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Clearing up the Zwift/Strava timestamp confusion (with solution)

Wednesday, April 29, 2015 by  
Filed under Daily Blog

April
29
2015

As you may already know, I’m a big fan of the relatively new (currently in beta) massive multiplayer indoor cycling software known as Zwift. In fact, Zwift inspired me to make some fairly drastic changes to the indoor cycling training section of my home gym (see “Bike Torture Chamber v2.0!”).

Zwift recently launched a brand new course, and I like it quite a lot. The new course is called “Watopia”, and at 5.6 miles (9 kilometers) with around 330 feet (100 meters) of elevation per lap, it’s longer and tougher than the original course. The scenery is magnificent. I took a couple screenshots as I rode on the new island yesterday and Monday:

I grabbed the KOM jersey for awhile on yesterday's ride...

I grabbed the KOM jersey for awhile on yesterday’s ride…

Clearly the new island was constructed by cycling aliens.

Clearly the new island was constructed by cycling aliens.

 

So here’s the thing: Zwift’s Watopia was “built” on a real island. It’s a tiny place, it’s a long way from where most of us call home, and you’ve probably never heard of it. The little island is called “Te Anu”, and it’s located just east of another very small island called “Naunonga”. These little rises of earth peaking above the vast ocean that surrounds them are part of the Solomon Islands, which are located east of New Guinea and northern Australia. Here’s the global view (click any image to enlarge):

The Solomon Islands are highlighted in red.

The Solomon Islands are highlighted in red.

 

See those 4 tiny red specks near the rightmost side of the above image? The southernmost dot (just north of Vanuatu) actually represents two islands: Naunonga and the place where Watopia “exists”, Te Anu. Here’s satellite imagery of the islands (the red dot is over Te Anu):

Naunonga is to the west, and the red dot is over Te Anu, which is where Zwift's Watopia lives.

Naunonga is to the west, and the red dot is over Te Anu, which is where Zwift’s Watopia lives.

 

This is not just a geography lesson. I’m getting to the point, I promise…

Those of you who use Zwift and Strava have no doubt noticed that when you upload your Zwift ride to Strava, the time is off. For many of us, it’s way off. This was true on the original course as well (Jarvis Island, which is where the original Zwift course was located, is UTC -10), but for me it wasn’t a huge deal since I’m UTC -4 during DST (so there was a six hour difference between when I actually rode and when Strava thought I rode).

The problem with the new course is that the Solomon Islands are UTC +11. So, for example, someone like me who lives on the east cost of the United States is looking at a massive 15 hour discrepancy! So, when I upload my Zwift rides to Strava, Strava actually records my rides as being done 15 hours in the future.

My local time vs. Zwift time.

My local time vs. Zwift time.

 

For some this is a total non-issue. In fact, if it were not for my “Ride Every Day” challenge, I probably wouldn’t even care about it. My daily riding streak is currently at 484 days (16,427.1 miles/26,436.8548 kilometers), and when I upload a Zwift ride to Strava done at, say, 10:00 AM local time, it actually is recorded in my Strava log as being done the following day at 1:00 AM (+15 hours). In other words, my Strava data indicates that I skipped a day of riding. Yeah, I know I rode every day, but it bugs me that the data is not correct. I’m OCD that way. Sue me. 🙂

If you want to work around the problem, you first have to understand what’s going on…

When you ride on Zwift Island, it records the timestamps in your local time. When the ride is uploaded to Strava, however, Strava takes a look at the GPS coordinates and adjusts the time accordingly. Because Zwift uses real GPS coordinates in the data file, Strava, of course, believes that you actually rode on Te Anu, and adjusts the time relative to the location you have set in your user preferences. Again, for me this is +15 hours, and that’s a problem.

Thankfully there is a workaround if, as I do, you like your ride times to reflect when you actually rode. There’s a little extra work involved, but it’s not too time consuming or difficult.

The first thing you need to do is disconnect Zwift from your Strava account. You don’t want those rides auto-uploading any more.

After you complete a Zwift ride, download the .FIT file and then head over to the very cool site Fit File Tools. The site is free, but throw the guy a couple bucks for making such a useful set of tools.

Once you’re on the Fit File Tools site, click the “Time Adjuster Tool”, point it to the FIT file you just downloaded, and adjust the time as required based on your local time zone relative to Te Anu. Again, for me I have to knock the time back 15 hours. You can either save the converted file, or even have the Fit Tools site upload it directly to Strava for you (you’ll need to connect your account to do that).

Note that if you alter the ride time, then anyone you were riding with (including “Flybys”) will no longer show as being on your ride. This is something to keep in mind if, for example, you’ve done a Zwift group ride or a Zwift race and you want that reflected on Strava.

Note that when the time-corrected file is uploaded to Strava, it will be positioned on your Strava timeline based on the time shown in the corrected FIT file, and not the time Strava uses after making their time zone adjustment based on the GPS data. For example, yesterday (Tuesday, April 28, 2015), I rode at 9:58 AM local time. I adjusted the time -15 hours as described above, and when I uploaded it Strava it shows on my timeline as being done Monday, April 27, 2015:

Strava will show the ride on your timeline based on the timestamp, and not after performing their time zone adjustment based on the GPS data.

Strava will show the ride on your timeline based on the timestamp, and not after performing their time zone adjustment based on the GPS data.

 

It’s kind of baffling why Strava does this, but rest assured the timeline date does not reflect the date Strava actually records the ride as having been done. Here’s the same ride when I click on it:

My ride is now showing at the correct local time.

My ride is now showing at the correct local time.

 

The ride also now shows at the correct local time/day in my Strava training calender, weekly totals and in my Strava training log.

I hope this helps some of you out. Let me know if you have any questions and I’ll try to help. Ride on!

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