Schwinn IC8 – Key specs
Dimensions: 123.7L x 53.9W x 131.6H cm
Max user weight: 150kg
Display: Colour back-lit LCD
Resistance levels: 0-100
Pedals: cage or SPD
Schwinn IC8 Expertise Bike review in a sentence: a serious indoor exercise bike from a brand with a proven track record. The fact it plays nicely with most of the major cycling and fitness apps means it goes one step beyond basic analogue spin bikes but inflated power outputs make using Zwift, The TrainerRoad and Sufferfest difficult.
There has been a surge in demand for the best exercise bikes, as more folk look to transform dusty corners or their home or garage into micro-gyms. And seeing as space is often the major consideration, more and more buyers are shunning the massive frames of traditional, gym-based exercise bikes and gravitating towards slender, race-bike replicas that offer a more natural cycling feel, take up less space and generally emit fewer EastEnders-ruining decibels.
The Schwinn IC8 joins the likes of Echelon’s Smart Connect EX3, the JTX Cycle Studio Bike and even something like the Wattbike Trainer in its quest to play nicely with Zwift, Sufferfest, Peloton and much of the world’s favourite perspiration-provoking pieces of pocket software.
This is down to the built-in cadence sensors in the cranks, as well as digital power output that’s hooked up to the resistance, which is added or subtracted via the traditional rotary dial found on most analogue spin bikes. This Bluetooth connectivity also allows for external heart rate monitors to be connected for a better overall picture of effort during workouts.
All-in-all, this is a great spin bike but one that could also be used in place of a very basic turbo trainer set-up. Granted, it’s not quite accurate enough for hardcore cyclists, but is certainly good enough to smash most fitness goals.
Schwinn IC8 review: design and build quality
The Schwinn IC8 is delivered in a surprisingly compact box, which is great for the UPS man but not so good for the time-strapped, as it does require some assembly. Thankfully, it’s basic and only requires a few bolts to be screwed into place with the provided tools. Set aside around 30 minutes to get the job done.
First impressions are good and the textured metals used for the body and legs feel reassuringly heavy and solid. Even the bars, bottle holders and cradle for tablet or smartphone are hefty and are hewn for solid blocks of metal, rather than merely flimsy plastic add-ons.
Resistance is provided by a magnetic system that brakes the weighted flywheel at the front as you twist a sensor-assisted dial. The chain and mechanics gubbins for the drivetrain are neatly stashed away behind a cover, meaning you won’t sweat all over it and cause delicate bits to sizzle away from exposure to your salty bodily fluids.
This could pose an issue if there’s a mechanical problem later down the line, but it’s probably best to leave this kind of thing to the professionals and either contact the store you bought the unit from or drop Schwinn a message.
All of the other accessories feel very familiar, with both the bars, stem and seat post all easily adjustable via a quick release handle or a screw-in dial. Anyone who has ever been to a spin class will feel right at home.
Perhaps my biggest bugbear with the Schwinn IC8 is the overly hefty set of pedals that come part of the package. They are super uncomfortable to use with the cages and feel pointlessly massive to clip into via SPD clips bases on the opposing surface. I immediately took them off and replaced them with a cheap set of LOOK pedals and cleats I had laying around.
On top of this, the chunky bottle cages could probably withstand a landmine but they get in the way when the workout requires some serious power and you’re out of the pedals. Here, when grinding away, the knees tend to hit the tops of any water bottles and that gets annoying.
Thankfully, the hangers for a pair of 1.5kg dumbbells (not included) are in a slightly more sensible position (in as far as they are easy to reach), but those with long legs still might find they are inadvertently smashing into them on a regular basis. Of course, if you don’t require hydration (or additional weights) you can easily remove this unit.
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Schwinn IC8 review: performance and riding experience
Clip into the pedals (albeit not the ones Schwinn provides - see above) and the Schwinn IC8 does a good job of mimicking racier road bikes, rather than the ergonomically-bereft blocks of steel you find in most commercial gyms.
There’s plenty of adjustment in the seat post and the handlebars, which can be raised or lowered, while the seat itself shifts forwards and backwards - as does the main cockpit. This means that most folk should be able to get comfortable during a session.
