Of all the cycling disciplines, time trialists seem most obsessed with how equipment and setup affect their speed. And for good reason! The TT is the “race of truth” where you don’t get to hide in the draft or play cat and mouse with other riders. When it’s just you versus the clock, you want the very best bike for the job.
Zwift’s release of the Drop Shop opened up a whole new universe of TT frames, taking us from just one (the “Zwift TT”) to 20+ options! Now all the TT racers are asking which TT frame is best?
We’ve been hard at work in our lab testing wheels and frames, and this is the second 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 TT frames in game for flat and rolling courses. “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 which is almost perfectly flat. We’ve found that the best performers on flat routes are also the best performers on routes with shorter, rolling hills.
#1: CADEX Tri
1,029,500 Drops to purchase, must be Level 42+
The distinctively-designed CADEX Tri is the newest TT frame in game, and also the most aero. It’s no slouch on climbs, either, beating the Canyon Speedmax CF SLX Disc on uphills.
#2: Canyon Speedmax CF SLX Disc
891,000 Drops to purchase, must be Level 26+
Canyon’s Speedmax CF SLX Disc is faster on the flats than almost any other frame in game. And its level lock isn’t terribly high, either! Read more about this frame >
#2 & #3: Felt IA 2.0 & Scott Plasma RC Ultimate
Felt: 1,136,000 Drops to purchase, must be Level 34+
Scott: 1,136,000 Drops to purchase, must be Level 33+
Some of the newest frames in game, the updated IA from Felt and Plasma from Scott are nipping at the Canyon Speedmax’s heels on the flats, but outclimbing all other TT frames when the road tilts upward. If your TT race includes any significant climbs, opt for these frames over the Canyon to optimize your time.
#4: Felt IA
IA: 1,065,000 Drops to purchase, must be Level 37+
The Felt IA turns in nearly the same performance as the Cervelo PX-Series on flat/rolling routes and Alpe du Zwift, besting the Cervelo by just 0.5s in both tests. So we give it the edge here.
#5: Cervelo PX-Series
PX-Series: 1,065,000 Drops to purchase, must be Level 45+
According to Cervelo, “The PX-Series is faster and more aerodynamic than any other triathlon bike we have tested.” That seems to almost apply in Zwift as well, where the PX-Series is quite slippery.
#6: Trek Speed Concept SLR 9
958,500 Drops to purchase, must be Level 32+
The newish TT frame from Trek is fast on the flats, but watch out – it’s a dog on climbs. So only use this if you’re in a very flat race!
#7: Specialized Shiv Disc
994,000 Drops to purchase, must be Level 18+
The fastest TT frame available at a lower “beginner level” lock, this radical non-UCI legal frame was created to win at Kona. Optimized for crosswinds, with a distinctive tailfin water reservoir, the Shiv Disc was unveiled at Ironman Kona 2018.
#8: Cervelo P5
710,000 Drops to purchase, must be Level 15+
The precursor to Cervelo’s PX-Series, the P5 is a mighty fast frame on its own, just 7 seconds behind the P5x in our ~50 minute flat tests. As the most affordable TT bike on this short list, with the lowest level unlock, it’s a good buy for lower-level Zwift TT racers.
What’s the Time Gap?
The frames above are separated by only 10 seconds on a ~50 minute test on Tempus Fugit route at 300 watts with a 75kg rider (see stats). That may seem like a slim margin, but that’s significant in a TT effort!
The next fastest frame is 3.5 seconds behind the Cervelo P5, so the frames above are truly in a group by themselves when it comes to speed on flat courses.
About TT Frames
TT frames cannot draft on Zwift, so while the frames above turn in faster times than any non-TT setup in our solo rider tests, you would not want to use them in a standard Zwift race which includes drafting because you’ll get dropped!
Use these frames for TT racing and any solo training where you want to look and feel fast.
Looking for more detailed TT frame performance numbers? Check out our TT frame performance charts >
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 TT frames on Zwift >
Share Your Thoughts
We hope all you TT fanatics found this post useful. Got questions or comments? Post below!
- September 22, 2022: added CADEX Tri frame in #1 slot
- August 23, 2022: added the Felt IA 2.0 and Scott Plasma RC Ultimate thanks to their incredible performance numbers. Added Trek Speed Concept SLR 9. Removed the Ventum One.
- September 19, 2021: moved the Felt IA to #2 and the Cervelo PX-Series to #3 based on fresh test data.
- March 23, 2021: added the Canyon Speedmax CF SLX Disc as #1. Kept the other frames on the list.
- November 6, 2019: added the Ventum One as #5 on the list. Updated #1 and #2 to be a tie after further testing on Tempus Fugit.
- June 6, 2019: added Felt IA as #1. Kept the other 3 frames on the list.
Important note: this post contains speed test results for Zwift frames or wheels. These results may change over time, and a bike’s performance relative to others may also change. We don’t always revise posts when performance rankings change, but we do keep current, master versions of our speed test results which are always available. See the frame charts, wheel charts, and Tron vs Top Performers for current performance data.
Where’s Canyon’s Speedmax SLX??? Multiple IM winner with Jan Frodeno and Patrick Lange?
