It’s that time of year for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, and in cold and dark places, it’s trainer season! As the holiday season is quickly approaching, someone special in your life is probably deserving of a nice new smart trainer, rather than a sack of coal. With that in mind, let’s talk about two top-end smart trainers on the market by Elite.
For those of you not familiar with Elite, don’t worry. They are a European-based company out of Italy, but lucky for you, CleverTraining is one of their U.S. distributors. Elite made a lot of noise in the smart trainer market when they introduced their Elite Direto (original version) back in July of 2017 at $899 (now $849) and since then, have continued to shake up the market with another direct drive trainer, which I will discuss more at the end.
A bit of background on my experience with smart trainers, as I am far from DC Rain Maker or GP Lama level of a reviewer, but I do have plenty of time on a smart trainer. I have been using a WAHOO KICKR (gen1) since mid-2015 and over the last eight months, a majority of my rides under two hours have been indoors. My primary training software choice is Zwift but I will soon be testing out Sufferfest as well. With Zwift, I primarily do all of my riding in workout mode, with some of that time in “free ride” during the warmup and cooldown. While in workout mode, I use ERG mode 90 percent of the time and on rare occasions, I would disable it, which I will get into below.
For now, let’s dive into the differences between the Drivo II and Direto II. The biggest difference that you will find is the price, with a $350 difference. But let’s discuss what you get for that extra $350 and who may benefit from those differences.
The Drivo has an industry leading +/-0.5 percent accuracy rating, while the Direto comes in at +/- 2 percent. During my tests, I was also running Garmin Vector 3 pedals. On average, the Vector pedals came in 4 percent higher than the Drivo across the whole ride. The Direto surprisingly read higher by 1 percent than the Vector pedals. I did, however, make a rookie mistake and did not do the advanced calibration on the Direto during the first three rides, which if you look at the data you can see the difference between the two powermeters was much higher, approximately 9 percent.
I did find the Drivo to be consistent though. To me, the most important thing is you get consistent power and repeatability, which I did see with the Drivo. Although it was not as close to the Vector pedals as the Direto, it was consistently lower. It’s not a bad thing by any means, as one could argue the Vectors read high. If the only power source you are going to have is the trainer, then going with the Drivo at the +/-0.5 percent is definitely a solid reason to spend the extra money.
Is your name Mark Cavendish?
If Mark Cavendish was searching for a new smart trainer, the Direto may not be the right fit for the British pro cyclist due to the maximum wattage capability being 1,400 W at 40 kph and 2,200 W at 60 kph. For an elite cyclist like Cavendish, they may want to spend that extra $350 for the Drivo as it will definitely keep up with 2,296 W at 40 kph and 3,600 W at 60 kph.
The flywheel weight is what leads to the maximum wattage capability, so no surprise that the Drivo is 1.8 kg higher at 6 kg total, compared to 4 kg for the Direto. The overall weight of the Drivo is 17.4 kg/38.4 lbs to the Direto at 15 kg/33.1 lbs.
Do you want to climb like British road racing cyclist Chris Froome?
Well then, you might want to splurge and get the Drivo as it has a max simulated hill incline of 24 percent, where the Direto maxes out at 14 percent.
Trainer Reaction Time
I was a bit disappointed in the reaction times of both trainers, more specifically on the ability to release the wattage after hard intervals. The times that I noticed was when I was seeing over/under of 30 sec./30 sec. while in ERG mode. I was really happy with how it reacted to starting an interval though, which felt smooth, but when coming off of a 30-second effort at 350 W+ and wanting to go down to 150 W, it was not nearly as smooth and I found myself quite frustrated. As I had mentioned above, this is where I started to disable ERG mode and it seemed to solve the reaction time since I was not using ERG mode.
While rolling around Zwift in “free ride” mode or the random group ride that I did, I felt no issues with the reaction time.
Odds and Ends
While doing “high” cadence work (over 100 rpm), I noticed some spikes with the Drivo. While testing the Direto I unfortunately did not do any high cadence work so cannot comment. On the Drivo, once up into the 100-105 range I would see spikes up to about 130, you can see those here. This should only be of concern to you if you are solely using the Drivo for your cadence sensor. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be concerned about this.
I found the Direto to have a really shot power cord, nothing that a simple extension cord can’t fix, but just something to be aware of. The Drivo was much more “normal” and what I would consider acceptable length for a power cord.
Everyone wants to know about “road feel.” From my rides, both trainers felt really good and maybe I am not picky enough, but I couldn’t honestly tell a difference here.
How quiet are these trainers? This is something that I struggle with rating, I just don’t understand in what situations you would need a “quiet trainer.” In my experiences, you will have a fan blasting air at you and hopefully some form of entertainment, whether that’s a TV show or music, and in order to hear it over the fan noise, your entertainment will be turned up. So maybe I am just off the mark here, but I have never experienced a trainer that is louder than my fan or entertainment, and the same could be said about both the Drivo and Direto.
If you are looking for a new direct drive trainer, I would have no issues recommending either the Direto or Drivo, depending on what your needs are. If these trainers are out of your price range, Elite has blown the direct drive market away with their latest addition of the Elite Zumo at $699!
DC Rain Maker published a neat and detailed comparison chart you can check out to see if either the Direto or Drivo would be a better fit for you.