Netflix sessions and regular exercise rarely go hand in hand, but the Bowflex C7 Bike manages to marry the two in a way that will allow riders to binge watch while burning calories.
Don’t let this undermine this machine’s credentials as a serious exercise bike for cyclists of all abilities, however. With a huge range of workouts available via Bowflex’s JRNY app and the option to connect to popular third party platforms like Zwift and Peloton – as well as the ability to simultaneously stream from Amazon Prime, Disney+ and more while you complete interval sessions – there really is something for everyone. So, including it in our roundup of the best exercise bikes (opens in new tab) was a no-brainer.
Dimensions: 48.1in (L) x 21.3in (W) x 57.5in (H)
Weight: 110lb / 50kg
Smart features: Yes
Workouts: JRNY app
Warranty: 2 years
Classes led by likable instructors left us suitably sweaty and sore, yoga sessions available on our phone through the JRNY app soothed our aching legs, and the option to add other bits of kit like the Bowflex SelectTech 552 (opens in new tab)s (one of the best adjustable dumbbells (opens in new tab) you can buy) to our “home gym” on the app opened up a world of new workout opportunities.
The screen is on the smaller side, and we hit a snag during cross-training style workouts as the video would pause automatically when we hopped off the bike to stretch or perform strength exercises.
But the 40lb flywheel moves beautifully smoothly, the race seat and adjustable handlebars make for a realistic yet ergonomic ride, and it has an impressive offering of 100 resistance levels. Instructors offer helpful feedback and form cues to help you improve your technique, and the use of target burn rates (a combination of cadence and resistance) during classes provides a clear goal to hit throughout each session.
So, whether you’re just looking to get moving or are a more experienced cyclist wanting several options when it comes to indoor riding, the Bowflex C7 bike has something to suit all users.
Price and release date
In the US, the Bowflex C7 Bike has an MSRP of $1,299 but it can often be found at a discounted rate. In the UK it can be bought for £999 from Fitness Superstore. This makes it cheaper than the Peloton Bike (Peloton’s original, more affordable exercise machine) yet it can still host the Peloton app, as well as the likes of Zwift and Kinomap, while also offering its own platform (JRNY) which is packed with workout options. JRNY usually costs $19.99/month, which is less than the $44/month Peloton All-Access subscription. You also get 12-months free access to the JRNY app when buying the bike.
Set-up and usability
- Set-up and usability score: 3/5
Where many of the best exercise bikes we tried arrived almost completely intact (the Peloton Bike (opens in new tab) and WattBike Atom (opens in new tab), to name but a few) the Bowflex C7 Bike requires a more labor-intensive set-up procedure.
It arrives in several parts within a large cardboard box. Following a detailed set of instructions, you have to attach the handlebars, monitor, seat, stands and more to a central frame using a series of nuts, bolts, washers and screws. The manual is straightforward and the assembly shouldn’t trouble you in terms of difficulty, but it will take some time – our bike took shape together over the space of about an hour.
Combine this with the fact you have to set up an account on the JRNY app, completing a 14 minute preliminary fitness test after inputting data like your age and height, and the time between the bike being delivered and you being able to ride it can reach the two hour mark.
However, once you’ve ticked off everything on this preliminary list, it’s incredibly simple to use. The screen has the clear display and responsive touch controls of a phone or tablet, and proved intuitive to use. The seat and handlebars can easily be adjusted to suit your size using levers on the frame, and the centrally located resistance knob will feel natural to anyone who has ever tried a spin bike before.
Design and display
- Design and display score: 4/5
We think the Bowflex C7 Bike is a seriously good looking bit of kit. With its black body and red detailing, it has a sports car-like look that feels like it’s been built for speed, making it a swish addition to any home workout space. And it’s not just flash to look at, it’s functional too.
