Passo dello Stelvio – RGT Cycling

As decided in the previous week’s review I am aiming to complete one proper climb per week from now on.

With that in mind, I decided mid-week that I’d most likely tackle RGT Cycling’s Passo dello Stelvio, a 14.1km route covering 1114m of climb at an average gradient of 8%.

This is roughly equivalent to Alpe Du Zwift.

This route is pretty much intense from the off.

There’s a very (very) brief piece of road that’s down hill and then boosh, into the climbing we go.

And that climbing doesn’t stop for the next 14km.

I’d forgotten just how intense over an hour of uninterrupted climbing can be.

Much like Alpe Du Zwift, the corners on Passo dello Stelvio are numbered. I didn’t realise this for quite some time, so am unsure exactly what the numbering starts at. But if I had to guess, there’s maybe between 40 and 50 corners here.

Unlike Alpe Du Zwift, there really isn’t that much to see on this route. It’s a generally nice looking thing, but gets a bit same-y.

There’s the road surface, a few signs, a couple of things along side the road (barrier, bricks, posts), a small selection of repeated tree shapes, and the mountains in the background.

I’d have really appreciated if the textures overall were a little more varied. The road texture repeats every few seconds. The trees look good (better than Zwift’s, imho), but much of the other road side stuff is repetitive.

I guess we are spoiled by the game-y graphics on Alpe Du Zwift.

One thing that I really did like about this route is that it felt very “real world”. I didn’t appreciate this initially, but as the route progressed, meandering (slowly) through the mountains, stuff off in the distance became more and more part of the route.

I’ve probably not explained that very well, so let me give an example:

In a typical modern AAA game (GTA V for example), if you can see it, you can go there. That feels quite liberating.

In Zwift, you often cannot see things in any great detail unless that part of the map has loaded. There are a few small exceptions to this – the Radio Tower is visible from other routes in Watopia, but the Alpe Du Zwift is very much just a large white blob.

In this route, about half way through, I could see the finish line off in the distance.

I didn’t get this at first, but slowly, the bright orange Strava arch became more and more visible. Very cool.

All of the climb portion of this ride was spent in the little ring at the front.

This was a solid climb. The steepest gradients I saw were (thankfully very) briefly 20%+.

Each corner / switchback was the steepest part of the route, and gear shifting was mandatory.

In hindsight, I really should have had a warm up prior to hitting this route. A 10km easy pedalling on a flat route would have meant a much more fluid start.

As it was, I went a little too hard “out of the gate”.

I covered the first 3km above FTP, and managed to get through this section in ~15 minutes, or 1km per 5 minutes approx.

Some mental arithmetic after this point seriously killed my motivation.

A rare other cyclist (on his descent)

Things might be a little more interesting on rides like this with more riders around.

As it was I saw 4 other riders during my near 2 hour activity. This isn’t great. I mean, there’s no real gain from the social aspect, but it sure is nice to be around other people suffering similarly.

Approaching a third of the journey up the pass, I saw the only significant landmark of the journey.

I can imagine in real life many a cyclist jumping off here and having one for the road. I could easily understand their mentality. However, I don’t think I’d get back on if I stopped.

There were times I considered giving up on this one. It was a total slog, and it took a concerted effort, at some points, to keep the pedals turning.

I really tried hard in the first 20 minutes though. Maybe a little too hard. It was only after about 11 minutes that I remembered that RGT Cycling doesn’t have anything like the metrics that Zwift does, so calculating how close I came to improving my FTP would be impossible. Such a shame.

Without a doubt, the first half of this ride was the most challenging.

I’m not sure if that’s because the initial several 10’s of corners were steeper on average, or whether it was just a mental thing of not yet being over half way done.

Once I crossed the 7km mark and saw the remaining KM counter being less than what I had covered, mentally at least, things got easier.

Typically on climbs like this, there comes a time where a certain gradient starts to feel flat.

For this ride, that was around 8%.

At no point, as best I recall, did I find myself less than 4 gears down from the top of the rear ring. Apologies for my lack of technical terminology here.

Even at this “easy” gearing, I couldn’t get close to 85rpm. I was solidly in the 70’s for most of this ride.

With about 6km to go, the first realisations of what lay ahead were visible to me.

I really liked this.

Off in the far distance I could make out two bright orange squares. One above the other.

And boy, did they look high up.

Welp, that’s where we were heading.

And that’s where I think this ride differed to Alpe Du Zwift. Yes, there was a lot of work still ahead. But being able to see the finish line was helpful, in some small way.

