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Tacx NEO 2T Smart Trainer Review | ZWIFT GEAR TEST

An additional letter, and some fiddling under the skin. The Tacx NEO 2 was previously the best smart trainer on the market. Are the Tacx NEO 2T changes enough to justify Tacx keeping the crown? Read on for the latest Tacx NEO 2T review to find out!

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Tacx NEO 2T Review – Zwift Gear Test

TLDR: The best just got better, even if only incrementally TG SCORE: 4/5

The Tacx NEO 2T is the third release of the Tacx NEO, but we are talking about a true refining of the formulae, not a standalone third model. When you look at the spec sheet you do think that perhaps saying NEO 2T might be another way of saying NEO 2.1 as the changes don’t appear earth shattering

But before we go any further, let’s put one thing to bed. The name. Nice and simple, as there have been some major changes – read a whole new one – to the motor inside the Neo 2T – which has addressed the tyre slip finally, the T in the Tacx NEO 2 T stands for torque. Makes sense. New motor, more power. More torque. Ok, that is cleared up!

The two headline features that Tacx proclaim from the spec sheet are that the NEO 2T is even more powerful, the brake torque has increased by 10Nm, which is approximately the wrist strength of an adult male to put that in perspective

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Tacx using their own arbitrary noise scale say that is the NEO 2 on a 1-5 scale was 1, the Tacx NEO 2T is 0.5. I do find it incredibly entertaining when a company as steadfast and technical as Tacx is providing such a… fluffy metric. In for the internal slogan for the Tacx NEO 2T is a somewhat zen-like “Stillness through advanced technology” which makes me raise an eyebrow even further.

As terrific as the 32 neodymium magnets from which the trainer draws its name, I was sceptical about the latest silent running from Tacx. But hand on heart, the first time I took the Tacx NEO 2T out for a spin, I did look down to double-check that the front LED was showing power generation, as this is an extraordinarily quiet trainer. But more on that later

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The reason for the new Tacx Neo 2T designation, that Tacx has redesigned the motor and internals at the heart of the trainer in order to provide several benefits. Not least improved air movement – yup you read that correctly, but is important for noise reduction – indoor cycling experience in terms of ERG mode and ride feel, especially during climbs and sprints.

Together with the improved stator passing over the magnets – essentially contacting the next before clearing the first, it means that much higher resistance can be generated at very low speeds. Which should have cured the tyre slipping effect seen on both NEO and the NEO. The slipping was most often seen with a rider moving off from stationary, or when mashing gears on the way to a hill, such as the Zwift Radio Tower. As for the cure I’m pleased to report, no report. I.e I havn’t seen any virtual tyre slippage at all whilst riding the Tacx NEO 2T over the last month.

Perhaps of more practical use to riders monitoring their output is that the pedal stroke analysis features from the inbuilt cadence sensor are now available for use on third-party software, including your Garmin Edge computer!

Tacx Neo 2T Review – Design

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So first things first, let’s open up the Tacx Neo 2T. There is a balance to be made around overly hyping a revision, but also not allowing it to stand out. I’m a little surprised that Tacx did not have a greater design change on the box to help this unit stand out on the floor of your local bike shop

That said Garmin have ensured a subtle tweak to the box so that we know who is controlling the purse strings now

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Inside the Tacx Neo 2T is held between two slabs of polystyrene whilst technically recycleable, not easily so, certainly in the UK. I think this is something which Kinetic really needs to be praised for, moving to an entire paper-based and easily recyclable packaging for the Kinetic R1. Hopefully it is something we’ll see from other trainer manufacturers in the next year,

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As you lift everything out, we’ve the following gubbins inside the box

  • Tacx NEO 2T
  • Dead tree manuals,
  • One month free of the Tacx Desktop App (which allows you to use the Tacx NEO 2 pedal analysis features)
  • Power pack and lead
  • Quick Release Skewer (5mm)
  • Thru Axle skewer and adapters
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One of the subtle refinements is that the rear axle of the Tacx NEO 2T Smart is has been changed in order to make it compatible with more bikes. without the need for adapters.

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If you do need however there is the full set of adapters: Race 130mm, MTB 135mm, 142x12mm, 148x12mm in the box

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There are very few changes to the exterior of the Tacx EO 2T to identify the update. Obviously there is the Tacx NEO 2T label on the side, abovr the Bluetooth, ANT+ and power lights

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Then on the drive side there are two horizontal slashes on the rear strut. Perhaps Tacx are trying to say that the NEO 2 has finally earned its stripes? Maybe that is stretching things, but the exterior changes to the NEO really are that small!

