Of all the cycling disciplines, time trialists seem most obsessed with how their 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 already looked at which TT frames perform best on flat/mixed routes. The next question for TT racers is: what about climbing?
We’ve been hard at work in our lab testing wheels and frames, and this is the sixth in a series of posts giving you some solid, data-driven answers. Read more speed tests here >
*First, a Disclaimer
These frames are the fastest up the Alpe, but that means they won’t be the fastest down or on flat sections since climbing frames are lightweight and less aero. So you’ll want to think through your strengths as a rider when choosing your frames and wheels for races.
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 for climbing Alpe du Zwift.
This list is based on our recent speed tests of 100+ rides up Alpe du Zwift, a 12.2km, 8% monster of a climb which takes around 50 minutes to complete for our 75kg TT test rider at 300 watts steady using the basic Zwift 32mm carbon wheelset.
#1 & #2: Felt IA 2.0 and Scott Plasma RC Ultimate
Felt IA 2.0: 1,065,000 Drops to purchase, must be Level 34+
Scott Plasma RC Ultimate: 1,136,000 Drops to purchase, must be Level 33+
These two bikes are twins in terms of their aero and climbing performance, so take your pick. They climb better than any other TT frame in Zwift, and they’re very fast on the flats as well. Read more about these frames >
#3: Specialized Shiv S-Works
852,000 Drops to purchase, must be Level 10+
Turning in the best time up the Alpe, the Shiv S-Works must be quite light in-game. It is also the 6th-fastest frame on flat and mixed courses, so not a bad all-around frame.
#4: Scott Plasma
852,000 Drops to purchase, must be Level 17+
Coming in just 1 second behind our first-placed frame, the Plasma is a great climber with the same flat performance numbers as the Shiv S-Works.
#5: Cervelo P5
710,000 Drops to purchase, must be Level 15+
Only 2 seconds slower up the Alpe than the Shiv S-Works, it is significantly faster on our flat route test (7 seconds faster than the Shiv S-Works and Scott Plasma), making this a strong all-arounder TT frame and one readily available to lower-level Zwifters.
What’s the Time Gap?
The next fastest frame after those above (the Diamondback Andean) is 4 seconds slower up the Alpe. The slowest frame in our tests was the Trek Speed Concept SLR 9, turning in a time 41 seconds slower than the top-ranked Felt IA 2.0 and Scott Plasma RC Ultimate. See complete test numbers and charts >
About the Wheels
It is worth noting that, while we show some frames above with a disc wheelset, you wouldn’t want to run a disc in a climbing TT since they are heavy and therefore slow uphill. See Fastest Wheels for Climbing for details on the best climbing wheels.
TT vs Draftable Frames
Many Zwifters have asked if TT frames will perform better than standard “draftable” frames on long climbs since drafting isn’t much of a factor there. That reasoning is solid, except for the fact that these TT frames are heavy! Even the slowest draftable frame (Zwift Steel) still beats the fastest TT frame up the Alpe, and by 7 seconds! So a TT is never your best option in a long climbing race.
(Also: drafting is still a significant factor up the Alpe.)
Share Your Thoughts
We hope all you TT masochists found this post useful. Got questions or comments? Post below!
- 8/14/2022: added Felt IA 2.0 and Scott Plasma RC Ultimate to the list
- 11/7/19: shortened the list, just taking the top 3 performers from our latest tests.
- 6/6/19: updated from 2 frames to 9. Added the new Felt IA.
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.
So- a total rookie here…for A Bologna TT Is it better to use a good climbing road bike or one of the three bikes above?
They’re actually VERY similar in overall time. A TT rig will be faster on the flats, slower on the climbs. And a good climbing road bike will be the opposite. In our tests, they were within a couple seconds of each other in overall time.
Thanks so much for the information Eric! I tried it on a P5 yesterday and I’ll try a road bike next time and compare the splits. Thanks for all the work on this site.
What would be best setup for Yorkshire? Say on Pump 8 course
Climbs on Yorkshire aren’t long/steep enough for a climbing rig to gain much time. So overall, your most aero setup will be the fastest, at least in a TT situation.
Is there really a case/reason for investing in climbing TT bikes? Or is it the case that a course with much climbing in it would be better suited to a lightweight/climbing bike ?
Sure – if you’re doing a TT race with a climb in it, a climbing TT frame may be just the ticket.
So I’ve only been on Zwift for a month or so and only only done one race (La Reinne) as part of ZA, just for the change from normal group rides. I’ve also just gone up the Alpe for the first time, using a 90min custom workout set at 155watts (endurance for me) to even out the work. I get how a climbing bike will beat a TT in a race/group ride where you can draft, but in both my big climbs I was on my own for 95% of the climb. Would the S Works or P5 still be… Read more »
The TT rigs are all heavy, and none of them come close to beating a decent climbing (non TT) rig. So you should only use one of these climbing TT rigs in an event that requires a TT frame.
Thanks for taking the time to answer, Eric. This is site is a fantastic resource for newbies, and as I love that as I get more into Zwift there’s a wealth of info to indulge my geekier side too! I know you’re independent, but at the same time you’re also a big part of what sets Zwift apart from the other simulators out there. Cheers!
So let’s say you’re challenged your brother to a best time up the Volcano race? Hypothetically of course. What bike and wheels would you select?
It’s such a shallow climb that aero wins. See numbers here: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1_dvNbBEKAztJwjX-2CDdWmVSR4jP92o-eiNCB7hl5IY/edit#gid=1812742034
Tron and Venge S-Works+858/Super9 are the fastest road bikes. TT bikes event faster, but just barely.
Would you still recommend the lightweights for climbing on these frames?
Not sure what you’re asking. These frames climb the fastest of any Zwift TT frame…
Sorry, I mean the meilenstein lightweight wheels.
Hi, I’m looking for the right bike to climb Alpe de Zwift. Not a tt bike as I want to be able to draft in a friendly race. How do I then buy that frame and wheel set. Thanks
So, is it better to use a tron or a basic TT bike in a 10 mile TT?
If it’s a flat TT race, use a TT bike. They’re much faster!
How does the Canyon Speedmax do in this test? Is it now a better choice in Bologna than the Cervelo P5?
Hey Eric! Love the site. Would it make sense to update this page with the newer, “Canyon Speedmax CF SLX Disc”, which seems to have been released after this page was last updated?
Eric, tahnx four your page and all this helpfull information. Todays WTRL TTT (Tour of Tewitt well) and the next weeks (Bologna & Alpe): what bike do you propose for theese courses?
According to the drop shop the Felt IA is level 37 and the IA 2.0 is 34.
Ah, correct! Fixed.