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Verdict: 
Zwift-compatible direct-drive smart trainer that really impresses at a good price
Weight: 
15,000g

Elite is on a roll. Last winter it launched the £1,200 top-end Drivo smart trainer, this winter it has added the £750 Direto to its range. And it's a top quality direct-drive smart trainer.

  • Pros: Easy setup, ANT+/Bluetooth app compatibility, legs fold away, smooth & reasonably quiet
  • Cons: Power cable too short; not as quiet or realistic as £1,000+ trainers

The Direto has really impressed me. It offers a smooth and realistic road feel, massive stability for your hardest interval sprints, easy compatibility with a host of training apps, and works with disc brake bikes. It's a good pick if you want to make a serious investment into indoor training this winter but can't stomach the £1,000+ price tags associated with the likes of the Elite Drivo, Wahoo Kickr and Tacx Neo.

> Find your nearest dealer here

Getting the Direto out of the box (you can watch our unboxing video here) and ready for action is fairly straightforward, but it does require a small amount of assembly. You also need to add your own cassette, there isn't one included in the price. If you don't have a spare cassette make sure to factor in £30 or so for a basic one; the freehub is 10/11-speed compatible.

Elite Direto Interactive Power Meter Trainer - cassette.jpg

Out of the box, the Direto is ready for a traditional quick release dropout and a skewer is supplied. Spacers are included to convert to a 142x12mm disc brake setup, though you need to do this before you add the cassette. You obviously use the thru-axle that came with the bike to install it onto the trainer. Once fitted it's secure and doesn't budge even during the hardest sprints.

Like all smart trainers, the Direto needs to be plugged into the mains. The power cable is a measly length; I'd prefer a longer one to give you more flexibility for setup locations. C'mon Elite, it wouldn't cost much to give us a longer power cable now, would it? The Wahoo Kickr cable is about twice as long.

The Direto packs both ANT+ and Bluetooth Smart so it can be connected to a wide range of devices, from a laptop to a smartphone or a suitable bike computer. Small LED lights on the trainer indicate when you have connections. The Direto also has a cadence sensor baked into it, so no need to add an extra sensor to the cranks. That's a nice detail and something I wish the Kickr did.

Calibration's what you need

With the bike fitted it's always worth conducting a calibration test before you get stuck into your first sessions. The free Elite MyETraining smartphone app makes this an easy task; it's no chore. The benefit of direct-drive trainers is that you don't need to calibrate them all that often. I did it just once and the accuracy has been perfect throughout my testing.

With the Direto calibrated and ready to go, I tried both Bluetooth on an iPhone and ANT+ using a dongle on a laptop, and it worked perfectly in both instances. Those wireless protocols ensure the Direto is compatible with a wide range of apps, from Elite's own free app to a plethora of free and paid training programs like Sufferfest, TrainerRoad and Zwift.

Elite Direto Interactive Power Meter Trainer - detail.jpg

I'm a fan of Zwift (I'm a paid subscriber) and conducted the majority of my testing of the Direto around the roads of Watopia. The Pretzel is a good test for any smart trainer. A steep and long climb with lots of different gradients, it really highlights the benefits of a smart trainer that is able to automatically adjust the resistance to ensure it really feels like you're grinding up a mountain. It's extremely realistic, about as close to doing the real thing as it gets in the sanctuary of my conservatory.

The Direto deftly handled the gradient changes very well, with the change in resistance quick enough to ensure what is happening with your legs matches what's occurring on the screen in front of you. The steepest maximum gradient on this virtual climb exceeds the 14% maximum gradient the Direto will simulate, but in my opinion, that's no biggie. It all hurts when you're on roads that steep, real or virtual.

> Buyer's Guide: 15 of the best indoor trainers

Next, I conducted a workout session in Zwift, which makes use of the excellent ERG mode to hold a set power, leaving you the simple task of pedalling. I've been very impressed with how well the Wahoo Kickr does this, it doesn't deviate much from the selected power figure, with a very smooth power line. The Direto tends to drift above and below the set power number a bit more, but it's within tolerable levels. It does teach you not to be lazy and work on your pedalling smoothness to help hold the same power output; it's a small difference but something you do get used to.

