Tacx NEO vs Wahoo KICKR Trainer (2018 Comparison)
We recently acquired both the Tacx NEO and the Wahoo KICRK for our 2018 Tacx NEO vs Wahoo KICKR Trainer comparison review. Big thanks to both Tacx and Wahoo for supplying the trainers.
Having both trainers allows us to really get a feeling for each and break down some of the main differences between them.
We also conducted a survey of both Tacx NEO and Wahoo KICKR owners to get input into why they choose their trainers.
UPDATE: Since writing this article Wahoo has released 2 direct drive trainers including the 2018 KICKR and the 2018 KICKR Core. One of the biggest issues plaguing Wahoo in the past was noise level or more specifically the whine that would come from the trainer. They have all but solved the problem and now are as quiet as the NEO trainer.
Tacx NEO Vs Wahoo KICKR Survey Comparison
To start things off I thought it would be a great idea to discuss why people decided to purchase the NEO or the KICKR for their indoor trainers.
I ask both NEO and Wahoo owners why they purchased their trainer over the other and what were the reasons for doing so.
Wahoo KICKR – Cost and Quality Control (Winner)
Of the people surveyed, the number 1 answer for Wahoo owners boiled down to the fact that the KICKR was less expensive than the NEO ($1,599 vs $1,199).
Another issue that popped up had to do with Trainer Quality Control. The opinion of the KICKR owners was that KICKR was more reliable and broke down less. Whether this is true or not doesn’t really matter, it’s the perception that the KICKR was more reliable which factored into their purchase decision.
Also pertaining to quality was the actual look and build of the trainer. Many KICKR owners felt the trainer was built better and was of better quality. In essence they saw steel when looking at the Wahoo and saw plastic when looking at the Tacx.
Tacx NEO – Noise and Accuracy (Winner)
UPDATE: The noise level on both the 2018 Wahoo KICKR (Version 4) and 2018 NEO are about equal with no clear winner.
For NEO owners their main deciding factor was trainer noise and accuracy.
Currently the NEO is the most quiet direct drive trainer on the market. The NEO also boasts being the most accurate direct drive trainer.
Another interesting fact is many of the NEO owners were previous KICKR owners and decided to switch trainer companies when they upgraded their trainers.
Why People Choose The NEO over the KICKR
Here is a highlight of reasons why people decided to purchase the NEO trainer based on their responses.
- Better Accuracy (-1% vs +/-2% error rate)
- No Spin down calibration required
- Quieter Operation
- True Direct Drive vs Belt Drive
- Positive Reviews (Reviews on how accurate and quiet the trainer was played a big part in the purchase decision)
- Road Simulation
Here are the responses I received when asking people why they chose NEO over the KICKR.
“Went to the NEO straight Away. Accurate power and not requiring spin down calibration was the deciding factor. Secondary to that, Kickr has issues with belt tensioning and high pitching sound.” – Lee Chee Hong
“I picked the Neo over the KICKR after watching and listening to videos of them in use” – Steve Wood
“KICKR drove me mad for: warm up and then calibrate, belt tension, rpm sensor, needing to be plugged in, noise, transmitting speed on different channel. Swapped to NEOs. Always accurate, quiet, perfect data transmission, erg pick up. Only thing I dislike about the Neo is the axle conversion kits.” – Paul Vousden
“Upgraded from iGenius smart to NEO … my genius broke down so NEO was the logical next step.” – Aarnoud Hoekstra
“Plain and simple, noise. I did like my KICKR (gen. 1) and would take it any day if it was as silent as NEO. Somehow it seems more solid to me and it has better compatibility with 3rd party apps, especially with iPad you need ANT+ dongle with NEO, e.g. Sufferfest does not support ERG mode with iPad/BT. Also sometimes problems connecting and losing connection with NEO, never with KICKR.” – Timo Takamäki
“I chose the kickr. Price difference in India was negligible. Other than the sound, I preferred the road feel. Also, hoping to get the climb.” – Deepak Rao
“Had 2 Kickrs before I made the switch to the Neo. The positives of the Kickr : much better road feel thanks to the flywheel inertia. It makes going uphill more realistic (especially the hills where momentum is needed). They’re also pretty sturdy units and their service (wahoo) is excellent. However, Power readings were inaccurate and inconsistent. The calibration method is a hassle and the wining noise of the Kickr becomes a pain in the ass, especially when you get used to the Neo. I switched to the Neo because the accuracy and consistency of the Kickr was just not in the ballpark. I’m pretty sure, half of the winners on zwift races, are using a badly calibrated kickr to dominate the races. Switching to the Neo, I have no regrets at all. The road feel is less pleasant, and I couldn’t give a damn about the ‘live road feel’, I tried it a couple of times and I found it to be.. well frankly, pretty shit. There’s also ‘tire slippage’ at lower cadences and medium power (like 50 RPM and 250 watts). The magnets seem to be struggling to keep the resistance even. But it has so many advantages too.
