Zwift released its first gravel bikes in their December 2019 game update. The Cervelo Aspero, Canyon Grail, Canyon Inflite (actually a cross bike), and Zwift Gravel were built in game similar to how they’re built outdoors: to perform well on dirt while also zipping along nicely on pavement. Later, the Lauf True Grit and others were added to the list.
But how do they actually perform in game, and how do they compare to Zwift’s mountain bikes and the established crop of road rigs?
We ran extensive tests to find out. Here are the results.
Flat Pavement Performance
Here’s how each of the new gravel bikes performed over two laps of our Tempus Fugit test segment (300 watts steady, 75kg rider):
- Cervelo Aspero: 53:47
- Canyon Grail: 53:49
- Specialized Crux: 53:50.5
- Giant Revolt Advanced Pro, Liv Devote Advanced Pro: 53:51
- Allied Able: 53:51.5
- Canyon Inflite: 53:53
- Specialized Diverge: 53:53.5
- Zwift Gravel: 53:54
- Lauf True Grit: 53:57
The Aspero wins this contest, with the Grail close on its heels.
The fastest road bikes complete the test route in 50:17, while the slowest road bikes (Zwift Steel with 32mm carbon wheels) complete it in 51:40. Clearly, gravel rigs perform quite poorly on pavement.
The fastest mountain bikes complete the test route in 55:40, meaning the gravel rigs are turning in times right in between the fast road bikes and the slower MTB.
I found the gravel rigs to be quite challenging on pavement. I had to hold ~30 more watts than those around me just to hang with the group on the flats, turning a “2.0-2.5 w/kg spin” into something a bit more tougher.
Here’s how the new gravel bikes performed up the big Alpe du Zwift climb:
- Specialized Crux: 51:18
- Canyon Grail: 51:25
- Allied Able: 51:35
- Cervelo Aspero: 51:39
- Giant Revolt Advanced Pro, Liv Devote Advanced Pro: 51:42
- Specialized Diverge: 51:51
- Canyon Inflite: 51:55
- Zwift Gravel: 51:56
- Lauf True Grit: 51:58
The super-light Crux wins the climbing contest quite handily, with the Grail 7 seconds behind.
The fastest road bikes climb the Alpe in 48:50, while the slower (Zwift Steel with 32mm carbon wheels) complete it in 49:55. We already know the gravel bikes are slower on flat pavement, so this is not surprising.
The fastest mountain bikes climb the Alpe in 55:21. The mountain bikes are quite heavy, so this isn’t surprising, either. Like our flat tests, the gravel bikes sit squarely in between the road bikes and mountain bikes in terms of time up the Alpe.
Here’s how the gravel bikes perform on one lap of the Jungle Circuit using the basic Zwift gravel wheels (keep in mind the new gravel wheels are faster on dirt than the Zwift Gravel wheels):
- Specialized Crux: 14:10
- Canyon Grail: 14:11
- Cervelo Aspero, Allied Able, Giant Revolt Advanced Pro, Liv Devote Advanced Pro: 14:12
- Specialized Diverge: 14:13.5
- Canyon Inflite, Zwift Gravel: 14:14
- Lauf True Grit: 14:15
The Crux just barely edges out the Grail, which just barely edges out the Aspero. But the Aspero is close behind.
The faster road bikes complete a jungle lap in around 15 minutes flat. Zwift’s new gravel wheels drop lap times for gravel bikes to 13:56 thanks to their lower Crr, so if you extrapolate that difference out over 4 laps we’ve got a difference of over 4 minutes between the road bikes and gravel bikes. Finally, the gravel bikes get to show off a bit!
My gravel rig destroyed the road bikes on the Jungle Circuit. While the road bikes labored at 2.5-3 w/kg up the jungle climbs, I chugged along at 2-2.5, holding ~40 watts less but still dropping the pack of road riders.
The Specialized Crux is definitely the bike to have when it comes to gravel climbs, while the Cervelo Aspero is a better performer on flats and descents. The Grail is somewhere in between, being a bit more aero than the Crux and a bit lighter than the Aspero. Choose accordingly.
Don’t Use Stock Gravel Wheels
If you’re going to use a gravel bike, don’t use the stock Zwift Gravel wheelset. Instead, use one of the name-brand gravel wheelsets in game, because they roll faster on dirt due to lower Crr, trimming ~17s off of one Jungle Circuit lap (and much more time off of the Makuri Islands Temple KOM).
Have you tried out the new gravel rigs in Zwift? What did you think? Share below!