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In the box you’ve a months free premium subscription to the Tacx Desktop App which Tacx have been polishing recently. If you do get a NEO 2T, I’d suggest it might be worth while checking out, but not for the obvious reason

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The Tacx Desktop App might have 4K video, but the main reason that I swap over from Zwift occasionally is for a “race reccy” as the app allows you to load up a GPX file and ride a Bing Maps version of the race. Personally I find this more effective in preparing for a race than just running the GPX file as a resistance work out. I think the visual feedback helps me a lot

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On the drive side of the unit, we’ve the straightforward Shimano Hub coming pre-installed. The NEO 2T is compatible with Shimano and SRAM only, with a Campagnolo and SRAM XD body now sold separately.

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On the top of the Tacx NEO 2T there are the vents for the internals. Previously people have commented in the past of “electrical” smells during the first few big rides with the Tacx NEO 2. This is due to the capacitors of the electromagnets “burning in” over the first few uses. Consider it the smarrt trainer equivalent of a new car smell.

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The Tacx NEO 2T case is broadly unchanged externally. The black plastic is made from the same type of plastic as riot shields, meaning there is a degree of flexibility built into the case. As everything on the Tacx NEO 2T is made in-house at the Tacx factory, the company was able to design in a 5deg of sway with the materials. It has been interesting to see the sway incorporated, whilst internal movements reduced to help the noise profile

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Given the lack of changes to the frame, it does mean that the Tacx NEO 2T continues to have, in my humble opinion, the most irritating stabilisers. To be fair I don’t have an issue with the sides or wings as you might describe them. It’s the four locking sections which keep the wings held dow the irk me.

The reason they bug me so much is that you have to go UNDER the trainer in order to move the wings, and then rock the trainer on one side to get it to fold. The locks are open when you can see the red tab through the leg, and locked when Tacx blue is visible. I understand that the current config means that gravity is helping to keep the locks closed. But that doesn’t change that fact that all the other top end trainers have a easier to use system.

At the back of the Tacx NEO 2T is the power port which is required for the downhill drive function discussed below. Given this has been an update, I’m surprised that Tacx has not managed to incorporate a small capacitor/ battery in the unit which could be charged from the normal cycling, and allow the Tacx NEO 2 to be completely wireless. Elite have a battery on the Elite Furoipista, as I saw during my hands on, although that has to be charged from the mains. Maybe we’ll see that with the NEO 3??

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Tacx Neo 2T Review – Specification

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In the last trainer season, the engineers at Tacx had been pushing for a consensus on how to advertise the spec-sheets of trainers. Particularly so when it came to the best way to convey the trainers slope presentation and maximum power. The reason why this is important is that trainer spec sheets were starting to become a little like top trumps. Who had the trainer with the highest rated power output, is a long way from who has the best usable power curve.

For example, Chris Pritchard STOMPED out >1300 watts at the end of a 32KM Zwift not too far back. Now he might not be Christ Froome, BUT he did use to cycle for the Scottish National Team.

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Most cyclists, just don’t have legs this powerful. They might think they do, and they might buy a trainer hoping to one day reach that level, but the max watts is less relevant to how a smart trainer rides than you’d imagine

What is MORE relevant is the speed at which a cyclist has to be riding, in order to generate a set slope, ie. that resistance. The slower the speed a which a rider can cycle and still generate a set slope i) is more useful, but also speaks more to the power of the trainer’s brake strength. It is brake strength which is what you pay for.

Take a look at the spec sheet on the Elite Drivo II. It now ships with the following description of the brake strength:

3600Watts @60kph… but for real humans that are going to be 2296w @40kph

Elite have joined Tacx’ call for clearer labelling, and we understand not just what the trainer is capable of, but what a normal rider is likely to see when on the trainer. With that in mind, what are the numbers on the Tacx Neo 2T?

  • Communication:
    • Bluetooth, ANT+™,
    • ANT+™ FE-C,
    • Bluetooth Smart Trainer Protocol
    • Both ANT and BLE can be used simultaneously
  • Max Slope Simulation: 25%
  • Built-in sensors:
    • Power,
    • Speed/Cadence,
    • Advanced pedal analytics,
    • Left/Right balance
  • Max Wattage: 2200w @40kph
    • Max Torque increased from 85Nm to 88Nm
    • Max brake force increased from 250Nm to 260Nm
  • Freehub: Shimano, 9/10/11 speed compatible – no cassette in the box
  • Power Accuracy: +/- 1%
  • Flywheel: 125kg
  • Max User Weight: 125kg
  • Weight: 21.5kg
  • Other Bits:
    • Road Feel,
    • Front LED power indicator lights
  • Compatibility notes: bikes with 130, 135, 142, and 148mm width rear fork Quick-release adapter for 12mm x 142, 12x 142 thru-axle hubs
  • Price: €1119

I do think there is a small element of spec sheet polishing going on here, with the Tacx Neo 2 just edging out the Elite Drivo II with 25% vs 24% Max Slope Incline.

