Tacx NEO 2T Smart Trainer In-Depth Review

It’s been just over two months since Tacx announced their NEO 2T smart trainer, the latest in the line of high-end NEO trainers. You may remember back in my launch post, it wasn’t all sunshine and unicorns for the new trainer. It, like many trainers in this 2019 indoor training season of new devices, lacked the accuracy I’d expect – especially from a top-end unit. I basically said don’t buy it yet.

So Tacx has spent a fair bit of that time working and re-working the firmware, and I think they’re finally in a relatively good spot – the point where I’ve got no issues recommending the trainer. Of course, like always, and for any product, I’ll nitpick a few things that could be improved. But on the whole I’m happy to be using this unit for my rides lately.

In this review I’ll dig into what’s changed (and whether it’s worth an upgrade or skipping a good sale on older versions), as well as all the usual details around how well the trainer works with apps, accuracy, and everything else you could possibly ask. Plus, I’ve had the advantage of some DCR Reader feedback over the past few weeks as the NEO 2T is already shipping.

Oh, and finally, as always I use devices like wilderness trails – leave nothing behind. These are media loaner units that go back to Tacx shortly. You can help support the site here by checking out the links at the end of the post (it’s already shipping/available). Doing so makes you awesome.

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:

(Left to right: Tacx NEO 1, Tacx NEO 2, Tacx NEO 2T)

But wait, before we get there, some super quick stat basics – just in case you’re not familiar:

– Direct drive trainer: This means you remove your rear wheel
– Flywheel: It has a virtual flywheel up to 125kg, the largest of any trainer on the market.
– Downhill Drive: This is one of only a handful of trainers that drives the rear ‘wheel’ forward while going down hills, thus simulating descending inertia.
– Cassette: No Tacx trainers include a cassette, which will set you back $50-$60, plus $10-$20 in tools to install.
– Sound: Identical to the original NEO, essentially silent. Only the sound of your drivetrain is heard, and a very faint hum of internal fans/electronics.
– Handle and Folding: This unit lacks a handle, which continues to make it slightly awkward to move around. It does have foldable legs though for easy storage.
– Protocol Compatibility: ANT+ FE-C, ANT+ Power, Bluetooth Smart Trainer Control, Bluetooth Smart Power
– App Compatibility: Every app out there basically (Zwift, TrainerRoad, Rouvy, Road Grand Tours, SufferFest, Kinomap, etc…)
– Skewer Compatibility: All the skewers and adapters you could ask for: Road 130mm, MTB 135mm, 142x12mm, 148x12mm
– Max Incline: 25% simulated grade, the highest of any trainer out there
– Max Wattage: 2,200 watts resistance
– Stated Accuracy: < +/-1%
– Power Cable Required: No, it can operate powered or standalone sans-power.
– Pricing and Availability: $1,399/€1,299/£1,199 Shipping Already

Now – as for the changes, 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 for the vast majority of riders (including myself)
– 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, as it’s more than tripled in those lower scenarios. Some people can apparently still cause it to slip, but they’d be pretty powerful folks. I can’t do it with my power output (up to 1,000w roughly). It’s not a straight wattage thing, but really slow-speed sprints. More on it later.

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.

So, to spoil the rest of the post – would you upgrade an existing NEO trainer? Probably not. Unless that tiny bit of slip really bothers you, I’d keep what I’d got from a NEO trainer standpoint if I already had one. And to that same extent, you’ll see some occasional sales on the existing Tacx NEO 2 units that came out last year – those are awesome as well, and will be getting the Cycling Dynamics update too. So again, go forth. for the right price.

What’s in the box:

Those astute Tacx unboxing geeks out there, you might notice the tiny change in wording to the lower right corner of the box: ‘Tacx: A Garmin Company’. Beyond that, it’s basically the same rough design as last year’s NEO 2 box.

Once you crack it open, you’ll find a skewer and thru-axle adapters, as well as some paper stuff and a portion of the power cord.

Remove the top layer and you’ve got yourself the trainer folded up inside, as well as the brown box somewhere down there with the remainder of the power cord.

Additionally, you’ll find a front wheel block for keeping your wheel slightly elevated and straight.  Here’s all the pieces laid out:

You can then unfold the trainer to its full and majestically tall height. Seriously, this thing towers over every trainer out there like some dark Star Wars overlord that it is:

Here’s a closer look at the back of that power cable. I include this picture not for you, but for me. So in a year when I’m trying to figure out which power cable is which, I can find this picture and remember.

When I’m less lazy, I usually cut out a piece of the paper envelope stuffs and tape it to the power adapter, so I know that it’s the Tacx NEO 2T. Right now I’m lazy – it’s almost coffee time and I’m gonna need it to make it through this review before I gotta get going.

Beyond attaching the cassette as we’ll discuss in about 6.2 seconds, there’s no assembly required for the NEO 2T.

The Basics & Setup:

All roads on almost all trainers start with adding a cassette. Unless you’ve got a KICKR 2018 or Elite Suito that is. But since this isn’t that review, we’re back in cassette land. So, you’ll need to pickup the right type of cassette for your bike.

