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Cycling Gear Reviews Smart Trainers

TacX Neo vs Wahoo KICKR – the show down!

The Wahoo KICKR basically rules the smart turbo trainer roost. There is occasionally some debate, but there have been no challengers which have really been able to come close to dqualling the KICKR in all of the areas it excels at, namely : Reliability, stability, design, and quality.

TacX have recently launched the Neo, their latest smart trainer, and on paper it looks a strong contender for the KICKR’s crown – My preview of the Neo left me wanting more. Having now recieved both units in the house, its clear that the Wahoo KICKR may finally have a genuine fight on its hands – so without more read on for the Neo vs KICKR comparison

TacX Neo vs Wahoo KICKR comparison…that sounds a little tame. This isn’t a comparison. This is a title fight show down! I dont recall a product review I’ve needed to read, let alone write this badly.

First impressions

TitaniumGeek IMG_6015-1024x768 TacX Neo vs Wahoo KICKR - the show down! Zwift Wahoo KICKR TacX Neo Smart trainer cycling

When the units come through the post, both boxes look suitably imposing, they both certainly where a metric tone! But just looking at the external design, the black box and the picture of the turbo on the side makes the Neo look like something that Batman has just ordered for the BatCave. By comparison the Wahoo looks a little more like a white good.

TitaniumGeek IMG_6016-1024x768 TacX Neo vs Wahoo KICKR - the show down! Zwift Wahoo KICKR TacX Neo Smart trainer cycling

On the rear of the boxes, its a similar story, with the Neo looking like a landed space ship! It could be argued that the Wahoo KICKR is able to trade on its solid reputation alone, however the Neo certainly takes the attention, in a typical understated Western style.

TacX Neo vs Wahoo KICKR – Point to Neo!

TitaniumGeek 1546303_714945785278176_2308055326162032530_n TacX Neo vs Wahoo KICKR - the show down! Zwift Wahoo KICKR TacX Neo Smart trainer cycling

Straight out of the box

Wahoo sells the KICKR in two flavours, either with a Shimano 10 speed or 11 speed cassette loaded on the unit. If you want to use a Campagnolo cassette on a KICKR, you’ll need to be a replacement free hub, that’s a £60 upgrade

By comparison the TacX Neo uses an Edco MultiSys free hub, meaning that the Neo can use either a Shimano or a Campagnolo cassette. The downside is that you DONT get a cassette in the box with the Neo. The free hub is also a little fiddly to get the cassette to slip on due to the extra and different grooves. My advice, find the largest shimano block/tooth on free hub side of your cassette and use that as the guide.

TitaniumGeek untitled-1-of-1-2 TacX Neo vs Wahoo KICKR - the show down! Zwift Wahoo KICKR TacX Neo Smart trainer cycling

In addition, as a result of the Edco free hub can’t use the lock ring that comes with your cassette, TacX includes two unique locking rings either for t12 or t11 toothed gears on the final cog of your cassette. The requisite spacers for 10 of 11 speed cassettes are included. The a small washer is also included as an extender to allow for use with bikes with distances greater than 130mm between the chain stays

TitaniumGeek IMG_5889-1024x768 TacX Neo vs Wahoo KICKR - the show down! Zwift Wahoo KICKR TacX Neo Smart trainer cycling

TitaniumGeek IMG_5894 TacX Neo vs Wahoo KICKR - the show down! Zwift Wahoo KICKR TacX Neo Smart trainer cycling

But the lock ring didnt work with my Campagnolo nor Shimano locking ring nuts. A quick trip down the The CycleStudio in Stratford Upon Avon – who are ALWAYS amazing – identified after a little digging around in the work shop a Campag nut was needed – but also interesting that the lock ring was compatible with a Shimano Free WHEEL nut – go figure.

TitaniumGeek IMG_5976-1024x768 TacX Neo vs Wahoo KICKR - the show down! Zwift Wahoo KICKR TacX Neo Smart trainer cycling

TitaniumGeek IMG_5975-1024x768 TacX Neo vs Wahoo KICKR - the show down! Zwift Wahoo KICKR TacX Neo Smart trainer cycling

I dont know why TacX opted for kit that uses Campag tools as the default. Simply based on market size, it’s an odd call, and something that a buyer must take into account. There is nothing worse than getting something home and not having the kit. Original Garmin Vector users frequently didnt have the correct wrench head to install them, which Garmin addressed with the Vector 2, by throwing the wrench head into the box.

