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Tacx Neo 2T smart turbo trainer review

12 Jun 2020
Verdict:

A sleek, powerful machine that’s perfect for Zwifters

Cyclist Rating: 
Price: 
£1,199
For 
Good looking • No cable required • Great road feel • Accurate • Simple to use
Against 
None

The Tacx Neo 2T is pretty much everything anyone could ask for in a smart turbo trainer. Like your perfect partner, it’s good looking but stable; strong but silent; full of complexities yet easy to get along with. If it could bring you tea in bed you’d consider it marriage material.

Yes, it’s pricey, but for anyone serious about indoor riding it’s an investment every bit as justifiable as buying a new bike.

The 2T is the third version of the Tacx Neo, supplanting the Tacx Neo 2. Apparently the extra ‘T’ stands for torque, which is one of the areas that Tacx has focussed on in the latest upgrade.

At a glance, the Neo 2T looks exactly the same as the Neo 2. The eagle-eyed will notice that the back leg of the new trainer has two glossy black stripes that weren’t there before, but otherwise, the versions are impossible to tell apart.

All the new stuff is going on inside.

Buy the Tacx Neo 2T now from Tredz for £1,199

What’s new about the Tacx Neo 2T?

When everything looks the same, it’s hard to know where the differences lie. So Cyclist got in touch with Garmin – the company that now owns Tacx since acquiring the business in August 2019 – to find out what’s new.

‘The major thing is the torque,’ says Rich Robinson, head of product at Garmin.‘On the previous version, when you were climbing at a lower speed and with a higher torque, you could experience a slip of the virtual flywheel. We’ve addressed that so you can simulate those slower, more powerful climbs where there’s not a high cadence.’

By that he means those occasions when you suddenly stamp on the pedals and the resistance of the turbo ‘slips’, just as a rear wheel might slip if you push too hard on a climb with a damp surface.

 

By correcting that, it allows riders to tackle steeper virtual climbs and engage in virtual sprints without worrying about sudden drops in power – something that is becoming increasingly important to those involved in racing on virtual platforms such as Zwift.

To achieve this, the Tacx Neo 2T has more magnets than before in its virtual flywheel and they have been re-oriented to improve the torque settings – not that anyone could tell the difference from the outside.

‘The 2T also has more compatibility out of the box,’ continues Robinson. ‘It comes with more thru-axles, including the RAT system and the different 12mm axles. This is to accommodate the craziness that is the thru-axle standards at the moment.’

So, regardless of what kind of bike you have, the Neo 2T will have a quick-release or thru-axle to match it.

Beyond that, the other change is to pedalling analysis, which is now open to third-party apps, so you can transmit the data to units such as the Garmin Edge 530 and get details of how smooth and efficient your pedal stroke on either side is.

What’s in the box?

If you were to pay the £1,199 for your Tacx Neo 2T in 20p pieces, you would receive a package of equivalent weight to the cash that you’d handed over.

The turbo unit itself weighs a chunky 21.5kg, and folded up measures approximately 600mm x 250mm x 430mm. It’s actually quite tricky to extract it from its polystyrene cage as there is no handle to lift it – one of the few oversights in its design.

Once out, it’s simply a case of folding the two legs down, which click into place, and you’re ready to go. There are no bits to bolt together and no tools required – that’s until you get to the cassette.

The Neo 2T doesn’t come with one, so before you can fit your bike you will need to remove the cassette and slot it into place on the turbo. That will require the necessary tools – most likely a chain whip and a lockring remover – to make the switch.

 

It may seem unreasonable that Tacx doesn’t provide a cassette, but in these days of multiple and incompatible gearing formats, it would be impossible to cater for every make of groupset.

The freehub body on the turbo will accept all varieties of cassette, so if you want a permanent setup you’ll need to add the cost a new cassette to the overall price, which could mean anything from £50 for a Shimano 105 to over £300 if you insist on running Campagnolo Super Record.

Alongside the main unit, there is a stand for your front wheel, and the aforementioned array of quick releases and thru-axles. There’s also a power cable and the usual paperwork, including basic instructions and a code allowing one-month’s free access to the Tacx Training App (about which more later).

What are the highlights of the Tacx Neo 2T?

‘It’s got to be road feel,’ says Robinson. ‘You can feel when you’re on cobbles and gravel, or crossing a cattle grid. You can even simulate ice. When you pair it up to a third party app you’ll feel it when you get to that point in the game.’

For Zwifters, this will be a big selling point. Not only is the pedalling action remarkably smooth and consistent, if you are riding in a virtual world such as Zwift’s Wattopia, you will feel the vibrations of wooden slats on a bridge or the judders of cobbles – it all helps to make the indoors feel more like the outdoors.

What’s more, with the power cable plugged in, the Neo 2T can simulate downhills, driving the motor itself to allow you to freewheel, just as you would in a real race or on a real ride.

‘It's a virtual flywheel so it’s virtually silent,’ Robinson continues. ‘There are no belts or anything in there, so there’s no friction. The noise is extremely low.’

