We've all heard of Peloton. Most notably, their recent advert during the lockdown of 2020 has probably etched in everybody's minds. Pull it back, Peloton…
They have fantastic advancements in their spin bike technology, with their instructor-led virtual classes a huge favorite. However, not many people can afford the Peloton range & I must admit it's not cheap. There are alternatives on the market, which are a bit more affordable for your requirements.
In commercial gyms, Spin Classes are the most popular group workout class, with it difficult in most gyms to secure your place. However, with gyms closed, the only immersive way to achieve an instructor-led workout is through the advanced technology that these treadmills.
They're popular for a reason. When you're in an exercise class with other people, you're motivated to work hard. There seems to be no option to fail, as nobody wants to be seen as that person who decides to call it quits when it starts to get tough.
With it looking unlikely that gyms will re-open anytime soon, most fitness enthusiasts are now deciding to convert their garage into a home gym, or just simply create enough space in their home office to create a home for their treadmill. If you're one of those people & wondering what your options are, you'll be pleased to hear there's quite a bit of choice.
Peloton is by far the most popular, but other products are coming through with a slightly better pricing structure. Does it being cheaper mean it's less quality? Can you actually compare Peloton vs Echelon or Peloton vs Nordictrack? I'm going to be going one stage further, comparing the Peloton alternatives, Echelon & Nordictrack. In addition to this, I'll also be looking at Proform Fitness.
The bikes that we are going to compare are:
- The Peloton Bike
- Proform Fitness Pro 2000
- Echelon Smart Connect EX-5S
- NordicTrack s22i
I've tried to choose some treadmills that are entry-level spin bikes, so I can explain exactly which one provides the best value. This is going to be the most useful way to assess how you can get involved in the Immersive fitness classes from your home gym. Let's take a look at each one, in-depth.
What is Peloton?
Without a doubt, Peloton is the most popular spin bike. I have to give credit to their marketing team, who made that catchy advert! They were founded in 2012, but their popularity surged in 2019. This was 7 years after their Kickstarter campaign, where they turned the concept into a reality.
Due to the popularity of their stationary bikes, they have released their first treadmill, knows as the Peloton Tread. Staying on topic, I'll leave that for another day.
What makes their OnePeloton bike better than the competition, is the fact that they focused on giving enthusiasts the chance to join fitness classes, from the comfort of their own living room.
Although Peloton is the market leader for their niche, they don't have an extensive range of bikes. They have just two bikes to choose from, which are the Peloton Bike or the Peloton Bike+.
What is ProForm?
ProForm is another revered name for exercise equipment. The company is known for its range of home exercise equipment including ellipticals, treadmills, and exercise bikes. The company has built up a great reputation for home workout equipment. One thing that makes the company so good is its customer service. ProForm customer service is easy to work with and readily available.
The company has started moving away from traditional LCD screens in recent years. The latest ProForm machines include HD touchscreens that connect to the iFit Coach subscription workout service. The equipment with an LCD screen can still connect to iFit Coach so anyone can access the workout programs.
What is Echelon?
Echelon is a relatively new fitness company, incorporating in 2017 under founder Lou Lentine. Lentine created the company in the hopes of providing affordable stationary bikes that offered the interactive features and tracking options of high-end models.
The company hires over 40 fitness instructors and films over 2,000 exercise classes each month in its Chattanooga and Miami studios. The company estimates that around 10,000 people are connected to their classes at any given time.
The company has only expanded during the pandemic, with more people adopting working out at home.
What is NordicTrack?
NordicTrack is perhaps best known for its treadmills, but the company recently expanded into creating exercise bike machines as well. The company dates back to the mid-70s but was acquired by Icon Health and Fitness in 1998.
Like ProForm, NordicTrack includes several interactive features into their exercise machines, such as iFit. The app allows users to stream live and on-demand exercise classes straight to their machine.
NordicTrack stands out for offering a wider variety of equipment compared to other manufactures, such as Peloton. NordicTrack bikes include a range of recumbent, commercial studio, and upright variants.
Now we've looked at the four companies, let's take a look at their best offerings.
The Peloton Bike
Most people have heard of the Peloton Bike by now. The bike offers everything you love about the gym and makes it available at home.
The high-tech studio cycle offers live and on-demand fitness classes, including motivational instructors, intense music, and real-time stats. It's impressive how easy-to-use the Peloton Bike is when you consider everything it can do.