I typically buy Shimano Ultegra cassettes for my trainers (mostly for sound-testing consistency across videos), but I’ve also done a few SRAM ones and whatever else happens to be on sale from the bike shop. It generally doesn’t matter, except sometimes you’ll find some of the lower end cassettes (like a Shimano 105) don’t quite sound as quiet as mid to higher-end ones. If you’ve got a new SRAM AXS bike, you’ll also need to get a different freehub adapter from Tacx as well. But since you just spent a boatload of money on that bike, spending more money will feel natural to you.

In any case, with a cassette, you’ll need two tools. A lockring tool (or lockring + a wrench, in my case), and a chain whip. In this case, you need the chain whip since you can’t get a good grasp on the flywheel.

Once you’ve got the cassette on, simply put in place either the quick release skewer or thru-axle adapter (depending on your particular bike). The unit includes a thru-axle adapter set for 142x12mm & 148x12mm.

 

Once that’s done you’ll want to go ahead and plug it in:

Now, technically speaking you don’t have to plug it in. You can use it in the middle of a race warm-up area sans power plug just fine. The only thing you’ll lose is the ‘downhill drive’ capability, which spins the wheel forward when you descend down hills (to mimic how it works for the bike in real life).  The power adapter/cord is 120/240v, so you can use it anywhere in the world if you happen to travel with it.

Also, I find that pairing is a tiny bit easier since the unit will go to sleep without a power cable. Of course, you need to only spin the cranks a few times and you’re back in business. Meanwhile, on the left side of the unit you’ll find the status lights. These are for general power, then one for ANT+ & Bluetooth Smart connectivity.

After you’ve mounted your bike, you can also slide that front wheel-block under there as well.

With that, we’re ready to roll. Now, we’ll get to app compatibility in a moment, but first let’s start with the road feel. Like I always say – for me personally, it’s hard to separate the fact that I’m riding indoors from outdoors. It’s still a trainer, and I’m still looking at a wall in front of me.  My brain can only turn off so much of that.  Still, much of the road-like feel is driven by the flywheel, and be it physical or virtual, flywheel sizes tend to be measured in weight.  This impacts inertia and how it feels – primarily when you accelerate or otherwise change acceleration (such as briefly coasting).

All that prefacing done, the Tacx NEO 2T ranks pretty darn high up there in the inertia replication standings. In the same ballpark of the CycleOps Hammer 3 & Wahoo KICKR 2018. As I’ve noted many times, my bet is that you could put different blindfolded people on different units and they’d all say totally different things on which one they felt best. Even cycling journalists. Some days I think the KICKR feels best, some days I think the NEO feels best. I suspect it’s even as nuanced as which exact gearing I’m in.

Now given the NEO 2T is a smart trainer, it’ll change resistance automatically in a few different ways, primarily driven by different applications/methods.  But most of this all boils down to two core methods:

ERG Mode: Setting a specific power level – i.e., 210w.  In this mode, no matter what gearing you use, the trainer will simply stay at 210w (or whatever you set it to).
Simulation Mode: Simulating a specific outdoor grade – i.e., 9% incline. In this mode, it’s just like outdoors in that you can change your gearing to make it easier or harder.  Wattage is not hard-set, only incline levels.

In the case of simulation (aka slope) mode, the Tacx NEO 2T can simulate from 0% to 25% incline – which is frankly way more than your legs ever want to deal with. It’s also the most of any consumer smart trainer. The Wahoo KICKR & Saris H3 top out at 20%, and the Elite Drivo at 24%.

The second mode the trainer has is ERG mode.  In that case, the company claims up to 2,2200w of resistance at 40KPH. Although, realistically, you don’t care about that. I can only barely (maybe) break 1,000w for a second or two, and even most front of the non-pro pack cyclists aren’t going to top 1,800w.  The pros would only be just a bit beyond that.  Said differently: Peak numbers don’t matter.  Instead, what matters is actually a harder metric to make clear – which is the ability to simulate high grades and lower speeds (especially if you’re a heavier cyclist).

One core test I do with all trainers though is responsiveness: How quickly does it respond to ERG mode changes? I typically do that with my 30×30 test via TrainerRoad, though it doesn’t really matter what method you use as long as you’re looking at big shifts in wattage:

In this case, the Tacx NEO 2T responded exceedingly fast. In fact, I’ve argued for a bit now that it responds too harshly (due to the extra power). Meaning, it’s too good at its job and it feels like running into a brick wall for these types of big shifts in power. Still, that’s more of a personal opinion than anything. What’s more objectively graded is how precisely it hits that shift in power (which is different than power accuracy). In this case, it overshoots slightly for these intervals, depending on how careful I am in gearing.

For example, these intervals were all at 404w, so in theory I’d expect that first second (just one second) to be in the ~400-410w ballpark, but the NEO 2T slightly overshoots each time for the first second to about ~420w. This is, however, a big improvement over back in August, when it was overshooting to 455-460w. To be fair, most trainers do some aspect of overshoot. The KICKR does it too (even more than this). So perhaps this is me slowly but surely demanding more and more as time goes on from these companies at these price points. After all, the Saris H3 nails this nicely (albeit, has other quirks instead). Don’t get me wrong, for most people, you won’t notice. I’m just not most people (you would have noticed back in August though, that hurts).

