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 wind, so aero is everything. But when the road turns up, gravity kicks in and weight matters.
The massive Alpe du Zwift provides a perfect testing ground for us, and the prize spinner at the top even gives you a set of Lightweight Meilenstein wheels if you’re lucky.
Zwift’s Drop Shop now gives us access to 26 different wheelsets and 50 different bike frames. So we had to run some tests to find out: what is the fastest bike+wheelset combination up Alpe du Zwift?
Wheels: Lightweight Meilensteins Still King
The Lightweight Meilenstein set is still the fastest up the Alpe, beating the closest competition by 5 seconds with (75kg rider at 300 watts). These wheels can be tough to obtain: you only get them when the spinner at the top of the Alpe lands on the wheels, and that can take a while! (It took me 13 trips up the Alpe, which seems about average.)
Frame: A New (and Unlikely) King
The fastest frame up the Alpe isn’t the previous winner (Trek Emonda). It’s not even the new Specialized Tarmac Pro or the Cannondale Evo, which would both be logical options. No, it’s the Zwift Safety Bike: a throwback to cycling’s early days.
The Safety Bike is also the most expensive frame in the Drop Shop, by more than a factor of 3. 3,550,000 Drops! Now you know why. Over one hundred years of engineering have brought us here, and this kind of all-steel, single-speed performance doesn’t come cheap. What a time to be alive! 😃
The Zwift Safety frameset coupled with the new Meilenstein Lightweight wheels beats all other combinations, whether you ride up the Alpe at 1 w/kg or 5 w/kg.
Honorable mention goes to the Specialized Tarmac Pro and Cannondale Evo frames, who made it up the Alpe 7 and 10 seconds behind the Safety Bike, respectively.
The trusty Tron bike? We’re sorry to report it has put on a little weight, and isn’t climbing well anymore. We’ll talk about that in another post soon.
Other Wheel Options
If you don’t yet have the Lightweight wheels, the ENVE SES 3.4’s are the next best. You’ll lose around 5 seconds compared to the Meilensteins, but maybe you’ll finally unlock your own set of Lightweights when you get to the top!
See 9 Fastest* Wheels for Climbing for a list of the best climbing wheels.
I hope 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!