Friday, 27 May 2016

Elite Qubo Digital Smart B+ Smart Trainer Review - May 2016




In the last week I've acquired smart trainers from both ends of the pricing spectrum. The TACX Neo Smart (>AU$2000) and the Elite Qubo Digital Smart B+ (RRP AU$659).

I was primed to write about the TACX Neo until I rode the Elite trainer for two hours yesterday. For the price, I was so impressed I had to write this up first. It isn't all roses though. There's a few shortfalls to deal with if you're looking to buy one of the cheapest smart trainers on the market.

DCRainmaker has covered the specifications of the Elite Qubo Digital Smart B+ here. But how does it ride? How does it compare to direct drive trainers? What's the overall experience like on Zwift? Can a trainer 1/4th the price of the Neo provide the same indoor experience?




The Good


The good news is that it works. It works really well. The experience of "oh, did that just... wowa" is there when the road heads up and down on Zwift. The automatic resistance changes are there. On instinct you'll flick down a few gears and stand up out of the saddle on the hills. You'll be immersed. Something I didn't think possible on an entry level smart trainer. Ask anyone who's upgraded from a standard trainer to a smart trainer and they'll tell you it's this immersive experience that brings ergo sessions to life.


If direct drive smart trainers are outside your bike budget, this is a brilliant alternative. If you can find a bargain one of these around AU$400-$500 then it's a no brainer purchase. If you can only find the unit at the RRP of AU$659, then I would hold off and budget a few $100 more for the Wahoo Kickr SNAP, for reasons discussed below. It isn't all about the hardware! 

The power readings from the unit were pretty close to my Quarq from 0-250W. From 250W+ it read 10-20W low for sustained efforts. That's a pretty good ballpark for the price. If you've already got a power meter then you pair that as your Power Source in Zwift and use the Elite trainer as a Controllable Trainer for a cheap and accurate solution.

The inertia of the flywheel is a lot more than I had expected from a smaller flywheel. It surpasses the TACX Bushido by a long shot in this area. The roll-down is still not up there with a direct drive trainers, but it doesn't feel like you're riding through mud with slick tyres.... Yes, I'm looking at you Bushido!

Quarq for power & cadence - The Elite Qubo providing smart resistance.

The Bad/Interesting


The roller isn't screwed in or locked into the tyre like most other trainers. The design uses the weight of the bike and rider to push back on the roller. The only issue I encountered was when jumping forward on hard hill attacks I was robbed a few watts compared to what the Quarq reported. I put this down to a small amount of tyre slip.

I thought this design would have been a showstopper when sprinting, but it wasn't. Once the roller was spun up to speed the unit worked extremely well in sprints.



Due to the design there is a small amount of forward/back movement of your bike when you ride as the tyre 'bounces' on the roller. Your milage may vary, and it'll depend on how smooth you are on the bike. You'll also need to have the trainer on a grippy surface to stop clocking up real kms into the walls at home.

The noise level isn't too bad, it's no LeMond Revolution neighbourhood blaster. The small 35mm roller and light flywheel give a higher pitch sound than a fluid trainer. I'll do a video comparing my collection of trainers under sustained load and sprints in the near future.

The roller will wear tyres. There's no getting around this on these types of trainers. The best thing you can do is to clean your tyre before every ride if you've been outside. This will keep the roller surface in good condition so it won't chew your rubber too quickly.

Four hours of build up from a Specialized Roibaix Pro rear tyre.

The Elite trainer range is extensive and the names can be confusing. The Elite Qubo Digital Smart B+ is a different product to the Elite Qubo Power Smart B+. Beware when shopping!


The Ugly


The Elite software for firmware updates, calibration, and their own training programs can be confusing. There's one EXE to update the firmware, another to get calibration values, another to set them. The calibration speed test tool was a little unintuitive, but I got there in the end and recored the three 'p' values. I then entered them into the other calibration tool to write them to the unit. This was just a test to see how that process worked as the unit was already pretty accurate.

Elite need to take a leaf from Wahoo and Tacx on this one and allow full unit management (firmware/calibration) from within the one mobile app.

*UPDATE November 2016* Elite myETraining mobile app now includes Calibration Wizard!