He’s not kidding. The turbo unit itself makes hardly any noise at all, with most of the decibels coming from the chainset of the bike and wheezing of the rider. I happily conducted turbo sessions in my hallway while the rest of my family watched TV in the next room with no complaints. This is a huge advancement on older turbos that often sounded like a jumbo jet taking off.

‘Because there’s no actual flywheel – it’s a virtual flywheel – it can pick up incredibly quickly,’ says Robinson. ‘When it’s on it’s on and when it’s off it’s off. You’re not waiting for the flywheel to spin down between recoveries. Your power comes straight back down and straight back up again.’

This is an element that I found particularly valuable during training sessions, especially when performing short intervals. One of my go-to sessions is a series of 30-second sprints at full gas, with 30 seconds recovery in between, and I was impressed by how quickly the Neo 2T reacted to changes in power.

 

At the end of each 30-second period, it would take less than a second to switch from very low power to very high power, with no lag or sense that I was fighting the flywheel. And in ‘erg’ mode it was simple to set my power parameters and then just pedal without having to keep tabs on my power figures.

‘It’s really accurate,’ says Robinson, ‘to within +/-1%, and you don’t need to calibrate it – ever.’ It’s also capable of simulating gradients up to 25% and can handle power inputs up to 2,200 watts, although I can’t confirm those claims, not having the Chris Hoy-esque thighs required to hit those numbers.

What I can confirm is that the unit was remarkably stable while performing sprints, and it remained unflappable in the face of anything I could throw at it.

Buy the Tacx Neo 2T now from Tredz for £1,199

Comparison to the competition

As mentioned, the Tacx Neo 2T is sturdy, quiet, accurate and pairs easily with all the apps you care to think of via ANT+ and Bluetooth. But there are a number of other trainers out there that can make similar claims.

The likes of the Wahoo Kickr and the Elite Drivo II are similar direct mount smart trainers, and can claim similar performance stats to the Neo 2T. The Drivo II claims an even greater max wattage – an insane 3,600w at 60kph – and a better accuracy to within +/-0.5%, all while coming in at the same price: £1,199.

The Kickr can’t quite match the Neo 2T for simulated gradient or accuracy (claimed 20% and +/-2%) but it does come in £200 cheaper than the Neo 2T and that’s before you consider the cassette, which is included with the Kickr.

So where does the Tacx Neo 2T outshine its rivals? There’s the ‘road feel’ that Robinson alluded to, and that will be important to some users who want that immersive, ‘gamification’ experience. But, for me, the main reasons to opt for the Neo 2T come down to two aspects.

First is the ability to function without a power cable. Nearly all the rival smart trainers require to be plugged into the mains in order to operate properly; the Neo 2T works just fine without it. The only thing you can’t do when unplugged is simulate freewheeling on descents, which is no real hardship.

The ability to function without a cable means you can set up in a garage, shed or out on the balcony without having to trail an extension lead across your lawn. It also means you could take the trainer to a race or sportive to do warm-ups beforehand.

The other reason to go with the Neo 2T is its looks. I mean, if you are going to have a heavy lump of equipment hanging around your house, you might as well have something that looks like a spaceship from Star Wars (a Lambda-class T-4a Imperial Shuttle, to be exact).

Compared to the lumpy offerings of other brands, the Neo 2T is sleek, elegant and sexy. It even has a light that shines on the floor, which changes from cool pink at slow speeds to fiery red when you’re laying down the watts. It doesn’t serve any real purpose, but it’s still a nice touch.

Any weaknesses?

A handle would really help when it came to moving the unit around, but other than that it is hard to fault the smart trainer itself.

The accompanying Tacx Training App, however, is less impressive. Its selling point is a series of videos of famous climbs including the likes of the Koppenberg, Passo Giau and Mont Ventoux.

The trainer will simulate the gradient of the climb while you watch the countryside glide slowly past. It should be the perfect virtual cycling experience, especially for people locked up indoors during a time of pandemic, but I found it somewhat uninspiring.

Watching a video of Ventoux is just not the same as being there, and I quickly became frustrated at the lack of interactivity. For example, if you see a rider up ahead on the video, no amount of pedalling will help you catch up with them, which is strangely infuriating.

Having tested out a few locations, I soon found that I wasn’t inclined to try out more, especially as the price of full access to the app is £9.99 a month.

 

The app includes training sessions, which can be performed in ‘erg’ mode (fixed power) or ‘slope’ mode (fixed gradient). It is also possible to create your own training sessions, although you have to go to the desktop platform in order to build sessions, which then appear on the app.

Essentially, it’s not quite as good as training apps such as Trainer Road, nor as entertaining as virtual riding apps such as Zwift and RGT. That said, the Neo 2T connects perfectly with those apps so you’re under no obligation to part with a tenner for the Tacx app each month to get the most from your indoor sessions.

Buy the Tacx Neo 2T now from Tredz for £1,199

Conclusion

The Tacx Neo 2T is a perfect marriage of form and function. It’s robust and accurate enough for serious training, realistic and fun to ride in virtual worlds, and looks like a work of modern art.

Just be careful. Spend too much time on the Neo 2T and you may not want to go riding outside any more.

All reviews are fully independent and no payments have been made by companies featured in reviews

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