With the Covid-19 pandemic, the popularity of health & fitness equipment has exploded. Group classes have gone virtual. With monthly subscriptions, live training sessions are broadcasted to connected cardio equipment. Is it time to ditch your gym membership and workout to live classes at home?
That’s the question people want to know. Today, I’m reviewing the Echelon EX-3 Connect. It’s a spin bike that offers live classes from the comfort of your home.
Admittedly, I’ve never tried a spin bike. In fact, I’ve never joined a spin class before. I know many people who have a spin bike and love it. If you’re thinking about getting a connected spin bike, is the Echelon worth it? Let’s find out.
Design of the Echelon EX-3 Bike
The EX-3 features a powder-coated welded steel frame and a modern red-and-black design with a compact form factor. The dimensions are approximately 54″ wide x 49″ height x 20″ depth. The recommended floor space is approximately 63″ wide x 67″ in length.
The frame can support riders up to 300 lbs. The bike features ample adjustability to accommodate various rider heights and position preferences for the seat and handle-bar heights. The padded seat is comfortable, especially during long rides. There’s also room for up to two sport bottles and small 2lb weights on the back. Weights are not included.
The pedals are made of aluminum and provide a sturdy yet comfortable fit. They can fit regular shoes or clip-in cycling shoes. Resistance is controlled by the red dial. The EX-3 uses magnetic resistance with 32 levels of resistance adjusted and displayed in real-time.
Echelon provides four versions of the Smart Connect Bike. The EX-3 does not feature a built-in screen. Instead, it has an adjustable console for iPad or Android tablets with the Echelon App. This makes it appealing to users who already own a tablet and want a connected spin bike at a budget-friendly price.
A USB port is located on the right side of the console to power the tablet. The Echelon App drains tablet battery life quickly, so I highly recommend plugging it in during every spin session.
Once you open the app, the EX-3 connects to the Echelon App. Thankfully, I didn’t have any connectivity issues. The app provides a variety of real-time metrics such as RPM, resistance level, and wattage. Unfortunately, there is no built-in heart rate monitor. Riders can purchase an optional Echelon Chest Strap Heart Rate Monitor or sync a FitBit or Apple Watch to the bike.
Live classes in the Echelon App
To join unlimited live Echelon spin classes, riders must enroll in a monthly subscription that costs $50 CDN a month. While it includes a 30-day trial of an Echelon United membership, I still had to provide my credit card details to get the free trial.
At first glance, the Echelon App was overwhelming. There’s a lot going on inside. On the top are lists of live classes and challenges. There are thousands of classes to choose from. Riders can use search filters to pick classes based on experience level, instructor, music genre, and more.
I jumped right away into a live class to see what it was all about. The instructor is in a well-lit dark studio with multiple camera angles. It does a good job of replicating the feel of a live, in-person session. The instructor is wearing a headset with a microphone, guiding the riders through the session. At first, it was hard to follow the instructor, but I got better over time.
During live sessions, an overlay screen that riders can control provides performance metrics. On the left side is a leaderboard that ranks riders based on their exertion levels. This is a fantastic feature for people who are naturally competitive and like to climb up the leaderboard.
The main metrics are located in the center of the screen. Here you’ll find cadence level, resistance level, distance, speed, calories, and total output. The output is measured in watts and is a combination of your resistance and cadence. The instructor tells you specific cadence and resistance levels to aim for during the live workouts. The leaderboard is ranked based on your total output.
One thing became abundantly clear to me. Without the monthly Echelon subscription and live classes, this would be just an ordinary spin bike. Sure, you could watch Netflix, but you’ll never hit the same intensity as live classes.
Using the Echelon EX-3 Bike
I spent some time adjusting the seat and handlebar heights until it felt right. After that, the ride itself was smooth and comfortable. However, during my first ride, the seat moved when I was riding hands-free, and I fell backward. Thankfully, the wall behind me saved me from falling off. I realized that riders should tighten the nuts after adjusting the seat.
After spending a weekend doing live classes on the Echelon bike, I now understand why people love spin classes. The live classes have a lot of energy and are easy to follow. Being a naturally competitive person, I instantly became fixated on climbing the leaderboard—so much so that I often forgot to listen to the instructor’s directions.
I’m a fitness data nerd, so I love seeing riding data in real-time. The one metric missing was heart rate. I like to keep myself in a certain heart rate zone, but I don’t use a Fitbit or Apple Watch. Still, I was very mindful of my performance metrics during the live classes. All the cardio training I gained from jumping rope transferred onto the bike. Every 5 minutes or so I would turn the resistance up, go into “Beast Mode”, and climb the leaderboard.
I’m sure many people are wondering if the Echelon bike is as good as others on the market. I don’t know because this was my first experience with a connected spin bike. But I now truly understand why so many people love spin classes. If I didn’t jump rope, I could totally get into this. The bike itself doesn’t take up too much space and is super comfortable to ride with lots of adjustability to get the right fit.
The classes do a good job of getting you into the zone and following the instructor’s directions. To me, $50 a month is pretty expensive. In fact, it’s a similar price for a gym membership. With the pandemic, many people might want to make that switch. I think you would have to use it often to justify that monthly cost. Just remember, the bike and subscription go hand-in-hand.
One feature I would have liked is syncing the resistance level to the instructor. When the instructor changes his/her resistance level, it would automatically happen on the bike. I prefer to not change the resistance level and instead focus on the cadence and output. That feature would be a game-changer. I would naturally want to match the instructor’s intensity every ride. It’s much easier to compare results with the trainer if the resistance level is matched and synched together.
The big question is, who is this bike for? If you love spin bikes, own a tablet, and are looking for an affordable option, I highly recommend the Echelon bike. I was impressed by the build quality, the experience inside the Echelon App, and the live classes.
Just remember, the monthly subscription and the Echelon bike go hand-in-hand. With that said, if you’re looking for an affordable spin bike with live online classes, the Echelon EX-3 is definitely worth considering.