See the red gates off in the far distance – that’s where we are heading.

I’m honestly unsure if this was simply my perception, or whether this was the case:

Things felt easier after about two thirds of the climb.

Possibly the average gradient got slightly flatter here. There seemed to be more, and longer 5-8% sections. I admit I was much closer to 175w here than the 190w average I’d been trying to keep for the earlier part of the ride.

On the plus side, I was feeling tired, but like I could see this one through.

At some point, the mountain textures resolved into a much higher resolution. This was really cool and made the whole thing look 10x better.

Frankly I wish they had an option to ramp up the detail all the time. I’d like the choice of running at, say, 30fps with great graphics, than 60fps and it looking like Quake 1.

An example of the repetitive brick textures on the left

I used another tactic during this ride:

Once I had another rider behind me, I started trying my best to increase the distance between me and him. Progress here was slow, but it was enough to keep my mind off the process of cranking the pedals over and over.

In the final third of the route, things got more interesting.

With the approaching first Strava Arch, I was awaiting something to change on the ride.

Again, this was enough to keep me motivated in continuing. It is good to have something to aim for. I think Zwift nails this with the timed corner segments on Alpe Du Zwift.

As I approached the arch, I was made aware this would be the “Switchback” segment.

As I’ve seen before on RGT Cycling, one of the coolest things about the routes is the leaderboards / timed sections.

Again, this is similar to Zwift, but imo, slightly better. I like the All Time leaderboard concept. However, in this case I think the top spot went to someone riding a motorbike. 3 minutes? Come on now.

By the time I got to the timed section I was frankly bushed. Ready to get the whole thing done. At least knowing the top 10 finisher did it in 5 minutes gave me some indication of how much longer I’d be on the climb. My guess was somewhere between 5-10 minutes.

What’s not evident from some of these screenshots, sadly, is the aspect of looking back over where I’d come from.

The higher I got on the Switchbacks, the better the view over the sprawling roads below.

Also during this timed section, there was simply more to see. The signage, the rocks, the better textures on the mountains. This part just felt graphically superior to the rest of the route.

Combining the timed segment, the changing visuals, the “things” to look at in the distance (the roads where I’d come from), and the corner markers now in low single digits, I definitely found this part of the climb the easiest.

However, I wasn’t putting out a particular sterling number of watts.

The final corner, and that view below is awesome.

I’d be really interested to try one of the true Video routes and see how it compares to riding something like this. I’m guessing I’m stuck to one camera angle in that case, but the visuals are a big thing for me.

Turning the final corner I made perhaps my biggest mistake of the ride.

As I got really close to the arch, I went a little too hard. 600w or so. But in the same “easy” gearing.

And after I’ve felt like I’ve hurt my knee. Stupid, stupid me.

Fun times, 9 minutes 15, good enough for 2nd overall. Out of 3. Lels.

Fun time RGT Cycling thing, the arch is seemingly not always the end of the climb.

I covered this in my review.

I’m sure this isn’t the case in real life, is it? Surely the arch always marks the end of the climb? Otherwise… what’s the point?

Anyway, there was only 300m or so of distance (not climb) remaining after the arch so I was soon at the end. And thank God.

There were a few buildings to be seen at the top, and a little road marker. But I couldn’t get close. I was automagically turned around and sent back down on the descent.

During the descent I dropped into the hardest gearing, front and back, and welcomed the ease and speed.

Along the way I saw the rider who had been behind me throughout, and made sure to give them a friendly wave. However, RGT Cycling wave emote kinda looks like I’m giving the V’s. Poor guy.

I pedalled all the way back down. Partly to clock up the extra KM’s on the week’s total, and partly because it was literally all down hill and I deserved it.

As mentioned already, there’s really nothing more to see at the end of the ride. And that’s a shame. I’d have loved to have seen some extra stats.

Like my last ride for whatever reason, my stats didn’t automatically upload to Strava.

For this I needed to email the stats from the app to my computer, then upload them to Strava, then download them from Strava, and upload into Training Peaks. Kinda messy.

But overall the ride was solid enough. I only saw a few visual bugs, and thankfully experienced no riding bugs or problems. Things felt very solid.

Overall this was a great ride.

I’m a little disappointed not to have broken through 1000 calories.

I’m happy with how my heart rate settled around 170bpm for the majority of the climb. For me, that’s a dramatic improvement over the 180 average I was at a while ago.

