You know what I like about this product? It’s two pieces of plastic that wiggle, and install in about 15-20 seconds. There’s no electronics, no secondary applications or uses, no complex installation manual. It’s as simple as it gets, yet still provides a small bit of movement which significantly changes the overall feel of riding indoors.
Now, like water bottle cages on rough roads – the devil is often in the details: In this case, the steep price. But also, what type of indoor riding you plan to do. I’ve been using these now for about two months in most of my indoor trainer rides, and thus I’ve got a pretty good feel for what works well, and what falls short. From Zwift to TrainerRoad, sprints to steady-state rides, and everything in between. In this relatively condensed review (for me anyway), I’ll take you through how the NEO Motion Plates work, and whether or not they make sense for you. Plus, a brief comparison to rocker plates in general.
As usual, this unit is a media loaner, and it’ll go back to Garmin/Tacx shortly. This review is not sponsored (nor does any company get to preview anything I review), and I don’t take any advertiser money from any companies I review. And as regular readers know, if something is crap, I’m gonna tell it brutally like it is – no matter the brand. Once this unit goes back, I’ll go out and get my own for any future testing needs. If you found this review useful, you can use the links at the bottom, or consider becoming a DCR Supporter which makes the site ad-free, while also getting access to a mostly weekly video series behind the scenes of the DCR Cave. And of course, it makes you awesome!
In The Box:
This will quite possibly be the most efficient unboxing to date. Above, is the box. Below, is the box opened up:
Inside the box are precisely three pieces of hardware, and one piece of paper. Though, I suppose technically speaking there’s also two plastic bags. Further, does the cardboard insert count as part of the box, or in the box?
There are two rails one reach for each side of the trainer, plus a front wheel block that’s tweaked to allow forward/back movement.
The paper thing tells you how to connect them to your trainer, which, as you’ll see, takes you no more than 20 seconds.
Ok, now we’re done.
Setup and Install:
The only thing in this review rivaling the efficiency of the unboxing section will be the setup and installation section. First up, grab your Tacx NEO trainer, and flip it over. Any NEO model in fact: The NEO (original), NEO 2, NEO 2 SE, or NEO 2T. Through the magic of accidental engineering (and saving costs by not changing things), all of these units share the same feet layout. Here’s my original Tacx NEO (left), compared to the latest Tacx NEO 2T:
Now, pop out the four rubber feet with your fingers:
Next, grab the right rail (it’s marked RIGHT, and stick it on the right side (rider’s right side), with the arrow facing forward. Simply let the feet holders on the rails play footsie with the feet on the trainer:
When it comes to attaching to the unit, they use magnets to sorta stay on to the feet. But realistically, it’ll fall off if you pick up the whole trainer. In fact, if you look at the manual closely, you’ll notice it has a warning about magnets, specifically to not try and make love to the unit if you have a pacemaker, nor to wedge your credit cards in there. I don’t know which Zwifters do that, but I can only presume it’s the people who like the Richmond course.
In any case, do it again on the left side:
Now, plop your trainer back on the ground, and ensure that this little notch lines up on both sides. If they aren’t aligned, you won’t get the full range of motion. To ‘align’ them, simply slightly lift the trainer, and adjust the rail. Again, this takes about 1.8 seconds.
And finally, throw the front wheel block out near the front of your bike, with the arrow facing forward. Align the center of your wheel-hub with the marking on the side of the wheel block. This wheel block allows forward/back movement (whereas most wheel blocks specifically prohibit movement).
With that, we’re done.
Daily Usage Experience:
I’ve been using the motion plates for about two months now, so I’ve got a pretty good feel for them. Starting off with how they work, they essentially slide back and forth on two wheels per rail that form a small valley, where it self-centers to.
You can see this in the video up-close, or a still shot of it below (left photo at low-point, right photo at high-point):
Anyways, on the track itself, you can see the total extent of the movement, which is approximately 2.5cm in either direction (thus 5cm total movement):
Now, yes, that’s a small amount of movement, but, as has been shown time and time again with other motion systems, it’s all about tiny movement. There are basically two basic goals/premises with a cycling motion system. The first would be to replicate the actual movement of an outdoor bike. For that, you need more moving axes – such as the Saris MP1 or others. However, the second goal is to replicate a slight bit of movement that in turn forces your body/core to constantly adjust to that, which in turn shifts your butt on the saddle just slightly around – just as it does outdoors. Saris did a study on this with Trek, that basically shows even a slight bit of movement makes a big difference in longer indoor rides (though I’ve never seen a finished paper of that study). However, the contents of that study are backed up by countless real-world people saying the same for years.
So in the sense of what Tacx is doing, it’s that very slight movement forward and back. And, the NEO specifically already has very slight tilting motion left/right (side to side) built into the frame of the trainer. It’s not to the extent of a full rocker plate, but it’s certainly more than a static trainer, or even the Wahoo KICKR V5/2020 with its AXIS Motion Feet.
As I noted earlier, I’ve been riding the Motion Plates for a few months. I’d say in general my indoor trainer workout blend is 70/30, skewed towards structured workouts. And in general, on these structured workouts you’re not doing all-out sprints. So to that end, I’m aiming for mostly steady-state efforts, albeit sometimes with some 30×30’s or 15s efforts tossed in. The point being, in structured workouts I’m not getting out of the saddle and throwing down. So for these workouts, this is awesome. It just works exceptionally well at providing the ever-present jiggle/wiggle movement depending on the intensity of my pedal stroke. I hesitate to say it feels more natural, but, it…well…feels. As in, I feel something. Which, is better than riding my shed’s or DCR Cave’s concrete floor of non-movement.
