Fastest Bike Frames and Wheels for Beginning Zwifters (Level 15 and Below)

Fastest Bike Frames and Wheels for Beginning Zwifters (Level 15 and Below)

Your choice of virtual bike influences your Zwift speed significantly, and Zwift’s Drop Shop gives us access to many frames and wheelsets. While options are nice, if you’re a newer Zwifter it can be a bit confusing trying to figure out the fastest combination as you begin to take part in races and group rides.

We’ve already published a list of the fastest frames and wheels in game. But what if you’re just starting out on Zwift? Here are the top 4 frames and wheelsets for Zwifters at level 15 and below, for racing on flat or rolling routes.

*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.

Top Frames

#1: Canyon Aeroad 2021

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

Canyon’s new Aeroad is the best all-arounder in game, but it’s also super fast on flat ground, easily beating the Allez in overall time.

#2: Focus Izalco Max 2020

426,000 Drops to purchase, must be Level 8+

A newer frame on this list, the Izalco Max is speedy on the flats and just a bit lighter than the Allez Sprint, giving it the #2 slot.

#3: Specialized Allez Sprint

127,800 Drops to purchase, must be Level 14+

A favorite among outdoor crit racers, the Specialized Allez Sprint frame delivers solid performance for a low price both IRL and on Zwift. It’s the cheapest bike on our list, but also one of the fastest!

#3: Factor One

426,000 Drops to purchase, must be Level 8+

One of the newest bikes added to Zwift’s shop, the Factor One is the best choice for racers under level 10 looking for a good performer on flat and rolling routes.

#4: Ridley Noah Fast 2019

426,000 Drops to purchase, must be Level 9+

Coming in just 1 second slower on our flat tests compared to the Specialized Allez and Factor One, the Ridley Noah is on-par with both frames above on flat routes.

#5: Cervelo S3D

468,600 Drops to purchase, must be Level 13+

The S3D turns in the same times as the Allez Sprint and Factor One on flat/mixed routes, but climbs more slowly than the frames above, so we’ve ranked it #4.

#6: Zwift Aero

319,500 Drops to purchase, must be Level 6+

Zwift’s Aero bike has long been the first decent racing frame for new Zwifters, and it’s still a good performer. Since it’s available at level 6+, even the newest newbie can pick it up.

#7: Ribble Endurance

390,500 Drops to purchase, must be Level 7+

One of the newer frames in the Drop Shop, Ribble’s Endurance turns in nearly the same times as the Zwift Aero on flat/mixed routes, and slightly better climb times, all at a level requirement of just 7+. Solid!

Top Wheels

#1: Zipp 808

177,600 Drops to purchase, must be Level 13+

The 808s have long been a favorite among Zwift racers, for good reason: they are significantly faster than any other wheelsets available to lower-level Zwifters. They beat the next-ranked wheels (DT Swiss ARC 62) by 8 seconds in our ~50 minute flat test, and that’s a big margin!

#2: DT Swiss ARC 62

184,600 Drops to purchase, must be Level 6+

The newest wheels on this list (in game), the ARC 62’s deliver strong climbing performance and solid aero performance, making them perhaps the best all-arounders yet. And you only need to make level 6 to grab them!

#3: Zipp 404

149,200 Drops to purchase, must be Level 15+

The 404s turn in a solid second-place performance behind the 808s, but also climb better, so you might pick them up if you want a slightly lighter rig.

#4: Roval CLX64

170,400 Drops to purchase, must be Level 5+

The CLX64s come in at basically the same time as the Zipp 404s, but don’t climb as well. So we’ve placed them here in 3rd. One nice thing about these hoops is you can pick them up at level 5+, so they may be worth picking up until you can get one of the faster wheelsets above.

#5: ENVE SES 3.4

191,700 Drops to purchase, must be Level 4+

The ENVE SES 3.4 wheels perform decently on flats, but they also climb better than any of the wheelsets above. And like the Roval CLX64s, these hoops have a low-level requirement (4+), so they may be worth picking up until you can get one of the faster wheelsets above.

What’s the Time Gap?

The frames above are separated by just 3 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.

