Bowflex VeloCore 16 Review
Cons: Slightly larger footprint and heavier weight, JRNY app isn't quite as developed as some others, smaller screen (larger screen available at a higher price), screen has limited range of adjustability
Compare to Similar Products
Bowflex VeloCore 16
|Price||$1,699 List||$1,500 List|
$1,372 at Amazon
$1,599 at Amazon
$999.00 at Amazon
$309.99 at Amazon
|Pros||Unique lean feature, loaded with features, capable of streaming entertainment and working with 3rd party apps, JRNY app costs less than the competition||iFit app, adjustable incline, AutoAdjust resistance and incline, narrow Q-factor, feature-packed, swiveling touchscreen||Comes with weights and more, large swiveling touchscreen, massive user height range, assembly included, offered in 2 colors||Smart/connected features, excellent warranty, 100 levels of magnetic resistance, comes with hand weights||Affordable, smooth belt-driven weighted flywheel, infinitely adjustable resistance, stable and sturdy|
|Cons||Slightly larger footprint and heavier weight, JRNY app isn't quite as developed as some others, smaller screen (larger screen available at a higher price), screen has limited range of adjustability||Connectivity issues (eventually resolved), incline adjustability results in slightly reduced stability, ICON Fitness has a history of poor customer service, fan is somewhat noisy||Friction resistance - doesn't have preset levels, monthly app subscription cost, limited cycling workouts compared to competition||More expensive, inaccurate speed and distance readings, doesn't work perfectly with Peloton or Zwift||Basic display, no program workouts, no connectivity|
|Bottom Line||The unique lean feature and compatibility with streaming entertainment and 3rd party apps set this model apart from the competition||This bike's auto-adjusting speed and incline work with the excellent iFit app to simulate real-world riding||A moderately-priced Peloton alternative that comes with weights and more for setting up your home gym||A reasonably priced, high-quality spin bike with connected features||A simple, effective, and affordable spin bike that lacks connected features|
|Rating Categories||Bowflex VeloCore 16||NordicTrack Commerc...||MYX II Plus||Schwinn IC4||Yosuda Indoor Cycli...|
|Exercise Quality (35%)|
|Companion App/Connectivity (%)|
|User Interface (20%)|
|Setup and Portability (10%)|
|Specs||Bowflex VeloCore 16||NordicTrack Commerc...||MYX II Plus||Schwinn IC4||Yosuda Indoor Cycli...|
|Console||16" HD tilting touchscreen||22" HD rotating touchscreen||21.5" HD rotating touchscreen||LCD display, tablet holder||LCD display|
|Companion App||JRNY (also works with Peloton and Zwift) (subscriptions required)||iFit (subscription required)||Openfit (subscription required)||JRNY (subscription required) (also works with Peloton and Zwift)||N/A|
|Resistance Settings||100 levels||24 levels||Infinite||100 levels||Infinite|
|Max. Weight Capacity||325 lbs||350 lbs||350 lbs||330 lbs||270 lbs|
|Recommended Height Range||5'1" to 6'5"||not specified (13 inches of seat height adjustment)||4"11 to 6'8"||4'6" to 6'6"||25" to 35" inseam height adjustment|
|Measured Dimensions||59.8" L x 25.5" W x 52.5" H||58" L x 22" W x 60" H||54" L x 21" W x 60" H||48.75" L x 21.25" W x 52" H||40.5" L x 21.5" W x 45" H|
|Weight||158.3 lbs (claimed)||203 lbs (claimed)||150 Lbs (claimed)||106 lbs||68.8 lbs|
|Resistance type||Magnetic||SMR Magnetic||Friction||Weighted flywheel with adjustable magnetic resistance||Weighted flywheel and adjustable resistance pad|
|Resistance Adjustment type||Knob||Handlebar buttons or AutoAdjust||Knob||Knob||Knob|
|Connectivity||Bluetooth, WiFi||Bluetooth, WiFi||Bluetooth, WiFi, ethernet||Bluetooth||N/A|
|Heart Rate Sensor||Bluetooth armband included||Not included, but pairs with Bluetooth sensors||Polar OH1 hear rate armband included with Plus version, works with other Bluetooth sensors||Bluetooth armband included||No|
|Other Features||Transport wheels, Bluetooth heart rate armband, 3 lb dumbells, leaning mode, dual-sided pedals, speakers, device shelf, USB port||Transport wheels, 2 water bottle holders, 3 lb dumbells, adjustable fan, adjustable incline (works with AutoAdjust), Google Maps integration, two 2" speakers||Transport wheels, dual sided pedals, bottle holders, Plus version comes with: bike mat, activity mat, foam roller, weight set, kettlebell, stretch band, heart rate armband||Bluetooth, works with Zwift and Peloton apps, USB charging port, device shelf, 2 water bottle holders, 3 lb weights, weight cradles, Bluetooth Heart rate armband, dual sided pedals with cleats||Bottle cage, device shelf, cage pedals, flywheel brake, transport wheels|
