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

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!

You can now pre-order the Tacx NEO 2T from Clever Training, which helps support the site. Shipping should be very shortly, and if you use the CT/DCR VIP Program, you can get 10% back in points. Plus of course, free US shipping.

(P.S. – Preemptive before you ask about the Tacx Neo Bike: It’s very plausible they’ll announce shipping has commenced before the end of the week. It’s also plausible they won’t. They’ve already moved containers of units to Garmin’s distribution center in the US (Olathe), as well as have a warehouse ready to send out trucks in Europe to distributors/retailers with units already built. They continue to wait on one last certification before shipping. With the Garmin acquisition, Tacx is subject to a far greater number of certifications globally  – 10 in total – prior to shipping that previously required, including some unanticipated country-specific ones related to the classification of the product from a trainer to a ‘spinning bike’. Apparently one final one is holding up the lot.)

DC Rainmaker:

View Comments (332)

  • So I must be doing something wrong. I hope...

    I upgraded from a Hammer H2, using a bike with Ultegra 10 speed cassette. The shifting was off. I used the Tacx spacer, and had to re-index the shifting. Nice...

    Then the ride was odd. The H2 felt like the flywheel kinda dragged along at time, like coasting. The 2T didn't coast at all. The power kept jumping all over the place too. Not huge, I guess, but it was like 20 watts or so at similar cadence. It was also quick to death spiral if the cadence drifted lower, it seemed.

    What settings are there and what should I have set? I was hoping for a 'deluxe ride', and out of the gate had issues. Disappointing...

    Thanks for any ideas on what's happening...

    • PS. The trainer speed is a made up number based on the flywheel rpm and the imaginary wheel diameter. It's best not to worry about it in erg mode.
      If you're doing two identical workouts in erg mode and using the same gearing ratio the speed will only be the same if you hold the same cadence. That's why both your graphs have different speeds, yet similar power.
      Nothing wrong with either trainer there!

      I typically tend to use a higher cadence as my legs fatigue. It's totally normal.

    • All good. Best of luck getting things dialled in and getting back to your training.
      I'm sure nearly any trainer can give you solid results in that regard. Warts and all.

    • Several of the Zwift L’Etape du Tour de France rides require a slow cadence. Zwift actually demands the cadence be below a certain high set point. Trying to get that low on the 2T seemed very slow, and the effort seemed to increase a bit, which didn't make sense, or make it productive to fight it. I don't usually ride low cadence as it stresses my knees too much.

      According to the graphs I posted, I expected the 'speed' to be more similar between the two as ERG would keep the power close to the set point. I did pull a power graph out of each ride, and the power is remarkably the same except for some high instantaneous spikes on the 2T. Is the speed difference because of the flywheel, which doesn't make sense to me. Shouldn't they be largely similar for similar input?

      The changes between the two trainers have me thinking of returning the 2T. It's so much more *different* than the H2. There seem to be so many little issues with the design/operation of the 2T, to me. I don't know which one is more realistic, or even better, from a training standpoint, and don't have much hope that Garmin (Tacx itself still perhaps) will be able, or inclined, to address them, or if they even need to be fixed. Perhaps I was spoiled on the H2. It is my first smart trainer, and I can't dismiss the idea that it might not be the 'best trainer', but seemed to work. I was just having issues with power dropping, and cadence being sketchy at times.

      An issue I discovered with the 2T is that my pain cave floor isn't level. The 2T has no inherent leveling feature, so I'm using some 1/2" workbench gripper pucks I got at the local hardware. They actually nailed the height I needed, so far. The frame seems to creak and rock a little more though. (And I wonder if my house is sinking)

      The H2 does have a 'real' flywheel. I never noticed it until I was trying to move it. Having no flywheel makes me wonder why the 2T is so heavy. There must be a lot of ballast in it.

      Thanks for your replies. It's given me a lot to think about.

    • Hi CowRob,
      Try it and see what happens. The speed and cadence should mirror each other as the reported speed is linked directly to cadence and gear ratio.
      You really shouldn't have to be pedalling in lower gears on the Neo. I do it because I'm riding XCM and that's how it feels, but the unit works fine with higher gear ratios.
      There's a wattage floor on every traine9r that can cause problems in higher gears. That could be causing you to chase power targets through a reduction in cadence?
      No shame in having a lower FTP than the next person. There's always someone cooler than you. I'm very familiar with having my ass handed to me by a 100kg mate with a lower FTP than me.

      Is it possible that lowering the gearing is causing the low inertia feeling?
      If so, it's a totally different beast doing workouts at opposite ends of the gearing range. It'll catch you out if you're not careful.
      I'm sure if you train in the gearing range you use most outside you'll get s o me solid results on the 2T.

