Of all the cycling disciplines, time trialists seem most obsessed with how their equipment and setup affects their speed. And for good reason! The TT is the “race of truth” where you don’t get to hide in the draft or play cat and mouse with other riders. When it’s just you versus the clock, you want the very best bike for the job.
Zwift’s recent release of the Drop Shop opened up a whole new universe of TT frames, taking us from just one (the “Zwift TT”) to twelve options! Now all the TT racers are asking which TT frame is best?
We’ve already looked at which TT frames perform best on flat/mixed routes. The next question for TT racers is: what about climbing?
We’ve been hard at work in our lab testing wheels and frames, and this is the sixth in a series of posts giving you some solid, data-driven answers. Read more speed tests here >
*First, a Disclaimer
These frames are the fastest up the Alpe, but that means they won’t be the fastest down or on flat sections since climbing frames are lightweight and less aero. So you’ll want to think through your strengths as a rider when choosing your frames and wheels for races.
Each piece of equipment has unique weight and aerodynamic (CdA) values, making them perform in ways that mirror outdoor physics. Lighter items perform better on climbs, while more aerodynamic items perform better on the flats. Differences between options will also be magnified or minimized by your own power levels, drafting abilities, and more.
Your best Zwift setup, more than ever, depends on your specific situation.
About the Results
Below you will find the 2 fastest TT frames for climbing Alpe du Zwift. We only chose 2 because these stand out from the crowd!
This list is based on our recent speed tests of 100+ rides up Alpe du Zwift, a 12.2km, 8% monster of a climb which takes around 50 minutes to complete for our 75kg TT test rider at 300 watts steady using the basic Zwift 32mm carbon wheelset. We tested all frames using the same power levels and rider weight, making it easy to spot which frames performed best.
#1: Specialized Shiv S-Works
852,000 Drops to purchase, must be Level 10+
Turning in the best time up the Alpe (50:03), the Shiv S-Works must be quite light in-game. It is also the 4th-fastest frame on flat and mixed courses, so not a bad all-around frame.
#2: Cervelo P5
710,000 Drops to purchase, must be Level 15+
The P5 is the real standout here. Only 2 seconds slower up the Alpe than the Shiv S-Works, it is significantly faster on our flat/mixed route tests (5 seconds faster on a 35-minute lap of Volcano Climb), meaning this is the best all-around TT frame available.
What’s the Time Gap?
The next fastest frame after the 2 above (the Diamondback Andean) is 5 seconds slower up the Alpe. The slowest frame in our tests was surprisingly the Ventum One, turning in a 50:38 time, a full 35 seconds slower than the Specialized Shiv S-Works.
About the Wheels
It is worth noting that, while we show the frames above with the Zipp 808/Super9 disc wheelset, you wouldn’t want to run these in a climbing TT since they are heavy and therefore slow uphill. See 9 Fastest* Wheels for Climbing for details on the best climbing wheels.
TT vs Draftable Frames
Many Zwifters have asked if TT frames will perform better than standard “draftable” frames on long climbs since drafting isn’t much of a factor there. That reasoning is solid, except for the fact that these TT frames are heavy! Even the slowest draftable frame (Zwift Steel) still beats the fastest TT frame up the Alpe, and by 6 seconds! So a TT is never your best option in a long climbing race.
Share Your Thoughts
We hope all you TT masochists found this post useful. Got questions or comments? Post below!