Tacx NEO Bike Review: Better Than You Think!
Smart bikes have become the latest and greatest craze in the world of at-home exercise machines. These are indoor cycling bikes that take the exercise abilities of regular spin bikes and turn it up to 11. One of these pieces of equipment comes from the folks over at Tacx. It is their NEO Smart Bike.
This smart bike seeks to simulate the types of riding that you can get outside and from all over the world without ever having to even consider leaving home. We’re going to be looking at exactly what makes this smart bike different, how it really does raise the level of spin bikes and the reason why it deserves the name of “Smart Bike”.
Since it is one of the revolutionary new smart bikes, it comes with a price tag that reflects this advancement. However, for around $2,955 (€2,600), it is not the most expensive indoor cycling bike on the market. It will still take a decent wallet to acquire such an indoor bike, but for the level of quality, it certainly is tempting.
The NEO Smart Bike has some extremely nifty features that come with it. The simulation of outdoor roads and paths, the extremely accurate statistic tracking, and the advanced Tacx software that comes along with the console are just a few of the examples of quality features that come along with this smart bike.
In 2022, the Garmin company released an improved version of the Tacx Neo Bike. It’s called Tacx Neo Plus Bike. Although it is $1000, it does have a few better features that I will talk about them right here. So, let’s take a look at the differences and similarities of Tacx NEO and Tacx NEO Plus (Version 1 vs Version 2).
Tacx NEO Bike vs Tacx NEO Plus Bike (Neo V1 vs Neo V2)
|Name||Tacx Neo (V1)||Tacx Neo Plus (V2)|
|Shifters||Uncustomizable Shifters||Cutomizable shifters to replicate Shimano, SRAM, and Campagnolo|
|Handlebars||Standard||Revamped to feel more like road bikes|
|Seatpost||Upper part: 53.30mm and Lower part: 62.55mm||Upper part: 51.30mm and Lower part: 60.55mm|
|Connectivity||Bluetooth® Smart technology and ANT+® FE-C protocol||Bluetooth® Smart technology and ANT+® FE-C protocol|
|Crank||3-Holes (170/172.5/175)||5-Holes (165/167.5/170/172.5/175)|
|USB Charging Ports||Two 2.5 W ports||A 12.5 W and A 2.5 W|
|Max Torque||85 Nm||88 Nm|
|Max Brake Force||250 N||260 N|
|Adjustment Knobs||Basic small knobs for handlebars and seat adjustment||Extra durable larger knobs for handlebars and seat adjustment|
|User Support||From 5’3″ to 6’7″ – up to 275 lbs||From 5’3″ to 6’7″ – up to 275 lbs|
|Weight & Size||54.7″ x 29.5″ (1390 x 750 mm) – 110 lbs||54.7″ x 29.5″ (1390 x 750 mm) – 110 lbs|
|Watt/Power||Seperate right and left leg watt readings with -/+ 1 accuracy||Seperate right and left leg watt readings with -/+ 1 accuracy|
|Resistance||32 Neodymium magnets (electronic)||32 Neodymium magnets (electronic)|
|Gears||Customizable “Virtual Gears” (no real/physical gear)||Customizable “Virtual Gears” (no real/physical gear)|
|Incline/decline||No real/physical incline and decline (bike is fixed in place)||No real/physical incline and decline (bike is fixed in place)|
|Trasnmission||None (no chair or belt)||None (no chair or belt)|
They made a few cool changes to the Plus model but it’s still not enough to justify the $1000 price bump. If they added the right and left tilting or front and rear incline and decline tilting, I would have given them an extra $1000 in a heartbeat.
But the main changes were the redesigned handlebar & shifters with the ability to customize shifters to replicate Shimano, SRAM, and Campagnolo shifting.
They also added the 5-hole cranks with the bike which is nice but nothing crazy. Although I am happy they designed a thinner Seatpost (seat tube) and added an extra millimeter to the Q-factor so so there is less thigh/leg rub.
