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Verdict: 
Top-grade smart trainer; if you have to have the best, this should be on your shopping list
Weight: 
15,000g
Elite Drivo direct-drive smart trainer
9 10

The Elite Drivo is a top-drawer, powered, indoor trainer with Bluetooth Smart and ANT+ connectivity that's a cinch to hook up and get riding. It's just a shame that the bottom-drawer aesthetic and some needless niggles let it down. The Drivo is aimed squarely at the cyclist with plenty of money burning a hole in her jersey pocket and for those with the means I can't imagine a much better training tool.

Elite are one of the big three manufacturers of training equipment, along with Tacx and CycleOps. With over thirty years in the the business the Italian company knows how to reinvent itself and keep itself on the cutting edge. And with Wahoo's Kickr eating everyone's lunch, they need to. The Drivo is Elite's top model in their new, redefined and simplified 'interactive' range of smart trainers. At an RRP of £1,200 it's not cheap, so my expectations are high.

In the box

Elite Drivo -6.jpg

Elite Drivo -6.jpg

Elite have been generous with the included kit. Other than the Drivo itself you get all the tackle needed to get up and running: A Shimano-fit freehub body and adaptor kit for road or mountain bike spacing is included and – on my unit at least – pre fitted for road use. There's a 142x12mm through-axle kit, a USB ANT+ dongle, and an optional cadence sensor. Elite's own training software is included with a month's free trial for Zwift too. No kitchen sink though.

Setup

Elite Drivo -5.jpg

Elite Drivo -5.jpg

If like me 'every day is a leg day' for you, you might need some help lifting the Drivo out of the box, though at 15kg it's actually around 5kg lighter than its rivals. The Drivo is carried by a single handle, upright, on its nose. The handle itself is a little awkward and flexible. I would have preferred something solid for such an expensive piece of equipment.

Once a suitable space has been found setup is a very simple affair. The locking T-bar folds down to support the front while the base of the unit supports the rear for three points of contact. The Drivo is direct drive so you'll need a chain whip and a lockring tool to fit a cassette, for while you'll need to budget another £30-50. You'll then need access to an electrical socket and some place cool, because you're going to be getting sweaty very soon.

Getting the rear end over the cassette and locking it in place with your regular skewer is simple enough and the height is no bother either. Elite have designed an elegant solution to wheel and tyre sizes. The triangular rubber feet have three orientations for road, cyclocross and mountain bike tyres, raising the rear to match the height of the front.

After looping the power cable around the cable-tidy – another simple, elegant design – you'll switch it on and hear 'the noise' for the first time. As the resistance unit shifts into place the Drivo emits a mechanical hum which, with time, will induce a Pavlovian response in your heart rate. You'll also see three indicator lights, a solid power light and blinking lights indicating the Drivo is sniffing out ANT+ and Bluetooth signals.

The Drivo is packed with connectivity. It supports ANT+, including FE-C that allows software to control the resistance automatically. This opens the gateway to numerous third-party training services. Bluetooth is supported too, including the (currently) proprietary standards for control. Both ANT+ and Bluetooth connections will provide power, speed and cadence data, which we'll talk about more later. Switching any compatible device on and searching for the Drivo won't be any trouble. I had no problem connecting a Garmin 800, 820, iPhone or iPad.

And that's it. Yup. No calibration, no spin down, no muss and no fuss thank you. All that's left is to choose your poison and get riding.

First impressions

Elite Drivo -2.jpg

Elite Drivo -2.jpg

Before I go any further I have to talk about the design. Others have likened the aesthetic to an AT-AT walker from Star Wars, and I wouldn't disagree. It's a bit of a shame that the case is also poorly moulded. My unit had uneven areas where the case sections join and I have seen others report the same.

Now that's out of the way let's get to where the Drivo really excels: the ride. My first outing was a Zwift lap round the London circuit. Out of the blocks there was a little inertia to overcome but once you're over the gear the Drivo is hands down the smoothest trainer I've ridden. The 6kg flywheel is smaller than some of its rivals but it's put to good use here with a double-belt pulley system. With full control provided by Zwift I could feel every undulation on the course. There was no delay or sudden changes in resistance, only smooth transitions and the confidence that an effort will be rewarded rather than punished with a sudden, reactive increase. With a maximum resistance of 2,000w that's a good thing too. As a bigger guy I do worry (I admit needlessly) about stability and the 1,400 or 1,600w resistance on some units, but that's not a problem here. The Drivo is a solid, sprinter-approved trainer, but what about the climbers?