Next, there’s two non-ERG mode features that are worthwhile noting. The first is road feel. This was introduced a few years back on the Tacx NEO 1 unit and continues forward to the NEO 2 and NEO 2T.  This functionality enables the trainer to replicate the feel of the roads as you ride them in the game. Cobblestones will feel like riding on cobblestones. Planks on a boardwalk will feel just like an actual boardwalk. It really is fascinating – and has been a draw for the Neo series since it came out:

Now, there’s not a ton of training benefit here, per se. But that’s true of many things we do on trainers indoors. If it was all about training benefit we’d just be riding in ERG mode every day on perfectly structured workouts. Instead, we have a wide variety of apps that by and large are designed to keep us entertained.  And this feature simply adds to that entertainment factor. For me, it’s a nice change mid-way through a route on Zwift to feel the wooden planks of the piers.  No other trainer offers that today.

Now’s probably a good time to talk sound. In short, it makes virtually no sound. About the only sound you’re going to likely hear is that of your bike’s own drivechain (meaning, the chain and such). The unit itself does have a fan, but it’s roughly akin to a fan found on a small computer. To demonstrate this, here’s a simple audio test clip:

Next, the NEO 2T has downhill drive simulation, which means that as you go downhill the trainer will forward spin the rear ‘wheel’ (cassette and flywheel since there is no wheel). This means that the trainer will simulate the inertia of going downhill.  This is yet another little touch that makes things feel more realistic than they are.

Next, while Tacx does have a mobile app for their trainer, it’s unlikely you’re going to use it much if you use other 3rd party software.  However, it is valuable for setting your correct weight so that you can get realistic grade simulation (as well as firmware updates). This is notable if you’ve got multiple people in your household at dramatically different weights:

 

The app also allows you to test out the road feel and ISOKINETIC/ISOTONIC options. You can see below in the two side by side shows a handful of the many different road feel modes I just talked about up above.

  

The app is also where you’ll update the firmware from time to time:

  

Oh, wait – one more super important feature. It can produce a disco party. Yup, as you pedal harder the lights below the unit will shift in colors from a blue to purple to eventual red coloring. The harder you pedal, the more vibrantly red it gets.

Kinda neat. No training benefit, except that my wife can look over and visually see when I’m just wimping out.

App Compatibility:

The Tacx NEO 2T follows most of the industry app compatibility standards as previous Tacx products, and essentially follows the industry norms as you’d expect from a high-end trainer.  As you probably know, apps like Zwift, TrainerRoad, Sufferfest, Rouvy, Kinomap and many more, all support most of these industry standards, making it easy to use whatever app you’d like.  If trainers or apps don’t support these standards, then it makes it far more difficult for you as the end user.

In the case of the NEO 2T, it (like Wahoo) doesn’t quite adhere to everything. Specifically around Bluetooth Smart FMTS compatibility, which is trainer control. In the case of both, they dance to their own protocols. Tacx actually does support FTMS on all their non-NEO series just fine, but doesn’t do FTMS on the NEO series due to FTMS’s lack of ability to transmit weight information to apps (which is needed for the virtual flywheel in this specific trainer series).

Practically speaking that has little effect for the major apps, but does impact smaller apps. Zwift, TrainerRoad, etc… all support the proprietary versions (since they were using those versions well before FTMS existed). But newer and smaller apps like Xert, for example, have focused on supporting the standards instead, rather than spinning their (virtual) wheels on proprietary development. Tacx had previously promised FTMS support a year ago, but it’s not here yet for the NEO series. Again, for the majors – no biggie, but maybe an issue for your specific app – so double-check that.

The unit supports the following protocols and transmission standards:

ANT+ FE-C Control: This is for controlling the trainer via ANT+ from apps and head units (with cadence/power data). Read tons about it here.
ANT+ Power Meter Profile: This broadcasts as a standard ANT+ power meter, with cadence data
ANT+ Advanced Power Meter Metrics: This includes pedal smoothness and left/right balance, and later this year Cycling Dynamics as well.
ANT+ Speed/Cadence Profile: This broadcasts your speed and cadence as a standard ANT+ Speed/Cadence combo sensor
Bluetooth Smart Trainer Control (Tacx variant): This is for controlling the trainer over Bluetooth Smart from a variety of apps.
Bluetooth Smart Power Meter Profile: This broadcasts as a standard BLE power meter, with cadence data
Bluetooth Smart Speed/Cadence Profile: This broadcasts your speed and cadence as a standard BLE combo Speed/Cadence sensor

In the above, you’ll note there’s cadence data baked into the various streams. That’s handy if you’re connecting to Zwift on an Apple TV, due to Apple TV’s two concurrent Bluetooth Smart sensor limitation (plus the Apple TV remote).  This means you can pair the trainer and get power/cadence/control, while also pairing up a heart rate strap.

For me, in my testing, I used Zwift and TrainerRoad as my two main apps (which are the two main apps I use personally).  In the case of Zwift, I used it in regular riding mode (non-workout mode, aka SIM mode), whereas in the case of TrainerRoad I used it in a structured workout mode (ERG mode). I dig into the nuances of these both within the power accuracy section. In addition, I used The Sufferfest and Kinomap too for some random days.

