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Tacx Neo 2 Smart Review

An already excellent, life-like training machine somehow got even better.
Editors' Choice Award
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Price:  $1,399 List | $1,199.00 at Amazon
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Even quieter, L/R power and pedal analysis, greater compatibility, super responsive, real-like
Cons:  Bulky, premium price, pedal analysis doesn’t support Mac or antiquated mobile devices, weight
Manufacturer:   Tacx
By Ryan Baham ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Jul 31, 2019
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83
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SCORE


RANKED
#1 of 7
  • Connectivity and Power Accuracy - 30% 9
  • Road Feel - 30% 9
  • Design - 20% 8
  • Setup - 10% 8
  • Portability - 10% 5

Our Verdict

The Tacx Neo 2 Smart is one of those rare products whose first sequel is an all-around improvement that genuinely adds value and isn't just a cash grab from an earlier success. The list of improvements is fairly substantial with the most interesting new feature being their incredibly useful L/R (left/right) power and stroke analysis. Riders are able to see the accuracy of each stroke in real-time using the Tacx Utility app. Tacx also updated this machine with powerful hardware with more memory to accommodate future developments, which is pretty intriguing. By making the Neo 2 Smart even better, this product holds onto our Editors' Choice Award for being the best bike trainer we've ever tested.


Compare to Similar Products

 
This Product
Tacx Neo 2 Smart
Awards Editors' Choice Award   Best Buy Award Top Pick Award 
Price $1,199.00 at Amazon
Compare at 2 sellers
$1,199.99 at Amazon$1,199.99 at Competitive Cyclist
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Pros Even quieter, L/R power and pedal analysis, greater compatibility, super responsive, real-likeHigh power accuracy, low noise, great road feel and overall designGood road feel, accurate power, easy to carryGreat price for direct drive, quiet, consistently accurate, relatively lightQuick setup, easy operation, durable, stable, communicates with training apps, low noise
Cons Bulky, premium price, pedal analysis doesn’t support Mac or antiquated mobile devices, weightCadence data can drop, Campy and 10-speed hubs are a pain to matchHeavy, expensiveLimited gradient and power, difficult to get Campy componentsLimited max resistance, roller can heat up and accelerate tire wear, no power data, no control
Bottom Line An already excellent, life-like training machine somehow got even better.Updated firmware and functionality place this one back near the top of the market.With no major drawbacks and top performance, this is one of our favorite trainers for any pain cave.All of the best smart trainer features without the premium price.This trainer sits at the crossroads of great value and high functionality.
Rating Categories Tacx Neo 2 Smart CycleOps H2 Smart Wahoo Fitness Kickr Elite Direto CycleOps Fluid 2
Connectivity And Power Accuracy (30%)
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9
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4
Road Feel (30%)
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9
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Design (20%)
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Setup (10%)
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Portability (10%)
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Specs Tacx Neo 2 Smart CycleOps H2 Smart Wahoo Fitness Kickr Elite Direto CycleOps Fluid 2
Type Direct drive Direct drive Direct drive Direct drive Tire drive
Weight (lbs) 47 lbs 47 lbs 45 lbs 33 lbs 21 lbs
Compatible Platforms-TrainerRoad, Zwift Yes, Both. Also Tacx Desktop, Rouvy, and The Sufferfest. Yes, Both. Also Rouvy and The Sufferfest. Yes, Both. Also Wahoo Smartphone App, Rouvy, and The Sufferfest. Yes, Both. Also Kinomap, Rouvy, and The Sufferfest. Yes, Both. Also Rouvy and The Sufferfest.
Communication Protocol ANT+ FE-C, Bluetooth Smart ANT+ FE-C, Bluetooth Smart ANT+ FEC, Bluetooth Smart ANT+ FE-C, Bluetooth Smart ANT+ BlueGiga USB
Dimensions L-H-W (inches) 22.6" x 29.5" x 21.7" 31” x 18.5” x 19.5” 20.25" x 18" x 28.25" 33" x 25.6" x 2.7" 28" x 21.5" x 15.7"
Storage Dimensions LxHxW (inches) 24.4" x 10.2" x 17.3" 8.5” x 18.5” x 19.5” 20.5" x 18.25" x 8.75" 11.8" x 25.6" x 21.7" 20.5" x 9" x 20.75"
Power Comparison 1-3 watts, 1% 1-3 watts, 1% 3 watts, 1% 3-5 watts, 2.5% 10 watts, 5%
Decibel @ 230 Watts 65.8 dB 60.9 dB 64.6 dB 74.8 dB 64.7 dB
Roll Out Time @ 200 watts 21 seconds 26 seconds 53 seconds 13 seconds 15 seconds
Flywheel Virtual 20 lbs 12.5 lbs 9.3 lbs 3 lbs
Additonal No Cassette included No Cassette included Cassette Sram 11spd included, Campy freehub option available No Cassette included Skewer
Axel compatibility 130mm, 135mm compatible || Adaptors for 142mm and 148mm available through Tacx. 130mm, 135mm compatible || Thru-axle compatible for 142mm and 148mm. 130mm and 135mm compatible only. 130mm, 135mm compatible || 142mm thru-axle available, 148mm requires Boost adaptor from Elite. 120mm, 130mm, 135mm compatible || Thru-axle available for 142mm and 148mm through CycleOps.