Benefits of Using the Peloton Bike
Some exercise bikes do the bare minimum. They have what you need to exercise and a little more. Then there's the Peloton Bike. Here's what you can expect from this impressive exercise machine;
- Improved Fitness
The exercise bike tones and conditions muscles, including your quads, thighs, glutes, hamstrings, and leg muscles. All these muscles get stronger, and it's something you'll feel for yourself. The bike also improves energy levels, so you're always ready for the next workout. Peloton offers a free year of iFit access to get started with exercising.
- Lose Weight
Effective weight loss comes from a combination of diet, exercise, and rest. This bike is sure to be more than enough exercise to burn calories and lose weight. Users burn an average of 300 calories per 30 minutes spent on the Peloton.
- Combat Joint Problems
Do you sometimes get joint pain when walking and running? Don't think that means you can't exercise anymore. Riding a bicycle, even a stationary one, is a lot less demanding than running and walking. Your body gets a full workout on a stationary bike without pushing joints to the limits
- Effective Cardio Workout
Bike riding is one of the most effective cardio workouts you can do. Riding helps control blood sugar levels and reduce blood pressure. Cycling also reduces the risk of heart attacks. Taking full advantage of stationary bikes like this improves heart health. You can get a full cardio workout without ever having to leave your house
- A Pragmatic Fitness Solution
There's no need to worry about wearing a helmet or other biking gear with a stationary bike. Get the workout you need in your home or office. Lose weight while watching your favorite movies or TV shows on the display screen. It couldn't be more pragmatic than this.
Is the Peloton Bike Worth It?
Given that the bike can cost a few thousand pounds, it's worth taking a minute to consider if it's worth it. How much exercise do you do at the gym? How much do you pay for that? The Peloton has a big upfront cost, but if you cycle at the gym three times a week you could pay off your exercise machine in around seven months. You'd be surprised at how quickly an exercise bike pays for itself compared to a gym membership.
If you have the motivation to exercise at home, then an exercise bike like this is worth it.
ProForm Fitness Pro 2000
ProForm is another leader in the fitness equipment market. The brand appeals to people looking for fitness equipment with some extra bells and whistles such as online connectivity, touch screens, and interactive workouts. The bikes have excellent software but sometimes lack in the hardware department.
ProForm is owned by the same company that owns NordicTrack. They also own other fitness brands. Like other bikes under this brand, ProForm offers iFit membership and Google Maps connectivity to make workouts more interactive, immersive, and fun.
ProForm offers three main types of bikes, indoor cycles, recumbent bikes, and upright bikes.
- Built-In Exercise Programs
It's easy to get a good workout thanks to all the built-in workouts on the ProForm Fitness Pro 2000. Some ProForm machines offer literally dozens of pre-set workouts. All workouts are made with the assistance of professional trainers, so you're guaranteed an effective workout.
- iFit Compatibility
Connecting to the iFit app allows you to make the most out of your ProForm bike. The app connects to the internet to offer immersive workouts both live and on-demand. The workouts include interactive videos, new exercises each day, and data tracking for all your workouts.
The touchscreen on a ProForm is much better than you get with other machines. When comparing ProForm vs NordicTrack, one of the standouts is the built-in monitor. Not only is it a touchscreen display, but it's fully web-enabled. You can connect to the internet and browse the web or watch online videos while working out. This display also lets you connect to Google Maps to simulate a real-life bike ride. Explore the world right from your home gym.
- Quiet Resistance
Another standout feature of the ProForm Fitness Pro 2000 is the quiet resistance. These machines are made for home use with the help of the patented Silent Magnetic Resistance System.
- Heart-Rate Monitoring
ProForm bikes come with wireless receivers built into the grips. These receivers track your pulse and send the data to the screen display.
- High Weight Capacity
ProForm machines have generous weight capacities of up to 300 pounds. This machine is no different.
- Excellent Warranty Options
ProForm is one of the most customer-friendly options when it comes to warranties. You'll get a 2-year parts warranty and plenty of extra coverage in case something goes wrong.
- Flywheel Weights
One area where ProForm bikes like this fall short are in the flywheel weight. The flywheels in Proform bikes range from between 12 pounds to 48 pounds. Light flywheels are good for toning, cardio, and increasing metabolic rate. The downside is they aren't effective for bulking up and aren't a challenge for serious athletes. On the other hand, the bikes with heavier flywheels tend to have issues of their own. It would be good to have a nice middle-ground option of 30 pounds.
- Not as Advanced as Other Models
Build quality is one of the most common problems people have with this spin bike. It's not uncommon to see customers complain about broken parts.
Who is the ProForm Fitness Pro 2000 Made For?