Starting with Zwift, you can see the Tacx NEO 2T listed as not just a controllable trainer, but also within the regular power meter and cadence section. You’ll want to pair it up as a controllable trainer (which will also pair it as a power meter):

And then you can manually select the cadence signal. In every review, I keep wondering when Zwift will simply auto-select this as well, but it still doesn’t do it. All the trainer companies name everything the same, so it’s a trivial exercise to search for this.

You’ll see the trainer enumerated in a fairly similar manner on TrainerRoad as well:

 

Also, TrainerRoad’s tips page on using smart trainers in ERG mode:

I’d *strongly* recommend you either read that page, or just simply just do one thing:

1) Ensure you’re using the small ring up front: This is for ERG mode specifically, shift into the small ring to get better control

Now the Tacx NEO 2T (like the rest of the Tacx NEO series), doesn’t support any type of calibration. Nor does it need it, in fact, you can’t even do a calibration if you wanted to. Though, some apps don’t exactly realize this yet, so you might see it listed on some apps.

Finally, to continue the spice of life – here’s the NEO 2T paired today over lunch within The Sufferfest. you can see it showing as the power meter, cadence sensor, and also the setting for ERG mode.

Now, it’s worthwhile noting that Tacx on the NEO 2T not only transmits left/right balance (we’ll discuss accuracy of that later), but also some of the advanced power meter metrics like pedal smoothness. And Tacx says later this year, they’ll start doing Cycling Dynamics (the ANT+ standard variant). While one might assume this was purely a result of the Garmin acquisition, the reality is that Tacx had been considering this for a year now, well before Garmin came around and bought them out last February.

As for the current pedaling metrics, you can see those here on Garmin Connect:

Note that the app has to support those. So for example, if you use it with Zwift, they don’t support recording any of that data. In my case, the above was recorded with an Edge 520 Plus.

Power Accuracy Analysis:

As usual, I put the trainer up against a number of power meters to see how well it handled everything from resistance control accuracy, to speed of change, to any other weird quirks along the way.

In my case I used one primary bike setup as follows in a bunch of configurations. I was kinda all over the place the last few weeks:

Canyon Bike Setup #1: Garmin Vector 3 pedals (dual-sided), 4iiii Precision Podium (dual-sided)
Canyon Bike Setup #2: Garmin Vector 3 pedals (dual-sided), Quarq DZero
Canyon Bike Setup #3: PowerTap P2 pedals (dual-sided), Quarq DZero
Giant Bike Setup #1: Garmin Vector 3 pedals, Stages LR (dual-sided)

This is all in addition to the trainer itself.  Note that because you remove the rear wheel I can’t use something like a PowerTap hub to compare as well (which I would use in power meter testing normally).

In my case, I was looking to see how it reacted in two core apps: Zwift and TrainerRoad (Bluetooth Smart on Apple TV and iPad), but I also did some work with Kinomap and The Sufferfest on iPad – so there’s that for you. The actual apps don’t typically much matter, but rather the use cases are different.  In Zwift and Kinomap you get variability by having the road incline change and by being able to instantly sprint (aka SIM mode).  This reaction time and accuracy are both tested here.  Whereas in TrainerRoad and The Sufferfest I’m looking at its ability to hold a specific wattage very precisely, and to then change wattages instantly in a repeatable way (ERG mode).  There’s no better test of that than 30×30 repeats (30-seconds at a high resistance, followed by 30-seconds at an easy resistance).

There’s two ways to look at this.  First is how quickly it responds to the commands of the application.  So for that, we need to actually look at the overlay from TrainerRoad showing when it sent the command followed by when the NEO 2T achieved that level. You might remember back in August when the unit came out I was displeased with two elements of this specific scenario:

A) The actual accuracy of the power
B) The inability for it to correctly nail the initial target power (it would previously over-commit by 50w).

So, two months and a flurry of firmware updates later, was it fixed?

Here’s the levels being sent (the blue block) by TrainerRoad (in this case via Bluetooth Smart on iPad) and how quickly the 2T responded to it.

As I said up above, for the most part responsiveness per se isn’t an issue. It’s really good at that – too good I’d argue (too fast, too hard). What we can quibble about is the slight overshoots. But I’ve gone back and looked at about 3 years of data of me doing this test, and this is actually pretty solid comparative to most others (with really the Hammer 3 beating it in terms of precision).

But let’s shift our focus to power meter accuracy. That’s what this section is all about. Now technically speaking there isn’t exactly a power meter in the NEO series per se. Not in the traditional sense anyway. But that’s fine. Very few trainers these days have power meters in them – and there’s a long history of trainers with power meters actually performing worse in certain situations (and equally, performing great in others). What I ultimately care about is one thing: Is it accurate. I don’t care how you (a trainer company) achieve it. Power meter, no power meter, math magic, small elves…I don’t care. Nobody need care. Just get it right.

