August 28, 2019
I've been using the Tacx Neo 2 now for a complete winter season and it's definitely the best trainer that I've had so far. I own a bike shop, so I take one home, use it for a few weeks, sell it, and take another one home. This allows me to test a lot of trainers, but also This one stuck, I don't want to ride another trainer now that the Neo 2 has spoiled me.
Here's my take on the latest and greatest from Tacx
I find that the more realistic the functions of the trainer and accompanying app, the more immersive your experience, and therefore the more motivating you find your indoor training - we can all use the motivation. The Tacx Neo has the most comprehensive list of cool features that really bring out the realism and make your ride indoors an immersive, enjoyable, exhausting experience - like it should be. This is NOT your old, boring wind trainer.
My Personal Setup with the Neo 2
I have an Apple TV ($209 from JB Hifi) plugged into a cheap LCD 45" TV ($80 on Gumtree) with the Zwift App ($20/mo) that I use all the time, and I use a free Zwift Companion App on my phone (Iphone 8) for easy-to-reach additional functions during rides. For quick setup times, I have a dedicated bike that I pieced together from old parts and frame that I have permanently mounted in my guest bedroom. To keep the phone accessible, I have a Quadlock case & bike handlebar mount ($75 Urban Pedaler). I keep a medium towel laying across the bars, a rubber mat ($75 Urban Pedaler) underneath to catch sweat, and a sweat net ($45 Urban Pedaler) attached to the bike to keep excess sweat off the frame and from getting into the bearings. A nice fan to keep cool and a set of Iphone earbuds round out my kit.
I often do my training at 6AM in our spare bedroom on the ground floor, with two bedrooms just above me. As I'm chasing down a sprint on the Out n Back loop or cranking out the Epic Climb on Zwift, it's only the near-silent sound of the chain on the cassette that makes a peep. I have ear buds in with my favourite high-energy jams, and the fan going, but nobody above me hears anything. Even when the kids get up to get ready for school, they don't even know I'm training until I emerge all sweaty as they are eating their cereal (sorry about the visual). Baby sleeping in the next room? Partner taking an afternoon nap? No worries.
Virtual Flywheel & Downhill Drive
Instead of your gears turning a 7kg flywheel to give you the realistic feeling of accelerating and decelerating, the Neo 2 uses a "virtual flywheel" which is a combination of a motor and a brake that match to your rider weight, output, and gradient to give you the real feeling of coasting, sprinting, and even coasting downhill. In Zwift, on the backside of BoxHill on the London course, I can empty my tank on the uphill sprint over the line and then fully coast/recover, with no pedaling on the downhill. You can hear the motor slowly humm it's way up to 45kph with no input from me. You might say this is cheating since people with other trainers have to put down 140watts to go down the same hill, but it changes where & how you apply your efforts. It's not easier by any means. I tend to hold back on the last bit of a climb if I'm chasing someone and I know that the downhill ahead requires some effort, so I love this feature; I can give it the stick on that last bit at the top, knowing I can recover (just like in real life) on the downhill.
Real Road Feel
You know how the peloton accelerates leading up to the pavé sections during the Paris Roubaix? Those cobblestones slow you down, and once you have slowed down you can't accelerate back up to speed until they're over. It's the same in Zwift and now Fulgaz! The same resistance unit that gives you resistance on hills gently "tap-tap-taps" the drivetrain with a bit of resistance and gives you a realistic texture through the rear wheel over gravel, cobbles, and wooden planks that you encounter, just like out on a real ride. It's a pretty neat 1% feature that just adds to your immersion and distraction from life around you and helps you focus on your ride as the minutes pass.
You hop on, click "pair", choose your ride, and start pedaling. I have had no connectivity issues at all with my Neo 2. There are two native Tacx apps that you can download for your phone; one called the Tacx Utility that does calibration and firmware updates, and allows you to check if the Bluetooth is working properly, and the Tacx Training app that you can use for training. The Tacx App has free functions, but a fairly basic list of features with the ability to pay for additional functions and course videos. I'm a fan of Fulgaz and Zwift, so I prefer these subscription services. The most common setups are set up through Ipad, PC and Apple TV, but laptops and phones also can control the trainer.
Built-in Cadence Sensor
The competition all have external cadence sensors that wrap around the crank arm, or with a magnet & sensor on the chainstay. This is just one more connection that oyu. need to make when signing in to your app, or just one more thing to go wrong. Also, any additional sensors (heartrate, cadence) can take up additional bluetooth signal channels, many have only one channel or two at max. My Apple TV only has two channels, so I would not be able to connect a bluetooth HRM, smart trainer, and a cadence sensor. My Ipad only has one channel, so having the cadence number ont he screen as part of the main function is one more data point that gives you something to concentrate on without additional hassle. When new, I had one small issue with the cadence cutting in & out while riding, but that was easliy fixed with a firmware update through the phone app "Tacx Utility App" connected to bluetooth.
The trainer comes with everything you need in the box to handle rim brakes, disc brakes, road bikes, flatbar, mountain bikes, quick release rear axle or thru-axles. The adaptor kit for thru-axles is a bit complicated as you swap out your thru-axle for a super-long quick release skewer and a driveside adaptor that goes on the outside of the derailleur hanger, but it securely fits most bikes that we've tested. Exceptions that we've found are the Focus RATT axles and Cannondale 2019 SystemSix/2020 Caad13, SystemSix and Supersix as their SpeedRelease thru-axles use a double-entry thread lead on the axle. Tacx says they're currently working on a solution.
The Neo 2 comes with a front wheel block which helps hold the wheel straight when up & moving about on the bike; a nice extra feature, plus it looks cool & space-age like the trainer. lt also is unique in that it has a small bit of side-to-side flex in the trainer's frame. This isn't huge, but it's enough to make it a little more comfortable when putting in efforts. Nobody else offers this feature.
Warranty and after sales service:
This factor doesn't typically occur to people when considering a purchase, but when you need it it can be the only thing that counts. In Australia, the wholesaler for Tacx is based in Melbourne and has a very generous warranty policy and fast turnaround time on repairs & replacements. We don't encounter it often, but having a responsive & knowledgeable team in your local shop and a solid backup from the wholesaler makes a big difference. Our past experience with the other Smart Trainer supplier was everything but easy with many more returns and warranty claims, plus long turnaround times and big charges for shipping and labour. This helped us decide to go deep with Tacx as a retailer.
Part of the bigger, future ecosystem with Garmin
Tacx was recently purchased by Garmin which surprised more than a few people in the industry. With one of the other trainer companies (Wahoo) making trainers and GPS cycle computers, Garmin is rounding out their offering and looks to be placing Wahoo in their rear view mirror. We're eager to see what this means to Tacx as a company in the coming years.
The Neo 2 is currently the best trainer I've used. It's packed with the most features that give you the most realistic experience on the market for a truly immersive riding experience with little-to-no issues or quirks. The less expensive Flux II and Flux S deliver 90% of the experience for a little more than half the price, but for those who want the best and mostest, the Neo is head & shoulders above the rest of the premium trainers on teh market right now.
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