ETacx Neo 2T Review – Zwift Gear Test – Using the Trainer

One of the things I have liked most about box the whole Tacx Neo series is that it does not require power to run. But you get extra benefits if you DO plug the trainer into the mains

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As well as acting as a resistance unit, the motor inside the Tacx NEO 2T, when plugged into the mains the unit is also able to generate it’s own force, to simulate the pull of gravity when you are on a down hill – frankly, this freewheeling simulation is one of the aspects I most like about the Tacx NEO 2T, as it makes the ride a little more realistic.

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With every other turbo trainer, when you are using Zwift and going downhill, the resistance decreases, so you legs spin out faster, but if you stop, so does the turbo. There is no inertia effect.

When the Tacx NEO 2T goes downhill – the magic happens. You actually get a freewheeling effect. When you stop peddling, even take your feet out, the unit receives the FE-C / FTMS instruction from Zwift, not only releasing the resistance on the unit but also putting a small amount of assistance into it, so you get the freewheel/gravity effect. Or to put it another way, it gives your legs a realistic breather during a race, or a ride, as would happen in real life.

Although I acknowledge that if you are simply going for calorie burn, this is something you might want to switch off. As the constant need to pedal is one of the reasons that smart trainer workouts are more calorific than on the same route IRL. I’ve tried to demonstrate the down hill mode in a previous video, which I think is reasonable to repost here, The important part is listening to the sound that the Tacx NEO 2 is making. The slight whine – I think it’s unreasonable to call the sound from the NEO a noise – increases as you go downhill.

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

Before you start to really used your Tacx Neo 2T however, you do need to download the Tacx Utility App – for two reasons actually. Firstly to check that there are no firmware updates waiting for you. Tacx is very responsive to feedback, and the in the first year of a new trainer tends to push out firmwares moderately frequently responding to customers comments

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Although you can ignore the fact that mine came from the factory with a higher firmware than was on Tacx servers. I’ve been using firmware versions directly from the engineers to write the review, to maximise the validity of the power meter results

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The Tacx App also also allows you to access the Isokinetic and Isotonic training modes – which you can read about the training uses for here. Perhaps we’ll see the option for these the be integrated into other third party apps in the same way the Tacx pedal analysis has been?

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There is no need to calibrate the Tacx Neo 2T due to the fact there are no bullies, with the hub going directly into the drive unit. So once the firmware is up to date, and you bike is mounted, you are good to go.

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Tacx Neo 2T Review – Zwift Gear Test – Sound Test

One of the reasons that Tacx are so keen to highlight the latest noise credentials of the Tacx NEO 2T is the level of thought which has gone into the reworking of the NEO 2T’s internals. A major challenge for the team has been that whilst the motor inside has been redesigned this year, the easiest engineering tweaks have already been made.

The NEO 2T is a very quiet trainer, but I have always held there a significant difference between the volume of a trainer, a noise a trainer makes. Between the original NEO and the NEO 2, Tacx was able to make an exceptionally low volume trainer. BUT if I’m going to nitpick, (which is kind of where you have to go when a trainer has had this level of refinement without being a whole new unit) the NEO 2 had a… rumble, a low frequency noise to the unit, particularly at lower speeds

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With the NEO 2T, when the team has redesigned some of the internals, significant attention has been paid to the movement of the air within the NEO. Makes sense as sound is transmitted via air movement. In addition, time has been focused on reducing the vibrations produced at a low cadence which are then transmitted to the surface the trainer is sat on.

From my experience riding the Tacx NEO 2T, is it the magnet redesign meaning less movement, and focus on vibration reduction where the biggest payoff in sound and noise production has been found. With that in mind, enough of my opinions here is the ZWIFT GEAR TEST sound assessment:

https://youtu.be/7kUTijEdAcw

If you want a little more of granularity to the sound test, here are the graphs produced. The film above is from my second run, whilst it turned out that I had relatively empty legs. It was a “better” film

Tacx Neo 2T Review – Zwift Gear Test – Power Meter Test

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 and using the Jon’s Mix workout, so we have a consistent benchmark between all the different turbos which have gone through Zwift Gear Tests on TitaniumGeek

