If you’re going to buy your first smart trainer, the words “Tacx” and “Wahoo” are the words that first come to mind.
And, it’s no wonder, these two brands are the top-of-line; they are well-designed and will help triathletes become stronger during the off-season.
But, how do you decide which trainer is right for you?
Our advice is to make a list of what you’re looking for in a trainer and what you hope to get out of off-season training.
You want to get the most of your smart trainer and not pay “extra” for features you may never use.
Still not sure where to start?
We’ll help you there and hopefully, by the end of the article, you’ll have a better idea of what you want or perhaps make a definite choice.
To start, we’ll give an overview of each smart trainer for you.
Tacx Neo 2T Smart Trainer Review
The Tacx Neo 2T smart trainer was designed so you won’t feel the difference between riding outdoors and indoors.
The design team used their research and trial and error to perfect a trainer that would simulate riding on the roads and going up and down hills.
The company teamed up with Zwift so that the trainer simulates road vibrations as if you’re riding on different terrains. Additionally, the trainer uses “dynamic inertia” which manages your mass inertia and balances your weight, speed, and steepness of your climb.
On top of simulating road riding, the trainer also is comfortable and barely makes any sound.
The smart trainer reacts quickly to any change in speed or incline and lets riders move left and right, as they would naturally riding outside.
The smart trainer now has redesigned magnets that have improved the trainer’s stillness. This diminishes internal air displacements and vibrations, which ultimately results in a quiet smart trainer.
The trainer has built-in cadence sensors that can analyze your stroke. The technology has precise technology that can tell you the specific location of both legs. If riders add ANT+ Cycling dynamics, then they can analyze their data through third-parties such as a bike computer or sports watch.
The smart trainer can simulate very powerful climbs and sprints with the re-designed NEO 2T motor. This motor has more power and can generate more resistance even you’re trying to feel like you’re sprinting or going at a slow pace.
For those who are nervous about bike compatibility, the rear axle of the NEO 2T Smart works with most bikes. If your bike has a 135×10 or 124×12 set you’ll need an additional adapter.
Some might be skeptical about relying on the trainer for power data and want to use their cadence and speed sensors. But, the smart trainer can measures power with a +/- 1% error and it doesn’t require calibration.
Speaking of technology, the trainer works with the Taxc Cycling Software, Zwift, TrainerRoad, and SufferFest. The trainer can easily connect and be managed by popular training apps. And, all your data can be exported to Strava, Training Peaks, or whatever training app you use.
For convenience and easy storage, the trainer is foldable so once the weather turns nice, riders can easily put their trainers away for the summer.
And, the trainer is self-powered and won’t require an external power source. It gets all its power from your cycling. The direct drive can be used anywhere and if plugged in, the trainer can simulate descents.
Triathletes who have bought the trainer like it because it is easy to set up and LED lights appear once everything is put in place. The trainer is compatible with most bikes and has built-in sensors that are accurate. Additionally, the set-up with other apps such as Zwift is very easy to do and all data is synced.
Wahoo KICKR 2020 Review
The Wahoo KICKR 2020 doesn’t look much different from its predecessor, but it’s come with serious upgrades that will make winter training worthwhile.
For starters, the new compressing AXIS feet system is more flexible and allows for up to 5% more motion, and is quieter on hardwood floors.
Secondly, the KICKR Direct Connect is the new wired option for connectivity.
And, the last two features?
The trainer has a new zero-calibration software algorithm and its sensors accuracy is now +/- 1%, which was 2%.
For older models, riders would need to calibrate their trainers if there were drastic temperature changes to keep the sensors accurate. And, the old ones were easy to manipulate so that you could cheat in a virtual race.
But, with the new trainer, there is no reason to calibrate and riders can get reliable and accurate data from their rides. And, even if riders try to calibrate to cheat, the trainer will just recalibrate back to normal.
The feet of the trainer has more cushion and should allow riders to roller a smidge. The added cushion is great if you have downstairs neighbors but on concrete floors, there is little difference.
Setting up the trainer is pretty straightforward. All you need to do is make sure that you have an even ground for the trainer. Or, you can adjust the height to make the trainer stable. Once, the trainer is plugged in, status lights will come to show ANT+ and Bluetooth Smart Connectivity.
For the front wheel, you have the option to use the KICKR Climb so an pair those two up and simulate the gradient of your route. Or, you can use a simple front wheel-block.
As mentioned before the Axis feet are a new feature and the trainer actually comes with three sets of feet that correspond to three different resistance levels. The feet can be swapped if a rider spins them off and then disassembles them with a hex wrench.
How do the feet compare?
It depends on the surface you have your trainer on. If you have a cushy mat, you may not feel the extra movement or sway. But, if you have your trainer on a hard surface, then you’ll notice some subtle differences.
