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Cycling Smart Trainers

Tacx Neo – Long Term Review Update

So I’ve been riding a Tacx Neo for about 1 month now – so its time for my Tacx Neo Long Term review update. The following post is a collection of thoughts and musing about using the device and how I think it is positioned in the market. I think its important that I point out, this is the second Tacx unit I’ve had used due to technical issues with the first unit.

TitaniumGeek IMG_5104-3 Tacx Neo -  Long Term Review Update Zwift Turbo Trainer TacX Neo cycling

Tacx Neo – Long Term review update

The post will stand as my follow up to the TacX Neo Vs KICKR show down, but just looking at the Neo now

The TacX Neo is frankly, from a technology stand point, ahead of its time. If not ahead of its time, its certainly ahead of EVERYTHING else in the field. The direct drive unit is just an amazing piece of design.

TitaniumGeek IMG_5093 Tacx Neo -  Long Term Review Update Zwift Turbo Trainer TacX Neo cycling

When you look inside, you can see how complex a unit this is, and where the money is going – this is about as advanced as you can possible get on a turbo trainer currently – a statement which stands as true when the Tacx Neo was first released in 2015, as it does today in 2019

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“True” Direct Drive

It’s this large metal disc on the side that lets the magic happen. Rather than merely being an electronically adjustable resistance wheel, as is the case with all other smart turbo trainers, the Tacx unit acts both as a resistance unit, but also a motor when its plugged into the mains. I’ve used quite a few different turbo trainers, the down hill/free wheeling simulation is frankly a game changer.

With every other turbo trainer, when you are using Zwift and going down hill, the resistance decreases, so you legs spin out faster, but if you stop, so does the turbo. There is no inertia effect.TitaniumGeek IMG_3411 Tacx Neo -  Long Term Review Update Zwift Turbo Trainer TacX Neo cycling

When the TacX Noe goes down hill – magic happens. You actually get a free wheel effect. When you stop peddling, even take your feet off, the unit recieved the FE-C information from Zwift, not only releasing the resistance on the unit, but also putting a small amount of assistance to it, so you get the free wheel/gravity effect.

I’ve tried to demonstrate this in the video below. The important part is listening to the sound that the Neo is making. The slight whine – I think its unreasonable to call the sound from the Neo a noise – increases as you go down hill.

Now it’s possible some riders on Zwift will consider this to be an unfair advantage. This might be argued as you have less resistance to push against on the downhills, but this is a much more realistic and a truer simulation of going down the hill IRL, where gravity does help you. So yes its an advantage, but only in the way that a rider using a carbon fibre bike, will see less flex, and thus get slightly more power transfer than someone using an aluminium or steel bike. Heck, even comparing someone with a direct drive, vs wheel on smart turbo, there are advantages

Flex…

The Wahoo KICKR doesnt flex. Your bike just doesn’t move whilst you are on a KICKR, its completely locked down. HOWEVER there has been some discussion if this is actually bad for a carbon fibre frame, as it doesnt allow the frame to flex properly and may put undue stress on the wheel stays. When contacted, most bike manufacturers are slightly guarded with statements such as

“Yes our bike can be used without any issue at all”

The Tacx Neo goes some way, I feel, to address the concerns of a direct mount turbo, and the effect on your bike. As the plastic resin which the majority of the case is built from is designed to have lateral flex of 2-3 degrees. This flex is particularly noticable when you put the power down. Initially I wasn’t a fan of this at all, but the more I have talked to people and the material that it is constructed from, the less concerned I am about the flex affecting the trainers durability. But also the more I feel it might be better for your bike in the long term – how a look for yourselves

If you want to geek out a little more on material science, can read more about the Neo construction and design over on my post about my visit to the Tacx Factory

TitaniumGeek Tacx-190-of-303-2-1-1024x684 Tacx Neo -  Long Term Review Update Zwift Turbo Trainer TacX Neo cycling

Bells and whistles

The Neo has LED lights to the front of it, which change when you up the power. I originally thought this was quite a gimmick, and frankly a bit of a waste of money in the development of the product…HOWEVER the more I have used it, there more I’ve found it a nice little gimmick. Don’t get me wrong, its still a gimmick, but its fun to try and push into the 500watt range in order to try and change the LED’s to red. The fact the LED’s shine forward is also a nice touch, so you can easily see them shining when you are flat out on the bars

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I still can’t get over how much I love being able to run the unit without power. Yes I loose the down hill ability, but its just COOL! I’m using my own wattage to make real watts! Well volts and amps, but hey, lets not get all physics nerdy, we’re cycle nerds and that’s it!

I was thinking this was make it a great feature to drag Zwift and the Neo back out into the garden, to enjoy the sun, and Zwift at the same time. It would also be like biking outdoors!!