This was a great workout. There’s another, easier climb (Mont Ventoux, I think it’s called) in RGT Cycling still to hit. But I think next time I’d do Alpe Du Zwift.

5 thoughts on “Passo dello Stelvio – RGT Cycling”

  1. Hi Chris! Thanks for a great write-up that I read before having a go on the Passo Stelvio last night. I rode Alpe du Zwift last week with a friend so interesting to compare between the two. I warmed up on Borrego Springs before hitting the Stelvio knowing that you start climbing almost from the get-go. Unlike Alpe du Zwift where I tried to pace myself based on wattage, I rode the Stelvio pacing myself based on cadence. More of a “tempo” ride. So my power output wasn’t as high, but I also didn’t risk blowing up. And probably how I would ride a climb like the Stelvio in real life. But I did make a point of going much harder for the RGT Switchbacks Strava segment and had plenty in the tank for that. The RGT screen cut out on my at one point (maybe a quarter or so into the ride) but I was able to get back to the screen (I use the Apple TV app) and resume the ride. And my ride didn’t automatically upload to Strava afterwards (my Borrego Springs warm-up did) but I was able to upload it after the fact. All in all, fun. BTW, something interesting I noticed is that all the other riders who either passed me or I passed were at constant w/kg for the entire climb. That leads me to believe they were in ERG mode because there’s no way someone could keep their wattage absolutely rock steady on a climb like the Stelvio. Again, thanks for your write-up. I think I’ll have a go on Cap Formentor next week. Cheers, Chuck

    • Hi Chuck 🙂 Thanks for your comment, I really appreciate it.

      I don’t know for certain, but I think the riders on RGT that hold steady watts are bots / computer riders. Real human riders have a country flag and a surname (as best I remember), where as a bot will just have a first name and a grey flag with a squiggle type thing in it (the RGT logo, I think).

      Glad you found it fun. RGT Cycling is definitely under appreciated, currently. Hopefully that will change, as I think a bit of true competition for Zwift would be beneficial for the entire industry. And from what I’ve seen so far, RGT is the closest thing to being that competition.

      I didn’t know you could ride RGT on Apple TV – that’s really cool, thanks for sharing. I know of a few riders who use Apple TV exclusively, so the fact they can come and try it out is a big thing.

      Yeah – had an issue with the game crashing on me the last time I rode on there. However, it resumed exactly where it had died. That, to me, was a big win, especially compared to Zwift. Also yeah, the lack of auto upload to Strava (and no upload to Training Peaks) seems like a bug.

      Cap Formentor is much easier by comparison, and visually a bit more interesting. It was cool to be able to see the Strava sign off in the *far* distance on Stelvio, but that was about all there was to look at, really. Comparatively, Alpe du Zwift is packed with scenery.

      Anyway, glad you enjoyed it, and glad I could get another rider to take a shot at RGT. It’s really good. Under appreciated, in my humble opinion.


  2. Chris – If I remember correctly, the steady w/kg riders had country flags. I’ll try to remember if I ride Cap Formentor tomorrow night. I only started virtual training this winter because I was asked to review a new smart trainer

    I like having an option other than Zwift. And that I can ride something like the Stelvio without having to progress through game levels. The only reason I was able to ride Alpe du Zwift is because I rode with a friend who was Level 12+ who arranged a meet up for us to ride it together. Cheers, Chuck

    • Hi Chuck – sorry your messages and another persons ended up in my blog spam for whatever reason. Only just seen these. Apologies.

      Let me have a good read through these links and I’ll reply back shortly. Sorry again for the delay!

    • Hi Chuck,

      Sorry it’s taken me so long to respond properly. Really interesting review.

      For me as a beginner, I find bring your own cassette trainers to be yet another minefield to just getting started. And for the price, I really think a basic cassette should be included.

      I think the company name xpedo is badly thought through 😀

      One thing that the tacx neo has regarding downhill momentum is a “virtual flywheel” which kinda mimics the affect of going downhill. This means it continues to spin somehow during descents. Sorry I’m not an expert and have not explained it very well.

      Rgt cycling does also have a draft feature. I think it’s better than zwifts as you get a nice graph and an indication of wattage saved.

      Fulgaz and rouvy both look really interesting to me. Going to get involved in both of them. The badly named tacx software looks comparable. Not sure it works with other brands of trainers but it’s one of my fav video training experiences.

      Anyway sorry again for my very slow response. I wanted to give your review a full read up and aside from Sunday mornings I rarely have much free time.

      Thanks for your comment and for sharing this review.



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