Tech news: Tacx Bushido electronic trainer

Tacx's new electronic home trainer offers impressive collection of bells and whistles – but without any wires

Alas, winter is coming and many of us are unfortunately looking bleakly at countless hours mindlessly spinning away on a trainer. Thankfully, today's modern crop of fancy computer-controlled electronic trainers increase the entertainment factor a fair bit but their associated wires can sometimes be a hassle, especially for those that don't have the room to set the trainer up and leave it in place all season.

Tacx's stout-looking Bushido trainer, however, uses no wires whatsoever – all communication is wireless via the ubiquitous ANT+ protocol and not even the resistance unit has to be plugged into the wall, so setup is quick and clean.

According to Tacx, the resistance unit draws its braking energy directly from the rider's pedaling power, which subsequently spins an on-board dynamo. Though the unit obviously can't drive the wheel forward as a result – then again, none of them do – Tacx claims up to a 15 percent grade can be faithfully reproduced. Moreover, the built-in feedback sensors not only measure speed and wattage but also cadence (that is, unless you have an absolutely perfect pedal stroke – which no one does) and left/right power balance.

The handlebar-mounted control unit is battery-powered and displays the usual array of information: current, maximum, and average values for speed, cadence, power, and heart rate, plus ride distances, position relative to an optional phantom competitor, and energy consumption. Buttons are claimed to be fully waterproof, too, to guard against corrosion from perspiration.

The real fun begins when you use the optional PC interface, though – which, again, uses a wireless ANT+ dongle for communication – and the more advanced software package. As is typical for the genre, the Bushido training software can be used in several modes: full manual, a video game-like virtual reality environment, or a real-life video mode to be used in conjunction with a well-stocked library of DVDs.

The system can also interface directly with Google Earth online, too. Simply pull up the area in question, establish your starting, finishing and intermediate points on the screen and the system does the rest. Once the information is loaded and you start the routine, you can follow your icon directly on the Google Earth map or simulate the point-of-view environment in cartoon-form.

Naturally, Bushido isn't cheap: suggested retail price is €825 and the additional PC hardware and software adds another €75 but well-heeled cyclists that call the Snow Belt home might still find it worth the cost.

Also set for this winter are other electronically controlled and standard trainers, rollers, and the company's comprehensive array of bottles and cages, but Tacx's lesser-known tool collection is worth a look as well.

New for '10 is a slick chain tool with a unique flip-top box-type layout that both stores spare links and holds the loose ends of a chain together for easier operation. On the road, the Tool Tube Plus mimics the homemade setups many pros use: the screw-top canister fits in a bottle cage and includes a multi-tool, tire levers, and CO2 inflator with room to spare for a tube and a rag.

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