The bike is compact and comes with a cushioned mat, meaning it takes up a piddly 4ft by 3ft of space without damaging your floor. There are also dials on each corner of the stands, so if you’ve placed it on an uneven surface you can adjust these to make it sit flat.
You can easily adjust the height of the seat and handlebars by loosening and tightening them using relevant levers attached to the frame, and the same applies for how far forward or backward you want the saddle. The handlebars and saddle are modeled on a racing bike to provide a more realistic cycling experience, and the dual-functioning pedals offer both toe cages and SPD clips (one on either side) so you can ride efficiently regardless of whether or not you own a pair of cycling shoes.
We really liked that, unlike the Peloton, the screen is elevated on an extended arm so it’s not obscured behind the handlebars. A couple of drinks holders, light dumbbell holsters (for cross-training sessions) and a phone rack are also all practically placed so they’re always within easy reach.
The screen is fantastically clear and the controls work perfectly, though at 7in wide it’s definitely on the smaller side – particularly compared to the cinematic experience offered by the Peloton. However, when you think that most competitors, including the Echelon Connect EX3 (opens in new tab), WattBike and Yosuda Indoor Stationary Bike (opens in new tab), have LED monitors or rely on connecting to a phone for their display, the inclusion of any touchscreen at all is actually a major perk.
- Features score: 4.5/5
When it comes to the features on offer on the Bowflex C7 Bike, the more we explored, the more we found.
The 40lb flywheel offers an incredibly smooth pedaling action and you can adjust the difficulty of your ride by selecting from 100 different magnetic resistance levels using a twisting knob on the bike’s frame.
Dials on the four corners of the bike’s stand can be twisted to adjust their height, ensuring the machine sits flat and stable on uneven ground, and the position of the saddle and handlebars can easily be adjusted using levers on the frame.
Dual-sided pedals offer both SPD clips for anyone with cycling shoes or a toe cage for those without, and small wheels on the front of the machine make it easy to move – simply tip it up and roll it where you want to go.
Accessible drink holders, dumbbell holsters and a phone rack round out the tech-free features, but there’s plenty more to get excited about when you dive into the digital details.
While many exercise bikes on the market have a basic LED monitor, and smart bikes like the Echelon Connect EX3 rely on linking with a phone or tablet for their display, the Bowflex C7 Bike has a built-in 7in touchscreen. There’s no escaping the fact that this is rather small, especially compared to the 21.5in display of the Peloton Bike, and you can’t tilt it up or down, to suit your seating position. However, the vibrant screen is crystal clear and the touchscreen functionality will make using this machine a breeze for anyone with smart tech experience (which, these days, is pretty much everyone).
You get one year’s free membership to the JRNY app when buying the bike, which grants you access to hundreds of workouts — both on and off the machine. These include 'explore the world' rides that virtually whisk you off to more than 50 noteworthy locations like Beijing City and Route 66, programs (pared back interval sessions displayed as line graphs), and studio sessions led by enthusiastic instructors.
You can keep track of your workout history via the 'journal' section of the homepage, and the app has the capacity to adjust your sessions over time to reflect your progress with a feature called 'adaptive workouts'. Successes will be met with awards and badges to keep you motivated, and the app will also suggest suitable classes for furthering your fitness based on your previous performance.
There are also hybrid and off-bike classes available, including yoga, core work, Pilates and strength sessions that make use of the two 3lb dumbbells that come as standard with the bike.
One feature that we definitely appreciated when cramming in active recovery sessions was the ability to complete programs or just ride while watching Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney+ or Hulu. All the metrics you need are displayed in a thin bar that you can drag around the screen so it’s not in the way, letting us catch up on our favorite series while spinning our wheels.
- Performance score: 4/5
When it comes to fancy features, the Bowflex C7 Bike has them by the bucket load. But it’s important to recognise that, underneath the sheen of its touchscreen, adaptive workouts and sleek silhouette, this is an accomplished spin bike.