ProForm bikes are great for people who are interested in low impact exercises. These bikes are made for people who are entry-level or intermediate users or people interested in getting a spin bike at home without breaking the bank. They might not be as good for serious athletes.
The Bottom Line
ProForm stands out for offering great machines at affordable prices. Keep in mind that you might have to do some home maintenance to keep yours in perfect condition. Other than that, these are good quality machines to consider including in your home gym and cross-training regime.
Echelon Smart Connect EX5S
Echelon offers four bikes in all, but the focus of this review will be the Echelon Smart Connect EX5S. This is the best bike the company sells and an upgraded version of the original EX5.
The EX5S has a few additions and adjustments to bring a more professional look and feel to things. The handlebar has been updated with an aero bar for people who prefer riding in this position. There are also new water-bottle holders attached to the handlebars to stay hydrated during workouts.
Other refinements for the new model include a kick guard for the frame and power ports to the front and back of the bike. The standout feature of the bunch, which I'll get into more detail on in a minute, is the massive 21.5-inch HD touchscreen.
The Echelon app has so many options you'll have trouble knowing where to begin. The good news is that the bike features a simple beginners' playlist to try out. I recommend starting with this playlist even if you're in the mood to cycle to the moon and back. The starter kit does an excellent job of guiding you through the fundamentals, such as how to properly set the seat and handlebars, a proper pedaling technique for riding, and how to take advantage of the on-screen displays and metrics.
These displayed metrics are integral to the instructions that riders get from the live sessions or on-demand classes in the built-in library. You might be spoiled for choice when it comes to the intensity, length, and music of a workout. Once you choose a workout, you'll be taken to a virtual room with the instructor and a leaderboard of everyone else in the session. Echelon offers a variety of trainers with their own unique personalities, making exercising with the programs more diverse and fun.
I personally found I got the most out of instructors that took advantage of resistance and RPM (revolutions per minute). The system is designed to work simultaneously for an infinite number of people with different fitness levels, but you can easily tell which instructors are more effective than others.
For example, an intuitive technical coach wants you to chase specific metrics and works to maintain mental engagement and physical challenge. You'll burn off more calories than you expect with how engrossed you get into a good workout.
With plenty of live classes running all the time and a rich catalog packed full of recorded classes, you'll have more than enough to stay busy. The bike also offers plenty of scenic rides with built-in Google Maps features. The freestyle mode has you ride along at your own pace, but the feature is buried surprisingly deep into the settings. You'll have to look hard to find it.
I spent a few weeks testing my Echelon EX5S and found it stood up to everything I put it through. I didn't have to adjust the pedal and seat much either, which is nice to see.
One downside I noticed was the occasional connection issue between the bike and the app. These problems were relatively rare at first and were easily fixed by turning everything off and on again. Most problems can be fixed that way. However, the connection issues became more frequent as time went by. Dealing with all these false starts becomes a chore when all you want is to stay consistent with your workout routines.
Most of the Echelon experience is controlled directly with the resistance knob found under the handlebars. The knob gets the job done fine, but it feels frustrating to use, especially when you're in the middle of a tough boot camp session and feeling the burn. There's no way to tell if you need a full twist or half twist to reach the next resistance level. It's all too common to find yourself overdoing it and going past the desired resistance level.
The Bottom Line
If you enjoy a spin class or two, you can't go wrong with this resistance bike. The hardware is tough enough to give you the confidence to go as hard as possible while exercising.
The app has more than enough exercises to keep you busy, with a diverse range of class types, trainers, and musical themes to shake things up and prevent boredom. The resistance knob could be better of course, which would help to smoothly change levels when training.
The Connect EX5S costs £1,599. You'll get one month of membership to the Fitpass app, including unlimited access to workouts. A one-year or two-year membership can be more expensive upfront, but save more money over time.
NordicTrack Commercial S22i
Last but not least, we have the NordicTrack S22i. When comparing the Peloton and NordicTrack, the commercial S22i appears to come out on top.
The Commercial S22i costs £1,999 and comes with a 1-year membership to iFit, worth £399. This gives the NordicTrack the affordability edge over the Peloton, which costs £1,999 upfront and costs £39 more per month for twelve months.
The simulated incline is one of the most standout features of the NordicTrack Commercial. You'll have some freedom over the incline and decline of the bike, letting you replicate riding uphill and downhill. With a 20 incline and decline of up to 10%, you can take your workout to a new level.
The idea of changing the incline decline settings might sound like a gimmick, but it has real value – particularly for strength training. Changing the incline adjusts which muscle groups the bike works.
