Cyclists who are keen to develop their fitness throughout the year face some tough challenges from the icy, windy and wet weather of winter. Other factors too, including limited time due to work or family commitments, mean many people are unable to get out onto the open road or trail to ride. Instead, they are opting for indoor training as a solution that allows them to increase their fitness in the comfort of their own home.
Leading Italian brand Elite, well-established as a provider of high-quality indoor training equipment, has the Elite Direto-XR Direct Drive Smart Trainer at the top of its range and Wiggle staff rider John Bann-Lavery has been putting it through its paces on Zwift recently...
Set-up, plug in and play!
We all know that feeling of sheer excitement we have when we are unboxing a new gadget or piece of equipment… It’s just the same when you get a new turbo trainer, you want to ride it as soon as possible! One of the immediately noticeable advantages of the Direto XR is that everything you need to get riding is in the box (except the bike!), including a Shimano/SRAM compatible 11-speed cassette. This meant all I needed to do was install the appropriate axle adapters provided, position and tighten the trainer's legs, attach my bike and plug it into the power socket. In this sense, it really was a case of ‘set-up, plug-and-play’, something not offered by all trainers.
The Direto XR is compatible with all popular training apps such as Zwift, Trainer Road and RGT. Once turned on, the trainer was quickly found on Zwift, so no issues there. I was using a Macbook Pro.
The small things…
Elite has again been extra-thoughtful with what’s included in the box, as they provide a riser block for the front wheel, in addition to the 11-speed cassette.
It was also a nice surprise to discover the Direto XR comes with a free one-year subscription to Elite’s own training software, My E-Training, and of course a one-month subscription to the ever-popular Zwift platform.
These things do make a real difference to the out-of-the-box experience.
High power accuracy and gradient simulation
The Direto XR features claimed performance improvements on its predecessors, the Direto and the Direto X, specifically in the areas of power accuracy and slope gradient simulation.
The application of integrated Optical Torque Sensor (OTS) technology is what Elite says ensures a high level of power accuracy (± 1.5%), which is 0.5% more accurate than the original Direto trainer. In terms of power responsiveness when racing or group riding on Zwift, kicks to the pedals are quickly reflected on the Zwift training app screen when riding the Direto XR.
Elite also states that a 24% slope gradient can be simulated by the Direto XR, representing a huge 10% improvement on the initial Direto trainer - more than enough to deal with climbs in the rides I’ve been doing on Zwift.
Speed and cadence data
Speed data is of course transmitted from the device to the training platform, and I have found the cadence data really useful during Zwift events to help me focus on spinning more efficiently instead of churning a big gear – a long-time weakness of mine when the going get tough in a race!
Quiet, smooth and well-anchored
Compared to other trainers I have ridden over the years, the Direto XR is quiet and that is of course a plus-point for anyone sharing living space with other people.
Within the first few minutes of riding, it was also clear how smooth the pedalling experience felt and sounded on the Direto XR, helping to make the overall ride more enjoyable and giving me even more confidence in the performance of the trainer.
When putting out maximum efforts during a sprint for the finish line, or to close a gap in a race, it was also noticeable how stable the Direto XR was on the floor, with hardly any observable movement. That feeling of being well-anchored does give the ride a strong sense of efficiency in terms of overall power transmission.
Space-saving when stored
A key practical consideration with modern turbo trainers is how neatly and easily they can be stored, particularly for people living in small apartments or using rooms with limited space. Some trainers take up significant space in a small room and these things aren’t exactly a featherweight. However, the Direto XR folds neatly away when the legs are unbolted and returned to their ‘out of the box’ position and the integrated handle makes the storage job even easier.
Compatible with road and mountain bikes
The Direto XR is compatible with 9/10/11 speed Shimano®/SRAM, 9/10/11/12 speed Campagnolo, 12 speed SRAM NX and 12-speed Shimano® micro Spline cassettes.
All-in-all, my experience of the Direto XR is that it’s a reliable, high-performing turbo trainer that does everything I want it to and more, and despite the sweat and high heart rates, I had a lot of fun using it!