Any indoor cycling bike worth its salt can make your legs feel like Jello, but a new entrant from Bowflex, the VeloCore, promises a more full-body workout. Starting at $1,699 (or $2,199 for the model we tested), this Peloton competitor offers a feature you won't find on any other indoor exercise bike available today: the ability to sway side to side as you ride. It's more than just a gimmick, because with Lean Mode engaged, you'll work your arms, core, and back in addition to your legs as you tilt left and right.
As with other smart home gym equipment, you'll pay extra for a membership, but the VeloCore's JRNY platform offers a growing library of on-demand trainer-led videos, artificial intelligence-powered Adaptive Workouts that get harder as your fitness level improves, and a nice variety of entertainment options to relieve boredom, including access to streaming services so you can watch TV shows and movies while working out. All of that makes the VeloCore a compelling piece of fitness equipment, but the Peloton Bike retains our Editors' Choice award thanks to its devoted rider community, regular schedule of live classes, competitive leaderboards, and vast selection of floor-based exercise classes to supplement your cycling workouts.
Price and Membership Features
Bowflex sells the VeloCore with a 16- or 22-inch HD touch screen. The latter, which the company sent me for this review, costs $2,199, while the 16-inch version is priced at $1,699. The price includes a Bluetooth heart rate monitor armband, a set of three-pound dumbbells, free standard shipping, a two-year mechanical and electrical warranty, and one-year labor warranty. In-home assembly costs an extra $199. If you're not happy with the VeloCore, you can return it within six weeks for a refund, minus the cost of shipping.
The 22-inch VeloCore is one of the more expensive smart indoor cycling bikes on the market, topping the $1,895 Peloton Bike, which features the same size touch screen. With the VeloCore, you're paying extra for its unique Lean Mode, which allows you to sway from side to side, a feature you won't find on any other smart indoor cycling bike at this time.
To make the price more manageable, Bowflex offers financing options to let you pay the bike off over 18 months with no interest. If you go that route, you'll pay $95 per month for the 16-inch model or $123 per month for the 22-inch version.
When budgeting for the VeloCore, you'll also want to factor in the price of a JRNY membership, which gives you access to Adaptive Workouts, scenic virtual rides in more than 40 destinations, on-demand trainer-led workout videos, Bowflex Radio music stations, and the ability to set up an unlimited number of user profiles. If you have other JRNY-enabled Bowflex equipment, you can use the same account for everything. Bowflex offers a free two-month JRNY trial; after that, it costs $19.99 per month or $149 per year.
As of this writing, there are only about 75 trainer-led workout videos on the JRNY platform, some but not all of which incorporate Lean Mode. A JRNY membership also lets you watch Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, Hulu, Netflix on the bike's console after you sign in with your streaming account credentials.
You don't necessarily need a JRNY membership to work out on the VeloCore, but it significantly elevates the experience. Without a JRNY membership, you can only do manual workouts on the bike, and none of your workout data is saved.
Peloton's membership is more expensive at $39 a month, and doesn't give you access to video streaming services, but makes up for it with a much more vast and varied library of on-demand trainer-led workout videos, competitive leaderboards, and live classes throughout the day. Peloton adds value to its membership by offering workouts off the bike including yoga and barre, a feature you don't get with JRNY.
Design, Specs, and Dimensions
The VeloCore sports a black-and-red design reminiscent of the Peloton Bike and Echelon Connect EX5S. It weighs 175 pounds and has wheels on the front that allow you to move it around fairly easily. It's compact and sturdy, measuring 59.8 by 24.1 inches (LW). The 22-inch model stands 55.3 inches tall, while the 16-inch version is a little shorter at 52.6 inches.
The bike is recommended for riders from 5 feet, 1 inch to 6 feet, 5 inches and up to 325 pounds.
When selecting a spot for the VeloCore, it needs to be at least 48.4 inches wide to accommodate the bike's Lean Mode. Also make sure your ceiling is at least 16 inches higher than the tallest person in your household who plans to ride the bike. Bowflex recommends placing the bike on a hard surface, but I have it in a room with wall-to-wall carpet, and it works fine and doesn't feel wobbly at all.
