5 Reasons the Tacx NEO is awesome (and one reason it’s not)

The age old debate of Wahoo KICKR vs Tacx NEO! Arguably the top two smart turbo trainers currently on the market (although there are plenty of new contenders).  If you’re looking for the ultimate indoor trainer or epic Zwift experience then these two are your top choices as both are high quality trainers in their own right. I rode a KICKR but bought a NEO. It’s the first day of winter down here in Tassie, so here are my 5 reasons why the Tacx NEO is an insanely fantastic piece of kit:

1) It’s rated to simulate 20% inclines and can handle 2200 watts. Higher on both fronts than the Wahoo KICKR. Oh and that’s a lot of watts, in fact if you can hit that kind of wattage on a regular basis, then  I want to be reading YOUR blog.

2) The sound of silence. When Tacx say the NEO is near silent they mean it. Your fan (you do have a fan, right?) will be louder. So will your drivetrain. My wife is often asleep in the next room, her head literally three feet away. She can’t hear it. Have a listen to DCRainmaker’s KICKR vs NEO sound comparison below.

3) Direct drive. No rear wheel  equals better power transfer, no tyre wear and no slippage. All your effort goes into smashing out watt bombs! It’s a turbo trainer game changer. I’d never go back to a wheel-on trainer.

4) No need to calibrate. Every single other smart turbo currently on the market requires some form of periodic calibration to retain accuracy. Sometimes every ride and after the turbo has warmed up. Not the NEO. Not once, not ever. Get on. Ride.

5) It syncs seamlessly with Zwift (other platforms available) for a fully immersive experience. It can even simulate road surfaces such as wooden bridges and cobbled streets if you want it to. Hit a virtual 10% incline? You’ll feel it! Head downhill after that big climb? The NEO spins out as if you’re flying back down the mountain! I could write a whole bunch of superlatives and fancy metaphors describing the experience, but you really need to ride it for yourself.

And of course, the one big reason it’s not so awesome…

1) It is – without a shadow of a doubt – a crazy expensive trainer! There’s no getting around the fact that you could buy a very decent second road bike for the money the NEO will set you back. It’s quite the purchase so you’ve got to know you’re going to get serious use out of it before pulling the trigger.

Now, who want’s to buy my no-longer-needed rear wheel? #RideOn

CyclingTips eFondo: I just “rode” a Sportive on the turbo…

So a while back I wrote about eFondos and eSportives totally becoming a thing these days. Not one to knock things before trying, I jumped aboard my Tacx NEO and logged in to join the first ever CyclingTips eFondo on Zwift.

The night before I went through my usual cycling event prep. Clean and lube the bike, lay out my kit, prepare my ride fuel/bottles, make sure everything is in it’s place and most importantly study the route profile. Just like a “real” Sportive!

The route for this one was the Watopia Pretzel, which takes in all the “climbs” on the island (apart from the Volcano) over a distance of 73km. Having ridden part of the route before I knew that that first 15km were basically uphill, all the way from sea level into the Watopian Alps and to the top of the Radio Tower. The course then rolls around the island with a couple of lumps before heading back up the reverse side of the mountain for a second big climb.

The morning of the ride I had a hearty breakfast of my usual porridge topped with golden syrup before kitting up and logging onto Zwift for a short warm-up. The riders were set off in two waves for this event. I joined the second wave consisting of over 250 riders all resplendent in their eFondo jerseys. A whole peloton of pixelated people pedalling away on their trainers. Alone yet together.

There’s a short roll-out before the road heads (virtually) skywards and stays that way right the way to the Radio Tower. The pack thins out and I settle into a nice climbing rhythm with a small bunch of other riders. I know this climb is going to take around half an hour – with the hardest section right at the top – so it’s best not to push too hard and blow early. There’s a long way to go and more climbing later.

I’m sitting just above FTP wattage for most of the climb, alternating seated efforts with short bursts out of the saddle. With 20 minutes done we turn left, heading up to the infamous Radio Tower climb. The road ramps to 19% at places. It may be virtual, but when the Tacx NEO clamps down it sure feels like true suffering! It’s a tough grind in my lowest 36/28 gear, but I manage to snag a PR to the top.

Circling around the Radio Tower and heading back downhill, I reach for my first gel of the ride. Yep, I’m fuelling this just like a real ride. The descent is ace. Once you reach a certain speed in Zwift, if you stop pedalling your avatar will “supertuck” and fly down the hill like a pro. The NEO has downhill drive to add to the immersion. It’s good to rest the legs for a moment as there’s plenty more to come.

Half way through the course and our group has thinned to six riders. We circle the island at a lower intensity, knowing we’ve still got to head back up the mountain in the opposite direction. The second big climb is a real killer. Another 20 minutes with much of it at 10% or higher. As we slog up with heavy legs a few of the group fall away until we are but three. I just concentrate on my wattage and keep focused.

Finally over the crest and another fast descent follows. We’re into the final 10km of rolling roads now.

Having given my all I’m pretty gassed and  eventually I lose the draft of the two other remaining riders of our bunch. Nothing left! Looks like the last 5km are going to be solo. Through the last of the rollers and it’s a downhill sprint to the line. Well, as much of a sprint as I can muster. I’m happy with my effort as I’ve got nothing more in the legs. As I pass under the banner my time flashes up on the screen with the results table: I’d finished in 21st place with a time of 2 hours 17 minutes and 49 seconds! Really pleased with that.