It lacks the finesse of something like a Wattbike Trainer, Wattbike Atom and Wahoo Kickr Bike due to its spin class-style handlebars. Rather than the typical drop bars found on a race bike, you are instead presented with two enormous bull horns that curve upwards. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to practice your Tour de France tucked aero pose, but it does make it easier to get out of the saddle and find a nice relaxed position for the hands and wrists.
The resistance dial is fairly accurate and offers increments from 1-100 in single digit clicks. These can be difficult to achieve in exact amounts, but a slight twist usually only sees the figure jump by three or four at a time, which should be accurate enough to keep up with a Peloton class. I’ve not been able to try the Peloton Bike and this Schwinn IC8 back-to-back, but the resistance units used suggest it replicates those barked out by fitness instructors on the Peloton app.
It’s possible spend hours in the well-padded gel saddle and tackling classes or sessions in excess of an hour is easily done. Granted, it won’t feel exactly like your road bike, so those looking to get big distance training in might be better off attaching their actual bike to a turbo trainer instead.
The onboard computer is described as “generous” in the Schwinn marketing bumph but it feels very cheap compared to the rest of the package. The little plastic box displays time, distance, calories, cadence and a heart rate when an external monitor is attached, but it’s difficult to interact with and the buttons don’t really have much of a purpose.
Instead, firing up a favoured app and letting the bike be discovered via Bluetooth is the best way forward and the large device holder makes it easy to balance a large tablet or even a slim laptop in position while riding. There’s also a conveniently placed USB socket to keep gadgets charged.
Schwinn IC8 review: app-based workouts
This is where the Schwinn IC8 falls behind a smart turbo trainer or a more road cycling-specific static bike from Wahoo or Wattbike, because the power outputs, speeds and resistance settings just aren’t accurate.
In fact, Zwift forums are abuzz with complaints of Schwinn static bike owners “cheating” because the power outputs of the bikes are greatly inflated. This is confirmed via a cursory glance down at the LCD display, which reveals that you are often cruising at speeds of above 30km/h without breaking a sweat, so there’s no hope for an accurate read-out on third party apps.
This will have a negative impact on the likes of Zwift, Sufferfest and TrainerRoad, because your legs will be idling rotating with very little power put through the pedals but the app will show that you are smashing Chris Hoy levels of commitment and effort. It kind of defies the point.
Instead, it’s probably best to steer clear of the real hardcore road cyclists’ tools and instead see it as a clever class-based accessory that takes live or pre-recorded sessions to the next level, especially when paired with a heart rate monitor.
As previously mentioned, I’ve spent time with Peloton Tread, so have access to the Peloton training app. Previously, I have hopped on the turbo trainer and enjoyed heart rate and cadence read-outs via a bunch of external sensors I own. The biggest issue has been keeping up the the class instructor’s resistance suggestions. On a standard geared road bike, this is simply a case of guesswork.
Despite the fact the Schwinn IC8 won’t be able to present Peloton’s actual effort output (this is reserved for Peloton Bike owners only) and you won’t be able to compete in live leaderboards, you can at least keep up with the resistance and cadence commands, as well as keep check on heart rates if you invest in a cheat heart rate chest strap.
Similarly, you’ll be able to make the most of something like iFit and a number of other online, bike-based fitness classes that accept Bluetooth inputs.
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Schwinn IC8 review: verdict
For the price, the Schwinn IC8 is a solid indoor exercise bike that’s built extremely well and feels like it will last many years of sweaty abuse. As a connected fitness tool, it falls some way behind the Peloton Bike, which is not only more technologically advanced (you get a massive screen), but is also an ergonomically superior piece of design.
In our Echelon Connect EX-3 review, we found it offers a good Peloton-esque experience on a budget, but with that you’ll have to supply your own tablet and there aren’t any live classes. That makes the Schwinn IC8 seem like even better value by comparison.
Above all else, the Schwinn IC8 feels like great recommendation for a virtual class-based fitness companion, rather than a hardcore road cycling training tool. If Schwinn can iron out its massively inflated power/output stats and appease the Zwift/Sufferfest/TrainerRoad users, it will be a mighty fine all-rounder and worthy of a full five stars.