The Tacx Neo Smart direct drive turbo trainer is one of most sophisticated indoor trainers available. Here is our review
It may look like Kylo Ren’s shuttle in Star Wars, but the Neo is the most sophisticated Turbo currently on the market, with a price to match. The Tacx Neo is a direct drive turbo trainer, which to the uninitiated means it connects to your bike in place of the rear wheel.
Included with the Tacx Neo is a front riser block, power socket and transformer, Edco lock rings, a quick release skewer and some Tacx software. Note that a cassette is not included meaning you will have to fit one of your own. Fortunately the Tacx Neo freehub is Edco, meaning that it is both Campagnolo and Shimano/SRAM compatible, unlike the Wahoo Kickr, which is just Shimano/SRAM compatible.
However, if you do not own a chain whip and cassette lock ring tool, you will either need to buy these, or find someone to do it for you and if you want to know how to change/fit a cassette here is a handy video guide.
The transformer for the Tacx Neo is dual voltage, meaning it works in any region too, which is useful if you want to take it abroad.
Set up of the Tacx Neo is very simple and intuitive. Folding the ‘wings’ down can be a little awkward though and it is possible to trap fingers in the hinges – I would recommend keeping it out of reach from small children for this reason. It is also hard to move around because there is no handle or obvious place to pick it up and it weighs more than a herd of bariatric hippos. Okay, well it does when you have puny cyclist arms, and the weight does result in very stable, sturdy unit once unfolded.
Like the Wahoo Kickr, the Tacx Neo is very quiet making it ideal for those who have thin walls or shared living. Having tested both, the Tacx Neo is slightly quieter too, but there isn’t much in it.
A nice feature of the Tacx Neo is you can use it when not plugged in. Pedal for a few seconds and it turns itself on using a dynamo, all be it with reduced functionality, something which is very useful for taking to races and warming up. Comparatively, The Kickr has to be plugged in for use.
Once plugged in, you can make use of the Tacx Neos full hardware features, through controlling it in the IOS or Android apps available for smart phones and tablets. I used the iPhone app which allowed to manually control the both the slope from -5% to %25. In addition to this you can set a specific wattage to ride to. This is really useful if you want to do an interval at a specified wattage – you just concentrate on turning the pedals and the Tacx Neo will adjust the resistance to match your chosen cadence. I really like this setting as it means you can watch a film and not have to stare at the numbers constantly.
The Wahoo Kickr can also perform this ergo function too. I have found the Wahoo software to be better than Tacx’s though, particularly when trying to export ride data into Training Peaks or Strava.
The Neo is better for performing out of the saddle efforts than the Wahoo Kickr. When riding the Kickr out the saddle, I felt I was going to damage my frame, where as the Neo has some built in lateral movement to aid riding out of the saddle. I wouldn’t recommend sprint efforts on it, but for gassing it on short climbs the Tacx Neo is better than the Kickr.
Buyer’s guide to turbo trainers
Accuracy impressed me. I simultaneously rode the Tacx Neo, while fitting other power meters to my bike, including PowerTap P1 pedals and an Rotor 2INPower. By comparing the power data with all three and also data from a Watt bike (used previously with the same P1 pedals) I found the data from the Tacx Neo to be consistent. Measuring downstream, at the hub means that the Tacx Neo typically reads 4-5 Watts lower than pedals or crank based meters because of the drive train losses. When doing high power efforts the power readings were consistent with what I experienced on a Watt Bike and the Tacx Neo is self calibrating too, meaning that you don’t have to perform a zero offset like you do with many power meters.
Bluetooth and ANT+ connectivity means you can connect the trainer wirelessly with your computer or phone and ride along downloaded courses or complete training sessions. It also allows you to use third party apps such as Zwift.
Having used the Tacx Neo with Zwift, the unit adjusts the resistance to simulate what is happening on screen, and is brilliant at simulating the changing gradients, recreating the feel of anything between a 20% uphill slope to a -5% downhill slope. If virtual reality training is your thing, then this is a superb tool.
One final point, but something that is becoming increasingly relevant – The Tacx Neo is not compatible with thru axels, so factor that in to your buying. If you are looking to use thru axels on your direct drive turbo then it may be worth considering the Cyclops Hammer direct drive turbo. We haven’t reviewed it yet though. The Wahoo Kickr cannot take a thru axel, but you can purchase an adapter kit so that it will fit a 142×12 compatible bike frame.
All the functionality of the Tacx Neo comes at hefty price of £1200 (not including cassette remember) sitting it at the very top of the market, so you’re certainly going to have to have deep pockets and really, really love indoor training to take the plunge. If most of your training is turbo based and you are a big fan of virtual reality apps then an expensive unit like the Tacx Neo is well worth consideration. For more information, head over to Tacx.
The Tacx Neo is a great piece of hardware that has a really realistic ride feel and is impressively quiet. If noise is important to you, then this is a great option. If you can live with some additional noise or want to annoy your neighbours then a less expensive smart trainer could serve you just as well for playing things like Zwift. The Tacx Neo is more sophisticated than the Wahoo Kickr and slightly better across the board. However the Kickr wins in a couple of areas - it is easier to carry and the Wahoo Software is better and more intuitive.