In simulation mode, the trainer can simulate up to 20% incline, and if the difficulty level is set to 100% it will feel exactly like an outdoor ride. Other trainers will simulate over 20% incline, but honestly, how often will riders use that feature? We think that a 20% grade will help develop your climbing legs without overdoing it.
Since the trainer is made of steel, most riders feel comfortable really digging into their pedals while climbing. They feel supported by the trainer and confident their bike won’t break while mid-climb.
The trainer is compatible with most training apps but is not as up-to-date as Tacx and Elite smart trainers.
When it comes to app compatibility, we need to talk about the wired port, which requires an adapter that will connect from the port to an Ethernet port. Unfortunately, the additional adapter isn’t available yet and there aren’t any apps compatible with it.
Luckily, you can still use ANT+ and Bluetooth Smart and pair it with either Zwift or TrainerRoad, which is easy to set up.
The accuracy and data readings are very accurate and you can barely tell the difference between the data from the trainer and a sports watch.
Triathletes who have bought the trainer like it because it has very accurate data readings and is easy to set up. Most were not impressed with a “missing” additional accessory that won’t work with any training apps. But were happy that they could still use ANT+ and Bluetooth Smart connect. As far as the different feet go, most riders who use a cushioned mat don’t feel a difference. But, the ones who have their trainer on a harder surface did feel a difference.
How are Wahoo KICKR 2020 and Tacx 2T Different?
Based on price, the Tacx 2T is about $200 more than the Wahoo KICKR, but that shouldn’t completely drive you away from it.
Let us explain some of the differences between the two and you can decide if the price difference is worth it to you.
From the set-up, the Wahoo trainer has an eleven-speed cassette, which works with most bikes. The Tacx also is compatible with an eleven-speed cassette, but if you have 135×10 and 124×12 you’ll need an additional adapter.
Both trainers work with a wide range of bikes and axle width. However, for those with narrow bikes, the Tacx trainer has a harder time with the chain clearance. Just be sure that your bike is compatible with either one before purchasing. This information is found on both websites.
Comparing design materials, the Wahoo KICKR is a solid trainer. It is made of steel and it would be very hard to damage it. Riders keep this trainer for years before they need to replace or upgrade it.
The Neo Tacx is hard plastic, which is still a good option, but it must be handled with more care when riders store and move the trainer around their home. No rider has had a major problem with the design material but it is something to be aware of.
The Wahoo KICKR is more intuitive in terms of set-up and storage. The Wahoo KICKR’s legs just fold up. While some riders have to figure out how to fold the legs without breaking the entire thing.
Both trainers are compatible with ANT+ FEC and Bluetooth Smart technologies. There are a few major complaints regarding connectivity. The trainers can work with Zwift, TrainerRoad, and nearly all major training apps. Of course, all the data can be synced with your training apps such as Training Peaks or Strava.
The main difference is that Wahoo can broadcast through multiple channels via Bluetooth. Wahoo was pushing for this upgrade and it works well if you’re trying to use multiple devices and training apps for each training ride. And, this upgrade gets rid of all Bluetooth connectivity.
The Wahoo KICKR has a flywheel that simulates riding on a road very well and it’s one of the best in the market. The Tacx also has a flywheel but it’s a virtual flywheel. Some riders like to have a physical flywheel while others are ok with a virtual one. Both have the same benefits.
The virtual flywheel has been observed to feel smoother and respond faster to changes such as inclines and descents. The flywheel can also simulate different road surfaces such as brick, gravel, and asphalt.
The Wahoo KICKR needs to be plugged to get all the benefits of the trainer, but the Tacx is self-powered so you can ride anytime you need to. The only feature that doesn’t work when plugged in is the downhill feel, but road simulation, climbs, different surfaces, all work without being plugged in.
The Tacx can simulate up to 25% grade hills on 2500 watts at +/- 1% while the Wahoo can simulate 20% grade on 2200 watts at +/- 2%.
In terms of power calibration, the Tacx will be more accurate and precise because the virtual flywheel doesn’t need to be calibrated.
The Wahoo KICKR is compatible with the KICKR climb so if you have a collection of Wahoo products that might help make your decision. Even though you might need to calibrate your Wahoo trainer, you can use your power meter.
Tacx is not compatible with the Wahoo KICKR but it can still stimulate climbs and descents. It cannot pair with your power meter, but it does have a cadence and power meter built-in that can display your data on whatever screen you use.
Both trainers have their own app where you can manage the trainer through your smart device or computer. The Wahoo app is very impressive and is easy-to-use. The Tacx app has some features such as GPS rides that can only be used if you pay for a membership.
Both are very quiet and quite comparable in that category.
