Elite's Direto XR is a very solid smart trainer with accurate power. It's quiet and reliable, and it beats most of its direct competitors on price too.
A bit like the Wahoo KICKR, the Elite Direto XR has a metal frame with two legs that pivot out to support the bike. They lock in place with threaded knobs, and setting the Direto XR up takes basically no time at all, especially if you're on an 11-speed bike – there's an 11-28 cassette already fitted.
Quick release and 12mm through axles are supported through interchangeable end caps, but there's no mechanism to raise or lower the cassette to simulate different wheels sizes.
You get the choice of Bluetooth and ANT+ connections as usual, and the trainer can be controlled by training apps over either protocol. I mostly used Bluetooth, because that's what my PC setup seems to prefer, but they both work just fine. Unboxing the trainer, setting up a bike and connecting it to the PC took less than ten minutes.
The Direto XR is easy to pack away too: the hinged legs fold away and it fits in a pretty small space. There's no carry handle, but it's easy enough to grab at the top of the flywheel and sling into a cupboard if you can't keep your trainer set up where you train. It's a bit lighter than most direct drive trainers, too.
Elite claims (perhaps inevitably) the Direto XR is more accurate than its predecessor, with an error margin of +/- 1.5%, and that it can generate 2,300W of resistance and simulate a slope up to 24%. Those are top-tier numbers.
Even if you'll never trouble the maximum resistance - and I certainly won't - it means there's plenty of resistance for things like ERG workouts in the middle of the cassette.
Elite uses an optical torque sensor to measure power, and it's calibrated before it leaves the factory. Elite says the Direto XR is: "The only hometrainer in the world with the original Drivo, Drivo II, Direto and Direto X trainers to actually measure your power output via an integrated power meter," although I'm not really sure what this means.
Any trainer that can accurately transmit your power is, by definition, a power meter. And there are plenty to choose from.
Anyway, in time-honoured fashion I benchmarked the Direto against my Rotor 2InPower cranks, which I'm fairly sure from doing dozens of these tests are giving repeatable and accurate numbers.
Here's a session from Zwift, mostly in ERG mode with a bit of free riding and a sprint at the end. You can see that there's very little to choose between the two power traces, and the averages are within half a watt of each other.
I'd expect a power meter at the crank to read higher than one at the hub, because of drivetrain losses, so you could argue that the Direto XR is being very slightly optimistic overall, but it's certainly a believable power plot, no doubt about that.
Here's a close-up of a 2-minute interval at 350W. The Direto XR goes in a bit hard, but that's the same with all the recent trainers I've tried. It backs off, then goes back up again before it starts to find a level. It's not the most stable ERG mode I've tried – that's still the Tacx Neo 2 – but it's okay.
As we go higher (this is 470W for a minute) I'm working at a higher cadence and the line is smoother.
The Direto XR rewards a smooth pedal stroke, that's for sure, and in Elite's My E-training software you can perform pedal analysis with a radial plot of your power: the figure-of-eight/sausage plot you'll be familiar with if you've spent any time on a Wattbike. You get 12 months of My E-training subscription included when you buy the Direto XR.
On the graph above you'll notice the Direto line is starting to drop below the Rotor line...
...and in a sprint it's a fair chunk below, by about 50W. Which of the two is right? I don't really know, to be honest. Either is believable. The main thing you want the numbers to be is repeatable, and the Direto XR proves very consistent.
Cadence sensing is algorithmic rather than using a physical sensor, and for the most part it's very good. It suffers the odd glitch from time to time, as you can see at the end of the trace here. But for the most part it does a grand job.
In general use I found the Direto XR to be a well-behaved training companion. When you're riding around in Zwift or My E-training the trainer responds very well to changes in gradient, and is fully capable of making things really difficult on the steep stuff if you set the realism nice and high.
The flywheel isn't as heavy as some, but I don't feel it negatively affects the feel of the ride; if you drop a few gears and open up a sprint you still have to wind the Direto up to speed, and it responds well to sprint efforts.
It's quiet and well-balanced, too, as top-end trainers generally are these days. In my setup of a bike, the trainer and a gym fan, it was the least noisy thing of the three. It feels very solid and planted, which is good in a durability sense but less so in terms of ride experience.
Your bike is firmly held and there's no side-to-side movement, which means it doesn't feel especially active, and you're anchored in one position – which can get uncomfortable after a while.
