Turbo trainers are a great solution for all-year-round cycling. Sometimes the weather conditions are not quite right, yet you still want to experience a great workout. That’s where these trainers come in, simply fix one up to your bike, connect to your mobile device or PC and you can enter a whole new world of indoor cycling.
There are so many models out there that claim to be the best, the quietist and the most versatile, but how can you ever be sure? We’ve done some of the hard work for you and compared two of the very best turbo trainers currently on the market: the Tacx Neo Direct Drive Smart Trainer and the Wahoo Kickr Direct Drive Smart Trainer.
How realistic are the turbo trainers compared to outdoor riding?
Part of the fun of the ride is that feeling of the road beneath your wheels, which vibrates through your legs as you pedal. Both the Wahoo Kickr and Tacx Neo offer a fairly realistic ride, with high wattage powers, good accuracy and convincing slopes and inclines.
The Wahoo Kickr has an accuracy of +/-2% that provides a true workout experience. The maximum resistance with this trainer is 2000 watts, meaning that you can really exercise your leg muscles against the bike. This wattage is the equivalent of a 20% maximum incline, which is pretty ferocious. All in all it means that the rider will really feel as if they are riding outdoors – but with all in the comfort of your own home!
Nevertheless, this is where the Tacx Neo Smart slightly trumps the Wahoo Kickr. Mimicking gradients of up to 25% and a maximum resistance power of 2200 watts, this machine offers that little bit extra. In addition to all this, the Tacx Neo simulates off-road terrains like gravel and cobble-stones amongst many others!
What technology do the trainers work with?
When investing in a turbo trainer, you’ll probably want to know just how compatible it is with the technology that you already own. Both of these trainers use ANT+ and Bluetooth Smart capabilities to communicate your performance data to your tablet or computer. You can also use both of these machines with MAC and Windows PCs, as well as iOS and Android devices. So, the conclusion is that they are both equally as good in this department.
What software can the trainers be used with?
Allowing you to cycle in a virtual world with lots of interesting routes and challenges, app and online platforms like Zwift and Bkool completely transform an indoor ride. Check out our turbo trainer software overview here.
The Tacx Neo comes with the free Tacx Cycling app, which can be downloaded from the App Store or Google Play store. It also works well with most popular apps including TrainerRoad, Kinomap, Bkool and Zwift.
In the meantime, the Wahoo Kickr is one of the most connective smart trainers on the market, with lots of software options including the aforementioned as well as Wahoo Fitness, VirtualTraining, Velo Reality, PeriPedal and Velo-Trainer.
How easy is it to store the turbo trainers?
Turbo trainers are a great investment for anyone wanting to cycle throughout the whole year, regardless of the weather conditions. However, fears that the equipment will take up too much space in your home, or even disrupt others in your home are understandable. We’ve compared the two trainers to see which would be the most discreet and easy to use in your home.
The footprint of both trainers is not huge so they are no bigger than most trainers on the market. The Tacx has the advantage here though because when you are not using it or if you want to move it around the support wings can be folded to make the width very small (as shown in the image above).
However, the likelihood is that you will have these trainers setup and ready to use so storage will only be an issue when you are ready to pack it away for the year. In this instance the support legs of the Kickr can be removed to make for easier storage.
Which is louder, the Kickr or the Neo?
The last thing you want whilst trying to focus on a workout is the distracting noise caused by friction and vibration of your trainer. Luckily both of these pieces of equipment are designed to be quiet, with the Wahoo Kickr’s gearing and belt system made especially to decrease any unwanted sounds to just 61 decibels.
Whilst there are no claims to how many decibels the Tacx gives out, several individuals have applauded the machine for its impressive quietness. Amazon even suggests that it is the ‘quietest indoor trainer on the market’. The solid build with top quality materials of both of these cycle trainers also dampens unnecessary noise.
How heavy are the turbo trainers?
Both of these trainers are similar in weight, with the Wahoo Kickr weighing in at 47lbs, whilst the Tacx being just under. Neither are extremely portable in the sense that you couldn’t carry them out and about or travel much with them; however, it is possible to move them to the side of the room or a cupboard when not in use.
The Kickr actually has a handy grab handle built-in towards the rear, meaning that you can easily pick it up and move it out of the way. Unfortunately the Tacx has nothing of the sort, resulting in users having to pick it up by its ‘wings’.
How are the turbo trainers powered?
Both of these smart trainers can work to a certain extent without being plugged in to a mains power socket. The Kickr must have a source of electrical power for any resistance or connectivity to work, but you will not do any damage to your bike or the equipment if you ride it without power.
Meanwhile, the Tacx Neo features Plug in/Plug out technology, which allows you to use the trainer with or without a plug. Nevertheless, you will not be able to experience the exciting descents without mains power and it is advised that you plug it in at the start of your workout.
What do the turbo trainers look like?
For some the design of a turbo trainer will mean a lot. The Wahoo Kickr comes in a black and blue design, with the slogan ‘crank it up’ inscribed on one side of the trainer and the Wahoo branding on the other. Alternatively, the Tacx Neo comes in a black and silver design, with the Tacx branding on the wings. Maybe not a major issue for most, but some of us are influenced by design when all other aspects are pretty similar.
Any other bonuses?
The Kickr has LED indicator lights to visually confirm when the trainer is powered, connected and transmitting your performance data. The Tacx has a similar LED indicator system, which changes colour depending on the rider’s performance.
It is also worth noting that the Wahoo Kickr is used by Team Sky, a British professional cycling team with several successive victories in the Tour de France competition. While not necessarily a direct notification of quality, the fact that Team Sky are associated with Wahoo does show that it is a quality product. Of course there is the thinking… “if it’s good enough for Team Sky then it’s good enough for me…”
How much do the trainers cost?
Both these turbo trainer are top end and therefore command a top end price tag. The Wahoo Kickr is currently priced at £999.99, whilst the Tacx will set you back £1066 when bought from Amazon. Wahoo are actually offering a Kickr Smart bundle, which includes a cycling desk and floor mat with the trainer for just £1149.99.
Summary – Tacx Neo or Wahoo Kickr
Should you buy the Wahoo Kickr or the Tacx Neo. Sorry we cannot tell you which one to buy because both are amazing machines. Get either one and you will be happy and you will be able to experience the fantastic virtual and interactive turbo trainer software available. The cost of each trainer is similar as are the specs, although Tacx does offer greater resistance (but it does cost slightly more).
Where can you buy from?
We always recommend Wiggle Cycles for online purchases. They are the largest UK online cycle shop.
However, it is always worth visiting Amazon because you can sometimes find great deals.