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Elite Drivo Smart Trainer Review
Last Summer (2016) Elite launched four new Indoor trainers/rollers, with a goal to simplify their trainer line up. One of the new trainers that was introduced for 2016 was the Elite Drivo smart trainer. The Drivo has now become Elites top-end smart trainer.
Elite already had some of the most accurate trainers on the market in their line-up, but the new Drivo brings lab-quality data and accuracy directly into a direct drive, electronically controlled unit.
I got my hands on the Elite Drivo smart trainer at the end of 2016 and have been reviewing the product since. The Elite Drivo is a very simple to use smart trainer, it calibrates itself, reads power, cadence, speed and smoothly adjusts to gradients and terrain any 3rd party app throws at it.
Elite Drivo Smart Trainer Main Features:
- Super accurate power measurement +/-1%
- Simulates gradients up to 24%
- Electronic magnetic resistance unit
- ANT+/Bluetooth compatible
- 2200 watts max power output
- Ultra quiet
- Flywheel weight: 13 lb/6 kg
- Compatible with 130-135×5 quick release and 142 x 12mm thru axle
- Adjustable feet
- Foldable legs
- Free hub compatible with Shimano and SRAM 9/10/11 speed cassettes ( Campag available)
- Elite E-training app included
What’s Included With The Drivo
Upon unwrapping the Elite Drivo from it’s box, the trainer arrived undamaged and securely fixed inside the box which is always a plus. I don’t know how many times products have arrived with damage from shipping due to poor packaging.
You might look for a helping hand when it comes to lifting the Drivo out of the box, at 15kg it’s relatively heavy, although it’s actually around 5kg lighter than most of its rivals.
The trainer comes pre-built, with the rising legs separated from the unit. Making a quick install and relatively simple build.
Inside the box you will find a set of DVD’s for Elites own indoor training workout software and an ANT+ key to connect to Ant+ devices.
An Allen key, three different axle stands and two washers for the cassettes was also provided. The two spacers allow the Elite Drivo Turbo to be fitted with either a 9/10/11 speed cassette onto the Shimano free hub, thus making it compatible with most bikes on the market (A Campagnolo free hub is also available at an additional cost).
However, what was not included was a wheel skewer – this you would expect as standard on a top level Trainer costing well over 1000 dollars. I found this a little on the cheap side and quite annoying having to either constantly change skewers or splash the cash and buy another specific skewer for the trainer.
Let’s Get Started
The plastic feet provided in the box was a very simple solution to adjusting the height of the trainer by rotating the feet. I was up and running in a matter of minutes after setting up the feet to the end of the Drivo trainer’s arms. There’s also a handle located on the top of the trainer, making it easy to carry the unit around.
There are two red safety systems on the trainer, a locking lever and a red rotating knob. Both of these needed to be locked in place before I started riding, otherwise the trainer would slump forward (as I noticed the first time).
The Elite Drivo requires power to be used. Provided in the box is a dual voltage 120/240v power cord, so it will work in any country. Elite provides the adapter that is relevant to the country its sold in. Once the feet were installed, the safety systems were locked in place and plugged in and I was ready to start riding.
Once I powered the Drivo on, I found there was actually no calibration of the unit or spin-down process for the trainer. This basically means that unlike most other smart trainers, it’s a self-calibrated unit. I also needed to download the Elite app, which strangely is under another name and took me some time to find in the app store. https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/myetraining/id672249377?mt=8
The Elite Drivo smart trainer provided a road like feel, but not as good as the Lemond trainer I have been using lately for specific steady state sessions. But the Drivo provided around 50% less noise, which is much better if you have neighbors close by. The main purpose of moving to a resistance controlled trainer (rather than the Lemond trainer) is, of course, the ability to automatically control resistance and power levels and let’s be honest, the power measuring device on the Lemond was a complete failure.
The Drivo does not use strain gauges however, this means that temperature compensation is not a factor. Elite use a method of measuring the time delay between the two separate sets of teeth within the sensor of the unit. This means they can determine the exact amount of torque being applied to the sensor. This helps give as close to +/-1% accuracy.
During my first week of workouts, I was having some sort of dropout issue on my recording device, but this turned out to be caused by all the Bluetooth and Ant+ products around my house. Tracking the power with my srm, showed the Elite Drivo had a very clear correlation with my srm power meter both in 5/30sec and 5min power intervals once these dropouts were fixed.
After trialing the trainer with Zwift, I found the Elite Drivo smart trainer to be amazingly smooth. During my first ride I was a little concerned the trainer wasn’t working as it should be. Other trainers, I have used showed a more direct feedback while starting a climb, But the Drivo I found gave a smoother transition when climbing over 7%, making the trainer feel similar to what you feel in the real world. This is one of the main plus sides to the Elite Drivo. The resistance isn’t jerky, which makes riding very realistic.
The realistic feel when transitioning from flat to climbing is partly due to the trainers resistance unit. The Drivo features a double belt system, producing a very smooth ride. The double belt system helps prevent slipping, which was the problem with the Elite Turbo Muin.