This is difficult one to call at this point. The KICKR is better value, coming ready to go out of the box – for a Shimano user. However many riders will swap out the included cassette for gears to match those on their wheels, thus this might not be a major saving.

The Neo can take Shimano or Camp cassettes – but as mentioned above needs Campag tools. Plus the nature of the dual free hub means its just that touch more difficult to find the correct spaces that normal to slide your gears on – I know! #FirstWorldProblems

Finally, in terms of setup, the KICKR can be positioned through a series of different angles by adjusting the position of a bolt, in order to enable the user to get their saddle to sit flat, as it would do on the road, without the need for a riser block

TitaniumGeek IMG_60191-1024x768 TacX Neo vs Wahoo KICKR - the show down! Zwift Wahoo KICKR TacX Neo Smart trainer cycling

By comparison the TacX has no adjustability in its plastic frame what so ever. To compensate for this a riser block is also included in the box. Some people like a riser block to protect carpets etc. Personally I prefer the adjustability on the KICKR

TitaniumGeek IMG_6020 TacX Neo vs Wahoo KICKR - the show down! Zwift Wahoo KICKR TacX Neo Smart trainer cycling

Overall, a hard decision which machines wins out when getting it out of the box, especially given the different kit included with each. However given that in almost every outlet currently the Neo is costing approximately £150 more than the KICKR, the Wahoo has to take to point. To be fair, if TacX had thrown the lock ring nut in the box and given a choice of cassette, I would have given the point to the Neo probably, but as it stands, the KICKR is ready to go as soon as you plug it in.

TacX Neo vs Wahoo KICKR – Point to KICKR – for out of the box usability!
TitaniumGeek 2456435 TacX Neo vs Wahoo KICKR - the show down! Zwift Wahoo KICKR TacX Neo Smart trainer cycling

Head to Head Design

The Wahoo KICKR has always been an imposing device, it genuinely comes as a surprise when you place the tow units together and so the TacX Neo’s massive space-ship form DWARFING the KICKR. It really looks like there is a new challenger in town. Personally I think it looks like the Neo is going to steal the KICKR’s lunch, and I do REALLY like the look of the Neo as it sits there…brooding. Frankly I think the Neo should be aware a point just because it looks so COOL – but thats not really an objective measure – maybe if there is a tie at the end?

TitaniumGeek IMG_5887-1024x768 TacX Neo vs Wahoo KICKR - the show down! Zwift Wahoo KICKR TacX Neo Smart trainer cycling

In spite of its colossal size when set up, the Neo ALSO slims down quite nicely, taking up barely any extra room compared to the KICKR

TitaniumGeek IMG_5872-2-768x1024 TacX Neo vs Wahoo KICKR - the show down! Zwift Wahoo KICKR TacX Neo Smart trainer cycling

I’ve never particularly found the KICKR particularly easy to store, its *slightly* unbalanced when stored, if i’m bustling room, or push it out of the way there is a tendency for it to topple. But you CAN push it. By comparison, the Neo has very grippy rubber feet (KICKR does as well, but they are less grippy on the carpet), but you can push and pull it more easily without the risk of falls as the Neo is better balanced

TitaniumGeek IMG_5903-1024x768 TacX Neo vs Wahoo KICKR - the show down! Zwift Wahoo KICKR TacX Neo Smart trainer cycling

Another point to look at with regard to the feet on the Neo is they are fixed, unlike on the Wahoo KICKR.

 

The point being you may have issues with a uneven floor – perhaps this is something TacX will look at for a revision in a few years time?

Size

When folded down – Wahoo KICKR: 22 cm at widest point, 47cm at highest (assuming positioned for 700c wheel) and 50cm longest point

When folded down – TacX Neo: 24 cm at widest point, 44.5cm at highest point, 61cm longest point

TacX Neo vs Wahoo KICKR – Point to the Neo – for storage!

