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Tacx Vortex Smart Trainer Review – Long Term With The T2180
The Tacx Vortex smart trainer (T2180) was the first interactive smart trainer produced by Tacx, but now sits in their lower range of smart trainers. The T2180 is controlled by power assisted resistance and controlled by software such as Tacx’s own Tacx Cloud or other third party software like Zwift and TrainerRoad. Tacx has for many years had many excellent turbo trainers to choose from. Ranging from the popular entry level Tacx Blue Motion, all the way up to the new Tacx Neo smart direct drive trainer. The Tacx Vortex smart trainer (T2180) offers potential buyers an unbeatable balance of affordability, function, and cost. Retailing at just $549 it appears a bargain, but, take into consideration it’s normally possible to find it even cheaper and surely you’re on to an absolute winner, right?
Tacx Vortex Smart Trainer (T2180) Features:
- Trainer Type: Interactive smart trainer with electronic brake
- Transmission: Roller, 30 mm
- Electrical Requirements: 110-240 Volt
- Power Indicator: None
- Firmware Upgradable: Yes
- Suitable Bikes: Road, triathlon and MTB ( axle skewer needed)
- Front Wheel Support: Provided
- Quick Release: Provided
- Max. Power: 950 Watt
- Max. Slope adjustment:7%
- Descent Simulation: No
- Calibration: Spin down
- Weight: 9.08kg (20lbs)
- Wireless Communication: ANT+ FE-C, Bluetooth Smart open
- Accuracy: <10%
What’s Included With The Tacx Vortex T2180 Trainer
Weighing in at 20lbs the Tacx Vortex smart trainer was well below the weight of the current crop of more expensive direct drive trainers. The Vortex came neatly packaged in a simple display case, making life straightforward to find and install all the necessary pieces together. Tacx provided a quick release (5mm) which was great to see. It’s noted in the instructions that if you run a through axle, the supplied Q/R is not compatibile and you’ll need to purchase a different quick release from Tacx or your local Tacx dealer. Tacx provide numerous models of through axles, making the Vortex adaptable for most models of bikes. I did however have issues getting the correct through axle for a customer of mine who owned a Trek Procaliber 9.9, although it must be said that Tacx provided great support in this area to resolve things.
Like most rear wheel trainers, a front wheel mount was provided which helps level out the front and back wheel and make training a more comfortable experience. Although the front wheel mount was bulky, it was robust with a solid design and looked like it would stand up to years of sweat and abuse. The wheel mount was designed to be stored with the trainer, doubling up as a handle for carrying the trainer, making it an extremely portable and compact unit.
Its portable nature meant that the Vortex became my trainer of choice for taking to clients houses for bike fitting sessions. The Vortex was a more portable solution to my travel needs, it also provided power data for analysis, making it more user-friendly setup than carrying around a direct drive trainer on my travels.
Since the Tacx Vortex is a smart trainer, included was some information regarding the Tacx training app and also their new Tacx cloud-based software which they have been working on the past few years. All information for the Cloud training app and trainer software is available via their website https://tacx.com/apps-software
As with all smart trainers needing electricity to be powered, also provided was an 110-240 Volt power unit, supplied with the correct country specific pin head.
Let’s get started
After spending around 15mins putting the Vortex smart trainer together, (connecting the motor unit to the trainer took most of the time), I was up and running. The motor unit needs to be installed in the correct position dependant on your wheel size. Once the offside axle position is set, it is relatively easy to slot the bike in place. Once the bike has been locked into the correct position, the foot pedal on the motor needs to be engaged to connect the roller to the tire.
Once the motor unit is plugged into the mains, the electromagnetic brake and Bluetooth/ANT + communication are turned on, providing power, cadence, and speed data to Tacx’s training app. The Tacx app was available in the app store and proved to be a very simple and time-saving process to install. Alternatively, you can set up syncing to Tacx’s virtual training software or third-party programs such as TrainerRoad or Zwift with relative ease.
The Tacx Vortex smart trainer uses a metal hybrid roller with a urethane body to reduce noise and vibration. Tacx boasts this will last much longer that a standard urethane roller. It is relatively quiet during use as far as classic style trainers go, but it was noticeably louder than your standard direct drive trainer with some noticeable vibration apparent via the floor boards. Not a big problem though, a trainer mat would displace a lot of the vibration and also help cut down the noise.
The Vortex offers users a 950 watt motor brake. I was slightly disappointed with this as it means the maximum power output is limited to 950 watts. Although it’s not too often you are pushing beyond this figure, it does mean it limits any maximal sprints you might have planned for your training sessions. The Vortex T2180 smart trainer is also limited to only 7% gradient, meaning this limits any virtual climbs you are planning to tackle via the Tacx training software or Zwift. Although this is slightly disappointing, it is comparable to other trainers in the Vortex’s price bracket, and it’s not until you spend considerably more money that you will find a trainer boasting 20% gradient simulation.
