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Cycling Gear Reviews Smart Trainers

Elite Nero Smart Rollers Preview – True bike training?

Making turbo trainers is one thing, but building rollers has always been a simpler affair. The Italians have taken things to the next level with the Elite Nero Smart Rollers. Here’s the warmup preview

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Elite Nero Smart Rollers Preview – Elite Factory Tour

TLDR: A new twist on the original form of indoor training. TG SCORE: pending…

There are people who ride Zwit, there are cyclists who ride indoors, there are even people who do spin-class. But when it comes to passion for their machines, they don’t really compare to people who do CrossFit. Why do I comment about The Church of Crossfit in a rollers review? Classically riders who have mastered rollers are considered the elite, and they swear by their rollers, proclaiming that they provide a more natural feel indoors whilst promoting greater bike control. Leading to the impression that they are looking at our nice and stable turbo trainers, which over time can impair bike handling skills, as the somehow lesser devices.

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Rollers have not had it all their own way previously, having been some what limited in the interactive world of indoor bike training, in the sense that they have not been able to provide the same level resistance for Zwift’s virtual simulations, something what has improved significantly over the last few years with the direct drive trainer options

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Well until now that is: the Elite Nero rollers contain a new generation of the smart interactive resistance unit compared to those seen in the Quick Morion rollers. The Elite Nero’s from the ground up re-engineering of the powered resistance unit means that these rollers are able to give up to a class leading 7% slope simulation, whilst handling 1400watts! These are not numbers to sniff at, and is a colossal upgrade from the 400watts that the Elite Arion rollers brake could handle

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Last time I was at the Elite factory in the summer, I was lucky enough to get a play with a preproduction unit of the Elite Nero and to see their floating resistance roller system in action. Which frankly makes Elite’s older Arion rollers looks practically archaic

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The ease with which the rollers would move backwards and forwards with only the slightest effort, even at this prototype stage, is was what can only really be described as buttery smooth. I think it is fair to say that Elite’s Quick-Motion label is not merely hyperbole, and has been carried over unchanged to the production unit I’ve been testing, and has greatly helped my initial rides back in the UK

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Pitched at a price between Elite’s own Direto and Drivo II you get an idea of the engineering which has gone into the Elite Nero Rollers. This is a statement which feels almost seems counter intuitive when you remember that the parabolic rollers are THE original indoor training system, with a construction that is so simple, it is scarcely more than two straight bits of metal and three rollers.

So what have Elite constructed to justify their £749 RRP? Well looking at the Elite Nero Rollers from the outside, considerably more than two bits of metal and three tubes!

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Before we go into any further detail, I need to highlight that this is only a preview article based on my short time testing the Elite Nero Rollers over the last two weeks. I’ve not previously ridden rollers before – having been rather… what is the phrase? SCARED after having shattered my elbow, however I need not have been greatly concerned

The Quick-Motion rollers, and the elasticated cords mean that for a new roller rider such as myself, when I get nervous, and twitchy, I’m not immediately thrown off the rollers and the Elite Nero is able to absorb those errant movements to give s smoother ride. Which means less grabbing at the furniture for me!

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That said, I think it is important to highlight again that this post is intended to stand as my first impressions. A more in-depth Zwift Gear Test will follow later when I have had more chance to, firstly master the rollers and then, conduct the usual power meter and sound tests – currently I’m happy to not be a heap of bike and man on floor!

Elite Nero Smart Rollers – Specifications

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  • Communication: Bluetooth, ANT+, ANT+ FE-C, BlueTooth Smart Trainer Protocol – both ANT and BLE can be used simultaneously
  • Slope Simulation: 7%
  • Built in sensors: Power, Speed/Cadence – there is no pedal analysis here
  • Max Wattage: 1400watts
  • Max weight of user: 113kg
  • Power Accuracy: 2.5%
  • Flywheel: TWO 2.7kg flywheels – compare with the Diretto of one 4.6kg
  • Weight: 15kg (Drivo 21kg)
  • Three parabolic rollers
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Elite has raided some of their clever tech from the Diretto and Drivo II with the Nero. Most importantly the simultaneous BLE and ANT+ communication. But, “So what??” I hear you cry? Surely all you need is a strong connection to your laptop / computer. Why would my Zwift experience be improved with using both channels together?

The benefit comes more from a training perspective, which is really where the Elite Nero rollers are pitched. As a rollers are broadly considered to be much more of a training tool, rather than a fitness tool, as can be argued with direct drive turbos.

As such a good training example of the dual comms would be riding Zwift on iPad and getting training data on your Garmin device, which you’ll be able to do at the same time now.

