Speed Test: Fastest Frame and Wheelset for Climbing Alpe du Zwift

Speed Test: Fastest Frame and Wheelset for Climbing Alpe du Zwift

We know your speed in Zwift is affected by the frame and wheelset you use. In fact, we’ve done lot of testing to figure out just which combinations are fastest.

But what about climbing? Any cyclist worth their chamois knows the fastest bike on the flats isn’t the fastest bike on the climbs. It’s just physics: when the road is flat, most of your resistance comes from the air, so aero is everything. But when the road tilts up, gravity kicks in and weight matters.

Watopia’s magnificent Alpe du Zwift provides a perfect testing ground for climbing rigs, since it’s a fairly steep and long grade. With 30+ wheelsets and 85+ bike frames in Zwift’s Drop Shop, we’ve done hundreds of Alpe test climbs to answer the question: what is the fastest bike+wheelset combination up Alpe du Zwift?

Wheels: Lightweight Meilenstein or Roval Alpinist CLX

The Lightweight Meilensteins held the title of best climbing wheels for a few years, but the new Roval Alpinist CLX wheels match their performance (same climb test time, and just 0.5s slower on our flat test.)

The Lightweight Meilensteins aren’t easy to acquire, since you can only get them via the prize spinner at the top of Alpe du Zwift. So you have to ride the whole Alpe climb just for a chance at the wheels. Some riders get them on the first try. Others get them on the 25th! Chances are you’ll be somewhere in between.

The Roval Alpinix CLX wheels are the lightest clincher wheelset Roval has ever produced, so it’s no surprise that they’d strong climbers on Zwift. And they only cost 135,300 Drops (but you must be level 32+ to unlock!)

Frame: Specialized Aethos S-Works

The new frame from Specialized edges beats all other frames, finishing the Alpe climb 4.5s faster than the closest contender. Read more about the Specialized Aethos frame >

This frame coupled with the Lightweight Meilenstein or Roval Alpinist CLX wheels beats all other combinations, whether you ride up the Alpe at 1 w/kg or 5 w/kg.

Browse our test data spreadsheet for more results >

Alternative Wheels

If you don’t yet have the Lightweight Meilensteins or Roval Alpinist CLX wheels, the ENVE 3.4 or Zipp 353 NSW are tied for the next best climbers (although the Zipp 353 NSW perform better in our flat test). Both wheelsets climb the Alpe 8 seconds slower than the Meilensteins and Alpinists.

See Fastest* Wheels for Climbing for a list of the best climbing wheels

Alternative Frames

If you can’t get the Specialized Aethos S-Works frame, here are your next best options:

  • Cannondale EVO, Canyon Ultimate CFR, or Scott Addict RC (~5 seconds behind)

See Fastest* Frames for Climbing for a list of the best climbing frames

Time Gap Notes

The time gaps given above are based on our standard test rider who weighs 75kg, is 183cm tall, and rides at 300 watts steady (4 w/kg). If you ride at a lower w/kg, time gaps between different pieces of virtual kit will be larger. Think of it this way: if your time up the Alpe is 25% longer than our test time, then the time gaps will increase by 25% as well.

For stronger riders, time gaps will be smaller than what we state above. Riding up the Alpe at 5 w/kg will produce a much faster time than our 4 w/kg test rider, and time gaps between different wheels and frames will be reduced proportionally.


Hopefully this information helps you earn a PR next time you hit the Alpe. Of course, equipment changes help a bit, but it’s our fitness and willingness to suffer that really make the difference. So climb on!

Questions or Comments?

Share below!

About The Author

Eric Schlange

Eric runs Zwift Insider in his spare time when he isn't on the bike or managing various business interests. He lives in Northern California with his beautiful wife, two kids and dog. Follow on Strava

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MATHEW M ROSE
MATHEW M ROSE (@matrose617)
2 months ago

39:58 up the Alpe yesterday. That’s my third sub-40 ascent, but this one was with an average power of 7 watts less than my PR. I’ll credit the new frame and wheels for putting me 2 seconds under that magic mark.

Jeff
Jeff (@jrh26)
2 months ago

What about best all around wheels? For the best all around bike.

Jim
Jim
2 months ago

It’s this kind of post that makes ZI so incredibly useful. Thanks Eric and team!

lin
lin
2 months ago

updated spreadsheet?

David Taylor
David Taylor
2 months ago
Reply to  lin

Entitled much?

lin
lin
1 month ago
Reply to  David Taylor

He links to the spreadsheet which does not include test data for the Aethos or the Roval Alpinist wheels. Seeing as how he has done the testing and is writing about the results, it’s not a big jump to expect the results to be in the spreadsheet. If anything, my initial comment was only meant as a reminder to update the spreadsheet.

Bikelink
Bikelink (@darren-r-linkin)
1 month ago
Reply to  Eric Schlange

Eric we don’t know how your able to do so much but we all appreciate it!

Joanna Southerland
1 month ago
Reply to  Eric Schlange

Thanks for your WORK!

Paul
Paul
2 months ago

But Tron?

David Taylor
David Taylor
1 month ago
Reply to  Paul

The Tron is not great at climbing

Dan Sheremeto
Dan Sheremeto
1 month ago

I commend Zwift for expanding the selection in the Drop Shop, but I’m kinda bummed that the Meilensteins are no longer the fastest climbing wheel. You’ve really gotta suffer alot to earn those – it took me 16x up the Alpe. Every time I slap them on, I got a sense of pride and felt like I had a competitive advantage over anyone that hasn’t yet put in the time on the Alpe. Now all it takes is a few hundred thousand drops. Maybe Zwift can introduce a new challenge for an even lighter wheelset!

Robby Beauchamp
Robby Beauchamp
1 month ago
Reply to  Dan Sheremeto

I agree. I bought the Alpinist wheels since I’ve got 15,000,000 drops to spend, and when it comes time to do a PR attempt up big climbs they’re what I will use. But any other time the Milensteins stay on my bike unless I’m racing on a flatter course. They look so much better, and 2 seconds isn’t that much over a 40-50 minute effort.

James
James
1 month ago

Well I am Level 31.5 and haven’t won the Lightweights yet. I have plenty of Drops so the motivation to suffer up the Alpe is now gone. I’m not particularly saddened by this.

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