The Garmin TACX Neo Bike Plus review: The TACX Neo Bike Plus lets you experience your favourite courses with its immersive movie mode and real road feel…
Garmin TACX Neo Bike Plus
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$3,999.99 / £3,499.99, buy.garmin.com
- Good app compatibility
- Immersive real road feel
- Highly controllable fans
- Some flex in the drops
Smart features: 5/5
A few years ago many cyclists resisted engaging with smart bikes and trainers, because the riding experience was so divorced from that of actually riding outdoors. Fast forward to 2023 and the Garmin TACX Neo Bike Plus is part of the virtual cycling revolution putting paid to that notion.
It’s a smart training bike that pairs with third-party apps such as Strava, Zwift and TrainerRoad for interactive virtual riding and racing on courses around the world. But it’s the TACX Training app that unleashes its full potential. Pick a course that features cobbles or gravel, for example, and the Neo Bike Plus will vibrate to replicate the experience of riding on these surfaces. It could be one of the most immersive virtual riding experiences yet.
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The Garmin TACX NEO Bike Plus tops the company’s TACX NEO range. It covers rollers, trainers, smart trainers and motion plates. Another highlight is the TACX Neo 2T smart trainer currently being used in Super League Triathlon’s Arena Games series.
The NEO Bike Plus is a more advanced version of the standard TACX Neo Bike. That said, there’s not much standard about the £2,299.99 model. It offers most of the features of the TACX Neo Bike Plus, including the real road feel feature.
Building the TAXC Neo Bike Plus
Getting the TACX Neo Bike Plus out of the box and onto its stand is a two-person job. But that heft means it’s reassuringly stable once set up and ready to go. It’s surprisingly easy to put together, with no real bike mechanic skills required.
Once the legs are on, it’s just a question of swapping four large grub screws out for adjustable handles. Then you slot on the bars and saddle, plug in the fan extension and add your pedals of choice. (It’s a little surprising to see no flat pedals in the box. Garmin obviously assumes you’ll bring your own clipless pedals across from your road bike.)
Setting up the TAXC Neo Bike Plus
There’s so much adjustability with the Neo Bike Plus, but beginners can get up and running quickly and easily. Although you have the option to set the number of front sprockets between one and three, the number of teeth on each sprocket between 22 and 53, the number of rear sprockets up to 12, and between 11 and 40 teeth per sprocket, you can just jump on and ride right out of the box.
You can also set the proprietary Garmin shifters to behave like Shimano, Campagnolo or SRAM. That’s useful if your muscle memory is attuned to what’s on your road bike.
The crank arms are in an unusual diamond shape, allowing you to fix your pedals to one of five holes. That gives you a choice of effective crank lengths between 165mm and 175mm – ideal for longer- or shorter-legged riders. Most off-the-peg bikes come with standard 170mm cranks, which you’d have to swap if they didn’t suit your cadence style, so that’s a huge help.
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You can dial in your exact bike fit to your liking too – useful if you’ve had a professional bike fit. Both saddle and bar can be adjusted along horizontal and vertical planes, negating the need for different frame sizes for taller or shorter riders. The one slight issue is longer-legged riders may occasionally hit the drops with their knees when riding out of the saddle. But that can be an issue with any static bike unable to sway from side to side to counteract your movement.
Once you’re set up and ready to ride you have two options: set up a manual training ride on the built-in console or pair it with TACX Training or a third-party app on your phone. In manual mode you use the buttons on the inside of the shifter hoods to adjust the slope (up to 25%), power or resistance. You can adjust these mid-ride too, to tailor your session or dial in intervals.
Using the TAXC Training app
However, the fun really begins when you sync the bike to the TACX Training app. It syncs instantaneously to open up a wealth of ride options – but does require a monthly subscription to get the full benefits. Standard subscription is £9.99 a month or £99.99 a year. The HD subscription is £13.99 or £139.99. Without it you’ll just have access to a handful of sample rides and workouts – enough to whet your appetite.
You can work your way through detailed training rides with pre-programmed changes to slope, power and resistance. These are ideal for specific training routines but have little in the way of interaction or immersion.
Immersive ride experience
For that you need to pick a GPS ride or movie option. Both give you a choice of famous climbs and courses, as well as interesting city rides or entire multi-day tours. The GPS rides feature real-time map displays, showing other TAXC users that are on the same course – a real plus for the competitive cyclist.
The movies are first-person view and have more of a Zwift-like feel to them, only without the race structure. These obviously work better on a larger tablet or Bluetooth-receiving screen. It’s a very engaging experience, and a more enjoyable doing of doing longer riders or multi-stage tours.
You can also upload routes from you Garmin Edge bike computer to the app, then ride them on the TACX Neo Bike Plus. It’s a useful feature if you have favourite local training rides you want to replicate indoors.
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Using the GPS or movie modes unleashes one of the Neo Bike Plus’s stand-out features – the realistic road feel. While it sounds a little gimmicky, it’s surprisingly realistic and adds a further immersive dimension to your rides.
Vibrations in the bottom bracket replicate the feeling of riding over different surfaces. There’s a demo ride on the app that lets you sample each road surface the TACX app can replicate – from gravel and paving stones to cobbles, ice and snow – and there are distinct differences between each one. It’s a hugely enjoyable feature, unless you’re suffering up a 20% col in Belgium when the cobbles kick in!
TAXC Neo Bike Plus console
Even in standard manual mode there’s plenty of feadback from the console. There’s ANT+ and Bluetooth connection status, speed (in kmph or mph), optional heart rate (with a connected ANT+ heart rate monitor), front and rear chainrings, available app updates, power, cadence and training mode (slope, power or resistance).
Pairing the TACX Neo Bike Plus to some of the newer Edge computers, such as the Edge 530, also gives you a brighter colour display that has even more engaging metrics to see when riding.
When connected to the app, you have a tray underneath the console for your phone to sit in or a space between the fans above it for a larger tablet, complete with a rubberised clamp to keep it in place. Two USB ports give you charging options too.
Garmin has added another visual feedback tool – a blue light underneath the bike that gains in intensity the harder you work. It’s quite simple but surprisingly engaging, particularly on those efforts where you just want to get your head down and hammer the pedals.
TAXC Neo Bike Plus fans
As with any indoor trainer, cooling is important and Garmin have taken care of this with two substantial fans, which are independently adjustable and have three power levels. You can set the fans to stay on as long as you’re riding, or to come on when your heart rate or power reaches a certain threshold. You can also trigger them manually for ten-second burst of cool air.
The bike’s chassis and legs give the TACX Neo Bike Plus a real feeling of stability. As long as you’ve set the bars to give your knees plenty of clearance, you can feel confident getting out of the saddle and hammering the pedals on steep include. The only downside is the bars can flex a little when you’re on the drops and putting the power down.
Overall the Garmin TACX Neo Bike Plus is a hugely enjoyable experience, and Garmin deserves credit in creating an immediate and immersive cycling experience. If the price is too steep, you can always go for the standard TACX Neo Bike at £2,299.99 ($3,199.99).
This doesn’t have the same precision shifters programmable for Shimano, SRAM or Campagnolo users, the precision-fit cranks lengths or micro-adjustable seat and stem but offers most of the features for £1,200 less.