So, let’s look at the underlying data from that set. This was against a pair of PowerTap P2 pedals, the Quarq DZero, and the Tacx NEO 2T (data set here):

As you can see, it’s pretty darn close. Oddly a bit wobbly on the very first interval – with the PowerTap P2 unit a bit lower than the other two. After that, it’s perfectly happy there. Who knows, maybe the P2 pedals weren’t quite ready for that wake-up call yet. After that, we’re talking everyone within a few watts in most cases. A bit of disagreement on interval #7 from the Quarq as well.

The above is a perfect example of even 2-3 power meters/units that are widely respected in the industry for being incredibly reliable accuracy-wise can sometimes differ in certain situations. It’s actually interesting in that I’ve seen the Quarq DZero seems to pick up some of the instantaneous spikes a little more than other trainers/power meters I’ve been testing. Specifically at the 1-second level, meaning, the first one second of a power surge.  You can see it below where I’ve shown (with the three little dots) the first second of that surge and the Quarq shoots higher. The question that’s nearly impossible to understand is whether that’s correct or not. That could very well be a case of Quarq is refreshing faster behind the scenes and nailing the initial power inflection better than the others.

It’s actually a small pattern I’ve seen in recent weeks on a variety of different trainers and pedal-based power meters that I’ve mixed and matched. It’s also not something I’ve seen in the past when I’ve used the DZero prior to the semi-recent firmware update. Maybe it’s more accurate now, or maybe it’s less accurate now. In any case, that’s a curiosity for another day.

So, let’s move along – this time to a Zwift session. This was in simulation mode (meaning, it’s replicating ascents/descents/etc…). This was the Titans Grove course, which I’ve been using for indoor trainer testing this year because of the demanding terrain – specifically the rapid up and down segments up in the hills part of the course. It also has the flats of the desert for some nice variations in small and big rings. Here’s this data set:

As you can see, the three units are always within just a couple watts of each other. Let’s zoom in on a few sections. First is the initial sprint. I treated this as a lazy warm-up sprint since I was only a few minutes into the ride, so more of a 500w power surge than a proper sprint.

Looking at the above data, you’ll see that there’s some slightly higher values coming from the Quarq on some of the surges (this is shown with 3-second averaging to make it a bit cleaner to look at, but you can look at the raw data at the link above if you want). Still, the P2 pedals and NEO 2T are incredibly close, and frankly as is the Quarq as well.

As we get into the start of the rolling hills, where the power quickly oscillates up and down, we see all the units tracking very closely:

It’s frankly kinda boring to analyze how closely these units track. We do see a bit later on some slightly more visible peaks from the Quarq, but it’s pretty minimal in the grand scheme of things:

And then finally that sprint towards the end coming in on near 800w (shown below though with 3-second smoothing to make it easier to see what’s going on):

Again, pretty darn good…and pretty darn boring.

So, let’s switch it up one last time – this one over to The Sufferfest for a highly fluctuating ERG workout. Technically, despite how this looks, this was actually an ERG structured workout. It’s that the specifics of this was mirroring a team time-trial, so you were changing target wattages every 20-30 seconds on average. It was nuts…and also a lot of fun. In any case, here’s that data set:

Obviously, you can see the PowerTap P2 pedals and my Edge 530 were having a bad day in their intimate relationship. No idea why all the drops. Perhaps I had the Edge 530 in a weird spot or something. No biggie, doesn’t really impact what we’re looking at.

Here’s zooming in on one of the essentially repetitive sections of stepping up in wattage over and over. In most cases it’s within a few watts, but I still see the Quarq a little bit higher here and there than I’d expect.

But in general, these are still incredibly close – as we see here again:

Oh – wait – what about left/right power balance accuracy? Sure, let’s take a look at the TrainerRoad 30×30’s first since the data is a bit cleaner to unmask. In this case, we’re looking at the left and right power as compared to the PowerTap P2 pedals. And in particular, I’m zooming into 6 of these sets, because there was an ANT+ dropout earlier in the workout to one of the recording units, so that’s distracting (and it could be the unit receiving).

What you see here though is there’s still some random left/right balance spikes where things go crazy for 1-2 seconds on the NEO 2T:

Every single one of these instances is connected to the very last second or two of the interval. In the case of this specific workout, while certainly not a cakewalk, it wasn’t horrifically difficult. Meaning, I wasn’t doing something crazy different in the last second or two to my knowledge that would trigger this (obviously, under the covers I must have been).

Zooming in more though, you can see what’s happening. The power values go crazy for the left/right balance specifically (though total power is unaffected). Note in the middle how the PowerTap P2 pedals show I stay roughly balanced.

So what about non-ERG mode, something a bit messier? Sure, no problem. Ask and you shall receive:

Ok, that’s a mess to unravel. So I’ll make it simpler for you: It doesn’t quite seem right.

Specifically, the NEO 2T shows me as significantly more imbalanced than the PowerTap P2 – massively imbalanced. As you can see though, when (briefly) my power is steady-state, it normalizes. But as I shift power, it goes a bit wonky. So I’m gonna say that this specific aspect needs a bit more work. Personally, I’ve never used left/right balance on a trainer for anything before – so this isn’t a huge loss to me (and none of the major trainer apps support it anyway).