Our Analysis and Test Results

Tacx has released the Neo 2 Smart. This updated version features a redesigned cadence sensor, all-new pedal stroke analysis, L/R power data, more internal memory, and additional axles to accommodate wider mountain bike designs. It's also quieter, smoother, and has more responsive resistance control than its predecessor.

Performance Comparison


When you can't be out on the road  there's nowhere better to be than on the Neo 2 Smart  which has the most convincing and realistic road feel of all models tested.
When you can't be out on the road, there's nowhere better to be than on the Neo 2 Smart, which has the most convincing and realistic road feel of all models tested.

Connectivity and Power Accuracy


The first thing to note in this realm is that it dependably connects to at least 12 other major third-party apps, in addition to its own training app, which is more robust than some of the competitors. You'll also need to use Tacx's training app to take advantage of the new pedal stroke analysis. There are efforts underway to extend that functionality to other training platforms like Zwift, but for now, you're confined to the Tacx ecosystem. But with that new feature, you're able to look at the distribution of your power and efficiency of the stroke so you can see where your weak spots are (we all need to work on those under-developed hip flexors, don't we?) and whether you have one leg doing all the work while the other freeloads.

The Neo Smart 2 allows you to see your power balance and stroke profile using the Tacx training app  but that functionality should be extended to other major training apps soon enough.
The Neo Smart 2 allows you to see your power balance and stroke profile using the Tacx training app, but that functionality should be extended to other major training apps soon enough.

Like most other controllable smart trainers, it uses Bluetooth Smart and ANT+ FE-C protocols to allow resistance control and communication across a wide range of software and devices. We had no problem getting it connected to the Tacx Cycling app, Zwift, or TrainerRoad, but be sure to spend some time looking into the capabilities of your devices and potential upgrades, dongles, and adapters needed to get the communication flowing.

The original Tacx Neo and the Neo 2 Smart are controllable through Bluetooth Smart and ANT+ FE-C and never drop.
The original Tacx Neo and the Neo 2 Smart are controllable through Bluetooth Smart and ANT+ FE-C and never drop.

It ranks at the top based mainly on its broad connectivity and app support, but also its power. The claimed accuracy of 1% generally jives with our testing, though the accuracy can fluctuate a bit more in ERG mode when you're transitioning between blocks or in free mode when you make a big change, like a sudden sprint or hit a substantial elevation change. It's still not a huge discrepancy and doesn't seem to be significant enough to throw your numbers off.


And where it does vary, it still only equates to a few watts of variation every so often - not enough to seriously impair performance measurement. It's also extremely convenient that it comes calibrated and doesn't require you to recalibrate all the time.

We found a fun Pink Floyd easter egg while testing the Tacx trainer on Zwift (requires knowledge of the Animals album cover).
We found a fun Pink Floyd easter egg while testing the Tacx trainer on Zwift (requires knowledge of the Animals album cover).

Road Feel


Earlier we mentioned Tacx's unique virtual flywheel. Not only is it quiet and powerful, but it also provides an incredibly realistic ride, especially when it's plugged in. The electromotor allows it to simulate all sorts of terrain, including boards, cobble, and dirt trails. It even mimics descents, allowing you to spin with limited resistance like you would out on the road. That technology also allows it to have quite superior resistance changes so that you don't get that unnatural braking effect when hitting hills and slopes found in many other models.


As great as other models may feel, they are not on the same level as the Neo 2 Smart. Its wide, stable base eliminates vertical movement, yet its frame rocks back and forth a bit to allow more natural movement with your strokes. It's really easy to open it up or launch sudden attacks without being too hampered by a stiff frame, though it's obviously not going to be be quite as good as the open road. Despite that, its superior road feel was a major factor in earning the Editors' Choice Award. If you're going to be spending northward of 2 to 3 hours in the saddle inside, you want to be on something that feels almost as good as the road and the Tacx hits that mark.

The Tacx Neo allows you to pedal smoothly  even when using ERG mode and hitting crazy walls  making it one of the most forgiving and natural-feeling trainers out there.
The Tacx Neo allows you to pedal smoothly, even when using ERG mode and hitting crazy walls, making it one of the most forgiving and natural-feeling trainers out there.