The bike features 100 levels of silent magnetic resistance you manually control with a knob, a 33-pound flywheel, a non-adjustable 170mm crank arm, an adjustable seat and handlebars, and a media rack for your phone or tablet. The resistance knob also serves as a brake you can push down on to stop the pedals.
In front of the resistance knob is a second, smaller knob: This is the VeloCore's Lean Mode lock. You simply press press down on it with an open hand to unlock the bike and engage Lean Mode. To lock the bike in a stationary position, just pull up on the knob until you hear a click. It's very easy to lock and unlock the bike, and it feels satisfying to slam down on the Lean Mode lock during a workout. I also like hearing the audible click when locking the bike in a stationary position.
Unlike the Peloton Bike, which requires special cycling shoes, the VeloCore comes with dual-sided pedals that can be used with or without clip-ins. On one side, it has an adjustable toe cage for secure footing while wearing regular workout sneakers. On the other side, it features SPD-compatible toe clip-ins. If you prefer, you can replace the stock pedals with any 9/16-inch ones.
The VeloCore's screen tilts up and down, but doesn't rotate side to side. This isn't really an issue, though, since the JRNY platform doesn't offer classes off the bike.
Assembly and Setup
You can assemble the VeloCore yourself, or add in-home assembly services at checkout for an additional $199. Since certain parts of the machine are heavy and cumbersome, assembly requires two people. For an in-depth breakdown of the assembly process, be sure to check out this video so you know what you're in for.
I didn't feel comfortable going the DIY route, so thankfully Bowflex provided in-home assembly services for my review unit. It arrived in two boxes—one for all the bike parts, and another for just the screen. It's a good thing they arrived separately, because the box with the bike parts was left on my driveway in the rain while I was at yoga. Needless to say, it was a bit of a struggle getting the heavy, wet cardboard box into my home, but I managed. (Testing smart fitness equipment for a living has its perks, but the assembly and setup process isn't always fun.) Fortunately, the box with the screen arrived earlier in the day when it wasn't raining, and was left at my front door under an overhang.
If you opt for the in-home assembly service, you'll get a call one to three days after the bike ships to schedule an appointment. The company gives you a four-hour window for when the assembly technicians will arrive. On the day of the appointment, they will give you a call when they are nearby.
On the day of my appointment, the technicians arrived right on time, wearing masks, and made quick work of the assembly. They placed the bike in my preferred location, plugged it in and made sure it turned on, and were on their way. They didn't haul away the boxes for me (I had to recycle them myself), but the assembly process was otherwise flawless. All I had to do was connect the bike to my Wi-Fi network, wait for it to download and install a software update, create a JRNY profile, and I was good to go.
When creating a profile, you can select up to three fitness goals from a list. The options are: lose weight/go down a clothing size, tone up/create more muscle definition, improve performance (ex: go faster or longer), maintain fitness level/ability, have more energy/feel better, improve health, get stronger/lift more weight, improve ability to perform daily tasks/activities, or other. You can also set time, consistency, and distance goals.
There are three tabs at the bottom of the JRNY interface: Workouts, Journal, and Profile. In the Workouts tab, there are five sections along the top: Just For You, Programs, Explore the World, Videos, Favorites, and Learn.
In the Just for You section, the platform serves up recommended Adaptive Workouts and trainer-led workout videos you might like based on your goals, fitness level, and workout history. You can filter these options by duration.
In Programs, you can browse all Adaptive Workouts by duration. In Explore the World, you can browse scenic rides filmed in picturesque locations, including the French Riviera, Zion National Park, and Shangri-La. The selection of scenic rides available on JRNY currently pales in comparison with the number of locations you can explore on NordicTrack's iFit platform, however. iFit also takes things a step further, offering trainer-led videos in scenic locations so you can work out while getting a tour of the sights.
In Videos, you can browse Peloton-like trainer-led indoor cycling classes, which are organized into three categories: Newbie, Intermediate, and Challenge Me. Right now there's no way to filter these videos by duration, trainer, or equipment. It would be nice if the platform offered these filtering options, as well as a way to show only workout videos that incorporate Lean Mode, because not all of them do.
In Favorites, you can access all the workouts you've marked with the heart icon. In Learn, there's a three-minute video that goes over the VeloCore's key features and a one-minute video explaining Lean Mode. It would be helpful if there were additional tutorial videos going over bike basics like how to adjust the pedal straps, proper foot position, and clipping in and out, though Bowflex does explain all of this in the VeloCore's instruction manual.
