Years ago, you would have taken an old bike and put it on a turbotrainer, or maybe rollers, and spent your time setting a timer running intervals or watching Paris-Roubaix reruns on a DVD you found on the back of the video library. Nowadays, the old bike on a turbo trainer often still packs the experience of riding indoors, but now the turbo trainer is smart and you ride in an immersive virtual world. There are other people in the world to travel with too. It has changed the entire ecosystem of cycling but it continues to grow and change every year.
The natural next step is to stop using an old bike and, instead, optimize your indoor bike for indoor riding. Generally speaking, this is referred to as an exercise bike, but it actually covers a few different types of products. You can get more details and options in our list of the best exercise bikes, but among the offerings is a small list of options that offer to take your outdoor riding indoors.
These are better known as “smart bikes” and replicate the experience of riding a bike outdoors but optimize the hardware for the rigors of indoor riding. It’s a small category and the new Tacx Neo Bike Plus is the ultimate option.
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What is the Tacx Neo Bike Plus?
Where the Neo Bike Plus – and its predecessor the Neo Bike Smart – sets itself apart from competitors like the Wahoo Kickr Bike and Stages SB20 is mainly in the absence of a standard flywheel. Instead, you’ll find a virtual flywheel that uses magnets and a motor to create the same effect, and which allows for some unique features. This is unchanged from the outgoing model, but it’s an important distinction from the competition.
With a motorized flywheel, Tacx can actively accelerate the flywheel to better mimic a downhill ride, which makes for a more realistic feeling while riding downhill in a virtual world.
As before, it is capable of a maximum resistance of 2200 watts and a simulated gradient of up to 25%, but there are driving characteristics too. The unique flywheel design can do more than just provide resistance and using the ability to instantly turn resistance on and off the Tacx can make the engine stutter. When done right, it simulates different road surfaces, such as dirt or gravel. You can find these features on the Tacx Neo 2T smart trainer and also in the older version of the Tacx Neo Smart Bike, but the trend continues with the Garmin Tacx Neo Smart Bike Plus.
Garmin is also an expert in measuring power on a bicycle. Garmin Tacx Neo Smart Bike Plus offers power, speed and cadence measurements accurate to within 1%. So the use of dual power meters allows for in-depth analysis of pedal stroke; by monitoring the position of each leg, the bike can break down your pedaling technique to help you develop a more effective stroke. Again, this hasn’t changed from the previous generation.
Hardware-wise, the Neo Bike Plus also retains the cockpit configuration, which includes a pair of fans that sit on either side of a central tablet holder, above the small integrated display.
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Where you actually see some small changes is in the physical design of the bike. As mentioned, a smart bike eliminates the need for a standard bike.
At the front of the Tacx Neo Bike Plus there is an integrated display, fans and a tablet holder. There is also a pair of shifters that mirror an outdoor bike design. Part of the magic of an indoor bike is that the shifting is purely virtual and, as such, can be configured to mimic Shimano, SRAM or Campagnolo, with a choice of gear ratios. From the accompanying app, you can designate up to three front chainrings with between 22 and 53 teeth per chainring. At the rear, the virtual cassette can have up to 12 sprockets with 11 to 40 teeth per sprocket. When you shift these virtual gears, the same mechanism used for road feel will mimic the audible sensation of jumping into a different gear.
Not only are all the gears and controls virtual, but nothing says the actual design of the levers and buttons has to be the same as on an outdoor bike. The previous Tacx smart bike used a much more radical shape, but this time Tacx has gone much closer to a traditional outdoor design. Judging by the pictures, anyone familiar with Shimano Di2 should feel right at home.
Likewise, the design of the entire bike doesn’t necessarily have to mimic that of an outdoor machine; there is no need to consider aerodynamics or weight, and there is an expectation of adjustability. Weighing 50kg/110lbs, smart bikes tend to stay put and be used by multiple people. The easily adjustable seat position and handlebar stem get an updated measurement scale that uses millimeters for greater accuracy. For crank length, swapping between 165, 167.5, 170, 172.5, and 175mm is a matter of screwing the pedals into a different mounting hole.
Connect with your chosen software platform
Like all smart bikes except Peloton’s, the Garmin Tacx Neo Bike Plus stays open to your favorite software platform. Standard Bluetooth Smart and ANT+ connections allow for use with TrainerRoad, Zwift, the Wahoo SYSTM app and more. Tacx is also continuing to develop its own training app, where more than 250 real-life videos are currently available to simulate world-famous courses, as well as structured training plans and live races.
If you’d rather not connect to the software, there are a few options as well. Many of the best cycling computers have ways to control a smart bike, and Garmin head units will even allow you to follow outdoor trails. In autonomous mode, no mains power is required, Neo Bike Plus will simulate a flat road and the faster you pedal, the greater the resistance.
Price and availability
Available soon in select locations, the Tacx Neo Bike Plus has a suggested retail price of £3,499.99 / $3,999.99. For more information on the Tacx Neo Bike Plus, visit the Garmin website.
Specifications: Garmin Tacx Neo Bike Plus
- Maximum power: 2200 watts
- Precision: +/-1%
- Maximum grade: 25%
- Connectivity: BLUETOOTH Low Energy (LE), ANT+ technologies
- Compatibility: Apple, Android, Windows
- Unit Dimensions: (L x W x H): 54.7″ x 29.5″ x 46.1″ (1390 x 750 x 1170mm)
- Screen: 4.5″ integrated
- Weight: 110 pounds (50 kilograms)
- Q-factor: 147mm
- Saddle Height (from BB Center): 25.2″-35.4″ (640-900mm)
- Handlebar stack height (from center of bottom bracket): 21.7″-31.9″ (550-810mm)
- Handlebar reach (from center of saddle): 15.9″-33.3″ (405-845mm)
- USB ports: 2 USB Type A ports (charging only)
- Calibration: Not required
- Crank Length: Choose from 5 crank arm lengths (165-175)