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On the first run of Jon’s Mix on Zwift using the Tacx Neo 2T firmware 0.18. We’re getting a reasonable trace, with a variation of 4.3% from the PowerTap P1 and a 0.5% variation in average across the whole ride. Remember that as the NEO 2T is at the end of the drive train, that does mean there will be a small amount of drive train loss

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When it comes to the first heavy load block, the Tacx Neo 2T in orange ramps up with the direct power meters, showing good responsiveness. Although in the first firmware the NEO 2T does seem to read a little lower overall, but takes the peak a little higher than the other meters, with a max of 551 on the Neo 2T, against max of 496 on the PowerTap C1

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Similarly, if we zoom in to the steady-state section of the graph the Tacx Neo 2T does seem to give a noiser signal compared to the other power meters. But I’ve very impressed with the responsivenss of the power meter in the NEO 2T

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A new firmware update was released 0.26 in order to improve the responses from the Tacx Neo 2T. So here are the repeats, of Jon’s test and you can see a few differences

There is a clear dropout from the Magene Ridge, but otherwise all good. But importantly there were no other dropouts during the ride from the NEO 2T or the other power meters. Looking at the Tacx NEO 2T in terms of peaks now, it is sitting within the range of the other power meters in terms of peak and averages

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This is born out in the steady state as well

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If anything the power tap pedals read comparatively high, and the Neo 2T, slightly towards the bottom of the four power meters. You would expect some loss at the back of the drive train, but this does seem to be a little more than expected. After discussing with Tacx a firmware update is in the works to address this

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If we zoom into one of the peaks, we can compare reaction time and accuracy, with all trainers moving into the peak nicely, and surprisingly little variation at the top end

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In terms of the ERG when on Jon’s mix. When you pass through the gates on Zwift, BAM! instant change

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Whilst I found after doing a series of test rides, that my legs were getting rather tired I NEVER ONCE got buried in an ERG session. I think this is probably one of the better iterations of ERG mode I have seen

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Tacx Neo 2T Review – Pedal Analysis

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The Tacx NEO 2T carries over the NEO2 capacitive cadence sensor, located towards the front of the unit, but the software has been improved in of responsiveness and the ANT+ capability

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By adding standard ANT+ Cycling dynamics (you wouldn’t guess Tacx was a Garmin company now would you 😜 – actually, that isn’t fair, Tacx where working with Garmin to try and do this with the Neo 2, but it wasnt ready for launch ), you can now analyse your pedal stroke via the software of third parties; for example on a Garmin Edge bike computer.

If you connect to the TDA app you should have access to pure stroke analysis with the NEO 2T

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Whilst I have seen this in person running on a windows based version of the TDA, I have unfortunately been unable to get this to work on the MAC version of the app. But will certainly be enquiring about that at Eurobike shortly

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This engagement with ANT+ cycling dynamics will hopefully mean that some of the less utilised features of the NEO – Isokinetic and Isotonic modes are used more as cyclist try to focus on a more even pedal stroke. I delved into what these two modes do previously that report is here if you are interested.

Tacx Neo 2T Review – CONCLUSION

I find it a little odd that Tacx didn’t VISUALLY do more with the NEO 2T. It feels as though last year the NEO to NEO 2 was a reasonable update. This year… I get the impression that the Tacx NEO Bike probably resulted in quite a few engineering improvements to the NEO base, but that they were too different to just to shove in the existing NEO 2, but also not significant enough to mean we got a NEO 3 – so we have the Tacx NEO 2T, with it’s side slash

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If you have a Tacx NEO 2, I really wouldn’t worry about upgrading. If you were on an original NEO and were thinking about it, there is probably enough to justify the move now. If you were needing to get a quieter pain cave for whatever reason *cough Llama baby* then you are not going to be able to find a quieter trainer for your money

Now, I don’t have a baby, but I do have a (long-suffering) housemate who shares a wall with my Zwift Cave, so when not specifically testing new trainers, it will be the Tacx Neo 2T underneath the bike

The ONLY reason I’m not giving the Tacx NEO 2T a straight forward 5/5 – it’s practically that good, it REMAINS devoid of any useful handle and is STILL a pig to move around!

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If you are interested in purchasing a Tacx NEO 2T don’t forget TitaniumGeek has teamed up with Run and Ride for a 10% reader discount with the code: TIGEEK – WHICH WILL WORK ON TURBO TRAINERS

 
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James Gill

Author of TitaniumGeek, which started after smashing off my RIGHT elbow. <br /> <br /> After learning a lot about olecranon fractures, I was introduced to the world Zwift, and slowly transitioned into writing about sports gadgets and the like<br /> <br /> Trying to keep up cycling, swimming and running whilst being a busy General Practice Doctor