Tested: The king of bike trainers
Tacx Neo Smart T2800 is probably the most modern bike trainer on the market. We gave it to an ambitious athlete for testing and asked him what he thought.
Florian Kaufmann is a student of mechanical engineering who regularly competes in mountain bike races in the summer. To prepare for the racing seaon, he has a winter training routine that consists of 30–40 kilometres on the bike trainer. Furthermore, Florian gets on his cross-country skis whenever possible and covers about 30 km per training unit. He mainly takes part in Garmin Bike Marathon Classics (middle distance) but his personal highlight this year will be the four-day stage race «Roc d’Azur» in the South of France.
Since last autumn, Florian has been using the Tacx Vortex Smart T2180. How does it compare to the Neo Smart T2800? The latter model is high-end and said to be more silent. Plus, it can simulate different road surfaces and inclines. With up to 2000 watt resistance, the T2800 is a real challenge, even for pros. I gave one to Florian to test.
What was your first impression?
The first thing I noticed was that the trainer is heavier than the models I’m used to. It already showed during the first test: The whole set-up is a lot sturdier. This proved particluarly true while riding out of the saddle. Size wise, it’s pretty much what I expected although it’s a little wider than «regular» training bikes. However, this is useful as it stands firmly on the floor. The feet can be folded in, making the bike easier to stow away. Apart from the cassette – which, unlike «regular» bike trainers, needs to be mounted – everything was included in the delivery: Neo, quick release, cassette distance and lock ring, mains adapter and front wheel support.
Did you struggle setting it up?
The installation is self-explanatory (I only read manuals if absolutely necessary). The trainer was delivered practically fully assembled except for the cassette. You can either unscrew the cassette from the racing bike or use a different one, so you can keep using your bike. Use the quick release included in the delivery to mount the bike trainer. Once you’ve connected the power supply, you’re good to go. The Tacx Neo features ANT+ and Bluetooth.
The smart trainer is compatible with various apps that monitor your training. Which one did you go for?
For a more diverse training, I use «Zwift». Among other things, it allows you to complete training sessions with your buddies. I usually go for the mode that feature pre-set training units. After finishing a unit, the trainer automatically adjusts its resistance. To use this feature, you need a smart trainer. However, this is something I could already use with my Tacx Vortex Smart T2180.
«Zwift» automatically stores your training units. The results are then accessible on your smartphone whenever you need them. Personally, I was interested in my watt values during training sessions and I kept an eye via my laptop. Whenever there’s a TV close by, I connect my laptop to the TV and watch my favourite show for motivation.
Neo simulates road surfaces. How realistic does that feel?
Firstly, I would like to point out that road surface simulation is only possible when you’re cycling in manual mode on «Zwift». When I’m on the bike trainer, I usually start with a pre-set training unit. Unfortunately, the pre-set modes do not support this feature.
The surface simulation took a bit of getting used to at first. But when you’re doing longish units, it makes for a nice change. My guess is that a lot of people will enjoy this feature. However, I would switch it off in the long run as I don’t necessarily like it in all situations. Plus, you can’t manually set the intensity or duration because the app determines the road surface.
Tacx also simulates ascents and descents by adjusting resistance. How did that feel?
The simulation is done by means of chain tension – similar to many other bike trainers. Your performance is displayed in watt. «Zwift» realistically converts the data: An ascent slows you down and a descent speeds you up. During a descent, the Neo powers itself. In other words, even if you stop pedalling, the simulated landscape will keep on going by – a feature I find very realistic.
How does the Neo fare when you’re riding out of the saddle?
It’s very stable. Even when you’re laying down a sprint at full power, the Neo stays put and doesn’t slide back and forth on the floor. On the one hand, this is because of its weight. On the other hand, the surface of the feet it stands on is larger and wider.
What about noise emissions?
The T2800 is the quietest bike trainer I’ve ever used – hands down. The first time I tested it, I was genuinely surprised. Noise levels hardly increased, no matter which gear I was in.
Comparing the Vortex and the Neo – what did you like about the respective device? Which one would you recommend and why?
It’s difficult to compare them because the price difference is huge.
Vortex is great value for money. With 950 watt, it provides enough resistance for most athletes. I was impressed by the nice finish and smart steering. What’s more, It never failed to connect via ANT+. Weighing 12 kilos, the trainer is relatively light and good for on-the-go use. That’s why I would totally recommend the Vortex. I’m convinced that you can’t get a better product at that price.
The Tacx Neo Smart will set you back quite a bit but you also get more for it. The bike trainer has a high-quality finish and a modern design. The pedalling sensation is so good it feels like the real thing. With «Zwift» you can even simulate different road surfaces. It’s so quiet that you can watch TV with other people. Even at a pedalling frequency of 100 rotations/min and at 500 W power, noise levels never exceed 60 decibels. The loudest element is the chain – especially when it needs oiling :-). When you’re on a descent, the freewheel mechanism kicks in and that’s a very nice feature. If these aspects are important to you and you have the spare cash, I would advise you to go for the Neo. Especially if you’re worried about potential problems with the neighbours because of noise levels.
Neo Smart T2800
The quietest, most accurate and most realistic trainer available today. The direct drive delivers 2200 watts, simulates gradients of up to 25% and communicates via ANT+ and Bluetooth Smart.
Vortex Smart T2180
Smart bike trainer with a maximum braking power of 950 watts for your training at home.
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