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Elite’s New Tuo Smart Trainer: First Look and Specs

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You know, for a toaster, it rides pretty well.

I’m serious – Elite’s newly announced Tuo smart trainer actually feels way better than I expected it would. Which isn’t a knock on Elite, but a compliment. The reality is that for the most part wheel-on smart trainers just don’t have the inertia (and thus road-like feel) of most direct drive trainers. Sure, some non-smart units of yesteryear did, but most of today’s models don’t. These days wheel-on trainers like the Tuo tend to be low-end affairs without much focus on road-feel (or looks). Elite seems to have changed both though with this unit.

Assuming you appreciate toasters anyway. Fear not, I love myself a good toaster.

First though, note that this isn’t a review, and doesn’t even rise to the my classification level of “Hands-On”, though I did get handsy with it. Instead, I’m keeping it as “First Look” since my riding time is only briefly on a show-floor without any comparative data.  This trainer is a bit behind the curve in terms of availability, so availability is looking like October to Europe, and either late October or early November for the US (due to on-water container ship times from Italy to the US). It sounds like I’ll have a unit in the next week or two, so expect a full in-depth review sometime in October and consider this a bruschetta sized appetizer till then.

The Tech Details & Specs:

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There’s no mistaking the Elite Tuo for another trainer. When you see the carb grilling machine nestled in between two wooden dowels stolen from someone’s bannister railings – you’ll instantly know it’s the Elite Tuo. Gone is the plasticky look of past Elite low-end trainers, and in with a bit of Italian style and discman attached to the side. The frame is indeed a blend of metal and beechwood, which has been treated so it should stand up to any sweat. Interestingly, this isn’t the first trainer product that’s gone with wood this year – as we saw CycleOps do the same on their platform and trainer desk.

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The frame can fold up to slide under a bed or other smallish space to save room.

The frame of the trainer includes a press-down latch mechanism for locking and tightening the trainer to the frame. I much prefer this style over some units that (still) use the older never-ending spinning handle variant that takes forever to get in and out. This is a single movement and you’re done.

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Now as noted and hopefully you’ve realized by now, this is a wheel-on trainer At this price point we haven’t quite gotten to direct drive (meaning, you take your rear wheel off). Direct drive trainers are generally preferred as they eliminate slippage issues for the most part, and they also tend to be easier to calibrate (or at least, more consistent to calibrate). On the flip side, if you’re not thrilled by the prospects of removing your rear wheel each time you want to ride, this makes it easy to just pop the whole bike on there as-is:

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The tire will then rest on the main resistance unit of the trainer, where the silver box that holds the roller presses against your tire. In addition inside there are all the electronic bits.

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It’ll plug in the back to provide power for the unit, which is used for all the smart features including transmission of power, speed, and cadence via both ANT+ & Bluetooth Smart. In addition, it includes both ANT+ FE-C & Bluetooth Smart FTMS trainer control. In other words, basically all the stuff you’d expect from a tech standpoint. There’s three status lights on the upper edge so you can sort out power, ANT+, and Bluetooth Smart connectivity status

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This means interactivity on apps like Zwift, TrainerRoad, Kinomap, The Sufferfest, Fulgaz and plenty of others will work as normal. Those apps can control the trainer up to an incline of 10% grade, and a max power of 1,250 watts (at 40KPH), or an unachievable 2,050w (at 60KPH). Though, I suspect your rear tire would probably melt through the tostapane at 60KPH. But yeah, technically it was tested by Elite to those levels.

However, in many ways what surprised me the most was the road-like feel. Sure, I had seen the trainer numerous times over the past few months, but never quite had the chance to jump on it with a bike attached. However, at Eurobike there was a bike, a power cord connected, and my legs halfway functional. So I gave it a spin.

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And within about two pedal strokes I was frankly confused. This did not feel like a typical wheel-on trainer, cheap or otherwise. It felt like a mid to high-end direct drive trainer from a feel standpoint. Sure, I was riding it at the end of a long show-floor day on two hours of sleep with running shoes on flat pedals, but having been jumping on trainers all day long – this was definitely different. This felt…I don’t know…good?

I grabbed a few of the Elite folks to validate I wasn’t crazy. I mean, it’s kinda hard to be like “So, this trainer doesn’t suck, does it?” – but they got the gist of what I was asking, and apparently there actually are changes to how the internals of this unit works compared to others. Elite partnered with the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Mathematics ITWM around the power accuracy as well as how to handle the variations in speed data coming off the flywheel to more accurately replicate the outdoor pedaling road-like feel.

All of which is again, a long way of saying it doesn’t suck.

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Again, I do want to get it into the DCR studio and see if my brain agrees with this assessment on an actual night of sleep and a final unit. Though realistically this was probably the single biggest stand-out item for me on that second day of Eurobike, so it seems unlikely to change significantly. What may vary is the actual accuracy. The unit claims +/- 3% accuracy, which is on the better end of average for this price range.

Still, Elite has had a bit of a rougher go of accuracy over the last few months in some of their newer products – so hopefully by the time Tuo arrives those tweaks are incorporated into the Tuo as well. This unit doesn’t have a power meter in it like the Direto/Direto X, but instead relies on algorithms akin to those found in the Suito and Zumo. Given I haven’t tested the Tuo with other power meters for accuracy (which is internally different than the Suito/Zumo), I can’t say whether or not it’ll be accurate.

Speaking of specs, here’s the complete run-down of specs:

– Price: $499USD, October availability Europe/US expected late Oct-Early Nov.
– Wheel-on trainer, clamp lever design
– Max Resistance: 1,250w (40KPH) / 2,050w (60KPH)
– Max Incline Simulation: 10%
– Accuracy level: +/- 3.5%
– Trainer Control: ANT+ FE-C & Bluetooth Smart FTMS
– Power Transmission: Both ANT+ & Bluetooth Smart open power signals
– Cadence Transmission: Yes
– Looks like a sliced bread cooking machine: Yes
– Compatibility: Quick Release for road/mountain bikes (130/135 x 5mm), and thru-axle for 142x12mm included (with Boost 148x12mm accessory adapter available)
– Weight of trainer: 10.3KG/22.7lbs

And finally, note that it also includes their power meter link (PML) which is also known as power meter match, and can be used to connect to a power meter on your bike and use the power meter to control the power accuracy of the trainer. I don’t tend to use that feature on most trainers I test, since I find it somewhat unreliable and occasionally laggy. Though, I haven’t tested Elite’s implementation very heavily. But, it’s there if ya want it.

Wrap-Up:

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Over the past several years Elite has come a long way as an indoor trainer company. They were a company that once had over a dozen different trainer SKU’s with clinical sounding names longer than most ingredients found in processed foods. These days on their 40th anniversary of the company they’ve simplified to just a handful of trainers with single-word names. Albeit, Italian names that none of us can ever pronounce. Thus, it’s totally not my fault this just got renamed to The Toaster.

Still, with that shift, they’re also taking risks. The indoor trainer industry is full of semi-bland looking wheel-on trainers. Elite themselves has been making them for years, both for themselves and under various other brand names around the world. The Tuo simply doesn’t look like those trainers visually. Sure, that might not appeal to everyone – for which there are plenty of black, plastic, and metallic trainers still out there. And, some might even correctly point out there’s not much cohesion between the rest of the Elite line and the Tuo. That’s true too, the Tuo’s external design was outsourced to Adriano Design, a nearby design firm. And then there’s the price – at $499 it’s less expensive than most of the options in this category that are closer to $599.

On the flip side, we’ll need to see if Elite can actually deliver on accuracy here. The Suito that was announced in July hasn’t been nailed yet in terms of accuracy, though Elite says they’re close. And the same is somewhat true of the Direto X when it comes to ERG mode stability. We’ve also seen some early teething pains on Suito’s as they’ve started to ship with various production issues. Of course, they just started arriving in the last few days – and having early shipping unit pains seems to be the norm for trainer companies these days (a trend I’m not thrilled about).

In any case – I’m definitely looking forward to getting back on the Tuo and seeing if it can find itself a spot in the trainer recommendations guide for this fall. Hopefully that’ll be sooner rather than later!

With that – thanks for reading!

Heads up: You can pre-order the Elite Tuo via Clever Training. Doing so helps support the site here, and you can use DCR Reader Coupon Code [DCR10BTF] to save yourself 10%, plus of course free US shipping. Thanks for the support!

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39 Comments

  1. Andrew

    Typo in “where the silver box that holds the roller presses against your time.”
    Any benefit in wooden legs?

