Virtual Everesting, the Explainer

At the time of this writing, 1557 cyclists have completed a Virtual Everest. By next week, there might be a handful more. In a month, the list may well have topped 1800. Because you know, cyclists are goal-orientated.

And at times like these, goals might seem a little thin on the ground. So, why not aim for 8,848 metres of virtual climbing?

We love a challenge. Some ride for speed, others ride for stress-release. Some compete against their rivals, others against themselves. But doing all of this inside your house on an indoor trainer? That takes a certain character.

“Any average amateur could Everest on Zwift within three months,” says Guy Litespeed, who completed the challenge earlier this year. “It’s true,” he continues, throwing down the challenge along the way. “You just need to achieve some milestones to get you there first. I happened to be in great shape after Christmas, so I just went for it. Physically, I felt ready. I suggest first targeting a 100 km virtual ride, then 100 miles, then 200 km.”

Litespeed speaks so matter-of-factly that he almost makes it sound easy. You just build up your endurance, just like you do outside throughout the season, until you have enough endurance to ride for around 15 hours, right?

“A Virtual Everesting attempt is very similar in terms of output to doing an outdoor one, but it’s actually far more pragmatic—especially in the current climate,” Litespeed explains. “You’re looking at roughly 15 hours of pedalling, but there are massive perks to doing it inside, like the lack of sleep deprivation, no dark nights, no weather issues; everything you need is on hand.”

For Litespeed, who has previously “Everested” six times IRL (including twice on gravel, and once in France on Cime de la Bonette—the highest Everesting in Europe to date at 2,802 msl), Zwift’s Alpe d’Huez was the obvious choice: “I really like the fact it’s a proper climb, which links you back to the outside world and that’s great for motivation. You’ve got all the same straights, the gradients, and the scenery of Alpe d’Huez including Dutch Corner—I love it.” But what really sealed the deal for Litespeed was the descent—after each ascent, you have 11.5 minutes in which you can just let the bike freewheel.

This “break” essentially gives you “free time” to switch out bottles and towels, have a toilet break or drink a coffee. “Exactly, this is something you just don’t get the chance to do on IRL Everesting attempts, where you end up basically losing 2 hours to details like these. It’s allowed, of course — the only thing that isn’t permitted is to have a nap.”

He moved his bike from the spare room into the lounge, positioning it sensibly next to a window and in front of the television—admitting that there’s a high risk of boredom on the indoor trainer for such a long period.

Everyone has their own gauge when it comes to how much time you can endure riding on a home trainer, but having a goal in mind makes the time pass quicker. And if Litespeed’s encouraging testimony is anything to go by, we reckon the number of completed attempts may even reach four-figures by the time this situation calms down.

So, who’s next?

Litespeed’s top tips:

1. Get used to your smart trainer; there’s nothing worse than discomfort, so make sure you’re happy with the setup. He lowered the front end and flattened his position.

2. Study the highly non-negotiable Everesting rules; after 15+ hours, it’d be a shame not to get the glory of your name on the list.

3. Choose your climb — base the decision on the gradient (Litespeed says there are steeper ones on Zwift, which means you’ll be faster overall), and think about the time gains you’ll get on the descent.

4. The WWW is going to be busy in this period, so drop-outs can’t be ruled out — He recommends clearing as much space as possible on your computer and positioning your trainer as close to the Wi-Fi router as possible to alleviate this risk.

5. Get to know your chosen climb: the turning points, the length of the descent; it all counts.

6. Be prepared — have spare bottles and hand towels close by, and consider nutrition during the attempt. The good thing about being at home is that you can access coffee and your favourite snacks.

7. Think about the details — 15 hours in the same position isn’t easy on your wrists and palms: He suggests wearing our EQUIPE RS Aero half finger gloves.