Saturday, March 05, 2022

Tacx Flow Smart Trainer

My old indoor trainer, a Cycleworks Magneto, was getting long in the tooth and the local bike shop was having a good sale on new trainers. I also was getting a little bored with the linear resistance thing, so was jonesing for a “smart” trainer.

What I wasn’t looking to do was drop $1000 on a bike trainer that I would only use for a couple of months a year or one that required a ton of work to set up. That ruled out most of the smart trainers. They all seem to be wheel off set ups that require buying a trainer and a rear cassette. That does allow for more accurate power adjustment, simulating road feel, and quieter use. It also looked like it allows for greater “true” power ranges.

I was excited to see that the bike shop offered one wheel on smart trainer option and that it was not crazy expensive. The Tacx Flow was only $350 and allows me to pop the bike into it with a simple click. One the bike is on the trainer, you should do a quick calibration to make sure the resistance and power readings are accurate.

Time to get bike on trainer and calibrated is under five minutes. It makes it is easy for those days when I want to ride but the rain gets in the way.

The Flow easily connects to several apps like Tacx’s own app and Strava. Getting the Tacx app connected to the trainer was a snap. It comes with a free month trail period, so it was a good way to get started. The app has a wide variety of rides. Some have nice videos and others are just GPS tracks, but they cover the gamut of rides. There are nice easy rides through the countryside or along the shore and there are long brutal climbs. The did experience a few hiccups where the videos would buffer, but the bike is far away from the hotspot and I have a tween who lives on TikTok. The other odd thing about the app was that if it connected to my bike’s cadence sensor, it would not record cadence data. I’m not sure how the trainer figures out cadence better than a sensor stuck on my pedal. I decided to pony up for the $100 yearly subscription without trying any other apps. I don’t know any Strava heads and liked the movies.

The trainer can also be driven by my fenix watch which can be loaded up with GPS courses from Garmin Connect. In some ways this a better way to use the trainer as the data integrates better with my other Garmin data and I can train on rides that I actually take instead of dreaming of far off lands.

In either case, the trainer gives me a better workout than the linear resistance of a non-smart trainer. It is more fun to have to deal with simulated climbs or to run a workout where the resistance changes to simulate sprints.

I also like the fact that I get power readings from the trainer. Power is not a metric I would pay $1000 dollars to add to my bike, but for $350 it is a nice to have. I might miss it once I am back on the roads and trails.

Is the Flow a great smart trainer? No. It is not a great trainer. It doesn’t simulate road feel and can really only simulate up to a 5 percent grade with any accuracy. It also requires regular calibration to make sure the bike’s tire and the trainer are properly connected.

It is however a great trainer for my needs. It didn’t break the bank. It is easy to set up and use all year long. When properly calibrated it can programmatically fake more than a 5 percent grade and really most of the places I ride don’t have very steep hills.

For a recreational rider in his 50’s with moderate needs. It is more than enough.

I would rather spend the extra money on upgrading my mountain bike to full suspension or enjoying fancy ciders after a long ride.

No comments:

Post a Comment