If you’re looking to simulate the side-to-side sway of an outdoor cycle on an indoor machine, the Bowflex VeloCore delivers. There’s a built-in screen, with entertainment options to stave off boredom, and it pairs with Zwift and Peloton – but make sure you have an extra pair of hands to help you set it up.
- Tilting design
- 16in or 22in built-in screen
- Solid and stable, even when leaning
- Challenging to set up
- Delivery box is large and heavy
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The key selling point of the Bowflex VeloCore is the ability to swap between Stationary mode and Lean mode, which mimics the natural sway of a road bike and provides a more comprehensive workout by engaging your core for balance. It’s no gimmick feature, trust me – after that first workout in Lean mode you’ll definitely feel the burn in your abs.
When locked, the VeloCore functions like any other upright indoor exercise bike but when unlocked, the bike frame tilts from side to side, allowing the same range of movement that you’d have on an outdoor bike as you pedal.
This bike is expensive – its price rivals the likes of Peloton. So is it worth it? And how does it compare to the best exercise bikes around?
Bowflex Velocore: Price And Availability
I tested the smaller, 16in (41cm) screen version, which is available from $1,799 in the US and £1,999 in the UK.
It is available from Bowflex and a range of retailers in the US, but only available from Fitness Superstore (opens in new tab) and Powerhouse Fitness (opens in new tab) in the UK.
The 22in (56cm) screen version is available exclusively at Fitness Superstore for $2,199/£2,399. The bike is designed to be used with a JRNY membership, which costs $19.99/£17.49 a month or $149/£139.99 a year. You get a one-year free trial with the bike.
The bike is also compatible with the Peloton app ($12.99/£12.99 a month) and Zwift ($14.99/£12.99 a month).
How I Tested This Bike
I tested the Bowflex VeloCore for just over a month, cycling on it several times a week and using a variety of workouts from the companion JRNY app. I also connected it to Peloton and Zwift to test how it worked in conjunction with third-party apps.
The bike is more challenging to put together than, say, the Renpho AI Smart Bike, as it has multiple parts that need to be attached. It took me an hour to assemble with the help of my partner and a lot of squinting at the instruction manual. The box is large and heavy so definitely enlist another person to help if you need to move it from room to room.
The bike has an external beam that doesn’t move and an internal frame that unlocks to release the middle section and allow movement from side to side. The screen remains stationary while you use the bike in Lean mode.
Choose your spot wisely when setting up, as you’ll need space for the bike’s range of motion when you lean. The user manual recommends a minimum workout area of 6.8ft x 4.9ft (2.1m x 1.5m).
The VeloCore includes two 3lb (1.5kg) dumbbells that sit in cages below the screen, and which remain stationary during Lean mode. The seat and handlebars are adjustable and the bike has a maximum user weight of 325lb/147kg.
The bike features a touchscreen console that’s clear and bright. I tested the 16in screen and it was large enough for me, but a 22in screen is also available. The screen can be angled up or down. There’s no headphone jack, though you can connect wireless headphones via Bluetooth or listen on built-in speakers.
There’s a ledge just below the screen that you can rest a phone or tablet on, as well as a small pocket between the handlebars that can hold a small device. The resistance is easily adjusted using a knob that you can turn to shift through 100 levels and the bike has dual-sided pedals to accommodate clip-in cycling shoes or trainers.
Once the set-up was completed and the bike was switched on, it was easy to use. A video demonstration automatically plays when you first turn on the bike. Once you’ve created a new account, you’ll be put through a short fitness assessment to benchmark your current fitness level and this enables the workouts to be tailored to you.
The Bowflex VeloCore is a lovely bike to ride: smooth, quiet and responsive, with a comfortable seat.
I was initially nervous that the Lean mode would seem unstable or disorienting, but it feels safe and secure. To unclip the inner bike frame, you push down on a red button that clicks loudly and releases it. You need to ensure the frame is locked in place when getting on and off the bike, or when choosing to ride upright, but once it’s clicked into place it feels sturdy.
I felt the difference in my core, back and upper body when riding in Lean mode compared with riding upright. The JRNY app shows the percentage of left and right core engagement as you ride. I wasn’t sure what to do with that information, other than making sure you’re not leaning too far to one side and not the other.
The console displays a number of tabs for easy navigation. Along the top bar you can choose from Just For You, Programs, Explore The World, Videos, Favourites and Learn, while the bottom bar includes Workouts, Journal and Profile.
Just For You is the home screen and features guided adaptive workouts and educational videos. The recommended workouts are selected based on your fitness level and the past workouts you’ve completed.
I enjoyed the Explore The World tab, which includes scenic videos from beautiful locations around the globe. A nice touch on these is that the movement of the video speeds up, slows down or stops depending on how fast you’re cycling.
The instructor-led workouts are filmed in a studio, with a variety of trainers giving clear instructions. I found the energy and engagement of the instructors slightly lacking in comparison with Peloton, and also felt the app’s design was dated. These were minor drawbacks and didn’t interfere with the functionality of the app.
There is a range of music to accompany workouts, and you can manually change the audio levels for the instructor and the music – a level of control that is unusual but welcome. Within your selected genre of music (pop, rock/alternative, hip-hop/rap, EDM/dance) you can skip, like or dislike particular songs.
You can connect to Netflix and Disney+ to stream entertainment when in manual mode or using a preformatted workout, although you’ll need to log in to your existing content provider subscription because access isn’t included in the price of the app. The screen is impressive when streaming TV shows – at no point did I feel I was compromising on image quality.
If the JRNY app doesn’t float your boat, you can connect the VeloCore to third-party apps. I tested Zwift and Peloton using my iPhone and was easily able to connect to the bike. One drawback is that neither app is integrated into the bike’s interface: you’ll need to provide your own screen, resting it on the ledge underneath the main monitor. Peloton displays your cadence in the app, while the rest of the metrics are displayed on the VeloCore screen. Zwift displays cadence and power within the app, again with the metrics still displayed on the VeloCore screen.
Is The Bowflex Velocore Worth It?
The Bowflex VeloCore offers a fantastic indoor cycling experience with a premium feel. The Lean mode design offers a more challenging workout than competitors, making it a great option if you’re looking to engage your core and back while you ride.
The high price point is reflected in the quality of the bike, the innovative features and the ease of use. The Bowflex VeloCore’s flexibility is another great selling point, allowing you to dip in and out of the companion app, JRNY, as well as other third-party apps including Peloton and Zwift.
You will need to allow more room for it than a standard exercise bike, to account for the side-to-side movement, and I would recommend that someone help you assemble it. Once it’s up and running, it’s a joy to use.
Sarah is an experienced health, fitness, nutrition and beauty writer, and was previously health editor at BBC Good Food. She has contributed reviews, interviews and features to Coach since 2019, covering exercise bikes, fitness trackers and apps, among other topics. In her free time, she can be found hiking, swimming, cycling or trying (and failing) to do a headstand on a yoga mat.