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  • Schwinn IC4

  • NordicTrack S22i

  • Echelon EX-5

  • Bowflex C6

  • Sunny Health & Fitness SF-B901

Product image of Schwinn IC4
Schwinn IC4

Schwinn's IC4 Indoor Cycling Bike is our “hack” pick for a quality exercise bike that you can use alone or by outfitting with a tablet to stream workouts from a separate app. The bike has Bluetooth connectivity, so it can be paired with your own tablet, smartphone, monitor, or smart TV to stream workouts from apps like Peloton and Zwift, and the included media rack offers a secure perch for your handheld device. The IC4 offers variable mechanical resistance and cadence tracking in RPM, like many of the other connected bikes we tested, which it displays on a small backlit digital display. However, only the bike's cadence data beams into the Peloton app, so you won't see how you're doing on the leaderboard, though you'll at least have a log that you took a class. (With Zwift, you'll have better data integration, including a record and display of cadence, power, and heart rate in the app.)

We like that the IC4 bike comes with helpful accessories like a pair of three-pound dumbbells, a Bluetooth heart-rate monitor, and a USB charging station, all of which contribute to its value for the price. Schwinn offers an in-home assembly servicefor $129, but we found the bike easy to build without any paid help. The handlebars and seat are adjustable for riders of heights 4 feet 6 inches to 6 feet 6 inches, and it has a weight limit of 330 pounds. The pedals come with cages or can be used with SPD-cleat cycle shoes.

Overall, the bike works well when connected with other devices and apps. On occasion, we had a few minor issues with streaming when paired with the Peloton app and found it best to preload workouts ahead of time to avoid glitches during class. Also, though both the Peloton and Schwinn bikes use 100 units of resistance, the levels aren’t equivalent—the resistance is heavier on the IC4 than the Peloton, so you have to modify what the instructor calls out. If you don’t want to remember the conversions off the top of your head, you can buy a decal on Etsy to stick on your bike (or just write numbers down on a sticky note). You also won't get a very detailed log of your rides as the Schwinn itself doesn't store them, so if you want to track your overall data, you'll have to write it down from the display at the end of your workout. One thing we don’t love about riding the IC4 is the very firm seat, which we haven’t gotten used to after more than a month of riding, though adding a seat cushion may help.

The real reason someone might opt for the Schwinn hack, of course, is the lower cost. The bike itself costs $899, which you may opt to break down with the interest-free financing plan of $49.90 a month for 18 months. To make it "connected," you’ll have to add a phone or tablet or set it up in front of a smart TV, and you’ll need a subscription to an app—Peloton’s costs $12.99 a month for each account (so if two people will use it, that’s two accounts to pay for).

Pros

  • Bluetooth connectivity to ride with different apps

  • Quiet flywheel and pedals

  • Comes with weights and heart-rate monitor

Cons

  • Narrow and hard seat

  • Occasional streaming issues

Product image of NordicTrack S22i
NordicTrack S22i

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 the 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 pedaling. iFit also has live classes, accessible through an “On Air” button on the homescreen, 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.

Pros

  • Resistance automatically changes during classes

  • Offers incline in addition to resistance

  • Scenic rides offer a different approach to cycling classes

Cons

  • Assembly required

  • Most classes are at least 20 minutes long

  • iFit app not as intuitive as others

Related content

Product image of Echelon EX-5
Echelon EX-5

The Echelon EX-5 is the closest option you can get to a Peloton without paying the price of a Peloton. The bike itself costs about $1,000 less than the Peloton Bike+, and there are two subscriptions types you may select: Echelon United Monthly for $39.99 a month, which packages live and on-demand bike classes with additional workouts, such as HIIT, pilates, and more, and Echelon United Yearly for $399.99 a year, which includes the same workout classes and averages to about $33 per month. The classes can be streamed via the Echelon app on your device of choice or on the 180 degree-rotating bike screen, with five users permitted per account.

Instructors teach out of Echelon studios in Chattanooga and Miami, and the classes are fun, engaging, and an overall good workout. Compared to the Peloton, the quality of both the bike and the video isn’t as good and the community of bikers is much smaller (though that also increases your likelihood of getting personal shout-outs during live classes, which typically have about 50 participants). The bike, which is rated for riders up to 297 pounds (the same as Peloton but less than others that go up to 350), felt less stable than other bikes, and we noticed some shaking of the tablet during higher intensity pedaling. On the plus side, the seat and handlebars are fully adjustable, and riders from 4 feet 5 inches to 6 feet 11 inches will find a fit. The pedals also come with cages so you can ride with your regular sneakers, or you may clip in with SPD-cleat cycling shoes. Like the Peloton, the screen shows your cadence, resistance, and output, so you know exactly how hard you are working. Throughout classes, instructors suggest the cadence and general resistance should aim for, but more often than not, they say to be at a “moderate,” “challenging,” “hard,” or “all-out” level, allowing users to go at their own intensity.