      I noticed that the H2 has a 20lb flywheel. That's a big flywheel. Bigger than the Kickr even.
      I'd guess if you're training for a TT that would be very realistic.

    • I don't usually change gears in rides. I can ride the H2 for the same TR ride again, and see what it looks like. The only time I change physical gears is when not riding in ERG mode.

    • And another pic of the same workout showing power.
      Personally, I've found very little difference between the feel of the virtual flywheel and a real flywheel design.
      Have you tried doing the same workout in the same gear on both units? You mention in your earlier comment that you had to run the 2T in a different gear? That doesn't sound right.

    • Hey CowRob.
      Both those graphs look similar to graphs from the Kickr or the Neo2. Cadence and speed track each other if you stay in the same gear throughout a workout.
      The second graph from the H2 looks like you changed gears early on and then stayed in a higher gear.
      What is the power doing during intervals using erg mode?

      Here's a similar pic using the same gear for the entire workout.

    • Here is a Garmin Connect graph of a ride with the Neo 2T, and the H2. The 2T drives like a fixie spin bike.

      The difference is quite striking. This is the Baxter ride.

    • Hi CowRob,
      I can't say I've used the H2, so no idea about that comparison. I do own a Kickr and the Neo2 for reference.
      During the middle of a workout on the Neo2 I tried to see if it would coast at different power outputs.
      If you're only putting out 100-150watts it coasts just fine. Bump that up and the resistance unit stops any coasting pretty quickly. It's much the same on the Kickr.
      A bit like riding outside on a 30% grade and trying to coast.

      Does the Hammer behave differently to this?

      I've found the latest update on the Neo2 noticeably coasts more than the earlier firmware versions. Maybe the 2T behaves differently to the Neo/Neo2?
      (I'd figured the extra coasting at low speed was to limit the virtual slip when stomping on the pedals at low flywheel speeds).

      Gotta love a death spiral. Legs say no then computer says no!
      Spanish Needle rings a bell.

    • So I called Garmin. Glad I did.

      They said my 2T is working as it should.

      So, in ERG mode, there is no simulated flywheel. The 2T is holding me to the set point. If I stop pedaling, I have to fight to get it turning again (death spiral) until it's up to what is required. There is no 'coasting' in ERG mode on the 2T. Supposedly it DOES coast in 'sim mode'. Also, the 2T requires the rider to be in a smaller gear. I rode the H2 in the big ring, towards 18 to 20. The 2T wants me in the small ring, and probably at 5 to 7. That is why it was death spiraling on me. I was trying to slow my cadence down to get the power set point, and it was thinking I was dropping power and demanded more. (I thought that regardless of the input, the 2T should be holding the set point. It seems odd that it demands (asks?) for the input to be within a certain range)

      ALL of this is contrary to how the H2 works. It has a real flywheel, obviously, and that flywheel sometimes makes riding the H2 difficult, but it always works.

      This has been interesting... The assumptions and method of handling the same task/process. The way they handle ERG mode seems wrong, but *shrug*.

      I also need to work on my pedaling, to be smoother, but anyway.

      So this has been a learning experience. I hope my commentary and experience will help someone in the future...

    • I donated all my old 10-speed parts to recycle-a-bike, so it's off to the LBS to get a spacer.

      You can delete this comment/thread if you want. I'll get along. I do love the quietness of the 2T. I'll survive.

    • And I just found this 'tacx faqx' page.

      So, for Ultegra cassettes, 2mm of spacers have to be installed. It's not in the manual, and hasn't been since the Neo 2, possibly the original Neo.

      Sorry I didn't know that.

      I debated on using my 11 speed Roubaix. I should have done that for sure. I wouldn't have had any issues with the shifting. DOH!!!

    • The power jumped as I slowed my cadence playing with position on the bike. It surprised me. Death spiral is a little harsh possibly...

      And on the spacer, use the H2 spacer AND the Tacx one too?

    • Never seen that on coasting on the 2T and I've been throwing all sorts of wonky things at it as of late. In fact, I've never seen a death spiral on a NEO at all.

    • Just the cassette. Following the directions with the 2T, unless that spacer they have in the bag is not the spacer I need.

      Someone on FB just told me to use the spacer from the H2 AND the Tacx spacer. That seems a little extreme to me, but now I've got a freaked out Ultegra rear derailleur, and need to get it back to reality so I can swap wheels for trainer.

      And by 'coasting', I meant that the flywheel made up for some irregularities in my cadence. The 2T death spiraled a couple of times as I adjusted myself to the new normal. I generally have a fairly consistent cadence, I thought.

    • Did you take the full cassette (and spacers) directly off of the H2 and slide it onto the NEO? Or was this a new cassette/arrangement?