Turning toward Box Hill – yes, I know there's a mountain but it was 'London' day and my first ride – I got to test a little of the Drivo's virtual gravity. Box Hill's average 5% gradient is nowhere near the 24% maximum the Drivo will simulate, but once again I enjoyed the steady, almost casual increase and the confidence inducing ability to lay the power on when needed.

I had no issues with data recording: my iPad received power, speed and cadence data with no interruptions, peaks, troughs or drop outs. There was no issue with my iPhone or Garmin unit either. I did find that the Drivo won't do 'dual' output: sending data to both a Bluetooth and ANT+ device. Nor will it relay data, for instance from my ANT+ heart ate monitor through the Drivo to my Bluetooth device. Could we get that sometime please, Elite boffins?

Finishing a ride, packing away and storage

Elite Drivo -4.jpg

Elite Drivo -4.jpg

Completing a ride is even simpler than starting. The Drivo turns itself off once the pedals stop turning, almost immediately. Another spin will turn it back on, re-pair to your computer and continue the ride. Once unplugged the bike can be removed and the T-bar unlocked and folded for storage. Once folded and stored upright the Drivo will take up no more room than a mid-sized vacuum cleaner.

Accuracy

One of the key selling points of the Drivo is its accuracy. It's claimed to read your power to 1% accuracy, whereas most of its competitors – such as the Wahoo Kickr and (at launch) Tacx Neo – claim 2% or worse. However, the Neo has since re-rated its accuracy as 1%, putting it on par with the Drivo.

To properly assess a unit's accuracy I'd want many hours, days and perhaps years of data. I don't think that any one sample, relative to another power meter should form a part of a review. Suffice to say that the power readings I got were comparable to and consistent with my experience and more than enough for me not to question Elite's claimed accuracy rating, which has been independently verified by a third party in Germany.

Elite can claim a high level of accuracy because there are no electronic strain-gauge-based systems inside the Drivo. Instead there's an optical sensor measuring the delay between two rotors. What this means in practice is there are no discrepancies due to prevailing meteorological conditions or heat build-up. If you need to know that every session results in a gain then this unit is the only choice available to you.

Software

Elite Drivo -3.jpg

Elite Drivo -3.jpg

Elite's own 'my E Training' software isn't really the selling point here, so I won't spend too long on it. All 'big three' brands offer their own training software, and the rationale is solid: as a new customer you want everything you need to get riding. That is provided here, but not much more.

Elite's software is available for Android and iOS devices and I had no trouble setting it up. It allows you to ride to power (ER-G mode), level (incline) or programme. Programme mode has a reasonable library of workouts and system for selecting a training plan based on an initial fitness test. But you need a Bluetooth heart rate monitor for that, and I didn't have one.

Elite also provide a demo of Real Training, their 'ride along with us' software that will replicate famous rides on video and through the trainer. Alpe d'Heuz is included in the box and there's a library of others available online. What is neat is that it's possible to upload your own video and ride data and re-ride that mountain pass you did last summer, in the depths of winter, in sub-zero temperature, in your shed. Really, you want to do that? I didn't, but each to their own.

The reality is that if you're looking at spending this much then you're well aware of what's on offer from third party developers. And with a healthy, growing market for those services the market for trainers like this will grow too. But again, the rationale is there and all is forgiven. What is unforgivable however is hiding features of your hardware behind subscription services.

For example, the Drivo can do pedal analysis. It will show you the power output for your pedal rotation so that you can improve your pedalling smoothness. But it's only available with a subscription to my E Training. Poor show Elite.

Read more: 7 of the best smart trainers 

Longer term

Having covered the ride quality, capacity and accuracy of the Drivo, what's it like to live and train with over the longer term?

The first thing to say that, despite being 5kg lighter than its competitors, it's still a bit bulky to hulk around. Like nearly all professional-level direct-drive trainers the Drivo is best kept in a specific training environment, be that a shed (with power) or in the house. In the house the Drivo is genuinely quieter than you might expect but it still makes enough noise to spoil the dinner conversation of your house guests in the next room. Noise is a little more resonant over 100 rpm as the flywheel starts to sing.

Once set up, jumping on the bike and getting up to speed is a breeze. I had no problem switching between training software but I did find that TrainerRoad would report the speed of my rides incorrectly, even after double checking the wheel circumference.