The Echelon EX-5 has some hidden costs. If you buy it from the brand's site, it retails for $1,239.98 if paid in full up front, plus your membership fee, but if you don’t pre-pay for a full year of classes when you buy your bike, you have to pay a $199.99 “premium delivery” fee—plus, financing is not available without paying for the full year of classes. And, unlike other bikes, some of its financing plans charge interest. You may pay $133.33 a month, which includes the bike membership, for 12 months at no interest for a total of $1,599.96. If you want a longer term and lower payments, you’ll be adding just over 15% interest to the total cost, spread over 18 months or 36 months, respectively (see below for breakdown).

Assembly is also not included with the bike (despite what you may think "premium delivery" should include), so you have to do it yourself. That said, we thought it was relatively easy for two people to put together. The Echelon warranty covers one year on parts and components and two years on the frame, the stingiest of all we tested, though a three-year extended warranty is available for an extra $199.

Pros

  • Fun studio-style classes with great instructors

  • Live classes

  • Informative metrics

Cons

  • Bike doesn’t feel very solid

  • Video quality could be better

  • Assembly required

Product image of Bowflex C6
Bowflex C6

The Bowflex C6 is a pretty good bike. And you know why? It’s the exact same build as the Schwinn IC4, both made by Nautilus, with a few cosmetic tweaks—but it costs $100 more.

The Bowflex has its own small screen that displays basic metrics including distance and RPM and comes with the same accessories as the Schwinn: a pair of three-pound weights, a Bluetooth heart-rate monitor, and a device holder, for propping up a Bluetooth-connected phone or tablet from which to stream app-based workouts from the likes of Peloton or Zwift. It has the same weight capacity of 330 pounds and can be fully adjusted for riders from 4 feet 6 inches to 6 feet 6 inches in height. Its pedals have cages that can be used with regular sneakers as well as brackets for clipping in with SPD cleats. The mechanical flywheel is smooth and silent, too, which makes pedaling comfortable and unintrusive. The Bowflex has the same resistance levels as the IC4, which don’t match up with Peloton’s instruction, so you’ll have to do some math or adjusting to get it right as you ride. We got the extra $129 in-home assembly, which made it quicker, though online shoppers say it shouldn’t be too hard for two people to put together.

The biggest issue with the C6 is that its retail price is about $100 more than the Schwinn IC4. It retails for $999.99, or you can opt for no-interest financing at $56 for 18 months. Its warranty covers three years on parts, 10 years on the frame, and one year on labor, just like the Schwinn’s. You can also add on five years to the parts and labor with the Bowflex Protection Plan for an extra $109.

Pros

  • Bluetooth connectivity allows you to ride with different apps

  • Quiet flywheel and pedals

  • Comes with weights and heart-rate monitor

Cons

  • Narrow and hard seat

  • Occasional connectivity issues

  • Resistance doesn’t match up with Peloton app

Product image of Sunny Health & Fitness SF-B901
Sunny Health & Fitness SF-B901

Compared to others we tried, it’s no surprise that the Sunny SF-B901 bike ended up in last place—with its chunky steel frame rated for riders up to 275 pounds (the least of all we tested), a 40-pound mechanical flywheel for resistance, and not much else, it’s about as basic as a studio-type cycle gets. It has no Bluetooth connectivity or extra features, and if you want to use it with an app like Peloton with your tablet or phone, you’ll have to buy a holder to keep it in place and you won’t get any feedback from bike to tablet. The bike we tried also did not have a water bottle holder, though Sunny sells some variations that do.

That said, it costs a fraction of every other bike we tried, and for the price, it’s not a bad buy. It’s available with a chain or belt drive—the chain drive is usually less expensive and thus more popular, so that’s the one we tested. It made a slight grinding sound when we pedaled and never felt like a totally smooth range of motion. And, no surprise, the pedals are outfitted with cages for regular shoes, not cycling cleats. We also thought the resistance knob was hard to twist and didn’t seem to have much room between very light and very heavy, which is annoying for workouts that require nuance (i.e., most app ones).

On the other hand, the seat was surprisingly comfortable, and the bike itself is easy to adjust—you can move the seat up and down and fore and aft and change the handlebar height and reach to fit riders with inseams ranging from 30 inches to 42 inches (we’re not sure how that translates to height, either). We sprung the extra $89 for assembly—which was provided through Amazon and went without a hitch—but Amazon reviewers say it’s not very difficult to do with two people.

If we hadn’t been fresh off a $2,500 bike, we probably would have found the Sunny fine enough. Some Amazon reviewers swear by using it with the Peloton app, once a tablet holder is added to the bike—so, if you don’t want to spend a ton of money on an exercise bike but still want to get some indoor cardio, the Sunny is a suitable vessel.

Pros

  • Inexpensive

  • Easy to adjust

  • Comfortable seat

Cons

  • Makes a grinding sound when pedaling

  • Pedaling doesn’t feel smooth

  • Doesn't offer many resistance levels

Meet the testers

Sara Hendricks

Sara Hendricks

Editor

@sarajhendricks

Sara Hendricks is an editor with Reviewed covering health and fitness.

See all of Sara Hendricks's reviews
Esther Bell

Esther Bell

Staff Writer, Health and Fitness

Esther is a writer at Reviewed covering all things health and fitness.

See all of Esther Bell's reviews

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