The smart trainer market has grown rapidly, in step with the popularity of virtual training platforms like Zwift. Elite has kept pace by offering both its top-of-the-line Drivo and its less-expensive sibling, the Direto. Both are direct-drive trainers — which means you’ll need to remove your rear wheel and mount your bike to the unit via the dropouts. The Drivo competes line-for-line with Wahoo’s wildly popular Kickr, while the Direto is positioned as a more affordable option.
The differences between the Direto and its more-expensive competitors are certainly noticeable, yet the Direto does have some advantages. It’s not exactly quieter than a Kickr, but it does have a lower-pitched tone. Think of it as akin to the white noise on an airplane, while the Kickr’s tone is higher-pitched like a drill. The Direto may not be quieter in terms of decibel levels, but wives and kids in the living room definitely appreciated the duller tone during hour-long basement sessions.
It’s also exceptionally stable, though it takes up more space than a Kickr. That tradeoff seems reasonable unless your space is very, very limited. You’ll need about three feet of width to accommodate the 33-inch-wide footprint. The legs fold forward for storage too. It’s an easy system and it felt rock-solid during hard, out-of-the-saddle sprints. It very well may be the most stable trainer we’ve tested.
Perhaps more importantly, the Direto offers thru-axle compatibility as well as standard quick-release, and it accommodates all the major drivetrains on the market. It’s ANT+ FE-C and Bluetooth compliant, so it plays nice with all your devices. At 33 pounds, it’s significantly lighter than a Kickr, too. (The Kickr’s advertised weight is 47 pounds.)
Elite’s top of the line Drivo offers an advertised +/-1% accuracy. The Direto has more wiggle room than that with a claimed +/-2.5% accuracy rating, and this was most noticeable on sharp transitions from flat roads to climbs in a virtual setting. (While Elite includes a free one-year trial of its My E-Training app with purchase of the trainer, I tested the Direto exclusively on Zwift in order to get a sense of how it stacked up against other trainers I’ve used in the virtual environment to which I’m accustomed.) It seemed as though the resistance changes lagged by as much as a full second from what was being shown on screen.
Elite says the Direto can simulate slopes up to 14% and offers a maximum 1,400-watt power output at 40kph. That covers much of what mere mortals will encounter in virtual environments. The cadence sensor is built into the trainer, unlike the Kickr, which requires you to install Wahoo’s RPM cadence sensor onto your crank. It’s a nice touch that removes a small setup step.
The Direto should catch your eye if you’re after a super-stable unit and you want to save a few bucks over the top-of-the-line smart trainers. It’s also a good choice if noise is a big concern in your house. But if you want the most accuracy for smooth resistance transitions in virtual settings, the Direto is good — not great. If that’s the case, think about plunking down the extra cash for Elite’s Drivo, or Wahoo’s Kickr, instead.