The Smart Bike Revolution is here, and one of the first to show was Tacx. Here is their Tacx NEO Smart Bike Eurobike offering
Tacx Neo Smartbike – The Smart Bike Has Landed… Nearly
Every trainer company and his dog are working in secret on a smart trainer. Well, that is what the world rumour mill seems to suggest if you spend enough time on the Zwift forums and listen to Simon Schofield on the ZwiftCast (or watch on YouTube). In spite of the hype the only smart bike available on the market currently is the Peloton, and for obvious reasons, the Peloton doesn’t play easily with Zwift.
But in the world of Zwift compatible trainers, we have simply had swirling rumours. Until Eurobike where Tacx was the first company to tip their cards to work and show off their new toy, the Tacx Neo Smartbike. Basically a Tacx Neo… with a new bigger bike shaped case
Although you can still see the lines of where the Tacx Neo has been incorporated, there were several new features – or should that be lack of features – specifically a cassette! Now the standard Tacx Neo has always had very clean lines, but when you come to the new mechanical horse, you can see the effect that the removal of the cassette has had.
Instead of a cassette, the Tacx Neo Smartbike has a virtual flywheel which will simulate gears, or virtual shifting, using the electromagnet within the Neo. This is also naturally carry over the existing road feel, and downhill simulation capabilities from the existing Neo. Similarly, the existing power curve on the Neo of 20% slope and a max of 2200 watts will also carry over unchained.
Along with the removal of the cassette, the classic bike chain has also been jettisoned, instead replaced by an enclosed belt drive. The Tacx Neo has always been the quietest direct drive unit on the market, to the degree that actually the bike drive chain was a greater source of noise, and hence the swap to a drive belt. The belt will also reduce the need to service the unit, as a standard chain needs maintenance after 5000km or approx 200 hours. Tacx is estimating that the Tacx Neo Smartbike will need the drive train servicing every 50,000km or 2000 hours…
By building an enclosed system to run without problems for 10x longer than a conventional bike and turbo trainer, it is clear the Tacx is hoping to democratise indoor cycling so that the barrier to entry is on engagement, rather than technical ability.
There are several bits on the Tacx Neo Smart bike which really highlights that it is still at prototype stage. While some sections, like the seat height adjustment bolts, and the leg stabilisers look good to go:
Whilst the machined, unfinished blocks of aluminium that make up the seat mounts and the handlebar stem are still very much work in progress. Heck the actual shifters displayed here are just parts bin Campag units, as Tacx hasn’t revealed what their electronic virtual shifters will look like yet
On the reasons for this is that the Smart bike, like the Neo on which it is based, can run with, or without power. OK so what I hear you say? Well it always struck me as odd that Tacx had turbo trainers that had the ability to generate electricity, and never did anything with it! Well, that will change with the Tacx Neo Smart bike.
The aluminium blocks holding the handlebars and tablet mount will be replaced with a much sleeker unit, along with the inclusion of 2 USB ports which Tacx is aiming to deliver two amps to you Zwift iOS (and eventually Android) devices! Yup, those screen don’t come from Cupertino this time!
Tacx Neo Smart Bike Conclusion
So when can you get your sweaty little mitts on the first smart bike we’ve seen? Well, that’s one of the major rubs about the Tacx Neo Smart bike “reveal”. The unit you can see here is still very much a design concept as mentioned, as such it will be Q3, or more likely Q4 in 2018 before Tacx is ready to accept your cold hard cash.
Speaking of which, currently the intended price point is looking at about £2000 – £2500, however, I will be interested to see if that price point holds given the release yesterday of the new WattBike Atom at £1500.
One thing is for certain if 2015-2017 was the Turbo Trainer Wars, 2018+ is going to be Smart Bike War. Now I’ll be honest; I flubbed some of the videos below – portrait ARGH!! – But I’m a big fan of the engineering team at Tacx, especially Martin Smits who is always a pleasure to chat to. So with apologies for portrait mode, I’ll leave Martin to cover the overview on the Tacx Neo Smart