Here is a quick summary of what I’ve written above:
Tacx Neo 2T:
- Virtual Flywheel
- Road feel simulation on multiple surfaces
- Accurate within +/- 1%
- No calibration required
- Multiple metrics that can be viewed on a paired device
Wahoo KICKR 2020:
- Well built and quiet
- Decent road feel
- Compatible with many bikes and with KICKR Climb
- Multiple Bluetooth Smart channels
- Accuracy +/- 2%
- 11-speed cassette included
What’s Better About Wahoo KICKR
Wahoo KICKR fits more bikes and already has an 11-speed cassette so that makes the set-up that much easier for riders. And, the flywheel doesn’t need to be calibrated.
Additionally, the Wahoo KICKR works with the Wahoo Climb, which simulates the hill grades very well. The two pair easily so riders can get the most out of their indoor hill workouts over the winter.
The app is very robust and a lot of the features can be accessed without a paid account. Of course, the trainer can be synced with other apps such as Zwift and TrainerRoad. And then, have all the data be sent to your training apps such as Training Peaks or Strava.
In terms of sturdiness and ease of transportation, the Wahoo KICKR wins against Tacx. The trainer is made of steel and can handle the toughest workouts. If you’re climbing a tough hill on the course, it will be able to support you through the entire effort. And, you won’t feel like the trainer is breaking underneath your bike.
The trade-off from a sturdy trainer?
There won’t be as much side-to-side movement as the Tacx trainer. But, you need to decide if you’d prefer sturdiness to flexibility.
When you need to store your trainer, it’s easily folded and has a handle for easy pick-ups.
Compared to the Tacx, it’s simpler and still has a lot of value if you want to save the $200 that would have bought a Tacx trainer.
What’s Better About Tacx 2T?
You might be thinking that paying the extra $200 for the Tacx 2T isn’t worth it. And, you might be right, but take a look at what the Tacx 2T can offer riders.
For starters, the Tacx 2T doesn’t need to be calibrated and it also has a virtual flywheel.
A virtual flywheel feels smoother and it can simulate riding on different surfaces, which is something most smart trainers cannot do.
Additionally, the flywheel can measure power, cadence, and speed with +/- 1% accuracy and this is without additional devices attached to the bike. It simplifies indoor training and all the data can be synced to your training app.
We’ve tested the trainer’s accuracy against our own meters and the data graphs match.
Unlike other trainers, this one has multiple-channels for Bluetooth smart. Now, you can use easily your smart device to display the virtual course and your sports watch. The multiple channel feature eliminates connectivity issues in the past.
Compared to the Wahoo KICKR this trainer has more side-to-side movement. Riders like this feature especially when they are doing difficult climbs on the trainer. It makes the climb feel easier and like it’s a real hill.
The trainer doesn’t need to be plugged in for it to work, you power the trainer and it can still support up to 2500 watts of power and 25% hill grade. This makes training easier and more convenient. You can easily travel with the trainer and set it up anywhere.
When the trainer is not plugged in, the downhill simulation cannot be done.
Who Should Get a Tacx 2T Smart Trainer
A Tacx 2T Smart Trainer is great for anyone who really wants a trainer that is silent and will simulate roading riding very well.
The trainer is great for those who want a sturdy trainer that allows side-to-side movement for hammering the sprints or going up hills. Even though the trainer is made from hard plastic, it is durable and will allow for additional movement.
Additionally, if you want to simulate all types of road surfaces, the trainer can do that for you. It makes winter trainer more interesting.
If you are trying to use fewer gadgets for your indoor rides, the Tacx trainer would be a good option. The trainer has built-in power and cadence meters that are just as accurate as individual meters.
Still, trying to make life simpler on a smart trainer?
The trainer can manage multiple channels on Bluetooth Smart so that you can run multiple devices to your trainer and not have any glitches.
Who Should Get a Wahoo KICKR Smart Trainer?
The Wahoo KICKR smart trainer is a great choice for anyone who wants a sturdy trainer that is compatible with nearly any type of bike.
The fly-wheel comes with an 11-speed cassette so you don’t need to buy additional gear and the calibration is very easy to do and only needs to be done once.
The trainer is made from steel so you can hammer away for the sprints and tough climbs and feel supported. The downside is that there will be less side-to-side movement. The trainer will last for a long time so if you’re worried about the value, it will last.
If you already use the Wahoo app and are happy with it, then continuing to support Wahoo products would be a good step. You won’t need to set up new accounts and all of your synced accounts will be saved already.
While the Wahoo trainer does offer a lot of really neat and unique features, it doesn’t have as many as Tacx. But don’t take this as a bad thing; if you don’t want all the bells and whistles of a Tacx trainer, then a Wahoo would be an excellent choice.
Even though the trainer cannot track power or cadence, it has ANT+ and Bluetooth Smart connectivity options which work well with any device you need to connect.
We hope this article gave you a short but informative run down of each trainer.
They are both top-of-the-line trainers and you can’t go wrong with either one.
Just be sure you choose one that fits your needs.