Fastest Climbing Bike Frames and Wheels at Each Zwift Level

Fastest Climbing Bike Frames and Wheels at Each Zwift Level

If you’re racing on Zwift, upgrading your frame and wheels can cut crucial seconds off your efforts. But figuring out where to spend your hard-earned Drops can be confusing! So we’ve put together this table which lists the best climbing frame and wheelset available at every Zwift level.

(Keep in mind this list applies only to big climbs. The list below is essentially a simplified, climbing-race-focused version of our complete Zwift Shopping Guide. If your race is flat or only has short, rolling climbs you’ll probably want to go with a more aero setup.)

Want to keep it simple? Just purchase each recommended frame or wheelset as soon as you level up. Don’t have enough Drops? Keep riding – you’ll get them soon enough! (And you might want to ride near a Pace Partner so your Drops add up more quickly!)

Fastest Frames

LevelFastest Frame Time
Savings
1Zwift Carbon (Free)0
3Ridley Helium (461,500)29s
5Specialized Tarmac SL7 (674,500)*48s
9Cannondale EVO (213,000)52.5
34Specialized Aethos (923,000)57s

Fastest Wheelsets

LevelFastest WheelsetTime
Savings
(seconds)
1Zwift 32mm Carbon (Free)0
4ENVE SES 3.4 (191,700)8s
26CADEX 36 (257,400)8.5s
32Roval Alpinist CLX (135,300)16s

Total time savings of fastest frame and wheelset over stock Zwift setup (Zwift Carbon frame and 32mm wheels): 57+16=73 seconds

Times above based on our climb speed tests, done with a solo 75kg rider at 300 watts up Alpe du Zwift. Our test rider typically completes the route in ~49 minutes.

*Table Notes:

  • Level 5: while the Specialized Tarmac SL7 is the best climber at this level, chances are you won’t have enough Drops to buy it yet! You can always save your Drops for the cheaper and faster Cannondale EVO a few levels later.
  • The Tron bike isn’t listed above because it is not unlocked on any particular level. It is, however, attainable before reaching level 20, if you start working on it first thing. See below for more.

What About the Lightweight Meilensteins?

The Lightweight Meilenstein wheels are some of the lightest in game, making them the fastest climbers along with the Specialized Roval Alpinist CLX. Both wheelsets shave 16 seconds off the stock wheels on an Alpe climb.

But the only way to get them is via the prize spinner atop the Alpe… so you’d better get climbing!

What About the Tron Bike?

The Zwift Concept Z1 (Tron) bike is 30 seconds faster than the stock Zwift Aero+32mm Carbon setup in our Alpe climb tests. The fastest setups available (Specialized Aethos with Lightweight Meilenstein or Roval Alpinist CLX wheels) turn in a time 24 seconds faster than the Tron bike over our ~49-minute test.

So the Tron bike is not the way to go, for a pure climbing race. But very few Zwift events are pure climbing races! The Tron bike has perhaps the best combination of aero + light weight in game, making it a good choice for routes with short climbs.

We didn’t include the Tron in the chart above since you can’t separate the Tron’s frame from its wheels. But it’s certainly a bike worth unlocking. Here’s how to do that >

Improvement by Level

Like our list of most aero frames and wheels by level, the biggest performance gains in terms of climbing come early in a Zwifter’s level progression. 76% of total gains (56 seconds of 73 possible) are attainable by just level 5.

Your Thoughts

Hopefully this helps you select a bike for your next race, no matter your Zwift level. Got questions or comments? Post 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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Brian White
Brian White (@bwhite234)
6 hours ago

The Trek Emonda doesn’t make the list?

ShakeNBakeUK
Member
ShakeNBakeUK (@bakeuk_2)
4 hours ago
Reply to  Brian White

lvl 9 EVO spanks it, same reason tarmac pro is not on the list i guess

Jimmy
Jimmy
4 hours ago
Reply to  ShakeNBakeUK

Yep, it’s a massive anti-climax to win it in the Everest challenge and then find it’s not even as quick at climbing as the Evo I used to get it.

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