Speed Tests: Zwift’s Fastest Bike Frames for Flat/Rolling Races

Speed Tests: Zwift’s Fastest Bike Frames for Flat/Rolling Races

Your choice of bike frame influences your Zwift speed significantly. And Zwift’s Drop Shop gives us access to a pile of frames: 55+ including the Tron and TT bikes!

The big question for racers is: which frameset is best?

We’ve been hard at work in our lab testing wheels and frames, and this is the third in a series of posts giving you some solid, data-driven answers. Read more speed tests here >

*First, a Disclaimer

The “which bike frame or wheelset is fastest” question isn’t as easy to answer as you might think. 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 fastest draftable frames for flat and rolling courses. This does not include TT bikes, which cannot draft and are in a list by themselves. “Flat and rolling” covers most routes on Zwift, with the exception of anything including major climbs like Alpe du Zwift, the Epic KOM, or Innsbruck’s KOM. This isn’t an exact science, but we’re pretty confident in our findings thus far.

This list is based on our recent speed tests using the Tempus Fugit route.

Your Winners

#1: Cervelo S5 2020

852,000 Drops to purchase, must be Level 27+

Released in August 2021, the new Cervelo S5 is the fastest in game, by just 1 second. Read more about this frame >

#2: Specialized Venge S-Works

798,800 Drops to purchase, must be Level 33+

The S-Works Venge has just a slight aero edge on the Felt AR and Cervelo S5, consistently turning in times 1/2 second faster on our test flat course. Its climbing test time matches the Felt AR too, so we’ve ranked it higher here, even though the differences are as small as can be.

#3: Felt AR

Felt AR: 639,000 Drops to purchase, must be Level 34+

The Felt AR matches the Cervelo S5’s flat test time, but outclimbs it by a few seconds, so we give it the edge here.

#4: Cervelo S5

Cervelo S5: 603,500 Drops to purchase, must be Level 25+

The Cervelo S5 matches the Trek Madone’s flat test time, but outclimbs it by a few seconds, so we give it the edge here.

#5: Trek Madone

887,500 Drops to purchase, must be Level 20+

The Madone is a solid race machine and the easiest to attain of the top frames, being level-locked at only 20. It turns in a performance on par with our top 3 picks on the flat test, but is a few seconds back on the Alpe.

#6: Canyon Aeroad 2021

568,000 Drops to purchase, must be Level 10+

The new Aeroad is one of the most aero frames in game, and it’s a strong climber as well. Just 1-2.5 seconds behind the top aero frames in a ~50 minute test, this frame beats every bike on this list when the road gets steep. You can’t go wrong with this frame as your all-arounder, and you probably won’t notice the slight hit if you use this for your flat races as well! Read more about it >

#7: Specialized Venge

Venge: 461,500 Drops to purchase, must be Level 18+

The Specialized Venge (which appears to be the original Venge ViAS) is a very slippery frame, and outclimbs the Cannondale SystemSix (just barely), so we give it the edge here.

#8: Cannondale SystemSix

SystemSix: 497,000 Drops to purchase, must be Level 27+

Cannondale’s aero offering doesn’t disappoint, turning in solid fast lap times on flat/rolling routes. x

#9: Zwift Concept 1 (Tron)

Cannot be purchased, must be unlocked

The Tron bike may not be at the top of these rankings, but keep in mind, if you don’t have a disc wheelset to couple with one of the fast frames above, the Tron is faster on flat/rolling routes.

What’s the Time Gap?

The frames above are separated by just 2.5 seconds on a ~50-minute test on the Tempus Fugit route at 300 watts with a 75kg rider. That’s a slim margin, and one you’re not likely to notice in the craziness of the Zwift peloton.

There are other frames not far behind those you see above. See our speed test charts for a complete list.

A Note About Wheelsets

It bears mentioning again that the frames listed above only beat the Tron bike if they are paired with one of the disc wheelsets.

See complete wheelset data here >

Since those wheelsets are level-locked at 35+, many Zwifters will not have access to them. The fastest non-disc wheelset (Zipp 858) puts you at least 3.5 seconds behind the Tron bike in our flat test, assuming you’re on the fastest frame (Cervelo S5 2020).

What About Climbing?

Time to climb? You’ll want a different frame than those listed above because as cyclists know, weight (not aero) is what matters on longer, steeper climbs! Here’s the list of top climbing frames on Zwift >

Share Your Thoughts

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


Changelog

  • Sep 14, 2021: a big reshuffle thanks to updated test data. No new additions to the list, but removed some and moved Tron to the bottom.
  • Sep 2, 2021: added the Cervelo S5 2020 in the #1 slot. Changed Felt AR and Cervelo S5 to be tied for 3rd/4th based on current tests.
  • Jul 26, 2021: added the Pinarello Dogma F in the #4 slot.
  • Oct 1, 2020: removed the old Canyon Aeroad (which was ranked #8) and listed the new Canyon Aeroad 2021 in the #5 slot.
  • Nov 13, 2019: removed #6 Giant Propel Advanced SL 1 and #7 Specialized Allez Sprint. Reshuffled the deck based on our latest speed tests.
  • Jun 6, 2019: added the new Felt AR as #4. Kept all other frames already on the list, for a total of 10 frames listed.

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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Aaron Coles
Aaron Coles
1 year ago

Hey Eric, have you had a chance to test the new dogma F12 frame yet?

kiomberz
kiomberz
1 year ago
Reply to  Eric Schlange

just bought it, spent all my drops 🙂

Aaron Coles
Aaron Coles
1 year ago

Ah oh well, bit of shame!