Other trainers, such as the Tacx Neo 2T and – to a lesser extent – the Wahoo Kickr V5, offer a more active ride with the bike able to pivot a bit. I prefer the feel of that, but it's not a deal-breaker.
The Direto XR comes with a year's subscription to Elite's own training platform, My E-training. I've already mentioned it gives you access to pedal stroke analysis data, and there's loads more in there too.
For a start there are standard FTP tests and a wealth of training sessions; you can create a training program for yourself or build your own workouts from scratch.
These use a simple follow-the-line interface that's similar to TrainerRoad. There's more graphical stuff in there too, up to and including RealVideo which allows you to complete classic climbs and loops with video footage to keep you interested. These are an add-on to the subscription though, and they work out pretty expensive if you start buying on a regular basis.
If you prefer you can ride GPS routes, with a Google Maps satellite view, or even record your own video on a smartphone app to ride at home. There's quite a lot in My E-training, and given that you get a year free it's certainly worth exploring a bit.
You get good tools for viewing your data within the platform, but it's also easy to get it out into Strava, TrainingPeaks or Garmin Connect if you prefer to crunch the numbers there.
The Direto XR feels like a premium trainer, and at £824.99 it's at the lower end of what you'd expect to pay for one. It's directly competing with units like the Wahoo Kickr Smart Trainer V5 at £999.99, and the Saris H3 Direct Drive Smart Trainer at £849.99, and it's comparable to either in accuracy, performance and ride feel.
It's probably not quite up there with the Tacx Neo 2T, but then that's a fair bit more expensive at almost £1200.
Overall, the Direto XR is a solid investment: it's a very good trainer, and you get a year's free access to a training platform thrown in. And even if you're not going to use that, it's still good value given the performance.
Very good smart trainer that's priced well against its competition
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Elite Direto XR Direct Drive Interactive Trainer
Size tested: n/a
Tell us what the product is for and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Elite says: "The Elite DIRETO XR is the home trainer you were looking for your indoor training this season. This trainer is the biggest evolution of the Elite Direto trainers featuring an integrated power meter. Ideal for reaching the highest level of performance and working out in a totally immersive home training experience."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
- More power, faster response and more performance, the third generation Direto pushes the limits of what can be expected of a trainer at this pricepoint
- A further refined and upgraded drive unit gives the XR the capacity to faithfully replicate inclines of up to 24% and the ability to produce over 3,600 Watts of resistance at 60 KMPH
- Comes fully assembled with an 11-speed cassette already installed, ready to go out of the box
- Elite's unique and proven OTS (Optical Torque Sensor) technology has allowed precision to a point where Elite can now have the Direto-XR independently certified to a class-leading 1.5% power accuracy
- Oversized gearing wheel increases the 5.1 KG flywheel's RPM's, generating a smoother, more realistic feel
- Compact and easy to carry when folded but super stable once set-up, the Direto's extra wide feet are adjustable to allow rock solid performance on uneven surfaces
- The body of the trainer has been tweaked to make it compatible with the bulkier rear derailleurs often used with 1 x drivetrains
- Compatible with 130 and 135 mm quick release frames as well as 142 x 12 mm thru-axles, adaptors for BOOST 148 x 12 frames are available separately
- Includes a free 12 month subscription to Elite's My E-training App for Windows, iOS and Android and a 1-month free Zwift subscription
- Now comes with a custom front wheel riser block included
- Compatible with 9, 10 and 11-speed Shimano and Sram cassettes (not included), can be adapted for Campagnolo using adaptor TT14233, SRAM XDR with TT14279 or Shimano MICRO SPLINE using TT14315
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Very well – it's a good quality direct drive trainer.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Solid, quiet, accurate, decent value.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Not the very best in ERG mode, no rocking mechanism.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
Cheaper than its direct competitors, with the Wahoo KICKR (£999) and the Saris H3 (£849) being the obvious ones.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
OK, the ERG performance isn't as good as some I've tried, but it's a solid unit with accurate power, and the price is good. It's a solid eight.
About the tester
I usually ride: whatever I'm testing... My best bike is: Kinesis Tripster ATR, Merida Scultura, Dward Design fixed
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo cross, commuting, touring, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mtb, Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling, track
Dave is a founding father of road.cc, having previously worked on Cycling Plus and What Mountain Bike magazines back in the day. He also writes about e-bikes for our sister publication ebiketips. He's won three mountain bike bog snorkelling World Championships, and races at the back of the third cats.