Another year and another crop of turbo trainers. It looks like this is going to be a big one, Elite, Tacx, Cycleops, Kinetic all have new units this year. One of the first on the shelves is the Elite Drivo II – now in black
Elite Drivo II – Turbo Trainer Review | ZWIFT GEAR TEST
Since the Elite Drivo first landed in 2015 there have been considerable changes in the world of indoor trainers and the big beast of the Zwift jungle have all had a lick of paint for 2018, and I mean that literally, as the iconic white Elite Drivo has decided to copy the paint scheme from it’s Elite Direto little brother, now sporting a slimming black.
The external case changes are going to be the most noticeable to the majority of users, but it is likely that the new footprint is actually going to be the most useful. Again taking the lead from the Direto, the new foot design means that the Drivo II is SERIOUSLY stable.
For the last few years the current top trainer manufactures have broadly pitched their products in the following way:
- Elite – A precision/accuracy platform
- Tacx – High tech and near silence
- Wahoo – industrial design and realistic rider feel
- Kinetic – Rider comfort
However, up until this year, all of the flagship trainers were around two years old. That is a long time for engineers to tinker with their charges, as a result, there has been a lot of refinement of features, narrowing the gap between many of the trainers. Elite has now gone after Wahoo’s realism crown improving the response of the Drivo II so that the Zwift Hills and undulations get transmitted to the resistance unit three times faster than on the original unit. The is not a software modification, but the speed at which the Drivo II can move the magnet within side the turbo.
The accuracy on the Elite Drivo II has also been refined in order to give power figures which now have error limits down to an impressive 0.5% -/+ – HOWEVER this is a really good example of the interplay between software and hardware. The Optical Torque Sensor (OTS) forms the core of the Elite Drivo II has always been theoretically capable of reaching this level of accuracy from a hardware perspective but was limited by the unit software.
The OTS measures torque based on minute amounts of axle twist, indicated by the positions of the 24 fins, which is then read by a laser. The key advantage being, that unlike a foil strain gauge based system the OTS it doesn’t need continued physical recalibration. Now some of you engineering types might raise an eyebrow there – Elite have clarified that when used with the relatively low power output and intensities a human can generate the OTS will not need recalibration
Part if this is due to the fact we are looking a hardware OPTICAL torque sensor. As there is no strain gauge, there is no significant source of heat, and so in addition to not needing recalibration, the OTS has no need for temperature compensation – which is another area that can cause issues for power meters. But rather than merely making claims and leaving things at that, Elite had had the OTS independently verified by German test labs, and certified which Elite is understandably keen to proclaim!
Before each Drivo is allowed to leave the factory, the unit has to undergo a 15minute physical calibration to ensure the long-term accuracy for the end user. Suggesting nothing is left to chance.
Testing, design, and accuracy are great, but the real question is, how does the Elite feel on Zwift, where the units are realistically going to do most of their miles…??
Right I think that is a reasonable place to pause the background, and look at the Elite Drivo II hardware – If you are interested in more about Elite and the company, I’ve visited the factory in Italy a couple of times around product launches, here are two posts from those adventures you may enjoy
Elite Drivo II – Device Design
So the Elite Drivo II – comes in a box, I know shocking! But what is inside that big-ass box??
Well it’s normally autumn/winter when people start looking at trainers, and since it is early autumn and leaves are blowing around the TG office, I thought it seemed reasonable to take things outside to capture a themed version of the obligatory unboxing
Inside we have the two turbo legs, bolts and Allen keys to attach them to the trainer. Power supply, training skewer, cadence sensor and paperwork including manual. It’s worthwhile noting that there is no cassette in the box with the Elite Drivo II, so you’ll have to factor that into your purchase price
As well as the turbo we’ve got a slew of other bits of paperwork. Be careful not to bin the paperwork this time, as it contains codes for 36-month access to the Elite MyTraining app, which lets you get to the advanced features such as pedal analysis. After the first year, it’s a rolling £10 annual fee.
