The Elite Real Axiom trainer is the sibling of the recently-tested Elite Real e-Motion rollers that were well liked. This trainer is similar, in that it can link via ANT+ to your computer and allow you to use video courses or set training sessions. It can generate a higher virtual gradient than the rollers, and its sprung feet are designed to simulate the feel of riding on the open road.
At first glance it's pretty much a standard indoor trainer, with a beefy frame made from 50mm tubing and a resistance unit where you'd expect to find one. There's more to it than that, though. The quick release clamp has been redesigned so that it's easier to use, and it's a big improvement on most turbos, with a large cam that makes it easy to lock the bike in place with one hand while you're holding your bike with the other. The feet are different, too; they're built in two sections with a spring in the middle, so that they can react to movements of your weight on the bike.
The resistance unit itself is mains-powered, and Elite claim it can replicate gradients of up to 10%. It's controllable by ANT+, and the Real Axiom comes with an ANT+ USB stick to connect to your PC (There's no Mac version of the software). You can control some aspects of the software with a handlebar-mounted console, so you don't have to keep getting off and fiddling with your computer. You can add in an ANT+ heart rate monitor too; there's no need to fit a cadence sensor, as the Real Axiom can work that out from your pedal input.
You'll only seriously be looking at this turbo if you're genuinely interested in some or all of the things that the software can do, so let's look at them. First off, there's a big library of RealDVD courses you can buy, which will allow you to slog up Alpe d'Huez or your favourite climb from the comfort – sort of – of your own home/shed/garage. Many of the vids are filmed when the big races are on, so you get a bit of the atmosphere of climbing with a crowd, too. The DVDs work well and certainly break up the monotony of a long session, if you find a long session monotonous, which I most assuredly do.
The Real Software also allows you to perform a Conconi test, which is a genuinely hateful ramp test that's designed to figure out your anaerobic threshold. It's repeatable, too, so you can use it to track your progress as you get fitter.
You can set up pretty much any kind of training session you want, based on whatever metrics you want to train by (heart rate/power/slope/etc) or you can import a GPX file and use that as the basis of a session. You can virtually ride it on Google Maps, too, if you like. If you don't have any GPX files to hand then the software allows you to plot a route on a map and ride that, which is fun for exploring.
As if all that's not enough, Elite's new arrow in the quiver is MyRealVideo, which allows you to scoot off and take videos of your rides (or routes you drive in your car) and then ride them back whenever you want. Or ride someone else's routes. The interface is a bit clunky right now but it has a lot of promise. We had a go producing some loops around Bath and the results were pretty good, although there's a fair bit of lag between the gradient changing and the resistance following suit.
All this great functionality wouldn't be any use if the turbo wasn't any good, but thankfully it is. The Elastogel roller and the big flywheel make it quiet and smooth, the resistance ramps are noticeable – although I reckon 8-9%, rather than 10%, is their maximum – and the feet bounce.
Actually, I wasn't all that sold on the feet. I can understand the thinking but even with articulated feet, the movement of the bike doesn't really feel natural. It's not like a Kurt Kinetic Rock 'n' Roll where the whole bike can pivot, you just sort of bounce a round a bit more. They don't make things any worse, but they're not a massive improvement either.
Overall, though, the Real Axiom is very likeable: the unit itself gives a good riding feel and the software backs that up with a wealth of different training options. Whether or not you need to spend all that money – and this is an expensive machine – is really dependent on how much training you're going to do, how much you need to be cajoled into it by video and data, and how much you want to track your progress.
The interactive turbo market is opening up at the moment, and while units such as the Tacx Bushido Tablet and the BKool may not have some of the in-depth features of the Real Axiom, they're a lot cheaper and might fit the bill if you want something immersive but aren't so concerned with the minutiae.
Good quality interactive trainer with a huge range of training options available in the Real software.
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Make and model: Elite Real Axiom 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?
A complete cycling simulation for pro-level training sessions.
RealAxiom realistically simulates outdoor riding and allows you to train indoors on those rainy, snowy or windy days or when it is to dark to ride safely. You can use it during the long and cold winter months or throughout the year to prepare for important races and to evaluate and improve your training and athletic performance.
The home trainer adjusts resistance automatically based on rider speed and the course selected.
The computer screen displays a video synchronized to the bicycle's speed, and shows important training data such as speed, power, heart rate, pedal cadence, slope and elapsed time.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
The high power output (more than 1200 W at 40 Km/h) accurately simulates slopes of up to 10%.
The large flywheel delivers smooth pedalling at even the highest power levels and steepest slopes.
The oversize Elastogel roller reduces tyre wear and noise levels
Ritmo feet installed on the frame simulate road riding by allowing a swaying movement in response to the rider's motion
The FastFixing locking system speeds up bicycle mounting and removal.
Solidly built turbo.
Generally good, although I'd like to see the resistance go a bit higher.
Should last and the software keeps getting updates.
Sprung legs don't really add much to the experience.
Expensive compared to other options.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
It was a good overall experience, with a few minor niggles.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Solidly-built, computer interface works well.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Sprung feet don't really add much, maximum resistance isn't that high.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes.
Would you consider buying the product? Probably not.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Probably not.
Anything further to say about the product in conclusion?
Given the choice of this and the Real e-Motion rollers, I'd go for the rollers.
Age: 40 Height: 190cm Weight: 102kg
I usually ride: whatever I'm testing... My best bike is: Genesis Equilibrium 853
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mtb, Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling, track
Dave is a founding father of road.cc, having previously worked on Cycling Plus and What Mountain Bike magazines back in the day. He also writes about e-bikes for our sister publication ebiketips. He's won three mountain bike bog snorkelling World Championships, and races at the back of the third cats.