I just did a group ride on a TT Bike (Group for motivation / speed pacing) to complete the TT portion of the OSPW Challege. While true that I was not getting a draft, it very much appeared that I was at least creating one. I would put out 2.4-2.8 typically and people were able to sit-on at 1.8-2.2. Was I seeing things or is this correct that the TT Bikes do not benefit their rider with a draft, but they give a draft to those behind them?
I think the idea is you use a TT bike if you want to test yourself against the terrain without the traffic impacting your results. For everyone else, it’s business as usual.
Seems fair enough to me.
Recently, Zwift has updated the TT frames (Pinarello Bolide / TT, Cube Aerium, BMC Timemachine01, Diamondback Andean) don’t you think it’s worth updating the TT frame ranking?
When did they change things? Last I looked, neither frame CdA or weight had changed…
I’m looking for a good bike to ride down the radio tower and hit 100km/h. Is the stock Zwift TT with Zipp 808 faster than the Canyon Aero 2021 with 808s for this purpose?
Thanks for the quick reply. PS. Still new to Zwift (4 months in) and I visit your site daily. Amazing resource!
Does the shiv disc outperform the s-works shiv with 808’s?
See ranking charts here: https://zwiftinsider.com/charts-tt/
Surely the tron Is the quickest on a flat route than any tt bike.
pretty far off actually, the tron is a all-rounder bike while the tt bikes can only to flat courses so the tron would be way too op if it was the best flat performer, could draft, and could climb pretty well
Just when I buy the P5X and Felt IA I check the speed results again and the canyon is faster 😥
Did TOW #3 short (B) ride on this and on Tron and am wily drafter (it’s someone else’s job to close gaps not mine), and about 20-25 watts difference. Didn’t plan on it, messy not constant power, lots of caveats, but while drafting seemeed to be not worth it (often I’d get going and boom they’d turn off) had to work about 10% harder for same time (can pull more #’s data but 212 vs. 230’s?). Not having the sticky draft WAS AMAZING on a TT bike such a relief! But also would catch groups and…wow could really feel the… Read more »
I wonder where the new Trek Speed Concept will land in this
Eric hinted elsewhere it wasn’t anything spectacular. I suspect he’d have been right on it if the performance stood out.
Have to disagree with the Ventum One being a groundbreaking design. It is almost a copy of the (then) “groundbreaking” Lotus 110 bike, as used so successfully by Chris Boardman when winning of the 1994 tour de France prologue with an average speed of over 55kph.
Awesome work Eric! The TT bikes have made a big difference on our weekly TTT. In September we have a race on Road to Ruins. Now, you have shown us that the MTB are faster than the road bikes on gravel. Where will the TT bikes stack up? Are the TT bikes going to be faster on the gravel section or will the MTB still reign supreme?
To follow this up, I have done a bit of preliminary testing myself comparing the Canyon Speedmax/Arc discs vs the Specialized Crux G23 combo at 180 watts in a erg mode workout. While a lot slower than your testing and not nearly as accurate, the gravel bike was about 190 seconds faster than the TTT bike over one lap of the jungle. The difference will get smaller as the power increases but the greater drafting effect of the gravel bike should make at rig even faster during the TTT. Your mileage will vary but it seems that there is a… Read more »
Time to test the new Cadex TT bike
Just came here to request the same exact thing.
Brilliant article. Thank you very much 🙂
Fun question: Don’t you think it’s weird that Zwift added the frame, but not the disc wheel and deep section wheel that came with it? 🙂
PS: The “title” of the #1 bike is still “Canyon Speedmax CF SLX Disc” even though the description says it’s the Cadex bike.
I really appreciate all the hard work you’re doing. Good luck and keep it up.
Who knows, maybe Zwift has those CADEX wheels coming soon? (I haven’t heard anything.)
#1 has a picture of the new Cadex but the text says “Canyon Speedmax CF SLX Disc”
I have a TT on Ventoux Downhill coming up. Should I go for the most aero I can get at my level (Speedmax) or would a heavier frame like the Trek be quicker?
Hey Eric, these comparative analyses are great. How exactly do you go about providing consistency in the “rider” across all the power outputs? Is the test done on some sort of electric motor test rig or run in a virtual environment where you can manipulate the power input value?
The latter. I use a bot using emulated power, who rides alone in their Zwift world.
That’s really cool. As someone new to Zwift and a lover of the deep analysis, your comparative tests have been really insightful.
I notice you have your two set routes for your flat speed and climb tests, Tempus Fugit and Alpe Du Zwift. Have you ever run the same test on other routes? I don’t know the game physics at all, but I would interested to know if the rankings are really course dependent based on factors related to their specific topographies.
Thank you for the quick answer.
Yes – we’ve done hundreds of tests all over Zwift.
On the vast majority of routes, the most aero bike wins. That’s why we stay aero frames are best for flat and rolling races.
Lots of variables to take into account though, when racing. Like… is it easy for you to sit in on flats and descents, but you get dropped on climbs? Might want a climbing bike, even if the overall fastest course time goes to the aero bike.
A question about the testing protocol, or perhaps actually about pack dynamics. I am under the impression that you perform the tests in closed meetups to avoid other riders. To avoid the draft effect when riding normal frames, but also for not having to go around other riders @Eric Schlange ? For the TT-frames (with no draft-effect in freerides), are our segment/route times affected by the amount of riders on a course? Do we loose time by going around other riders? Reason I Ask is that I rode the tempus fugit route (banner to banner) on two different times of… Read more »