Advertisement

Sign up for our newsletter

Advertisement

Elite Sterzo Smart Steering riser block review

30 Mar 2021
Verdict:

A nifty gizmo for virtual steering that is just waiting for the software to catch up

Cyclist Rating: 
Price: 
£74
For 
Easy setup * Smooth * Accurate
Against 
Not enough applications as yet

The ‘gamification’ of indoor training has helped to turn grim turbo sessions into immersive, interactive rides through virtual worlds. And the next step in the evolution of e-racing could be realistic steering – hence the arrival of the Elite Sterzo Smart Steering riser block. 

The Sterzo Smart is essentially a riser block with a groove to seat the front wheel of your bike. A pivot allows you to turn your bars left or right, and by connecting with your smart turbo and Zwift, you can steer your on-screen avatar within the virtual world.

‘This is basically a project between Elite and Zwift,’ says Chris Brattle, UK brand manager for Elite. ‘We’ve been working on this for about two years, perfecting the firmware that will allow the Sterzo and Zwift to talk to each other reliably and consistently.’

Anyone who has used Zwift will recognise the potential for steering within its 3D virtual world. At present when riding in Watopia, you can only power your avatar and have no control over bike handling, but things are about to change.

‘I don’t want to jump the gun,’ says Brattle, ‘but Zwift has its own plans for this. I can’t say what, but there is going to be a lot of steering-compatible content coming, and Zwift wanted a model in the market so early adopters could try it and give feedback.’

 

Elite Sterzo Smart setup

In the box you’ll find the Sterzo Smart riser block, a set of three AAA batteries, and an instruction manual.

Setup couldn’t really be any simpler. Put the batteries in the Sterzo unit, place the unit under the front wheel of your bike with the ‘nose’ pointing forward, and give your handlebars a wiggle to wake up the Sterzo.

Elite claims a 500-hour battery lifetime, and I have no reason to doubt that (I certainly have no intentions of logging the duration of every session to test the assertion). Rubber feet on the bottom of the unit help to prevent slippage, although it’s still worth placing it on a non-slip surface.

Buy the Elite Sterzo Smart Steering riser block from ProBikeKit now

Lights flash to indicate that the Sterzo unit is awake, and when you log into Zwift it invites you to pair with the Sterzo in the same way that you would with your turbo trainer, heart rate monitor, etc. You don’t need to be using an Elite turbo for the Sterzo to work.

The Sterzo allows wheel movement of up to 34° in either direction, and it is spring-loaded, so when you release pressure on your handlebars the wheel will return to the central position.

 

Elite Sterzo Smart steering performance

As soon as your on-screen avatar takes to the virtual road, you’ll want to test out how well the Sterzo steers. And the initial indications are very good.

The steering is sensitive, realistic and immediate. A gentle touch of the bars is enough to make your rider veer from side to side, and it responds almost instantly to steering inputs.

The spring-loading means there is no problem staying on the straight, and your rider won’t wobble or swerve if you take your hands off the bars.

Buy the Elite Sterzo Smart Steering riser block from ProBikeKit now

However, very quickly you will learn the limitations of steering within the Zwift virtual world. Here are some of the things you can’t do with your new steering powers.

You can’t change direction. If you come to a junction in the road, you can’t choose which way to go by using the Sterzo steering – you’ll still need to touch the on-screen direction buttons.

You can’t explore off-road or swerve into oncoming traffic. You are essentially limited to moving left or right within the confines of your side of the road. So you can ride nearer the centre of the road or nearer the kerb, but you can’t cross over either.

You can’t side-swipe other riders. The system ensures that all riders neatly avoid each other.

Elite Sterzo Smart steering benefits

So what can you currently do within Zwift that makes steering worthwhile?

Well, it does already have its uses when it comes to racing. For example, you can move in behind someone in order to benefit from drafting. Similarly, you can move out of the way if a competitor is trying to draft you.

Also you can take the racing line around corners. While everyone else is stuck to the middle of the road, you can steer into the corner and hit the apex, which is often enough to move from the back of a small group to the front, or to shrug off riders sitting on your wheel.

Buy the Elite Sterzo Smart Steering riser block from ProBikeKit now

Does this constitute cheating? It’s a moot point, and you may have to face the wrath of your fellow Zwifters if you win a race where you are the only one with a steering advantage.

Eventually, however, we can envisage a time when everyone has steering, which could introduce more elements of team tactics, as well as requiring handling skills on descents, just like in real racing.

In the meantime, there is one special place within Zwift where steering really comes into its own.

 

Repack Ridge is a mountain bike course in Wattopia. You find it by riding along Titans Grove from the north for about 3km, and a sign marks the trailhead.

When you select the option to ride Repack Ridge, your road bike will magically transform into a mountain bike, and you have to steer your way around the twisting course, getting graded on the quality of your lines as you go.

 

 

It’s good fun – for the first few times you try it. 

Elite Sterzo Smart conclusion

The Elite Sterzo Smart Steering riser block works every bit as well as you would hope. It’s simple, smooth and precise.

However, it’s certain that Zwift doesn’t yet have the platforms in place to really make the most of the Sterzo’s steering capabilities, so you have to make a choice: wait and see what Zwift comes up with, or get the Sterzo now and be first on the start line when the new steering content goes live.

Buy the Elite Sterzo Smart Steering riser block from ProBikeKit now

Read more about: