Hands-On: Tacx’s NEO 2T Smart Trainer With Increased Power

Update: My complete Tacx NEO 2T In-Depth Review is now available here! Hit it up for all the details after months of testing!

At Eurobike this year Tacx has announced their latest update to the Tacx Neo Series, with the new 2T trainer. For those not familiar with the Tacx lineup, the Neo series is their top of the line trainer. It’s virtually silent, has an electromagnetic flywheel that allows it to replicate road surfaces (like cobblestones), and is arguably the most powerful trainer out there.

The new NEO 2T essentially takes the Tacx NEO 2 trainer that was announced last fall and gives it more power. It does this through a combination of stronger magnets and tweaks to the magnet topology. The reasons you care about this is that it eliminates the ‘slip’ feeling that the Neo exhibited in the past when hard-sprinting at extremely low speeds. It also means faster ERG mode responsiveness. Way, way, way faster. And now native thru-axle support.

Meanwhile, on the software side, they’re close to releasing a firmware update (which isn’t ready yet) that will bring Cycling Dynamics to not just the NEO 2T, but also the existing NEO 2 trainer. That helps to close the loop a bit on Tacx’s promise last fall to ‘bring undefined new features’ to the Tacx Neo 2 down the road.

Now, I’ve been testing this trainer for a number of weeks. But part of the reason you don’t see a full in-depth review yet is that the firmware simply isn’t final yet (pre-production) – though the hardware is final. I’ll get more into the specifics down later in the post, but ultimately, I’m calling this a ‘hands-on’ look at things, with a full in-depth review to follow once some issues are worked out. In fact, even in the last 5 hours since the official announcement there’s been some tweaks to the firmware.

But again – we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s talk trainer geekery first!

What’s different:

The vast majority of the changes to the Tacx NEO 2T are internal, not external. In fact, the only external change you’ll notice is a new ‘racing stripe’ inset on the back panel of the folding NEO wing. Here you can see it next to the Tacx NEO 1 and Tacx NEO 2:

But like they teach you in grade school, it’s what’s inside that matters most. And in this case what matters most is magnets. The company has made a pile of changes internally around the magnets. It’s magnet mania. Here’s what’s different inside at a geeky level:

– Stronger Magnets: This gives it the higher torque that eliminates the slip
– Thicker Wiring: This reduces the heat output and improves efficiency
– Changing Wiring Topology: This reduces vibrations but also reduces the sensitivity of manufacturing tolerances
– Skewing of Magnets: This reduces vibrations and sounds
– New Magnet Holder: This helps in manufacturing by increasing position accuracy, but also reduces vibrations

Like I said, it’s magnet mania.

What does that all mean in real-life? Well, we’ll get to that in the First Rides section. But first, let’s look at a graph, since again, geeky. This shows you the braking power of the Tacx NEO 2T versus the NEO2, against your speed. This shows why you could cause ‘slip’ at low speeds on the NEO2 at lower speeds, as it’s more than tripled in those lower scenarios.

But beyond all this magnet mania, there’s a few practical considerations. First, it’s quieter. At least in theory, frankly – I can’t tell the difference in my studio. Maybe if I move the whole setup to the podcast recording room with the soundproofing now installed on the walls I’ll be able to hear it.

The other change coming, but not yet in any firmware, is Cycling Dynamics. That’ll give us access to the typical Cycling Dynamics suite of data, though I haven’t tried it yet to see if all the metrics are carried through, or how it stacks up against Garmin Vector 3. After all, those two should match in my mind. So I’m keen to see how that looks. And for that matter, how it might stack up against Favero Assioma and their recent Cycling Dynamics update as well.

Fun testing times ahead for sure!

First NEO 2T Rides:

When I say ‘first rides’, I mean like, first, second, third, fourth, ninth, tenth, and so on. But before we get there, let’s start with some quick NEO basics – it’s the same here regardless of which model you’re on. The NEO 2T folds out just like the rest of them. Aside from the aforementioned racing strip, you’d never notice the difference between them.

 

Once unfolded you can either plug it in or not. Plugging it in ensures downhill drive (meaning, it’ll spin the flywheel when you go down a hill in apps like Zwift), and also makes it easier to pair with apps since you don’t have to pedal for it to wake up.

You’ll also need to install a cassette on it. Despite being the most expensive consumer smart trainer on the market, it doesn’t come with one:

Once that’s all done, toss your bike on it, and you’re good to go. The unit supports both quick-release and thru-axle bikes (natively now!), and includes adapters in-box for both as well:

Next, you’ll pair it up to your favorite app of choice. In my case, I used both TrainerRoad & Zwift as my main testing platforms. Both will see it enumerate via either ANT+ or Bluetooth Smart, depending on which type of device you’re using.

With that, you’re ready to pedal and get cookin:

The first thing past Tacx NEO users will notice is that the slip is gone. If you aren’t familiar with the slip, essentially it meant that if you were going a very slow speed (such as when climbing a really steep hill), and then threw down a sprint effort, it’d feel like the trainer ‘slipped’ for a second. It didn’t last very long, again, about a second or so. And for most people, you might never encounter it. But it was one of those unique Tacx Neo things. Either way, it’s gone now.

That’s largely due to the pile of extra magnets in there, and that also manifests itself in other ways – most notably ERG mode. For example, in TrainerRoad, the shifts in wattage on my 30×30 workouts were astoundingly quick. My usual test workout is ~150w up to ~400w, in 30-second sets back and forth. I do this on all trainer tests. It’s a great way to test responsiveness.

(Note: It was overshooting the ERG set point in Sunday’s firmware, that’s supposed to be fixed in today’s firmware.)

And indeed, the Tacx NEO 2T is incredibly responsive. In fact, one might make the argument that it’s actually too responsive, potentially too fast. Most trainers will take between 2-4 seconds to complete that 150w to 400w transaction, or a normal time for your body to adjust. But the NEO 2T delivers that in about 1-1.5 seconds.  Now, I say ‘might’ make the argument, because the firmware isn’t quite final yet and there’s still some tweaks to come and test there. So I’ll hold my final judgment.

Speaking of which, let’s talk about why this isn’t a full review. After all, that was definitely the plan: Hardware was final, and software was looking final too (save the Cycling Dynamics bit, which might have been a later update anyway). Unfortunately, I just couldn’t get power values to match with trusted power meters in my arsenal. I tried a Quarq DZero, Garmin Vector 3, Favero Assioma, and 4iiii Precision Pro. And while the values on the latest firmware were close – they weren’t good enough.

I was consistently getting the Tacx NEO 2T underreporting power by about 4-6% – which is way too much, even despite the drive chain loses. I went through a few more new 2T’s, and in turn they made some tweaks to firmware and calibration machines, and the process repeated itself a few times. But ultimately, even with new tests this morning – I couldn’t get accuracy where I want it.

And more importantly – I just wasn’t on final consumer firmware anymore, which is generally my bar for an in-depth review.

Now, it’s very likely they’re gonna sort this out pretty quick. Even just in the last 5 hours since the NEO 2T’s announcement they think they may have cracked the nut on what’s going on. They had engineers spending all day, and frankly, all this past weekend on it. I even met them Saturday afternoon at the factory on my way to Eurobike so they could diagnose not just the trainer, but my bike too, to try and figure it out and if it was something unique to me.

At this point (10PM our time), they think they know what might be going on, and are working on a firmware update to address it. If they can do that, and if I can get some more rides in with various software and it checks out, then I’ll happily release my in-depth review accordingly. It doesn’t sound like they’re shipping products until they sort this out. Which again, could be tomorrow.

I don’t want this to sound negative by the way – I think it’s hugely positive that a company is willing to listen and iterate to the feedback, working quickly to sort out what’s wrong. The best companies do that, and they don’t just pretend it doesn’t exist.

Wrap-Up:

Assuming Tacx can work out the minor firmware issues – I suspect the NEO 2T will easily firmly implant itself in the usual Neo series location at the top of the trainer pyramid. The stronger magnets have resolved the virtual slip aspects, and atop that, you’ve got Cycling Dynamics coming. This will be the first trainer to support the standard (remember it became a standard a while back). Right now it does though already show power balance between left and right legs, though again, I’ll withhold judgment on that until I get the final firmware.

As far as pricing and availability, it’s essentially the same as the NEO 2, so that’s €1,299/$1,399/£1,199, with availability being pretty close to immediate – they’ve already been building and stockpiling units over the last month. Again, pending the final firmware update piece – which can be done after the fact anyway.

I’m looking forward to getting that and putting it through its paces. As many readers know, most of the time when I’m not testing something I’m using the Tacx NEO 2 as my main trainer. So getting rid of the minor slip issue will be great. Hang tight for that review soon, oh, and thanks for reading!

Found this review useful? Or just want a good deal? Here’s how:

Hopefully you found this review useful. At the end of the day, I’m an athlete just like you looking for the most detail possible on a new purchase – so my review is written from the standpoint of how I used the device. The reviews generally take a lot of hours to put together, so it’s a fair bit of work (and labor of love). As you probably noticed by looking below, I also take time to answer all the questions posted in the comments – and there’s quite a bit of detail in there as well.

I’ve partnered with Clever Training to offer all DC Rainmaker readers exclusive benefits on all products purchased.  By joining the Clever Training VIP Program, you will earn 10% points on this item and 10% off (instantly) on thousands of other fitness products and accessories.  Points can be used on your very next purchase at Clever Training for anything site-wide.  You can read more about the details here.  By joining, you not only support the site (and all the work I do here) – but you also get to enjoy the significant partnership benefits that are just for DC Rainmaker readers.  And, since this item is more than $49, you get free 3-day (or less) US shipping as well.

Tacx NEO 2T –  (Clever Training)

For European/Australian/New Zealand readers, you can also pickup the unit via Wiggle at the links below, which helps support the site too! With Wiggle new customers get 10GBP (or equivalent in other currencies) off their first order for anything over 50GBP by using code [Currently Disabled] at check-out after clicking the links below.

Tacx NEO 2T (EU/UK/AU/NZ – Wiggle)

And finally, below I made a handy list of accessories that most folks getting a trainer for the first time might not have already.

Thanks for reading! And as always, feel free to post comments or questions in the comments section below, I’ll be happy to try and answer them as quickly as possible.

ProductAmazon LinkNote
Basic Trainer MatThis is a super basic trainer mat, which is exactly what you'll see me use. All it does is stop sweat for getting places it shouldn't (it also helps with vibrations too).
Cassette Installation/Removal ToolsThere are *many* variations of cassette removal tools, this is the best bang for your buck. Don't overthink this. You'll likely only use this tool once every 2-3 years.
Front Wheel Riser BlockHere's the thing, some people like front wheel blocks, some don't. I'm one of the ones that do. I like my front wheel to stay put and not aimlessly wiggle around. For $8, this solves that problem. Note some trainers do come with them. Also note, I use a riser block with *every* trainer.
Honeywell HT-900 FanI've got three of these $12 fans floating around the DCR Cave, and I frequently use them on rides. They work just fine. Sure, they're not as powerful as a Wahoo Headwind, but I could literally buy 20 of them for the same price.
RAD/Lifeline Cycle Trainer DeskSo here's the thing - this desk is both a knock-off of the KICKR Desk, but also better than it. First, it's got wheel locks (so the darn thing stays put), and second, it has two water bottle holders (also useful for putting other things like remotes). I've been using it as my main trainer desk for a long time now and love it. Cheaper is better. Note: Branding varies by country, exact same desk.
Shimano R7000 105 Cassette (11-speed)This is a Shimano 105 cassette (thus, slightly more budget compared to the Ultegra), in most cases, you probably won't notice the difference. Ensure that the number of speeds matches your bike (e.g. 11-speed, 10-speed, 9-speed, etc...).
Shimano R8000 Ultegra Cassette (11-speed)This is a Ultegra cassette, you can save about $10-$15 by picking up a Shimano 105 instead. Ensure that the number of speeds matches your bike (e.g. 11-speed, 10-speed, 9-speed, etc...).
Tacx Tablet Bike MountI've had this for years, and use it in places where I don't have a big screen or desk, but just an iPad or tablet on my road bike bars.
DC Rainmaker:

View Comments (452)

    • I was thinking exactly that. I ditched my Tacx Neo to use the Wahoo Climb. A Neo and Climb comparability would be my ideal set up.

  • Anything here (or in other Tacx products) reflecting that Tacx is now part of Garmin? I was sort of hoping that we might see some sort of novel integration. Not even sure what that would look like--I'm not a product designer--but you'd think there might be something Garmin could leverage to make Tacx trainers stand out from the crowd. As you've discussed previously, we're approaching the flat of the curve on improvements in power accuracy and noise. . .

    • Jeez I hope not.

      I'm hoping Garmin keep at arms length. I wouldn't use another Garmin product if they gave it me.

      Whereas I see few if any issues with The Neo (a ton of QA issues with their cheaper trainers though) but this one seems to work.

  • Amazed that there’s never a mention of bike compatibility. I recently purchased Neo 2 to use for fitness with Trek FX2. Unfortunately crank arm or chain stay length is too long to trigger cadence sensor. Supposedly there’s an extension kit available but never does Tacx mention this anywhere

    • Generally Tacx is pretty good about exact part lists. Have you tried contacting Tacx support and asking for the exact part number?

    • I filed ticked with Tacx weeks ago. They are very responsive but couldn’t identify the cause. Lucked on to tacxfaqx.com and Drew Epstein suggested that it might be crank arm chain stay length. I’m just suggesting that Tacx or u point out in requirements and equipment reviews that this is an issue. Saves a user from either buying the equipment or a lot of wasted troubleshooting effort. Your reviews are always spot on

    • Yeah, to be honest, bike compatibility issues are super rare on the Tacx NEO 2 at this point (and most other trainers that have shifted to support longer derailleur cages).

      Tacx does actually have a cutout you can print somewhere on their website for you to double-check compatibility with your frame. Though again, since the switch from NEO1 to NEO2, I haven't seen any discussion in the comments about people running into issues. In fact, I think you're the first person.

      The challenge with frame compatibility in general is there are tens of thousands of bikes out there, and even simple component changes can make or break something.

    • I suspect most don’t pair a Trek FX2 with this trainer as it’s a fitness bike vs serious road bike. I’ve scoured Tacx website and have never seen the cutout you mentioned. There are more than one of us with the cadence trigger issue, mostly soft vs. Hardware but, we’re out here. If this saves one person the aggravation then it was worth mentioning. Btw, Tacx is making no commitments re extender at this point

    • Hi Ray.
      Thanks for the article. I'm looking forward to the final report.

      The cadence sensor doesn't work on either of my bikes when fitted to the Neo 2. Scott Spark RC 29er and my Merida hardtail with 27.5 wheels, both with 175mm cranks fitted. Tacx support is aware of the issue and suggested an adapter was on the way. A bent teaspoon tucked into a crank boot works a treat while we wait!

      The problem can be caused by shorter cranks or a longer chain stay. It's very real on many bike frames out there, but I think most people don't care much. It's easy to add an extension or use another cadence sensor.
      I'm sure the sentiment will change rapidly when the cycling dynamics you mention start to become useful.

      Have fun at Eurobike!
      Ross.

    • Hmm, this could be a problem for those that want to use the Apple TV with out the companion app or an additional sensor. Tacx supports Boost 148, which is common on mountain bikes, and those have really long chainstays. So, the use of a Trek FX2 with only a 445mm chainstay is really not that long. Touring bikes can have 460mm chainstays (Surly Long Haul Trucker), and mountain bikes can get even longer. I think the random frame I bought for a trainer bike, off craigslist is around 460mm.

      I've not heard of this problem before, and it's a good thing I stumbled across it, when considering a Neo 2T.

      Where on the trainer is the capacitive cadence sensor located?

    • It's a little bit annoying that I didn't know about it before purchasing my Neo2. The fix is simple enough in my case and works perfectly. See attached image.
      The cadence sensor is in front of the LEDs that your left foot passes. Behind my teaspoon!

    • I went with a chopstick with aluminum foil to class it up. Still no word from Tacx on a fix or the adaptor they promised

  • Is there any mention of FTMS support? The latest XERT app on iOS only works with it.

    Or have Tacx just silently dropped the issue?

    • It's coming this fall. Part of the challenge is that FTMS doesn't support the rider weight, which is used on the NEO & NEO bike series.

  • It looks like ordering thru Garmin is delayed 5-8 weeks.
    Is that a purposeful choice because of some other retailer agreements?
    I get a small Garmin discount, so looking for when I may be able to apply it.

    • Garmin always does that to support their retailers first.

      (Fwiw, while you don't get a discount using the DCR/CT link, you do at least get VIP points back, which is a crapton of points - $130 worth to be exact). :)

    • If you have any insights, I'm curious why Garmin does that with some products, and not others.
      For example the Fenix 6 seems to be fully available on the Garmin site from day one.

  • Hi Ray,

    How do the electronics of the Tacx Bike compare to the 2T? Does it have the slip issue? It would be a shame to finally get a Tacx Bike and find out that it was a generation behind in capability.

    • It could, but Wahoo has backtracked on their previous public promise to support 3rd party companies who wanted to add CLIMB compatibility.

    • I also was wondering this. They've formally backtracked? Pshhh.

      In that case, it's nice to see Garmin not match the pettiness, and for example prevent Wahoo from integrating its radar standard.

    • Ray, just curious whether the source for this information was publicly released information or just your privileged back-and-forth with Wahoo? And, is this the final word, or is there still hope of opening up the compatibility? Lastly, there seems to be sufficient interest in pairing a Climb with other trainers, so any professional influence you have with them would be welcome! Thank you.

    • Conversations with both sides about it.

      Yet, both Elite and Tacx have designed their latest trainers to be physically capable, should Wahoo change back their mind on it.

      I've made my point a few times to them (Wahoo).

    • So does this potentially mean, if one is so inclined, they can purchase the climb and just manually adjust the slope on the climb remote even though there’s no native control/support from Elite & Tacx line of trainers (since they’re physically capable of supporting climb)?

    • Oh ok. Didn’t know that.

      I thought the rear axle connections had to be updated if you didn’t want instantaneous carbon explosions from Wahoo’s “even some of our own models are NOT compatible.” statements.

    • I could have sworn that on Neo2 the bike is fixed. I just checked and I can move up and down (with the thru-axle adaptor). But are you certain about that Ray?

    • As always, use at your own risk.

      But you can pretty easily look at it and see if there's any resistance or not, and if the axle adapter moves with the bike, or if it's grinding against it. In the case of Wahoo's past trainers, some of them weren't even compatibility issues (such as the original SNAP), just marketing reasons as they once admitted.

    • That's exactly my thought; the axle adaptor. Going from classic QR adaptor to say thru-axle one will notice that the bits are tight fixed to the tacx. No parts can move like they can on the Kickr18 (which I eventually swapped to a Tacx due to issues). I would not dare to use a climb module on the Neo 2...

    • I agree with you Thomas.

      In my case, I use MTB's on the Neo 2. Even with the suspension locked out you get some movement up and down.

      Over a short period of time the drop outs started creaking loudly. Upon inspection it's easy to see some (minimal)wear on the bike frame.
      A tiny bit of grease stopped the noise for now. I'll probably contact support for some washers?

      Tacx really need to come up with something if we're going to have the bike moving up and down to simulate climbing.

  • I saw GPLama reporting the same power reading issues, I want to upgrade from my Neo 1, think I will wait until the firmware is sorted and the power readings are good.

  • So while you sort of covered the question about frame compatibility, after reading an overview on another site, I am unckear on the issue of thru-axles. So if you have a disc brake frame with 12x142 thru-axle, does that mean the bike can be attached to the Neo 2T with the bikes thru-axle or is Tacx still insisting on users insert adapters into the frames thru-axle holes which some have reported has caused issues with damaging the threaded side?

    • I have the same question. I have the Neo2, and not a huge fan of the thru-axle solution (although Tacx support is AWESOME with doing whatever it takes to make your bike work - I just received a custom cone adapter for my Neo2 because there was wobble on my new 2020 Specialized Roubaix - the cone adapter was too long so they sent me one 3-4mm shorter). I'd love to see a pic or get a definitive answer on this one. If you can indeed use a standard 12x142 thru-axle, that would be great news. No need to mess with additional adapters, and I don't like the piece that screws in to the drive side on the current adapter.

  • Thanks for this Ray - the Neo Bike is something I'm very, very interested in seeing. I'm never buying another trainer that I have to remove a wheel for...I just can't be bothered (and my Specialized pain-in-the-ass weird chain stay Diverge makes it a hassle anyway).

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