Trainer Reviews

Tacx NEO Smart Bike Review

 PROS

  • Accurate Power & Cadence Measurement
  • Self-Powered
  • USB Chargers/Tablet Holder and a Tray
  • Built-in Fans
  • Very quiet

 CONS

  • Fans can be loud
  • Bike adjustability not as easy and quick

Way back when, when hugging, shaking hands, even licking handrails were socially acceptable, Tacx started shipping the NEO Smart Bike after years of delays. I have been riding one before we got quarantined and have been using it for a while now.

In this review, I am going to run you through the specs and jump over to the accuracy section real quick because I am going to keep my review short and sweet and give you the meat and what you need to know. Because, if you are like me, and have the attention span of a squirrel then you are probably skipping through this review already.

But I really encourage you to watch my YouTube video because I went through some of the unboxing, setup, and features of the bike and didn’t want to repeat what I said in the video here. Also, it’s a lot more fun to watch a video review than read these days and you will get to see the bike in action and other things I won’t mention here. But if you are not into videos, I understand. I was that way too until I learned from my two young boys that YouTube is cool and hip.

NEO Bike KEY SPECS

  • PRICE: $3,199 USD
  • MAXIMUM POWER: 2,200 watts
  • MAXIMUM INCLINE: 25%
  • FLYWHEEL: Virtual with 32 neodymium magnets.
  • POWER MEASUREMENT ACCURACY: < 1%
  • CALIBRATION: Not required
  • WIRELESS COMMUNICATION: ANT+ FE-C, Smart Bluetooth
  • OUTPUT: Power, cadence, speed
  • GEAR RATIO: Chainring set-up: up to 3 sprockets, teeth per sprocket adjustable between 22 and 53 , Rear cassette: up to 12 sprockets, teeth per sprocket adjustable between 11 and 40
  • Q-FACTOR: 147 mm
  • CRANKS LENGTH: 170, 172.5 & 175mm.
  • DISPLAY: 4.5 inch with power, speed, cadence, heart rate, and gears selection.
  • FANS: Two adjustable fans can be controlled manually or by speed, power, or heart rate.
  • IN THE BOX: Fans, Tablet mount, Saddle, Handlebars, 2 USB chargers (front), Sweat cover, Ciro bottle cage, Bottle, Tacx towel.

POWER ACCURACY

Key Findings:

  • Power was within <1% of my Assioma Duo power meter.
  • ERG Mode was quick to respond to changes and smooth.
  • Gear selection is disabled in ERG mode.

I put a lot of miles on this bike. I rode it on multiple routes on Zwift and up the Alpe du Zwift. I also did a bunch of workouts on TrainerRoad and did a number of Sufferfest workouts and was used to test their latest FTP Half Monty RAMP test (you can watch that video here).

The bike was consistently within my Assioma Duo pedals from ride to ride. It makes writing this section super simple. But let me walk you through some of the data anyway.

Here is the first ride data. Ignore the last section where you see a little bit of red and green. The power was similar but for whatever reason, there was a little delay in the Assioma recording and that’s why you see a little bit of separation there. But overall, the data was as good as you will get when comparing two separate power meters.

My average power in that ride was 179 watts and the average recorded by Assioma was 177 watts.

ERG MODE AND POWER DISTRIBUTION

Now, lets’ move onto ERG mode. This is where most problems usually appear but everything was just fine here. There is really nothing worth picking on.

And here is a close up to the first three quick and short 20sec on/off sections. Again, everything looked good.

Here is a real close up from TrainerRoad recording of those 20sec on/off sections. The reason I have these in here is to get me warmed up, but also to see how fast the bike responds to changes in ERG mode. The bike takes 2 to 3 seconds to ramp up to power. The averages for the three 20-secs were as follow: 306/307, 309/320, and 323/333. This is typical when doing very short intervals like this. If you want to hit each interval target, it helps to increase your cadence right before entering each interval. In my case, I kept my cadence consistent to allow the bike and TrainerRoad to do their thing without changing my cadence.

When ERG mode is enabled, the NEO bike turns off gear selection. It kind of makes sense since the idea of ERG mode is to eliminate changing gears and put the bike on autopilot during a workout. However, since the idea of the NEO bike is to simulate your real bike, then one might argue that you should make it work like a real bike and allow for gear selection regardless of the riding mode you are using.

As for gearing, I couldn’t test how erg mode responds in different gearing combinations because the NEO bike disables gear selection when in erg mode. Interestingly, and contrary to popular recommendations to put the trainer in a small gear, the NEO bike seems to select a bigger gear or simulate a bigger gear.

The speeds reported during my 10-minute intervals were equivalent to speeds reported when selecting a big gear with the NEO direct drive trainer. 

Power distribution is another metric I like to look at when testing ERG mode to see how good and quick a trainer in making quick and tiny adjustments to keep me at my target power. That also indicates the bike is selecting a bigger gear.

However, the bike was still able to make quick adjustments to keep me at my target power a lot better than a NEO direct drive trainer when selecting a comparable gearing combination.

Update 5/13/2020: Tacx updated its firmware (0.0.40) right after my tests to allow for gear selection, I will be taking a closer look at that in more details in another post.

CADENCE

The NEO smart bike measures and broadcasts cadence so there is no need to purchase a separate cadence sensor. The bike measure cadence accurately and didn’t see any issues when comparing it to my Assioma Pedals cadence measurement. All is good again.

FINAL THOUGHTS

I’ve never been a fan of stationary bikes. I love riding my own bikes. They are comfortable and fit me well. I am familiar with the gearing, generally like the seat and bar tape. Stationary bikes will never replace my real bike.

The NEO Smart Bike was surprisingly a pleasure to ride. The ride feel, virtual gearing, and the quiet ride was better than expected. The bike combines features of real road bikes and the conveniences you find in stationary bikes, like a tablet holder, a tray for your phone, two fans, two USB chargers, different configuration, and it’s self-powered.

If you are looking for something dedicated to indoor training and want to leave your road bike for outdoor riding, this bike is one to consider.

If you are a triathlete or a time trialist, you can get a clip-on aerobars for cheap and install them on the handlebar and make the necessary adjustment to duplicate your TT bike fit.

Adjustability is not as easy to do as other dedicated indoor bikes. If you plan on using it with another partner, you can easily make adjustments using a hex wrench (included) or use the included handles which you can install to make adjustability a little easier. But still, even with that, it’s not as easy as other stationary bikes you see at gyms or spin classes. 

WHERE TO BUY

The NEO Smart Bike is currently available in the U.S. and some parts of Europe. If you are in the U.S., you can order it directly from CleverTraining and it will ship for free. Financing option is also available through Affirm.

Support SMARTBikeTrainers and shop with Amazon or CleverTraining

$3,199.99
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