Pedalling feel is very good. There's a lot of talk about how realistic direct-drive smart trainers are compared with the real thing, and it's a tricky thing to quantify as there's no industry standard test as such. In reality, they obviously can't match actually riding outside on the road, but I found the Direto as silky smooth as could be expected. The flywheel is lighter than the Drivo (6kg versus 12kg) but unless you're testing the trainers side-by-side, the Direto feels really good. It's not quite on a par with the Wahoo Kickr, but considering the price difference, it's an acceptable difference.

Elite Direto Interactive Power Meter Trainer.jpg

The wide-spaced legs provide massive stability and you can climb out of the saddle or sprint for the line without fear of toppling over. The Direto isn't as heavy as the Kickr but it's marginally more stable when you're riding out of the saddle or sprinting. The long legs do mean it takes up more space when it's in use, but they fold away easily and there's an integrated handle to make it easy to move out of the way when the training session is over. It's reasonably light and not a massive chore to move around.

Elite Direto Interactive Power Meter Trainer - legs folded 2.jpg

Noise levels

Noise level is something that concerns some potential customers of smart trainers. Obviously, if you live in a flat or don't want to wake the rest of the household if you're training at unsociable hours, the noise level is going to be important. The Direto was highly impressive, a bit quieter than the Kickr with a low-level hum. 

You're certainly not going to disturb the neighbours. My partner was able to watch the television in the adjacent room with no need to increase the volume. And anyway, the noise of the trainer is drowned out by the massive fan and music pumping out of a Bluetooth speaker that I use during my indoor training sessions!

Power measuring

The Direto obviously has a power meter packed into it, but it only measures power at 12 points instead of 24 like the more expensive Drivo. In use, I found the power measurement accurate and consistent from one session to another. I used my PowerTap P1 pedals to compare the Direto to and they tracked very closely during a variety of rides and workouts. Elite claims it's +/-2.5% accurate (the Drivo is +/-1% accurate) but I didn't notice any shortfall in the accuracy during my testing, and I reckon it's closer to 1% than Elite lets on. It's right up there with the best trainers, including the Wahoo Kickr, in my experience.

Value

The price of the Direto, while still obviously a big chunk of cash, is a fair bit cheaper than the high-end trainers like the Wahoo Kickr, Tacx Neo and Elite's own Drivo. Perhaps the main competitor is the Tacx Flux, a £600 smart trainer that was introduced a year ago.

They are quite comparable, but the +/-5% accuracy of the Flux isn't in the same league as the Direto. The Flux doesn't have foldaway legs like the Direto either. There have also been widely reported issues with the Flux –  a frequent topic of conversation in the Flux owners group on Facebook. The Direto has been solid and reliable and is probably worth the extra £150.

If you're in the market for a smart trainer this winter but are put off by the high prices commanded off by some of the top models, the Direto is more affordable without any shortcomings in its performance. In fact, I'd say for most people it's a credible alternative to those more expensive high-end trainers, not one you choose simply because your budget won't stretch to a Kickr or other premium offering.

Verdict

Zwift-compatible direct-drive smart trainer that really impresses at a good price

If you're thinking of buying this product using a cashback deal why not use the road.cc Top Cashback page and get some top cashback while helping to support your favourite independent cycling website

road.cc test report

Make and model: Elite Direto Trainer

Size tested: Compatible with road & MTB frames, inc 142 x 12 thru axles

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?

Elite says:

Interactive ANT+ FE-C & Bluetooth compliant home trainer that interacts with any kind of app & softwares

Compatible with My E-Training and all the following available softwares, amongst many others:

Zwift

TrainerRoad

The Sufferfest

Kinomap

Bikevo

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

From Elite:

Integrated OTS (Optical Torque Sensor) power meter, which measures power with +/- 2,5% accuracy.

