with some great reviews! More practically I have found it to be sturdy and simple to adjust. I love the seamless connection to online training platforms (Zwift,TrainerRoad and so on). Customer service from Wattbike has been very responsive whether I have made contact via email, Twitter or phone. There is also a growing community of users sharing useful tips and ideas.
CAN YOU TELL US A LITTLE MORE ABOUT HOW YOU STARTED THE ATOM RACING TEAM?
I had been riding my Atom for a while and joined the Wattbike Atom Owner’s Facebook Group. Its members seemed very engaged and supportive of each other. Encouraged by this I organised some meet-up rides on Zwift, up to 50km or so. Riders reported back to the group with photos and positive discussion, so the numbers quickly grew.
One day I suggested the idea of having a racing team on Zwift. There was a lot of interest and so the Atom Racing Team (ART) was founded, with a dedicated Facebook group set up.
WHO ARE THE ATOM RACING TEAM?
We started with just about ten of us wanting to race, but that has now grown to nearly 200! We regularly get more than twenty members in each race we enter and have several teams set up for riders at different levels. In the spirit of the Atom brand name, these are called the Protons, Neutrons, Electrons.
WHICH CATEGORIES AND RACES DO YOU COVER?
We have members racing in all the Zwift categories including a women’s only category. We like to focus on events where there is some team competition or league and not just a podium for individuals.
We compete in the superb Team Time Trials (TTT) organised by World Tactical Racing Leagues (WTRL) on a Thursday. We put out three or four teams of up to eight riders each, competing against six hundred or so other teams and many thousands of riders from all over the world. Everyone who wants to ride gets to ride, and our team captains make careful selections to put together our best combinations of riders in each competition class. On race day there is special emphasis on close drafting and smooth changing of the lead rider. We use Discord as “race radio” so we can work well together on this.
On a Monday we race in the Team TFC Mad Monday Series, with riders in all categories. These are mostly regular road races. Riders earn points for sprints wins and for placing on the finish line. These contribute to our position in the league.
We are looking for another series on a weekend to enable more members to take part.
WHAT ARE YOUR BEST RESULTS TO DATE?
We have surprised ourselves! We started with a good foundation and quickly built on that.
We have consistently placed in the top half of the TTT results. A couple of weeks back one of our teams came in 147th out of 548! There have been plenty of Top 10 finishes in the Mad Monday events, with some individuals getting on the podium. Currently, the team is second in the league.
We also have members that are representing the team at an extremely high (A+) level in championships- even going up against some professionals! Many other members are moving up the race categories as they train and race hard with ART.
HOW IS RACING ON ZWIFT HELPING YOU THROUGH THE LOCKDOWN?
When you race on Zwift you are connected to people all around the world – there is a great sense of community which I value. Being able to get on my Wattbike within minutes and go riding or racing for an hour or two with my teammates helps me to stay motivated and healthy both physically and mentally. When I am giving it full gas in a race there is not much else I can think about and it’s good for all of us to be able to switch off from the current crisis for a little while occasionally.
After my crashes, I am only riding indoors. Others are using the Atom and riding outside too. Many are using it as a valuable training tool for outdoor events that we all hope will be able to start up again before long. Some are just loving the opportunity to put a virtual number on their back and keep racing.
HAVE YOU SEEN AN INCREASE IN MEMBERS SINCE THE LOCKDOWN?
Yes, the Wattbike Atom Owners Facebook group continues to grow, and ART has people join from there and elsewhere. We have several new members each week and have quickly expanded the number of teams and our organisation to accommodate them.
WHAT ARE YOUR HOPES FOR E-RACING AS A WHOLE AND FOR THE ATOM RACING TEAM?
E-racing has taken off especially since lockdown, with many professionals getting stuck in as well as us keen amateurs. I hope that some of this persists beyond the current crisis. I look to Zwift to continue to enhance the experience for its users and am interested to see some competition starting to get a foothold in E-racing too.
For the ART specifically, of course, I hope that we’ll get some wins to add to our podium places, but moreover that our members each feel that they have succeeded in some way, whether they feel stronger and more confident to race, move up a power category, take longer turns on the front at the TTTs, get some points in a sprint, coach another member to some new achievement, or anything else they’d like to achieve.