Buzz
Buzz (@jimbo_jim007)
1 year ago

I wonder if there is an easy way to tell when to go with a climbing bike, or an aero bike? I guess on a long solo ride, you could swap, probably from a tt bike to a climbing bike. Just wondering if anyone had thought about what makes the differential for a race requiring an aero or climbing bike, seeing as you are not going to want to stop? Mathematically there would have to be some max climbing height over some distance that makes a climbing bike more efficient over the whole distance than an aero bike and vice… Read more »

Chris
Chris
1 year ago
Reply to  Buzz

I would say if the race finishes at the top of a climb (e.g. alpe du zwift or Innsbruck etc.) then lightweight is the way to go (unless there is a very long flat lead in) otherwise aero is more important as what you lose on the way up you gain on the way down and on the flats. Also depends where in the race the important moments are going to be, no point having an aero bike if you get dropped on a climb, and no point having lightweight if you are dropped before the climb. Better to sure… Read more »

SAMUEL
SAMUEL
1 year ago

S-Works venge + Zipp 454nsw VS Tron BIKE. WHo is the best for mixed routes ? Thx

Halfcutskltn
Halfcutskltn
1 year ago

Hey Eric, on a course like the Surrey Hills, with multiple medium climbs and descents, would a full aero set up have an advantage over the climbing bikes?

Anthony James
Anthony James
1 year ago

Eric, frame wheelset combo would you recommend for everyday riding. Rolling, climbing and flats.

I have the Venge S Works, Felt AR, Madone and System Six Frames for Aero

Cannon EVO, Scott Foil, Tarmac Pro, Emonda,

Wheels I have Aelous 5
Enve 3.4, 6.7, 8.9
Mavic Carbon SL US, CXR60c
ZIPP 202, 404, 454, 808

And I am at Level 35
Thanks

Ali E
Ali E
1 year ago
Reply to  Anthony James

Tron for sure for every day riding buddy. Not only does it preform awesomely, but aesthetics will give you a few more placebo watts 😂. If you haven’t got it, keep on climbing the Alpe 👍🏼

Chan Stevens
Chan Stevens (@chanstevens)
1 year ago
Reply to  Ali E

Bonus tip–climb Alpe as part of a workout, and get much better XP boost than you’d get trudging up at regular non-workout speed, plus every trip to top gets spin of prize wheel. Potential for lightweight wheels, or more likely 250 extra XP.

Ian Tuck
Ian Tuck (@ituck)
1 year ago

Eric, I always find these so helpful, but have one quick question. In your wheel tests, the Zipp 808/Super 9 wheels are incredibly close to the Zipp 858/Super 9’s. If I’m only level 36 so have the former but not the latter, are you saying that the Tron Bike is still the better bike? [i.e. the *only* bikes that are better than the Tron *have* to be equipped with the 858/Super 9’s, and will be worse the 808/Super 9’s]?

Thanks for your awesome resource here.

Antonio Prado
1 year ago
Reply to  Ian Tuck

I’m also interested in this topic. As far as I understand tron bike Is faster than anyother bike used without the 858/super9.

Ian Tuck
Ian Tuck (@ituck)
1 year ago
Reply to  Antonio Prado

I have a similar understanding from what he wrote above, except that in his wheelset reviews he says the 808/Super 9’s performed identically on the Alpe, and were only 1-2 seconds slower over the ~50 flat test, so they *should* be better than the Tron bike?
Note: Just noticed that above in his article I missed the sentence that says the 808/Super 9’s will provide about the same results as the Tron, so I guess my question is answered!

Kike Palacios
Kike Palacios
1 year ago

what is about the factor one? don’t you think is underrated? Could be in The top ten?

(sorry for my english 😅)

Paul
Paul
1 year ago

Wonderful help in racing!
 

Carsten
Carsten
11 months ago

Hi Eric.. First of all.. Thank you for all sharing all the great knowledge.. “The Cervelo S5 + disc combo used to be the fastest non-Tron combo available in Zwift, but when the S-Works Venge and AR arrived on the scene the S5 had some company. Still a speedy beast, though.” 1- Can you please explain how to do the + disc combo on a Cervelo S5? I can´t see how to change it to disc.. :-).. 2 – Furthermore, any input on which is the best bike for the WM route 2020? 2.A – Which bike and wheelset when… Read more »

Mark Simnett
Mark Simnett
11 months ago

Any chance of doing some analysis into the acceleration of frames & wheels? Both from starting at zero; and also when alternating 180W to 220W continuously. In Real Life, a lighter bike is better on the flat in a group because aero advantage is less relevant – and the shifts in speed to hold position in the group is helped by faster acceleration – which is better on a lighter bike. So should be the same on Zwift… So fastest race bikes may not be the aero ones that do well on constant-effort, non-group rides…

Christy Allen
Christy Allen
10 months ago

Looks like the Canyon Aeroad 2021 is currently level locked at 23.

Robert
Robert
10 months ago
Reply to  Christy Allen

I think it dropped to 10 now. When I bought it, it was 23 – and one star better in weight. Then I realised i would gave got one for free for completing Zwift Academy, and then got a Tron for completing 50 km climbing. All in all, not the best purchase I made but it’s only drops anyway after all 😉

Michael
Michael
9 months ago

What is the best bike for a round trip including a mountain? (e.g., the mountain route) Something that has going up a mountain, but also down a mountain, and some flat sections.

Slava G
Slava G
9 months ago

Eric,

Which would be faster: “Canyon Aeroad” vs. “Zwift Aero+ZIPP 808 wheels” ?

Slava G
Slava G
9 months ago

PS…. Or “Zwift aero+dtswiss arc1100” combo…..

Jan
Jan
1 month ago

” It also climbs just a few seconds faster than the Felt AR and Cervelo S5 in our Alpe tests, so it definitely deserves the #1 slot.”

A bit of edditing required for the number 2 slot

After that you can remove the comment

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