Of all the cycling disciplines, time trialists seem most obsessed with how their equipment and setup affects 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 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. We tested all frames using the same power levels and rider weight, making it easy to spot which frames performed best.
#1: Specialized Shiv S-Works
852,000 Drops to purchase, must be Level 10+
Turning in the best time up the Alpe (50:03), the Shiv S-Works must be quite light in-game. It is also the 4th-fastest frame on flat and mixed courses, so not a bad all-around frame.
#2: Cervelo P5
710,000 Drops to purchase, must be Level 15+
The P5 is the real standout here. Only 2 seconds slower up the Alpe than the Shiv S-Works, it is significantly faster on our flat/mixed route tests (5 seconds faster on a 35-minute lap of Volcano Climb), meaning this is the best all-around TT frame available.
#3: Felt IA
1,065,000 Drops to purchase, must be Level 37+
The best all-around performer on this list, the IA is one of the fastest frames on flat/rolling courses, performing significantly better than the Specialized Shiv S-Works and Cervelo P5 above. But when it comes to the long Alpe climb, both of those frames turn in times several seconds faster than the Felt IA, so we have to rank it below them.
#4: Cervelo P5x
1,065,000 Drops to purchase, must be Level 45+
A very solid all-around choice, the radical P5x performs essentially the same as the Felt IA on flat/rolling routes and the Alpe. But it has a higher level lock so we bumped it down below.
#5: Diamondback Andean
572,900 Drops to purchase, must be Level 35+
The Andean was actually 1s faster than the Felt IA and Cervelo P5x on the Alpe, but since it’s so much slower on flat/mixed routes we placed it below those frames.
#6: Specialized Shiv Disc
994,000 Drops to purchase, must be Level 18+
The radical Shiv Disc is actually 1s slower up the Alpe than the standard Shiv, and tied with the Canyon Speedmax. But it is much faster on flat/rolling courses than both of those frames, so we ranked it above them.
#7: Specialized Shiv
710,000 Drops to purchase, must be Level 10+
The good ol’ Shiv climbs pretty well, even though it doesn’t perform well on the flats.
#8: Canyon Speedmax
710,000 Drops to purchase, must be Level 21+
Just 1s slower than the Specialized Shiv, the Speedmax turns in the same slower times as the Shiv on flats, making it a decent choice when the road turns up, but not the best for flat-out efforts.
#9: BMC Timemachine01
781,000 Drops to purchase, must be Level 24+
1 second slower than the Canyon Speedmax, the TimeMachine01 performs the same on flat/rolling routes as the Specialized Shiv and Canyon Speedmax–which means you won’t want to use it on flat/rolling routes. A strong climber, though!
What’s the Time Gap?
The next fastest frame after those above (the Pinarello Bolide) is 7 seconds slower up the Alpe. The slowest frame in our tests was surprisingly the Ventum One, turning in a 50:38 time, a full 35 seconds slower than the Specialized Shiv S-Works.
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 desc 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 6 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!
- 6/6/19: updated from 2 frames to 9. Added the new Felt IA.