Tacx Neo 2T Smart trainer

9
£1,199.00

VERDICT:

9
10
Great quality indoor trainer with accurate power reporting and some unique features
Very powerful
Very quiet
Very responsive
Very accurate
ERG mode pretty brutal
Weight: 
21,800g

The Tacx NEO 2T Smart is the next generation of what's already a well-regarded trainer. The new unit offers more powerful resistance at low speeds and is capable of very quick ERG power changes. It's quiet and capable, with accurate power numbers, and continues the trend of NEO trainers being excellent, although the ERG mode is a bit hardcore compared to some.

If you're unfamiliar with the Tacx NEO family of trainers, it's one of the benchmark direct drive trainers out there. Unlike its direct competitors – the Wahoo KICKR, the Saris H3 and the Elite Drivo, among others – it doesn't use a belt to drive the resistance unit from the cassette. The connection is direct, and the flywheel is virtual, rather than being a big block of metal that you spin up to speed.

> Find your nearest dealer here

Tacx claims the NEO 2T can simulate a flywheel up to 125kg, way above the physical flywheels on other units, and the design also allows the trainer to directly drive the rear wheel, so it'll keep up speed when you're resting on descents, ready to pick up your effort again at the bottom. It's also able to generate its own power, so if you like to take your trainer to warm up before races then you can get full interactivity with your favourite training app in the middle of a field if you want.

The trainer has two hinged feet that flip up for storage, and looks a bit like the Imperial shuttle that Darth Vader used to knock about in.  It doesn't come with a cassette, so you'll need to factor in the cost of that, but other than that it's good to go, accepting all the axle standards you're likely to throw at it.

2020 Tacx Neo 2T Smart trainer - detail.jpg

It's ANT+ and Bluetooth compatible for both reporting and for trainer control. It can simulate up to a 25% gradient and offers up to 2,200W of resistance at an accuracy of +/- 1%, which should be enough unless you've devised a way for both you and a friend to ride at once.

In terms of the look of the trainer, the only clue it's a NEO 2T and not a NEO 2 is a glossy racing stripe, and a T. The changes are internal, and mostly concerned with the strength and positioning of the magnets.

2020 Tacx Neo 2T Smart trainer - logo.jpg

The NEO 2 is a great trainer, which could replicate pretty much anything. One thing it did struggle with though was hard sprints from low speed, where the resistance unit wasn't able to offer enough resistance, and you could induce some slip. The new trainer has more powerful magnets which are aligned differently, and those changes mean it's able to cope with those low-speed sprints much better.

It's not really something that I do a great deal of, but if you're into your sprints from a standstill then the NEO 2T will probably suit you better than its predecessor. For the rest of us, you're unlikely to notice that change, although you might notice the different feel of the ERG mode; more on that in a bit.

Setting up

Setting up the NEO 2T is simple enough, assuming you have a cassette. Fold the feet out, fit the cassette, make sure the end caps are the ones to fit your frame and lob your bike on top. It took me about 10 minutes from sealed box to being ready to go; you don't even need to plug it in if you don't want to, although you don't get the powered downhills if you don't. The power lead is nice and long if your power socket isn't ideally placed.

2020 Tacx Neo 2T Smart trainer - folding mechanism.jpg

If you can't leave your trainer set up then it's easy enough to pack away too, and folds into a pretty compact unit. It's heavy and doesn't have a nice balanced handle like the Wahoo KICKR so it's a bit more of a struggle to move about, but it's not that much of a chore.

2020 Tacx Neo 2T Smart trainer - folded.jpg

Linking the NEO 2T to a variety of training apps using both Bluetooth and ANT+ didn't present any issues: everything worked first time.

Once you start riding you'll probably notice that the NEO 2T is very quiet. All direct drive trainers are these days, and the NEO 2T is as quiet as any. Certainly it's not as noisy as my bike's transmission, and nowhere near as noisy as my fan. The motor is well balanced, so there's not much vibration through sprung floors or into your neighbour's flat below. As with all the NEO trainers you get the natty mood light that shines on the floor and gets angrier in colour the harder you go.

