Tacx has had a version of training software for the last few years, but it is only in the last year or so that we’ve seen a real doubling down on the their efforts in this area. Let’s see what they have – now in 4k
Tacx Desktop App Review – Can Tacx Compete?
A big element for software today – rightly or wrongly is App Stores. The Tacx Desktop App is now available on Windows, and from the Mac App store making discovery, and automatic updates all the easier.
There is also the iPad Tacx Cycling app, running similar functionality, but I’m going to focus to the larger TDA app currently
Priced competitively, at €9.99 a month Tacx eschews the idea of generating a virtual world, in favour of high quality curated videos, many of which are now available in 4K, for those lucky people who have pain caves with such high end gear.
Tacx Desktop App – Using the App
When you load up the Tacx Desktop app you are greeted with the dashboard. Giving you the system tabs on the LEFT, the top half of the screen is devoted to finding videos on a world map, and various notification. The bottom has recent rides, your favourites for quick access, and alerts as to newly uploaded videos
Tacx has made a shrewd move to handing over the top RIGHT corner to an information box which cycles through blog updates, challenges and crucially Tacx Podcasts
The yellow jersey challenge has had quite a lot of attention since Tacx revealed a yellow Tacx NEO 2 at the 2019 Tour d France.
But that is NOT a challenge for the faint hearted!
The Tacx podcasts are certainly worth while checking out, especially if you are planning on sitting on your trainer for that distance! You can access them via Apple Podcasts, Player.fm, and of course YouTube.
One of the aspects which makes the Tacx Desktop App quite unique in the world of indoor video cycling packages is that on all Tacx Neo devices, you get access to the trainers Road Feel on the enabled videos.
Zwift uses road feel too, but on Tacx’s in-house app you get the full experience of all 15 different road simulations, to further enhance to videos.
Whilst you can’t currently pair a Wahoo KICKR Climb with the Tacx Desktop App, there is nothing to stop you adding in a Wahoo Headwind to get that additional aspect of trainer speed controlled wind direct to your face. There are reports of wider trainer compatibility coming in the future – it certain is in beta development, but that doesn’t help people outside of the Tacx / Garmin ecosystem
You can download various videos, both in HD and now a growig number of 4k videos
With the current beta you can used both BlueTooth and ANT+ sensors. As when Zwifting, I STRONGLY recommend that Tacx ANT+ antenna.
Not for signal issues, but that this puck is as strong as houses, stand on it wearing cycling shoes, even SpeedPlay, and it won’t even shrug. Once you’ve destroyed more than two simple ANT+ USB dongles when getting off a Zwift race, this is worth the money!! But i reiterate ANT+ is not yet public
You pair via the Connected Devices tab – which allows you to access sensors other than from a turbo trainer if you want. As mentioned other trainers will show up, but the TDA is not able to control the resistance on them
When plugged in, you can select your ride via through routes. You can simply scroll through the various videos to decide what sort of ride grabs you, if you fancy just jumping on and riding
You can filter the search, depending if there is a specific route name that you want to spin along
Or as the final option, use the Tacx Map to discover rides based on geographic location
Once you have loaded the video you desire, the Tacx Desktop App will default to a warmup setting. I’m not the worlds biggest fan of this, as you can’t stop it loading.
You can cancel the warmup however by setting that to 0 sec in settings
Tacx Desktop App – HUD
One aspect which people have begged for with Zwift is the ability to choose your own HUD appearance. Or at even run a a “clean” window. Tacx will allow you to select from a series of predetermined widgets on the screen, or run clean. Which is certainly a bonus.
Whilst the HUD might be clear, additional controls are hidden at the stop of the screen, and become apparent when you move the mouse. The problem is Tacx has chosen a white colour to the font and the letters on a light grey background I find REALLY hard to read
When you are all set one running, personally one of the features that both the Tacx Desktop App, and the Elite Training App have which is SIGNIFICANTLY better than Zwift – and let’s be honest Zwift is VERY good – is the ability to see Pedal Stroke Analysis.
With TDA that is only possible with the Tacx Neo, but I feel it is SUCH a vital bit of training. Yes a large number of head units such as the Polar V650 and the Garmin 830 can show you the pedal balance, but not the specific pedal analysis graph. I genuinely wish it was possible to run Zwift and the TDA at the same time, I’d love to have the pedal analysis feed on a separate screen, or perhaps on my phone.
However, as cool as this feature is, it remains a slightly walled garden, as you do not get the pedal analysis on the Mac or the iOS version of Tacx Desktop App. Now I might be able to understand the Mac playing second fiddle to the Windows software, but I have no idea why the iOS app would be crippled in this way when it comes to such differentiator
Tacx Desktop App – Training Features
Along with a broad range of downloadable training plans, you are also able to create your own plans. In the same way that you can use the Zwift virtual world with a training plan in place, you can select your desired video to run over the top of a training plan.
You also have the option to build your own, or create personalised plans from a coach etc
One of the issues which affects all training platforms in ERG mode is the dreaded “spiral of death” or the trainer ramping up resistance to “bury” a rider. This all to frequent issue is an interplay between the trainer and the software, with both sides of the training environment having an active role in trying to reduce the training session ending error.
