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 climbs, you’ll 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!)
|1||Zwift Carbon (Free)||0||Zwift 32mm Carbon (Free)||0|
|3||Ridley Helium (461,500)||10|
|4||ENVE SES 3.4||11|
|5||Specialized Tarmac SL7 (674,500)*||30|
|9||Cannondale EVO (213,000)||33|
|11||Cannondale EVO (213,000) or Specialized Tarmac Pro (408,300)||33|
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.
- 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 EVO or Tarmac Pro a few levels later.
- Level 11: the EVO and Tarmac Pro turn in the same times on our Alpe tests as well as our flat tests, which means these frames perform identically in game. Make your choice based on look/brand!
- 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.
- The Lightweight Meilenstein wheels are not included in the list above since they are not unlocked on any particular level. See below for more.
What About the Lightweight Meilensteins?
The Lightweight Meilenstein wheels are the lightest in game, making them the fastest climbers. These wheels 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, though… so you’d better get climbing!
What About the Tron Bike?
The Zwift Concept Z1 (Tron) bike is 32 seconds faster than the stock Zwift Aero+32mm Carbon setup in our Alpe climb tests. The fastest setups available (Specialized Tarmac Pro or Cannondale EVO with Lightweight Meilenstein wheels) turn in a time ~17 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 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.
But unlike our list of aero frames and wheels, when it comes to climbing, there’s nothing faster to unlock once you hit level 9!
Hopefully this helps you select a bike for your next race, no matter your Zwift level. Got questions or comments? Post below!