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Tacx Flow Smart Trainer

For those new or sport-level cyclists who aspire to get some engaged and enjoyable indoor training time in during the winter months, or any time really, the Tacx Flow Smart Trainer is one of the most complete connected options available under $549. And yes, the Flow is only $369. The Flow has a full feature set of $1000 trainers, with some overall performance limitations. So if you aren't racing or a serious powerhouse on the bike, but simply seek to engage with 3rd party app platforms that allow you train with others at your own pace and standards, the Flow is a great way to enter into that world without over spending. This is a capable, wheel-on, smart trainer at a great price. As a Smart Trainer, it can be ridden as a standalone bike trainer in an Erg mode or used with apps like Zwift and Trainer Road, among many other options, in Sim mode, which allows the app to control the trainer based on courses you can ride and compare your performance against.

The Flow Smart Trainer features communication via Bluetooth Smart and/or ANT+ FE-C, with options for trainer, power meter, speed and cadence in both formats. One option is if you have an FE-C enabled bike computer, you can control the trainer from the head unit. A Tacx app can do the same on your phone via Bluetooth, or you connect to aforementioned apps. Some hardware or apps may favor communication from one or the other, so having both is ideal. The Flow does broadcast speed and cadence. Some people find the cadence feature less than ideal, but you can always use an in expensive external sensor if better accuracy is desired.

Power-wise, the Flow has a max rating of 800w at 40 km/h. It can also simulate a 6% incline. The accuracy rating is +/-5%. These number may not be impressive to an experienced, strong cyclist, but are actually very useful and appropriate for a new or sport-level cyclist. Remember, improving on all those numbers adds expense. The Flow Smart isn't a new design, which is strength, as it has been stable and given steady improvements via firmware updates by Tacx. The design features a 3.5lb flywheel, but augments that with an electromagnet driver and braking system so it can replicate a mass inertia effect of 26lbs. Generally the heavier the flywheel is, the more the trainer responds to acceleration and deceleration more like you'd feel riding outside (referred to as road-like feel). The Flow has a decent feel and proper responses, without the actual weight behind it.

As a wheel-on trainer, you mount your complete bike to the trainer, and compress a roller onto your rear tire. This provides the resistance. As a Smart Trainer, you must calibrate your trainer to the tire at 87-116 psi. The important aspect is to always inflate your tire to the same pressure in that range before using, then work through the calibration procedure in the Tacx app. Most standard road tires can accept 100psi, which is in range and simple number to remember, but if you are using a higher volume tire, the make pressure may be 95, so use 90 or 95, again for ease of duplication. If you don't move your trainer around much or experience a large temperature change in your training location, AND you keep the tire pressure the same as when calibrated, you will not have to do this often. Calibration is crucial to the best accuracy range for the Flow. Even if you aren't a pro, having data that is consistent and reliable to your daily experience offers you the best way to monitor and improve your performance.

The Flow Smart was designed for 700c wheel bikes, and can also accommodate a 29" mountain bike wheel with an appropriate trainer tire. The design natively accepts 130mm and 135mm quick release rear axles. Tacx sells their T1709 kit for a 12mm thru axle configuration separately. The trainer comes with a steel QR axle that should be used instead the alloy or composite end quick release skewer commonly used on the bike. The steel QR can be used on the road as well so no need to change out if you head outside. Tacx also includes their Skyliner front wheel riser block you will need to level your bike once mounted on the trainer. A few notes on wheel-on trainers and tire use. If you use a tire that has been ridden outside, you must clean it before use. Use a rag with rubbing alcohol to remove light debris that may be on your tire and could damage the roller. Keep in mind that the roller can create more friction and heat than the road, and it is constant. So if your tire is worn, perhaps showing a flatter surface, or you can see small embedded rocks or metal in the rubber, the excess heat could cause a tire failure. If the tire is clean and not worn, it should be fine- but if you train a lot indoors, keep an eye on it. Starting with a new, smooth road tire is often the best choice. Tacx and others sell "trainer tires", which manage heat better and are generally quieter once ridden a few times. These tires cannot be ridden outside, so they are only an option for most people if they intend to keep the bike indoors all winter. These tires can also have a very tight fit, so taking them on and off regularly can be inconvenient.

As you'd expect, the 20.7lb Flow is stable, stout, and durable, while being easy to fold-up, move and stow away. When open the footprint is 26.6" x 25.6". The action of the pressure roller against the tire does create some volume, as will your drivetrain. We recommend the use of a trainer mat, which not only decreases transmissible sound through the floor, but also collects perspiration, can be easily wiped off and stored. Only you can know if the Tacx Flow Smart Trainer is right for you and your budget, but it delivers the best connected experience of any trainer in the price range, which is why we stock and recommend it to those looking to get started in the indoor training experience. Who knows, in a few years, you may love the experience, outgrow it and opt for $1400 Tacx NEO 2T!

Features

  • The best cost-effective smart trainer for beginners or sport-level riders
  • Wheel-on trainer that works with 130 and 135mm QR hub bikes, or 12mm TA with optional adapter
  • Stout, stable, and well equipped with Steel QR skewer, Skyliner riser block, and access to Tacx Utility App and PC based software
  • Features firmware update capability, trainer control and Spindown calibration process through app
  • Connects and broadcasts power, speed, and cadence to devices via Bluetooth Smart, ANT+ FE-C
  • Erg and Simulation use modes , control via head units, 3rd party apps, other devices
  • Max power rating of 800w at 40 km/h, with +/- 5% accuracy
  • Simulates incline up to 6%
  • Roller: 30mm, 2-material construction (hardened steel sleeve, soft core of elastogel) for durability, and to limit vibration and noise through the trainer
  • Flywheel: 3.5lb, augmented by electromagnet driver/braking system to replicate 26lb mass inertia effect
  • Footprint (open): 26.6" x 25.6" (Height: 16.1"
  • Dimensions (folded): 22.2" × 16.1" × 9.65"
  • Simple minor assembly required out of the box
  • Tacx# T2240
  • Weight: 20.7 lbs