The truth is I like both models but at a $4000 price tag for the Tacx Neo Plus bike, you have another option to consider, the Wahoo Kicker bike V2. I am not saying it’s necessarily a better bike for everyone but depending on your need/preference the Wahoo Kickr V2 might be a better choice.
For instance, if You like the built-in console/scree, road simulation of cobblestone, or customizable shifters, then the Tacx Neo Plus bike is the best choice for you.
But if you don’t care about the built-in console/screen, cobblestone simulation, and customizable shifters and you prefer to have incline and decline tilting, then the Wahoo Kickr Bike Version 2 is the best choice for you.
One thing else that Wahoo Kicker has is the WiFi and physical Direct Connect Ethernet accessory (in addition to Bluetooth and ANT+) which provides a more stable connection than Bluetooth.
Tacx Neo Bike Alternatives
This is where I regularly update to let you know if there are better smart bikes on the market for the price. Currently, in 2022 it is a good value bike with really unique technologies including uphill AND downhill automatic gear change.
However, being the first indoor bike model by this brand, it does come with one design issue that could be a dealbreaker for some users (not everyone). NEO bike “seat tube” is thick (and q-factor is narrow) and on every pedal stroke, you might end-up rubbing your inner knees/thighs (also depends on your inner thigh and inner knee size and shape) which can be very annoying and cause chaffing.
If you think that won’t be an issue with you, go for it, I am pretty sure you won’t regret purchasing the NEO smart indoor bike. But if you don’t want to take the chance of returning the bike, I suggest you check out the Stages SB20. Although it comes without the monitor and there is no downhill Automatica/smart gear change (automatic gear change only for uphills), there is no leg rubbing and the price is often cheaper.
|Names||Wahoo KICKR Smart Indoor Bike||Tacx NEO Smart Indoor Bike||Stages SB20 Smart Indoor Bike||Wattbike Atom Smart Indoor Bike|
|Incline||Electronic Incline and Decline||Not Available||Not Available||Not Available|
|Handlebars||Vertical & Horizontal Adjustment||Vertical & Horizontal Adjustment||Vertical & Horizontal Adjustment||Vertical & Horizontal Adjustment|
|Saddle||Vertical & Horizontal Adjustment||Vertical & Horizontal Adjustment||Vertical & Horizontal Adjustment||Horizontal Adjustment|
|Bounce||Not Available||Automatic simulation bounce of cobblestones||Not Available||Not Available|
|Screen||No screen on the bike||With screen on the bike||No screen on the bike||No screen on the bike|
|Crank||5 Crank length options||3 Crank length options||4 Crank length options||1 Crank length option|
|Pedals||Flat cage pedals included||Not included||Not included||Flat cage pedals included|
|Gears||Virtual preset and customisable gears||Virtual preset gears||Virtual preset gears||Virtual preset and customisable gears|
|Transmission||Poly-V Belt||None||Timing Belt||Chain & Belt|
|Flywheel||13-Pounds||None||50-Pounds||Dual Flywheels (20-Pounds)|
|Chafing||Possible seat tube leg rub||Possible seat tube leg rub||Not an issue||Not an issue|
|Resistance||Electronic Magnetic (Automatic Change with Zwift)||Electronic Magnetic (Automatic Change with Zwift)||Electronic Magnetic (Automatic Change with Zwift)||Electronic Magnetic (Automatic Change with Zwift)|
|Tracking||Watt (direct), RPM, speed, gear, & time||Watt (direct), RPM, speed, gear, & time||Watt (direct), RPM, speed, gear, & time||Watt (direct), RPM, speed, gear, & time|
|Connectivity||Bluetooth & ANT+||Bluetooth & ANT+||Bluetooth & ANT+||Bluetooth & ANT+|
Tacx NEO Smart Bike Technical Information:
- Tacx NEO Technology
- Pedals and Q-factor
- Tacx NEO flywheel
- NEO bike resistance
- Drive system & gear ratio
- Handlebars and seat
- Tacx price and warranty
- Shipping and assembly
- Tacx NEO Smart Bike pros
- Tacx NEO Smart Bike cons
- Weight: 110 lbs (50 kg)
- Width: 29.5 inches (75 cm)
- Length: 54.7 inches (139 cm)
- Height: 46.1 inches (117 cm)
- Max Power: 2200 Watt at 40 km/hr
- 2 USB Chargers
- Can be used with and without a plug
The technical details by themselves might not offer too impressive of a tale for the Tacx NEO Smart Bike. However, there is more than just specifications at play here. The workouts on the bike feel stable and solid, with the responsiveness of any other spin bike being matched here. It is not too heavy or too large to move around, making it more convenient for those with smaller living spaces. Admittedly, it isn’t quite as compact as those sorts of models that are foldable, but a foldable smart bike might be asking for a bit much.