Oh, and in case someone wants to know about cadence – zero issues. Absolutely spot-on for me on all my rides:

I know some people have had cadence issues on the 2T, specifically around longer derailleur cages and/or different crank arm sizes. That’s because on the NEO 2/2T the cadence sensing is actually picking up your crank arm going past it, versus most (all?) other trainers are doing an estimated cadence. In any case, Tacx says that the recent .32 firmware update should fix this for most people. Still, Tacx says for specific crank arm combinations there may be issues where it’s not detecting the metal passing by. In my case, I’ve run with 175mm crank arms without issue.

Ultimately, for what I’m doing, I’m pretty darn happy with the accuracy of the NEO 2T. I’d have no issues using it for power meter testing going forward, which is sorta my basic benchmark for whether or not I’ll use a trainer in the DCR Cave after a review is done.

(Note: All of the charts in these accuracy portions were created using the DCR Analyzer tool.  It allows you to compare power meters/trainers, heart rate, cadence, speed/pace, GPS tracks and plenty more. You can use it as well for your own gadget comparisons, more details here.)

Trainer Comparisons:

First off – if you’re trying to decide on a trainer, check out my complete recommendations guide that’s only a week or two old.

I’ve added the Tacx NEO 2T into the product comparison database.  This allows you to compare it against other trainers I’ve reviewed.  For this post, I’ve compared it against the Wahoo KICKR 2018, CycleOps Hammer 3 and Elite Drivo II. I could have tossed in the Tacx NEO 2, but frankly there’s no database line item that’s different there. The only difference is the lack of ‘slip’ I talked about earlier, which is so tiny that most people probably wouldn’t notice it compared to a NEO 1/2.

Function/FeatureElite Drivo IISaris H3 (CycleOps Hammer 3)Tacx NEO 2T SmartWahoo KICKR 2018 (Current version)
Copyright DC Rainmaker - Updated July 1st, 2020 @ 7:31 amNew Window
Price for trainer$1,199$999$1,399$1,199
Trainer TypeDirect Drive (no wheel)Direct Drive (no wheel)Direct Drive (no wheel)Direct Drive (No Wheel)
Available today (for sale)YesYesYesYes
Availability regionsGlobalGlobalGlobalGlobal
Wired or Wireless data transmission/controlWirelessWirelessWirelessWireless
Power cord requiredYes for broadcast, no for general useYesNoYes
Flywheel weight13.2lbs/6kg20lb/9kgSimulated/Virtual 125KG16lbs/7.25kgs
ResistanceElite Drivo IISaris H3 (CycleOps Hammer 3)Tacx NEO 2T SmartWahoo KICKR 2018 (Current version)
Can electronically control resistance (i.e. 200w)YesYesYesYes
Includes motor to drive speed (simulate downhill)NoNoYesNo
Maximum wattage capability2,296w @ 40KPH / 3,600w @ 60KPH2,000w2,200w @ 40KPH2,200w @ 40KPH
Maximum simulated hill incline24%20%25%20%
FeaturesElite Drivo IISaris H3 (CycleOps Hammer 3)Tacx NEO 2T SmartWahoo KICKR 2018 (Current version)
Ability to update unit firmwareYesYesYesYes
Measures/Estimates Left/Right Power9EUR one-time feeNoYesNo
Can rise/lower bike or portion thereofNoNoNoWith KICKR CLIMB accessory
Can directionally steer trainer (left/right)NoNoNoNo
Can rock side to side (significantly)NoNoNoNo
Can simulate road patterns/shaking (i.e. cobblestones)NoNoYesNo
AccuracyElite Drivo IISaris H3 (CycleOps Hammer 3)Tacx NEO 2T SmartWahoo KICKR 2018 (Current version)
Includes temperature compensationN/AYesN/AYes
Support rolldown procedure (for wheel based)YesYesN/AYes
Supported accuracy level+/- 0.5%+/- 2%+/- 1%+/- 2%
Trainer ControlElite Drivo IISaris H3 (CycleOps Hammer 3)Tacx NEO 2T SmartWahoo KICKR 2018 (Current version)
Allows 3rd party trainer controlYesYesYesYes
Supports ANT+ FE-C (Trainer Control Standard)YesYesYesYEs
Supports Bluetooth Smart FTMS (Trainer Control Standard)YesYesNo, but supports most appsNo, but supports most apps
Data BroadcastElite Drivo IISaris H3 (CycleOps Hammer 3)Tacx NEO 2T SmartWahoo KICKR 2018 (Current version)
Transmits power via ANT+YesYesYesYes
Transmits power via Bluetooth SmartYesYesYesYes
Transmits cadence dataYesYesYes
PurchaseElite Drivo IISaris H3 (CycleOps Hammer 3)Tacx NEO 2T SmartWahoo KICKR 2018 (Current version)
Amazon LinkLinkLinkLinkN/A
Clever Training - Save with the VIP programLinkLinkLinkLink
REI LinkN/ALinkLinkLink
Wiggle LinkLinkLinkLinkLink
DCRainmakerElite Drivo IISaris H3 (CycleOps Hammer 3)Tacx NEO 2T SmartWahoo KICKR 2018 (Current version)
Review LinkLinkLinkLinkLink

And again, remember you can make your own comparison guide against any other trainers in the database here.

