Echelon Bike Review: Testing the Smart Connect EX-3 Max | The Sun
HOME fitness fans love the convenience of hopping on the spin bike for a dose of full-throttle cardio whenever you fancy a workout.
As a spin class regular, I was excited to be able to test out Echelon's Smart Connect EX-3 Max bike for a whole month – here's everything you need to know.
- Shop all Echelon bikes – here
Tested: Winter 2020
- Excellent selection of classes (spin, yoga, kickboxing, scenic rides and more)
- Fully integrated – can connect to your smart device via Bluetooth
- Can book classes last minute and there’s no limit to the number of people that can join
- The app can be used by up to 5 people – perfect for families
- The app can be connected to your Strava, Fitbit and Facebook
- The bike is easily adjustable and simple to use
- Very quiet
- Enthusiastic and motivating instructors
- Saves time and faff travelling to and from the gym
- Doesn’t come with a screen
- No fast forward button for recorded classes
- No way to turn off the bike except for at the wall
- The resistance knob is less sensitive than preferred
- Designed to only be used with the Echelon app
- Not the most comfortable seat for long periods of time
Echelon Bike Review: Quick Summary
Don’t have time to read the full review? Here’s a quick summary:
If you’re looking for a cheaper alternative to the Peloton, or are simply looking for a new way to work out from the comfort of your own home, then the Echelon EX-3 Max is a great option. The bike is easy to use, is suitable for both beginners and advanced riders, and can be connected to your smart devices to monitor your progress in real-time.
However, it’s not perfect. The Echelon EX-3 doesn’t come with a screen, so you’ll need to provide your own smart device and even with a large tablet, it’s sometimes hard to fully immerse yourself in the class. The app doesn’t provide the smoothest user experience, and there is currently a lack of Non-American instructors resulting in fewer timezone-friendly live classes for European riders.
Overall, I enjoyed using the Echelon EX-3 bike, finding the classes both challenging and enjoyable, and would recommend it to those looking for a gym-at-home experience.
- Echelon Smart Connect EX-3 Max bike, £949/$799.99 – buy here
Echelon Smart Connect EX-3 Max Bike: Full Review
Echelon bikes are often referred to as the cheaper alternative to Peloton. This is probably because the bikes and business models are very similar – but Echelon has tried to keep the costs down for spin-lovers by tweaking a few things.
As a big fan of spin classes, I was pretty excited to test out the Echelon Smart Connect EX-3 Max Bike, especially since the lockdown had made my usual gym classes unavailable.
Here’s my experience of the Echelon EX-3 after one month of testing.
My first impressions of the bike are good. It looks impressive, the handlebars and seat are fully adjustable, and it's fairly straightforward to set up and use.
It has a relatively small footprint and so doesn't take over the whole of the room, and feels pretty sturdy. Its user weight capacity is 136kg (300lbs or 21 stone), and the bike itself weighs 56kg. The heaviness of the bike made it difficult for me to move by myself, so if you live alone or upstairs, you may require help moving it into your desired space.
The bike is fully integrated and can connect to your smart devices via Bluetooth, so you can monitor your progress in real-time. You can also connect it to your social media accounts to share or compete with friends and family.
Unlike the Peloton, Echelon bikes don’t come with a screen, and therefore you’ll need a tablet or phone to access the app. I originally tried using the app on my iPhone and found the screen to be too small to get the full experience of the class, so instead opted to use a tablet. This is worth bearing in mind if you don’t already have a device that you can use, as it’s an added expense on top of the bike.
While I probably would have preferred to have a screen included, some users like the option to use other apps as they cycle, such as Netflix or Disney+ for a boredom-slaying distraction on longer rides. Additionally, the cost of the EX-3 bike and a new tablet still works out cheaper than purchasing a Peloton bike. Bonus.
When first logging into the app, I would recommend watching the introduction videos. They cover how to use the bike, the correct posture and the terminology that will be used in the classes, which was helpful even as a regular spin-goer.
All the classes are based around the same three measures – cadence (leg speed), resistance and output. The bike has 32-levels of resistance, though I rarely exceeded 25, which is controlled via a knob under the handlebars. I found this mechanism to be under-sensitive as each level change required a couple of turns. This was distracting during classes, as I felt it took longer than necessary to adjust the tension.
The output is essentially your effort level, which is a combination of your cadence and resistance and it's this that drives the leaderboard. The leaderboard really played to my competitive side, and I'd set myself goals of where I wanted to finish. I found this really motivating and it led to me burning significantly more calories than in my usual gym-based spin classes.