With a weight of 110 lbs, the NEO Smart Bike does its job in feeling solid underneath you. The weight continues to be impressive when you compare it to just how stable the more intense workouts are. For a bike that really isn’t all that heavy, you would expect it to shake and move around a lot more than it does.
In terms of nice little additions that some might consider luxuries, there aren’t an abundance of them. The two USB chargers are most certainly nice, as it allows you to connect and charge your phones or tablets while you workout. There is a tablet mount that comes with the bike, as well as a bottle cage in order to allow the storage of a bottle. It does come with a sweat cover and Tacx towel, which are nice additions. However, the overall quality of these little niceties are questionable.
Tacx NEO Smart Bike Technology:
- The NEO Smart Bike has 4.5” display for workout statistics
- The NEO Smart Bike has a 25% virtual incline (no real incline or decline system). The resistance change to make you feel like going uphill.
- The NEO Smart Bike is powered by either a plug or the energy of the rider.
- The NEO Smart Bike comes with a 1 month subscription to Tacx Premium Software
The Tacx NEO indoor cycling bike takes its technology seriously and works quite hard to earn the title of “Smart Bike”. This section will act as somewhat of a spoiler on account of just how many features involve this futuristic technology. Just about every aspect of the bike involves some sort of advanced technology that you would expect out of a sci-fi or cyberpunk movie rather than a bike in 2020. The two air fans on the handlebars of the NEO bike are interactive and will adjust to the speed, power or heart rate that the bike picks up.
If you ever tire of normal bikes shifting gears, this one delivers a different feel. It shifts through “virtual gears” by pressing up and down buttons to change the gearing of the drivetrain. The pedals precisely measure how your left and right feet perform while exercising. There are a pair of features that Tacx calls the “Gear Feel” and the “Road Feel”.
These features simulate the feeling that you would naturally get while riding over different surfaces, as well as the feeling of a virtual chain changing to a different gear. For those who are looking to truly simulate the experience of riding outdoors on this NEO indoor cycling bike, these features will practically become invaluable. Similarly, there is a feature that aims to simulate the same sort of exhilarating sensation that you get when descending down a hill.
One of the excellent pieces of design from Tacx is their decision to make the bike usable both while plugged in and without that plug. When not plugged in, it does the job by using the energy made from your workout to power the bike. However, this mode is not recommended by Tacx as it makes some of the technological aspects less effective. To get the full experience on the NEO Smart Bike, you will want to ride it while plugged in.
The measurements from the console are all made extremely precise. This Smart trainer doesn’t even require a calibration process, making it quite unique among spin bikes. Impressively, it measures your power with only a maximum deviation of 1%. For many, this might seem like a feature that doesn’t matter or could be left out, but for those who are really trying to take their cycling to the next level by tracking their own statistics, it can make all the difference.
The NEO Smart Bike is compatible with both ANT+ and Bluetooth It is compatible with third party apps like Zwift and TrainerRoad Can be controlled by ANT+ and Bluetooth computers, tablets and smartphones The Tacx NEO Smart Bike shares the same sort of connectivity abilities that other smart bikes like the Wahoo KICKR Bike have. This spin bike can connect to third party apps like Zwift, TrainerRoad, Rouvy, Kinomap, and others. This allows you to use apps that you already have or would like to explore and combine them with the quality rides that this smart bike offers. Considering that it offers this connectivity through both ANT+ and Bluetooth, it makes for a quality match.