Design


The firm frame and wide wings create an extremely stable base, making it much easier to feel comfortable getting into a ride. The slight play built into it allows the drive to sway and move a bit more naturally so you can better stand and plow, unafraid of a little rocking. In this, there are few others that can match.


It comes with a static front wheel support. To replace the front wheel support you can buy the Neo Track, which uses a pivoting front wheel support and ANT+ to allow steering in training apps. Check that your grade and speed will work. It comes with a freehub that fits Shimano and SRAM 9-11-speed cassettes (except SRAM 11 XD). For Campagnolo you'll have to buy a separate hub and even then, you might have some limitations on groupset years, speeds, and levels. After the trainer and Campy freehub arrived, we discovered it did not fit our ca. 2010 10-speed Centaur cassette.

If you ride Campagnolo  be sure to buy the Campy hub when you order the Neo.
If you ride Campagnolo, be sure to buy the Campy hub when you order the Neo.

After much weeping and gnashing of teeth, we were able to find a compatible loaner from a LBS that got us rolling. Even with that frustrating dance, it's worth noting that universal bike hub shouldn't be assumed. We always recommend a bit of research along with knowing your bike's specs before making a purchase decision. You'll also notice that nowhere did we say the Neo 2 came with a cassette - you're on your own there, so make sure to anticipate that and procure the right one before the trainer arrives and be sure to get a chain whip, lockring removal tool, and wrench. And if you're using 10-speed, you'll likely need to use one or two of the included spacers.

It also comes with a quick-release skewer and fits 130mm rear axles for road bikes and 135mm for mountain bikes. There are adapters for a range of other widths. They now include adapters for 142 and 148mm axles. We suggest checking out their site or contacting them directly to verify that your bike will fit if you have a nonstandard frame.

We were able to transfer lessons learned from testing the original Tacx Neo Smart (pictured above) over to its antecedent. We found that to get the newer 10-speed Campy cassette to work  we had to use a spacer and play with the barrel adjusters for a while  but we eventually got things rolling smoothly.
We were able to transfer lessons learned from testing the original Tacx Neo Smart (pictured above) over to its antecedent. We found that to get the newer 10-speed Campy cassette to work, we had to use a spacer and play with the barrel adjusters for a while, but we eventually got things rolling smoothly.

It uses 32 neodymium magnets (which you can find at any hardware store) to create a virtual flywheel that performs better than any of the other models we tested. It has the added advantage of allowing the machine to run even when not plugged in, so long as you're pedaling. The design also reduces power loss because it's an electromagnetic field that controls the motor, cutting down on transmission inefficiencies. It also has the advantage of reducing noise, so it's quieter. The updated Neo 2 Smart has more powerful hardware under the hood than its predecessor, along with added memory. These additions set the Neo 2 up to be compatible and ready for software updates as they become available in the future. Sweet.

We think the Neo 2 is really well designed, but it's not perfect. A few issues we have include lacking proper handles and being a pain to collapse. We should also mention the lack of attention to some of the smaller details, like limited corrosion-resistance in the metal locking components. It's obviously necessary to wipe and dry every inch of your bike and trainer to improve longevity and performance, but at a certain price point, you should expect those components to be of a higher grade material that will do a better job of resisting the elements it will inevitably encounter: sweat and air.

We did find with the original Neo Smart that there were a few really easy to miss spots with corrosion-vulnerable materials that need to be wiped and thoroughly dried after every ride. That's no different with the Neo 2.
We did find with the original Neo Smart that there were a few really easy to miss spots with corrosion-vulnerable materials that need to be wiped and thoroughly dried after every ride. That's no different with the Neo 2.

Setup


This is one of the easiest trainers to set up and maintain in our bunch. The biggest pain is the first step after unboxing where you need to install your cassette. We noted in the Design section that you need to pay careful attention to cassette compatibility and axle width. Assuming you have the right components and cassette tools, you shouldn't have much of a struggle. If you're new to bike mechanics, we'll leave cassette removal and installation instructions to your LBS or search engine.


Once your cassette is installed, there's not much else that needs to be done. Ever. Simply release your rear wheel, unscrew, remove, set aside, and treat the trainer frame like a new wheel, placing the rear derailleur and chain over the cassette, straighten it up, and use the new skewer (if you want) to tighten it down. Use your hand to pedal it through and get it on track, and you're good to go.

Getting set up with the Neo 2 Smart.
It's important to make sure your drivetrain is properly aligned and running smoothly before you jump on and start cranking out the watts.

You'll notice that in general, smart direct drive trainers take more time for setup than tire drive. That's largely because most direct drive trainers require you to install extra components like cassettes or supports. In addition to the cassette installation, you also need to install the legs and then perform periodic calibrations. The legs and calibration are pretty simple, but it still means it's not quite as quick to go as the Tacx Neo. Tire drive trainers tend to also be quick and painless to set up, since they are much simpler machines.