It’s super quiet, it’s super accurate, you never need to calibrate, it’s as sturdy as a kickr, it looks better, especially if you’re a star wars fan like me, it looks like a fighter jet. It’s been a reliable training tool for over a year now, and I have no regrets about the switch.” – Tom Vercammen
“Both my kickrs eventually started to fail, had both version 1 and 2. Felt super solid, and I think Wahoo will come back with a unit that is as good eventually but the Neo is just that bit better. You definitely tell who has a kickr when they carry momentum past you though!” – Chris Davies
“Owned kickr 2 for 3 month. Power over those 3 month change about 50watts compare to stages PM .and 100% I dint gain those watts 😂 The most annoying was noise from that trainer. Switched to turbo muin -direto -now Neo. In the moment best trainer I owned.” – Patryk Witkowski
“Solely on Reviews I went for the NEO. Not regretted it at all!” – Alison Jane
“The noise on Kickr v1 when freewheeling/rolling on Zwift was too much in a badly insulated apartment. Happy with the Neo!” – Stein Otto Josefsen
“Had a Kickr for two years (Gen1) and swapped due to issues with fluctuating power. The Neo is nicer to ride on and less prone to spiral of death” – Gerry Askefalk
“Main reason is the Neo has true direct drive without the extra belt that the Wahoo has. Less things to break and better feel.” – Dennis Crespo
“Bought my first trainer 2 months ago after 6 months of tossing up between the two. Like a lot of people have said main point it came down to was the noise, and the need to calibrate the kickr. Have loved the neo and with a new baby in the room next door haven’t had to worry about waking him while i ride.” – Sam Oliver
“When my wife and I were in the market to replace our Tacx Vortex we test rode the Neo, Kickr, Drivo, Direto, Hammer and Flux. We both agreed that the Neo meet our needs the best.
With two young children we wanted a trainer that will not wake them if we ride while they are sleeping. While it’s not completely silent, the Neo meet that requirement the best. The little bit of noise that it does produce has a much lower pitch to it than the squealing/whining sound that the Kickr lets off.
The other selling point was the accuracy of the Neo. We both share the trainer, so we have to swap bikes on the trainer 3 to 4 days a week. The fact that we can swap bikes and get accurate power numbers without having to warm it up for 10 minutes and then do a spindown calibration is a big advantage over the Kickr, Flux and Hammer.
When we set out to buy a new trainer we were pretty sure it would come down to the Kickr or Neo. Surprisingly when it came time to buy it was Neo vs Direto because we couldn’t see the value in the Kickr. The Direto with its OTS power meter takes away the calibration issues of the Kickr and the sound it produces is not as harsh. In the end the Neo won out due to the noise.” – Andrew Csencsits
Why People Choose The KICKR over the NEO
Here is a highlight of reasons why people decided to purchase the KICKR trainer based on their responses.
- Price (By far the #1 deciding factor)
- Easier To Transport (Has a handle)
- Looks & Quality Control (Felt the trainer looked more solid and had less issues)
- Customer Service
- Positive Reviews (Negative NEO reviews played a big part in deciding to buy the KICKR)
- KICKR Climb (Many new KICKR owners are excited about the KICKR Climb and bought KICKRs to use in conjunction with the Climb)
- Don’t Need A Wheel Block
Here is a sample of responses I got when asking people why they chose KICKR over the NEO. NOTE: These were people who had version 3 or older KICKR models and not the new 2018 version 4)
“Main two things for me were price (best deals equated to nearly £400 saving for KICKR) and lack of adjustable feet on the Neo.
