The NordicTrack S22i bike offers a tantalizing premise for restless cyclists: the ability to ride at home while feeling like you’re biking somewhere out in the open. This is possible through iFit, the app offered through NordicTrack’s bikes (and other connected exercise equipment), which features classes taught as guided scenic rides in which instructors lead you through trails in Colorado, Japan, and more. The scenic rides are truly special, with camerawork that makes you feel like you’re really wherever the screen is showing you—so much so that when an instructor rode over a root, I braced myself for an impact that didn’t come. If you’re someone who doesn’t love the traditional studio-cycling class model, it could make the S22i worth it for you.
The bike automatically adjusts its electromagnetic resistance, like the Peloton Bike+, as well as incline, something that isn’t offered on any other bike we tried along with the trail. This gives the sessions a more natural feel than turning a knob—though you can also adjust the resistance and incline on your own with buttons on the handlebars. All the instructors I experienced were great, and iFit also offers studio cycling classes and cross-training classes including yoga, HIIT, and Pilates. The bike also comes with a pair of three-pound dumbbells and a 22-inch touch screen that tilts and rotates 360 degrees for off-bike classes, though we sometimes found the screen rotated a little too much, as well as shook during hard pedalling. iFit also has live classes, accessible through an “On Air” button on the home screen, and offers treadmill, bike, rower, elliptical, and strength classes several times a day. All classes have a leaderboard—and, like Peloton, thousands of people who take them, so you may find yourself lost in a sea of usernames, and your chances of getting a shout-out are pretty slim (though it’s possible to hide the leaderboard if you don’t want to see it). However, iFit also has a pre-live class “waiting room,” where you can check-in and send the instructor questions before class, which helps boost a sense of community.
The bike—and iFit—have some snags, however. The first, for us, was assembly. NordicTrack is currently not offering in-home assembly, so we did it ourselves ... and struggled. This is partially because the job fell to one person and NordicTrack recommends that two do it, and partially because there were some small malfunctions in the parts we received that required maneuvering and calls to customer service to figure out. (On the plus side, customer service was great, and it seems the issue was a random fluke, not something that happens regularly.) Without the weird malfunction, and with two people to set it up, it would almost certainly be easier. Once set, you have a bike that fully adjusts to fit riders from 4 feet, 10 inches to 6 feet, 10 inches and up to 350 pounds.
Another concern is that the pedals that come with the bike don’t allow any kind of shoe to clip in, and the seat included is pretty stiff and uncomfortable. Both can be swapped out (or padded), but if you’re someone who doesn’t want to take the time (and money) to do this, you may be better served with a bike that comes with a comfier seat and clip-in pedals. iFit’s interface is also a little confusing, both on the bike and a tablet because it has extra content like TedTalks and meditation sessions and lumps them all together without an easy way to filter things out. So, to find a ride or HIIT class, you have to sift through a bunch of other stuff. Most of the classes tended to be on the longer side at about 40 minutes to an hour, too, and it’s hard to find anything shorter than a 20-minute session—not bad for overall health, but not great if you just want to add a five-minute ab class to something else, or only have time for a 10-minute workout.