The original Neo and the Neo 2 are fairly easy to set up  but you'll still need a few tools to get the cassette(s) on and off. At the very least  a chain whip  wrench  and cassette-removal tool (Campy has a specific size that other tools won't fit).
The original Neo and the Neo 2 are fairly easy to set up, but you'll still need a few tools to get the cassette(s) on and off. At the very least, a chain whip, wrench, and cassette-removal tool (Campy has a specific size that other tools won't fit).

The takeaway here is that if you are just looking for the most basic of trainers that's ready to go as soon as you open the box and rarely needs upkeep or love, your best bets are going to be at the two extremes of the price spectrum. The basic tire drive trainers are built like tanks and are ready to go as soon as you open the box. The most advanced direct drive is built something like a next-generation Humvee and is ready to go after a bit of tinkering and then rarely has to be touched again.

The original Neo Smart and the Neo Smart 2 both use the same basic design  so there are no compatibility concerns if you're upgrading. You just need your chain whip  a wrench  and the lockring tool that fits your cassette.
The original Neo Smart and the Neo Smart 2 both use the same basic design, so there are no compatibility concerns if you're upgrading. You just need your chain whip, a wrench, and the lockring tool that fits your cassette.

Portability


The Neo 2 Smart folds up into a nice, neat form that can be stowed away easily. Its two stabilizing platforms collapse and fold up, reducing its width to just 10 inches. The struggle here is figuring out how to move its 47 pounds into a storage spot. We suspect most riders will be able to manage a 47-pound trainer, but it does make moving it around more arduous than some of the other models, though you'll find a handful of tradeoffs there. It's worth noting that optimal performance is delivered when the machine is plugged in. It is able to power communication and control based on your power generation, but you lose descent simulation and if you stop pedaling, you lose all power functions, which might be inconvenient to some. That said, you can still take this to warm up at the starting line or to a campsite and get a good ride in without serious performance limitations.


The one thing we wish Tacx would fix is the portability. When you unlock the wings for storage or porting, the thing tends to collapse immediately, and it drops on your innocent, unsuspecting foot (insert displeased grimace). Before you install a cassette on the hub, it looks like the folded wings will make useful handles, but after the cassette is installed, it becomes clear that the right handhold is actually just a sneaky meat grinder. Tacx would be best served by taking the hint from other models and add secure handles somewhere while figuring out where to reduce weight and pad that collapse.

To fold the Tacx Neo Smart (original and 2)  you need to reach under its supports and press the buttons  but be prepared to it to immediately collapse  possible on your foot or finger if you're not careful.
To fold the Tacx Neo Smart (original and 2), you need to reach under its supports and press the buttons, but be prepared to it to immediately collapse, possible on your foot or finger if you're not careful.

For riders looking for a lighter trainer that can be carted around more readily, you will likely need to look at tire drive trainers. Portability is the main tradeoff with the Neo 2 Smart, but for the performance upgrades, we are able to overlook this drawback.

As with the original Tacx Neo Smart  pictured here  the Neo 2 Smart is not the easiest to carry  especially given that it weighs in at 47 pounds.
As with the original Tacx Neo Smart, pictured here, the Neo 2 Smart is not the easiest to carry, especially given that it weighs in at 47 pounds.

Best Applications


This trainer is for riders who need unmatched adaptability, app support, responsiveness, and road feel. It comes at a premium, so it's probably best suited to serious riders looking to get a lot of hard use out of their investment.

Value


Yes, it goes for a premium, and there are trainers out there that are almost as good. But that's the tradeoff - other trainers just aren't quite there, especially in road feel, connectivity, power, and reliability.

Turn a cramped apartment into a leg of the Tour de France with the Neo 2 Smart -- our favorite trainer we've tested to date.
Turn a cramped apartment into a leg of the Tour de France with the Neo 2 Smart -- our favorite trainer we've tested to date.

Conclusion


Riders who have done the tire drive thing know the struggle with replacing tires and missing training data. They also know how hard it is to sit on a dumb trainer for hours on end, pedaling faster and shifting to simulate terrain changes manually. Enter: the Tacx Neo 2 Smart. It simulates terrain changes sensationally well - and even jostles and bounces a bit when you hit cobbles and planks on Zwift. It also gives you not just highly accurate power and cadence data, but now even gives you the breakdown of power for each pedal! That's enough to satiate most training data junkies, but the Neo 2's also has more memory and hardware than it needs in anticipation of future capabilities, so we can only imagine what they'll cook up for us over the next few quarters. This is far and away the best smart trainer out there. We expect most riders to be as thoroughly impressed with it as we are.


Ryan Baham