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 Volcano Climb route which includes plenty of mostly flat terrain plus an 8-minute, 3% climb that isn’t too steep. Basically, this course nicely mirrors a lot of Zwift courses, so the results we see here should apply to many other courses as well.
#1: Zwift Concept 1 (Tron)
Cannot be purchased, must be unlocked
The Tron bike still sits at the top of the heap for flat/mixed races, if you don’t have the Zipp 808/Super9 wheelset to couple with one of the fast frames below. Watch out, though: it’s not the lightest bike, so if you want maximum vertical speed you’ll want to look elsewhere.
#2: Specialized Venge S-Works
798,800 Drops to purchase, must be Level 33+
The S-Works Venge actually turned in the same lap time as the Cervelo S5, but it beats the S5 in our climbing tests so we’re giving it the advantage here. Zwift Insider editor Eric Schlange rides this frame in real life, so he’s happy to ride it on Zwift!
#3: Cervelo S5
603,500 Drops to purchase, must be Level 25+
The Cervelo + disc combo was formerly rumored to be the fastest in Zwift, but in our tests it’s just a bit behind the Tron bike. Still a speedy beast, though.
#4: Felt AR
639,000 Drops to purchase, must be Level 34+
The AR performs basically identically to the Cervelo S5 in our tests (including on long climbs). But it costs a bit more and has a higher level lock, so we bumped it down below the S5.
#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 only at 20.
#6: Giant Propel Advanced SL 1
816,500 Drops to purchase, must be Level 22+
The Propel is a strong contender for races that include some climbing due to its light weight and solid aerodynamics. Able to hang with the pack on the flats, but get dropped on climbs? Try the Propel to give yourself a bit of advantage when the road turns upwards.
The Propel turned in the same Volcano Climb lap time as the Specialized Venge and Cannondale System Six below, but it is significantly faster up the Alpe, so we’re giving it the top ranking in the group.
#7: Specialized Allez Sprint
127,800 Drops to purchase, must be Level 14+
The Allez Sprint is a bit of a surprise in this list, but just as outdoor crit racers are raving about this bike’s abilities, Zwifters may come to love it as well. Even though the Allez Sprint turned in a Volcano Climb lap time 1 second longer than the Specialized Venge and Cannondale System Six, we put it above them because it performs so much better up the Alpe.
Like the Propel, if you are looking for an advantage on a race with some climbs, check out the Sprint. It’s cheap and only level 14 locked, making it the easiest bike to attain on this entire list (not unlike the Allez Sprint in real life)!
#8: Canyon Aeroad
532,500 Drops to purchase, must be Level 23+
One of the original “Fast 5” from pre-Drop Shop days, the Aeroad still turns in a solid performance on flat/rolling routes, and climbs better than the Specialized Venge or Cannondale System Six.
#9: Specialized Venge
461,500 Drops to purchase, must be Level 18+
This is the original Venge ViAS by the looks of it, and it is a slippery frame indeed.
#10: Cannondale System Six
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.
What’s the Time Gap?
The frames above are separated by just 4 seconds on a ~35-minute lap of the Volcano Climb 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.
The next fastest frame (good ol’ Zwift Aero) is 4 seconds behind Cannondale System Six. So the frames above are truly in a group by themselves when it comes to speed on flat/mixed courses.
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!
- 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.