Echelon Connect EX-5s Review
Cons: Echelon app isn't quite on par with Peloton, monthly/yearly app subscription cost, touchscreen does not swivel
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Echelon Connect EX-5s
$1,500 at Amazon
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|Pros||Echelon app is quite comprehensive, lots of comfort adjustments, feature-packed, large tilting touchscreen||Unique lean feature, loaded with features, capable of streaming entertainment and working with 3rd party apps, JRNY app costs less than the competition||iFit app, adjustable incline, AutoAdjust resistance and incline, narrow Q-factor, feature-packed, swiveling touchscreen||Smart/connected features, excellent warranty, 100 levels of magnetic resistance, comes with hand weights||Affordable, smooth belt-driven weighted flywheel, infinitely adjustable resistance, stable and sturdy|
|Cons||Echelon app isn't quite on par with Peloton, monthly/yearly app subscription cost, touchscreen does not swivel||Slightly larger footprint and heavier weight, JRNY app isn't quite as developed as some others, smaller screen (larger screen available at a higher price), screen has limited range of adjustability||Connectivity issues (eventually resolved), incline adjustability results in slightly reduced stability, ICON Fitness has a history of poor customer service, fan is somewhat noisy||More expensive, inaccurate speed and distance readings, doesn't work perfectly with Peloton or Zwift||Basic display, no program workouts, no connectivity|
|Bottom Line||A quality bike and app make this model a close second to Peloton for at-home studio cycling workouts||The unique lean feature and compatibility with streaming entertainment and 3rd party apps set this model apart from the competition||This bike's auto-adjusting speed and incline work with the excellent iFit app to simulate real-world riding||A reasonably priced, high-quality spin bike with connected features||A simple, effective, and affordable spin bike that lacks connected features|
|Rating Categories||Echelon Connect EX-5s||Bowflex VeloCore 16||NordicTrack Commerc...||Schwinn IC4||Yosuda Indoor Cycli...|
|Exercise Quality (35%)|
|Companion App/Connectivity (%)|
|User Interface (20%)|
|Setup and Portability (10%)|
|Specs||Echelon Connect EX-5s||Bowflex VeloCore 16||NordicTrack Commerc...||Schwinn IC4||Yosuda Indoor Cycli...|
|Console||22" HD tilting touchscreen||16" HD tilting touchscreen||22" HD rotating touchscreen||LCD display, tablet holder||LCD display|
|Companion App||EchelonFit (subscription required)||JRNY (also works with Peloton and Zwift) (subscriptions required)||iFit (subscription required)||JRNY (subscription required) (also works with Peloton and Zwift)||N/A|
|Resistance Settings||32 levels||100 levels||24 levels||100 levels||Infinite|
|Max. Weight Capacity||300 lbs||325 lbs||350 lbs||330 lbs||270 lbs|
|Recommended Height Range||4'11" to 6'4"||5'1" to 6'5"||not specified (13 inches of seat height adjustment)||4'6" to 6'6"||25" to 35" inseam height adjustment|
|Measured Dimensions||58" L x 21.5" W x 61" H||59.8" L x 25.5" W x 52.5" H||58" L x 22" W x 60" H||48.75" L x 21.25" W x 52" H||40.5" L x 21.5" W x 45" H|
|Weight||124 lbs (claimed)||158.3 lbs (claimed)||203 lbs (claimed)||106 lbs||68.8 lbs|
|Resistance type||Magnetic||Magnetic||SMR Magnetic||Weighted flywheel with adjustable magnetic resistance||Weighted flywheel and adjustable resistance pad|
|Resistance Adjustment type||Knob||Knob||Handlebar buttons or AutoAdjust||Knob||Knob|
|Connectivity||Bluetooth, WiFi, ethernet||Bluetooth, WiFi||Bluetooth, WiFi||Bluetooth||N/A|
|Heart Rate Sensor||Not included, but pairs with Bluetooth sensors||Bluetooth armband included||Not included, but pairs with Bluetooth sensors||Bluetooth armband included||No|
|Other Features||Transport wheels, 2 bottle holders, dual-sided pedals, front and rear power ports, handweight cradles, USB port||Transport wheels, Bluetooth heart rate armband, 3 lb dumbells, leaning mode, dual-sided pedals, speakers, device shelf, USB port||Transport wheels, 2 water bottle holders, 3 lb dumbells, adjustable fan, adjustable incline (works with AutoAdjust), Google Maps integration, two 2" speakers||Bluetooth, works with Zwift and Peloton apps, USB charging port, device shelf, 2 water bottle holders, 3 lb weights, weight cradles, Bluetooth Heart rate armband, dual sided pedals with cleats||Bottle cage, device shelf, cage pedals, flywheel brake, transport wheels|
|Warranty||1-year limited warranty||Frame and Parts: 2 years, Electronics: 1 year, Labor: 1 year||Frame: 10 years, Parts: 2 years, Labor: 1 year||Frame: 10 years, Parts: 3 years, Labor: 1 year||1 year parts replacement|
Our Analysis and Test Results
Echelon has been a player in the home exercise market for a number of years and now makes a full line of connected fitness products that work with the Echelon app. The EX-5s is near the top of their line of Connect exercise bikes, so we bought one to test against a selection of the best models on the market. With a gym-quality spin bike and a 22-inch HD touchscreen that seamlessly integrates with the Echelon app, we found the EX-5s to offer one of the best at-home studio cycling experiences of all the models we tested, making it a solid alternative to Peloton.