The flywheel moves seamlessly and silently at any resistance or speed setting, making this machine neighbor-friendly, and the ability to adjust the seat and handlebars in seconds allowed us to quickly find a comfortable riding position. The saddle is designed like that of a speedy road-bike, however, so without padded pants you may find your behind begins to ache during longer rides. This can be countered with the Bowflex Extra Comfort Bike Seat (opens in new tab), which can be bought as an optional extra.
We really liked the handy video tutorials that guide you through achieving an optimal saddle set-up, as well as teaching you how to get the most out of the JRNY app. There is no search function on the app, but sessions are split into sections and you can further filter the workouts displayed using factors like the type of activity, duration and difficulty.
We found that, unlike other machines we’ve tried, the difficulty labels were accurate; beginner sessions got our blood pumping without leaving us breathless, while advanced classes successfully reduced us to a sweaty mess. There was also a good range of durations, so you can find a quick 15 minute workout if you’re looking to fit some fitness into a hectic schedule.
The hybrid sessions, combining bike and off-bike work such as stretching and strength exercise, needs work. The workout video automatically paused when we stopped pedaling for around 10 seconds, which was far from helpful when we were trying to keep pace with the coach’s dumbbell curls and shoulder presses. However, we really enjoyed being able to take dedicated resistance, yogas and Pilates classes on-the-go, as you can stream them through the JRNY app on your phone or tablet – ideal if you’re traveling or away from home and unable to access a gym.
One of the biggest selling points of the Bowflex C7 Bike is its ability to host multiple platforms. As mentioned previously, you can use streaming services while grinding through interval sessions or completing longer endurance pieces. This was something we loved as, though it does dilute the intensity of your training, it’s ideal for those nights where you’re struggling to drag yourself off the sofa for a dose of exercise.
You can also use the Peloton, Zwift and Kinomap apps with the machine, which at around the $1,000 mark comes in a few hundred dollars cheaper than the Peloton Bike. We didn’t test this functionality as we don’t have subscriptions to these third party apps, though the Bowflex website shows you need to use your phone or tablet (placed on the holder underneath the screen) to display the class and instructor. The Bowflex C7 screen will then simultaneously show the real-time metrics from your ride. While this isn’t as streamlined as using the Bowflex-owned JRNY app, it is a big pull factor for anyone balancing multiple fitness subscriptions in the hunt for a varied home fitness routine.
Value for money
- Value for money score: 4/5
The Bowflex C7 Bike can be bought for around the $1,000 or £1,000 mark. This compares favorably with its rivals, coming in a few hundred pounds under the Peloton Bike while still offering touchscreen functionality and smart features (not to mention the opportunity to use it with the JRNY and Peloton apps). It’s also cheaper than the WattBike Atom and, though it’s slightly more expensive than the Echelon Connect EX3, neither of these machines come with an in-built touchscreen.
The Bowflex C7 Bike is an excellent exercise bike with a smooth and silent flywheel, 100 resistance levels, a vibrant 7in touchscreen and functionality with the JRNY, Peloton and Zwift apps. If you don’t want to be tied down by one fitness platform, this is the exercise machine for you. You’ll have to pay for subscriptions to each, though a complimentary one-year JRNY membership means you can dive straight into hundreds of workouts; from sweaty studio sessions to scenic virtual rides to intense, no-frills interval rides. The off-bike classes need work, but if it’s a diverse range of indoor cycling workouts you’re after, you’re in luck.
If it’s bright lights, live classes and (very) enthusiastic instructors you’re after, you can’t go far wrong with the Peloton Bike (opens in new tab) (shown above). It’s sturdy, sleek and has a huge 21.5in touchscreen that can beam an impressive variety of motivating workouts into your home.
Or, if you’re a self-starter looking for a more traditional spin bike to ride intervals or work into circuit-style HIIT sessions, the brilliant Yosuda Indoor Stationary Cycling Bike (opens in new tab) offers a smooth, comfortable ride for under $400.