Echelon Smart Connect Bike EX-5S Review: The rival Peloton that's made me fall in love with exercise again
WHILST the gym's have reopened, it's true that not all of us want to run back to renew our memberships.
I fall firmly into that camp, so when the chance came to review the Echelon Smart Connect Bike EX-5S; I jumped at it.
- Shop all Echelon Bikes – click here
*Tested Summer 2021
- Wide range of spin classes including live and on-demand classes
- Attached screen means no set up
- Easy to use
- Wide range of resistance
- Great alternative to gym
- Good fitness tracking
- Easily connected to other apps and monitors
- Hard to find favourites
- Large bike so not good for small space
- Seat is stiff and uncomfortable
- Not suitable for one person to set up
- Screen only uses Echelon App
Echelon Smart Connect Bike EX-5S Quick Summary
- Echelon Smart Connect Bike EX-5S, £1,599, Echelon – click here
Don’t have time to read the full review? Here’s a quick summary.
The cult of Peleton has attracted legions of spin bike fans. But if you're looking for an alternative cheaper bike, you can't go wrong with the Echelon Smart Connect Bike EX-5S.
The Echelon Smart Connect Bike EX-5S is incredibly easy to use. The bike and screen work in tandem, meaning you choose your class and go – there's no arduous set up or connection issues.
Your stats are monitored and displayed on the screen. Users can choose between hundreds of live and on-demand classes, across different music genres such as rock, hip hop, pop and there are even scenic rides.
Whilst more UK, German and Italian classes are appearing, the app is pretty much focused on the US market.
It's a large bike, so you'll need adequate space at home to use it.
Assembly is hard if you're on own, but it's packed full of great features and turned exercise from something I loathed, into something I looked forward to.
Echelon Smart Connect EX-5S Connect Bike: Full Review
After we previously reviewed the EX-3 Max bike, we took a look at the premium Echelon Smart Connect EX-5S.
The Echelon Smart Connect EX-5S takes what we loved about the EX-3 and adds a screen, making it a fierce rival to the popular Peleton.
Having previously loved spin classes before lockdown, I found myself dreading a return to the gym once restrictions lifted.
Instead I sought out at-home alternatives that would fit into my post-Covid life; and I am obsessed.
The Echelon Smart Connect EX-5S has changed my outlook on cardio, turning something I used to dread into something fun, easy and convenient – as I can easily slot a session into my day.
I tested the bike for six weeks, and here's what I thought.
It's important to note that the Echelon Smart Connect EX-5S arrives part assembled, so you'll need to finish the rest of the set up upon delivery.
It arrives in a huge box, which is very heavy; so if you're getting it delivered make sure someone is there to help you unpack and set it up.
Assembly is relatively easy, but will need two pairs of hands as the handles and seat need to be fitted to the main body of the bike.
This is easy enough, but can be fiddly to ensure all the correct wires and sensors are in place, so make sure you do this properly.
The screen is the final part to be assembled; and whilst the large screen may take a bit of aligning, the process is painless.
Don't expect anything too taxing when assembling the bike. It's simple and easy to understand the instruction, you just can't do it on your own.
The Echelon Smart Connect EX-5S will require an Echelon membership to use.
Unfortunately it isn't cheap – but is in line with what Peloton charge for its membership packages.
Fitness fans can choose between a month, yearly or two year membership.
Monthly membership will cost you £39.99, and you can add up to four friends and family members for free, making it the most flexible membership of the bunch.
If you go for a yearly or two year membership, it will offer you better value for money if you choose to pay the fee all at once.
A Peloton membership will cost you £39.99 (or £12.99 just for the app), so is the same price.
App and Classes
- Sign up for Echelon Membership, from £39 – click here
So what do you get for your cash?
The app is very easy to use, but could do with being a bit more intuitive. I wasn't a fan of the way it was laid out and sometimes found it a bit slow.
It's very US focused, but as a US bike company this is to be expected. Live classes are mainly from the States too, but I have noticed more UK classes being introduced during my trial of the bike. However, I would have liked to see more as a UK rider.
There are 14+ live classes a day and thousands of on-demand classes to choose from, with a wide range of musical genres or scenic ride options.
There's also a wide range class types, ranging from Tabata to Endurance to build stamina.
Or you can do Fusion if you want a bit of everything – a personal favourite of mine.
Live rides run frequently throughout the day, which you can join easily through the app. Displayed at the top of the app homepage, users can see what the ride is and when it starts.
You can choose from 20, 30, 45 or 60 minute classes; so even on busy days you can easily squeeze in a short ride.
The app itself is easy to use, and you can easily search it to find your preferred workout.
If you're looking for a certain type of workout or instructor, the handy search filter function quickly narrows options down.
All the new and special promotions are all shown at the top of the homepage, during the review I tried out the special Lady Gaga ride, which was fabulous.
However, I found the 'favourite' function hard to navigate, as you can't simply favourite a class whilst you are riding, or at the end – you have to go back and search.
This problem also appears when trying to click through to past rides, as you can't click through you have to go back and search which can be annoying if you want to repeat a ride you previously enjoyed; this could do with being more intuitive easier to use.
As the screen is attached to the bike, you have to use the Echelon app; you simply sign in and it'll load the Connect Bike classes, on one occasion it had switched to it's Row app but this was easily swapped back.
For those looking to swap between apps may find it easier to choose a bike without a screen already attached.
Having only used spin bikes at gym classes, I wasn't sure what to expect from the at-home model.
I was impressed with the sturdiness and quietness of the bike, which made the ride experience itself feel premium and very enjoyable.
