Tacx are a major player in the world of turbo trainers (aka cycle and bike trainers) and offer a total of 11 different trainer units to buy. This large choice can make it difficult to choose a trainer, or even understand the differences between them. Simply, the different trainers appeal to an individual’s budget and experience, as well as the user’s general requirements; for example, whether they are looking for a quick workout or whether they want a more involved high performance workout experience.
Introduction to Tacx Turbo Trainers
Tacx offer four main groups of turbo trainers, which are classed based on price, features, and performance. The Blue range are Tacx’s budget turbo trainers that use Tacx’s Blue frame, and are designed to appeal to those not wanting to spend a lot on a home trainer and are simply looking for a way to stay fit on their bike when they cannot use it outside. Following on from the Blue range are two trainers that use an upgraded Tacx Satori frame and are combined with a Skyliner front wheel support. These two trainers are similar to the trainers in the Blue range and can been seen as direct upgrades. The next group up are named ergotrainers and use electro-magnetic and motor brakes that offer wireless resistance control. These trainers are aimed at individuals who are a little more serious about their training and want to measure performance criteria such as power output and speed. The final, and top-end trainers offered by Tacx are designed to work with virtual reality software and add more realism to your workouts. These trainers are classed as the i-range, with the very top trainer coming with a steering frame and a motor brake that can drive the back wheel to simulate downhill riding.
Tacx Blue Range of Turbo Trainers
The Blue range consists of the Motion, Matic, and Twist turbo trainers. Of the three the Tacx Blue Twist is the cheapest and least feature rich, offering a relatively modest 650 Watts of resistance via a magnetic break that you need to set manually on the braking unit itself. The Blue Matic is very similar to the Twist, but offers slightly more resistance at 700 Watts, and a handlebar mounted lever to allow you to modify the resistance without leaving the saddle. The Blue Motion adds a more powerful magnetic brake that provides a peak resistance of 950 Watts the can be set to any one of 10 levels via a handlebar mounted resistance lever.
The RRP of the Blue range is between £120-£199.99, but they can be purchased from between £113-£159.99.
Tacx Booster Turbo Trainer
Originally the Booster was categorised in a seperate group by Tacx along with the now last generation but popular Tacx Satori. The Tacx Booster is more powerful than the Blue range of cycle trainers, and is a very popular trainer used by pro cycling teams for pre-race warm-ups and extra fitness sessions. In essence the Booster is very similar to the Tacx Blue Motion, but with a more powerful magnetic brake that offers a maximum resistance of 1050 Watts, and is therefore the most powerful pure magnetic brake offered by Tacx. The Booster is the official warm-up trainer of the Tacx Pro Teams and comes with a Skyliner front wheel support as standard and has a 10 level handlebar resistance shifter.
The RRP of the Tacx Booster is £289.99, but it can be purchased from as little as £190.
Tacx Ergotrainer Electronic Turbo Trainers
The next group of trainers are classified as ergotrainers, and are a definite shift up in terms of technology and open up more features over the more basic turbo trainers discussed so far. There are two ergotrainers in the range, named the Tacx Flow and the Tacx Bushido. What lifts these trainers above the more basic units are their electro-magnetic and motor brakes, which mean they can be controlled electronically and wirelessly via a handlebar mounted computer unit. While effectively the same as the other trainers discussed (in that they offer resistance to the rear wheel of your bike as you workout), the computer control unit adds an extra dimension. Your heart rate, power output, speed, and cadence are all measured and displayed on the computer screen readout. The Tacx Flow is the entry-level computer controlled trainer offered by Tacx, and is one of Tacx’s most popular trainers because of its price and features. The Flow uses an electo-magnetic brake and offers a maximum resistance of 800 Watts.
The Tacx Bushido improves on this and offers a maximum resistance of 1400 Watts and is the most advanced ergotrainer Tacx offers. The high resistance is provided via a motor brake, which means the resistance increments can be controlled smoothly rather than through large resistance steps. Also, a unique feature of a motor brake is that it can not only increase resistance to your back wheel simulating riding up an incline (max incline of 20%), the Tacx Bushido motor can even simulate downhills, physically driving the back wheel up to a maximum downhill gradient of -5%. The Bushido is around £250-£300 more expenisve than the Flow, but offers significantly more features and performance. Both of these ergotrainers can be upgraded to function with virtual reality (VR) features, comparable to the next set of trainers that are discussed below.
The RRP of the Tacx Flow and Bushido are £429.99 and £824.99 respectively, but they can be purchased from as little as £264.99 and £584.99.
Tacx i-Range Virtual Reality Turbo Trainers
The above mentioned Tacx Flow and Bushido can be upgraded to become part of the i-range of trainers. In fact, the Flow is sold as standard as an already upgraded i-Flow unit, coming with multiplayer features and a virtual reality steering frame. The steering frame requires you to take off the front wheel off your bike and fit the folks into the steering axles. This is a feature that now allows you to turn your rider as you cycle through virtual reality courses (two VR courses provided with the Basic software but you can upgrade to get another 5) that are visualised through your computer screen (external PC or equivalent device).
The next trainer in the i-range is the Tacx i-Vortex, which is very similar to the two ergotrainers (Flow and Bushido), but it comes with Tacx’s Advanced software that provides a huge amount of interactive and virtual reality features. The i-Vortex has a maximum resistance of 950 Watts and simulates slopes of -5% to +20%. It does not however drive the back wheel to simulate free wheeling downhill.
The top of the range turbo trainers that Tacx offers are the i-Genius and the i-Genius Multiplayer, which are the exact same trainer that work off the Satori frame, but the i-Genius Multiplayer comes with a BlackTrack steering frame and a multiplayer license. The brake of the Genius trainers are motor driven, meaning they simulate inclines as well as driving the back wheel to reproduce realistic downhill cycling. There are a host of interactive and virtual reality features provided via the Advanced software package that comes as standard with the Genius trainers, while the BlackTrack steering frame allows you to steer you rider through the virtual reality races. The BlackTrack steering frame does not require you to remove your front wheel like the i-Flow VR frame does, and instead your front wheel fits into a specially designed support.
The RRP of the i-range is between £649.99-£1149.99, but they can be purchased from between £519.99-£949.
Tacx offer a turbo trainer to suit everyone’s needs. Their cheapest and least feature-rich Blue range is perfect for anyone just wanting to catch up on regular exercise and cannot get out on the road due to weather, location, or time constraints. The Satori and Booster are in essence direct upgrades to the Blue range, with high quality frames, front wheel support, and in the case of the Booster, higher resistance. If you are a little more serious about your home training then the Flow and Bushido provide you with more outputs, such as heart rate, power, speed, and cadence, while allowing easier electronically controlled resistance. The Bushido in particular will appeal to more serious trainers who are looking for a tougher challenge with its high maximum resistance of 1400 Watts.
Finally, if you are looking for a solid workout but want added competition and motivation, the i-range of virtual reality trainers may be best for you. Tacx provide films of famous courses and stages of major cycling races, which feed back into your turbo trainer to automatically vary the resistance of the brake to sync with the hills of the films. However, for the best overall experience where you can fully control your position within races, a trainer that allows steering in fully immersive virtual reality races are needed. You can either upgrade your front wheel support and software, or purchase the i-Genius Multiplayer trainer or the less expensive i-Flow. The Genius has the added benefit of a motor brake that can drive your back wheel to realistically simulate downhill riding.
So, the choice is yours. There are significant differences in price and features across the Tacx range, so you will need to decide on what features best suit your needs and which trainer realistically fits within your budget.