Although it does seem a little strange that there is now no longer a 30 day trial of Zwift in the box, to sit next to the Rouvy and Sufferfest trials. Something which doesn’t quell the conspiracy theories of Zwift looking to produce more hardware than just the MileStone Pod
In the little bag box, we had
all most of the gubbins needed to get your Elite Drivo II up and running. An Allen key, three different axel adapters to actually connect your bike, and two washers for the cassettes – one thing which has been dropped from the previous Elite Drivo is the inclusion of an ANT+ key, likely due to the strength of the Bluetooth FTMS development which has been baked into the Elite Drivo II
The inclusion of two spacers allows the Elite Drivo Turbo to be fitted with a selection of 9/10/11 speed cassettes on the included Shimano freehub, so most peoples bikes should be able to fit
Elite also threw in a very antiquated looking cadence sensor to plug directly into the trainer. It’s a nice inclusion if you don’t already have one, but the nature of the Elite Drivo Turbo, and it’s price tag, it does look a little out of place.
Even stranger is the fact that the cadence sensor isn’t really needed; the Elite Drivo II can read the pulses in your pedal stroke, and calculate a cadence from here, so why on earth put it in the box??
The Elite My E-Training software contains pedal/stroke analysis software, which needs to know worthwhile the location of the pedal – which needs a dedicated sensor such as this – wanting to ensure that this software works correctly with the Elite Drivo II, hence a hardwired, rather than the wireless sensor is in the box. It’ makes sense when you know!
Once unboxed, the first steps are to attach the trainer’s arms
Be under no doubt, the new dual leg system is far superior to that of the original Elite Drivo
The central arm is fixed with two bolts and can be folded back against the body by use of a red retaining clip on the back of the arm
The arms look like they have been pulled straight from the Elite Direto parts bin. However, it is worth while noting that the Direto arms have a rough sandblasted texture, whereas the arms which arrived with this Elite Drivo II are smooth and a touch more prone to scratches
The arms .at attached by a single fixed bolt at the base of each arm, and have a screw bolt which allows the arms to lock into place when in use. Although I was a touch surprised to find the adjuster knob on the underside, not the best position, although at least it is keeping sweat of the threads!
If you are wanting to keep the trainer set up, but give yourself a little extra space around the bike, the legs can be folded back
The two outer arms have a single bolt, and then two feet. One that can be loosened to allow the arm to be deployed, and the other, at the far end of the leg, to adjust the stability of the trainer.
For storage the whole front arm can be folded up as well, but honestly, it doesn’t, create a hugely more compact shape as a result. The Elite Drivo II is still a touch bulky when it comes to throwing it into cars etc
The fully deployed the Elite Drivo II and the Elite Direto are now the two widest trainers on the market, such that Elite had to release a new training mat for them!
The slight movement of the weight towards the center if gravity has made the Elite Drivo II somewhat easier to carry around. Now falling between the Wahoo KICKR, which the easiest to pick up, and the Tacx Neo which is just an irritation when it comes to moving it from place to place
Further around to the back, we’ve the power socket, and just above that the hardware socket for the wired cadence sensor
There is a very well thought out cable management system, below the sockets, because we’ve all tripped over a cable and yanked a device hard. This approach should protect the internals well
Elite have taken a trick from Tacx, and the Elite Drivo II can be run without a power supply, however there are two cavets here. Peak resistance is down, but not so that anyone would honestly mind – as you are in an uncontrolled mode here. Yup, no Zwift, no variable resistance, essentially just a slushbox. So reasonable, but not really moving towards Tacx Neo levels of power cord cutting!
On the top side of the unit, we’ve got the status lights, for Power, Bluetooth, and ANT+.
I’m actually a little torn, I did like the white colour of the Elite Drivo, looking different and bright… however I,’m also happy that the new darker colour means I wont be forever having to clean dirt and oil marks off the case!
Elite Drivo II Review – Specifications
- Communication: Bluetooth, ANT+™, ANT+™ FE-C, BlueTooth Smart Trainer Protocol – both ANT and BLE can be used simultaneously
- Slope Simulation: 24%
- Built-in sensors: Power, Speed/Cadence (Advance pedal analytics from this including pedal roundness)
- Max Wattage: Get ready to have your socks blown off the DrivoII ships with 3600Watts @60kph… but for real humans that are going to be 2296w @40kph
- I actually feel that putting numbers like this is a touch disingenuous. I consider myself to have had a VERY good day if I break 800 watts in a sprint, no one is going to break 3600 watts. Whilst these figures may technically possible it just feels like spec sheet fluffing – sorry!
