Tacx Blue Matic turbo trainer - review - Road Cycling UK

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Turbo trainers

Tacx Blue Matic turbo trainer – review

A budget trainer that comes packed with speed and cadence sensors for use with smart training apps

Turbo trainers generally come in two forms: smart and basic. Smart trainers are feature packed, and can accurately record your power output, as well as integrate with software. They can even automatically adjust the resistance according, offering the latest level in turbo realism. On the other hand, you have basic trainers which are far simpler machines – offering simple, manually adjustable resistance at a far cheaper price.

The Tacx Blue Matic is a basic trainer, albeit with the addition of ‘virtual power’, which allows data to be sent to your Tacx, Zwift or TrainerRoad apps via the supplied speed and cadence sensors that you attach to your bike. It sits in the middle of the ‘Blue’ range at £134.99, with the aim of offering a gateway to the smart training world without the need to own an expensive power meter, or indeed an expensive trainer.

It sounds a little too good to be true, but what exactly is it that you get for your money, and what is the experience like?

The Blue Matic sits in the middle of Tacx’s Blue range of basic turbo trainers
  • Specification

  • Price: £134.99
  • Resistance: Magnetic; ten settings
  • Maximum power: 700 watts
  • Website: Tacx
  • UK distributor: Zyro-Fisher

Well, first off, let’s avoid confusion by pointing out that the power the Blue Matic can measure isn’t from a power meter – it’s an algorithm that estimates your power output based on the speed your rear wheel is spinning at and the resistance you set the flywheel at.

It achieves this using a pre-set knowledge of the power needed to travel at a certain speed, with the speed and cadence data sent to the app you’re using in order to estimate power output.

The Tacx app itself works on smartphones, tablets and computers – both Apple and otherwise – with the sensors connecting either via Bluetooth for any mobile device, or ANT+ on an Android tablet or computer with an ANT+ dongle.

Once everything is connected to your chosen source, you can choose your ride, and away you go. While you know it’s not your actual power that you’re seeing, the effort level you do need to put through the cranks seems largely representative of what you might have to put through if you had a power meter, with wattages certainly in the ball park, if not 100 per cent accurate.

You may argue, ‘what’s the point?’, but really the thing that matters most for structured training is that the power readings are consistent; as long as it’s consistently under or over the mark, your training and readings can still be trackable. If you want a turbo for accurate power training, this won’t be it, but if you want to dip your toe into the world of indoor training, with power as a guide, then the Blue Matic gives you an affordable route in.

From then on the Blue Matic behaves like a normal, wheel-on basic trainer. Set up is easy, with a specific quick-release skewer supplied with blocked ends for easy securing into the fixings, which in turn are adjustable if needed.

The Blue Matic has a 1.25kg flywheel and is capable of handling 700 watts

All you need to do is follow the simple instructions – and believe me, they are simple: open the arms and attach the foot pads, attach the resistance unit in the right place (a choice of two), fix and pair the sensors to your bike and app if you need them, and fit the skewer to the rear wheel and then onto the trainer itself.

The resistance unit is magnetic, with a 30mm roller as your transmission point against the tyre, with noise kept relatively quiet for a magnetic trainer at this price point. Even with the 10-setting handlebar-mounted resistance unit cranked up to the max, it’s still bearable and will deliver an estimated 700w of resistance; enough for the vast majority of us. I say 10-setting, although I couldn’t get it to sit on the first, instead always automatically clicking over to two, resulting in a nine-setting brake.

Ok, it’s not the end of the world and I laughed it off by suggesting to myself that the trainer was trying to tell me something, but irrespective you would expect Tacx to have the simple clicker adjustment system like this working properly.

There are ten manually adjustable resistance settings, but we found the lever to be a little temperamental

All the while the resistance unit is consistent if naturally not as realistic when spinning up as larger and more expensive units might allow – not least because of the lack of neodymium magnets and larger flywheel which you’ll find on the next tier Blue Motion trainer, which in turns bump up the maximum power output to 950w. Indeed, the flywheel effect increases as you move through the range, in order to offer a more realistic feel. Instead, the Blue Matic relies upon ferrite magnets to do the job, with a 1.25kg flywheel (and 8kg flywheel effect) – simple, basic, but nevertheless effective.

At additional cost, Tacx also supply an axle accessory kit, should you be running a disc brake bike, although you should take note that Tacx themselves claim that neither the Focus RAT axles or Cube Attain GTC Pro Disc X12 adaptors will work with the Blue Matic.

Still, overall build quality and sturdiness is excellent, and provides a really stable platform when you’re giving it the beans, holding you firm. Additionally, it folds away into easily stowable dimensions – ideal if you’re short of space, at 25cm in depth – and doesn’t weigh a proverbial ton at 8.4kg.

Conclusion

The Tacx Blue Matic is ideal as a simple turbo trainer – it’s easy to setup and use with consistent resistance and provides a sniff of the smart trainer world without the need to buy a power meter or expensive smart trainer, giving you access to Tacx’s own training software app or the likes of TrainerRoad and Zwift.

That said, it is only a sniff and can’t match a power meter for accuracy, and obviously can’t give you the adaptable sensations of a smart trainer. However, that’s to miss the point on a £134.99 trainer – it’s an excellent, cost-effective unit for those odd days you just can’t get out, or as a pre-race warm-up spinner.

Pros

  • Easy to setup and operate
  • Provides estimated power from sensors
  • Stable under load
  • Quiet operation

Cons

  • Poor resistance switch
  • Not universally compatible
  • Power estimation naturally inaccurate

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