Summary:

The Tacx NEO 2T continues with the rest of the NEO series in retaining its title as one of the best trainers in the industry. Sure, the road to get here was a bit rougher than years past, but hey, better late than never. And, based on the general fiasco that this year’s indoor trainers have been across all companies – Tacx actually got their house in order faster than others. So there’s that too, I guess.

Still, that won’t matter 3 months or 6 months from now (or even today). It’s all water under the bridge. What matters is how well it works today, and I have zero issues with it from a power/cadence accuracy standpoint or a reliability standpoint. I do still maintain its a bit edgy (bossy perhaps?) in ERG mode, and I’d love to see Tacx introduce some sort of option in their app to make ERG mode a bit less abrasive (more like the previous NEO units, or perhaps the Saris H3). And, of course, I’m hoping that as they look to implement Cycling Dynamics later this year, that they’ll sort out some of the left/right balance items. Though again, I’m not sure how many people will actually leverage that, given the trainer apps don’t support it.

As I said somewhere up earlier in the review – if you’re looking at getting a new trainer and are considering the 2T – there’s no reason not to get it. It’s a great trainer now. If you’re looking at a solid deal on a NEO 2 (non-2T) – that’s also a great trainer, and given the right deal, I’d probably pick that up instead and apply the cash somewhere else in your life. And for those with the NEO 1/2 already, unless the minor virtual tire slip issue really bugs you, I can’t see much of a reason to upgrade to the NEO 2T from those units.

I’ve oft noted that the NEO series is typically the trainer I use when I’m not doing trainer reviews, and I suspect that’ll probably be the case when the dust settles this winter.  It also helps that I can fold it up on itself at home and it generally keeps the kids from messing with the cassette. Sometimes it’s the little things….or little people.

With that – hope this helps, 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 LinkClever Training Link (Save 10% with DCR10BTF)Note
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.
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 (242)

  • Thanks, Ray. This is the review I'd been waiting for. I've been saving up a while for my first trainer, and this is the one I'd been leaning toward, assuming the firmware updates resolved the problems you'd found initially. Now, I only need to find a good deal on the trainer as well as Zwift!

    • Hi Ray,
      quick thanks for all your hard work over the years.
      It's strange that the Neo, which is effectively 5 years old is still having problems.
      I really think that all the companies need Ray to be on the payroll as a product tester.
      New product designed, tested, accurate and problem free, at launch.......
      Happy days and happy customers.

      Or am I being unfair to these companies and their expensive products? Cheers Ray.
      PS I'm very happy with my Neo 2

    • I think in most cases when companies make shifts, we see initial teething issues. In this case, the substantially more powerful internals caused some unexpected downstream issues around control/accuracy.

      Though, they do seem to be sorted.

  • "1) Ensure you’re using the small ring up front: This is for ERG mode specifically, shift into the small ring to get better control"

    Why is the small ring better for ERG mode? How big is the difference? I've always used the big ring in ERG mode on the Flux and now on the Neo 2T since that resembles my outdoor riding.

    On the 2T lately I've ended up in relatively low cadence(under 70) on intervals over 400 watts when riding in the big ring and using the 3-4 easiest gears on the cog.

    • The difference is pretty significant in my experience across many trainers, including the NEO. Essentially in a bigger ring it increases the speed of the flywheel, which is roughly akin to trying to control an out of control car versus a slow-moving car.

    • So the benefit is in the transient of time required to reach the target, not in the precision with which the target can be met. Is this the correct undertsanding?

      I'm asking becuase actually my recent experience (with a Direto 1st edition and a Sworks power cranks PM) is that when I change from 52 to 36 (I always try to select a cog that will keep the chain as straight as possible, so in general I should go up 2-3 gears towards bigger cogs) I also see the Power Meter of the bike get closer to the Power Meter of the Direto (thou it's always lower, never on target or higher). So i started doubting that the correct understanding is not about the speed with which the trainer is able to move the resistance to a new target, but about the accuracy with which it is able to hold it.

      thanks
      Luca

    • Hi, is the recommendation to use the small ring in ERG mode primarily a “feel” and muscle activation issue or are there power accuracy considerations as well?

    • I think Zwift has gotten better at this recently. I can use the big ring and Zwift seems to not go hugely over the demand. Well, it's easier to keep it in the range on a workout.

      TrainerRoad still seems to not treat TBR very well. I can get massive distances by riding a workout 'hot'. Getting incredible speeds, near 30 mph. It's easy to over power rides.

      I wonder what Zwift adjusted, or is it just me?

      Thanks for the longer time review.

  • I seem to be having issues when running 2 apps at the same time and using the Neo 2T. TraineRoad on my Andriod connected by ANT+ and also connected to Zwift ATV connected by Bluetooth. (trainer control disabled in Zwift. The traiberRoad app controlled the trainer for the first interval but after that, would not control the trainer. Checked that zwift hadn't stolen control and i hadn't.

