Echelon Smart Connect Bike EX-5S review in a sentence: an indoor bike that's fit for fitness enthusiasts who don't mind a rear flywheel.
In many ways, and especially if you like studio-style classes, the best piece of home cardio equipment you can buy is Peloton alternative bike. They are far more compact and cheaper than a treadmill or an elliptical. These bikes mimic the forward-leaning riding position of a racing bike and offer an intense workout session indoors and even help prepare riders for outdoor cycling.
It’s no surprise then, there’s an ever-growing increased interest in the best exercise bikes on the market such as the coveted yet expensive Peloton Bike+. But other brands are fast becoming good contenders in a crowded spin bike market and designed to work in tandem with subscription apps that stream live or on-demand spinning classes.
These make for a far more engaging experience albeit an expensive one with ongoing costs. Here we’ll take a look at one of the best Peloton alternatives, the Echelon EX-5S, to see some of the features and tech.
Echelon Smart Connect Bike EX-5S Review: Price and availability
The Echelon Smart Connect Bike EX-5S is currently not available in Australia.
Echelon Smart Connect Bike EX-5S Review: Assembly
Thankfully my Echelon Smart Connect Bike EX-5S came fully assembled and delivered by two people who were able to place it in the room I wanted to train in.
That said, if you do have to assemble it yourself, an instruction booklet does a good job of explaining how to put the bike together. Taking the unit out of the box will require two people to do the job but the easy-to-follow instructions will guide you step by step on how to set the machine up single-handedly. But two heads are always better than one and it’s recommended to enlist the help of someone else.
Further help on assembling your bike can be found via an instruction video on the Echelon website. The bike doesn’t fold but it does have wheels so you can manoeuvre it with ease. It weighs in at 65kg so fairly light. But don’t forget to take any dumbells or water bottles from holders before shifting the bike around.
Echelon Smart Connect Ex-5s Review: Features In-Depth
There are plenty of options to personalise the Echelon Smart Connect EX-5S. A video on how to adjust your bike to your preference can be found on the Echelon website. You can adjust the saddle height up or down (17 levels) as well as adjust it forward or aft (seven levels) on the carriage post. Finally, you can change the height of the handlebars (nine levels) to suit your frame. There is also an app tutorial on how to use the EX-5S screen.
Exercise bike saddles are notoriously hard and narrow which I know all too well about being a fitness instructor having taught in several spin class studios around the globe. But the EX-5s seat is surprisingly comfortable, even when you have been riding it for an hour.
The powder-coated steel frame to repel sweat has four adjustment points and feels robust when cycling in and out of the saddle. The seat post and handlebar lean forward mimicking a racers position which will make you feel like quite the racer. The base of the handlebars is made for a soft rest for the forearms when riding in an aero position. The frame should fit most riders although when my friend, who is over six feet tall tried it out for size, felt the leg range was less than sufficient for a comfortable ride.
The flywheel may not be to everyone’s taste and preference and riders may need to get used to it. But the rear-mounted wheel can provide stability with no rocking motion. The 13kg flywheel is heavy and provides a decent motion in the drive with no drag from brake resistance.
Accessories include a water bottle holder and weight cages to the rear of the saddle for light dumbells. As the Echelon Smart Connect Bike EX-5S comes with an in-built 21.5” screen, there is no room for any other device you may wish to connect to.
Echelon Smart Connect Ex-5s Review: Touchscreen
While the Echelon Connect EX-3 only offered a plastic tablet holder to use your tablet, this model comes with an in-built screen (this bumped the price by £400). One can imagine it was done to rival the Peloton and Nordic Track powerhouses. The touchscreen, which is just half an inch smaller than the Peloton, is stable, tilts up and down but doesn’t rotate side to side and can’t be moved forward or aft.
As the screen is attached to the handlebars, when you adjust them, the screen moves with them. The magnetic resistance is displayed on the screen which is great if like me you like to track your progress when it comes to resistance level, calorie burn and RPM.
