Speed Tests: Zwift’s Fastest TT Bike Frames for Climbing Races

Speed Tests: Zwift’s Fastest TT Bike Frames for Climbing Races

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 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.

Your Winners

#1: 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.

#2: 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.

#3: 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 route test (7 seconds faster than the Shiv S-Works and Scott Plasma), making this the best all-around TT frame available on this list.

What’s the Time Gap?

The next fastest frame after those above (the Diamondback Andean) is 5 seconds slower up the Alpe. The slowest frame in our tests was the Ventum One, turning in a time 35 seconds slower than the top-ranked Specialized Shiv S-Works. 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!


Changelog

  • 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.

About The Author

Eric Schlange

Eric runs Zwift Insider in his spare time when he isn't on the bike or managing various business interests. He lives in Northern California with his beautiful wife, two kids and dog. Follow on Strava

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David Shaw
David Shaw
1 year ago

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?

David Shaw
David Shaw
1 year ago

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.

Geoff Spinmonkey
Geoff Spinmonkey (@geoffspinmonkey)
1 year ago

What would be best setup for Yorkshire? Say on Pump 8 course

Michael Hanan
Michael Hanan
11 months ago

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 ?

Paul Mack
Paul Mack
6 months ago

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 »

Paul Mack
Paul Mack
6 months ago
Reply to  Eric Schlange

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!

Christopher Beattie
Christopher Beattie
6 months ago

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?

Ryan Morrison
Ryan Morrison
3 months ago

Would you still recommend the lightweights for climbing on these frames?

Ryan Morrison
Ryan Morrison
3 months ago
Reply to  Eric Schlange

Sorry, I mean the meilenstein lightweight wheels.

Jim Borrens
Jim Borrens
2 months ago

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

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