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 been hard at work in our lab testing wheels and frames, and this is the second in a series of posts giving you some solid, data-driven answers. Read more speed tests here >
*First, a Disclaimer
The “which bike frame or wheelset is fastest” question isn’t as easy to answer as you might think. 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 three fastest TT frames in game for flat and mixed courses. “Flat and mixed” covers most routes on Zwift, with the exception of anything including major climbs like Alpe du Zwift, the Epic KOM, or Innsbruck’s KOM. This isn’t an exact science, but we’re pretty confident in our findings thus far.
This list is based on our recent speed tests using the Volcano Climb route which includes plenty of mostly flat terrain plus an 8-minute, 3% climb that isn’t too steep. Basically, this course nicely mirrors a lot of Zwift courses, so the results we see here should apply to many other courses as well.
#1: Cervelo P5x
1,065,000 Drops to purchase, must be Level 45+
According to Cervelo, “The P5X is faster and more aerodynamic than any other triathlon bike we have tested.” That seems to apply in Zwift as well, where the P5x is slippery. In our Volcano Climb test it edged out the Shiv Disc by just 1 second (which could just be a Strava rounding error.) We decided to give the top slot to the P5x, though, since it performs slightly better than the Shiv Disc on climbs.
#2: Specialized Shiv Disc
994,000 Drops to purchase, must be Level 18+
The radical non-UCI legal frame was created to win at Kona. Optimized for crosswinds, with a distinctive tailfin water reservoir, the Shiv Disc was unveiled at Ironman Kona 2018 and made available for a short time in Zwift during that time.
#3: Cervelo P5
710,000 Drops to purchase, must be Level 15+
The precursor to Cervelo’s P5x, the P5 is a might fast frame on its own, just 4 seconds behind the P5x and Shiv on a lap of Volcano Climb. As the most affordable TT bike on this short list, with the lowest level unlock, it’s a good buy for any Zwift TT racers.
What’s the Time Gap?
The 3 frames above are separated by only 4 seconds on a ~35 minute lap of the Volcano Climb route at 300 watts with a 75kg rider. That’s a slim margin–but one TT racers will certainly care about.
The next fastest frame (Specialized Shiv S-Works) is 5 seconds behind the P5. So the frames above are truly in a group by themselves when it comes to speed on flat/mixed courses.
About TT Frames
TT frames cannot draft on Zwift, so while the frames above turn in faster times than any non-TT setup in our solo rider tests, you would not want to use them in a standard Zwift race which includes drafting because you’ll get dropped!
Use these frames for TT racing and any solo training where you want to look and feel fast.
Coming Soon: Climbing
Watch for an upcoming post discussing the best TT frames for extended and steeper climbs… it’s a completely different list than what you see above. We’re just finishing up our tests now!
Share Your Thoughts
We hope all you TT fanatics found this post useful. Got questions or comments? Post below!