When training in ERG (target power) mode the Drivo lets you ebb and flow around the target power output, rather than stick you rigidly to it. I prefer this as it feels more natural but you might think differently. But if you do stop – for instance if you've dropped a bottle or those annoying friends are asking why you're not joining them for dinner – then the immediate power-down will frustrate you. It can take a Herculean effort to get back on top of a gear in order for the Drivo to ease off the resistance, so keep pedalling while you take your criticism. It is also possible to induce this experience yourself with very low cadence while requiring a high-wattage output, but I wouldn't recommend it.

During FTP tests I found the same, over zealous resistance unit would limit my cadence to about 70rpm. Easing off the percentage effort a little using my training software eased it up a little but I couldn't shake the feeling that I was doing a test up an Italian Col.

The Drivo really does come into its own when racing. Without wanting to turn this into an advert for Zwift I really must say that the granularity afforded by the Drivo and it's near-immediate responsiveness in adjusting resistance can make a race feel very close to the real thing. Climbs hurt like hell, drafting can save your life and sprinting for the line has everything bar the elbow-on-elbow action.

>>Read more: Get started with Zwift and make your home trainer sessions more fun

Lasting impressions

Having ridden the Drivo regularly for over a month I would certainly recommend it to anyone operating in the top-tiers of amateur competition and would-be professionals. The 2000w maximum resistance and 24% maximum slope give you access to everything from a bunch-sprint in Abu Dhabi to a third-week climb of the Stelvio in the (dis)comfort of your own home. There's literally nothing but your own body heat and pain-threshold to stop you here. Who knows, coming off the back of a long, dry summer you might even find yourself racing for a place on Canyon-SRAM's pro-team.

For the rest of us mere mortals there's no getting away from the price tag. If you're willing to spend this kind of money you're almost certainly used to having the best, and the Drivo is unlikely to disappoint you. If you have to watch the pennies a little more then the Drivo is a worthwhile, future-proof investment that offers a great training alternative to the icy chain-gang, sloppy midweek hill-rep or blowy Sunday club run. You'll just have to avoid the mirror and/or your significant other while you come up with a convincing justification for buying it.

Verdict

Top-grade smart trainer; if you have to have the best, this should be on your shopping list

road.cc test report

Make and model: Elite Drivo trainer

Size tested: n/a

Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?

The Drivo is Elite's no-holds-barred, top-level, smart turbo trainer aimed squarely at top-tier professionals, amateur racers, and very serious weekend warriors. Elite use superlatives to describe the Drivo and for the moment they might be right to do so. I cannot image a simpler, more robust and capable training tool to bring me into form for the spring or to complement my summer training.

Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?

The Elite is a true workhorse that punches less above its weight, that weight being around 5Kg under its rivals. It turns a 6kg flywheel into a 24% climb or a 2,000 watt sprint with a quiet confidence of simple and effective engineering. Furthermore it's packed full of some of the most advanced gadgetry on the market providing the most accurate and consistent power measurement available today. And it'll stream it through ANT+ or Bluetooth to whatever software controller you can throw at it.

Rate the product for quality of construction:
 
7/10

The cheap, flexible and frankly poorly produced casing belies the Drivo's true nature. A top-drawer device with bottom-drawer styling. But that can be forgiven given the quality of work under the hood.

Rate the product for performance:
 
10/10

I simply cannot imagine a better indoor training experience. The Drivo is quiet, able and willing to go whenever you need it to while reporting your vital statistics more accurately than any other device on the market.

Rate the product for durability:
 
8/10

This device will handle anything it's designed to be put through, but it's not going to stand a drop from any height if you're not treating it with the respect it deserves.

Rate the product for weight (if applicable)
 
10/10

At 15 Kg the Drivo is no flyweight. But at 5Kg lighter than its rivals and with a 6kg flywheel it's amazing what you can pack into 9kg.

Rate the product for comfort (if applicable)
 
7/10

The Drivo is not made to be comfortable. It is a bringer of pain.

Rate the product for value:
 
7/10

There's no getting around it. This is an investment. That said it is comparably priced compared to its rivals and, if the manufacturers claims are to be believed, more accurate and reliable than anything else available.

Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose

One word: Exceptionally.

Tell us what you particularly liked about the product

The ease of setup and lack of a per-ride configuration or initialisation process.

Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product

That Star Wars AT-AT walker casing.