|Warranty||Frame and Parts: 2 years, Electronics: 1 year, Labor: 1 year||Frame: 10 years, Parts: 2 years, Labor: 1 year||Frame: 5 years, Parts and Eelectronics: 1 year, Labor: 1 year||Frame: 10 years, Parts: 3 years, Labor: 1 year||1 year parts replacement|
Our Analysis and Test Results
Bowflex has been a big name in home exercise for a very long time, and their VeloCore exercise bike sets itself apart from the competition in the increasingly crowded exercise bike market. The lean feature is unique to this bike, and it gives you the option to unlock the bike for a more natural ride feel or to follow along with the lean programs on the JRNY app to add a little core/stabilization exercise to the spin workouts. The bike itself provides a great exercise experience, the JRNY app has something for everyone, it is compatible with third-party apps like Zwift and Peloton, and you can even stream entertainment on the screen while you ride. Unlike the Peloton Bike+, for example, the VeloCore doesn't lock you into a single connected experience. We came away quite impressed by the VeloCore and feel it is a great option for anyone who appreciates options and a great workout.
The VeloCore is a high-end exercise bike with the exercise quality to match, plus the unique lean feature allows you to add a little whole body training to your cycling workouts. It has a quality look and feel with loads of adjustability and 100 levels of smooth, quiet magnetic resistance. The JRNY app is a bit different than the competition and offers a huge variety of on and off-the-bike classes and programs, plus it works with some third-party apps and even streaming entertainment.
While the VeloCore looks a lot like any other high-end exercise bike, its subtly different frame design hides the unique lean feature. A locking mechanism below the handlebar allows you to unlock the bike to enter lean mode, where the rider can lean the bike to the right or left on a pivot in the bike's frame. Leaning the bike is incorporated into many of the JRNY app's workouts, and it forces the rider to engage a number of different muscle groups as you go from side to side. The lean feature sounds a bit like a gimmick until you try it for yourself. To compensate for the forces involved with leaning the bike, the front and rear stabilizers of the VeloCore are a couple of inches wider than other models, and we were actually very impressed by this bike's stability given the ability to shift your weight so dramatically. When locked in stationary mode, the bike is very steady, and there is no side-to-side play, even when you're hammering on the pedals as hard as you can.
With 100 levels of magnetic resistance, the VeloCore has a massive range that is suitable for riders of all fitness levels. Due to the number of levels, changes in resistance are quite subtle, but they steadily ramp up from very easy at the low end to very challenging near the high end of the range. While following classes in the JRNY app, the instructors provide cadence and resistance prompts (and lean prompts when doing a lean workout), but it is up to the rider to adjust the resistance using the knob. Our lead tester found himself in the 40-70 range of resistance for most workouts, flirting with 80 occasionally during some really hard efforts.
Along with the lean feature, the JRNY app is what sets the VeloCore apart from the competition. We'll go into more detail in the next section, but they really have all your bases covered. From studio classes, Explore the World scenic rides, virtual coach programs (with the ability to choose the music and scenic ride to go along with it), and the option to stream entertainment from Hulu, Netflix, etc (subscriptions required), there is a cycling experience to suit everyone's tastes. Additionally, this bike is compatible with popular third-party apps like Zwift and Peloton (subscriptions required), though you'll have to use your own device as a screen. Add to that a variety of off-the-bike workouts like strength training, pilates, yoga, and more, and you've got plenty to keep your whole body fit.