TitaniumGeek 1546303_714945785278176_2308055326162032530_n TacX Neo vs Wahoo KICKR - the show down! Zwift Wahoo KICKR TacX Neo Smart trainer cycling

Looks are not everything!

When moving the KICKR around, its a heavy beast, but its aided by the fact there is a handy grab handle to the rear. The KICKR isnt terribly well balanced when you do pick it up, but at least the provision is there to help

TitaniumGeek IMG_6021 TacX Neo vs Wahoo KICKR - the show down! Zwift Wahoo KICKR TacX Neo Smart trainer cycling

By comparison the Neo has no handles, and you have to pick it up by the “wings”, which do flex a little when you do lift it

TitaniumGeek IMG_6022 TacX Neo vs Wahoo KICKR - the show down! Zwift Wahoo KICKR TacX Neo Smart trainer cycling

TitaniumGeek IMG_6057-1024x768 TacX Neo vs Wahoo KICKR - the show down! Zwift Wahoo KICKR TacX Neo Smart trainer cycling

Picking the Neo up by the wings isnt a major issue…but it seems like a little more thought went into appearance rather than design. As a result, the natural place for your hand to sit, at the top of the cut, is where the top of the cassette sits. As a result you have to be particularly careful carrying the Neo by the wings so as not to shred your fingers!

TitaniumGeek IMG_6058-1024x768 TacX Neo vs Wahoo KICKR - the show down! Zwift Wahoo KICKR TacX Neo Smart trainer cycling

TitaniumGeek IMG_6061-1024x768 TacX Neo vs Wahoo KICKR - the show down! Zwift Wahoo KICKR TacX Neo Smart trainer cycling

I can’t help feeling that the Neo could have been better designed for carrying?

TacX Neo vs Wahoo KICKR – Point to KICKR – for carrying ability!

TitaniumGeek 2456435 TacX Neo vs Wahoo KICKR - the show down! Zwift Wahoo KICKR TacX Neo Smart trainer cycling

Will I break it?

Neither unit is light weight, and carrying either unit over any distance can get tiring. With the handle on the KICKR the unit can swing a little if held in just one hand – as a result of this I’ve accidentally struck the wall in the house before – and I think it says a lot about the KICKR that my first thought was “Have I damaged the wall?”. The KICKR has a tubular metal construction, and overall a feel to it that makes it feel nigh on indestructible!

By comparison, the TacX Neo is plastic. Or at least a composite resin of some form. The TacX still weights 22kg vs the KICKRs 21kg, but it doesnt have the feeling of strength. There is no handle on the Neo, as a result moving the unit from A to B is a little bit more of a challenge. The *slight* flex to the plastic when carring the Neo is a little disconcerting even when it appears that flex is built in:

The Neo as 1cm of lateral movement “built in”, which may be a structural feature of the material that the Neo is made of. This can be looked at in several ways:

  • Its more realistic, with the natural sway you get on the road
  • Is a potential loss of power (albeit exceptionally small – but there are people who will pay through the nose for an extra free watt of power)
  • It indicates the Neo’s construction material has good tolerances built in
  • Its slightly alarming

Some people will like it, PERSONALLY, after having use the KICKR for over a year, I have grown very accustomed to the “locked down” and rigid feeling of the KICKR. I”m not sure that I entirely like the sway, and it does certainly impact the confidence slightly.

Take a look at this video from Biking4Breasts to see what I mean. The chap on the bike is turning about 200watts, producing a small movement at the bottom of the Neo unit

It is amazing what engineers are able to do today with different materials, both with tolerances and flexibility, so I dont think that the sway will be an issue at all, in fact it may reassure some people as then the strain is being shared both by the turbo and your frame – the KICKR can at times very rigid, suggesting excess force going through the frame.

I have to say that I do have  much more confidence with the construction of the Wahoo KICKR, but I think that is an entirely personal bias based on my feelings towards metal and bolts vs plastic and resins. So I’m going to call for the KICKR until more info is available

TacX Neo vs Wahoo KICKR – Point to the KICKR – for PERCIEVED build quality!

