Not so long ago I sold my beloved Peloton to the good people of eBay.
I was a big fan of the bike, but like most who’ve recently flogged their lockdown-acquired home gym equipment for some lucky sod to procure for a fraction of the price, I just didn’t use it enough.
The return of in-person fitness classes was to blame for the novelty wearing off, and there was also the issue of space. Far too many toes had been stubbed on that clunky bike as it dominated the little space I had in my guest room, and it had become a glorified clothes rail by the time I decided to get rid.
It’s for this reason that I didn’t exactly jump at the chance to review the new VeloCore Bike by Bowflex – a company known for its SelectTech Adjustable Dumbbells, which were about as rare as rocking horse manure during the majority of 2020.
Alas, I was sold on the fact that this bike is like no other on the market because it leans from side to side to emulate real road cycling and works your core as you pedal away. My arm was well and truly twisted. But I had questions. How exactly does it work? Would it really feel like riding a real race bike? Is it totally safe? I needed to find out.
The first challenge: setup
The regret of my decision slapped me around the chops when the bike rocked up on my drive in a 5x4ft box – flat pack style. Unlike Peloton, who includes an assembly and set-up as part of its delivery service, the VeloCore Bike had to be assembled, which – I must add – took the best part of two hours.
It wasn’t as bad as I was expecting, though as it was pretty straightforward to erect; I barely looked at the instructions. And later I found that the UK’s main retailer of the bike, Fitness Superstore, offers an assembly service for £95 alongside free delivery. Not sure if I’d pay that personally, but I bet some would be tempted.
During assembly, it struck me how well made the bike felt. Despite all the painful fiddling with nuts and bolts, it’s a heavy-duty bit of kit that looks and feels expensive. (And thank goodness; it does cost a pretty penny.)
Once fully assembled, I gave the VeloCore Bike a good look up and down from the other side of the room with my eyes half closed (for some reason) and granted it a sharp nod. It certainly looked the part.
And while Bowflex has probably taken cues from Peloton when it comes to aesthetics (black with red accents – very original) it’s sleek and easy on the eye. I’m sure it’d prove a welcome addition to any home gym, especially for those who like to show off.
But does it take up as much space as a Peloton? Annoyingly so, and it’ll need a bit more. The model that features in this review measures 151.8 x 61.2 x 140.4cm. However, due to the bike’s leaning technology, you’ll need a space at least 123cm wide to use all of its features.
Some other notable design details include a 16-inch high-definition touchscreen (there’s also a 22-inch model available for a considerable amount more) alongside built-in Bluetooth speakers, a water bottle holder and a media rack for your phone or tablet. The bike also comes with a pair of 1.5kg dumbbells, which can be stowed away nicely in an attachment underneath the touchscreen console.
A particularly impressive attribute is the Velocore Bike’s pedals, which are 2-in-1, offering toe baskets for those who don’t have proper cycling shoes on one side, and SDP clips on the reverse for those who prefer to use cleats. You definitely don’t get that with a Peloton bike!
Bum on saddle and feet wedged firmly into the caged pedals, my first ride on the bike was a splendid one. The first thing I noticed was how stable it felt underfoot. The riding mechanics are top-notch, with the pedalling feeling extremely smooth and robust, even at high speeds.
Once you’re on your way, you’ll find the bike offers 100 magnetic resistance levels, which can be altered at any point in your workout by turning the big red knob that stands proudly between your legs, in between the bike seat and handlebars.
But where the VeloCore Bike really comes into its own is the riding mode button, which sits just above the resistance knob. Hit it and you’ll release the bike from a fairly bog-standard ‘stationary mode’ and enter the super innovative ‘leaning mode’.
This lets you lean from side to side during your ride, emulating a more authentic feel of bombing around corners like you would a real-life road bike.
It’s this leaning feature that makes the BowFlex VeloCore Bike one of the most interesting and exhilarating exercise bikes on the market. It works exceptionally well.
There’s enough resistance there to ensure you feel safe and not fall, as the marketing suggests, you really do feel your core working as you try to stabilise yourself and distribute your weight accordingly.
After a good 30-minute ride, you’ll definitely have the sensation that you’ve worked your abs as well as your legs. One thing worth mentioning is that you control this leaning action, not the bike, so it’s up to you when to make use of it.
Starting your JRNY
So how does the display work and what’s on the screen when you’re pedalling away? Just like Peloton, BowFlex has its very own digital fitness and content platform, called JRNY (which we assume is short for Journey).
This allows VeloCore Bike owners, or any Bowflex equipment users, to experience hundreds of whole-body floor workouts like yoga, pilates, and more along with on-demand strength classes made exclusively for different Bowflex products. The unique thing here, though is that JRNY will measure your fitness levels and utilise the data from your workouts to suggest sessions designed with your capability and goals.
As you progress, it will then subtly begin suggesting workouts that are slightly tougher, so you’re always challenged – hence the name.
You need to be signed up to JRNY to access any of the content and to essentially make any good use of the bike, but the good news is that the Velocore Bike comes with a free one-year subscription (which is worth $199.99 – about £160).
If you prefer to stick to the app’s cycling exercises but you’re not in the mood for a spin class-style workout, you can take advantage of lots of other cycle content while you work up a sweat, including virtual courses that emulate real-world locations – or the option to log into the multiplayer online cycle platform, Zwift.
You can even sign into your Netflix, Hulu, and Disney+ accounts and catch up on some box sets while spinning those legs if that’s what you’re after.
It’s amazing how many options you have on offer here, although one thing I will point out is that the spin classes available on JRNY are not really on par with those you’ll find on Peloton’s platform. They’re good, don’t get me wrong. Just don’t expect to find Coby Rigsby on there.
Bowflex VeloCore Bike: the verdict
So, should you buy one?
The Bowflex Velocore Bike is certainly a good Peloton alternative, especially since the JRNY app membership is free for the first year and then only £13 or £16 per month thereafter (depending on how you pay – more on that below).
This is great news for those who aren’t so keen on forking out £39 a month for a Peloton subscription.
At least with JRNY, you can feel less guilty if you don’t use the bike every day. Sure, it’s not quite as engaging or immersive, but it’s still a great experience, especially with the personalised tracking features and unique leaning technology of the VeloCore Bike in tow.
It’s an easy, fun and stress-free way to dip in and out of fitness whenever you feel like it. If you’ve got the space, that is.
Bowflex VeloCore Bike: The details
Name: Bowflex VeloCore
- Innovative leaning feature
- Great build quality
- Realistic and enjoyable cycling experience
- Subscription is cheaper than Peloton
- 2-in-1 pedals
- Expensive initial purchase cost
- JRNY spin classes could be better
- Takes up a lot of space
Where can I buy it? The Bowflex VeloCore Bike is available to buy now in the UK from Fitness Superstore and Powerhouse Fitness with an RRP of £2,499 for the model with the 16-inch screen and £2,799 RRP for the 22-inch version (although that model is exclusive to Fitness Superstore only)
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