The Tacx Flow Smart aims to bring interactive turbo training to the budget price range. How does it compare to other models though? Read our review to find out.
The Bottom Line:
Pros: One of the cheapest interactive smart trainers, easy assembly, lightweight, folding design, adjustable tyre tension
Cons: Only a 6% maximum gradient and 800W maximum power, noticeable lag in power readings when sprinting, lightweight flywheel, tyre slippage at higher gears
Who Should Buy It: If you need the cheapest Zwift-ready turbo trainer, the Flow Smart is a great entry-level model. You may want to consider spending a bit more on the similar Vortex, however, as it has a higher maximum power and incline.
Before we go any further, this model is essentially the Tacx Vortex but with a cheaper price and lower power output. If you’ve tested the Vortex, you should know pretty much what to expect from the Flow Smart. With that out of the way, let’s take a closer look at the T2240.
Overview of the Tacx T2240 Features
- Entry-level smart trainer that’s compatible with Zwift and similar apps
- Two-way interactivity so the software can adjust your resistance
- Wheel-on design
- Electromagnetic braking system (6 magnets)
- Interactive training and ERG mode
- Speed, power and cadence outputs
- 1.6kg flywheel
- 800W maximum power (at 40km/h) and 6% maximum gradient
The Tacx Flow Smart comes in a surprisingly small box for a smart trainer – but don’t let that fool you. This is a “true” smart device with 2-way interactivity. It’s also easy to get started, and you should be up and running in around 15 minutes (not including calibration).
As with most smart turbos, the Tacx T2240 connects to your device via either Bluetooth or ANT+ FE-C. There are various connection options, including directly to your computer, tablet or smartphone. It can also connect to a bike computer and provides data for cadence, speed and power.
There are reports that the trainer is temperamental when connecting via Bluetooth. Some people find it easy to connect, while others end up relying on ANT+. The only time you are forced to use Bluetooth is when calibrating, so it’s fine to use ANT+ for your workouts.
The machine comes in three parts – front wheel riser, rear stand and wheel-on resistance unit – so it’s relatively easy to assemble. You’ll need to choose the correct position of the resistance unit depending on your bike’s wheel diameter, but this is made clear in the manual.
As with most modern smart trainers, there may be a firmware update once you first start the device. This is simple to install via the Tacx utility app – but be prepared for a delay between un-boxing the turbo and actually using it.
You’ll need to use the spin down calibration feature before using the trainer. This is also run through the Tacx utility app and is essential for getting the best power accuracy. While calibrating the device can be somewhat frustrating, once it’s sorted the Flow Smart will provide more accurate data. You may need to run it a couple of times to get it properly setup though.
The first thing to note is that the Flow Smart is a wheel-on trainer. This is to be expected, as there aren’t any direct-drive models in this price range, but means the Tacx immediately sacrifices power accuracy.
On a positive note, it has a useful folding design with carry handle. This, combined with the lightweight frame, means it’s great if you need a portable trainer for race days or travelling.
The drawback to this lightweight design is that the flywheel is just 1.6kg. This is considerably lighter than high-end trainers, so don’t expect the most realistic road feel. The Wahoo Kickr, for example, has a 7.26kg flywheel.
Tacx has used a combination of soft elastogel and hardened steel for the roll. These help to absorb vibrations and reduce noise, although we think the Flow Smart is around average for sound output.
Like most turbo trainers, the Flow Smart has a tension control dial on the bottom of the resistance unit. This allows you to get a firm contact between the wheel and roller to prevent slippage. There are budget models that don’t have this option though, so it’s a welcome addition to the Flow Smart.
You can also use the T2240 as a fluid trainer. When it’s not connected to a smart device, the resistance increases with speed, so you can get a hard workout with worrying about the interactive features.
A minor complaint is that the power cord is relatively short. This is easily solved with an extension lead, but is something to keep in mind if the trainer is going to be placed in a middle of the room.
The Tacx Flow Smart provides a smooth and enjoyable ride when using Zwift, Sufferfest or other apps. The 6% maximum gradient means it can’t simulate steep climbs, but it’s a solid trainer for those looking to get started with virtual riding.
As mentioned earlier, the maximum power output at 40km/h is around 800W. If you try to go higher than this, it’ll start to spin out. The obvious conclusion is that if you’re the type of rider who loves pushing their power above 1000W and beyond, this isn’t the right model for you.
For many riders, however, 800W is plenty for indoor training rides. It’s also more than enough to get started with software like Zwift.
It’s worth noting that the power accuracy has an estimated accuracy of +- 5% . It does a decent job of matching more accurate power meters once it’s warmed up, but expect a slight lag – especially when sprinting. This is common for wheel-on trainers in this price range though.
As the Flow T2240 Smart is an interactive two-way trainer, you can use it in ERG mode. For those who haven’t tried ERG before, the trainer sets the resistance for you to meet a target power. The inaccuracy of the Flow Smart’s power readings means this isn’t quite as effective as on more expensive models, but it’s certainly usable as long as you’re willing to learn how to compensate for compromises in the trainer’s design.
Of course, the low price and lightweight flywheel means it’s not as smooth or sturdy as pricier alternatives. Weighing only 9.4kg, there is always going to be movement at higher speeds. It’s relatively stable even on sprints though, which is great news for such a cheap unit and mainly due to the large footprint.
Price and Value for Money
The Tacx Flow Smart is often available for under £200. This is astonishingly low for a smart trainer. Considering the cheap price, we think the model provides excellent value and a relatively smooth ride.
With that said, you need to have realistic expectations. It’s not suitable for high power sprints and can’t simulate steep inclines. If you want a bit more room for improvement without spending a fortune, the Tacx Vortex has a 150W higher power output and slightly steeper maximum incline.
A potential downside is that the Flow Smart isn’t as widely available as other models. It can only be found at certain retailers, such as Decathlon and Halfords in the UK.
Is the Flow Smart compatible with Zwift (or other similar apps)?
Yes, the Flow Smart has 2-way interactivity. This means the resistance level can be remotely controlled via apps such as Zwift, TrainerRoad and Tacx.
How does it compare to the Vortex?
The Tacx Vortex is more expensive than the Flow Smart. For your extra money, the Vortex provides a higher 950W maximum power compared to the Flow Smart’s 800W. The Vortex also has a 7% maximum simulated gradient compared to 6% for the Flow Smart.
Both models have the same flywheel weight and design though.
There’s no doubt the Tacx Flow Smart T2240 provides excellent value for money if you’re looking for a two-way interactive trainer. It’s one of the cheapest true smart trainers on the market, and provides a surprisingly stable ride even when sprinting. If you’re looking for a low budget way to start using Zwift, TrainerRoad or similar apps, it’s an option to consider.
As you would expect, Tacx has been forced to make some noticeable compromises in quality to keep the price low though. While more expensive trainers can run ERG mode with accurate power readings out of the box, you’ll need to learn to change gear to adapt the power (which isn’t the case with higher quality models). Other downsides include a lag in power readings when sprinting, lightweight flywheel and tyre slippage at high resistance.
So, should you buy it?
If you’re looking for a starter turbo trainer for Zwift or other interactive software, the Flow Smart is a decent choice. You’ll probably want to upgrade to something more accurate and capable as you progress though. It may also be worth spending a bit more to get the Vortex, as the extra 150W and 1% incline provides more scope for training improvement.