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 15+ 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 three 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 and #2: Cervelo P5x and Felt IA
P5x: 1,065,000 Drops to purchase, must be Level 45+
IA: 1,065,000 Drops to purchase, must be Level 37+
According to Cervelo, “The P5X is faster and more aerodynamic than any other triathlon bike we have tested.” That seems to apply in Zwift as well, where the P5x is slippery.
The IA turns in same performance as the Cervelo P5x on flat/rolling routes and Alpe du Zwift, indicating that both frame’s weight and aero numbers are identical in Zwift.
#3: Specialized Shiv Disc
994,000 Drops to purchase, must be Level 18+
The 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.
#4: Cervelo P5
710,000 Drops to purchase, must be Level 15+
The precursor to Cervelo’s P5x, the P5 is a might 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 any Zwift TT racers.
#5: Ventum One
482,800 Drops to purchase, must be Level 31+
Who needs a downtube? A groundbreaking frame design when it was released in 2016, the Ventum One is quite speedy on Zwift’s flats. It’s a heavy frame, though: the heaviest TT frame in Zwift, in fact. So don’t use it on any hill climbs!
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 4 seconds behind the Ventum One, 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.
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!
- 11/6/19: added the Ventum One as #5 on the list. Updated #1 and #2 to be a tie after further testing on Tempus Fugit.
- 6/6/19: added Felt IA as #1. Kept the other 3 frames on the list.