This feature alone may be more than enough to declare the NordicTrack the better bike when comparing Peloton and NordicTrack, given what a difference the feature makes and how advanced it is. Incline controls are common on treadmills, but rarer to see on spin bikes.
Take the Scenic Route with iFit
The bike features iFit compatibility like the other bikes in this list. The NordicTrack Commercial takes it to a new level with the terrain simulation features.
The bike automatically adjusts resistance and incline. Combining these features together makes the virtual rides on the screen more immersive and enjoyable.
This looks like a humble gym bike, but the appeal comes from having the chance to leave your room and feeling like you're cycling along famous roads and cycle tracks without leaving the house.
Most of the trainer-led workouts on the app are scenic rides, featuring stunning views from across the world including France, Japan, Spain, and New Zealand.
Your workout choice is likely going to be guided by the trainer providing the workout. Some trainers act like tour guides for workouts, guiding you through the destination on-screen and telling you about the places you are “cycling” through. Others take a more heavy-handed approach to keeping you motivated in intense workouts. Still, others like to take a more conversational approach and make workouts more intimate to feel like it's just the two of you cycling through the world.
With so much variety between trainers, it's possible you won't like all of them. However, there is plenty of choices so you'll find plenty you do like. The exercises are all rated by their intensity, making it easier to find one that suits you.
I enjoyed the scenic rides in particular. I found these rides were better at reducing stress, even if they are a harsh reminder of holidays I can't go on right now.
Cycle the World With NordicTrack
Like other bikes equipped with iFit, the NordicTrack S22i comes with Google Street View and route planning features. Type the location you want into the search bar and you can simulate riding your bike anywhere in the world – anywhere covered by Street View at least. It's amazing where you can take this “stationary” bike.
One downside I noticed was the firmware that came with the S22i. Things are a little off at first. Everything is fine after an update or two, but you might have a rough experience until then.
The bike doesn't offer a fully-realized 3D riding experience with millions of miles for riders to explore, but what is there is more than enough to keep you happy.
Cycling down the streets and along hills of places you've visited before, or plan to visit in the future, has a real calming and meditative effect. Take your ride to the next level with the right music or a podcast to pass the time.
The S22i features a big high-quality 22-inch HD display to make the rides more immersive.
If you want a challenge, I recommend trying the Mont Ventoux climb in France. Google provides terrain mapping for these workouts, which works with the resistance and incline settings to recreate the feeling of being out there on the road for real.
The bike features an integrated fan that is sure to be a real godsend on those intense workouts. The fan sits under the screen and blasts a cool breeze towards your face. If you want to make things more comfortable, I recommend purchasing a desk fan to circulate air in the other direction.
The NordicTrack recreates a gym studio at home if you want it to. If the official website is anything to go by, this seems to be the direction the company plans on taking in the near future. You might need a few weights and a yoga mat to get there, but the key thing to remember is that this is much more than a bike. The NordicTrack helps with strength training and lets you experience a full gym session with one expanded machine. The price isn't too bad either, considering everything you get.
Another interesting feature of the NordicTrack is the ability to connect your Bluetooth heart rate monitor and access your vitals through the machine. Everything is done automatically too, with no need for manual setup. The machine automatically scans for an app in range when you start your exercise. It processes the feed as it passes through. You might not get the results from the start of the workout, but you get everything you'd get through the Peloton app, if not a little more.
Final Thoughts on NordicTrack
The NordicTrack is sure to make a great impression on users. The 1-year iFit membership is a real blessing. Most of the problems anyone could have with the bike fall on the software side of things, rather than the hardware side. As a machine, the S22i is as sturdy as anything you'd see in the gym. The bike is highly adjustable and the huge flywheel gives you plenty of forward momentum when riding.
The riding experience is a bit different than what you'd get with a road bike. If anything, the ride is too smooth to feel like a road bike. The fixed wheel also means the peddles keep spinning even after you stop. If you do get in trouble, the “emergency brake” is there for you.
What stands out about the S22i is that it's so much more than your standard exercise bike. With a combination of impressive incline control, terrain simulation, Street View, and iFit, the bike offers the most escapism you're likely to see with a fitness bike – certainly one around this price.
Peloton and NordicTrack are the creams of the crop when it comes to exercise equipment, especially spin bikes. If you're looking for the best of the best, then you should look at these two. However, there are definitely other bikes that are just as good and more affordable. Don't feel like you need a Peloton bike to get fit as that isn't the case. The Echelon and ProForm get the job done just fine. Consider which features you want from your machine and your budget. Those considerations should help you choose the right one for you.