    • Andras TheZwiftBull

      @Andrew, yeah,they will brake more easily if you abuse them…wait, that’s not a benefit…But they are Italians, so a little trade off on quality for good looking is always acceptable I guess… 😀 To the heck with it, I even like the form of their toaster 😀

    • hanz

      I guess they use wooden legs because they absorb vibrations in certain frequency bands.
      For the same reason you have photography standards made out of wood.

    • I believe the main reason for the wooden legs here is purely aesthetic.

  2. Boris

    Ray, toast it! 😂🤣😁

    link to youtu.be

  3. Bruno

    Nice and fun post as usual!

    There is a typo on the 3rd sentence. “Which isn’t a knock on Elite, but a complement.” I guess you meant “compliment”, right?

  4. Mr Ian Marchant

    I quite like the look of this. Wonder if there is a possibility that they may be able to sell just the toaster part to people who have their older not so smart trainers?

    Possible typo in “And the same is somewhat true of the Direto X when it comes to ERG more stability.”?

    I thought it should be “ERG mode stability”?

    • Yeah, I do wish more companies would offer upgrade kits for new resistance units.

      4iiii (STAC) & Kinetic are really the only ones to do so to my knowledge – and in the case of Kinetic, they’ve done an astoundingly good job of that over the years. Somewhat of a ‘everything is always compatible with everything’ type strategy. I think its helped them when they’ve made stumbles in other areas.

      (Thanks on mode)

    • Dave Lusty

      I think the issue there is that the metal frame is such a small cost in the whole it wouldn’t make it any cheaper for the consumer. Metal legs are easily recycled and most countries make this easy, so very little benefit from a waste perspective aside from the carbon emmissions of making and shipping them. Ultimately it’s probably beneficial to them to have more older lower quality units out there being gifted to get people started for free so they get hooked and buy a better newer model.
      I can’t really think of any huge benefit of upgrades for consumer or vendor aside from feeling less wasteful. In fact, thinking about it I would prefer to buy a whole unit and gift the old one than throw away the old and working resistance unit while saving just the legs

    • Rick

      +1

      What do I do with my original Kickr with the toasted PCB? (keeping with the Tuo theme)?
      What do I do with my replacement original Kickr when I upgrade to a new direct drive or bike?
      Features are being added faster than the hardware cost justifies. It makes me reluctant to upgrade, particularly because of the materials that then become “waste” without an ability to recycle them.

      I’d love (and would pay for) an upgrade path or at least a recycling option.

  5. dizpark

    At first, when I looked at the first pic of Tuo, I was mildly excited, because it looked like Elite have produced something akin to STAC/4iiii – silent magnetic field trainer etc. with magnets hiding in the sides of the toaster.

    It may just be a pre-production unit, but the way the ends of the wooden legs are cut off at a straight angle do not make any sense to me. I would think that they need to be at an angle, with a matching end cap, so that they sit flat on the floor/mat.

  6. Mike

    Hi, thanks for this first look !

    The Elite Tuo is only ~150€ cheaper than the Elito Suito (which can be found at ~600€ in UE), does it means that the Suito will still have a better value for money at the end (15% max inclinaison, lower noise) ?

    Do you know when you will update the review of the Suito ? I am still hesitating between the 4iiii fliight, a classical Tacx Flux, the Suito or maybe this one…

  7. Jason Titus

    “Assuming you appropriate toasters anyway”
    I think “assuming you _appreciate_ toasters anyway” sounds more correct to me.

  8. Robert

    It’s strange to see them taking such attention to the aesthetics, and then have that power cable coming straight out in the middle of nowhere, looking like a Friday 5pm afterthought just waiting for someone to knock on it and break both the cable and the internal connector. And the square-cut legs – mamma mia, estetico, prego…

  9. Jim Robertson

    I must be missing something. I’m a decidedly non-expert but frequent-rider road cyclist, 72 yo, and I’ve just left the perfect Sonoma County, CA climate for Missoula, MT. One of the things I dread most is winter, and not being able to ride (although people keep telling me the Bitterroot Valley is Montana’s Banana Belt. So, if all I’m looking for is to watch the scenery of chosen rides on my 4K OLED TV, and I don’t care whether there’s an elevator underneath my front wheel, I can get some semblance of a replication of my riding experience for $3500 (Wahoo Bike), or for $500 (this guy), but I’ll be sacrificing the elevator, probably some power measurement accuracy (not important since at my age and conditioning level I probably would be a good advertisement for the Democrats as regards why Trump shouldn’t kill the light bulb standards!)

