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.
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.
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.)
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/Feature||Elite Drivo II||Saris H3 (CycleOps Hammer 3)||Tacx NEO 2T Smart||Wahoo KICKR 2018|
|Copyright DC Rainmaker - Updated November 29th, 2019 @ 7:14 pmNew Window|
|Price for trainer||$1,199||$999||$1,399||$1,199|
|Trainer Type||Direct Drive (no wheel)||Direct Drive (no wheel)||Direct Drive (no wheel)||Direct Drive (No Wheel)|
|Available today (for sale)||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Wired or Wireless data transmission/control||Wireless||Wireless||Wireless||Wireless|
|Power cord required||Yes for broadcast, no for general use||Yes||No||Yes|
|Flywheel weight||13.2lbs/6kg||20lb/9kg||Simulated/Virtual 125KG||16lbs/7.25kgs||Resistance||Elite Drivo II||Saris H3 (CycleOps Hammer 3)||Tacx NEO 2T Smart||Wahoo KICKR 2018|
|Can electronically control resistance (i.e. 200w)||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Includes motor to drive speed (simulate downhill)||No||No||Yes||No|
|Maximum wattage capability||2,296w @ 40KPH / 3,600w @ 60KPH||2,000w||2,200w @ 40KPH||2,200w @ 40KPH|
|Maximum simulated hill incline||24%||20%||25%||20%||Features||Elite Drivo II||Saris H3 (CycleOps Hammer 3)||Tacx NEO 2T Smart||Wahoo KICKR 2018|
|Ability to update unit firmware||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Measures/Estimates Left/Right Power||9EUR one-time fee||No||Yes||No|
|Can rise/lower bike or portion thereof||No||No||No||With KICKR CLIMB accessory|
|Can directionally steer trainer (left/right)||No||No||No||No|
|Can rock side to side (significantly)||No||No||No||No|
|Can simulate road patterns/shaking (i.e. cobblestones)||No||No||Yes||No||Accuracy||Elite Drivo II||Saris H3 (CycleOps Hammer 3)||Tacx NEO 2T Smart||Wahoo KICKR 2018|
|Includes temperature compensation||N/A||Yes||N/A||Yes|
|Support rolldown procedure (for wheel based)||Yes||Yes||N/A||Yes|
|Supported accuracy level||+/- 0.5%||+/- 2%||+/- 1%||+/- 2%||Trainer Control||Elite Drivo II||Saris H3 (CycleOps Hammer 3)||Tacx NEO 2T Smart||Wahoo KICKR 2018|
|Allows 3rd party trainer control||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Supports ANT+ FE-C (Trainer Control Standard)||Yes||Yes||Yes||YEs|
|Supports Bluetooth Smart FTMS (Trainer Control Standard)||Yes||Yes||No, but supports most apps||No, but supports most apps||Data Broadcast||Elite Drivo II||Saris H3 (CycleOps Hammer 3)||Tacx NEO 2T Smart||Wahoo KICKR 2018|
|Transmits power via ANT+||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Transmits power via Bluetooth Smart||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Transmits cadence data||Yes||Yes||Yes||Purchase||Elite Drivo II||Saris H3 (CycleOps Hammer 3)||Tacx NEO 2T Smart||Wahoo KICKR 2018|
|Clever Training - Save with the VIP program||Link||Link||Link||Link|
|Clever Training Europe||N/A||N/A||Link||DCRainmaker||Elite Drivo II||Saris H3 (CycleOps Hammer 3)||Tacx NEO 2T Smart||Wahoo KICKR 2018|
And again, remember you can make your own comparison guide against any other trainers in the database here.
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!
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