Did you enjoy using the product? I'm still sweating.

Would you consider buying the product? Yes

Would you recommend the product to a friend? If that friend wanted to break into Category 1 or a pro contract yes.

Use this box to explain your score

I would give the Drivo a perfect ten if it weren't for the styling, the poor handle and the occasionally overzealous resistance forced upon me (potentially) by poorly written third-party service providers. If you have to have the best then this is one of your three options.

Overall rating: 9/10

About the tester

Age: 0  Height:   Weight:

I usually ride:   My best bike is:

I've been riding for: Under 5 years  I ride: Every day  I would class myself as: Novice

I regularly do the following types of riding:

16 comments

Avatar
davel [1697 posts] 8 months ago
4 likes

I'm getting superficial... this week I've seen a bike, and now a trainer, that I wouldn't go near solely based on their appearance.

Having to pop the wheel off is undignified enough... I'm not making my pride & joy interface with a 90s franking machine.

Avatar
flathunt [245 posts] 8 months ago
0 likes

It's a bit TL;DR but I reckon if this is a motor the UCI won't need an iPad to spot it.

Avatar
sammutd88 [48 posts] 8 months ago
0 likes

I'd buy the new Wahoo Kickr, but if I use it, Canyon will not honour a warranty claim. They will however, use their bikes on trainers at trade shows on Zwift and allow a sponsored show like GCN to use theirs on trainers......unrelated to the Elite, I know. Ugly machine it is. 

Avatar
mingmong [288 posts] 8 months ago
1 like

If Dyson did wind-ups

Avatar
Yorkshire wallet [1435 posts] 8 months ago
2 likes

Looks like some sort of wood chipper to me.

Avatar
David_S [8 posts] 8 months ago
2 likes

This could quite easily be the most ugly piece of cycling equipment I have ever set my eyes on. I know it is unlikely that many people are ever going to see it but I think it would bring a tear to my eye every time I went to use it knowing I had spent £1,200 on it.

Avatar
dreamlx10 [198 posts] 8 months ago
1 like

You can buy a bike for that kind of money !

Avatar
CXR94Di2 [1780 posts] 8 months ago
1 like
dreamlx10 wrote:

You can buy a bike for that kind of money !

 

You can, but also you could trash a bike with one winters usage .  It is not the most pleasing to the eye. The Kickr and V2 look much better.  When your paying best part of a thousand or more for a trainer, it better perform more than it looks.  Im a Kickr user

Avatar
DaveE128 [916 posts] 8 months ago
0 likes

Whatever happened to Italian styling?!

Avatar
SNS1938 [121 posts] 8 months ago
0 likes

I am looking for a nice smart trainer, but could never spend 1200 quid on one this ugly. How did the Dutch (Tacx Neo), Americans (Wahoo Kickr) and Cyclops Hammer make relatively pretty trainers, and the Italians make this ugly duckling? 

I bet there will be a Gen 2 released before winter which at a minimum will have a black case, but likely a nicer looking case too. 

Avatar
tritecommentbot [2268 posts] 8 months ago
0 likes

Actually kinda fond of the design. Reminds me of FPS sci-fi weapons

 

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Avatar
Martin Thomas [384 posts] 8 months ago
0 likes

Why is everyone going on about how ugly it is? It's a trainer...no one's going to see it.

Avatar
Rapha Nadal [606 posts] 8 months ago
0 likes
Martin Thomas wrote:

Why is everyone going on about how ugly it is? It's a trainer...no one's going to see it.

Least of all the user when they're staring at a screen in front of them!

Avatar
steviemarco [236 posts] 7 months ago
0 likes

Why would you want to sync your HRM with the Drivo then to your BT device? sad

Avatar
davel [1697 posts] 7 months ago
0 likes
Martin Thomas wrote:

Why is everyone going on about how ugly it is? It's a trainer...no one's going to see it.

This is so ugly it burns into your brain so it's all you can think about.

Avatar
DrJDog [422 posts] 7 months ago
0 likes
sammutd88 wrote:

I'd buy the new Wahoo Kickr, but if I use it, Canyon will not honour a warranty claim. They will however, use their bikes on trainers at trade shows on Zwift and allow a sponsored show like GCN to use theirs on trainers......unrelated to the Elite, I know. Ugly machine it is. 

 

Canyon told me my warranty was void if I put a rack on a bike that they also sell with a rack.