The Road Feel:
We felt like this should have its own subsection. The NEO Smart Bike does a spectacular job at simulating the feel of a road underneath it. Whether that road is cobblestone or a sidewalk, you can really feel as though you are riding on a conventional piece of street. Whether it is up or down a hill, that feeling doesn’t stop. It has a system of dynamic inertia in order to control that realistic ride feel. Compared to a traditional flywheel, this dynamic inertia compensates for the weight, speed and angle of inclination.
Q-Factor and Pedals:
- The Tacx NEO Smart Bike has a Q-Factor of 147 mm
- This bike uses the standard 9/16″ pedal thread.
- The pedals are not included with the NEO Tacx indoor cycle.
The Q-Factor of the NEO Smart Bike is another example of excellent design choices being made. Like many of the other aspects, it does the job to make any exercise feel like a natural one.
For those who are unaware, the Q-Factor is the distance between your feet while sitting on the bike. Too much distance and it tends to become uncomfortable or give an unnatural feel to the ride. Similarly, too little and you will find it impossible to pedal.
The latter is certainly a rare case, as generally it is considered that the narrower the Q-Factor, the better. According to their website “Pedals and tablet not included”.
Tacx NEO Smart Bike Flywheel:
- The Tacx NEO Smart Bike has a “Virtual” flywheel
- The trainer simulates the mass inertia instead of producing it with an actual flywheel
- The virtual flywheel can adjust the mass inertia to the circumstances; like speed, slope and weight.
This is the part of the smart bike that sounds like it has been ripped straight from your local cyberpunk comic book. Fortunately, that virtual flywheel does just as well a job as a regular flywheel. If nobody had told you that the flywheel was virtual before taking a ride on the Smart Bike, you just as well would have thought that there was probably a solid 20 or 23 kg one already in there.
Thanks to this virtual flywheel, the noise of the NEO Smart Bike is virtually nonexistent. It might be comparable to a low hum that you might hear in some sort of office building, but that can easily be overcome with some Bluetooth connections. Heck, even just playing some music out of your phone or having the TV on at a moderate level will drown out any noise being produced by the flywheel.
Tacx NEO Smart Bike Resistance:
- The Tacx NEO Smart Bike has a max power level of 2200 watts
- The Smart Bike has a max brake force of 250 Newtons
- The Smart Bike has a max incline of 25% (simulated by adding extra resistance but the bike doesn’t lean forward or backward).
- The Smart Bike has a magnetic resistance system comprised of 32 Neodymium magnets
Since the NEO Smart Bike doesn’t have a traditional resistance system (see the Flywheel section), it can take a bit of explaining just how powerful the resistance can get. The max power of the flywheel (which can be achieved if you manage to cycle at a solid 40 km/hr) clocks in right at 2200 watts. That is the speed of a racing bicycle for those who are unaware. Usually, the average rider will not be going that fast unless they are going down a hill or really trying to get some speed.
The way that it works is that the higher the brake force, the steeper the incline that can be simulated. The example that they provide is that the NEO has a brake force of 250N and can therefore simulate a slope realistically up to 25% at a weight of 75kg. The brake force that is required for an accurate simulation is defined by the weight, slope, air resistance and rolling resistance. It is actually quite fascinating to consider how each of these factors plays a role in the simulation that the NEO Smart Bike provides.
Handlebars and Seat:
- The NEO Smart Bike has handlebars that have shifting control buttons like normal bikes, for virtual shifting
- The Smart Bike Handlebars also have brakes on both sides
- The Smart Bike handlebars and seat are adjustable and able to be replaced with your own if you wish
The design of the NEO Smart bike is well done, with many of the advanced technological aspects being able to be found in the handlebars. Because so much of the aspects like the flywheel and resistance settings are virtual, Tacx needed to make the adjustment of these settings easy to access.
