NordicTrack S22i Review: Best Studio Bike of 2022? - SI Showcase - Sports Illustrated

2022-12-17 13:14:49 By : Ms. Anny Duan

The products featured in this article have been independently reviewed. When you buy something through the retail links on this page, we may earn commission at no cost to you, the reader. The Sports Illustrated editorial team is not involved in the creation of this content. Learn more here.

It’s hard to feel like you’re riding anywhere on an indoor bike, but if any bike could transport you to a more exciting location—whether that be a high-energy studio class or a scenic route on the opposite side of the world—it would be the NordicTrack S22i Studio Bike. Vinyl Dumbbell Rack

NordicTrack S22i Review: Best Studio Bike of 2022? - SI Showcase - Sports Illustrated

This at-home exercise bike was designed to evoke the feeling of riding a road bike outdoors, and it does so not just by immersing you in worldwide virtual rides included with the iFIT app subscription, but with a number of built-in features that mimic the sensation of riding a real bicycle out on the road.

At just under $2,000, it’s still an investment, but it’s a more affordable one than the ubiquitous Peloton. Not only did it pioneer some of the features that Peloton now offers—including automatic resistance adjustments—but it takes those high-tech offerings a step further with automatic tilting to mimic riding on outdoor terrain. The S22i spin bike also comes standard with a number of other offerings that will appeal to cyclists of all levels.

If you’re in the market for an indoor bike, here’s everything you need to know about what features to look for, the pros and cons of the S22i and how it stacks up against the competition.

Purchase NordicTrack S22i Studio Bike

NordicTrack has been making at-home exercise equipment since 1975, when the founder built the original NordicTrack ski machine in his garage. Since then, the company has been one of the most well-known cardio machine brands, manufacturing everything from treadmills to ellipticals, as well as a number of at-home stationary bikes, including studio cycles, recumbent bikes and upright bikes.

The S22i Studio Bike was first introduced in 2020 with the unique ability to automatically (or manually) tilt upward 20 degrees or downward 10 degrees. It also has auto-adjusting resistance. During a class, when the instructor cues a hill or flat road, the bike will immediately adjust to those settings. The reason for that: It allows you to focus on giving the workout your best effort, without having to break your rhythm in order to change the incline or resistance. (Of course, you can manually override the auto-adjustments if you want an easier or tougher effort.) The company is still the only brand to offer that feature, although now it also does so in the other Studio Bikes: the similarly priced S15i Studio Bike (which requires a four-year membership to iFIT) and the top-of-the-line S27i Studio Bike.

Compared to its predecessor, the 2022 S22i model features: a faster lift motor that’s quieter and smoother while making gradient adjustments, an upgraded 30-watt sound system, an upgraded 22-inch rotating HD smart touchscreen with improved graphics (FYI: that’s the same size as offered on the Peloton), faster wi-fi connectivity and new Bluetooth connectivity so you can pair it with headphones and heart rate monitors—all of which lend to a cycling experience that’s more immersive than ever.

It’s impossible to review any connected NordicTrack machine without mentioning the iFIT app, which is what powers the S22i’s most exciting features. An iFIT subscription—which costs $39 a month after a free 30-day trial period—enables you to participate in bike workouts and body workouts, both live and on-demand. (The swivel screen was designed to make it easier to complement cycling classes with strength training, yoga and more.) It’s also the only way to access the automatic, trainer-controlled elements. You don’t need the app to use the bike, but it will provide a much richer experience.

The S22i was designed for riders of all levels, whether you’re a beginner looking for a trainer-led intro to indoor cycling or an experienced rider who wants to follow along with scenic rides filmed in beautiful places around the world. It’s a bike (and app) that definitely requires a certain level of technological savviness and really plays up the interactive programming experience, so those high-end features should be a selling point for you rather than an intimidating factor.

If you’re looking for a budget exercise bike, the S22i is not the answer. If you can swing the price tag, but aren’t interested in paying the additional monthly subscription fee for the iFIT app, you’d probably be better served by another option. While you can use the bike without iFIT, it’s not worth paying for all the features that require the membership. Riders who don’t care so much about simulating the experience of an outdoor ride likely won’t need or appreciate the incline and decline feature, and may be better served by a more affordable option.

The goal of the NordicTrack S22i is to simulate the feel of a real bike, and there are a number of features that contribute to that outdoor riding sensation. For starters, it uses a 32-pound inertia-enhanced flywheel. The heavier a flywheel is, the more momentum it can hold. Commercial-grade bikes have flywheels that can weigh up to 50 pounds. “Inertia-enhanced” means the flywheel was designed to stay in motion—ensuring a smooth rotation with no jerkiness or imbalances, just like if you were riding on a flat road.

To better mimic the experience of riding uphill and downhill, the S22i motor can adjust the bike’s incline up to 20 percent and its decline down to -10 percent. The latest version can do so 15 percent faster than the original version, allowing for smoother transitions. As the bike moves up or down, you’ll feel how your form (and your power) changes. And with 24 levels of nearly silent magnetic resistance—which uses magnets instead of brake pads to create tension against the flywheel without actually touching it—it’s easy to dial in the perfect amount of resistance for your ride, no matter what your fitness level.

With the iFIT subscription, though, you don’t even have to think about making these adjustments; during a spin class, the trainer will automatically adjust the bike’s resistance, incline and decline for you. It’s a smooth, versatile ride that takes the guesswork out of indoor cycling.

