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: 750,000 Drops to purchase, must be Level 16+
Scott Plasma RC Ultimate: 600,000 Drops to purchase, must be Level 19+
These two bikes are twins in terms of their aero and climbing performance, so take your pick. They’re also the lowest-level unlocks on this list, which is pretty crazy, right? 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
910,600 Drops to purchase, must be Level 37+
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
528,600 Drops to purchase, must be Level 19+
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. But we recommend paying a few drops and getting the faster 2.0 version!
#5: Cervelo P5
920,700 Drops to purchase, must be Level 34+
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.
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.
Share Your Thoughts
We hope all you TT masochists found this post useful. Got questions or comments? Post below!
- 12/6/2023: adjusted prices, level unlocks and text due to Zwift’s Drop Shop reorg.
- 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.