The popularity of indoor cycling group fitness classes combined with the popularity of streaming services, virtual training bikes help motivate the rider with images to help transport them to another place. In some instances, it's a live, energized cycle class led by a world-class trainer while in other instances it's a simulated ride through a scenic part of the world.
Peloton allows users to stream live indoor cycle classes. Similarly to indoor cycle classes offered at gyms, the class is led by a certified instructor and is set to high-energy music. The classes are streamed live from the Peloton studio in New York City. Peloton users who have a membership (required with purchase) can stream up to 14 classes a day. Members can also interact with other riders in the same class by sending virtual high fives. Virtual rides of scenic locations are also included with membership.
The Peloton isn't only about the live streamed classes, although it's an important feature. The unit is compact and quiet, making it ideal for home use. Though most cycling class bikes aren't necessarily known for their comfort, Peloton bikes are adjustable and designed to be as comfortable as possible.
The Peloton bike isn't cheap, starting around $2245. Membership costs around $40 a month and grants access to the live stream classes. Bike packages are available, such as the "Works Package" for $2494 that includes:
- The bike
- A pair of riding shoes
- A set of headphones
- A bike mat
- A set of hand weights
Wirecutter's review of Peloton says that everyone they asked to test the bike says they love it and consider it a good workout. They only caution that the bike is only as effective as the user's will to exercise and a warning that if the monthly membership is dropped, the bike loses most of its allure. Bicycling Magazine says Peloton is a good fit for people who love group indoor cycling classes, but don't want to leave their home to head to the gym. The variety of classes are also mentioned as a positive. The Verge's review says they understand the "cultish" following of these bikes by users.
Expresso bikes come with studio cycle classes on demand. Various classes are available at different intensity and lengths. Expresso also offers high intensity interval training games for the duration of a ride, making the workout more fun for riders who enjoy video games. Riders can also choose interactive roads for their ride of various scenery while racing other riders.
The versatility of the viewing experience is a big draw for Expresso riders. The ability to choose between a game, a scenic road, or an indoor cycling experience appeals to riders who want variety. The bike has handlebars that move - a rare feature for stationary bikes. This bike aims to provide a ride that feels more like an actual bike ride. Both upright and recumbent bikes are available from Expresso.
Pricing can vary for an Expresso bike depending on whether it's for home or gym use and your location. Expect to pay thousands of dollars for an Expresso bike - more than $5000. Monthly payment plans are available with approved credit. The purchase price includes three years of eLive, the group fitness option to accompany the bike.
Top Fitness Magazine says the Expresso bike offers the most realistic ride available from a stationary bike. They also praise the clarity of the bike's display. Amazon reviews are largely positive, with most people purchasing the bike after experiencing at a gym and enjoying the experience.
NordicTrack Studio Cycle comes with an interactive group fitness option allowing users to participate in classes live. Elite trainers lead the classes set to energizing music. Virtual rides on scenic roads are also available. Upper body strength work is a standard feature added to rides, using the hand weights included with the bike.
A unique feature of this bike is that the cycle trainers hosting the streamed class have the ability to remotely adjust the user's bike, increasing the resistance or incline of the bike. These bikes also come with cross-training options off the bike, including yoga and boot camp classes. The monitor swivels out to accommodate the additional workouts off the bike. Purchasing the bike gains the user access to tracking systems from NordicTrack like nutrition advice and sleep tracking.
With a cost under $2000 for the home version, this bike is a less expensive option - though more expensive than traditional stationary bikes for at-home use. Monthly payment plans are available with approved credit. The class streaming subscription (a $396) value is included in the purchase price when the bike is purchased in a single transaction or with a 12-month finance plan. The 36-month payment option includes extra fees for the subscription.
A review on ExerciseBike gives the NordicTrack bike 9 out of 10 stars. They praise the bike for being quiet and for the addition of upper body exercises. Wired says the workouts are fun and the bike is compact.
Much like Peloton, the Echelon Connect EX1 comes with both live streamed classes and virtual rides through scenic paths and roads. A tablet is included with the bike, which serves as the monitor, or users can use an existing tablet or smartphone.
The Echelon Fit app provides cycling classes, virtual rides, and both yoga and stretching classes to complement rides. The free, online Echelon community is an active group of users who swap tips and make requests for specific workouts or music for the on-demand classes. The bike is compact, and the precision resistance motor and multiple levels of magnetic resistance make for a smooth ride.
The Echelon series is on the lower end of the cost spectrum, starting at under $1000. An annual subscription for the Echelon Fit app runs under $100. Payment plans are available for the purchase of this bike.
Reviews from buyers on the Echelon website are largely positive, with customers praising the easy set up and intense rides. A Fit Rated review comparing Echelon to Peloton says this bike provides much more "bang for the buck."
ProForm Studio Bike Pro
The ProForm Studio Bike Pro, like Echelon, is a less expensive option for indoor riders who want live streamed studio classes led by certified instructors and virtual rides featuring interesting scenery. Like NordicTrack, trainers can remotely adjust the bike's settings to increase or decrease intensity.
The virtual classroom and ride feature of the ProForm Studio Bike Pro - called the iFit Coach - is one of the most important features of this bike. Additional features that help make this bike a good choice include:
- Hand weights included for cross training workouts
- Quiet ride courtesy of magnetic resistance
- Easily transportable
- Toe cages for riders who don't like locking into the pedals
Similarly to the Echelon, this bike is considered one of the least expensive, acceptable options for an exercise bike with virtual training. Expect to pay less than $1000 for the bike and one year of the iFit Coach. Financing is available.
Reviewers on the ProForm website praise this bike for the smooth, quiet operation. ExerciseBike.net says this bike is a good deal and suitable for a wide variety of cyclists - both casual and enthusiasts.
A Motivating Ride
Stationary bikes can become monotonous, but when interactive displays transform the ride into an exciting class or a ride in an exotic location, riders may feel more compelled to get their exercise in and may feel like pushing harder than ever before. The extra costs associated with these bikes are worth it if they help you achieve your fitness goals and stay engaged in your workouts.