The foldable U-legs on the Vortex provided an extremely stable platform for the T2180 smart trainer, surprisingly giving a surer and more planted feel than most of the direct drive trainers I’ve reviewed lately. The downside to this was the flex coming from the quick release clamps. If not tightened fully then this could potentially cause some problems down the road.
Using The Tacx Vortex T2180 Smart Trainer With Zwift
The Vortex smart trainer was on par with other smart trainers I had connected to Zwift in the past regarding connectivity, with no noticeable drop out in connection. As explained above, the lack of gradient (Max. slope adjustment: 7%) limited me on some of the courses, although it must be said that this wasn’t a big issue. Rear wheel mounted trainers tend to feel a bit jerky once you go over 10% gradient anyway, so I usually stay away from steeper climbs when using trainers such as the Vortex.
The power shown on Zwift was noticeably higher to that of my SRM unit. But as stated from Tacx the power accuracy was <10% so readings were roughly in line with this. Read on for more details on accuracy.
The is where the Vortex smart trainer disappointed me. Tacx claim power accuracy at <10%, which according to my comparisons was pretty much bang on. Tracking with the power from my SRM, the Vortex showed a difference of around 8-12watts when I carried out a 20min FTP test working at just shy of 400watts of power. The percentage difference was much more noticeable once you start riding over 300watts. Although for most people that don’t own a separate power meter, a number is a number and is still a valuable tool to base your training from (Consistency is the key here). In my opinion, the cost of the trainer and the functions available on the Tacx T1280 smart trainer heavily outweigh the <10% accuracy power measurement of the trainer.
Tacx trainer software 4 https://tacx.com/product/tacx-
Tacx has, in my opinion, been the leader in software for smart trainers for a long time. But it seems now, Zwift is taking the majority of the market. The Tacx trainer software is available as an advanced version or basic version. Both are available via download, with the advanced version also available in DVD format.
The software offers a simple user interface and provides nearly every function available. You can create your own programs and race against other people around the world. It provides a simple interface for analyzing your training sessions but lacks the depth of features that systems like Training Peaks or Garmin Connect offer for analyzing power and heart rate figures.
Recently Tacx has released Tacx Cloud. This allows for all your training data to be accessible via the cloud, anywhere at any time and can be exported directly to Training Peaks or Strava. Your performance or data is displayed in a graph, where you can analyze power output, cadence, speed etc.
Tacx Cloud https://tacx.com/product/tacx-
The Tacx cycling app (https://tacx.com/product/tacx-
Tacx provides a free utility app (https://tacx.com/product/tacx-
Long-Term Thoughts On The Tacx Vortex Smart Trainer
The Tacx Vortex smart trainer is a simple no thrills smart trainer, which provides all the necessary additions for a great user experience. Although the power was lacking accuracy compared to that of my SRM, the solid build, portability, and ability to connect with apps such as Trainerroad, Training Peaks and Zwift (not to mention the price) far outweighed this.
I found the T2180 smart trainer to be a solid and well-built unit, providing a robust and clean design that was easy to store away. The aluminum body would live up to years of abuse and for myself at the time, the portability was important.
The unit provided a smooth transition to climbs of up to 5% in gradient before I started to lose small amounts of contact to the brake unit, but like all rear wheel trainers, it wasn’t as smooth as a direct drive unit. The noise of the trainer somewhat annoyed me with rides over 3 hours in duration but was fixed with the use of a trainer mat. If noise is a major factor in deciding on your trainer purchase, then the Vortex T2180 may not be for you. Spending a little more on a direct drive trainer could be a wise move.
Overall the trainer provided a realistic road feel for a rear wheel trainer. Although, if you are looking for a more realistic ride, I would recommend a direct drive trainer. These units offer the most realistic ride feel and are also easier to bike installation. The Vortex T2180 provides a sure and sturdy platform during harder efforts, performing better than most other trainers I have tested. The flex from the quick release holders made me somewhat nervous at first, but after 6months of riding, I no longer saw this as an issue if the bike was securely fastened in place.
Like all rear wheel trainers, ideally, a second wheel is needed unless you want to replace your standard tire constantly. So perhaps some added after purchase costs need also be considered.
The folding legs on the T2180 provided a very compact 22.2×16.1×9.65 inch footprint which allowed the trainer to be portable and tucked away after use, making the Vortex slightly more compact than their top model, the Neo.
Tacx Vortex Smart Trainer (T2180) Overall
Overall the Tacx Vortex smart trainer is a well-built, solid unit, offering great features and is available at a fantastic price.
There is not much else on the market that can compete with the Vortex both in terms of function and price, the only trainer that would come close is the BKOOL Pro (review coming soon).
If Tacx could make the Vortex more accurate when it comes to power measurement, then it would be close to being one of the best rear wheel smart trainers on the market.
If you’re looking for an entry level smart trainer so you can get involved with software apps such as Zwift or Trainerroad, then, for the money, you can’t go far wrong by purchasing a Tacx Vortex smart trainer (T2180).
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Check out customer reviews of the Tacx Vortex smart trainer (T2180) on Amazon