TitaniumGeek 2456435 TacX Neo vs Wahoo KICKR - the show down! Zwift Wahoo KICKR TacX Neo Smart trainer cycling

Power Outpus

Originally when the KICKR warmed up there could be some variations in the power output data. This has been largely addressed through new firmware for the KICKR, and can be overcome completely by having the KICKR read power from a separate power meter and use this for adjustment.

There is no calibration needed on the TacX Neo, and over the 1hr+ Zwift rides I’ve been doing on it, there has been no noticeable power drift. More importantly, the power is approx 5-10 watts down compared to the Garmin Vector 2 pedals, which is i) encouraging as would be in keeping with drive train losses and ii) is on par with losses seen in the Wahoo KICKR

Based on the lack of need to calibrate at all – I’m going to give this one to the Neo! Anything that means more people are riding an accurate/autocalibrating power meter the better

When riding on Zwift there has been a well recognised KICKR lag – you fly up a hill, and there is a brief moment before the KICKR adjusts resistance. Its seen more clear when its up hill, down hill, up hill over the space of about 200m, as the unit is having to react quickly. The KICKR seems to react about 1-3 secs depending on what is going on. By comparison, due to the motor within the Neo, responses are certainly down to 1 sec or below. The ride on Zwift is very smooth and very responsive.

If you stand up and really crank out the watts, because of the large wings and the contact patch the Neo comes with, its MORE stable that the KICKR – I DIDNT THINK THAT WAS POSSIBLE
TitaniumGeek IMG_5878-1024x768 TacX Neo vs Wahoo KICKR - the show down! Zwift Wahoo KICKR TacX Neo Smart trainer cycling

The one thing about the Neo vs the KICKR, is at about 50watts or less, the unit seems to feel…rough for want of a better phrase. It disappears over 50watts, and may be something to do with the magnets used in the motor. This has apparently been improved with the latest firmware, but communication issues mean I can upgrade

Staying with power – the specs of both units differ in what they are able to handle. The KICKR can record your maximum power up to 1500watts, by comparison the Neo can happy take it until your legs give out, or you hit 2,200watts!!

TacX Neo vs Wahoo KICKR – Point to the Neo – for power control!

TitaniumGeek 1546303_714945785278176_2308055326162032530_n TacX Neo vs Wahoo KICKR - the show down! Zwift Wahoo KICKR TacX Neo Smart trainer cycling

Control! Life is nothing without control!

On the side of the Neo are three LEDs’ indicting that you have i) power, ii) bluetooth active and ii) ANT active.

TitaniumGeek IMG_5883-1024x768 TacX Neo vs Wahoo KICKR - the show down! Zwift Wahoo KICKR TacX Neo Smart trainer cycling

Great, and frankly a major black mark for Wahoo. There is nothing worse, when trying to find out about a device or communication issue, IF THE UNIT HAS NO WAY OF TALKING TO YOU. In the past with the KICKR, when I have had a few bluetooth niggles (resolved with later firmware updates) its so frustrating as you can’t even confirm that power is going to the KICKR its just a black metal box. Based on that its really great to see TacX have status lights to confirm everything is working normally – so simple and SO useful!

There is also an additional light display at the front of the Neo designed to illuminate the floor underneath the trainer

TitaniumGeek IMG_6043 TacX Neo vs Wahoo KICKR - the show down! Zwift Wahoo KICKR TacX Neo Smart trainer cycling   This is designed to get you another visual clue as to how much effort you are putting in, as the colours change the more power you put in.

Personally I just dont see the point here. Maybe when I’m using it in the depths of winter, I’ll get it. But for the moment, its just an odd inclusion, as I’m almost never going to be using the turbo without at least a head unit showing my power output. I’d certainly have preferred the inclusion of the campag lock nut, rather than the circuitry for this little light show.

Going back to communication for a moment;

The KICKR does connect very well both over ANT+ and Bluetooth, there is never an issue using both communication protocols together either as some devices have. The KICKR is happy to have me logged onto Zwift and control its resistance on Bluetooth, or perform a spin down from my phone.