The Drivo smart trainer has two specific settings which are the Erg mode and Simulation mode. In Erg mode, no matter what gearing you use, you will stay at a constant power. The simulation mode provides a specific outdoor incline. In sim mode, it means you use your gearing to control intensity and speed while the watts will float dependent on gradient and speed.
Although different apps will focus on different things, Zwift and TrainerRoad in workout mode will be using ERG mode to set specific target wattages, but when you use Zwift in its normal sim mode, the app will be setting road gradients and it is down to the user to ride just as they would in real life terrain.
I did find that the Drivo trainer won’t allow ‘dual’ output with devices. Meaning there is no possibility to send data to both a Bluetooth and an ANT+ device at the same time. It wouldn’t allow the Drivo to relay data from my ANT+ heart rate monitor through the Drivo to another Bluetooth device.
While doing some maximal sprint efforts the Drivo felt unstable at times on carpet, It felt as if the legs could have been wider in order to accommodate more stability during high power efforts or standing sprints. I found I needed to back off on my power during some of my sprints. But during steady state efforts and seated efforts, I didn’t have any problems with the stability of the trainer and to be fair, carpet is not really a suitable surface for turbo training.
One of the main selling points of the Elite Drivo is the accuracy or claimed accuracy. The trainer is claimed to have +/-1% accuracy, a slight improvement on its main competitors the Wahoo Kickr and the Tacx Neo whom both claim an accuracy of +/-2%. Although the latest update of the Tacx Neo has now re-rated its accuracy putting it on par with the Drivo.
After 4 months of collecting data from numerous types of training sessions on the Drivo (Long rides to Steady state efforts and specific intervals), the power readings seemed to be comparable and consistent when compared to the Srm power meter I have installed on my bike. This meaning that the Elite Drivo trainer does indeed live up to Elites +/-1% accuracy claim. Elite also claim that the accuracy has been independently verified by a third party in Germany.
As I have been reviewing the Drivo trainer, Elite have said they are currently working on bringing the power accuracy closer to +/- .5% in a new firmware update.
Elite’s software is available both for Android and iOS devices. Like I wrote earlier in this article, I did have some trouble finding the software on the Google app store. The Software has a substantial library of workouts and a choice to select a training plan based on your initial fitness test. Elite also provide a demo of their ‘ride along with us’ software which replicates famous rides through the trainer such as Alpe d’Heuz (which was included in the box).
What’s great about the ‘ride along with us’ software is that it is possible to upload your own video and re-ride the route you saved. Such as mountain passes or local rides you have done during the summer months. This is most definitely one way to kill the winter boredom of sitting on a turbo trainer.
Elite have however hidden away some features from this app. With such a top end unit pedal analysis would be a most welcome feature but, unfortunately, this feature is only available through their E-Training subscription service. This feature displays your power output relative to your pedal rotation, which in turn helps iron out your pedaling technique.
I was disappointed with this as I believe these functions should be available in their free app with the purchase of a trainer costing as much as the Drivo.
Long-Term Thoughts On The Elite Drivo Smart Trainer
Despite being 5kg lighter than most of their rivals, It’s still a bulky unit to carry around. The Drivo like most specific direct drive trainers is better kept in a specific area dedicated to training. The 2200w maximum resistance is enough for most mere mortals and allowing up to 24% in gradient, which provides enough slope to replicate most climbs around the world. Although I didn’t use the gradient much over 15%, the option is there to tackle some steeper climbs if need be.
If you’re deciding to upgrade to the Elite Drivo smart from a traditional fluid or magnetic trainer, the difference is very noticeable indeed. With all direct drive smart trainers, the most noticeable upgrade is that there is no slippage of the rear tire and much less of a lag when you put the power down hard. Also, whilst there is no extra wear on your standard road tire or extra cost of a specific trainer tire with the direct drive setup, there is, however, an additional financial layout for a separate cassette for the trainer.
Overall I’m very impressed with the Elite Drivo smart trainer. Elite have made the Drivo trainer very consumer friendly for a high-end trainer. The Elite Drivo is a heavy beast to haul around, but still, it’s 5kg lighter than its direct rivals the Tacx Neo and Wahoo Kickr so should really gain some brownie points there. It’s also important to note that the trainer wasn’t built to be portable or lightweight, Elites main goal with the Drivo was to produce high performing trainer with supremely accurate data.
I did have a couple of little annoying gripes with the Drivo trainer though. When you consider the price of the trainer, the lack of a quick release disappointed me and the build quality of the unit was not quite up to my expectations either. I’m not sure if it’s to do with the heat generated by the trainer in use, or maybe just the flexing that occurs during use but, I found small gaps appeared in the plastic casing after time. This was nothing major at all, but just a little disappointing once again when you consider the cost.
However, on a very positive and most important point when considering a trainer, the power correlation to my SRM and the real world feeling while climbing and the transition from flat to climbs was possibly the best I have tested to date. The Elite Drivo also connects with all the major third party apps such as Trainerroad and Zwift with relative ease, making for a fantastic overall indoor riding experience.
All in all, the Elite Drivo smart trainer is a well-built trainer, with awesome road feel and accuracy only let down by a couple of very small niggles. Slightly overpriced perhaps, but then, directly comparable to other rival trainers on the market.
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