- Freehub: Shimano, 9/10/11 speed compatible – no cassette in the box
- Compatibility notes: bikes with 130-135mm hubs and QR skewers, or 12mm x 142 thru-axle hubs,
- Max weight of user: 113kg
- Power Accuracy: 0.5% with Optical Torque Sensor
- Flywheel: 6kg
- Weight: 21kkg
Elite Drivo II user manual can be found HERE
Elite Drivo II Review – Using the device
So once you’ve attached your preferred cassette, it’s off to the races!!
Plug the turbo in, and there is a whirring sound. I’ve come to think of it as an initialisation sound, as the unit prepares itself for use
The sound covers an internal calibration, but it’s common for people to still stress about the need to calibrate power meters before a ride, especially on the Event Start line on Zwift. As mentioned above with the Elite Drivo II this isn’t something you need to worry excessively about. However there is still a manual calibration is you are finding there is an issue, which can be done from a smartphone app. Speaking of which…
Once you have built the Elite Drivo II, it is the time to install the Elite app. But don’t search for an “Elite app”, as you’ll not find it. You need to look for `’MyETraining” confusingly! Which you can then download from either iTunes or the Google Play store
The Elite app allows you to configure your trainer, perform power smoothing and Trainer Sensor Calibration, which you should only need to do if something does appear to be behaving as it should
There are more advanced features within the app, you can use the MyETraining as a whole standalone app, but the benefit is really seen in one of the premium features – remember I said now to throw away the paperwork that came with the unit, well that allows you to unlock the training features.
Previously you needed a separate purchase to access the Pedal Analysis, but that is not the case any more. I was however surprised to see a commented suggesting that I did – thankfully a simple restart resolved all of that!
I’d strongly suggest running the MyETraining app on either a tablet or on a laptop, as the larger screen, gives a much better graphic analysis of your pedalling technique.
So with the Elite Drivo II up and running, let’s move on the first part of the Zwift Gear Test proper – the sound test
Elite Drivo II Review – Sound Test
As I have discussed before, the sound test here is carried out with the iPhone, in the same room, at a similar distance from the trainer on all the turbos I have reviewed, so at least this is giving some degree of consistency within the tests
Remember that decibels are only part of the story, the nature of the sound is a massive factor in perception, not just volume.
The sound test may be Achilles heel for the Elite Drivo II. The pursuit of accuracy has meant that there have been some areas where sacrifices have had to be made. Previously Elite have been very proud of their Elite Turbo Muin II as the quietest trainer on the market. Achieved was through an almost silent grooved belt – although this approach had a tendency to slip against some of the smooth pulleys, affecting accuracy, if not the rider experience. Elite have a grooved belt on the Elite Drivo II… well have a listen for yourselves
Elite Drivo II Review – Power Meter Accuracy testing
Moving on to the power meter test, which is what many people are interested in on for a turbo trainer. As ever, power meter testing is done using the latest Zwift build, so we have a consistent benchmark between all the different turbos on TitaniumGeek
Here the power tests have been performed against the PowerTap C1 chainring, which we know correlates well with all other power meters which have been through the TG testing. In addition, I’m also running another power meter from Magene – review due shortly – but as you can see the accuracy levels correlate well
NB I’ve applied a 4-second smoothing to the data, which can be effective in highlighting subtle issues
On the simple overview, the Elite Drivo II is aligning very well with old-timer power meter test – the PowerTap C1, and the new Magene crank power meter. I did notice a single dropout to note from the Elite Drivo II – here testing with ANT+ FEC .