- Learn more about the Echelon EX-3 bike here
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The App and The Classes
The Echelon Fit App is downloadable from the Apple Store and Google Play and can be used on several different devices with up to five different user profiles. This makes it ideal if the whole family are planning on using the bike or accessing the classes.
The app subscription costs between £19.99/$29.16 and £29.99/$34.99 per month (more on this later), and gives you access to unlimited streaming classes, live classes and scenic rides. There are 14+ live classes a day, and thousands of on-demand classes to choose from.
There are several different types of spin classes to try out, such as Power, Speed, Bootcamp and Low Impact, each of which has a slightly different focus. And there are also off-bike exercise classes like yoga, kickboxing and Zumba if that’s your thing.
Personally, I found the app a little bit clunky and difficult to navigate at times. The live classes are easily accessible, as are a selection of on-demand classes, but when searching for something specific it wasn’t always smooth sailing. For instance, when I tried to search for yoga classes, the search results brought up different results to the filter – one produced 128 classes, whilst the other produced 85.
I discovered pretty early on that there was no fast forward button for any of the classes. I didn't think this was such a big issue until the app unexpectedly restarted itself in the middle of a class, and I had to decide whether to go back to the start or abandon the class. This happened on a couple of different occasions and was very frustrating.
The app is geared towards North American users – not surprising as this appears to be where most of their users are based. This isn’t necessarily a flaw, although I found it somewhat demotivating when I joined a class early in the morning with only one or two other riders, especially when you compare it to the several hundred you often see in more USA timezone-friendly classes.
The fact that most of their users are North American, also means that the majority of the instructors are too. Echelon has stated that they’re looking to expand their instructor base into the UK and Europe soon, which I think would certainly improve the experience for those based this side of the pond. Mostly as having a European instructor would mean you could join a live class early in the morning instead of a pre-recorded (or “Encore”) class.
- Learn more about the Echelon Fit app here
How much is an Echelon bike?
The Echelon Smart Connect EX3 bike costs £949 ($799.99), which you can pay for upfront or choose a 0% finance option with Klarna or Splitit.
The price of the Echelon membership costs between £19.99 and £24.99 ($29.16 and $34.99) per month, depending on which plan you choose. The membership options are as follows:
- Monthly Subscription: £29.99/$34.99 per month
- Annual Subscription: £24.99/$33.33 per month
- 2 Year Subscription: £19.99/$29.16 per month
For comparison, prices for the standard Peloton Bike start at £1550/ $1495, the Peloton Bike+ starts at £2295/$2495, and the All-Access Membership costs £39/$39 per month.
The more streamlined Echelon Connect Sport bike costs £799 (not available in the US), and the EX-5s costs £1599/$1499.99. Both have the same membership options as the EX-3 model, mentioned above.
- Echelon Smart Connect EX-3 Max bike, £949/ $799.99 – buy here
Where can you buy Echelon bikes in the UK?
The most obvious place to buy an Echelon bike is from the brand's official website. However, they're also available to purchase from the following stores:
Whilst you're most likely to find the best discounts on the Echelon website, we recommend shopping around to make sure you're getting the best price.
Where can you buy Echelon bikes in the US?
Like in the UK, the best place to buy an Echelon bike is from the brand's official website as that's where you'll most likely find the best deals.
Other places you'll find them in stock are:
- Johnson Fitness
- Big Lots
What’s the difference between the Echelon Connect EX-3 and Connect Sport bike?
*The Connect Sport bike is not available in the US*
There are several differences between the two bikes – the first and most obvious being the price. The EX3 costs £949 whereas the Connect Sport costs £699, coming in at just £250 cheaper.
The size and appearance of the bikes differ too, with Connect Sport’s footprint measuring 96cm by 51.5cm, compared to 101.6cm by 50.8cm of the EX-3. Additionally, the wheel of the EX-3 is at the back whereas the Connect Sport’s is at the front, the EX-3 also comes in two different colourways (red and black, or black) and generally, in my opinion, just looks a bit more impressive.
In terms of specifications, both bikes are ergonomically customisable, are fully integrated, and have a 32-level magnetic flywheel, however, there are a few noticeable differences. The EX-3 has a rotating console, a USB port (to charge the device you’re using the app on), SPD compatible pedals with an adjustable toe, a dumbbell holder, and a 13kg flywheel weight (rather than 7kg on the Connect Sport) – features which the Sport Connect bike is missing.