>Subsequently though I’ve found the KICKR is the only trainer currently supported on BT for The Sufferfest on iOS so that was an added bonus.
Think the one thing I’d like from the Neo is not having to ever calibrate.” – Lee Sutton
“$$$ The kickr does what I need it to do at a lower price point. It’s proven to be reliable and consistent in the Year I’ve owned it” – Sharon Louise
“The Neo wasn’t out when I bought the Kickr and anyway what Sharon just said” – Mark Roberts
“I’ve just purchased a kickr this week also looked at the neo.
Neo was over my budget of £1000 and also felt to be a cheap piece of plastic kit. Also going off research not the most reliable bit of kit. I don’t want to spend this kind of money and it turn into a doorstop after 12 months use, for me a turbo at this price should last years.
Kickr, as soon as I had a look at one you could tell it was a quality bit of sturdy kit. So I bought one there and then.” – Paul Armstrong
“I bought my 1st Gen kickr because at the time it was king. The Neo “Road Feel” would be the only thing lacking.” – Mike Alexander
“Over a year ago I bought a refurbished gen 1 Kickr and it cost me less than half of what the Neo retails for. I’ve had no issues and love that it works with my Wahoo Elemnt too.” – Charles Wright
“I faced this choice about a month ago. I felt the extra features on the Neo were not worth the extra money.
Also, I knew people that owned the Neo, and they recommended the Kickr.
Furthermore, I got the impression Wahoo was more responsive to customers, and they were located closer to me (USA) in case anything goes wrong.
Finally, I personally know a wahoo affiliate, and he helped me through the purchase (thanks, Scott!).
“Bought my kickr 2017 3 months back. Pros include price (compared to Neo), top class performance and overall reviews, no quality complaints (tacx neo and recently in flux, too many quality issues. It all over Internet).
Cons-none I found. 1 feature better in neo – no calibration reqd ‘ever’. 1 feature which neo doesn’t have – Climb unit (when it is launched). For me option was like neo or kickr+climb…. I chose kickr.” – Nitin Nagpal
“Agonised over this for weeks. Rode both, liked both, came to the conclusion that either were fabulous units.
The swing for me was that I felt the KickR was better value for money, defined as “did everything I wanted for less cash”. I also like the idea of the Climb (if it ever gets here), and I’ll replace my Garmin with an Elemnt one day.
Other pros and cons:
– KickR felt more robust; I found the design of the Neo to feel quite flimsy (I’m sure it isn’t, it just felt that way to me)
– I prefer not having the wheel block (although that goes against the idea of the Climb, I suppose)
– Neo was VERY quiet, but I have a dedicated bike room away from the rest of the house
– like the road feel on the Neo, but not enough to spend extra for it
– I actually dislike the downhill assist on the Neo. I get that it is more “roadlike”, but I don’t really want/need a rest on the turbo. I’m doing it to maintain or build strength when I can’t ride outside.” – Graham Puntis
“I was on a tacx Bushido for around 6 months. When Wahoo announced the kickr climb and updated kickr I bought the new kickr in anticipation of the climb coming (which has been delayed). The kickr does everything I need and interestingly enough I’m not that interested in the climb anymore. Never really considered the Neo tho by all accounts it seems excellent.” – Chris Smith
“Kickr was £200 cheaper at the time, also Wiggle had 12% off so got it for under £900.” – Dominic Efford
“I feel the kickr felt more robust, easier to transport (I work away and take it with me) and after riding both back to back I preferred the feel of the kickr. Even if the price was the other way around (as it was pre brexit for us in the uk) I would still have plumped for the kickr” – James Mark Priestley
“I got my kickr because of online reviews. Dc rainmaker and Shane Miller. Well that and I scored a 2016 Boxing Day deal on the kickr which clinched it for me!” – Martin Wright
“I too have owned two Tacx trainers and they didn’t last as long as I thought they should. ~7,500 miles on one of them.” – Paul Yeomans
“I found a 2016 Kickr second hand and went for it. Pro: Very good reviews, Con: Requires calibration and cannot use all Thru axle bikes. I’m very satisfied.” – Caspar Andreis