    Similar thing using Xert on an IPAD - cable ANT+ bridge to IPAD, Zwift as above. Again, xert wouldn't control the trainer. Xert as above and zwift on a PC connected by ANT works perfectly. TrainerRoad on it's own works perfectly, so i'm thinking there is some issues between the apps and ATV. Any ideas?

    • If that can be of any help: I have a Direto and not the Tacx, but I control it with the Garmin (which is reading the power from the bike power meter), I read it with another garmin, and I have also Zwift on the laptop connected to the bike power meter (all of them via ANT+) and everything works: the main Garmin controls the Direto, reads the bike power meter and returns that value, the secondary Garmin reads the power from the Direto so that I can compare 30s average of bike and trainer instantly, and Zwift reads the bike power meter but doens't take control over the Direto.
      Same if I tell Zwift to take power from the Direto: it reads but doesn't take control.

      In this configurations I run only ERG mode.

      ciao
      Luca

  • You commented on Road Feel and in particular referenced Zwift - could you confirm that Zwift is now supporting this for the 2T as it still isn't allowing it to be enabled for the Neo Bike which has the same underlying internals? I had been hoping this was just an oversight and quick fix with Zwift needing to add the 2T and Neo Bike to their look-up table, but Zwift's public response (for the bike) so far seems to have been "Meh, perhaps we'll think about it one day" which doesn't fill me with confidence.

    Hopefully it will be addressed before long, but I'd feel aggrieved if I bought a 2T on the understanding that Road Feel was working with Zwift only to find it wasn't, so it might be worth caveating that section *if* Zwift isn't yet supporting it on the 2T, irrespective of any promises they may have made.

    • I have a 2T and can confirm that road feel works in Zwift. It actually startled me the first time I went over cobbles! If you go to Zwift's settings, there's an option to turn on road feel.
      I connect via BlueTooth, so can't comment about ANT+.

    • That's the bug, it works over Bluetooth but not ant+. If you connect using ant+ zwift doesn't recognise the trainer and doesn't show the option.

  • At the moment the road feel doesn't work in Zwift using ant+. Tacx say it needs zwift to update their end, the zwift support pages say they are aware.
    Very minor annoyance that will hopefully be fixed soon.

  • Good review as always.

    But.

    I have owed both the Neo 1 and Neo 2 for the past thee years - the virtual slip drove me insane. If you're a sprinter, racer or ride track, it's annoying to no end. And with that reason, I sold the Neo 2 and got the latest Kickr with the Climb. I was tempted to stay with the Neo and get the 2T but just couldn't. I've already had two Neos replaced under warranty.

    In all honesty, I much prefer the latest fall 2019 Kickr. It's somewhat quieter than the Neo's magnetic hum. The Kickr doesn't overshoot in erg and is more instantaneous during on and off intervals. I turn off erg smoothing. The Kickr's flywheel is more akin to road feel than the Neo's magnetic flywheel. Calibration isn't bothersome either - I just do it after a session which takes less than than 1 min to do every two weeks or so.

    Each to their own.

    • Thanks, this is really helpfull. I'm looking to buy a trainer, but have put it off due to the lack of information/data about low speed resistance/sprinting. As a sprinter, finding suitable equipment is often quite a bit harder. Have broken my fair share of rear wheels and found bikes to be too flexible.

      @dcrainmaker: this might be an interesting item. How does the low speed resistance of trainers compare? This seems to be something nobody has reviewed yet. Or I at least I haven't found it.

    • This is a difficult one to quantify. A 50kg rider on a weighted flywheel trainer accelerating from 10km/h - 30km/h in say the 53/16 will be very different to a 90kg rider performing the same test.

      And with the Neo 1/2/2T/Bike and Kickr BIKE having 'virtual inertia' flywheel based on rider weight, what feels 'good' to me may feel all wrong for one rider may feel awesome for another. It's also an issue for anyone using a Neo over BLE that hasn't set their weight in their Tacx Util app (ANT+ will send rider weight to the trainer via most apps.... BLE doesn't and it needs to be set in the app).

    • Objectively the resistance the trainer can sustain at 10 km/h could be quantified. That would help a rider to compare it to his/her ftp. If it is below his/her ftp, the trainer can't handle climbs with a gradient that you climb at 10 km/h (with your specific ftp/kg).

      So if you push out 300 watts at ftp, and the trainer can only deliver that resistance above 18km/h..... you can't realistically climb stuff like Alpe d'Huez when you're 80kg right? Because you'll average something like 14km/h. For steeper stuff that's above 12% this holds even much more. Please correct me if I'm wrong though.

      Anyway if there would be trainer powercurves, or even just one or two lower speed resistance figures, that would help the more powerful (and heavy) riders a lot. Love to hear your views on this.

      ps, I understand that a physical flywheel will help to provide extra resistance momentarily, but to keep it simple, let's leave that to the side (by that I mean bursts of power and resistance).

  • Hey Ray, thanks for the review.
    I'm thinking about upgrading my Neo 1 to a 2 T not due to the tire slip or something but due to the fact my new bike got a RAT Axle and the 2 T is the only bike with native thru axle support, right?
    So the best/only option is getting a Neo 2 T or use a different bike on my old Neo 1

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