Here we review the Tacx Flow Smart, a budget alternative to the great smart direct drive trainers out there. So we’re not expecting 20% gradients or pave imitation here.
It’s more a case of if can it get the job done. If you’re interested in seeing other indoor bike trainer stands.
Well, it might have a wheel on design. But on paper, the Tacx Flux Smart comes with the same connectivity a more expensive model would have. Meaning you have access to popular training apps like Zwift, Trainerroad etc.
Overview of the Tacx Flow Smart Features
- Entry-level smart trainer that’s compatible with Zwift and similar indoor cycling apps
- Connectivity to enable resistance change
- Electromagnetic resistance system
- Simulation and ERG mode
- Speed, power and cadence outputs
- 1.6kg flywheel
- 800W maximum power (at 40km/h) and 6% maximum gradient
In the box and setting up the bike
The Tacx Flux Smart Trainer weighs 9KG and there is very little set up required. Inside there is a front wheel riser block. Again, many higher-end trainers don’t include this, yet this one does.
- Main trainer frame
- Trainer resistance unit
- Front wheel riser block
- Two bolts and a hex wrench
- Rear wheel skewer
- Power cord (this could have been longer)
The power cord is a bit short, about a meter, but doesn’t require any external power block. Including both a manual as well as a free month of service to the Tacx Training App. There is ariser block and the resistance unit and bolts that connect to the frame.
The block is a nice touch actually. It’s not exactly technical but pretty crucial to ride feel.
It is very easy to set up with the bike. Simply put the bike in there and insert through with the skewer. For some newcomers to indoor cycling this will be welcome. Faffing with cassettes is never a fun exercise, even if you’ve done it a lot.
The trainer is simple enough to connect with most apps. It uses that two-way interactivity so you will need something to control it. Zwift will work just fine.
As stated about the resistance changes automatically in two main ways:
Simulation Mode: Simulating a specific outdoor grade – i.e., 6% incline. You will find yourself riding in this mode if you are climbing on Zwift.
ERG Mode: Set a power output, for example, 250W. This tends to get used in training programs.
Tacx Flow Smart can simulate up to a 6% incline. Trainers in the mid-range can simulate up to about 18% or so. While trainers in the top-range can go upwards of 20-25%.
Putting on the power
In terms of power, most of us mortals are going to struggle to get beyond 800W. The only time it comes in is if you are carrying a little bit of weight and need the power to push back on the pedals.
One issue in trainers is responsiveness. For example, in a group you’ll frequently find yourself slowing up or down to draff in the pack. Here the Tacx Flux Smart seems to come out well with a response time of around 2-3 seconds.
In terms of ride quality it comes out pretty well, allowing you to move between speeds fairly well. Lets be honest it’s not going to have a smooth ride like the Neo. But one area it falls down is sound. For some, sound is unimportant. If you’re in the garage etc, it doesn’t matter.
If the kids are trying to sleep upstairs, they might be trying for a while. This makes quite a bit of noise. But then again, maybe that’s because we are used to direct drive trainers now.
Here we are looking at the normal compatibility you would be looking for on a fully interactive smart trainer. The Tacx Flow transmits data on both ANT+ & Bluetooth Smart, as well as allowing interactive resistance control across both ANT+ & Bluetooth Smart.
- ANT+ FE-C (Trainer Control): For controlling the trainer via ANT+
- ANT+ Power Meter Profile: Power and cadence data.
- ANT+ Speed/Cadence Profile: Speed and cadence as a standard ANT+ signal
- Bluetooth Smart Power Meter Profile: Power and cadence
So you can connect via a laptop (with an ANT+ dongle), Bluetooth-enabled mobile phone, and an Apple TV. The Bluetooth capability means you can also add a heart rate monitor to the Apple TVs second BT channel.
Tacx Flow Smart Review Conclusion
So how the Tacx Flow Smart ]come out?
Well, not bad for one of the least expensive options. It’s good for the money. In terms of accuracy, the Tacx Flow Smart is not going to match something like the Tacx Neo. But it’s unlikely you would be expecting that anyway.
While trainer manufacturers have sold out of everything they have, cheap or costly, very practical simple smart trainers are what will carry people into the indoor cycling world. When they’re in, maybe in a few years they ‘re going to go and purchase the Wahoo Kickr or Neo.
You will still have a nice time on training apps like Zwift, or struggle on TrainerRoad. All this stuff you can do easily and if you’ve never owned a higher end trainer, you’ll probably be perfectly pleased with your buy. It would be perfect if anyone told me tonight that it was the only workout I could use for the next month.
Which isn’t to say it gets a pass on everything just because of price. The entire hot mess of a calibration procedure needs looking at. And maybe a longer cable.
Still, this is an overwhelmingly solid trainer for the money.
Pros: Easy to set up, light, a good solid budget selection, and reasonably accurate too.
Cons: 6% max gradient and 800W maximum power (although you’ll struggle to hit that). There’s a lag in terms of catching the numbers, something that might get in the way when you’re riding.
Should you get it: If you are looking to take a look at the Zwift ecosphere – or are just sticking to a budget – then the Flow Smart is a great entry-level model. But if you find you like riding up Alpe du Zwift etc, then you might find you want to upgrade.
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