  • Any news on firmware updates to the Neo 2T fixing the undervaluing of top end power you mentioned in the test above?
    Thanks

  • I wanted to know if there is an improved feel when you are off the saddle. In the earlier version I would feel that the slip prevented me from staying up too long off the saddle. Is it better in this one?

  • I just got my Neo 2T today, I see that firmware 0.0.32 is available in the Tacx Utility app.
    Any idea what's new since 0.0.31 which was fixing the ERG mode ?
    0.0.32 must be quite recent as firmware 0.0.31 is still listed on the Garmin forums as the current one.

    • Tacx support sent me a spacer to solve the problem of the disc brake housing, and a metal piece to elongate my crank arm. Cadance is perfect now, so it wasn't a software problem.

      Riders who use a bike with a longer chain stay and experience cadance problems, should definitely look at this solution. You can easily fabricate a DIY piece.

    • Thanks for the pictures guys.

      Mark, I can certainly see why you would have trouble with the cadence. There is a pretty large distance between the sensor and your crank arm. It looks like Tacx should be thinking about tweaking the design a bit since longer chainstays aren’t going to be going away any time soon.

      mf22433, with my 420mm stays and 172.5mm crank arms I would be about 14.5mm in front of where yours is. Hopefully, that will be close enough. If not I guess I can always use something to extend it like Mark or just use my Garmin cadence sensor that is on the crank I guess.

    • See the picture below, the position of my crank relative to the base of the 2T (I think the cadence sensor is located at the base of the non drive side of the 2T).

      The length of your crank may play a role as well, mine are 175mm.

      I can imagine that with a chainstay of 448 like Mark's (4cm longer than mine) it will place the crank further away from the 2T and that could be an issue. A 165mm would again increase the gap by 1cm as compared to my 175mm.

      I understand that Tacx now has a little device to attach to the crank to "extend" it for those who would face this issue which then very much depends on the geometry of your bike.

    • My Domane SL6 has 420mm chainstays. Do you think that will be any problem for the Neo 2T? Not much longer than mf22433's 408mm.

      I think I've decided to go with the Neo 2T when Clever has their sale in the next week or two. Hopefully Tacx will not be excluded this year but with the new ownership I'm not getting my hopes up too much.

    • My bike is a Specialized Epic fully from 2015, 29inch, large, with a chainstay of 448 mm.
      I guess this might make the difference.

    • Yeah, no issues with my ride yesterday on .32 either (or .31) with cadence. Totally normal. I just have a regular non-long derailleur bike.

    • No problem with cadence in my case. Here is the picture of the 1 hour test I did yesterday. My bike is Pinarello in size 55, the chainstain is 408mm.

    • Here's the picture of my ride with the latest firmware 0.0.32, which didn't solve the problem.

      Ray, when you get the chance of doing the indept review of the Neo 2T, please pay attention to this problem. From what I've read, the issue might be happening mainly on a bike with a long chainstay. In that case the left foot doesn't reach the cadance sensor. Some have resolved it by attaching something to elongate the left crank.

    • The new firmware should solve the cadance problem some of us have.
      I got my neo 2T more than a week ago, and cadance wasn't reliable at all. I mailed Tacx support, and two days ago they mailed me that the new firmware solved the problem. But it didn't at all. Instead I got the impression the software now shows the last known cadance number when the signal drops, because my graph now shows a perfectly steady cadance, although I varied slightly and even varied a lot. Sometimes cadance completly disappeared.
      This is a picture off my first ride with 0.0.31 software. I'll post the short ride with 0.0.32 also.

    • I read that firmware 0.0.32 fixes issue with the cadence sensor.
      Anyway, after a first 1 hour test, mine works perfectly. I had a Neo 1 before and I find that the 2T give a better, smoother road feel.

  • The new 2T has a wider axle making the previous disc extractor tool useless. It also has stronger magnets making it more likely to develop the annoying traditional Neo metallic noise under the disc. The new tool is not yet available in the US. Availability is uncertain at this point.

  • Hi Is there an update on the power reading error? firmware update yet or due? Is the Elite drivo 11 now the price has dropped £850 a viable option over the 2T or even the kickr? Thanks

  • So after multiple resets, turning everything off and back on again and multiple attempts to get it to connect to my smartphone I was able to start the Mount Teide training ride.
    Except the video kept dropping out and going to a black screen despite very strong internet signal and the speed was 4km/h at 200watts on a 5% slope. Any ideas what is going on here and how to get the speed working correctly?

  • Ok, so even when I'm not pedalling it's showing I'm doing 400 or so watts?
    What is going on with this bloody thing?!
    At this rate it will be going back for a refund and I'll be back on my trusty old rollers.
    Very unimpressed with 'smart' trainers so far...

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