The heavy 13 kg flywheel keeps you from 'bobbing' about to much, so you can focus on your workout, and with a weight limit of 136KGs, it's suitable for most riders.
It uses magnetic resistance, which is quick to react to your turns, and the bike has 32 levels which is plenty for both novices and spin veterans.
At first I found the resistance to be slightly slow and not as responsive as I would have liked, but this has improved over time.
The magnetic resistance also means the ride itself is quiet as opposed to older style bikes which have a clunky and loud chain.
The seat is very hard. Anyone looking to use the bike regularly may want to invest in a seat cover as it can be uncomfortable sitting for long periods of time.
The bike features a whopping 21.5” HD screen, which provides a clear and sharp display.
For the amount of stats the Echelon Connect EX-5 provides users with, this clear display is a welcome addition.
Everything is displayed on one screen, with no time consuming set up between bike and tablet seen in less premium offerings.
The large screen means the spacing in between the class and the cadence, resistance, calorie count and leader board icons are less cluttered and offer a better viewing experience.
As mentioned, set up is easy because you simply switch the bike on and the screen starts up immediately, but I found connecting to external speakers or headphones provided a better ride experience.
The sound from the screen alone was a little tinny, but connecting to an external speaker or headphones via Bluetooth was easily done – you simply select speakers once you start your ride.
I've always found with spin classes that the louder the music, the more pumped and energised I feel- so the ability to add additional speakers to my set up was an added bonus.
You can also connect your fitness trackers, meaning your workout syncs automatically to Apple Watch, Garmin, Fitbit and more.
At the time of writing Peloton has reduced its flagship spin bike from £1750 to £1350, making this its 'budget' option alongside their new Peloton Bike +.
When this review was commissioned, the Echelon Connect EX-5S was priced at £1,599.
It was previously viewed as a cheaper option to the Peloton, however it is now only cheaper than the Peloton Plus, which is priced at £2,295.
Taking Peloton out of the equation, this price puts the Echelon Connect EX-5S at the upper end of the market, but it is competitively priced for what you get.
The screen is packed full of tech, and arguably adds that extra chuck of cash value to the price tag.
When you consider the Echelon Connect EX-3 is £1,199 with no screen and the Echelon Connect Sport S is £1,499 for just a 10-inch screen, the EX-5S is good value.
It's not cheap, but for a sophisticated spin bike with a HD screen attached, £1,599 seems to be an average price.
Whats's the difference between Echelon Connect EX-5S and other Echelon bikes?
Whilst other Echelon bikes such as the Echelon Connect Sport S (£1499 with a year's membership included) come with screens, the Echelon Connect EX-5 is the most premium, offering a larger 21.5 inch HD screen.
At the time of writing, Echelon currently has four bikes on offer, which can be compared here.
Echelon bikes range from budget (Connect Sport costs £799) to luxe with the Echelon Connect EX-5S.
For those looking for a simple bike experience that can be used with other apps, the Connect Sport is a great option.
But for anyone looking for a fully integrated, seamless experience, the EX-5S is hard to rival.
Echelon v Peleton: How do they measure up?
It's hard to mention spin bikes nowadays without Peloton coming up, but with such striking similarities between the Echelon Connect EX-5S and the Peloton it makes sense to compare.
The bikes visually look the same, and until very recently were similarly priced.
The Echelon was slightly cheaper than the Peloton, however, it's worth mentioning the Echelon bike was the brand's top model, and the Peloton bike in question is now being marketed as their budget option.
Both bikes and apps are similarly priced, and do similar jobs.
What it comes down to is personal preference on classes, for instance you may find Peleton has a wider range of genre and type of classes, but the Echelon classes are on par in terms of quality and styles.
Can you use the Echelon bike without the app?
The short answer here is no, as the screen is permanently attached, and thus powers the EX-5S, it's not possible to use with a different app to the bike.
Can you use the Echelon EX-5S with the Peloton app?
Unfortunately you can't, as the power for the Echelon EX-5S bike and the screen are connected.
The bike powers up properly when you start a workout, with resistance, cadence and other monitors only tracking from then on.
If you want to use the Peloton app, then we'd recommend getting a different model without a screen.
Echelon Connect EX-5S Review: The Verdict
The Echelon Connect EX-5S has changed my attitude to exercise, turning it from something I loathed, to something I now really enjoy.
The Echelon Connect EX-5S set up is so incredibly simple, you literally jump on, choose your class and go. As someone who doesn't really enjoy cardio I found this made it easier to ignore pangs of laziness.
The class range on offer is huge, so if you're someone who's easily bored or are just looking for something a bit different, this is a big win. You can easily switch between class type, music genre, live and on-demand, so you never have to do the same class twice. However, we would like to see a few more UK classes.
The bike itself is very sturdy with a heavy fly wheel to stop you bouncing too much, and the magnetic resistance provides a quiet and easy to use experience.
However the bike is large, so bear that in mind when purchasing. If you have a spare room or a dedicated space this won't be an issue, but if you are in a small one bed flat like me, it does take up a lot of space.
We have to mention the price, at £1,599 it's not cheap. But if you're planning on using it as an alternative to the gym, it's worth it when you work out the cost per use.
If budget is a concern it is worth considering how much you'll be using it and whether you may be better picking up a cheaper model.
Ultimately the Echelon Connect EX-5S is an impressive piece of kit, which has helped me change my outlook on cardio.
If you want a variety of easy and fun workouts, the Echelon Connect EX-5S is for you. Just make sure you're planning on using it enough to make it worth the cost.
- Echelon Smart Connect Bike EX-5S, £1,599, Echelon – click here
Enjoyed our Echelon Connect EX-5S bike review? Then you might like our selection of the best exercise bikes.
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