Tacx Neo Specification

  • Communications: ANT+, ANT+ FE-C, & Bluetooth Smart (4.0)
  • Resistance type: Electromagnetic
  • Metrics: Speed / Power / Cadence
  • Accuracy: +/- 1%
  • Wheel size compatibility: 24″, 650c, 700c, 26″, 27.5″, 29″
  • Hub compatibility types: 130/135mm QR
  • Total weight: 21.5kg
  • Footprint (legs open): 57.5cm x 75cm
  • Flywheel weight: virtual
  • Inertia: Will simulate intertia of your own weight up to 125kg max – although in Zwift this is artificially set at 75kg
  • Brake force: 250N
  • Max wattage (at 20km/h): 2200W
  • Max incline (75kg rider at 10km/h): 25%

The PDF manual for the Tacx Neo is available HERE

Usability

Where I zwift means I have to take everything down when I’m done with it, and the Neo is a pain to take down. It feels a little bit like the designers solved an engineering problem with regard to the locks which keep the “wings” in place, and forgot about ergonomics. Reaching under the unit in order to fold it down, is quite simple a faff. Not a major issue at all, but I do think it gives an overall feeling for the Neo. Great ideas and engineering that might have been better for another round of  development testing

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If the locks were perhaps on the other side of the wings, yes less aesthetically pleasing, but it would be much easier to use.

Inclusion of status LED’s are brilliant. Such a small change, but really useful. The KICKR has no visible communication to say its working. When the first Neo died, the lack of non-lit LED’s was really useful in saving me quite a lot of time faffing about problem solving. Nope the light is dead, not working, cable is plugged in…ok going back. Lights for ANT+, Bluetooth, and ANT+

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Another example here, is that the actual drive unit on the Neo projects out slightly, as a result, if you drop to the small cog on the front and the largest on the back, the rear deraillure can rub against the metal casing meaning adjusting the limit screws to try and find a happy medium between using the turbo and your usual wheels. Minor point, but its more merely my lack of engineering prowess, as I’ve talked to several people how have had similar issues.

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The Neo folds up nicely, BUT I’m fed up of getting munched fingers from the cassette. An extra centimetre of cut out would have been nice. I’ve not got massive spade like hands, but I do wonder what people TacX thought would buy this, or maybe I’m carrying it incorrectly

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When folded up, the Neo looks quite slim,

TitaniumGeek IMG_6022 Tacx Neo -  Long Term Review Update Zwift Turbo Trainer TacX Neo cycling

But the locking pins on my unit, on one side of the unit dont actually lock, so the unit opens VERY easily.

The reason for this is on THIS unit, one of the back clamps which is supposed to provide friction against the frame…doesnt. So on the side which locks nicely, the back clamp rotates with friction as it goes over the plastic notch in the frame. As you can see in the video below, there is no rotation, and no friction there.

I’ve actually had a look at taking the unit apart to try and move this myself, but for two points. One the back clamp is part of a fixed metal frame, where there doesn’t appear to be any adjustability in the design images, two for a piece of kit costing over £1000, I DONT think its reasonable I should have to take it apart and address quality control issues.

Final point on usability, sometimes getting the bike to sit level on the turbo can be a bit of a fiddle. Maybe its the carpet, maybe it’s me, but it never just sat right straight off. I largely think this is due to issues with the piece of metal the skewer goes through on the non-drive side, not being quite long enough. This means the frame sits half on, half off the metal, and such can mean a 1% lateral lean on the saddle angle (yes I was sad enough to measure it). There is an adapter for WIDER placed chain stays, but I don’t think thats the problem here.

TitaniumGeek IMG_5887 Tacx Neo -  Long Term Review Update Zwift Turbo Trainer TacX Neo cycling

Finally, bug happens, chains skips. Twice now, I’ve been on Zwift, changed gear and the unit has made some VERY unpleasant sounds inside. Sufficient that I’ve stopped riding to carefully move the pedals round until the noise passes.

Very early production units had issues with swarf inside from the factory

Tacx Neo – Long Term Review Update – Conclusion

The tech inside the Neo is BRILLIANT. I LOVED using it on Zwift. It makes my KICKR look antiquated by comparison. I have grown to really enjoy the flex. Given the big wings on the unit, its shockingly well planted, which is something I was really surprised at. There is no issues with slightly uneven floors, the Neo is just good to go.

BUT with the number of LITTLE issues, teething problems, or design oversights. For the time being, it really feels like this is a beta, 0.9 device. I REALLY wanted to have the Neo as my main device, but for the price, which is a LOT. I’ll say with my KICKR until the Neo 1.0, or 1.1 comes out

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James Gill

Author of TitaniumGeek, which started after smashing off my RIGHT elbow. Feel free to drop me a line about sports tech, medicine, or frankly anything that you want to chat about!!