Echelon gave the EX-5s a sleek design that stands out a little from the crowd with the weighted flywheel at the back of the bike. The bike is well made and impressively sturdy with ample fit adjustments to suit most riders, 32 levels of smooth, nearly silent magnetic resistance, and excellent integration with the Echelon app through the large 22-inch touchscreen. The Echelon app is well developed with a huge number of live and on-demand cycling workouts and off-the-bike exercises.
In this price range, the majority of models are high quality and provide an exercise experience reminiscent of a commercial spin studio exercise bike, and the EX-5s is no exception. The bike is not only sleek-looking, but it has a well-made and sturdy feel and it is impressively stable, even during hard out of the saddle efforts. The handlebar and seat adjustments allow you to dial your body position in perfectly for optimal comfort and performance. 32 levels of magnetic resistance provide an ample range of difficulty to suit riders of all fitness levels from newbies to seasoned riders. Some other brands, like Peloton, for example, have 100 levels of resistance, and while the overall range of difficulty is roughly the same, more levels makes for smaller jumps in resistance and vice versa. The flip side is that you don't have to turn the knob as much on the Echelon to get a noticeable increase in resistance. Regardless, we found the EX-5s to provide a high-quality workout with adequate resistance and stability for everything from easy recovery spins to the hardest of workouts.
We will go into greater detail on the specifics of the Echelon app in the next section, but it provides an experience very similar to Peloton and is best suited to those seeking the at-home studio cycling experience. It features a huge number of live and on-demand studio-style classes, challenges, scenic rides, or you can do a freestyle/manual workout. Much like Peloton, the instructors are energetic and motivating, but they don't have quite the rabid following or engaged community that has been inspired by Peloton. Either way, there is a huge selection and variety of cycling workouts to choose from, as well as an extensive library of off-the-bike workouts including everything from strength training to stretching. The screen does not rotate, but it can be flipped all the way over so off-the-bike workouts can be viewed from the front of the bike. This expands the EX-5s' versatility, providing the option for whole-body fitness and making it more than just an exercise bike. The Echelon app also has a progress page that keeps track of all your workouts, plus you can also sync to Strava, Fitbit, or Apple Health to track and analyze your fitness data there.
Similar to other bikes with touchscreens, the EX-5s uses WiFi to connect to the Echelon app, plus it has Bluetooth to pair with wireless accessories like heart rate monitors and headphones/earbuds. The Echelon app is fairly mature at this point, and we would argue that it is the closest you can get to the Peloton experience without using Peloton. Anyone seeking the at-home studio cycling experience will find a lot to love here.
Through the touchscreen, you log in to your WiFi network, and in our experience the EX-5s had no issues connecting and never dropped the connection while in use. Through Bluetooth, you can also pair with wireless headphones or earbuds to keep your workouts quiet, as well as heart rate monitors (not included). There is also an auxiliary plug to connect wired headphones as well as a USB port to keep your devices charged while you ride. For those who prefer a wired internet connection, there is also an ethernet port on the back of the screen.
Once connected, you'll need to log in to your Echelon account, or start one if you don't already have one. Echelon offers a number of membership plan options for the app, and it is just slightly less expensive than Peloton. It costs $34.99 billed monthly, $399.99 for a year, or $699 for two years. As with other connected exercise bikes, the ongoing price of the Echelon app is something you'll need to consider. Your Echelon membership allows up to five user-profiles and gets you access to all of its content for use on Echelon equipment and off-equipment/FitPass (FitPass can also be purchased separately for $11.99/month). So, the app can be used across all other Echelon products including their Stride treadmills, smart rowers, Reflect Mirrors, or through a tablet or phone if you're not using any equipment.