However, inversely, if you throw down a sprint, the unit won’t feel super natural. That’s because you’ve only got that 2.5cm of travel, which means a split-second after your first hard down pedal stroke, the trainer will lurch forward and then immediately either bounce back, or simply bounce a bit depending on how much sprint you throw at it. For lighter efforts, it doesn’t feel bad, but it’s certainly not natural. However, keep in mind, the same is true of the far larger/more expensive Saris MP1. Do a hard sprint there and you’ll quickly travel that roughly foot or so of movement distance and bounce back as well. The main difference is the ‘cap’ on the sprint. With the Saris MP1, you can do moderate surges without hitting the travel-limit. Whereas with the Tacx Motion Plates, you find that limit with any surge.
You can see below in a rather aggressive sprint (way more aggression than I typically throw at my bike), that I can cause the rear of the plates to hop slightly upwards for a split second (notice the slight air gap at the back below the blue plate). Again, watch the video to see it. But, the same is true of many trainers, plates or not.
Does it matter though? Meaning, did it impact my riding? Nah, not really.
For better or worse, I’ve just grown used to it. In the same sense that there are countless other quirks of riding indoors that don’t replicate outdoors, this is just one more on the list. It doesn’t bother me personally, but I could see how it might bother some. In which case, if you’re planning on doing a sprinting-full race, you can simply remove the plates in a matter of a few seconds (as seen in the video). Whereas you might want them installed for an ERG mode workout.
Arguably though, the single biggest benefit of the Motion Plates is simply the footprint. There is none. They don’t take up any extra space (well, I suppose technically 2.5cm forward and back). And my usage is a good example in contrasts. At the DCR Cave where most of these shots are from, I’ve got plenty of space. It’s literally a converted industrial warehouse space. However, where I’ve mostly been riding the Motion Plates is at home, in my shed, where I have exactly zero extra space. There’s no additional space for even a trainer desk in there, let alone a giant rocker plate system. It’d be a non-starter.
Given I’ve long used the older Tacx NEO 2 in the Shed at home as my main smart trainer (inversely, I tend to use the Wahoo KICKR at the DCR Cave/office), this solution couldn’t have been designed more perfectly for that scenario. And when the trainer is folded up, the motion plates can stay on, and don’t take up any appreciable space.
And thus, we get to the main conundrum of the Tacx Motion Plates: The price.
Some Pricing & Comparison Thoughts:
My first (and continued) reaction to the price of the Motion Plates is: “Are you @#$#@ kidding me? You’re charging me $300 for an injection piece of plastic with a few bits of metal?” – I think I even said roughly that on the call to Garmin (which acquired Tacx in 2019). And an e-mail. A few times in fact.
When people often talk about the Apple Tax, they think of examples like the Apple Pro Display XDR Stand, costing $1,000 (for yes, just *the stand*). This is sorta like that, except, it’s…umm…a Tacx Tax. Which, is in effect a Garmin Tax. And while there’s always been a bit of a Garmin Tax, for the most part, like the Apple Tax – you kinda get what you pay for.
And in effect, as much as this feels like the massive money-grab it is, it’s hard to argue that it’s not a good product. Size-wise, it realistically can’t be beat. There’s nothing on the market even close to this (even for side-to-side movement). A passerbyer would likely never even notice it was on the trainer, unless someone pointed it out. Road-feel-wise, again, for forward/back movement, most of the other options are 4x the price, albeit they do have usually far more forward/back range (and again, far larger footprints).
Ironically, the closest example of a manufacturer-made accessory in this realm is Wahoo’s Axis feet. They cost $99, and are basically just fancy versions of tennis balls. In my testing, I showed that if you used a trainer mat, this had negligible to non-existent side-to-side movement. But hey, at least Wahoo didn’t charge $300 for them. That’d have taken real balls. Like…umm…tennis balls.
If we look at full-blown rocker plate solutions, for pre-built ones those start at $300-$400 for a single axis. Some are smaller footprints that go just a bit beyond the trainer. And some are ones the size of a trainer mat, and not at all easily portable/storable. And most of the smaller footprint ones don’t have fore/aft movement, but rather side to side.
Point being, as much of a Tacx Tax as this is, it’s hard to find a valid comparison of a similar product at a lower price point with even remotely similar features. Especially if someone with a 7-year old Tacx NEO 1 is looking for a simple and easy solution to add movement.
Here’s the thing, I really like the product itself. It’s one of those near-perfect products in terms of ease of installation, and ease of use. It does the job for what I want it to, and my particular riding style. And it does so without getting in the way, being difficult or challenging to mount, or taking up any space. Plus, the fact that it’s compatible with any past NEO trainer is brilliant.
Of course, as I’ve made clear by now, what’s less brilliant is the price. It’s just a very hard price to reconcile with what we’re getting in terms of material cost. Certainly, there’s an engineering/distribution/etc cost to deal with, but I keep thinking this product would do exceptionally well at $149 or perhaps even $199 – it’d be a no-brainer for anyone who bought a NEO trainer in the last 7 years.
Now I suspect we’ll see more accessories – not just from Garmin, but other companies as well. Over the last two years, we’ve largely reached the indoor smart trainer saturation point. At least for higher-end units. Anyone who was planning on buying a new higher-end smart trainer has done so in the last two years. So companies across the board are starting to see sales taper off for the trainers themselves, and instead are looking to replace that revenue with trainer accessories. Things like indoor desks, fans, steering, motion systems, etc…
Ultimately, you’ll have to decide for yourself whether or not the price is worth it. For me, I will likely pick up a set of these for my older NEO 2 in the shed, simply because of the limited space and me predominantly using it for less frisky workouts. But, it’ll still feel like…well…I’m being fleeced for it.
With that, thanks for reading!
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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.
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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. And lastly, if you felt this review was useful – I always appreciate feedback in the comments below. Thanks!