Pedaling analysis option (available as an in-app purchase) measures power during the whole pedaling movement and sets 12 points that determine how much effort you put in your legs, so you can optimize your training session. The My E-Training software and app with pedaling analysis option (available as an in-app purchase) displays DIRETO's measured power data on two different types of charts.

DIRETO also simulates challenging slopes, up to 14%, with a 1400 Watt power output at a 40 km/h speed.

DIRETO is part of the new generation of totally interactive ANT+ FE-C & Bluetooth compliant home trainers that interact with a multitude of apps, software, computers and devices (smartphones and tablets) with iOS, Android, OSX and Windows.

Direct drive for easy set-up and zero tyre wear or slippage.

It's ideal for any type of training, specifically for those training sessions directed towards working on: cadence, power and sprints that require absolute accuracy.

It's practical and easy to use: very stable, easy to transport, folds quickly for storage even with limited space available.

It's compatible with both road and MTB frames, including 142 x 12 with thru axles.

It's compatible with Shimano 9/10/11 speed, SRAM & Campagnolo 9/10/11 speed.

Rate the product for quality of construction:
 
8/10

Doesn't have the same expensive feel as a Kickr, there's a lot more plastic in its construction, but in use it's just fine.

Rate the product for performance:
 
9/10

A really smooth road feel and accurate, consistent and reliable power measurement.

Rate the product for durability:
 
8/10
Rate the product for weight (if applicable)
 
7/10
Rate the product for value:
 
9/10

The quality and performance is nearly up there with the best smart trainers but for a lot less cash.

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

Provides accurate and consistent power training and easy compatibility with your fave apps.

Tell us what you particularly liked about the product

Very solid, easy to use, smooth pedalling feel and pretty quiet.

Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product

Some people might find its 1400W max power capacity not nearly enough, but for most it's just fine. The mains power lead is too short.

Did you enjoy using the product? Yes

Would you consider buying the product? Yes

Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes

Use this box to explain your score

A very good smart trainer that is easy and nice to use and doesn't leave you wishing you'd saved a bit longer for a Drivo or Kickr.

Overall rating: 9/10

About the tester

Age: 31  Height: 180cm  Weight: 67kg

I usually ride:   My best bike is:

I've been riding for: 10-20 years  I ride: Every day  I would class myself as: Expert

I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo-cross, commuting, touring, mountain biking

David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.

10 comments

Avatar
kitkat [495 posts] 1 year ago
1 like

re: power supply length, it's longer than the Kickr - you just need to use an extension cable which you'll likely have if you've also plugged in your fan, phone charger, PC, monitor, radio, etc...

Shane Miller has that covered: https://youtu.be/sKd_hbGHXng?t=99

Also, it would be good to see some journalistic independence on Road.cc. Every other day there's a Zwift story and this review would make you think there's nothing but Zwift. e.g. "Zwift-compatible direct-drive..." - so the most redeeming feature of this trainer, the first thing you should know about it... is it works with Zwift - great! laugh

If Road.cc are sponsored/owned by Zwift then that's fine, but it would be good to know

Avatar
willmars [7 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes

If you are thinking of buying this don't get it through AthleteShop.co.uk - even though a google search comes up with them as the cheapest online its too good to be true. I ordered mine a month ago and after numerous emails of 'slight delays' and me challenging them they came clean and admitted they won't have any in stock until February.  A waste of time and totally disingenuous.

Avatar
Benjamin Nickolls [62 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes
willmars wrote:

A waste of time and totally disingenuous.

When I ordered from them 3rd Oct the site said they would recieve stock 30th Oct. I'm not defending them but my expectations were suitably managed in that i knew they didnt have stock at the time I ordered, which means you're at the whim of Elite's logistics and their backorder system...

Avatar
Robedoor [2 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes

I've made a post in the forums warning people of Athlete Shop.

