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How has the market's leading Smart Trainer stacking up over time? We've put the Neo 2T through it's paces, used it summer and winter, long rides and short, races and fondos, climbing and flats. Here's what we've learned and what we think about this impressive piece of indoor training equipment.
The Neo 2T comes with everything to fit normal quick release rear hubs, thru axle hubs, disc and rim brake bikes. The older Neo and Neo 2 models had to use adaptors to fit the modern thru axle bikes, so this has been solved with the 2T version - anything sold new after mid 2020. The stock freehub supplied with the unit fits 7-11 speed Shimano and Sram cassettes, but you will need to purchase an additional freehub if you want to run Shimano or Sram 12speed cassettes, or Campy - the freehubs retail for around $100 -185 AU.
Cassettes are sold separately, so confer with your experienced dealer to get the right cassette, and most importantly; to get the proper spacers installed to get the spacing on the freehub correct - this is a super common error for home mechanics and inexperienced sellers.
The Neo 2T is a Smart Trainer, and as such is connected to a device via Bluetooth and subsequently the resistance is controlled by your chosen app. Whatever your avatar in the app is doing (climbing, descending, drafting, etc), your trainer will adjust resistance to match, and give you the feeling through finely-tuned and instant resistance adjustments. Most direct-drive smart trainers feel similar in this respect, but the Neo 2T stands out - with some of the following features:
The Virtual Flywheel - This feature allows the trainer to adjust acceleration and deceleration to the rider's weight. The Neo 2T is the only trainer that has this feature, and it makes a difference. The realism in the accelerations, coasting, drafting other riders is noticeable and is the same for all rider weights. The unit uses electronic control - both a motor and a brake - on the rotating drive unit to give the "feeling" of a flywheel.
All other Smart Trainers use a physical, heavy flywheel that gives the sensation of spinning up slowly and coasting when you let off the effort. The heavier the flywheel the longer it takes to spin up, and the longer it spins after letting off - heavier flywheels feel natural to heavier riders, lighter flywheels feel more realistic to lighter riders. If the stock flywheel is not matched to your weight, then you can have some moments where the bike might not coast on the flats as you would expect, or worse, you find it difficult to adjust effort in order to draft other riders. Lighter riders with a heavier flywheel might find the acceleration a little slower than in real life, causing them to exert more efforts to get on the back of a group but might find that the momentum carries them further after letting off the gas. It's a trade off but detracts from the realism.
Downhill Drive - This is the feature that really grabbed me. The Neo has a motor built in that engages when it feels that you should be benefiting from gravity or coasting longer after an effort. If you are a heavier rider and sitting on the back of a group on a 2% downhill gradient, then you should not have to work to stay on the back of the group - IRL. A simple flywheel model starts slowing down as soon as you stop pedaling, but the Neo gives you that little push that you would assume you'd get out in the real world. Sprint at 110% effort over the crest of a hill and expecting to coast all the way down the other side? On a Neo, yes you can. All the flywheel models need constant input to keep that thing spinning. I find that I can stop pedaling on a 5% or bigger decline and the bike will maintain or even accelerate (very helpful when doing Zwift races).
Real Road Feel - The idea is that the resistance unit taps away at the spinning wheel to give the feeling of texture to the surface through your frame when the course covers gravel, wooden planks, bridges, etc. It's a cool feature, anticipating the change in surface, then feeling it through your wheel when you roll over it. Personally, I found the delay in timing between what the screen shows and when the vibrations kick in to be a little off, and after six months I turned it off since it made me feel slower on gravel sections when chasing a group. This might be just my perception, but it wasn't the feature that moved me the most - but some people might love it. It's still unique to the Neo and would likely be something mountain bikers would enjoy more on the virtual offroad courses.
Frame flex - One last feature that the Neo has that is really icing on the cake is the simple amount of side to side flex built into the frame of the trainer. Most other trainers are solid on the ground, not forgiving when moving around on the bike or putting in efforts and moving side to side. Having a little bit of give makes it a little more realistic and enjoyable.
Sound - The Neo is the quietest of the trainers I've owned, including Wahoo Kickr, Saris, and other models from Tacx. I can knock out a 40km ride, music booming in my ear buds, sprints, efforts and climbs, all with three people asleep at 6AM in the same house.
The Neo 2T has become an invaluable piece of equipment for me, alongside my three bikes. My trainer bike is set up permanently in my spare room and is only 5-10 minutes away from a ride whenever I choose. The level of realism with a good TV setup is enough to elicit my strongest efforts and highest heart rates while I tackle courses and compete against others. That realism is the secret behind motivation which I believe we all struggle with at some level. Feeling as if the world will end if that rider catches me in the last 100m of a race or dreading to fall off the back of the group because of the 30km left to ride alone if I do... The higher level of realism delivered with every last feature of a premium trainer like the Neo is the secret sauce. No issues whatsoever to report with connectivity, sound, or other functions in the two years with this model. And I would not trade the premium features like downhill drive and virtual flywheel for anything after becoming accustomed to them.
Check out our Youtube series on FAQs and setup of your indoor trainer
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September 26, 2023