Elite Drivo 2 Smart trainer

 
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It’s not news to anyone that smart trainers have hit big in the last few years. If you haven’t already gotten the bug, you may be asking, “why would I want to ride a trainer?” and then perhaps your next question might be: “why would I need a smart trainer?” as opposed to just riding rollers or a turbo.

First things first: why ride a trainer at all? Well, most of us live in places that don’t allow us to ride outdoors as much as we would like and we want to hit the ground rolling when spring comes around. Maybe we want to race, or maybe we have bikepacking goals of riding further or faster. Personally, I just want to progress and feel up for whatever adventure I decide to tackle, whether it’s riding a section of the Oregon Timber Trail, or keeping up on a fast group ride. A second reason to ride the trainer is a more focused, more concentrated workout for time spent on the bike. If you have any goals to improve, you’ll get great benefits out of consistent workouts and increased intensity. Personally, if left to my own devices, I do the same rides over and over, and I don’t alter my intensity much, which leads to either overtraining or boredom, neither of which add much to me progressing as a cyclist. I could add that city streets have become less safe with more distracted driving and greater population density in cities like Portland. More and more, it’s just safer and less stressful to ride indoors - sad but true. Finally, when the weather for riding outside isn't ideal, and you'd like to come into the summer as strong as possible, trainers give you the ability to maintain or even improve your fitness, thus avoiding the dreaded "winter legs".

Four weeks ago, I had rotator cuff surgery, and the only riding I can do is on the trainer. On foul weather days, I head down to the basement and happily do my workouts. On nice weather days, I wish I could head outside and feel the wind on my face, but dutifully head down again to the basement for another workout…and I’m still grateful. I’d rather ride outdoors, but if given the choice between a trainer workout and no workout, I’ll take the trainer every time. Elite’s Drivo 2 is a pleasure to ride. We own trainers, we own Inside Ride rollers. But a smart trainer like the Drivo 2 paired up with an app like Trainer Road is a step forward in my training, and I have been loving it. I had gotten to a place of complacency or perhaps threshold that I found hard to break through. The smart trainer and training plan broke me out of that rut. First I tried The Sufferfest and liked their workouts and embedded video content and the fact that they also offered yoga and strength training suggestions, but ultimately ditched it due to the bro speak and endless talk of suffering. Tori and I ended up going with Trainer Road (yes you need to control your smart trainer with a training app like Trainer Road or Zwift) due to its simplicity and the fact that I only wanted to do solo training rides, not compete in a video game atmosphere. I just put on some music (of my own choice) and do the workouts. I don’t need to watch a movie or pro race, because I’m engaged in reading the coach prompts and focused on the training drills, such as cadence changes or pedaling form drills.


It’s not to say, though, that my time with the Drivo 2 has been perfect. It’s been 95 percent perfect. The other five percent are maybe part user error, part learning curve, and some bugs in the system. My first error was simply shifting too much. I chose to use the Drivo 2 in ERG mode, which adapts to the correct power no matter what gear you're in. The Drivo 2 guide recommends getting into your middle gear and keep your cadence in the zone - usually between 85 and 100 rpm. The trainer adjusts the intensity according to the workout you loaded in Trainer Road. All you have to do is pedal harder as required by the workout you’re doing. Now that I’ve learned to not anticipate an upcoming interval, and just keep pedaling, all is well.

It turns out the basis for much of my confusion was the lag time in ERG mode. It actually takes about 15 seconds for the Drivo 2 to adjust the resistance, so the fix was to be patient and not to second guess the effort. I was anticipating too much, and perhaps negating some of the benefits of the workout. Tori found that in some of the Trainer Road workouts that called for high intensity surges and rests of under 20 seconds, the trainer in ERG mode didn't adjust quickly enough and she had to shift anyways to keep her power in the Trainer Road zones. We have since started testing Inside Ride’s smart rollers and found their delay to be only two or three seconds (also in ERG mode) , so it appears that 15 second delay is unique to the Drivo 2 in ERG mode. I did some web research on this topic and it seems I’m not the only one with this issue. For now, we’ll have to wait for Elite to do a firmware update to fix this bug.

Second, I hit a wall about 4 weeks into my riding. I had been sick, so I thought I just hit a fitness wall. The workouts went from hard, but doable, to what felt like double hard…like really painfully hard. It turns out, the Drivo 2 needs to be occasionally recalibrated every 3 to 4 weeks. It’s fairly easy to do with Eltie’s “MyETraining” app, and was good to know for the next time my rides suddenly felt drastically "off".