How did they decide to do this? They made many of the options available in and around the handlebars. They can control the shifting of gears, incline and brakes. Considering all of these options are there by default, you have got a pretty good deal on the handlebars. If you end up not liking the handles themselves, you can replace them while still keeping the control from the bars.
The seat might be one of the few potential weaknesses of the Tacx NEO Smart Bike. It is an OK seat, that doesn’t do anything abhorrently wrong. However, the width of the seat post can rub if you have larger thighs or sit in a specific way while riding. That could lead to rashes or otherwise uncomfortable workout. The seat position is adjustable, but the post issue remains.
Drivetrain and Gear Ratio:
- The NEO Smart Bike gear ratio has an adjustable chainring setup
- The drivetrain, like the flywheel, is virtual
One of the most curious features about the NEO Smart Bike is just how many of the features that are staples on other indoor cycling bikes simply do not exist here. At least, not in the traditional sense. Since the flywheel is virtual, the same thing applies to the drivetrain that would usually act alongside it. However, this does open opportunities that do not exist on the traditional drivetrains. You can adjust the gearing on your virtual flywheel by pressing the up and down buttons on the shifters.
The gear ratio, similarly, is not like most other bikes. For example, the Stages SB20 bike has a default gear ratio of 5:1. The NEO Smart Bike has an adjustable chainring setup. There are up to 3 sprockets, with the teeth per sprocket adjustable between 22 and 53. On the rear cassette, there are up to 12 sprockets, with the teeth per sprocket adjustable between 11 and 40.
It matters less here, on account of the virtual flywheel and drivetrain, but we’ll still go over what these terms actually mean. Most bikes have a small pulley belt and a big belt ring connected to the flywheel. For every turn of the big wheel, the small pulley turns however many times the gear ratio is set up for. On the Stages SB20, for example, the default gear ratio is 5:1. Therefore, for every turn of the big wheel, the small one would turn 5 times.
Tacx NEO Smart Bike Price and Warranty:
- The NEO Smart Bike costs $2,955 (€2,600)
- There is a blanket 2 year warranty for the bike
The Tacx NEO Smart Bike is one of those bikes that you feel it should be worth a lot more than it is. Even though it is worth around $3,000, for the amount of technology and features that are included with it, that price seems like a bargain.
With the default package, you can get an experience of 1 month of Tacx Premium software. At the end of that, you have the ability to continue or continue with third party software like Zwift.
The warranty is the disturbing part. Most of these more expensive smart bikes have extensive warranties that will cover most anything for a very long time. However, the blanket 2 year warranty that comes along with this bike is highly disconcerting. One would hope that the Tacx would back up their product with a guarantee of its quality.
Assembly and Shipping:
- The NEO Smart Bike comes in a 110 lbs/50 kg box
- It does NOT come preassembled
- Assembly should take no more than 30 minutes with the help of the instructions.
- Shipping shouldn’t take more than 1-2 weeks
Something which is interesting about the Tacx NEO Smart Bike is that it doesn’t come preassembled like many other spin bikes do. This might be seen as a negative by some, but fortunately the assembly process is a walk in the part. So long as you follow the instructions that come with the package, the assembly process shouldn’t take more than 30 minutes.
The shipping process should also be fairly prompt, taking no more than a week or two to actually arrive. Of course, this can be affected by a variety of things, like high demand, a faulty mail person or a global pandemic could bring shipping as we know it to an absolute halt.
Tacx NEO Smart Bike Pros:
It feels absurd to say that so many of the crucial factors of the NEO Smart Bike are virtual. We’ve said it before and we’ll continue saying it: the feeling like you are riding on something out of a science fiction universe cannot be shaken. It is a brilliant feeling that can be found in few other places.
Usually, when bikes have features like buttons to change resistance, there tends to be a small delay between the actual pressing of the button and the response. Not here. The NEO Smart Bike responds instantly in just about everything that it does, from anything on the console to the resistance changes. This level of responsiveness is extremely rare to see and is an absolute pro.
