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: 80+ 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: Specialized Aethos

923,000 Drops to purchase, must be level 34+

Specialized’s rule-breaking frame tops our charts thanks to its feather-light weight. And it wins up the Alpe by a relatively large margin of at least 5 seconds over the next contenders! Read more about the Aethos on Zwift >

#2: Scott Addict RC

852,000 Drops to purchase, must be level 33+

The new Addict RC from Scott is an incredible all-around performer in game… the closest we’ve come so far to a Tron beater! Not only is does it climb very well, but it’s quite zippy on the flats, which is why we bumped it above the EVO. Read more about the Addict RC on Zwift >

#3: Cannondale EVO

EVO: 213,000 Drops to purchase, must be Level 9+

The Cannondale EVO actually makes it up the Alpe 0.5s faster than the Addict RC, but the Addict is much faster on flat ground, winning our flat test by 10.5 seconds over the EVO.

#4: Canyon Ultimate CFR

639,000 Drops to purchase, must be level 19+

The Canyon Ultimate CFR performs very similarly Cannondale’s EVO – just 0.5s slower, but the Ultimate CFR is 1s faster on the flats. Read more about the Ultimate CFR on Zwift >

#5: Specialized Tarmac Pro

Tarmac Pro: 408,300 Drops to purchase, must be Level 11+

The old standby! The Tarmac Pro was the fastest climber in game for years, and it’s still a mountain goat, only 1s behind the Canyon Ultimate CFR in both the climb and flat tests.

#6: Pinarello Dogma F

1,029,500 Drops to purchase, must be level 32+

The latest Dogma from F is the second best all-arounder available in the Drop Shop, bested only by the Scott Addict RC. It climbs amazingly well, just ~1 second slower up the Alpe than the Bridgestone Anchor RS9s and Trek Emonda. But it’s much faster on the flats than any of these frames (~11 seconds faster in our flat test) so we’ve ranked it above those frames here. Remember: most climbing races on Zwift include flats and descents! Read more about the Dogma F on Zwift >

#7: Bridgestone Anchor RS9s

RS9s: 511,200 Drops to purchase, must be level 15+

A strong climber, but nothing special in terms of aero performance.

#8: 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 days. 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?

#7: Specialized Tarmac SL7

Tarmac SL7: 674,500 Drops to purchase, must be Level 5+

The Tarmac SL7 bests the SuperSix EVO by just 1s in our climb test, so we ranked it higher.

#8: Cannondale SuperSix EVO

SuperSix EVO: 816,500 Drops to purchase, must be Level 36+

The last bike to make the cut, the SuperSix EVO was one of the first “all arounders” in game. There are better frames nowadays, but it still deserves a place on our list.

What’s the Time Gap?

The frames above are separated by just 10 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 last count 36 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. We’ve put together a Tron vs Top Performers chart so you can see how it compares to other top-performing bike frame + wheel combinations in Zwift.

Share Your Thoughts

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


Changelog

  • September 20, 2021: updated list based on fresh test data. Removed Specialized Amira S-Works from its last place on the list, added in a couple new frames (Scott Addict RC and Canyon Ultimate CFR) and reshuffled the order a bit.
  • July 26, 2021: added the Specialized Aethos in the #1 slot, and the Pinarello Dogma F in the #2.
  • May 20, 2021: added the Bridgestone Anchor RS9s, tied for the top slot.
  • 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
1 year 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
1 year 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
1 year 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?

Thomas Christiansen
Thomas Christiansen
8 months ago
Reply to  Eric Schlange

Hi Eric, rather new to Zwift. Found a ton of interesting info on your site! Thanks!
Question: Is is posible to lose weight by riding without a helmet/shades/gloves up the Alpe, or any other climb for that matter?

J Moore
J Moore
1 year 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
1 year 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
1 year 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..

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f_eyckiQYPc

Jonas
Jonas
1 year ago

Not anymore… Zwift changed it

Dave Heard
Dave Heard
1 year 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…?!

Rick Miranda
Rick Miranda
1 year ago

Keep up the great work !

Kjell E I Henanger
1 year 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
1 year 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
1 year ago
Reply to  Nick Hickman

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

Nick
Nick
11 months 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)
11 months 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
10 months 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
10 months 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
10 months ago
Reply to  Eric Schlange

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

Stefan
Stefan
8 months ago

whats the thing about the ingame star rating? the Tarmac SL7 got a better rating than the Tarmac Pro, so why should be the Pro faster ?

Devan
Devan
7 months ago
Reply to  Stefan

I was curious on this too?? Those star ratings must not be very accurate because the SL7 would have one of the best “star ratings” in the game it would seem?

Steve Cirica
Steve Cirica
8 months ago

According to my Zwift profile I have enough drops and I’m at level 9 but I don’t see the Cannondale EVO in my list of frames to choose from. Do I need to do something special?

Arne Christian Eggen
Arne Christian Eggen
7 months ago

I won the Meilestein wheels yeasterday but can’t see them in my garage. Anyone has an idea what has happened?

Rick Goris
Rick Goris
5 months ago

Excellent articles, interesting and informative. Keep up the good work. Thank you for all you do for Zwift and the sport.

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