Tori has been using her laptop with the Trainer Road app, and I’ve just been using Trainer Road on my phone. Both work equally well, and pair easily with Bluetooth. We sometimes had to go the extra step of making sure whoever had used it last disconnected their bluetooth, or the Drivo 2 would not recognize and connect with the new rider, but otherwise connecting to the trainer is a snap. I have to say, the price is reasonable, and if you want to make fitness gains and get a jump on your riding season, I feel like a smart trainer and training with power is absolutely the way to go. If you live somewhere where it rains a lot, or winters are just miserable, it’s so nice just to be able to take an hour and get your workout for the day. 

In summary, the biggest benefits of the Drivo 2 are the power accuracy, which is said to be the best out there, and the extremely smooth ride feel. Last but not least is range - the Drivo 2 is capable of measuring 2300 watts! If you’re an elite rider or pro and generating huge sprint watts, that could be a factor, for most of us it’s not all that relevant. I loved the direct drive feel - having the cassette mounted directly on the trainer made for very positive engagement and there is no loss of power or slippage. The trainer is very quiet and just a pleasure to ride. It’s very stable and handles all the side to side movement of a sprint. Granted, with my shoulder recovery I wasn’t going hard with out-of-saddle sprints. The ramp tests did require some quick, hard efforts that proved the trainer’s stability. It does need to be calibrated about every four weeks. And the 15 second delay in ERG mode may be a deal breaker if you need to do short intervals. I’m sure Elite will fix that firmware issue and once they do, the Drivo 2 will be well worth considering. Connectivity with bluetooth was a snap and besides having a second user still connected, we had no issue with our training app connecting to the trainer.

At Sea Otter, we were able to get a preview of Elite’s trainer offerings that will be released in June this year. Their Direto model gets a redesign, and it’s slimmer, more portable and more accurate. For those living in an apartment and perhaps lacking space, you can fold it up and store it under your bed.


Some key items that made a difference

Clothing

A few other items that have made a big difference have been some more minimal ride clothing like Gore’s new C7 Vent bib shorts. The shorts were designed with hot weather in mind , so the material is thinner and has perforated holes that allow for more ventilation. These shorts are a game changer for hot, sweaty indoor riding and they quickly became my first choice of bibshorts for trainer workouts. Their C7 Race jersey is brilliant too, it seems to wick sweat especially well, and is ridiculously comfortable. Tori tested the C7 womens cc short tights and the C7 Pro jersey and found them to be perfect for hard indoor efforts.

After scraping up my forehead and soaking out cotton towels, I finally grabbed a swimmer’s shammy towel to handle all the sweat. I have to wring it out several times per workout, but it’s way better than cotton towels and much easier on my skin. Wash it after your workout and keep it moist. The trick is to keep them damp, but not in a sealed container that will promote mold growth.

Hydration and Recovery

I also tested Infinit Nutrition’s custom hydration blend, which was brilliant and seemed perfect for how much I sweat. If you’re a heavy sweater, you can have them add sodium to compensate. Seems to work really well. I liked the watermelon flavor as well. It’s light and not too sweet. Post-ride recovery is key, so I make sure to make a smoothie with Infinit’s RAW protein powder. I appreciated the high quality grass fed whey protein and inclusion of BCAAs. If you’re looking for a caffeinated version, try their Cold Brew Performance coffee. If you’re after a night time relax-yourself sleep aid, check out their Nocturne. Having just returned from Sea Otter, I’d say this night time recovery product is the hot new thing. I remember Stacy Sim’s prototype version for OSMO many years ago. Tart Cherry and Valerian…everyone’s doing it now.

Phone mount

Having a way to attach my phone to the bike was essential. Without one, I was forced to balance my phone precariously on my bars, and would inevitably drop it during the ride. I discovered the Topeak Ridecase, which took care of my phone and let me swap out my Lifeproof case, which, while good protection was problematic with rendering the camera smudgy and made the microphone less than useful. I don’t want to mount my phone on my bike for on an outdoor ride, but inside on a trainer it’s absolutely the way to go.

Footwear

Fresh kicks kept me motivated. The Shimano RC9 shoes were my upgrade dream shoe. They’re light, stiff and now more ventilated. I feel like this is the best application of the dual BOA system that truly works. They’re easy to cinch down, and simple to release. I appreciated the extreme stiffness with hard efforts - you lose no power from squishy shoes with these.
I was happy to note that Shimano kept the grippy “cat tongue“ material in the heel to prevent heel slippage. You feel positively locked in!

Saddle

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I had been rocking a “Concor Light” saddle, which aesthetically was the right thing for my custom steel lugged Ira Ryan road bike, but I found it uncomfortable after about 45 minutes. I got some awful hots spots with it. I switched to an Ergon SR Comp saddle and it was quite a bit more comfortable. I was able to measure my sit bones at the Ergon booth at Sea Otter and opted for the Medium/Large width. The cut out channel effectively took care of any numbing sensations and hot spots. It turned out to be a great improvement.