As a result in the latest build, Tacx have added a software guard to prevent the spiral of death in a Power training. A little like Apple controlling the whole widget, as a rule of thumb companies in house software has the slight edge when it comes to ERG modes, something which is reflected by the Elite MyETraining software
Tacx Desktop App – The videos
As with all software, there needs to be a core aspect which draws people do download, and continue using. Previously Tacx sold the standalone videos, meaning that often cyclists would buy a couple of videos, and that was that.
The two benefits to the end user here are i) single cost ii) perceived ownership of the software they have purchased, as long as you have the software, it can’t be switched off. BUT there are also multiple draw backs from that approach, it means that the user as to fork out further for additional videos, and will likely have buy the whole software package again if there is a large update. That model also was a disincentive for long term development thinking.
Now Tacx has moved to a subscription model, everyone benefits. You get full access to the whole suit of videos.
The on disadvantage here, is that there can be a little bit of a buffet style approach to training, where once you have ridden all of the routes, you may have to wait for further films to be produced. But the Tacx Desktop App group get’s plenty of support and feedback about impending new releases
When selecting a video you can see if there are other riders currently online on that same course
Which gives you a live marker to compare against on the map. Whilst having live riders is nice. Compared to the virtual worlds regenerated by Zwift, RGT and Rouvy, it doesn’t really hold up
The one advantage of having other riders both live and recorded means that you can compete on the leaderboard, as Strava obviously can’t provide segments for videos in the way the it does for virtual worlds
Again KinoMap does allow you to upload video footage along with your GPX file which seems to stand in comparison to Tacx. However Kinomap is largely filled with user generated content, which whilst offering huge coverage can’t currently compare with the 4k videos from Tacx professional recordings. In the last year Tacx actually pulled a large number of videos, feeling that they were not up to standard in comparison to the 4K films they are now running
If you are planning on running the 4K versions of the films, there is some debate as to the level of the system required for food video playback. I can attest that on my 2016 MacBook Pro 15″ I didn’t have any issues with jerky playback, but I did spend most the time using the 1080p videos, as my pain cave tv isn’t 4k
As well as the straight forward generic videos from around the world, such as the slightly bleak ride on the Yorkshire Moors, there are also a number of tour options. These give a structure to your rides over a week, month, or how ever long your training sessions allow. The individual sections adding up to complete routes.
I actually like this approach, as it gives a degree of progression to the rides, rather than merely doing circles of similar virtual environs.
Plus, if you like your tyres knobbly rather than smooth, Tacx has even uploaded mountain bike rides, which really gives the Tacx Neo a work out when it comes to the Road Feel
Tacx Desktop App – GPX File Routes
Without a shadow of a doubt, my favourite aspect of the TDA is the ability to upload a GPX file and have the trainer recreate a route. Yes previously many apps have been able to do this – I genuinely mourned the passing of the Wahoo Segments. However with the Tacx Desktop App as it this as the GPX file can be displayed as a map or satellite view, which is nice. But the real kicker is the ability to have the app generate a 3D rendering of the map.
Tacx have even added option to have the path on the GPS map be coloured similarly to the graphs (based on slope)
Now this isn’t Google Street view level rendering, but it is much a bit better than sitting watching a dot move along a map. There is plenty to be said for running a GPX file to the trainer, and having Zwift or a TDA video sat over the top. HOWEVER if you are essentially reconnoitring am IRL race, when having the additional feedback to give you an idea what you are up against, and planning your attack is very helpful
Tacx Desktop App Review – Can Tacx Compete? – Conclusion
If you fancy giving the TDA a try, you are not looking at a limited milage test run like Zwift. I personally think that was one of the worst changes from Zwift in terms of getting people to adopt a software package and then pay for it. You need to know it’s right for you. As a result Tacx gives free access to 3 videos
- Dinant to Namur – Cycle Tour
- England, Gold Hill
- Grosse Scheidegg Demo
In turn here is Tacx’s biggest issue. Whilst you can connect your sensors to the TDA, you will currently only get the simulation and resistance features with a Tacx trainer. I do understand the desire to generate sales of Tacx’s own units, and perhaps a few years ago that would have been possible, but with the range of free / freemium (I hate that word) apps and desktop software available now Tacx really should take the restrictions off if they are serious about the app. Given the development which is still on going, with regular fully featured updates, there is every reason to suggest that they are going to be successful if removing this barrier
If you are in the Tacx (now Garmin) eco system, I would thoroughly suggest checking out the TDA, especially as a stand alone system next to Zwift. Zwift is terrific, sorry but it is. It is also however a limited platform particularly when it comes to training for IRL races. The TDA can happily stand on it’s own merits with two simple features, the pedal analysis, and the ability to run GPX files in a limited virtual world to allow for specific training of IRL courses.
So in summary, a good app and definitely recommended, but only scoring 3/5 whilst it’s locked to Tacx trainers