Speed Tests: Zwift’s Fastest* Bike Frames for Climbing

Speed Tests: Zwift’s Fastest* Bike Frames for Climbing

Your choice of bike frame influences your Zwift speed significantly. And Zwift’s Drop Shop gives us access to a pile of frames: 60+ including the Tron and TT bikes!

We’ve been hard at work in our lab testing wheels and frames, and this is the fifth in a series of posts giving you some solid, data-driven answers. Read more speed tests here >

We’ve already looked at which frames perform best on flat/mixed routes. The next question for racers is: what about climbing?

*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 flats and descents. 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 fastest draftable frames for climbing Alpe du Zwift.

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 test rider at 300 watts steady. We tested all frames using the same power levels and rider weight, making it easy to spot which frames performed best.

Your Winners

#1 & #2: Cannondale Evo and Specialized Tarmac Pro

Evo: 213,000 Drops to purchase, must be Level 9+
Tarmac Pro: 408,300 Drops to purchase, must be Level 11+

The Tarmac Pro puts in precisely the same climb and flat times as the Cannondale Evo, but the Evo has a lower price and level requirement.

#3: Trek Emonda

Cannot be purchased, must complete Climb Mt. Everest Challenge to unlock

The Emonda used to be the fastest climber in game, but has been bumped a few spots since those early day. But look at it this way: you’re going to take on the Everest Challenge anyway, so why not unlock a nice climber while you’re at it?

#4 and #5: Specialized Tarmac SL7 and Cannondale SuperSix EVO

Tarmac SL7: 674,500 Drops to purchase, must be Level 5+
SuperSix EVO: 816,500 Drops to purchase, must be Level 36+

The Tarmac SL7 and SuperSix EVO turn in identical climb and flat times, so they’re ranked together here.

One of the newer bikes on this list, the SuperSix EVO was built to climb fast but be aero at the same time (read more about it here). And that’s how it performs in-game, too! It’s not the fastest on the flats, but it’s pretty slippery, beating most of the frames on this list in our flat tests. And while it may not be the fastest up the Alpe, it’s not far off.

Both of these bikes are bit faster on the flats than the Amira S-Works, so we’ve ranked them just above.

#6: Specialized Amira S-Works

Amira: 355,000 Drops to purchase, must be Level 31+

A great climber with a super-cool paint job. A solid choice for the ladies!

What’s the Time Gap?

The frames above are separated by just 4 seconds on a climb up Alpe du Zwift at 300 watts with a 75kg rider using the stock 32mm carbon wheelset.

The next fastest frames are just behind those listed above–see the detailed data charts.

What about the Tron Bike?

This is the big question everyone asks. Ironically, even though it takes a lot of climbing to unlock the Tron bike, it’s not a great climber. In fact, at least 16 frames perform better up the Alpe when paired with the Lightweight Meilenstein wheels.

More than that, any bike frame on the list above can beat the Tron up the Alpe, using any wheelset on our list of top climbing wheelsets.

That said, the Tron bike is still one of the fastest on flat/mixed routes. So riders will want to think through their frame and wheelset options when racing on climbing routes. We think this is a wonderful development, bringing more strategy and planning into Zwift racing and variety in the peloton.

Share Your Thoughts

We hope all you riders/racers found this post useful. Got questions or comments? Post below!


Changelog

  • Oct 23, 2020: removed Canyon Aeroad 2021, since ZHQ made it heavier. Moved the Tarmac Pro back to the #1/2 slot. Added Tarmac SL7 in #4/5 slot.
  • Oct 2: a big reshuffle! Moved the Tarmac Pro down two slots after some re-testing. Also moved the SuperSix EVO up a slot so it’s tied with the SL7, since their numbers match.
  • Oct 1, 2020: added Canyon Aeroad 2021 in the #2 slot, which moved all bikes below it down a notch.
  • Aug 7, 2020: removed Canyon Ultimate (it would have been #7). Added the new Specialized Tarmac SL7.
  • Nov 15, 2019: Shortened the list. Removed 7 and #8: Cervelo R5 and Chapter2 Tere, and 9 and #10: Trek Emonda SL and Specialized Tarmac.
  • Nov 1, 2019: added the Cannondale SuperSix EVO in the 6th spot.
  • Oct 7, 2019: added Chapter2 Tere in #7 slot. Had neglected to test this up the Alpe when it was released back in July.
  • Apr 24, 2019: removed the Safety Bike from the #1 slot, since it has gained weight and is no longer a fast climber. More info

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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EndUser2012 (@EndUser2012)

Very useful thank you … I am trying to crush the LiftOff Achievement on Alpe Du Zwift and i need to drop 16 more minutes … i been using the scott’s foil frame … I won the lightweight wheels reward on my second run up Alpe =)

EndUser2012 (@EndUser2012)

… just changing my wheels saved me three minutes… and I just about have enough drops for the frame … gotta get below 60 minutes for LIFTOFF =D

KEVIN WILTSHIRE
KEVIN WILTSHIRE
10 months ago

Hi all, not sure if its been discussed before, so apologise if it has..

