Turbo trainer season is in full swing and the Elite Direto looks a compelling package on paper
The seemingly inexorable rise of Zwift has created fierce competition in the turbo trainer market and, having launched the Direto earlier this year, Elite are in for a slice of the action. ‘Turbo trainer season’ is in full swing and the Italian firm’s latest trainer has arrived at RCUK ready to log some virtual miles.
On paper, it looks a compelling package – a direct-drive turbo trainer with a built-in power meter, Ant+ and Bluetooth Smart connectivity, and a claimed accuracy of 2.5 per cent for £749. Needless to say, that’s still a chunk of cash, but the Direto aims to bring the functionality of top-end smart trainers to the relative masses.
As a direct-drive smart trainer, the Direto is able to connect wirelessly to third-party apps like Zwift and TrainerRoad, as well as Elite’s own My E-Training app. It can also automatically adjust the resistance according to what’s happening in those apps, whether you’re drafting a rider in Zwift’s virtual world and the resistance is reduced accordingly, or you’re completing intervals and the resistance increases as you hit the next set.
The Direto measures power 12 points through the pedal stroke to achieve Elite’s +/- 2.5 per cent accuracy claim. While Elite’s top-end Drivo trainer (£1,199.99) improves that claimed accuracy to +/- one per cent by doubling power measured to 24 points, the Direto is right in the ball park of what we’d expect to see from both conventional on-bike power meters and smart trainers.
Otherwise, the Direto is able to simulate slopes up to 14 per cent, with a maximum power output of 1,400 watts. As a quick comparison, the Direto’s closest competitor, the Tacx Flux Smart, can simulate a ten per cent gradient and a sustained maximum power of 1,500 watts, with a claimed accuracy of three per cent. The Direto’s legs can fold away, whereas those on the Flux Smart can’t.
There’s also the Wahoo Kickr Snap, which has a claimed accuracy of three per cent, a 1,500-watt maximum power output and 12 per cent grade simulation, but that’s a wheel-on trainer and so requires regular calibration. Direct-drive trainers are also often considered to offer a more realistic ride quality and more accurate data, as you remove the possibility of the tyre slipping.
Anyway, back to the Direto. We’ve unpacked the trainer here in the office and have had the chance to complete one initial training ‘ride’. First impressions? Initial installation is simple and only requires bolting on the Direto’s three legs (one fixed central leg and two supporting legs which fold away). At 15kg the Direto is relatively light as smart trainers go and there’s a handle to grab when moving it around. It’s not the most ergonomic but it’s far easier than having to wrestle the entire trainer.
In use, the Direto offers a realistic ride quality, initially tested at a moderate (sweetspot) intensity and the wide legs provide a stable base. Changes in power are smooth but the Direto doesn’t stick to the prescribed power as closely as more expensive smart trainers we’ve used (the Tacx Neo Smart and Wahoo Kickr). For example, if the Elite app is set to 250 watts, the real-time power might drift 10-15 watts above or below that, from pedal stoke to pedal stroke.
That’s not to say the power delivery feels inconsistent but it is directly influenced by how smooth your pedal stroke is – some riders might see that as a positive, with the Direto encouraging you to put the power down smoothly and consistently, others might want the trainer to lock onto the set power without having to think about it. So far we’ve only used the Direto with Elite’s own app and it’s not a particularly intuitive bit of software. We’ll need to dig deeper before also trying the Direto with Zwift.
Finally, we’re using the Direto with a Canyon Ultimate AL SLX, which has conventional quick releases, but the trainer also comes with adapters for use with a 142x12mm rear thru-axle. In the box you’ll also find spacers for nine and ten-speed cassettes, while Elite sell an adapter for use with a Campagnolo cassette.
That’s it for now. With winter well and truly upon us, we’ll be spending more time on the Direto before we deliver a full verdict.
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