As a connected exercise bike, the VeloCore relies on a WiFi connection to use the JRNY app, and Bluetooth to connect with wireless accessories. The JRNY app is similar to other apps in some ways but sets itself apart from the competition with adaptive virtual coach classes, Explore the World scenic rides, compatibility with third-party apps, and the ability to choose and stream entertainment on the screen (subscriptions required).
The VeloCore requires WiFi to connect to the JRNY app. Connecting to the bike is quite simple, and we never experienced any connectivity issues during testing. It also uses Bluetooth to pair with wireless headphones and the included heart rate monitor armband. Connecting to wireless accessories is also very straightforward, and is done through the touchscreen. There is a USB port on the side of the screen that can be used to charge your devices, including the heart rate monitor.
One of the best things about the JRNY app is that you get a free one-year membership included with the purchase of the VeloCore. After that, it costs $20 monthly or $149 for the whole year. While this is undoubtedly an additional expense to consider, it is significantly less expensive than the Peloton, Echelon, iFit, and OpenFit apps, all of which cost around $35 or more each month. It also has unlimited user profiles, so every member of your household can have their own, and your membership can be used across different Bowflex products like a treadmill or elliptical. The other nice thing about the JRNY app is that you can stream entertainment through Netflix, Hulu, Prime Video, and HBO Max (subscriptions required), if you don't want to follow along to any of the studio, virtual coach, or Explore the World scenic rides. We think this is an excellent feature that provides even more variety and options for the rider. Of course, there are quite a few on-demand studio classes with different instructors, types of workouts, and lengths of time to choose from. JRNY can't compete with the incredible number of studio classes of Peloton or Echelon, but all of the bases are covered with strength, HIIT, intervals, hills, lean rides, and more to choose from. The lean workouts, in particular, are unique to the VeloCore and provide a bit of a core workout along with the cycling. Like any other app, you can also filter the results by time, type of ride, instructor, etc, to find exactly what you're looking for. JRNY also includes lots of whole-body workouts ranging from strength, warm-up, stretching, yoga, cool-down, pilates, you name it, to keep you busy off the bike.
Another unique element of the JRNY app is the virtual coach classes. There are lots of these on the app, and instead of a studio class with a real instructor, they have generated loads of different workouts that have a virtual instructor giving the prompts. While the voice of the virtual coach is somewhat generic, they give you a lot of variety and you can choose the music genre from the selection and pull up a scenic ride or stream entertainment on the screen while you follow along. These workouts are also adaptive, meaning the bike monitors your progress and changes the difficulty over time to match. When you initially start out on the bike, it makes you take a fitness test, the results of which determine your effort zones for the adaptive workouts. Explore the World consists of a library of scenic rides from all over the world to choose from, so you can pedal through Zion, Thailand, New York City, and many, many more destinations without ever leaving your living room. While there is nothing particularly groundbreaking about these scenic rides, the video corresponds to your riding speed for a somewhat more realistic experience. JRNY also has a "journal" page where your past workouts and stats are stored, and you can also sync to Apple Health to track and analyze your data fitness there.
Last but not least, the VeloCore can also be used with Peloton and Zwift (subscriptions required). Unfortunately, you can't run these apps through the bike's touchscreen, but a device shelf below the screen is there to hold your tablet or phone while you follow along with either app. We think the compatibility with these third-party apps is an awesome feature that adds more workout variety and broadens the appeal to even more users. We tested it with Zwift, and while we can't be totally sure, it seemed to be fairly accurate in terms of power output. We weren't blowing people away and topping the leaderboard every ride anyway.
The VeloCore is undoubtedly a comfortable exercise bike that features a wide range of fit adjustments. That said, its seat height adjustment range is somewhat smaller than some of the other models we tested, so the very short and very tall would be wise to measure their pedal to seat length to see if this bike will work for them. That said, with a 325 lbs weight limit, this bike will work for the vast majority of users with the exception of some outliers at the extremes of the height spectrum.