Locating the iPhone app isn't easy either. Search for 'MyETraining' is the tip if you want to use it.

Documentation and user support information online is thin. Once you locate an answer it'll likely be for their other similarly named trainers with different features. It's not the same as searching for Wahoo or Tacx and having a goldmine of posts on SlowTwitch appear. Having said that, there are two  Elite Qubo posts on SlowTwitch raising the exact issues I have here.

The ANT+ speed/cadence sensor the unit broadcasts needs to be configured with a tyre size of 47mm (0047). This will give you virtual speed/distance on your paired device identical to the Elite apps. It won't be one for one when it comes to Zwift, but it'll be consistent. Maybe play with a few mm higher or lower for better alignment with Zwift.


Customer Support


Elite have been good in responding to my queries. Their support comes out of Italy so beware of a slight corporate communication barrier.


Conclusion


The good thing is that out of the box this unit just works with third-party apps over ANT+ FEC or Bluetooth, so my gripes with their software are of no major concern. I hope they're addressed in the next few updates (both firmware and mobile apps).

This unit would be a good entry point for anyone wants to experience Zwift with a smart trainer with a limited spend budget.

If you're in Australia, the best place to start for Elite products is http://cassons.com.au. They'll be able to point you to your nearest stockist.



Changelog 

May/2016
- First publication.

June/6/2016
- Speed sensor details update.
- Sprint video added (11 sec reverse Watopia for green!)
- Photo of tyre wear.
- Comment on support.

June/17/2016
- Updates from Elite of the Calibration Tool

June/22/2016
- Aussie distributer details added (http://cassons.com.au)

June/25/2016
- RRP updated to Cassons AU$659

November/20/2016
- Elite myETraining mobile app now includes Calibration Wizard!


41 comments:

Colin said...

It's worth noting that many people including myself have had issues with the default calibration of this trainer when used with Zwift. If you don't have a power meter I would suggest getting a Tacx Vortex which can be found online for about the same price and is far more accurate out of the box. I also found mine was a little lopsided when my bike was clamped in and required using many of the provided levelling blocks for my bike to be perfectly upright.

See this thread for details about the calibration issues: https://support.zwift.com/hc/en-us/community/posts/205341256-elite-qubo-digital-smart-b-high-power-readings

Shane Miller said...

Thanks for the comment Colin. I've got a ticket in with Elite at the moment regarding calibration as I could only get Pa and Pb to sho up, and it wound't set them properly. I'll update this post with whatever information/fix they come back with.

Kyhil Duggan said...

Hey Shane,

Looking at picking one of these up online (comes in around $420 delivered) but would love to give it a test first. Any chance i could borrow this for a night or two?

Cheers,
Kyhil.

Shane Miller said...

G'day Kyhil, I'm still working with Elite to iron out the few minor bumps I've found with the unit, so I'll be a few weeks off having this to loan out. Maybe check to see if any local stores have them on the floor to have a roll on in the mean time.

Gareth K said...

Hi Shane, neat review. Like Kyhil, this unit is coming in super cheap. Are you still recommending it? Can you compare the feel of other cheap smart trainers - bkool/vortex? Im skeptical of jumping from a KK Road Machine onto a cheap magnetic trainer with auto resistance and being disappointed by the ride.

Shane Miller said...

The QUBO is pretty good for the price. I'd use it over the KK any day. I can only review/recommend trainers I've ridden myself, I haven't had a chance to ride a BKOOL or Vortex yet.

Whatever you end up buying, try before you buy.

Maarten Wibbens said...

Hi Shane,

Did you receive an answer regarding calibration? I don't have a power meter and want to use it with Zwift.

Cheers,
Maarten

Shane Miller said...

Their updated tools work a little better. I haven't had the time to go back to this unit and calibrate a few times and run more tests. That'll take a few hours. It'll work good enough out of the box for 90% of users.

eman said...

Hey Llama, any luck on the calibration yet? I have it have been enjoying it aside from the power being way above my powertap. I want to be able to do the zwift workout modes using erg, but can't with using my powertap. I have attempted the elite calibration with little success. I know trainerroad has the ability to use erg with a software power meter, but I really enjoy the other aspects of zwift. Thanks and I really enjoy your reviews. Good day.