I KNOW that the Neo works very well over ANT+ using ZWIFT, but have been completely unable to connect to it using bluetooth. This is somewhat complicated as TacX computer software is PC only, thus I can’t connect that way either to confirm everything is ok. But returning to my previous point, even when the device has been visible, briefly, on my phone, iPad or Mac, the Bluetooth light has never come on, and i’ve never managed to make a connection.

As a result of this, and another issue the Neo is being returned to TacX.

There could be various reasons for this issue – so it would be unfair to have this affect TacX score, so whilst awaiting a second TacX unit to address this connectivity issue, NO POINTS will be awarded yet.

Riding on the devices (Noise)

I think this is a point that MANY people are wanting to see, comparing the noise from the KICKR to the Neo. The Neo bills itself as 6dB of noise, which is less than quiet conversation! The biggest source of noise on the Wahoo is the fly wheel. There is no fly wheel on Neo, the large metal drum visible on the side is housing for the metal motor which can mimic a 20kg fly wheel.

I do think that we adjust to what we have. I’ve quite liked the noise of the Wahoo KICKR, which increases as you use it. Thus giving you a nice aural feedback. The Neo does the same..but quieter!

I could go on, but I’ll just show you instead. A quick video at home, with both riders holding 175 watts

The Neo is a different feel compared to the KICKR. With the KICKR you always have to push against the inertia of the fly wheel to get going. With the Neo, you are off straight away, and that is a difference certainly in what I’ve been used to. I’d actually say this is more realistic, you feel you fight the KICKR more

TacX Neo vs Wahoo KICKR – Point to the Neo – for peace and quiet!

TitaniumGeek 1546303_714945785278176_2308055326162032530_n TacX Neo vs Wahoo KICKR - the show down! Zwift Wahoo KICKR TacX Neo Smart trainer cycling

Power, as in juice

This was an expected win for the Neo – i) the power socket is easily accessible, and largely out of the way of sweat.

The KICKR power socket was under the unit, making it i) a pain in the neck to get to, and ii) theoretically at risk from sweat. Personally I’ve never had an issue with that, but still, Wahoo did a minor revision to the KICKR, where they installed an additional cable to the unit, helping people plug in and reducing the risk of sweat going into the power port

The Neo on the other hands doesnt NEED power. Its able to generate its own power internally from the magnets in the resistance motor. This does rob you of the down hill simulation, but the ability to be able to rock up and go, sans power, is great! Similarly, if you stop pedalling, the unit comes to a half very quickly if you dont have the power plugged in

This has to be a simple point for the Neo

TacX Neo vs Wahoo KICKR – Point to the Neo – for electricity GENERATION!

TitaniumGeek 1546303_714945785278176_2308055326162032530_n TacX Neo vs Wahoo KICKR - the show down! Zwift Wahoo KICKR TacX Neo Smart trainer cycling

Conclusion

The Neo has had to go back to TacX due to what appears to be an issue with the free wheel and comms system. It may transpire that the two issues are linked, but I need TacX to come back to me before I can’t comment more.

I’m actually really surprised at the outcome regarding points here (5/8). I actually EXPECTED the KICKR to win, I have a strong affinity for the Wahoo unit. In spite of that, on a blow for blow break down, the Neo seems to have taken the win…but with the caveat that its currently not functioning properly – I’ll certainly be revisiting this post to look more at the NEO when I’ve got a functioning unit again, but thought I’d post what I have so far!

I still stand by the fact the KICKR is a much more robustly constructed trainer, both other than that the NEO seems to match and in many areas – noise and power generation – beat the KICKR

There are a few rough areas on the NEO, and hoping that this lemon unit is a one off, the TacX will CLEARLY have a winner, and every one else is really going to have to up their game!

  • Why have I not included the price in this break down? Well it varies! The KICKR is £950 in the UK if you have no discounts. Wiggle with gold discount will get it to you for £808. The Neo, due to supplies is variable in price. Many shops, including my source for the Neo were at £950 as well, but prices have crept up to £1150ish as people have been scrabbling for units. I firmly believe that both will end up at the same price when Neo stock is easily available

I have followed this post up with a long term review of using the TacX Neo

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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!!