The NEO 2T resistance unit, like its predecessors, is capable of replicating road conditions. So if you're on Zwift and riding across a wooden bridge you'll feel the thunk-thunk-thunk of the planks underneath your wheels. It's very clever and not by any means essential, but it does add a layer of realism to the ride that you don't get with other trainers.

Power: repeatable and believable

The NEO 2T's resistance unit isn't exactly the same as the NEO 2, but it's a similar beast, and it has the same characteristics. Those characteristics are: it's very good at giving repeatable numbers that you can trust to be pretty close to what you're actually putting out, and generally it reads at the lower end of what I'd expect from my legs, given a few years of trying all sorts of trainers and power meters.

Here's a plot of the power from a Zwift race I did, with the NEO 2T plotted against my Garmin Vector 2 pedals, which I've used to benchmark loads of trainers over the years and I'm confident are pretty accurate.

Tacx Neo 2T race.png

You can see that the average power numbers are about 2.5% apart, comparing power measured at the pedals with power measured at the rear wheel. Given that there are losses associated with getting the power from the pedal to the rear wheel, you'd expect the NEO 2T to register slightly lower numbers, and it does.

It's also noticeable that the two lines are closer at the start of the race, and less so the further through you go. I'm not sure what caused that in this instance: I'd already completed a 20-minute warm up, so both pedals and trainer were up to speed. I suspect it's my form on the bike suffering and that being reflected in the plots. I tend to mash the pedals a bit more when I'm tired, so maybe the Garmins were thinking there was more in the tank than there actually was, or maybe the NEO 2T was under-representing the fluctuating power a bit. Or a combination of both.

Tacx Neo 2T warm up.png

The graph above is that warm up, a 20-minute set of stepped intervals. You can see that again, the two lines match each other very closely, with the average power only about 1% different between the two.

Let's zoom in on one of those intervals though...

Tacx Neo 2T interval.png

This is a ramped interval that goes from about 350W to about 400W over a minute. You can see at the start that there's a peak well over 400W before it settles into the interval. This is something you often see on intervals when a trainer is in ERG mode: the trainer/app combination adds a bit too much resistance at the start of the interval and needs to slack it off a bit to get to the correct level. The redesigned internals of the NEO 2T make it capable of making big resistance changes almost instantaneously, and that's what it does in ERG intervals. It's pretty brutal: as soon as you hit the interval it's just a wall of resistance, and you have to really push to get the interval going, which also contributes to the power peaking.

Tacx Neo 2T Eilte intervals.png

Compare that to this trace of a set of intervals from the Elite Suito trainer. The pickup of resistance on the Elite isn't as quick as the NEO 2T, and the result is that you work into the interval a bit more gradually, which is a lot gentler on the legs. It's not like one approach is right and one wrong, but I prefer the feel of the Suito here, even though it's not quite as good at holding power at a set level. The NEO 2T does that much better, but some intervals – for example, the sprint intervals at 300% FTP on the Jon's Mix session in Zwift – are almost impossible: it's like cycling into a brick wall.

> How to get started with Zwift

The work that Tacx has done on the resistance unit should mean that it's capable of doing pretty much anything, but at the moment it feels a bit like it's turned up to 10. It needs to be backed off a notch, or maybe user-configurable for feel. Some people might like the current feel.

The flip side of that is that if you're riding around in Zwift then the gradient changes in the game are more quickly and accurately represented. On the Suito, for example, if you're riding the rollers at the start of Titan's Grove then it can sometimes feel like the climbs on the trainer are lagging behind what you're seeing on the screen a bit, and that's never a problem with the NEO 2T: as soon as you see the gradient tick up you can feel the hill kick in.

Tacx Neo 2T cadence.png

The NEO 2T measures cadence using a passive sensing system, and it does a bang-up job. The two traces of the trainer and the pedals here – which of course can directly measure the cadence so should be spot on – are mostly indistinguishable, and the average is almost exactly the same. Certainly it's as good as you'd ever need it to be, and much better than the Saris H3, for example, which uses algorithmic detection and isn't as good.