Bowflex specifies a recommended user height range of 5'1" to 6'5" for the VeloCore bike. It has a 22-inch step-over height which makes it relatively easy to get on and off the bike. We measured a total of 7.5 inches of vertical seat height adjustment, along with 2 inches of fore and aft adjustability. We also measured the distance between the pedal (at the bottom of the pedal stroke) and the top of the saddle and found a range of 30 to 37-inches. While this should certainly be adequate for most users, it is a smaller range than some of the other models we tested that have as many as 13 inches of range. For reference, our six-foot-tall tester with a 35-inch inseam fit on the bike without any issue, although he was quite close to the top of the seat height adjustment. At the front, the handlebar has just over 4 inches of height adjustment, but it does not allow for any fore/aft adjustability. All of the adjustments are fairly easy to make, and there are numbered lines on the seat and handlebar posts so you can easily find your perfect settings if they get changed for any reason.
Being a performance-oriented high-end spin bike, the VeloCore comes with a somewhat narrow seat. This is typical among bikes of this style, and we found it to be relatively comfortable while still allowing for a powerful pedal stroke. Users who prefer a more supportive platform may find it to be a little too slim for their taste, but it can be easily swapped out for the seat of your choice. The large, rubber-coated handlebar offers loads of options so you can be sure to find a comfortable hand position no matter the workout. The VeloCore's Q-factor, or the horizontal distance between the crank arms where the pedals attach, measured 203mm, or 8-inches. Wider Q-factors are somewhat common on indoor exercise bikes, but this is a fair bit wider than a typical road bike Q-factor of around 150mm. This width may feel a bit strange to those accustomed to actual road bikes, but those who use spin bikes regularly may not notice a difference.
Like any high-end spin bike worth its salt, the VeloCore comes with a touchscreen that serves as the primary user interface. When purchasing this bike, you can choose between a 16-inch or 22-inch console. There is a fairly significant price difference between the two console sizes, so we went with the 16-inch version for our testing. While it is a fair amount smaller than the screens on most of the other screen-equipped models we tested, we found it to be perfectly adequate for our needs. The screen does not rotate, but it does have a small range of tilt adjustability to get the angle just right while riding the bike. The HD screen has good color and resolution, although some of the scenic rides have some pixelation. Touch sensitivity is great, and it's easy to scroll through the various studio and virtual coach programs, select entertainment options, etc. Through the JRNY app, you also have the option to connect with Zwift or Peloton (subscriptions required), although you'll need to use another device to view them. Fortunately, there's a device shelf below the console for that purpose. On the back right side of the screen are several buttons to control the speaker volume and turn the screen off.
Like most exercise bikes, the 100 levels of resistance are controlled by turning a knob down below the handlebar. Turning the knob clockwise increases the resistance, and turning counterclockwise decreases it. This knob also doubles as a brake, and pushing it down slows and stops the flywheel and pedals. With its unique lean feature, the VeloCore also has a locking mechanism. Situated just in front of the resistance knob, this lock is easy to use. Press it down to unlock the bike and go into lean mode, or pull it all the way up, and when it clicks into place the bike locks in its stationary position.
Bowflex went out of their way to load the VeloCore with useful bells and whistles as well as one unique feature that really sets this bike apart from the competition. At the core of the VeloCore is the lean feature, or the ability to unlock the bike from its stationary position and lean the bike to the right and left. Not only does it give the bike a more natural, rocking, side-to-side feel, but it also forces the rider to engage the core and other muscles for stabilization. When following along with certain programs on the JRNY app, the trainers will have you lean the bike back and forth to add some core work to your cycling workout. While this certainly sounds a little gimmicky, it is, but we've tried it and can say that it's actually quite effective. You can, of course, leave the bike locked in its stationary position if or when you don't want to use the lean feature.
The VeloCore we tested came with a 16-inch tilting touchscreen (it can also be purchased with a 22-inch screen for an additional fee). The screen has a fairly limited range of tilt adjustability, enough for positioning it well for viewing on the bike, but it can't be flipped for off-bike viewing like some other models. Unfortunately, the screen also does not swivel like some other models. One thing we really loved about this bike, is that you can stream entertainment (think Netflix, Hulu, etc) through the app, and it is also compatible with some third-party apps like Zwift and Peloton. We feel this expands this bike's versatility because sometimes it's nice to look at or follow along with something other than the JRNY app. Below the screen is a device shelf to hold your phone or tablet so you can view it while you ride, plus there is a spot to hold your phone in the middle of the handlebars. The screen is also home to speakers so you can hear the audio from the app or when streaming other entertainment, and of course, you can connect headphones or the included heart rate armband via Bluetooth. It also has a USB port so you can keep your devices charged while you ride.