The Real Road Feel:
The real road feel of this smart bike is also one of the definite highlights. It really makes you feel like you are on just about any sort of road available, even accurately simulating what it would be like to ride across cobblestones. That goes for the downhill drive ability as well. For an inside bike, you can really get almost the full feeling of being outside.
The Third-Party App Connections:
Some bikes don’t offer you the ability to connect to third party apps, instead only allowing for the connection with their own pieces of (sometimes sub-par) software. The NEO Smart Bike does not have this problem and can connect to some of the most popular cycling apps available.
Tacx NEO Smart Bike Cons:
The Pedal Installation:
Because the NEO Smart Bike doesn’t come fully assembled like other spin bikes, this means that the installation process can take longer. By far, the longest and most frustrating part of that installation comes in the form of the pedals. It just feels clumsy thanks to the use of the pod caps. While this is not a broken feature, it simply seems more complicated than it needs to, and doesn’t fit with the rest of the quality of the bike.
The Seat Post/Tube:
As we mentioned in the section on handlebars and the seat, the post is in a bit of an awkward spot. The seat itself is fine, but the post is thick in such a way as to have the potential to cause some severe rubbing and discomfort to the cyclist.
No tilting for Uphill/Downhill
Although the bike automatically changes gear to adjust the ride intensity based on uphill and downhill, it does NOT tilt as the Wahoo Kickr bike does. So, if you prefer an indoor bike that can tilt forward and backward, I recommend Wahoo Kickr, Proform TDF 5 Pro, or the NordicTrack S22i bike instead of the Tacx Neo indoor cycle.
The Tacx NEO Smart Bike is one of the most wonderful examples of technology taking indoor cycles to the absolute next level. Everything about it screams how futuristic it is, from the sleek look to the fact that there is no actual flywheel in the machine.
For a machine that “lacks” so many elements that make up other, traditional spin bikes, it does particularly well at covering that fact. If Tacx did not flaunt the fact that the flywheel was virtual, you could not tell the difference between that and a traditional flywheel. The same applies for the drivetrain, as it too acts as though it were physically there.
The resistance that these virtual settings offer is one of the most impressive parts. It has the same sort of max power setting as those machines with traditional resistance systems. The brake power allows for more intense workouts to feel natural. This is a powerful bike. Have no doubt about it. It also uses the power in a way that deserves the title of “smart”.
The console that comes with the NEO Smart Bike isn’t the largest or most glorious one that you will ever see, but it does a solid job displaying the appropriate statistics. The connectivity that is offered with other apps like Zwift and RoadRunner are definite highlights for the NEO console.
The NEO Smart Bike doesn’t offer too much in the way of luxury bonus items, like plentiful water bottle holders or weights. However, the fans that come with the bike do an excellent job at making sure you remain cool during the workout. Circling back to the technological aspect of the bike, the fact that they can automatically adjust to the sort of workout that you are currently going through. That means that you won’t be getting blasted with tons of air on a lighter ride and you won’t be having to constantly turn it up on the more intense sessions.
The customization on the NEO Smart Bike isn’t too bad, but it isn’t quite as brilliant as some other bikes. You can change the lengths of the pedals, saddle, bar tape, and crank. Adjusting the handles can be done, but it doesn’t feel as smooth or natural as it does elsewhere. Not that it feels particularly rough or doesn’t work. We just feel that the adjustment abilities on this smart bike could be streamlined a bit more in order to match up with the quality of the rest of the bike.
It is hard to find any fault with the Tacx NEO Smart Bike. It does almost everything you could want from a regular spin bike while also including the elements that really make it deserving of the smart bike title. The virtual flywheel feels flawless in the way that Tacx went about executing it. The console offers the sort of connectivity and statistics that are the standard for these higher tier bikes. Any downsides that the Tacx NEO Smart Bike might have can be overlooked for the sheer amount of quality that comes with this bike.