The wheels above are separated by 16 seconds on a ~50-minute test on the Tempus Fugit route at 300 watts with a 75kg rider. That’s a much more significant gap.

Compared to the very fastest frame and wheel combinations available in Zwift, the top frame and wheel combo on this list (Specialized Allez Sprint with Zipp 808s) is approximately 16 seconds slower over our ~50-minute test.

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

Share Your Thoughts

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

Changelog

  • Nov 23, 2020: added Focus Izalco Max 2020 into #2 slot
  • Oct 23, 2020: added Canyon Aeroad 2021 in top slot, since ZHQ lowered its level requirement to 10+.
  • Aug 12, 2020: added DT Swiss ARC 62 as #2 wheelset.
  • Apr 30, 2020: added the Factor One and Ridley Noah in the number 2 and 3 slots, respectively.

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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Andrew Palin
Andrew Palin
1 year ago

What about the Cannondale Evo 2020? 4* weight and 3* aerodynamics. Surely it must knock the Specialized into a cocked hat! I know which one I’d buy IRL.

Ian Verhey
Ian Verhey
1 year ago
Reply to  Eric Schlange

The regular Evo is available early on and is a good climber – the Super Six Evo is the one that’s not available until Level 36

Dan Connelly
Dan Connelly
11 months ago
Reply to  Ian Verhey

Regular Evo is the 2nd best climber in the game, to the Specialized Tarmac Pro, which is twice as expensive. But couple the Evo with the Enve SES 3.4 wheels, and that’s very close to the best climbing combination purchasable in the game (not counting Lightweights), for a very affordable price. The Tarmac Pro is around 200k drops more, 5 seconds faster up L’Alpe.

Mike McCarthy
Mike McCarthy
1 year ago

Have you written an article listing your picks with frame/wheel combos for the more popular race routes/courses on Zwift? Also, I’ve always been curious how you perform your speed tests. Do you have some sort of Ant+ simulator that can keep the wattage consistent?

Mike McCarthy
Mike McCarthy
1 year ago
Reply to  Eric Schlange

Eric, thanks for your reply. Keep up the great work! As always, looking forward to future articles.

Paul Lubbers
Paul Lubbers
11 months ago
Reply to  Mike McCarthy

Great idea!! Tempus fugit needs another setup than Richmond I assume

Craig H
Craig H (@lego_2001)
1 year ago

Thanks for post and speedtests. I’m at level 22 and have been up the Alpe several times (but no Meilenstein yet 🙁 ). Waiting to get to higher levels for the Cervelo S5 and Zipp 858.

I switch out the Zipp 808 for the Enve SES 3.4 if the course has a relatively tough climb, like Everything Bagel for TdZ Stage 5.

Robert Bleck
Robert Bleck
1 year ago

Will the stiff aero Specialized Allez frame be bumpier on the planks and cobbles when used with the Tacx Neo 2T?

M4rk0
M4rk0
1 year ago

The Zwift Aero is the best bike you can get in the game. You only need to be level 6 and it has the exact same rating as the tron bike!

Sorry, I will keep making digs at Zwift’s awful rating system until they make it more useful.

Shawn Fink
Shawn Fink
1 year ago

This is exactly the type of article I have been waiting for. Sadly, I have passed those levels, but this should be a boon to any newer rider. Thank you so much.

Pieter-Jan
Pieter-Jan
1 year ago

What about the specialized tarmac pro?

Mark Stadsklev
Member
Mark Stadsklev (@artwithinnature)
1 year ago

Confused. Climbing question. Specialized Tarmac Pro vs Allez Sprint. I thought the chart favored the Tarmac Pro but you’re giving the edge to the Sprint?

Mark Stadsklev
Member
Mark Stadsklev (@artwithinnature)
1 year ago

Do you consider the descents as well? On the long downhills would the high speed change the ratings? Or not since most of the time is spent in the climb.