 

The Direto  was around £508 when I first saw it there through google shopping. When I placed an order it was £515, plus a premium for buying with Paypal (for the buyer protection). The total came to £545 — still massively below RRP.

 

Long story short; I asked Athlete Shop if they'd be able to fulfil all orders, considering the massive discount. They said they should be able to — all orders taken are placed directly with the manufacturer.

 

Over a month later, every other store starts to get stock, but not Athlete Shop. I made some enquiries with Elite. Here's what Elite Logistic and Customer Care said of Athlete Shop: "We don’t have any direct relationship nor do we supply this online retailer."

Avatar
kitkat [495 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes

I've now bought one of these yes

I saw the AthleteShop price and had a 'to good to be true' feeling about it. The next best online price was Sprockets Cycles in Ayreshire for £700. Ordered & delivered within 4 days

I see they're now £695! I would give them a call to double check stock as when I spoke to them they'd recieved 7 online orders that morning

http://www.sprocketscycles.com/direto-direct-drive-fe-c-b-mag-trainer-wi...

Avatar
willmars [7 posts] 12 months ago
0 likes

I ordered from http://www.clevertraining.co.uk/ they have a deal with DC Rainmaker to get 10% off.  https://www.dcrainmaker.com/clever-training-vip

So total was £675.  Came 2 days later. 

Now I'm in whole worlds of pain getting my winter training in!

Avatar
ibr17xvii [364 posts] 12 months ago
0 likes

http://www.wiggle.co.uk/elite-direto-direct-drive-trainer-with-ots-power...

 

Now in stock with Wiggle. Good price if you have the max loyalty discount.

Avatar
T1000AdvancedModel [2 posts] 11 months ago
0 likes

I bought mine from Halfords -- first they price matched Sprocket Cycles price, then I got an extra 10% for showing my British Cycling memebership  1

Its my first smart trainer but really pleased with it, Ive been using with Trainer Road and only use the Elite app to calibrate power meter. 

Does anyone no how to get new firmware - I cant see how to update??

Avatar
PzychotropicMac [82 posts] 3 weeks ago
0 likes
Robedoor wrote:

I've made a post in the forums warning people of Athlete Shop.

 

The Direto  was around £508 when I first saw it there through google shopping. When I placed an order it was £515, plus a premium for buying with Paypal (for the buyer protection). The total came to £545 — still massively below RRP.

 

Long story short; I asked Athlete Shop if they'd be able to fulfil all orders, considering the massive discount. They said they should be able to — all orders taken are placed directly with the manufacturer.

 

Over a month later, every other store starts to get stock, but not Athlete Shop. I made some enquiries with Elite. Here's what Elite Logistic and Customer Care said of Athlete Shop: "We don’t have any direct relationship nor do we supply this online retailer."

 

Because Elite are supplied through Madison, not direct. I have no idea what this stores game is but your comment just shows an utter lack of understanding of the industry. Of course Elite dont supply this shop and have no working relationshp with them, they pay a distributor for that.

 

Avatar
Jack Osbourne snr [719 posts] 3 weeks ago
0 likes
PzychotropicMac wrote:
Robedoor wrote:

I've made a post in the forums warning people of Athlete Shop.

 

...

Over a month later, every other store starts to get stock, but not Athlete Shop. I made some enquiries with Elite. Here's what Elite Logistic and Customer Care said of Athlete Shop: "We don’t have any direct relationship nor do we supply this online retailer."

 

Because Elite are supplied through Madison, not direct. I have no idea what this stores game is but your comment just shows an utter lack of understanding of the industry. Of course Elite dont supply this shop and have no working relationshp with them, they pay a distributor for that.

 

 

Ouch! Poor Robedoor got both barrels there... but since you've flamed him months after his post, he fortuitously might not read it.

And just as a small point of order...

Whilst your assertion that Elite distribute through Madison is correct for the UK, the online retailer in question (the now bankrupt Athleteshop.co.uk) was in fact a Netherlands based business and therefore NOT supplied by Madison.

Please, if you're going to be pedantic, be 100% correct.