In the Journal tab, you can view a record of all your workouts, calories burned (for this week, last week, and your weekly average), and progress toward your time, consistency, and distance goals created during the initial setup process. You can click into any workout to view stats such as your time, distance, total calories burned, average sprint burn rate, average heart rate, average cadence, and average resistance, and more. In this section, you can also view any awards you've earned and the corresponding date.
In the Profile tab, you can manage your goals, your subscription, set your bike's date and time, log out, restart, change your password, or submit feedback to Bowflex.
The VeloCore features Bluetooth connectivity, which lets you sync heart rate monitors and headphones with the bike. You can also sync your workout data to the Peloton and Zwift apps, if you like. When connected to the Peloton app, the bike will sync your RPM (cadence) data. When connected with Zwift, it will sync your heart rate, power, and RPM data.
Working Out on the VeloCore
Your first workout on the VeloCore is a Fitness Assessment ride, which you can do during the initial bike setup process or access in the Just for You tab if you skip it when creating your account. This workout takes around 14 minutes, and consists of four guided intervals, during which you have to keep your speed within a certain range for as long as possible. The Fitness Assessment ride helps JRNY's artificial intelligence technology create your personalized Adaptive Workouts and set your burn rate targets. Burn rate is a measurement of your calories burned per minute.
Your goal during an Adaptive Workout is to stay within the target burn rate range shown on screen. Some Adaptive Workouts feature a Virtual Coach, which offers verbal instructions guiding your cadence and resistance. The Virtual Coach also tells you when to stand and sit down, and offers encouragement during the workout. The Adaptive Workouts are personalized to you, and get harder as you get fitter.
During Adaptive Workouts, you can listen to a Bowflex Radio music station (pop, rock/alternative, top 40, hip hop/rap, EDM/dance, country, 90s, 80s, international pop, or international EDM) and view your stats on the screen. At the bottom of the screen, it shows your time, distance, calories burned, burn rate, heart rate (if you have a heart rate monitor connected), cadence, and resistance.
If that's too boring, you can watch a movie or TV show on one of the aforementioned streaming services, or view one of the scenic rides. If you're taking advantage of one of these entertainment options during an Adaptive Workout, there will be a small box on the screen, which you can position anywhere you like, showing your burn rate target range, time, calories burned, and resistance.
Trainer-led videos mimic the experience of an indoor cycling class. Before starting the workout, you can select which music station you want to hear from the aforementioned options. During the workout, you will see the trainer on their own bike, and the same metrics along the bottom of the screen shown during an Adaptive Workout.
Trainer-led workout videos on the JRNY platform have a more relaxed vibe than the ones on Peloton. On both platforms, the classes are well produced and sequenced, and the instructors are engaging, which helps pass the time. But on Peloton, instructors choose the tunes for each workout, so everyone listens to the same music. Peloton classes are sequenced to go with the music; when the chorus comes on, for instance, the instructor might tell you to pick up the pace to match the beat. On Peloton, instructors often sing and dance in the saddle, and give shout-outs to riders on the leaderboard, celebrating milestones like a person's hundredth ride.
On the JRNY platform, there are no live classes or leaderboards. The trainers don't sing and dance. They still motivate you to give it your all, but in a less intense way. A Bowflex spokesman tells me that the company is currently evaluating whether to add live classes, so there's a chance we could see them on the platform in the future.
JRNY cycling instructors often take about a minute or so at the end of the workout to stretch. It's easy to forget to stretch if they don't tell you to, so I like that most of the instructors build this into the class plan.
After each workout, you have the opportunity to rate it on a scale of "boring" to "super fun" and assess how difficult it was for you. Bowflex takes your answers into account when suggesting future workouts.
My Experience With the VeloCore
I've been testing the VeloCore over the past five weeks. I work out on it for about 30 minutes per session, five times a week, and always end my workouts very sweaty, with a feeling of accomplishment.
Initially, I was drawn to the trainer-led workout videos on the platform. When browsing the Video section, you see a preview photo for each workout along with a written description and video preview you can watch. In the preview photo, you can see which machine the trainer is working out on. If the trainer is working out on the VeloCore, you'll see its large screen in the preview photo. If they're working out on a different machine, you'll see a tablet connected to their bike. I'm personally only interested in the videos featuring the VeloCore, since these workouts incorporate Lean Mode.