- Compare the models here
What's the difference between the Echelon EX-3 and EX-5s bikes?
Since I tested out the EX-3, Echelon has released the EX-5s.
The main difference between the two is that the EX-5s has an integrated rotating HD 21.5" screen with Wi-Fi and dual audio jacks. The lack of a screen and the connectivity were a couple of my bugbears of the EX-3, so it's great to see these have been addressed in the next model up.
The EX-5s is 1kg lighter than the EX-3, and the dimensions differ by a couple of centimetres.
The only other big difference is the price, the EX-5s is £650/$200 more expensive than the EX-3. So you'll have to decide whether the screen is worth the added cost.
- Echelon Smart Connect Bike EX-5s – view here
Echelon Vs Peloton: The Differences
There are currently two different Echelon bikes and two different Peloton bikes, so to make things simpler we’ve compared the two closest in price – the Echelon EX-3 and the Peloton bike (not the Bike+).
- Echelon EX-3: £949/$799 plus a monthly subscription of between £19.99/$29.16 and £29.99/$34.99
- Peloton Bike: £1750/$1495 plus a monthly subscription of £39/$39
- Both Echelon and Peloton have a 30-day return policy (or trial period), and offer a one-year limited parts and labour warranty.
Dimensions (L x H x W):
- Echelon EX-3: 138cm x 140cm x 51cm
- Peloton Bike: 149cm x 135cm x 58cm
- Echelon EX-3: 96cm x 51.5cm
- Peloton Bike: 120cm x 60cm
- Echelon EX-3: 57 kg
- Peloton Bike: 61 kg
User Weight Capacity
- Echelon EX-3: 136 kg / 300 lbs
- Peloton Bike: 135 kg / 297 lbs
Sound and Display
- Echelon EX-3: None
- Peloton Bike: 22” HD touchscreen display, with a 2×10 watt sound system, built-in microphone and front-facing camera
- Echelon EX-3: Silent magnetic flywheel with 32-levels of resistance, adjusted via a resistance knob
- Peloton Bike: Magnetic with mechanical adjustment. 100 levels of resistance adjusted via a resistance knob
- Echelon EX-3: SPD compatible with adjustable toe cages (can be used with regular trainers or cycling shoes)
- Peloton Bike: LOOK delta pedals (requires cycling shoes to clip in)
Both offer access to live and on-demand classes, and both allow you to create individual profiles for family members or friends.
- Echelon EX-3: Echelon Fit
- Peloton Bike: Peloton Membership
- Echelon EX-3: Bluetooth
- Peloton Bike: Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
- Echelon EX-3: Delivery costs £99.99 if you select a monthly subscription plan, but is free for annual or 2-year subscriptions.
- Peloton Bike: Free delivery
- See all Echelon EX-3’s specs here
- See all Peloton bike’s specs here
Can you use the Echelon bike with the Peloton app?
The Echelon bike is designed to connect to the Echelon Fit app so that you can see your real-time cadence, resistance, calories and output.
Whilst there’s obviously nothing stopping you from using the Peloton app with the bike, you wouldn’t get the same experience, be able to join the leaderboards or see your live stats and therefore we wouldn’t recommend it.
This would also apply to using the Peloton bike with the Echelon Fit app.
Can you use the Echelon bike without the app?
The bike and app have been designed to work together to provide the best workout experience, and therefore you’ll get the most benefit from having both.
You certainly use it without the app, but if you’re not too bothered about having access to the classes, you’re probably better off opting for a “regular” exercise bike and saving yourself a penny or two.
Echelon Bike Review: The Verdict
I really enjoyed testing out the Echelon EX-3 and was sad to see it go.
The bike provides everything you need for a decent workout, is super easy to use, and it’s wonderful to be able to jump it at home (especially in the winter) without having to brave a trek to the gym.
The majority of problems I discovered when testing the bike were actually with the app, which are likely to get resolved with updates.
And the issue with the lack of a screen is something I could get over – especially as purchasing an Echelon bike and new iPad (or a cheaper alternative) would still be cheaper than buying a Peloton bike.
Therefore, I would recommend the Echelon EX-3 bike to those looking to experience exercise classes from the comfort of their own home and those after a more affordable alternative to the Peloton.
- Echelon Smart Connect EX-3 Max bike, £949/$799.99 – buy here
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