Recumbent bikes provide great low-impact cardio workouts that are easy to achieve in the comfort and convenience of your own home. NordicTrack, maker of exercise and home fitness equipment, has two options for in-home use.
How do the NordicTrack recumbent bikes stack up to their competitors? And will they provide everything you’re looking for in a bike? We uncover the answers to these questions and more in this in-depth guide. Keep reading!
- 1 What is a Recumbent Bike and How Does it Work?
- 2 The NordicTrack VR21 vs. VR25
- 3 Why go with NordicTrack?
- 4 Is Customer Service a Problem for NordicTrack?
- 5 What Reviewers Don’t Love
- 6 What Reviewers Rave About
- 7 How it Compares
- 8 Coupons and Deals
- 9 What We Think
What is a Recumbent Bike and How Does it Work?
Recumbent exercise bikes are stationary bikes with a backrest. Unlike upright bikes, which are situated realistically so that you’re on the almost-equivalent of a bicycle, recumbent bikes utilize petals in front of you, instead of underneath you. You’ll bike while leaning back slightly, with your legs in front of you.
As you can imagine, this reclined position does three things. First, it protects your back. No more hunching over the handlebars!
Protecting Your Joints with Low Impact Exercise
Second, the reclined position allows your joints (such as your hips and knees) a reprieve from the pressures of gravity. Activities such as running, hiking, and walking can create a huge strain on your joints, causing them to wear prematurely or become injured. Reclining takes the pressure off the joints and creates a lower-impact workout.
Finally, the reclined position means you don’t need to worry about balance. If you’ve avoided upright bikes because you don’t know how to ride or because you’re worried about staying balanced, you’re able to get in all the benefits of a stationary bike without the concerns of falling.
People recovering from injuries and the elderly are two groups who most often gravitate towards recumbent bikes for these very reasons.
Using a Recumbent Bike
The other benefit to a recumbent bike is how easy it is to use. There are no complicated adjustments or difficult-to-use equipment, and you can get started in about three steps. First, take a seat and slide your feet into the pedals.
Second, adjust your seat so that when your legs are extended, your knee is slightly bent. Finally, get started! You can adjust the resistance as you go. You want a good mix of gradually working up to something hard, and then reaching a slightly breathless rate of activity before gradually relaxing and cooling down.
Don’t be afraid to ease into your recumbent workout, allowing your heart and lungs to adjust gently.
Pros and Cons of a Recumbent Bike Workout
Recumbent bikes aren’t for everyone, but here are some pros and cons to a workout with one:
What You Should Look for in a Recumbent Bike
When you’re shopping for a recumbent bike, here are a few things to keep in mind:
- How big is the footprint? Can you move it easily? Does it fold up for easy storage?
- How comfortable is it? Look at the size of the pedals, the backrest, and the cushion on the seat.
- How much resistance is built in? Too little, and you won’t be able to use the bike for very long.
- Are the screen and interface easy to use? Most are, but if you don’t want a fancy touchscreen you’re not used to using, keep that in mind.
The NordicTrack VR21 vs. VR25
If you’ve waded through the pros and cons of recumbent bikes and decided to bring home this useful piece of equipment for your home gym, you’ll need to know the differences between the two NordicTrack recumbent bike models currently available.
Special note: the NordicTrack GX 4.7 is still available in some places, but it is no longer being manufactured. We don’t recommend it simply because of all the problems it’s had with pedals breaking and replacement parts not coming through.
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The NordicTrack VR21 is the more affordable of the two NordicTrack recumbent bikes, but that’s not because it lacks any bells or whistles! In fact, bells and whistles seem to be the name of the game with NordicTrack recumbent bikes.
You’ll get a five-inch backlit display, a 20lb. flywheel, and 25 resistance levels, which is more than the average for recumbent bikes. Here are a few more perks:
- Let’s face it, the seat matters a lot in a recumbent bike, and this one is oversized, plush, and comes with a ventilated backrest with lumbar support (this means less sweating and more comfort).
- You’ll enjoy 32 workout apps (each one designed by a certified personal trainer) that help you get fit without feeling bored or confused.
- We’ll admit that we’re pretty excited about the AutoBreeze Workout Fan included in both NordicTrack recumbent bike models. It’s a fan that gently cools your face as you pedal; we’re big fans of anything that makes exercise more comfortable!
The VR25 enjoys most of the features of the VR21, with a few extras:
- First, the warranty is longer. While both bikes include a one-year labor warranty, the VR25’s lifetime warranty covers the frame and brake (as opposed to the VR21’s lifetime frame warranty). Plus, there’s a three-year parts warranty instead of the VR21’s two-year parts warranty.
- Both bikes include heart rate monitors with wireless chest straps, but the display is much larger on the VR25. In fact, we love the seven-inch HD touchscreen. It’s smart, so you’ll be able to connect to wifi.