Bowflex equipped the VeloCore with dual-sided pedals so you can clip in with cycling shoes or use regular shoes if you prefer. It also comes with 3 lb hand weights that hang from cradles attached to the console's support arm. Below the handlebar are two bottle cages that are relatively small, but they work well for standard-size cycling water bottles. There are adjustable feet at all four corners of the bike so you can level it for stability on uneven surfaces. Wheels attached to the front stabilizer allow you to roll the bike on firm surfaces, and a large handle at the back of the bike makes it easy to lift and tilt it forward.
Setup and Portability
We assembled our VeloCore test bike at our testing facility ourselves, but professional assembly can be purchased for an additional fee. Should you choose to do it yourself, the assembly process is about what you'd expect for a bike of this type, and very similar to the other bikes we tested. With a packaged weight of 168 lbs, this bike is quite heavy, and moving it from its delivery location to the assembly location is definitely a task for two or more people. Removing the bike from the box can also be challenging, and we found the easiest way to accomplish this is by tipping the box upside down, opening the bottom, then flipping it back over and pulling the box up off the top. With the bike upright, you can then easily remove all of the parts and the main body of the bike from the styrofoam packing materials. It comes with clear, step-by-step printed instructions with exploded diagrams which can also be found on the Bowflex website along with an assembly video if you prefer. The steps required to complete the assembly are fairly standard, and while it isn't particularly difficult, it does take a little time and some steps are easier with two people. We got ours from the box to ready to ride in about an hour and fifteen minutes.
Due to the 158 lb assembled weight of the VeloCore, it's best to assemble it at or very near the location you intend to use it. Moving it up or down stairs is somewhat challenging due to the weight and shape of the bike, but moving it around on flat, firm surfaces is fairly easy thanks to the integrated transport wheels and the large handle at the end of the back of the bike. The handle may seem like a trivial feature, but it does make it much easier to move this bike around than the competition. This bike's unique lean feature also gives it a slightly larger footprint than most of the other bikes, but only slightly at 24-inches wide x 60-inches long and 52.5-inches high. The pivots that allow the bike to lean add a touch of length, as does the console mast which is in front of the bike as opposed to being attached to the front of the handlebar. The extra width of the stabilizers is also necessary to keep the bike steady when leaning it side to side. You'll also want to give yourself a little bit of extra space to the sides of the VeloCore if you wish to use the lean feature. While it is marginally larger than the competition, we don't think that is any way a deal-breaker unless you are super tight on space.
Should You Buy the Bowflex VeloCore?
The VeloCore is an excellent option for anyone who wants something different than the studio class-focused competition. This bike's unique lean feature truly sets it apart and provides a somewhat more realistic ride feel while working a number of different muscle groups while you pedal. The JRNY app is not only less expensive than the others, but it provides a greater variety of workout options with studio classes, virtual coaching, Explore the World scenic rides, and the ability to stream your favorite entertainment. This bike's functionality with third-party apps like Zwift and Peloton gives you even more options to choose the experience you want. If you're looking for an excellent bike with unique features that doesn't pigeonhole you into one type of workout, the VeloCore might be the ticket.
What Other Exercise Bikes Should You Consider?
If studio-style workouts aren't your thing, the NordicTrack S22i is another great option. The iFit app offers thousands of unique trainer-led scenic rides, and the AutoAdjust resistance and incline/decline provide an immersive cycling experience. If you're more interested in live and on-demand studio cycling classes, the Peloton Bike+ can't be beaten. Peloton's excellent instructors, the incredible number of classes, and the engaged user-community are second to none. The Bike+'s swiveling touchscreen and Auto-Follow resistance have further solidified this model's position as the champ for at-home studio workouts. If the Bike+ is more than you want to spend, the Echelon EX-5s and the MYX II Plus provide similar experiences at a lower cost.
— Jeremy Benson
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