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Some people are just lucky. Lucky enough to live near a good climb or open, bike-friendly roads devoid of traffic and bad drivers.

For those of  us with access issues, we are often relegated to indoor training and weekend rides. No problem there except that, and let's not kid ourselves here, trainers and stationary bikes often become a chore past the 60 minute mark. Music and movies work but only for so long. Weekend rides? Great! Question is, what about your weekday training? And can you really wait that long?

There is definitely a need for quality training at home, at the Cyclist's convenience. Having fun while doing so is a bonus. Enjoying the workout allows you remain in the saddle longer, and thus train longer. If it's not fun, it becomes a chore. It's 2018 and good for us, a slew of new technologies have emerged over the past couple of years to help us  address this need.

The Tech

It all began with the introduction of two-way wireless communication protocols like ANT+ FE-C and Bluetooth Smart a couple of years ago. In a nutshell, these two wireless communication protocols allow two way data transmission and control of between fitness devices. In particular, it allowed the development of the Interactive Trainer.

Where previously, trainer resistance adjustment was done manually, Interactive trainers now do so automatically - often taking it's cue from an external source. This may be from a Garmin Edge, a tablet or smartphone or a full blown PC.

With resistance controlled externally, all you have to do is pedal to whatever torturous wattage your workout wants to punish you with, that is. If your software wants you to feel like you're climbing the Huez, your Smart Trainer will make you feel it.

Product Image from Elite.



The Elite Drivo Interactive Trainer

Our paincave is equipped with the Elite Drivo (drive-o). It's was the Italian company's top of the range interactive trainer. We say 'was' as Elite has recently Introduced the Drivo II, which is basically the same thing except with marginally improved resistance and reaction time.

Drivo II aside, the original Drivo still comes with top tier specs:
  • Direct Drive -  This means, that the bicycle's chain is directly mounted to a dedicated cassette on the trainer. The Drivo has a Shimano-compatible spline with a Campy spline available as an option.  The primary benefit of direct drive is no longer needing to have a trainer wheel. Very, very convenient. 
  • Integrated Power Meter - Measuring power is central to how the trainer software controls the workout. The Drivo's built-in power meter is claimed to be accurate to within 1%. This is crucial if you don't have power meter, or a hub-based unit. 
  • 2300W output - Higher power means more resistance. This means that the Drivo can simulate up to a 24% road gradient. Your knees better be ready as the Drivo can really dish it out in bunches.  
  • ANT+ FE-C and Bluetooth Smart compatible.
While being a range topper, in its core, the Drivo is still a no frills, no bells and whistles trainer.  It doesn't have cobblestone simulation or a motor for downhill simulation like the more expensive Tacx Neo but it does guarantee a good workout.

Except for a cassette, the Drivo comes with most everything you need to get started with smart training:
  • Trainer Skewers 
  • Adapter kits for both Thru Axles and Skewers
  • ANT+ USB dongle
  • Cadence sensor (more on this in a bit)
  • Elite Training Software 
  • Washers for 10 speed cogs
It's almost fully assembled out of the box. You just unfold the front stand, select the appropriate axle adapter and install a cassette. Plug the Drivo to an AC outlet, mount your bike and  you're off!

Unlike other trainers, the Drivo doesn't need a riser block for the front wheel to keep the bike level. The rubber pads on the stand can be adjusted three ways to accommodate Road, MTB and CX bikes.  This is handy for tweaking your bike fit as you can directly simulate yourself and your bike in relation to the ground.

For the rest of my Pain Cave setup, I chose to use a Windows Laptop and connect it to a flatscreen for maximum immersion. I used the included ANT+ dongle to accommodate my  Garmin sensors.

The Drivo transmits its own power and cadence data and you have to choose between this and your bike's power and cadence sensors. The Drivo can actually compute for your cadence but in some sort of redundancy, still comes with an external cadence sensor. I personally I found this too clunky to use so I just got cadence data from my Garmin Vector 3.

Power, Bluetooth and ANT+ Indicators. We're lit!


Once all the sensors are connected, just fire up your training software and start riding away! Virtually that is.


On the (Virtual) Road

For all intents and purposes the Italian torture device is practically noiseless. The only thing you'll normally hear is the sound of your chain going about its job.  This actually tells you A LOT about your chain's lube status. Noisy chain? Time to clean and lube.

During high cadence efforts, the Drivo starts winding up the noise. It's not annoying at all as it sounds like an engine going full throttle egging you on to pile up even more wattage.

Steel Skewers do the job just fine


While the setup feels stable enough in use, it can sometimes feel a bit wobbly when mounting from some angles. We can probably attribute this to the short legs of the Drivo which, on the positive side of things, gives the setup a smaller footprint and storage profile.

Resistance transitions are very smooth and road gradient feel vis-a-vis the workout is very realistic, (though half of the credit goes to the training software as well).

I have grown to like the stormtrooper color of the trainer housing and we're happy to report that after four months of constant use, has withstood chainlube splatter well.


Verdict

What it does, it does very well. With over three months and 2,000 virtual kilometers of four to five rides a week at a minimum of 90 minutes per virtual ride, the Drivo has showed no signs of slowing down and has performed as well as when we first used it. Hit an 18% grade and boy, it really makes you feel it! The Elite Drivo is an easy product to recommend, but at a price.

At this point you may be wondering why I haven't touched on my training software. After all, I did mention that the Interactive Trainer comprised only half of the training equation.

For that I use Zwift.

But that is a story for another time.

-A

Thru Axle success. 

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