It doesn’t seem that long ago that I was using a dumb turbo for my training sessions and watching a film or listening to music to try and pass the time and relieve the boredom. Then along came the world of Smart Trainers & Zwift.
Initially I was happy using my dumb trainer with Zwift but the more I used the software, the more intrigued I became at improving my in-game and training experience. Fast forward 12 months and a Tacx Neo landed on my doorstep.
Pulling the Trigger
I spent a long time reading the reviews and comments about the Neo along with the other mainstream wheel off trainers. They all had their pros and cons whether it was software or hardware related, but in the end I felt the Neo was the right trainer for me.
Initially trying to get my hands on the Neo was difficult. There seemed to be a shortage in the UK and as soon as any shop had stock, they were quickly sold out again. During this time more and more users were complaining of grinding noises once the trainer was set up which didn’t help the shortage as a lot of new trainers were being sent out as a warranty replacement.
On a related note: the trouble with reading forums and Facebook groups is people often post about their bad experiences and not the good. This can be really off-putting to any prospective buyers. I always find it’s a case of doing your research, trying to pick the good reviews from the bad and going into the potential purchase with your eyes wide open.
Arrival and Setup
No sooner had the delivery driver left, the box was quickly opened and I began the setup process. This was relatively straightforward but I was using a bike with a 135mm back end so I swapped out the supplied axle with the T2840 quick release which I purchased separately, fitted a Shimano 11 speed cassette and mounted the bike (none of the tools were supplied with the Neo).
I knew the firmware needed to be upgraded so I downloaded the Tacx app to my iPhone, plugged in the power to the trainer and downloaded the new firmware. After a couple minutes I was ready to hop on, no issues so far. The trainer was easy to pair with Zwift and I was soon zooming around the world of Watopia. It really was that easy, there were no problems downloading the firmware, no issues with pairing it with Zwift and perfect gear changes every time.
A Delayed Review
Reviews can be difficult to write, a brand new product often works as intended straight out of the box, but how do these products work after six or twelve months or longer, that can be the hard part when it comes to researching any products. For me the Neo has been perfect. It has been used on a weekly basis in the last six months and it’s been fine, no drop outs, no grinding noises, no problems updating the firmware, it just works.
Surely there must be a downside and if there is one, it’s that the Neo is near on silent and this highlights any issues with the drivetrain, so if the chain is a little dry or the gears aren’t perfectly aligned you really do know about it as it’s surprising how much noise the drivetrain makes that you don’t hear on the open road.
ERG Workouts on the Neo
The majority of my time spent on Zwift is for training and I really like the custom workout feature. I can create my workouts and just follow the on screen prompts. When I used a dumb trainer it always took some time trying to adjust the resistance with the gears or adjusting the trainer manually and it did make life a little difficult at times trying to hit the watts or a particular cadence. It wasn’t the end of the world, but just not as easy as I would have liked and the Neo changed that. Now, the Neo is paired with Zwift as a controllable trainer and all I have to do is concentrate on pedaling, it really makes the training so much easier. I make sure I enable ERG mode and I leave the bike in the small chainring at the front and aim to keep a nice straight chain line and just pedal and the Neo takes care of the rest.
As I finish one block at a particular wattage and move onto the next, the trainer automatically adjusts the resistance and within a couple seconds I’m into the next block and off I go to suffer a little bit more. When it comes to training it’s just one less thing to worry about, no changing gears, it’s all on me and my legs.
Free Riding the Neo
For normal riding in Zwift having a smart trainer just makes it that little bit more interesting. Now I can feel the grades of the hills and the benefits of drafting and this helps simulate real world cycling. With a dumb trainer you would have to adjust everything yourself when the gradient changes, or not bother at all, but being able to feel the rolling nature of the terrain helps simulate the outside world a little more and I believe this makes it more entertaining. If you’re looking to take your Zwift experience to the next level then I highly recommend a smart trainer.
There can often be so much negativity when researching products that it can easily put you off and I hope this article does the opposite and highlights the good points about a product and doesn’t let the Internet scare you into thinking everything is bad. My Neo experience really has been a walk in the park and my only regret is not buying one sooner.