Echelon has been around for a while and their app is well developed with literally thousands of on-demand classes to choose from. They also have 35+ live studio classes a day, which just adds to their already extensive library. For cycling specifically, they offer all of the typical studio options like HIIT, Tabata, Power, Fusion, Speed, Intervals, Hills, and more, with varying lengths, instructors, music genres (including featured artists like Pitbull and Old Dominion), etc, to choose from. Of course, they have also have filters so you can narrow down your search to find the specific length of time, trainer, music, or type of ride you're looking for. There are a number of scenic rides as well, some of which are "guided" by an instructor who basically provides prompts like in a studio workout. While these scenic rides are a nice option, most of them look like they were filmed from a vehicle, and the resolution isn't amazing. If you choose not to do any of the studio classes, you also have the option to do a freestyle ride, and you can even sync to your Spotify account to listen to your own music.
Echelon's studio workouts are all based on cadence and resistance, and those numbers are shown at the bottom of the screen along with estimated distance, speed, calories, and output in watts. They also have a leaderboard if you like to compare yourself to other users, and you can pick to compare yourself by age, gender, friends, etc, or hide the leaderboard if you choose. Like any home exercise bike, however, how hard you work out on this machine is entirely up to you as you control the resistance. The app also has a “progress” page that keeps track of all your workouts, plus you can sync to Strava, Fitbit, and Apple Health to track or analyze your progress there. According to the Echelon website, you should soon be able to stream entertainment through services like Netflix, Hulu, and Disney+ (subscriptions required). That functionality hasn't been implemented quite yet but will be a welcome addition to the viewing options.
The Echelon app has much more than just cycling workouts. It includes a huge variety of strength classes including total body, upper body, arms and abs, glutes and thighs, as well as HIIT, boxing, Barre, Zumba, pilates, yoga, and meditation. Just like the cycling classes, the off-the-bike workouts vary in length, instructor, music genre, etc. Since the screen flips over, you can easily view it from the front of the bike, but unfortunately, it doesn't swivel, which limits your viewing options somewhat. Fortunately, you can also view all of these workouts on a tablet or phone, so you can follow along from wherever you like.
Like most quality exercise bikes, the EX-5s has loads of fit adjustability to suit users of varying sizes. Echelon claims a recommended user height range of 4'11" to 6'4", although, in the FAQ section of their website, they mention that some users shorter and taller than that range have been able to fit on the bike. Either way, the EX-5s should work for most people up to the bike's 300 lb weight limit.
To achieve such a wide range of adjustability, Echelon has given the EX-5s 9-inches of seat height adjustment with 17-indexed positions, along with 3.25 inches of fore/aft adjustability. Similarly, the handlebar can be raised and lowered a total of 4 inches with 9 indexed positions, and it can also be moved fore and aft 2.5 inches. This should afford most users a comfortable setup for spinning away the hours. The fit adjustments are very easy to make, with numbered markings so that you can easily find your preferred settings. The seat angle can also be adjusted, although you will need a wrench to do it. The bike is fairly easy to get on and off, with a step-over height of just 18 inches. We also measured the Q-factor, the horizontal distance between the cranks at their widest part where the pedals attach, and it was 203mm, or 8-inches. This is a bit wider than a traditional road bike, and while many users may not notice, those who are used to riding a narrower Q-factor may find it to feel a bit wide.
The large, coated "bullhorn" handlebar offers a huge variety of hand positions including flattened "elbow rests". The seat is on the smaller, performance-oriented side which is preferred for people who are doing some serious exercise or training. We found it to be quite comfortable with an agreeable shape and ample padding. People who prefer a larger, more supportive seat may find it to be a little narrow for their taste, seats are a personal thing after all. Fortunately, you can easily swap the seat out to suit your preferences. The EX-5s also comes with dual-sided pedals that clip in on one side and have an adjustable toe cage on the other. This allows you to use your preferred shoe type, or multiple users can use it with different shoe types without having to change the pedals. The pedals did not come with cleats, but they worked fine with standard Shimano SPD 2-bolt cleats.
When purchasing the EX-5s, you have the option of a 22-inch or 10-inch touchscreen. You'll need to decide for yourself which screen size works better for you, and, of course, there's a difference in price to consider as well. We chose the 22-inch version, as we feel the larger screen makes it easier to navigate the Echelon app, but also because the larger field of view almost makes you feel like you're in the spin studio, rather than watching it on a little screen. Unfortunately, the HD screen does not rotate, but it can be flipped all the way over so that you can view off-the-bike workouts from in front of the bike. The screen is bright and when following the studio classes it has good but not amazing picture quality, we found most videos to be ever so slightly pixelated. Touch sensitivity is good, and scrolling through the different classes, settings, etc, is easy and intuitive. There are also three buttons on the back right side of the monitor to control speaker volume and power down the screen.
The 32 levels of resistance are controlled by the large red knob below the handlebar. Increase the resistance by turning the knob clockwise or decrease it by turning it counterclockwise. The knob also serves as the brake for the flywheel, but instead of pushing it straight down like on other models, this one works more like a lever.