With that little overview, let’s take a look at the design of the Elite Nero Rollers

Elite Nero Smart Rollers – Design

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Let’s start with unfolding things from the box. The Elite Nero Rollers come folded up in their transportation shape, and you immediately notice how of a compact boxy the long rollers can be arranged into. Of all the smart trainers which I’ve used, the Nero is going to be the easiest unit to simply slot into the boot of a car for transportation to a race

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Being compact, isn’t to say the the Elite Nero Rollers are the easiest to move around. There are a series of dials on the unit, which help keep it either folded or unfolded. Behind the front parabolic roller, looking a little like a Dyson vacuum head, is a switch dial that acts as the main lock

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The dial works to engaged/release the internal catch, allowing the securing, or the release of the folded down concertina front section after transport

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When you fold the front section back, you can see the metal bar Catch, and plastic slots which form the lock on the underside of the central structural bar

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I raise this single locking point at the front, as whilst the unit is compact it could do with a second lock of some form to hold the first fold to the main base unit. The problem being, when you stand the Elite Nero up to lift via the handle, the front section and heavier part are not locked together. A a result, the lighter front section swings out as you can see below, not the end of the world, but a surprising omission in an otherwise well designed trainer

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The parabolic rollers themselves are perfectly smooth, with a surface providing excellent grip the tyres. Whilst I haven’t really “dropped the hammer” whilst riding the Nero so far, but I haven’t noticed any tyre slip yet on normal riding. If you’ve not ridden rollers before, the term ‘parabolic roller’ comes from the flared, or parabolic shape of the drums in which you ride. The gently concave rises at the ends of the rollers catch to and carefully direct a wheel ward where back from the extremes and to safe centre.

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The Elite Nero “feels” like a trainer which is more likely to be taken from event to event. Given that the surface of the rollers feels as though they deserve protection from scratches and knocks when in transit, I’m surprised that Elite haven’t included a material carry bag of sorts. I’ve certainly that the material the Elite Borson is constructed from would be more than up to the task of holding the rollers weight? A carrying solution such as this would also resolve the issue with locking the trainer together without any structural changes.

Moving from the front, to the middle of the train, you’ll find a hinge joint. This isn’t merely to allow the Elite Nero to be collapsed, but to also accommodate bikes of different wheel bases

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The hinge here is required due to the stretch that different wheel bases put on the Nero’s elasticated cords. Elite has multiple alerts in the box, and security tied directly to the trainer to ensure that users are aware to be careful when deploying the trainer for use with bikes greater than 1044mm WB.

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There are two knobs in the centre of the unit. The first on top to stop the unit folding up when deployed

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The second is underneath the main stem, and allows you to extend the distance between the front and second rollers. In turn allowing for different wheel bases to be ridden

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Ensuring the the Elite Nero is set up correctly for your bike is an additional step which is not common for the direct drive trainers. There you just plug in and go. But in the same way that you can’t slump over the handlebars and just mash the gears with rollers, so that extra care is needed for your own safety. You have to measure your wheel base

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Before then ensuring the central struts is at the right length, in order to allow the rear wheel to sit nicely with the resistance unit of the Elite Nero

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Moving further back, we come to the actual resistance unit, the brains of the Elite Nero rollers

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The first part on the LEFT side of the unit is a foldable foot stand. A very simple thing, but very important to the long term use of the unit. The sides of the trainer contain the power meters, circuitry and electromagnet resistance units. As such they should not be stepped on.

The stand is there for two reasons, first height. Your bike will gain an extra 5cm of saddle height when on the Elite Nero, the stand is to aid access to your mount, whilst reducing the chance that a rider would stand on the turbo itself. I haven’t been able to get details from Elite as to exactly how much weight the trainer would be able to support, the line is as displayed on the sticker, a simple “DON’T STEP ON”

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The step is also there to give a grippy base to put a foot down if things get a little hairy on the rollers. Coupled with the movement of the rollers Elite claim that this will also improve the urge to grab the wall when starting off… I’ve already had one broken arm, so I’ve been stead fast in riding next to a chair AND close to the wall until my confidence improves.

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At the back, you have the smart resistance unit with the dual fly wheels, one on either side of the rollers to give a smooth round peddling experience. whilst on the underside are the wheels, which given the fluid movement of the whole unit.

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When deployed the elasticated bands sit in little grooves to either side of the parabolic rollers, keeping them easily in place

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There is one down side to the Elite Nero, and then is when packed down, the elastic bands just sort of, hang around. Although given their importance to the functioning of the unit, I’m not really sure how that could be improved.

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Elite Nero Rollers – Ride Feeling

Very much reiterating that I’ve so far been limited to about two weeks of riding ( and surprisingly little falling off , you’ll have to wait for the Zwift Gear Test for the comedy outtake video of James using rollers for the first time ) I would say that the Elite Nero rollers give a better riding experience on Zwift. They certainly won’t give you the race experience your bene used to on a turbo. You give it the beans, smash it over the line and then try to breathe – do that on the Elite Nero and you’ll end up in a heap, and possibly worse.

In all honestly, whilst the ride is great, I’m currently concentrating too much keeping the bike upright to be able to comment on the immersion. As I improve, I’d also expect my ability comment here to improve. What I can say is that the resistance approaching hills and the undulations on Zwift is very smooth, as it should be really for sim mode

When it comes to straight forward structured ERG workout the resistance changes are not intended to be smooth, and personally I’m not sure that I’ll like this aspect of riding on the Elite Nero Rollers. To the degree that currently I don’t have any where near enough confidence, or stability to do a full power Jon’s Workout session currently. My inability to successfully complete an ERG workout will likely be one of the factors determining when I’m able to publish the full Nero Zwift Gear Test, so don’t hold your breath yet!

Elite Nero Smart Rollers Preview wrap up

That’s pretty much a wrap in terms of an overview. I know there has been a lot of interest in the Elite Nero rollers since they turned up here. So any questions, drop them below, and we’ll try to sort some answers, and get any additional tests needed before the main review 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!!