“I had the Neo, replaced once and after that i got my money back. Responded slowly, was never ever on par what was ordered, ie if TR said 130W it would sit at 160W or TR wanted 320W it would sit at 350W. I got the 2016 Kickr after this, has worked really good and after pairing it with my power meter this thing is all i need. A very happy camper right here!” – Kari Hästö
“Original Kickr. Still serves me well. Power meter is on par with my Power2max on my TT bike. One in my best purchases ever.” – James Matthew Eaves
“Road feel on the Kickr was better, more realistic. Plus I wanted a machine that wasn’t so tech heavy as the Neo. With music noise was never an issue.” – Mike Brooks
“Recently purchased the Wahoo Kickr 3. Looked a the Neo but preferred the robustness of the Wahoo and I also had in mind that at some point in the future I may purchase the Kickr Climb unit…but only if I can test it first to help make my decision” – Les Wilcockson
“Kickr comes first in most reviews. Neo doesn’t hold bike as sturdy as Kickr, Kickr more portable.” – Craig Aron
“Was tempted for the Neo after my Flux kept breaking, but decided that I did not want to give Tacx any more money as the number of issues with the Flux just made me feel uneasy about the NEO.
Since I have it I feel the simplicity of the build feels a lot more maintainable than the Neo with just a few screws needed to access all the key parts. I also prefer the low footprint of the Kickr and the ability to change the height of the cassette, which gives me a bit of variety in positioning between workouts. Finally the option to get the climb on the 2017 model was pretty attractive.” – Hans Kohls
Tacx NEO Trainer Review (2018)
First things first, most people I have talked to that are using either trainer seem to really like them a lot. The fact that both trainers are smart trainers is a huge plus for cycling indoors. You can use cycling training programs like Zwift, Trainer Road and Sufferfest to workout online and at least in Zwift’s case, workout with other from any where in the world. Super cool.
Important Note: For 2018 all new Tacx NEO trainers are going to come with a redesigned freehub that will replace the old Tacx EDCO freehub body. People who have older units can request the new freehubs from Tacx support. Tacx is making 2 separate hubs, 1 for Shimano/SRAM and the other for Campy. We got one of these new hubs and I have to say it’s better than the EDCO freehub and makes mounting cassettes easier. The new hub/bodies will retail for €49,99.
Noise Level : From everything I have read and heard, people seem to prefer the Tacx NEO over the KICKR when it comes to noise level. The KICKR has a higher pitch wine that some users have said is much louder than the NEO when pushing high watts.
Accuracy : The NEO is at the top for being one of the most accurate trainers with an accuracy rating of -1%. Most other trainers are +/2% or higher.
Road Surface Simulation : Tacx has built into the NEO trainer what they call road surface simulation, which essentially is supposed to simulate various road surfaces you may encounter when cycling. It works reasonably well and in Programs like Zwift adds a extra bit of excitement when riding on the trainer.
I found that it is harder to maintain the watts when you’re riding on rough surfaces. While the noise isn’t loud, it does create a lot of vibration and if you’re in an apartment, your neighbors will certainly hear it.
No Calibration Needed : Unlike the Wahoo KICKR, the Tacx requires no additional calibration prior to riding.
No Power Needed : Yep you don’t need to plug in the NEO to use it. Since the NEO doesn’t require power you could take it to the track and do brick workouts with it or take it to a park and ride outside rather than indoors.
Downhill Drive : The NEO has a rather cool feature called downhill drive or downhill assist that tries to simulate going down hills and give a more road like feel. In programs like Zwift, when you are going downhill the drive will kick in assisting your pedaling. As soon as you hit a hill it turns off.
Isokinetic or Isotonic mode : A new feature added to the NEO software this year is the ability to do Isokinetic or Isotonic workouts. The Isotonic mode helps you to put a constant force in your pedal stroke. After you have enabled this mode you will be asked to choose a resistance percentage between 0 and 100%. The higher the percentage, the more muscle power you have to use while pedaling. This mode helps you to build muscle, specifically in the dead zones of your pedal stroke.
