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 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!)

LevelFastest Frame Frame
Savings
(seconds)
Fastest WheelsetWheel
Savings
(seconds)
1Zwift Carbon (Free)0Zwift 32mm Carbon (Free)0
3Ridley Helium (461,500)10
4ENVE SES 3.411
5Specialized Tarmac SL7 (674,500)*30
9Cannondale EVO (213,000)33
11Cannondale 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.

*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 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!

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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slowridr
slowridr
4 months ago

Seems strange that there’s nothing faster to unlock than the Specialized Tarmac Pro / Enve 3.4 combination that I already have. I would assume that Spec’s new lightweight “Aethos” frame will appear at some point and change that, simply because it’s almost a kilo lighter than anything else.

(I’m not interested in the Tron bike – I only want to ride Zwift bikes that I could at least in theory have in the real world!)

Dan Connelly
3 months ago
Reply to  slowridr

Actually, the Aethos is not a kg lighter, or lighter at all: that’s marketing talk. The 2012 Cannondale Evo was available in a 4.95 kg build.

slowridr
slowridr
3 months ago
Reply to  Dan Connelly

A fair point: there have been other superlight builds by other makers too, I once picked up a Canyon special at a bike show and nearly threw it, 4.2kg or so I think it was.
It will be interesting to see where it sits on the Zwift ‘scales’ though – do we assume that all the other ‘light’ bikes are UCI-style 6.8kg?

Aaron Lipton
Aaron Lipton
4 months ago

Could you do speed tests on a mixed course like the Watopia Figure 8, Rising Empire (NYC), Yorkshire full loop, Innsbruck full loop, or Richmond full loop? I’m curious to know if you’re better off with a maximum aero set up or a balance of aero and weight

Mario
Mario
3 months ago
Reply to  Aaron Lipton

This depends on your weight and w/kg.
As Eric explained in another post: Support eather your strengths or weakness with the bike setup.

Temps 09
Temps 09 (@quatre24)
4 months ago

Thanks for doing this chart. With ZRL next week this could be helpful as some groups finish on a climb.

Matt Wainwright
Matt Wainwright
4 months ago

Wonder what is the best wheel and bike combo that is as close as possible to the time of the tron on both flat and Alp

Matt Wainwright
Matt Wainwright
3 months ago
Reply to  Eric Schlange

i need to knock out a few km’s to get that set up then. Thanks for doing these, really enjoy them.

Doan Sijabat
Doan Sijabat
3 months ago

What about the aeroad 2021 Eric? You said it was 3 seconds faster than Tarmac Pro at your previous article? CMIIW

Thomas Christiansen
Thomas Christiansen
1 month ago
Reply to  Eric Schlange

Hi Eric. In your datasheet the Tarmac Pro is 1 second faster than the Evo (and 34 second faster than Zwift Carbon). Here you say they perform indentical. Is the Pro the fastest climber or is it a case of rounding up/down? Thanks.

Sammy Knockaert
Sammy Knockaert
3 months ago

Could you test climbing performance and compare frames/wheels on “faster climbs” like the volcano and the Watopia KOM, where you climb a much faster pace at gradients 4 to 6% for 6 to 20minutes? Many races and events you are sitting in the draft, where the aero bike does not benefit over a climbing bike. On those faster rolling climbs, what’s the fastest?

Dan Connelly
3 months ago

Here’s a back-of-the-envelope. Calculate your speed on the flat. Now look at your speed on a climb. If the speed on the climb is 80% the speed on the flat, then the wind resistance is half of your power (approximately). At that point, it’s an average of the climbing and flat speed tests. If your speed is 80%, it’s mostly aero. The issue with short climbs is your position at the bottom of the climb starts to matter, and if you can start closer to the front of the pack at the same power, then you can afford to be… Read more »

Carsten Thygesen
Carsten Thygesen
3 months ago

Hi. Nice article

I was planning to buy The Tarmac SL7 with 3 Star aero and 4 Star weight. Because The Tarmac Pro only have 2 Star aero and 4 Star weight.
Is The Star system in Zwift wrong??
thx.

Norbert
Norbert
2 months ago

Hello. What is the fastest bike / which I should choose / after reaching 50,000 km / and I already have 47,000 / in three days I will reach the upper limit [because this is my goal of crossing EVEREST AND AND REACHING THE PEAK 50,000]
Zwift Concept Z1 (Tron) bike?
Is this Canyon Aeroad 2021 bike suitable for ZWIFT rides? The best climber in the game
 Can I buy one? I have 6,044 Drops, level 29)
Please reply, thank you and best regards
Please advice
ZWIFT T. Norberto PL

Allmec
Allmec
1 month ago

The table appears to only goto level 11, is that the best there is?

Joe
Joe
9 days ago

I haven’t been to figure out if aero matters when drafting in zwift. If not, should I focus on bike weight?

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