I have an upcoming race which is a decent from the radio tower.

Was wondering if people had done similar and what the best frame wheel set up they used. ?

Regards

J Crume
J Crume
10 months ago

I keep read contradicting information about the Tarmac you receive on completion of the Tour of California challenge. Is it the SWorks Tarmac, the Tarmac Pro, or the basic Tarmac? Is there an SWorks Tarmac? It doesn’t show in the garage as a future acquistiion but I keep reading about it in various articles. I’d love to have an SWorks Tarmac just because that’s what I ride in the real world. And it appears to be a great bike in Zwift. I’m close to halfway there (completing the ToC) but have enough drops to get the Tarmac Pro when I… Read more »

CProudlove
CProudlove
8 months ago
Reply to  J Crume

I have exactly the same question. Just achieved the ToC and it said on the screen that I had unlocked the Tarmac S Works. When I go to my garage it shows just Tarmac. Currently on the Tarmac Pro which is super fast up hill but would swap if the one I unlocked is lighter. Anyone know?

J Moore
J Moore
7 months ago

Long time user, first time commenter. Is there a chart breakdown of different wheelsets with different frames? I’d be very curious to see the time differences of these Alpe runs (and the flats!). For example, the Tarmac Pro with Meilenstein wheels vs TP with 404s; Ultimate w/ 3.4s vs 858/disc, etc.. I know there’s a crazy factorial number of different configurations, but it’d be interesting to see the results of the top gear kept at the constant 300w/75kg. I’d assume the Tarmac Pro with 3.4s vs the EVO with 3.4s would should somewhat of a wider time margin than both… Read more »

Dirk
Dirk
7 months ago

Hi Eric, thanks for the useful insight. Have you testet the Ridley Helium? It is a super light bike and should perform well on the climbs, right?

Benjapol Piyawanichpong
Benjapol Piyawanichpong
7 months ago

I watched this youtube for a test showing that safety bike frame with lightweight wheel is the fastest, faster than tarmac pro (level 11) with lightweight wheel. Well if you can be at level 44, should have enough drops to afford it..

Jonas
Jonas
7 months ago

Not anymore… Zwift changed it

Dave Heard
Dave Heard
5 months ago

Hey Eric sorry if asked before but… what’s quicker to climb (without drafting) the Tarmac Pro or a Shiv S-works? What’s the fastest thing to get up AdZ? Presume it’s the Tarmac but…?!

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[…]  Zwift InsiderSpeed Tests: Zwift’s 9 Fastest* Bike Frames for Climbing9 frames… and every one beats the Tron! […]

Rick Miranda
Rick Miranda
4 months ago

Keep up the great work !

Kjell E I Henanger
3 months ago

The Cannondale at lvl 36 seems to have a good rating with four and three stars, suggesting it’s a superb all round or hilly course choice, but that’s not reflected in the measurements. Comments to the frame?

Nick Hickman
Nick Hickman
2 months ago

Is the Spec Tarmac that gets awarded for completing the Tour of California the dame as the Pro that comes out as #1 climber? If not, is the ToC Tarmac good for something else or not really worth completing the challenge for?

Nick Hickman
Nick Hickman
2 months ago
Reply to  Nick Hickman

Ah, I see this was answered already. The ToC Tarmac is not worth the bother.

Nick
Nick
1 month ago

According to the frametest page the Aeroad 2021 is 2s FASTER than the Tramac Pro… and so is #1 (also the heading for it says #2)

But, I love your pages – my ‘go to’ resource for all things Zwift!

Temps 09
Temps 09 (@quatre24)
1 month ago

Tarmac pro is done if same performance as the cannondale evo with the evo being half the drop price. Has value if your going for the specialized collection but not much else. Save the drops for wheels or more aero faster road frames or gravel/MTB frames or TT frames.

Chris
Chris
1 month ago

Hi, looks the SL7 now features twice in the list following the latest revision to the page. PS: I hate to be the **** that points stuff like out but thought that someone should – always a massive fan of your site!

Christian Doran
Christian Doran
26 days ago

This list needs editing. You’ve got the sl7 in two places (4/5 and 6/7) and your change log states you’ve moved down the tarmac pro a couple of spots but it is in #1 position

Christian Doran
Christian Doran
23 days ago
Reply to  Eric Schlange

Cheers Eric. You may still have an issue though. The Amira is in position 6 and 7.

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