Like most high-end spin bikes, the EX-5s comes with a number of useful features to help you get the most out of your workout. It isn't quite as feature-packed as some competitors, and it doesn't necessarily bring anything unique to the table, but we appreciated the features that this model comes with.
One of the EX-5s' most noticeable features is the 22-inch tilting HD touchscreen. While this screen doesn't swivel, it can be flipped all the way over so that it can be viewed from in front of the bike. This is somewhat limiting compared to models with rotating screens, but it's definitely better than not being able to flip it at all. The console also houses speakers that have okay, but somewhat tinny, sound quality, so you can follow along to your chosen workout, or you can use the auxiliary plug for wired headphones or the Bluetooth connection for wireless headphones and heart rate monitors. A USB plug also comes in handy for keeping your devices charged while you ride.
The EX-5s comes with dual-sided pedals that you can clip into on one side, or use the toe cages on the other. We appreciate this type of pedal for the flexibility it provides, with options for multiple users who may prefer different styles of shoes. There are two large bottle holders below the console and handlebar, so you can easily keep hydrated while you ride. This bike also comes with dumbbell cradles that attach behind the seat, although it does not come with the dumbbells to put in them. There are independent levelers at all four corners of the bike to provide stability on uneven surfaces, and two wheels at the front of the bike make it fairly easy to roll the bike around when it is tipped forward. While it seems fairly trivial, we found ourselves surprisingly pleased by the convenience of the dual power plugs, front and rear, that make it much easier to orient your bike regardless of power outlet location.
Setup and Portability
We found the EX-5s to be among the easiest exercise bikes to assemble. It's not quite as easy as the models that include professional assembly in the purchase price, of course, but we got the Echelon bike together with little fuss. While it isn't specified on the Echelon website, it may be possible to arrange for professional assembly, though you will probably have to contact Echelon or the seller directly to figure out if it is possible in your area.
One of the most challenging aspects of setting the EX-5s up is getting the packaged bike to your assembly location. With a shipped weight of 143 lbs, moving the boxed bike is definitely a task for two people. We found it easiest to remove the bike from the box by flipping the box upside down, opening the bottom, then flipping the box back over and pulling it up off the top. This leaves the bike standing upright in its protective styrofoam packaging in a position that makes it easy to remove the parts from their positions in the foam and the foam from the main body of the bike. It comes with detailed printed instructions with color photos and written instructions detailing each step in the assembly process, or you can find the manual and assembly video on the Echelon website. The steps to complete the assembly are fairly standard and can be mostly completed by one person, although there are a couple of steps, like attaching the console, that are definitely easier with the assistance of another person. Completing the assembly of the EX-5s took us just under an hour and was relatively hassle-free.
The EX-5s is comparable in size to the majority of the other bikes we tested with a measured footprint of 21.5-inches wide x 58-inches long and a height of 61-inches at the top of the touchscreen. No matter what, this bike will take up a fair amount of space, but no more than its direct competitors. One nice thing about the Echelon is that with a weight of 124 lbs, it weighs a little bit less than the other high-end bikes in its class. It still takes a couple of people to move it up or down a flight of stairs, of course, but the slightly lighter weight should make it a bit easier if/when you need to. Moving the EX-5s around on firm, flat surfaces is fairly easy thanks to the integrated transport wheels that allow you to roll it when tipped forward. Another welcome feature in regards to bike placement is that it has power ports at the front and rear of the bike, making it easier to position the bike for power outlet access.
Should You Buy the Echelon Connect EX-5s?
The EX-5s is a great option for at-home studio cycling. This bike checks nearly all of our boxes and is priced a fair bit lower than the Peloton Bike+ while providing a very similar exercise experience. That said, it is closer to the original Peloton Bike in both price and features. Either way, if live and on-demand studio-style workouts are what you're after, and you're not committed to the cult of Peloton and don't require a swiveling screen, we think the EX-5s and the Echelon app are the next best thing. Additionally, at the current membership rates, you'll likely save a little money in the long run with Echelon.
What Other Exercise Bikes Should You Consider?
While the EX-5s is an excellent exercise bike, there are plenty of other great options. If you like Echelon but don't require the touchscreen, the Echelon EX-3 is nearly identical and costs a bit less, but you'll need your own device to connect to the app and serve as the display. The MYX II Plus is an interesting one because it comes with a swiveling touchscreen that provides more off-the-bike viewing options, the OpenFit app is quite robust for both on and off-bike workouts, plus it comes with a set of weights, mats, and more for total body fitness. If you want more than just studio-style cycling workouts, the NordicTrack Commercial S22i is a compelling alternative. This bike has adjustable incline/decline and it works with the iFit app for an entirely unique indoor cycling experience. These trainer-led scenic rides take place in beautiful spots all over the world, and the large touchscreen and AutoAdjust resistance and incline help you feel truly immersed in the workout.
— Jeremy Benson
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