Let’s zoom in somewhat to a few of the climbs, as we can see, that almost perfect alignment between the three sensors
Normally you are going to see a small amount of lag or lost wattage to due to drivetrain losses on a turbo power meter compared with a hub ward power meter, but even on sudden ramps in order to overtake other riders, we’re looking at very clear correlation between the spider based PowerTap, crank arm Magene and the Elite Drivo II
There have been a few comments about issues with the Elite Drivo II and Bluetooth transmission of power. Now I will say that the Elite Drivo II is a MAJOR pain in the neck to get working from a Bluetooth perspective – ANT-FEC connects without blinking an eye, Bluetooth, there are gremlins! I have no idea why, but it took MANY restarts both of Zwift, and the Drivo II. Then switching every other Bluetooth device off. Then finally threatening to do something nasty with it’s power socket and a can of degreaser – which after which, I was then able to connect.
So when I was finally connected on Zwift with the Elite Drivo II as the smart trainer, with the powermeter broadcast out to a head unit, the PowerTap C1 as the Bluetooth power meter to Zwift, and swapping back to the Garmin Vector 3’s for another power trace I got moving on Jon’s Mix
I really am a fan of Jon’s mix, it gives the trainer a good work out, and if’ I’m really pushed for time, I can get away with only doing the first bit (Sssshhh!). So first run through, running on just Bluetooth transmitting power, and all looks good. Perhaps the Elite Drivo II (in blue) is reading fractionally lower if anything
Let’s take a closer look at the three sections of high power – here the Elite Drivo II under reading is a little more evident, again, dropping a few watts at the baselines, and also at that peaks
Zooming in on the peaks, you can see that again, the Elite Drivo II is giving up just a few watts, but then this is a unit at the end of the bikes drivetrain, so it would make sense if a watt or two has disappeared into the chain. It’s also worthwhile noting that for some reason the PowerTap C1 appeared to go rogue on the final peak, but fell back into line after
So from my perspective, the Elite Drivo II appears to be a reliable power meter for both riding, and if we extrapolate from the changes seen on Jon’s Mix, shouldn’t have any issues in dealing with rapid power changes during a race.
Elite Drivo II Review – Race Feel
Knowing how a turbo reacts during a race can have a major effect on a riders performance.
This is the Elite Direto’s Achilles heel if anything, I found that going through the Watopia Esses, which always prove to be a challenge for a trainer. Here a trainer needs to apply the resistance quickly on the uphill, and then ease off on the downhill. The Direto falls a little off the pace here but about 1-1.5 seconds.
You’d see the same in other areas of the Zwift experience as well, but less marked. For example, on preparing to attack on a hill, your avatar winds up, but there is the briefest of pauses before the resistance bites on the turbo – so the comments of improving the Elite Drivo II response, such that it can go from flat surface to a 24% hill in just 3 seconds now, is mightily impressive.
What with Alp due Zwift being in the wild for many months now, riders have gotten time to experience the horror of a 17% gradient indoors. But if Zwift should decide to produce an event steeper course – which is unlikely – or some lunatic like Tim Fulford produce an even steeper workout, then the Elite Drivo II is able to keep cranking up the pain for a 24% steep of pain
Across all of these climbs, there is now ZERO perceptible lag with the Elite Drivo II. Your avatar hits an undulation, and *bam* the trainer is there. You can really race full out on this unit, the wide stance gives real confidence out of the saddle, as you know that when you slam the power down to head up the hill, the Drivo II with has the right level of resistance already dialled in. Admittedly the
Elite Drivo II Review – Conclusion
Looking at the accuracy of the readings of the Elite Drivo Turbo compared to other power meters. I think it’s fair to say that Elite has managed to nail their accuracy claims – well certainly for ANT+ FEC, Bluetooth FTMS… let me come back and update shortly
The Elite Drivo II is not a quiet machine, in fact I’d say that the note is a rather harsh which might influence purchasing decisions. Particularly if you are riding in side, or in the earshot others.
Elite have certainly made big improvements to the Drivo II, some from hardware and some from software – ultimately when I first started with Elite Drivo II, it felt more of a re-warming. After having used it for a couple of months, and blasting around Zwift – I’m more than happy to say it has earned it’s Second Generation moniker – especially given the change in resistance speeds
Elite now probaly have the best simulation of Watopia’s hills and that’s what I’m looking for – but with the Neo 2 in the wings, Kinetic shipping their new direct mount unit, and Wahoo pushing out ever more KICKRS, will that opinion remain at the end of trainer testing season?? Let’s see – but for now an easy TG 4/5 for the Elite Drivo II !