By now, I have already taken every 30-minute class that incorporates Lean Mode, as far as I can tell. Bowflex tells me its video content has been very popular, so it plans to add "hundreds" of new trainer-led classes in the coming months. The company is also aiming to increase the total number of videos that incorporate Lean Mode to more than 100 in the near future.
Albeit limited in quantity at the moment, the trainer-led VeloCore classes are excellent. During these workouts, the trainer will tell you to unlock Lean Mode at certain points, then they might say to hard lean left or right for about 30 seconds or weave from side to side. They also might tell you to leave the bike unlocked, but to try to keep from leaning side to side, which is difficult.
In Lean Mode, I can feel my arms and core working way more than they do when the bike is in the locked, stationary position. Trying to hard lean left or right, while maintaining a fast cadence like 100rpm, is very challenging. Standing up while the bike is unlocked feels a bit risky to me, so I typically stay seated in Lean Mode, but I'm sure with more practice I will get more comfortable. Overall, it's very fun to lean side to side and weave. On a typical stationary bike, you can really only increase or decrease your speed and resistance, and transition from sitting to standing. Lean Mode gives you something else to do, which helps pass the time.
After I made my way through the 30-minute VeloCore classes on the JRNY platform, I started testing the Adaptive Workouts, scenic rides, and streaming functionality.
All the Adaptive Workouts I've tried are challenging but doable. My favorite so far is a 30-minute strength- and cardio-focused session called Stairs, which consists of six climbs with two-minute breaks in between. I usually pair the Adaptive Workouts with an Explore the World scenic ride, or stream a show on Netflix at the same time to help pass the time.
During scenic rides, the imagery is clear and adjusts to your pace, so it will speed up or slow down as you do. The imagery starts to repeat after a while, so I suggest checking out the scenic rides during shorter workout sessions.
The VeloCore's video streaming integration has become one of my favorite features. I first chipped away at the Netflix documentary Dolly Parton: Here I Am while working out on the VeloCore, then moved on to the second season of Unsolved Mysteries. When you're streaming a show or movie during an Adaptive Workout, the Virtual Coach feature is muted. You'll still see your target burn rate range on screen, and whether you're within that range. When it's time to speed up or slow down, you'll hear a ding.
Now I almost prefer the combination of watching Netflix while doing an Adaptive Workout over the platform's trainer-led videos. The trainer videos are good, but it's hard to pass up the allure of Netflix. If I was watching Netflix while working out in manual mode, I probably wouldn't push myself as much. But when paired with an Adaptive Workout, I get a good sweat in what feels like no time at all.
Comparisons and Conclusions
In the smart indoor exercise bike market, the VeloCore stands out for its unique Lean Mode that lets you tilt left and right, and weave side to side as you ride, a feature you won't find on any competing machines at this time. Lean Mode works well and is more than a gimmick: It helps relieve boredom, giving you something else to do as you push and pull on the pedals, and it works your core and upper body more than a traditional stationary bike, offering a more efficient workout. Its support for streaming services like and Disney+ and Netflix adds to bike's appeal and helps justify its high price.
That said, you can get a Peloton Bike for $300 less than the 22-inch VeloCore, which offers live classes with competitive leaderboards and a much larger library of on-demand workout videos. Peloton also offers a range of workouts you can do off the bike, like yoga and strength training, a feature you don't get on the VeloCore, retaining our Editors' Choice award for premium smart indoor exercise bikes.
Meanwhile, if you're on a budget, we highly recommend the MYX Fitness bike, our Editors' Choice for more affordable smart indoor exercise bikes. It doesn't feature live classes or leaderboards, but it starts at $1,199 and keeps you engaged with a focus on personalized heart rate zone training.
The Bottom Line
The Bowflex VeloCore smart indoor exercise bike justifies its premium price with a unique Lean Mode that works your core and upper body, plus a nice selection of entertainment options to help fight boredom.
Best Health & Fitness Picks
- 17 Geeky Gifts for Golfers
- The Best Workout Apps for 2020
- The Best Smart Home Gym Equipment for 2020
- The Best Smart Bathroom Scales for 2020
- More Health & Fitness Reviews