With Isokinetic mode it is possible to keep a constant speed, regardless of the amount of force you put on your pedal. Your NEO trainer will ensure that you do not exceed the speed limit that you set prior to your training.
After you have enabled Isokinetic mode you will be asked to choose a speed limit between 16 to 30 kilometers per hour. The NEO will increase resistance when you tend to exceed your chosen speed limit. This will keep your cadence constant. In Isokinetic mode you always train at constant speed and with an even cadence, so that you are less likely to overload your muscles.
Cost : Tacx is clearly on the losing end when it comes to cost. Currently a Tacx NEO runs $1,599 retail vs $1,199 for the Wahoo KICKR. Because the trainer doesn’t come with a cassette, you will need to factor that into the overall cost.
Reviews : Reviews for the NEO are sort of a mixed bag, people are really happy with the noise level and accuracy, but others have had issues with quality control and tech support. So far I have had zero problems with either.
Quality Control : I sort of look at the NEO like a high end car. When it’s performing correctly, it’s great, but if something goes wrong it can be problematic. The NEO seems to have more issues than the KICKR. I think the overall design is a little more complex with more working parts that can breakdown. While you don’t have to replace a belt like you do on the KICKR, the NEO’s accuracy tolerance is tighter, so when it’s out of wack you know it.
Check out our more in-depth review of the 2018 Tax Neo Smart Trainer.
Wahoo KICKR Trainer Review (2018)
UPDATE: Wahoo just release the 2018 KICKR (Version 4) and it is almost silent (minus the drivetrain noise a typical chain makes).
The KICKR 2017/2018 edition is Wahoo’s 3rd iteration of the KICKR trainer line. It’s a bit confusing since all the trainers are called KICKRs, but it goes something like this, Original KICKR, KICKR 2016 and KICKR 2017. Wahoo hasn’t announced any updates to the KICKR 2017 for 2018 yet, so I am not sure there will be any changes. Over the past years, Wahoo has managed to make the KICKR more quiet and more accurate. If they do come out with a 2018 model, I am am certain they will try to make it even more accurate and less noisy.
The latest version, the KICKR 2017 is a very solid unit being the most accurate and least noisy in the Wahoo lineup (+/-2%).
Price : Cost seems to be a rather large deciding factor for trainer purchasers and gives Wahoo a leg up on the competition. Total retail cost for the Wahoo KICKR is $1,199 vs $1,599 for the Tacx NEO.
KICKR Climb : What make the Wahoo KICKR 2017 rather cool is you can team it up with the KICKR Climb, which simulates increases and decreases in elevation.
No Front Wheel Block Needed : While the NEO comes with a front wheel block, the Wahoo KICKR doesn’t. My guess is that because the NEO makes the bike sit higher (2″ inches higher), it needs a block to level the bike. With the KICKR you don’t need a wheel block although some people prefer it.
Easier To Mount – Since your bike rides 2″ inches lower, it is a bit easier to mount than the NEO.
Reviews – Overall the KICKR has great reviews and many purchasers have based their buying decisions on them.
Better Quality Control : In terms of quality control, the KICKR seems to be the more reliable trainer. It’s not as finicky and prone to breaking down.
Smaller Footprint : The KICKR overall design takes up less room.
Less Accurate : The biggest downside to the KICR at present is it’s accuracy. Wahoo claims an accuracy rating of +/- 2%, which is better than most of the trainer out there, but less than the NEO’s -1%.
Less Stable : I found the KICKR design to be a bit less stable than the NEO when pushing big watts. The NEO has a 2″ wider base and the design of the trainer stand holds the trainer down more than the KICKR.
Requires Calibration – While the NEO doesn’t require any type of calibration, the KICKR uses a spindown calibration method which they suggest doing every few weeks and also whenever you move your trainer. Even though the spindown calibration doesn’t take long, it does add a bit more complexity to keeping your trainer accurate.
Check out our more in-depth review of the 2018 Wahoo KICKR