Tacx Neo 2T Smart Trainer – First Look Review
One of the most advanced turbo trainers on the market but is it worth the hefty price point?
Turbo training. The pain cave. Sitting on a stationary bike, working hard but going nowhere, indoor riding is like marmite: some love it, some hate it. Before recent innovations made turbo trainers wildly more exciting, most people used “dumb” trainers, requiring you to set resistance levels manually and attach a rear wheel to the device.
However, as direct-drive turbo trainers have become more widely available, indoor training has changed. Gone are the days of slippage between the roller and wheel. Instead, the transition is smooth, with a more road-like feel than ever. Manufacturers have continued to push the boundaries of what indoor trainers can do, from automatic resistance when using apps like Zwift to software that replicates the feeling of riding on the cobbles, turbos are always evolving.
Sitting at the very top of the range when it comes to the most advanced turbo trainers is the Tacx Neo 2T. As such, it has a plethora of impressive features that would have seemed unfathomable a few years ago. From its inbuilt rocker, which makes the riding feel all the more realistic to an incredible power accuracy, the Tacx Neo 2T appeals to both hardcore e-racers to casual virtual riders.
Of course, such features come at a high price point. For an eye-watering £1,199, you’d expect optimum ease of use, and though the trainer is close to perfection, there are a few features that we think could use a little improvement to get a flawless ride.
Though a turbo trainer is an item in which practicality is the foremost priority, the striking aesthetic of the Tacx Neo 2T has to be mentioned. Its sleek and refined style means the trainer wouldn’t look out of place as a futuristic ornament, the wing-like structure and silver flywheel giving the Tacx an other-worldly look. The LED lights that illuminate underneath the turbo change colour depending on the amount of effort the rider puts in, adding some disco spice to the pain cave.
The triangular structure gives the Tacx a very stable feel, and there is no movement whatsoever when the turbo is in use. Also aiding the Tacx’s solid hold is the weight of the trainer which comes in at a hefty 21.5kg. Rubber patches on the bottom of the feet also ensure there is no slipping and sliding, guaranteeing the turbo stays firmly in place regardless of the effort being put through it.
For storage, the two legs on each side of the turbo fold in, making the Tacx relatively compact. Unlike its competitors, such as the Wahoo Kickr, the Tacx Neo 2T doesn’t come with a handle to help carry the turbo, and it is a bit difficult to manoeuvre, especially given its weight. The power cable slots neatly in to the rear of the trainer, keeping well out of the way of any liquid and ensuring it doesn’t interfere with the rest of the unit.
The Tacx Neo 2T has one feature which really sets it apart from other competitors in its field: the ability to run wirelessly without a power source. It’s this incredibly useful feature that would push me in favour of ranking as the Tacx Neo 2T as the best premium turbo trainer on the market. Wire cables running across the entire garage, living room or kitchen are no longer necessary, and using the trainer for warm-ups at races or events has been made far more straightforward. When not plugged in, the Tacx runs solely on the power generated by the rider, though this does mean you need to start riding before it links to the head unit or any other devices. At the same time, the downhill freewheel doesn’t work when used wirelessly.
Taken together, the process of setting up the Tacx from the box to having it ready to ride is extremely simple. The legs fold outwards and click into place, with a handy indicator changing from red to blue once they are secured. Unlike the Wahoo Kickr, which runs without a block for the front wheel, the Tacx Neo 2T comes with a wheel block to raise the bike into the preferred position.
A cassette is not included with the Tacx, so this will need to be purchased separately and is an additional cost to the already high price point. The trainer is compatible with a standard quick release which we used for our test, but it can also accommodate a bolt-thru and the mountain bike boost standard. Those using Campag will need to purchase an additional freehub body. We used a rim-brake bike for the majority of our test period. Set-up was extremely simple, being just a case of slotting the rear wheel in. However, disc brake bikes will not be compatible straight out of the box. Instead requiring additional spacers to get the clearance needed, this is something Tacx may look to improve on with disc-brake bikes now largely dominating the market.
Thanks to the use of the virtual flywheel, the Tacx Neo 2T is one of the most responsive turbos currently available, working phenomenally when riding Zwift routes. As the virtual road goes up, the Tacx replicates the rising gradients perfectly and does the same on the downhills. Due to its responsiveness, the Tacx drops to zero watts extremely quickly, which is a handy feature for those aiming to activate the aero-tuck in Zwift racing. The cobble stimulation feature also adds variety, but I didn’t find myself using this feature too frequently as it added quite a lot of noise to the normally quiet trainer.Image: Getty
The Neo 2T offers a maximum power of 2,200 watts, but admittedly, I didn’t quite have the facilities to test this claim. This huge max wattage is delivered via electromagnetic resistance, a feature that’s usually only seen on the most premium turbo trainers. It's something that really sets the Neo 2T apart from lower-end trainers in terms of the ride feel. Tacx also claims that the power and cadence accuracy is below one per cent.
Though there are many positives to take from the extreme responsiveness of the turbo trainer, it can be difficult to reach power targets in shorter sprint efforts. The resistance changes immediately meaning you'll need to switch gears quickly to reach the desired cadence for short sprints. I found the inbuilt rocker to really replicate the realistic sprint feel you get when completing an effort on the road.
The Tacx Neo 2T left me wanting for very little else during the test period. It was incredibly responsive and is a shining example of how far virtual riding has come, with the feel being so similar to road riding. The ability to use the turbo without having to plug it into a power source is also a feature that sets the Tacx above other trainers, as does the slim-fit of the unit once it is put away for storage. It’s incredibly silent and the virtual flywheel really adds to the fun aspect of indoor training. Though it comes at a hefty price, if you have the means, you’d be hard pressed to find anything better for the perfect indoor training set up.