Overall: another top quality NEO trainer

There are lots of great direct drive trainers out there and the NEO 2T is certainly up there with the best of them in terms of build quality, power accuracy and ride feel. At £1,199 the NEO 2T is priced above what I'd consider to be its direct competitors. The Wahoo KICKR and Elite Drivo 2 are both a penny under a grand, and the Saris H3 has dropped to £849 RRP.

> Buyer’s Guide: 14 of the best turbo trainers

If you're not going to be spending a lot of your time doing sprints from a standstill then it's also worth looking for an older NEO 2 unit at a discount; you'll probably not notice the difference between the two, and you might save yourself a few quid. I prefer the feel of that older unit in ERG mode as well, although I expect subsequent firmware updates to the NEO 2T will address that, or (hopefully) allow users to tune the feel to their preference.

If you're looking for a top-end indoor trainer – and can find one, there aren't many for sale out there right now – then it's easy to recommend, as are its competitors. At that top level I'd say the Saris H3 is the best value right now, and the NEO 2T – with its better cadence sensing, road feel and the ability to power itself – is probably the pick in terms of features. Whether the extras are worth the £350 hike will depend on how much you value them, and what you'll be doing with the trainer.

Verdict

Great quality indoor trainer with accurate power reporting and some unique features

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road.cc test report

Make and model: Tacx Neo 2T Smart trainer

Size tested: One

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?

Tacx says, "The iconic, progressive and popular NEO 2 Smart is optimized into an even quieter and more powerful Smart direct drive. The motor is redesigned in order to provide a better indoor cycling experience and ride feel, especially during climbs and sprints. The NEO 2T Smart is more silent then ever thought possible and without question the most powerful, realistic and accurate bike trainer to date."

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

From the Tacx website:

By redesigning the magnets, we significantly improved the stillness of the NEO 2T. The noise coming from internal air displacements is reduced as well as vibrations noticed at a low cadence, that were being transferred to the floor. Resulting in a more silent Smart trainer then ever thought possible.

The new motor design of the NEO 2T also improves the ride feel during a climb or acceleration. We were able to give the motor of the NEO 2T more power, resulting in the ability to generate higher resistance levels under specific conditions, like in a sprint or at low speeds.

The NEO 2 was already equipped with a capacitive left and right detection sensor that accurately measures the exact position of both your legs. By adding standard ANT+ Cycling dynamics, you can now analyse your pedal stroke via the software of third parties; for example on a Garmin Edge bike computer.

The Tacx NEO 2T Smart measures your power with incredible precision, making sure that your data is accurate and reliable. This Smart trainers is the only trainers that doesn't require calibration process. This Smart trainer measures your power accurately within 1%.

The NEO 2T Smart is very responsive and reacts instantly to speed or incline changes. It also features Dynamic inertia which it compensates for weight, speed and angle of inclination to ensure the most realistic and smooth ride feel possible.

Rate the product for quality of construction:
 
9/10
Rate the product for performance:
 
9/10
Rate the product for durability:
 
9/10
Rate the product for weight (if applicable)
 
8/10
Rate the product for comfort (if applicable)
 
8/10
Rate the product for value:
 
6/10

The most expensive of the main pack of top-end direct drive trainers, but it has some features that set it apart from the others.

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

Very well: responsive, accurate, fully featured.

Tell us what you particularly liked about the product

It's accurate, well made, quiet and responsive.

Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product

ERG mode is a bit harsh.

How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?

It's the most expensive of the main pack. The Saris H3 is down to £849 now, and the Wahoo KICKR and Elite Drivo 2 are a grand.

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 overall score

This is still a benchmark trainer, and has some features that set it apart from the others: the ability to replicate road feel and the ability to run on its own power, as well as accurate cadence sensing. I think there's a bit of work to be done on ERG mode through firmware updates, but even then it's an exceptional bit of kit, even if it is more expensive than its direct rivals.

Overall rating: 9/10

About the tester

Age: 47  Height: 189cm  Weight: 94kg

I usually ride: whatever I'm testing...  My best bike is: Kinesis Tripster ATR, Merida Scultura, Dward Design fixed

I've been riding for: Over 20 years  I ride: Every day  I would class myself as: Experienced

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

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