Virtual training app Zwift added Leith Hill in Surrey, UK, to its London route earlier this year. The expansion came about thanks to a partnership between Zwift and Prudential Ride London, the increasingly popular sportive, which includes the climb.
Leith Hill is well known to UK cyclists although not as well known as its more famous counterpart, Box Hill, which featured no less than 11 times in the road race at the 2012 Olympics.
We wanted to find out how realistic the Zwift climb is compared to the real thing so, after riding the virtual climb on Zwift, we headed out to tackle real life Leith Hill to find out. We looked at how accurate Zwift is at visually representing the climb, the performance difference between the climbs, which wins out when it comes to laziness and, finally, which is more fun.
Just like our Box Hill comparison we tried to keep things as consistent as possible to produce an accurate comparison. That proved easier said than done this time around compared to Box Hill however.
The aim was to average 275 watts for each climb. That was pretty straightforward on Zwift where Ollie averaged 279 watts but was more difficult in real life where he averaged 339 watts. Unlike Box Hill’s constant gradient, Leith Hill’s is more undulating with very steep sections interspersed with false flats making it more challenging to keep to a target average power.
We found the closet matching Strava segments for the comparison. The virtual segment on Strava is called “Leith Hill KOM (Zwift Insider verified)” and the real life segment is called “Official 100 Climbs No17 Leith Hill”. These are identical in elevation gain but the real life segment is 80 metres longer.
Despite the differences in average power, Ollie’s time over the virtual segment on Zwift was 25 seconds faster than the real life segment. This was a slightly odd outcome given the real life effort involved an additional 60 watts (as an average) over the course of the climb.
Watch the video to see how we got on!