Your choice of bike frame influences your Zwift speed significantly. And Zwift’s recent release of the Drop Shop has given us access to a pile of new frames: 50 total including the Tron and TT bikes!
We’ve already looked at which frames perform best on flat/mixed routes. The next question for racers is: what about climbing?
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 >
*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 9 fastest draftable frames for climbing Alpe du Zwift. Why 9? Because that’s how many frames handily beat the Tron bike up the Alpe using any of our top-rated climbing wheelsets. That’s right… 9 different frames running any of 9 different wheelsets are now faster than the Tron bike. More on that below!
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 49 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.
#1: Zwift Safety
3,550,000 Drops to purchase, must be Level 44+
Costing over 3x more than any other frameset in the Drop Shop, the old-school Safety bike certainly stands out from the crowd… and lets you ride away from them on the climbs. Zwift was definitely having a little fun with this one, making an antique steel bike the lightest of the bunch. It is a game, after all! Save up those Drops, kids! This frame turned in an Alpe time of 48:47 when paired with the Lightweight Meilensteins.
#2: Specialized Tarmac Pro
408,300 Drops to purchase, must be Level 11+
The Tarmac Pro is 7 seconds behind the Zwift Safety and 2 seconds ahead of the Evo, putting it firmly in 2nd place. Of course, the Tarmac is a favorite climber outdoors as well, so this makes sense. What doesn’t make sense is Zwift calling this the “Tarmac Pro” when it really behaves more like the S-Works Tarmac Ultralight!
#3: Cannondale Evo
213,000 Drops to purchase, must be Level 8+
Known for its feathery weight outdoors, the Evo deserves a top spot on this list for sure. With a 3 second lead on the Trek Emonda it slots nicely into 3rd place. It’s also the easiest frame to obtain on this entire list, so there’s a lot of “bang for the buck.”
#4: 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 with the release of the Drop Shop. Still, it climbs nice and quick. You’re going to take on the Everest Challenge anyway, so why not unlock a nice climber while you’re at it?
#5 and #6: Canyon Ultimate Lightweight and Specialized Amira S-Works
Canyon Ultimate Lightweight: 461,500 Drops to purchase, must be Level 10+
Specialized Amira S-Works: 355,000 Drops to purchase, must be Level 31+
Both of these frames turned in essentially identical times up the Alpe as well as our flat/mixed course tests, so we’re putting them in a dead tie here. Maybe this is for the best, since the guys can ride the Canyon while the ladies ride the Amira (a woman’s bike) and enjoy its sweet paint job!
#7: Cervelo R5
461,500 Drops to purchase, must be Level 24+
A favorite outdoor bike for sure, the R5 is Cervelo’s climbing/racing rig and deserves its spot in this list. It’s 2 seconds faster than the Trek Emonda SL and Tarmac below.
#8 and #9: Trek Emonda SL and Specialized Tarmac
Trek Emonda SL: 142,000 Drops to purchase, must be Level 26+
Specialized Tarmac: cannot be purchased, must complete Ride California challenge to unlock
Both of these selections already have their namesakes higher up the list. So why another Emonda and Tarmac? Because both of these frames can beat the Tron bike up the Alpe, turning in times of 48:50. That seems like reason enough!
What’s the Time Gap?
The 9 frames above are separated by 13 seconds on a climb up Alpe du Zwift at 300 watts with a 75kg rider using the Lightweight Meilenstein wheelset.
The next fastest frames (Specialized Amira and Specialized Venge S-Works) are 3 seconds behind the slowest bike on our list above.
What about the Tron Bike?
This is the big question everyone is asking. Before the Drop Shop brought us a pile of new wheelsets and frames (as well as tweaked weights and CdA for existing equipment) the Tron bike was near the top of the climbing heap, with only the Trek Emonda and Specialized Tarmac able to beat it by a few seconds if they had the Lightweight Meilenstein wheels.
Before the Drop Shop, the Tron’s time up the Alpe was 49:17 at 300 watts with a 75kg rider. Now its time is 48:59. So it actually got faster up the Alpe.
But the Tron’s competition has gotten faster. Now any bike frame on the list above can beat the Tron up the Alpe, using any wheelset on our list of top climbing wheelsets.
This is big news for climbers–arguably the biggest change brought on by the Drop Shop’s arrival. There are now many fast climbing setups, and they are all faster than the Tron bike.
That said, the Tron bike is still the fastest on flat/mixed routes. So riders will want to think through their options when it comes to which frame and wheelset to use on a route that includes any substantial climb. 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!