Echelon Smart Connect Ex-5s Review: The Echelon Fit App
The Echelon Fit app is £39/$39 per month, which is in the same cost bracket as the Peloton app. The price point decreases if you choose a yearly subscription. You can also take advantage of Echelon’s frequent discounts which are often available at the time of the bike purchase.
The app offers a variety of live and on-demand workouts, class types and instructors so you can find one that suits you. Classes range from five to 45 minutes, making it easy to get your blood pumping with a quick sweat sesh or push your body with longer workouts. New content is added daily so there is always something new to try out.
The app will also give you access to out-of-the-saddle workouts, including core, yoga, boxing, meditation, strength training, flexibility and the likes. In addition, you can tap into outdoor routes with no instructor or format but just silent drones of great scenery around the world. The competitors can see who you're sweating with, how your performance ranks with the interactive Leaderboard.
I last used a Peloton bike in my hotel room at The Andaz Hotel in Liverpool Street a few weeks ago and recall the leaderboard and metric display being pretty similar. The instructors are engaging and encouraging on this app even though they may not be as well-known faces as the Peloton crew.
Echelon Smart Connect Ex-5s Review: The Riding Experience
The Echelon Smart Connect EX-5S is sleek and its black and red colours would not look out of place against any home décor. But aesthetics aside, the bike has a nice feel to it and is robust. The saddle is comfortable and did not leave me aching as some bikes can.
The magnetic resistance is silent and easily regulated electronically via preset resistance levels. The 32 levels are ample and are built-in enabling me to incorporate hills, sprints and intervals into my workouts. I also found the bike to be quieter while riding and braking which is great as I don’t like a machine to be ‘competing’ with music or instructions from a trainer.
Another plus for me was the dual pedal options. The pedals feature SPD cleats on one side and a cage option on the other side. I like to ride with athletic shoes of my own choice so I prefer to slip them into the cage side. The screen itself is easy to use and reduces the amount of clutter with manual knobs.
The display metrics can be adjusted on the touchscreen and it was easy to select the program of my choice. Sadly there are no pre-programmed workouts on this model. They can only be accessed through the app which means added costs. As for the screen itself, it’s not the most crystal clear but it’s not so bad that it will hamper your enjoyment of a workout.
At my height (5 foot eight inches) I had enough leg range when cycling but if you’re tall or have long legs, this may well present a problem. I also like the fact the bike weighs in at just 65 kgs which makes it easy to move around when I wanted to clean the floor underneath and around it.
Echelon Smart Connect Ex-5s Review: Verdict
The Echelon Connect EX-5S is a decent exercise bike offering a wide variety of on-demand and live spin classes. The magnetic resistance provides a near-silent riding experience which I particularly like and thanks to the customisation options, most people will find a way to sit on the Echelon Connect EX5S to their preference and comfort needs.
The built-in screen makes this bike a solid contender in the spin market not least with powerhouses Peloton and Nordic Track. Meanwhile, the four adjustment points are a bonus as these are unusual for an at-home spin bike. It’s a quiet machine, has a plethora of on-demand classes to keep you motivated and is more affordable than many of its competitors. But the downside is there are no pre-programmed workouts and you do have to pay for a subscription to access classes.
Echelon Smart Connect Ex-5s Review: Also Consider
If you like the sound of this bike but feel it’s a tad out of your price range, you may want to consider its predecessor the Echelon Smart Connect EX3. The compromise is that the Echelon Connect EX-3 only offers a plastic tablet holder to use your own tablet but it comes in at £400 cheaper than the EX-5S. However, you can use your Echelon Fit login on any smart TV and watch Echelon workouts on a big screen.
With a huge selection of riding modes, programs, workouts, and app compatibility, the Bowflex VeloCore Bike has something for everyone – and on a bike that offers one of the smoothest at-home cycling experiences available. The screen of the 22" version is slightly larger than the Echelon's but what makes the VeloCore Bike really stand out is the lean feature; you must give it a try!