Shane Miller said...

I'm waiting on the calibration tool/process for the Rampa this week. I may go back and perform the same on the QUBO DSB+ if I have time. I believe the calibration process will soon be included in the mobile app.... that's going to make life a lot easier!

Oliver Higbee said...

Hi Shane,

You say in your review it would be worth saving up $100 for the Wahoo Kickr SNAP (because the wahoo app makes it better), have you had a chance to try the SNAP yet? I'm currently looking at trainers in that price range but I haven't come across any useful reviews for it yet.

Regards,

Olly

Shane Miller said...

No experience with the SNAP yet sorry, so nothing to report there.

Paulinblack said...

Can you comment a bit more on noise please. From the video review it appears quite noisy, although in your review you put that down to microphone placement. Could you say a little about how noisy it is compared to say the Rampa?

I'm trying to work out whether it is worth going for the Qubo or paying nearly 1/2 as much again for a different smart trainer.

Shane Miller said...

They're both noisey. Dedicated room kind of noisey. I would recommended test riding both (or either) to get a feel to how loud the units are.

Paulinblack said...

Many thanks for the reply Shane. I've been spending the last couple of days reviewing your videos and the comments beneath them - Apologies for asking the question as I could have got an answer there - Doh!

I note that a lot of people have asked about whether it would be better to get the Qubo Smart Digital B+ or the Rampa. I've found it difficult to find direct comparisons between the two. I assume that the difference is that you can simulate 10% gradients on the Rampa - I can't find stats for the Qubo.

I've noted a couple of special offers that make the price difference in the UK about AU$160. Is there AU$160 difference between the two for a keen outdoor cyclist (+10k kms/year) who is surrounded by hills but is looking at trying their hand indoors? Thanks

Shane Miller said...

I can't really give purchasing advice based on perceived value... everyone is different.

eman said...

Elite recently updated their app for Android and Apple. Calibration is now a breeze with my Qubo Smart Digital B+ and my PowerTap. You just start the calibration process and it automatically takes you through the steps and it will set the values. I really enjoy my Qubo (especially for the money I paid) and it works very well for Zwift.

Unknown said...

Hi Shane. I watched your video on youtube. You were talking about bluetooth pairing problems. Today I bought one,hoping there will not be the same problem. But, there is same.problem. I cant pair my Elite Qubo Digital Smart B+ via bluetooth with 3 different smartphones (bluetooth 4.0 and higher). Did you find any solution to fix this problem? Or do I have to refund it? :(
thx much for answering.
Miroslav Bielicky

Shane Miller said...

Still working on that one with Elite. They've asked me to check something on the unit.. but I'm not going to be near it again for a few weeks.

Unknown said...

Hello,

I've just purchased this trainer and yeah, it's a pain in the a.. to update firmware. I can't even find the software, not to mention one for OSX.

Can you tell me what is the software's name and where to download it. I've browsed even Elite Real website in download section, but nothing.

Thanks,
Stefan.

Shane Miller said...

That's one for Elite support. See the 'Support' link above on this blog for contact details.

Michael Emborg said...

which values ​​do you need to put in on p1 p2 and p3. After my first calibration I have gone down by more than 40 watts compared to prior

Shane Miller said...

You'll need a power meter (known/good/reliable/accurate) to obtain the P values for your setup. If they were all the same, there'd be no need to calibrate at all.

floodx said...

I have been trying to use the android app to update the P values - while the app will see the unit and sometimes connect - it times out at the p value update step...I contacted elite for the windows version of the software but they sent me to the android app - they have been less than helpful. Does anybody have any tips for getting it to connect to the android app to update the Ps?

Gary Johnston said...

Shane, many thanks for the review. Picked one of these up but was wondering if I also need a dedicated trainer tire or can stick with the cheap one that's on my bike until it needs replacing? Assume I'll only wear down the tire and won't damage the trainer.

Shane Miller said...

Correct Gary. I used to use Conti Gatorskins and GP4000s on my tyre-on trainers. If you're 100% on the ergo over winter, I'd look at a trainer specific tyre.

