What's the best Smart Trainer? Which one gives you the most realistic indoor experience?

June 06, 2019

Indoor trainer studio setup Tacx Neo 2

I get asked a lot about the ideal setup for an indoor trainer.  I'm slowly setting up my own ideal home setup and I've seen some cool ones along the way.  I'm learning, technology is changing, and there's a lot on offer. This year I've made a few improvements and changed trainers again, after making my way through a few in the last three years.  Hopefully I can answer a few of the popular questions here.

  • Is the Wahoo Kickr with the Climb the coolest setup?
  • How much better is the Tacx Neo, is it worth the extra money over the Kickr?
  • Is the Neo 2 worth the upcharge over the other Tacx models (Flux S, Flux 2)?

The Wahoo system with the Climb simulator is kinda cool, but it's not that useful in creating a more immersive experience on your favorite online program.  Personally, after having sold Wahoo, Tacx, and Cycleops, and having tried all the main models from these three brands, I've settled on the Tacx Neo 2 as the most realistic.  The virtual flywheel gives a more realistic sprint up to speed (wind up) and coasting (wind down), plus the downhill drive (for realistic coasting and descending) and the gentle "road feel" that the trainer inserts into the rear of the frame while riding over different surfaces, delivers this experience. These subtle, haptic features collude to really immerse you in your program of choice.

I find a more stable trainer (not moving up & down in the front), with a strong, fast resistance unit that reacts instantaneously to what you see on the screen, and with a drive unit that feels most like riding outside is the best setup.  The most realistic is the most immersive, and immersion in your program is where you lose track of time.  When you are focused on power, speed, the rider in front of you, lowering your heartrate by coasting downhill, the w/kg of the rider coming up behind you, how many kms to the KOM marker, or even bracing for the wooden bridge up ahead which slows you down a bit, you can beat the boredom and dig deep into your ability to put up a good ride that you can be proud of - even if you don't use Strava.  The pool of sweat on the floor under your trainer is evidence that you somehow used this app, this hardware, to motivate you to work so hard.

My ideal setup uses the Tacx Neo 2, because I feel this unit delivers that little 1% extra that makes it real.  And when you aren't making little excuses in your head for the little equipment quirks and just getting on with it, you dig a little deeper and go harder in the program.  Good music, Zwift on the Apple TV, a convenient placement of my phone on the bars with the companion app loaded, a big TV in front of me (not too high on the wall), a cold bottle of water, a fan blowing hard, and a gel just in case I go over an hour and decide to do another lap.  That is my ideal setup. 

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