Unlike a regular Fondo or Sportive, there’s nobody at the finish line to hang a medal around your neck or hand you a goody bag. You do unlock the CyclingTips eFondo Jersey though, which your Zwift avatar can proudly wear so that’s something! I must say I enjoyed it more than I thought I would, it was about as “fun” as riding a turbo for over two hours can be! This was mostly due to the seriously immersive nature of Zwift paired to the Tacx NEO.

Would I do it again? Yeah, probably. CyclingTips are running a series of five of these eFondos over the Australian winter. If the weather is rubbish and the legs feel up to the challenge I’d be tempted to give it another shot! #RideOn

Total distance: 73km
Elevation: 1365m

Time: 2 hours 17 minutes 49 seconds
Finish Position: 21st

Zwift’s Watopian Landscape

Hats off to the programmers and developers at Zwift. They really have created a fully immersive and impressive landscape in “Watopia” for us to lose ourselves in. It sure beats staring at a garage wall or numbers on a screen! Paired with a smart trainer that changes resistance to simulate gradients, it’s the ultimate in indoor cycling.

From cruising along the Ocean Road boulevard to climbing through Swiss style villages into the Watopian Alps to circling an active volcano, there really is an abundance of highly detailed landscapes to amaze the rider. Of course it’s hard to soak it all in when pushing hard, but it does take your mind off being on the trainer! #RideOn

Winding roads through the virtual Alps.

Descending like a pro as the sun rises over the virtual ocean!

The “Zwift Me” is totally cool and calm when climbing hard, just like real me…

Watopian whale selfie though the underwater tunnels!

How to Ride Indoors Like a Pro

Cody Beales (he’s a triathlete, but we won’t hold that against him) has written a fantastic piece on how he used a turbo trainer almost exclusively over the winter to bring his bike strength up from being his weakest event to world class. Whether you’re new to indoor training or a seasoned year-round turbo veteran, his article is well worth a read. He explains how he “not only made indoor training tolerable, but preferable and extremely effective.”

Cody Beals: How to Ride Indoors Like a Pro

cb_012415-170-1Image Credit: Ruddock Visuals

What are you training for?

Somebody asked me recently; “What are you training for?”

And you know what, I didn’t have an answer for them. Sure I’ve been building up my hours in the saddle and exploring Zwift with vigour, but am I actually training? Or am I simply just riding my bike?

176

I don’t have any events booked, no races or time trials entered. Nothing in the pipeline. Right now I’m just on a mission to regain lost fitness, log more hours in the saddle and raise my lowly FTP. I guess at the end of the day I just like riding my bike, getting faster and hurting myself in the name of fitness. Does that count?

There aren’t many “sportive” style events down here in Tasmania, but there is a racing scene – most prominently the Southern Tasmanian Cycling Club which caters for the over-30’s brigade of cyclists wanting to race. I might check out their membership and events for next year as I know they run some time trials fairly local to me.

As winter encroaches on my Northern Hemisphere brethren, thoughts if course turn to indoor training and next year’s targets. Hours spent hammering away on the turbo or braving the elements to be ready for next Spring. At the moment the only semblance of a plan I have is to keep hitting Zwift in between weekend road sessions and hopefully come out flying (well, at least faster) in January.

So, as 2016 fades away and 2017 gets ever closer – What are you training for?

Do you even Zwift, bro?

So as you know, I’ve been making regular trips to my “Zwift Cave” to sneak in a quality early morning or evening session on the rollers. It has really got me motivated to train harder again in order to recover some of that lost fitness. Zwift has changed my entire mindset when it comes to how I view indoor training.

zwift-doomZwift. I haven’t spent this much time playing video games since the days of Doom II.

Could I just go outside? Yeah of course. I just don’t really feel like risking the dusk/dawn gauntlet of errant Tasmanian wildlife. Colliding with a wallaby, possum, wombat, echidna, Tassie devil or six foot long tiger snake while bombing along would not make for a good end to a ride!

tigersnakeTiger snake venom is neurotoxic, affecting the central nervous system. It also causes blood clotting and breakdown of muscle tissue which can lead to kidney failure. Death from a bite can occur within 30 minutes, but usually takes 6-24 hours.

Plus I’ve got to make good use of the Strava Premium bonus! I’ve got the CX bike on the rollers with my PowerTap hub. That bike hasn’t seen any use since my Sigma Sport commuting days and it’s great to be back using Di2 again, if only indoors. I already had the rollers so the only purchases I made to “get Zwifting” were an ANT+ dongle ($30 from eBay) and a USB extension cord ($10) to move the dongle closer to the wheel.

2016-11-04_1526454The virtual me is *almost* as stylish as the real me.

I can feel the positive effects already. Just that extra time in the saddle, even if it’s just unstructured riding around the Watopia or London courses, has already made a tangible difference to my fitness levels. I’ll still need to clock some road miles, including time aboard the TT bike and hitting some hills. It’s another string in the training bow that should see me making inroads back into good form.

But best of all, I no longer dread indoor training!!! #virtualmiles

2016-11-04_1528045Riding off into the warm Watopian sunset…