Gary Johnston said...

Thanks Shane. I think I'll get one but good to know I could do without.

I will likely be 100% indoors during the winter but with the weather here in the U.K. I may also be on the ergo most of the summer as well ;-)

Juan C Jaramillo said...

Can you change tire size? How do you update the unit? what are the original P values?

Thanks in advance

Shane Miller said...

These are queries best submitted to Elite Support.

Brent Lacey said...

Hi Shane, Great site and love the videos!
Just purchased one of these and cannot connect the power sensor via bluetooth to zwift, everything else works. Was this your problem as well?

Desperate to know, how you obtained the firmware upgrade that fixed your BT issue for the qubo? I have searched high and low for firmware upgrade software across both the elite sites and have a support ticket open, but I cannot find one that specifies the correct model "qubo digital" and not the other "real" trainers? ie: http://www.elite-real.com/en/downloads?field_categoria_tid_i18n=49

Any advice?

Shane Miller said...

G'day Brent,

Elite sent me the instruction direct for the model I had (QUBO DSB+). I'll have to refer you Elite Support as I don't want to step on their toes providing unofficial technical product support, especially when it comes to firmware(s) that could brick their product.

ScoutJ said...

I'm also having BT connection problems with a new Qubo DSB+ and iPad Air. I have submitted a query to Elite customer support. However, if you have instructions that would help me, I would be grateful. Many thanks.

Shane Miller said...

Sorry mate, I can't provide one on one product support for Elite. They've got a team paid to look after customer queries. If that's not up to scratch, let them know, and scan the market for other products.

1putt1der said...

ScoutJ I had a problem connecting via bluetooth to an Ipad pro myself. I found I had to power off the Ipad power off the Qubo, then power on the Qubo and then the Ipad and that did the trick. Disabling bluetooth and re-enabling it didn't work by the way.

1putt1der said...

ScoutJ. Try closing the Zwift app. Powering off the IPAD and Qubo. Then power on the Qubo then IPAD. Then it should connect. Had a similar issue with my IPAD Pro.

1putt1der said...

Hey Shane

Did you have any issues with ERG Mode in Zwift. I'm finding no resistance changes while in erg mode. I am seeing them however in sim mode on free ride.

Shane Miller said...

I don't recall having any issues. If I find the time, I'll revisit.

Jean said...

Hi guys, regarding the connection to Bluetooth, it's very stupid but once your trainer has been selected via QR code or chosen in the list, you will see your phone spinning. You have to click again the on the selected trainer to sort of reselect it again. It took me 5-6 emails with Elite CS to sort that stupid bug.

Now I have a unit but that underestimate my watts by 100-125w. In a gym or with my old Tacx I could hold 310w over 60 min. Now with my Qubo I can do about 180-200w....

Need to call them again to set those stupid P values...

Wish I paid $50 more and got the Tacx...

Jean

Gary Johnston said...

Only a thought but if you're out by 100w is it not a matter of taking that as a percentage of 310w (from your Tacx) and then increasing/decreasing the original p1, p2, & p3 values by that percentage?! Or altering, riding, altering again etc until you get to the right ballpark.

I understand there's a windows app for flashing the p values. Watched a video on YouTube (https://youtu.be/btSGqBDTKDo) that talks about calibrating the unit and eluded to that (although I'll need to look again once mine is set up).

Word of advice is that if you are going to change the p values remember to note down the originals in case you need to put them back at any point.

EYEdROP said...

Hey Shane. Im new to smart trainers and was wondering what the "max slope" specification means? On this trainer its rated at 6 or 7%. Does this mean steep climbs in zwift wont automatically adjust resistance above 7%? Also, the spec sheet states max slope as being a function of riders weight and power, and tge quoted 7% is for tge "average" rider. Im a fly weight at 105lbs and an ftp of 170. Does this benefit me for the max slope spec?

Shane Miller said...

As I understand: Sustained resistance over a period of time.... but it gets tricky with the weight/speed/slope calculations. Once the trainer maxes out, it won't apply any more resistance. Just get the best trainer you can budget for and go from there.