Rick
Rick
1 year ago

How about the Canyon Ultimate? Looks good to me…

ShakeNBakeUK
Member
ShakeNBakeUK (@bakeuk)
1 year ago

what about spec. tarmac pro x zipp 202 for some phat hill climbs? 😀

Renee Brouillard
Renee Brouillard
1 year ago

question_ I’m level 10 and still on the zwift carbon frame with the ROVAL CLX64, should I wait until I’m level 14 for the SPECIALIZED ALLEZ SPRInt or go for the RIBBLE ENDURANCE now? I need 50 more drops to get on the Ribble.

Hugh Fry
Hugh Fry
1 year ago

Probably too late for you now, but def wait for the Allez Sprint. You can always use those drops later and once you’re up to the Allez Sprint (which shouldn’t take too long!) you’ll never use the Royal again!

James Metcalfe
James Metcalfe
11 months ago

What about which frames and wheels are least impacted by gravel surfaces?

France Reda
France Reda
10 months ago

Hi Eric, what about the ENVE 3.4? 3 stars Aero and 4 weight? Why the Zipp are faster if they have only 1 stars aero? Stars are useless? Thanx

Ronald Naistadt
Ronald Naistadt
10 months ago

Are any Bianchis in the future?

N Beuker
N Beuker
9 months ago

I’m new to Zwift. my question is – Is it better to ‘buy’ new wheels before a new frame?

Stewart Howell (StewCom)
Stewart Howell (StewCom)
6 months ago
Reply to  Eric Schlange

That is a deeply buried gem 💎 of knowledge there Eric! Thank you so much. (5 hours of reading about frames and bikes tonight, mostly your tests and opinions. I should have been paying 2-3x more attention to wheels.

Thank you for all your diligent research. I click the ads on your site in the hope you are getting something in return.

Duncan
Duncan
8 months ago

Hi Eric, how does the Specialized S-Works Tarmac compare to the frames you’ve listed above? I bought the Allez Sprint with my drops but just qualified to get the Tarmac having completed 4 of the Tour de France routes. I’m keep to ge5 you4 assessment of the Tarmac.

nigel cowey
nigel cowey
4 months ago

So asking as a new Zwifter are you better getting the wheels first and then saving up your drops again to upgrade your frame, or frame first wheels second? Thanks

Richard
Richard
4 months ago

I’m level 11 now and 750K drops, what is the best first bike to buy? Aeroad 2021? Specialized Allez?
And the best wheels? Wait till i’m level 13 for the 808 or buy the DT Swiss ARC 62?

Lars
Lars
4 months ago

Your number 1 bike isn’t available at level 10. It’s unlocked at level 23. It’s wrong in every article on the site.

Jonathan Evans
Jonathan Evans
4 months ago

You mention above that the Canyon Aeroad ‘easily beating the Allez in overall time’, but then mention that the ‘frames above are separated by only three seconds’. Feels like a bit of a contradiction, (although I am no doubt mission something). Cheers.

Richard Dufay
Richard Dufay
3 months ago

Hi from France, simple question for a new zwift user, when you write 8+ it means available when I’ll be at least level 9 ? Actually 8, I can’t find any top frame, I should understand It also depends on the drop numbers, both are necessary, that’s right ? Thanks for your answer, Regards, Richard

Christian
Christian
2 months ago

Canyon Aeroad 2021 vs Specialized Allez Sprint
I am a Beginner.
I have Level 13, 518,927 Drops, Zipp 808

Is that Canyon much better ? or save Drops and buy a Specialized.
Canyon Aeroad 2021 Level 10, 568.000 Drops
Specialized Allez Sprint, Level 14, 127.800 Drops
I need a allrounder

Thx

Tony Lane
Tony Lane
1 month ago
Reply to  Christian

Ride for 90 minutes on pace partner ride and give out lots of Ride Ons. You’ll get loads of Ride Ons back and if you get the drop multiplier to keep ticking upwards you’ll collect the 50k drops you need to get the Aeroad. Or ride Tour of Fire and Ice and you should also get around 50k drops,
The relative performance of the frames can easily be seen in the scatter plots in this article: scatter

Isaac
1 month ago

Canyon’s new Aeroad is the best all-arounder in game, but it’s also super fast on flat ground, easily beating the Allez in overall time.’ The Focus is the new second fastest- shouldn’t it say, ‘… easily beating the Focus Izalco Max in overall time’?

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