    Is that in any way a potential summary of the position of this device in the marketplace?

    Oh, and the typos: seems obvious you were short on sleep when you typed this. I appreciate all you do. Your site is an AMAZING resource.

    • It’s a bit hard to make concluding statements till I get one in the DCR Cave to fully test, but main differentiation can be things like replicating outdoor climbs better, or slippage perhaps in high intensity situations. Also, sound isn’t something I could test on the show-floor.

      I agree – I think the prices are getting crazy. Of course, at the opposite end stuff like the bike is replicating a complete bike, so there’s an element of the bike being in there as well as a cost factor.

  10. Rob

    “…at $499 it’s less expensive than most of the $599 options in this category.”

    Most but not all? Which $599 options are less expensive than this $499 option? 😉

  11. Todd Tannenbaum

    Hard to understand how the road feel of this trainer could improve (or even compare) to the road feel of the Wahoo KICKR Snap since the Snap has a beefy 10.5 lb flywheel. Seems like heavy flywheels is the key to giving any trainer better road feel, yes?

    Ray, it would be -great- if you could have a piece that more quantitatively measures road feel. Would be awesome to have the Tuo, the Fliiiight, and the Snap all side by side in your cave so you can ride each one successively for road feel. Even better, blindfold a few riders and have each ride the trainers successively twice in random order and see if they rank the road feel consistently. This would be the ultimate wheel-on road feel review! Heck, you could run the same blindfolded test between wheel on and wheel off trainers and scientifically prove if “road feel” is a quantitatively verifiably property or just marketing hype! Could even have folks do intervals vs zwift to definitively answer the question does road feel even matter to folks who only care about TrainerRoad type work.

    If you need help, I’ll be working in Amsterdam for a week in October, and I’d be happy to do some blindfolded trainer rides. 🙂

    • I also tried the Tuo at Eurobike. Like Ray, I was blown away by how good this trainer feels to pedal. Road feel is always going to be subjective at the end of the day, but from a quick ride, this thing felt like a wheel on trainer – at least on some gently rolling terrain. That’s a massive achievement.

      How it does that starts with something simple. It’s a considerably smaller roller than you’ll find on most other trainers. This means the flywheel spins faster, which leads to more inertia. They got around the associated tyre slip by using a grippy plastic roller.

      Beyond that, I can only speculate on how they’ve achieved this. Whatever it is, it works.

    • Todd Tannenbaum

      Thanks for the insight Mike. Is there a tension adjuster on the tire, or just a grippy roller? If just a grippy roller, I wonder if that is enough for sudden bursts which is pretty common in intervals (or zwift races for that matter). Thanks

    • Michael Hare

      No, it slips with a sprint initial burst. Also, even for an old fart like me (74), max power and incline are marginal.

    • Michael Hare

      No, it slips with a sprint initial burst. Also, even for an old fart like me (74), max power and incline are marginal.

    • Good to hear from Mike that I wasn’t crazy. I’d definitely trust Mike’s opinion here.

  12. Marcelo Ribeiro

    Have you tried an Elite`s old model, the ELite Qubo Digital Smart B+ (those Elite names….) ?
    I was planning to buy one, it is becoming cheaper now with all the new stuff coming…More than one person told that the road feel on it, was pretty good….now i`m gonna wait for your full review on the toaster….maybe a comparison between both would be nice…both has the same concept, on wheel, with the wheight of the rider putting pressure on the roler…

  13. Michael Hare

    Interesting. Looking forward to the next trainer comparo and how this stacks up against the Kickr Snap.

  14. Michael Hare

    No, it slips with a sprint initial burst. Also, even for an old fart like me (74), max power and incline are marginal.

  15. Michael Hare

    No, it slips with a sprint initial burst. Also, even for an old fart like me (74), max power and incline are marginal.

  16. General question: why can’t any of these “smart” trainers give pedaling dynamics like the tried and true CompuTrainer?

  17. Alain

    I’m would like to know how this unit compare to kickr snap, I’m in the market for my fist trainer and at the moment I think I would buy a kickr snap but this Tuo is interesting
    Not sure if something changed but as far as I know Elite doesn’t offer yet firmware update via App and it doesn’t even have a Support section on their website

  18. Benjamin

    Hi, do you also have a discount code for an european store?

    Cheers, Benjamin