- Both models are ready for NordicTrack’s iFit membership, a monthly membership that gets you wireless access to live classes and training (this is the company’s attempt at capitalizing on the fame of live classes like SoulCycle and FlyWheel).
You’ll get one more resistance setting a tad more weight on the VR25, but as we’re sure you can tell by now, there’s not a huge difference between the two models. There is, however, an almost three hundred dollar price difference. Our verdict on the two NordicTrack recumbent bikes? Save your money and go with the VR21.
Special note: you’ll probably be misled by the name on these two models, as we were. NordicTrack calls them “commercial,” but they’re strictly for home use. This also means these won’t be suited for heavy-duty use.
If you plan on doing some major training, you’ll want to look elsewhere as these bikes are best suited for light to medium use. Also, they’re slated for up to 350lbs.; if you weigh more (or are at the high end of the weight range), again, you’ll need to look elsewhere.
Why go with NordicTrack?
NordicTrack burst onto the fitness scene in the early 1990s with in-home skiers, which used flywheel technology to create the resistance of cross-country skiing without requiring its users to leave home (or get cold). They’ve gone on to create elliptical machines, treadmills, recumbent bikes, and more.
While the company as a whole has a good reputation, we are concerned with more recent reviews popping up online. It’s normal to find negative customer reviews, especially for a huge brand like NordicTrack that sells expensive (and difficult to return) exercise equipment, but we feel like we’re finding enough volume to raise some concerns.
Is Customer Service a Problem for NordicTrack?
Most of the reviews seem to be centered around customer service; when something breaks, or there’s a billing problem, customers report having a difficult time getting through to somebody who can help or getting the new part they need. As we’re sure you can imagine, this has caused a lot of people some serious frustration.
That said, we feel comfortable with the reviews we’ve found on the VR21. It’s been tested by many users at this point and has an almost four-star review online. People find the machine extremely comfortable to use, and note that the way it’s designed means you simply step into it; you don’t have to climb onto it like you would with other stationary bike designs.
What Reviewers Don’t Love
Here are a few more things reviewers don’t love:
- This machine is big, and it doesn’t fold away. It has wheels, but you might still need help moving it. You won’t be able to tuck this away in a corner and forget about it.
- It’s expensive. Even with the VR21, this is not a cheap machine. We do think there are some people who should purchase it (more about that in the last section), but if you’re on a budget or just getting started with recumbent bikes, this might not be your best bet.
What Reviewers Rave About
- These NordicTrack recumbent bikes are extremely comfortable to use. The seat, fan, adjustable screen, and backrest are designed with comfort and cooling capabilities in mind.
- This is a luxury machine at a mid-level price. If luxury is what you want, you’ll get a great value here.
- Reviewers love how easy the membership integrates with the bike; no extra wires or plugs required.
How it Compares
The recumbent bike market is quite large, and there’s a huge variety of bikes. This makes it great for a consumer, but it can be overwhelming if you’re new to this world!
Models can range from inexpensive and pared down to deluxe and costly. For example, one of the alternatives we recommend for people who want a budget recumbent bike is the Exerpeutic Folding Magnetic Upright Bike.
It’s less than two hundred dollars, and while it doesn’t have all the bells and whistles that NordicTrack recumbent bikes have, it folds up and has a very small footprint. And did we mention that it’s just a few hundred dollars? If you want to simply test out a bike in your own home before you make a larger investment, it’s a great option.
You can also compare a NordicTrack recumbent bike with something more mid-level, like the Schwinn 230. You won’t get quite the resistance or workout options, and it’s still in the five hundred dollar range, but with over four stars online, you can trust you’ll enjoy this mid-priced bike.
As we’ve explained, few models have the extra features the NordicTrack bikes have, but that’s also why they cost more than most of the alternatives.
Coupons and Deals
If you plan your purchase carefully, you may be able to find an online sale with free shipping. You can also check local NordicTrack stores for display models or returned models that have gone on sale.
What We Think
The NordicTrack is an eye-catching machine that’s fun to use--and that’s saying a lot for an exercise machine! Between the fan, the comfortable lumbar support and ventilated backrest, the oversized cushioned seat, and large, easy-to-read screen, this recumbent bike from NordicTrack might, in fact, make you want to work out.
Is this bike for everyone? No. If you’re on a tight budget or if you’re not sure if you’ll use a recumbent bike regularly for several years, it’s probably not a wise idea to make such a large investment. We recommend either purchasing a small, inexpensive machine first to see if you like it or trying one out regularly at a gym with a multiple month membership.
Who will enjoy this bike? If comfort is a priority for you, and a reason you haven’t used stationary bikes in the past, you’ll reap all the rewards of the comfort features on the VR21 or the VR25. Both offer unparalleled comfort and performance for long, intense workouts.
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