Whether you’re taking a cross-training studio class or following along with a virtual ride, the 22-inch touchscreen will display multiple workout metrics, including incline, watts, time elapsed, cadence and resistance. You can also manually override any settings determined by the trainer using controls on the screen or via the buttons on the handlebars. Built into the screen console are dual two-inch speakers and a fan with several speed settings, including an auto mode that adjusts the airflow based on how fast you’re pedaling. Directly below the screen and in between the handlebars is a tray to place your phone and two dumbbell holders.

Purchase NordicTrack S22i Studio Bike

NordicTrack is known for the durability of its machines, and the S22i is no exception. It’s made from premium steel that supports its 350-pound max weight capacity, which is on the higher end of the spectrum in regards to at-home bikes. The steel also provides stability as the bike moves up and down while you ride. The base, stabilizers and posts are also made of steel and coated with enhanced corrosion resistance. The sleek frame hides all wires and cables.

The DC (or direct current) motor uses a magnetic field to turn electrical energy into mechanical energy. Combined with the magnetic resistance used with the 32-pound flywheel, you’ll experience a very fluid motion with significantly less noise. This makes this bike ideal for use in most areas of the home. Translation: someone in the next room will barely hear you. The S22i also uses a belt drive system—versus the chain drive systems found on outdoor bikes—to connect the pedals to the flywheel, reducing noise and enhancing the smoothness of your ride.

The NordicTrack S22i comes equipped with Bluetooth support for wireless headphones and heart rate monitors. It also offers dual 2.4 gigahertz and five gigahertz Wi-Fi connectivity.

A 30-day iFIT family membership is included with your purchase, and offers access to a vast library of live and on-demand classes, both on and off the bike. During cycling classes, trainers automatically adjust resistance, incline and decline for you. Note that the iFIT membership auto-renews for $39 a month plus tax.

The S22i tracks incline, watts, time elapsed, cadence and resistance. It does not pair with fitness trackers, but the Bluetooth connectivity allows it to sync with heart rate monitors. With an iFIT subscription, the app will update your statistics every time you complete an iFIT workout on the bike. When you log in, you can see your fitness score for the day, week, month or year based on distance, average incline, total calories burned and how long you worked out. You can also use the app to set specific goals for yourself, and the bike will then show a percentage based on how your progress is coming along with each goal.

Standard delivery is free of charge, and users report the set-up instructions are easy to follow and assembly is not difficult. White glove delivery and assembly to the room of your choice may be available for an additional $199, depending on where you live. If you don’t opt for paid assembly, you may want to have another person on hand to assist. Once the machine is set up, you can adjust the bike seat vertically and horizontally and move the handlebars—which offer three different grip positions—up and down using knobs on the frame.

NordicTrack’s S22i Studio Bike warranty lasts 10 years for the frame, two years for parts and one year for labor. It’s very important to follow the instructions and warnings in the product manual because not doing so—or using the bike improperly—can void the warranty.

Purchase NordicTrack S22i Studio Bike

The Echelon GT+ Connect Bike is a slightly more affordable at-home bike option, though there are no automatic adjustment features like you’ll get with the NordicTrack S22i. The Echelon GT+ offers 32 levels of magnetic resistance (compared to the S22i’s 24 levels) and comes with water bottle holders, a four-way adjustable seat and SPD shoe clips with toe cages. Added features include performance handlebars, an oversized padded seat, adjustable handlebars and a dumbbell rack.

“Connect” refers to the bike’s ability to sync with the Echelon Fit app—where you can get access to thousands of on-demand classes and hundreds of monthly live classes starting at $11.99 a month. The app tracks real-time performance stats, including leaderboard ranking, distance, speed, calorie burn and total output for every workout.

The NordicTrack S22i and the Peloton Bike+ share a number of similar features. Both have a rotating touchscreen, although the Bike+’s screen is 23.8 inches compared to S22i’s 22-inch screen. Both also offer automatic adjustments, although Peloton trainers can adjust only the resistance for riders, while iFIT trainers can adjust the resistance, speed and incline. S22i riders can also manually adjust those settings, while the Bike+ is on a fixed frame and does not have any incline or decline capabilities. At 48-inches long, 24-inches wide and 60-inches high, the Bike+ is slightly shorter, wider and taller than the S22i, but not significantly so.

Both bikes require a subscription to access live and on-demand workout classes for on and off the bike. Peloton’s All-Access Membership is $44 per month, compared to $39 per month for an iFIT subscription, and the Bike+ rings up at $2,495—nearly $600 more than the S22i. The Peloton Bike is only $1,445, but it doesn’t include a rotating screen or any automatic adjustment features.

The NordicTrack S22i weighs 205 pounds. It features two built-in transport wheels at the front of the base to enable easier maneuvering, but may require two people to move.

The NordicTrack S22i bike has front-mounted transport wheels to help with moving it, but you still have to maneuver a bulky, 205-pound device, which may not be that easy depending on space constraints where you live.

You can obviously put your fitness equipment wherever you’d like, but the S22i user manual recommends that you keep the studio cycle indoors, away from moisture and dust, and that you not put it in a garage, covered patio or near water. If you don’t follow those recommendations, it may void your warranty, causing you to have to pay out of pocket to resolve any resulting issues.

While you can stream live and on-demand workouts via the built-in 22-inch touchscreen, you can’t stream Netflix or other video streaming platforms. Even though the bike has an Android operating system, it won’t allow you to access apps besides iFIT due to software restrictions.

Just like you can’t stream any videos, you won’t be able to watch TV on the S22i’s built-in screen. But you can attach a third-party device holder to the bike (or place one near the bike) to hold a tablet or smartphone. You can also, of course, watch TV on a wall-mounted screen near the bike.

Yes, you can use the S22i bike without an iFIT subscription. You can manually adjust the speed, incline and resistance via the touchscreen, side buttons on the console and adjustment buttons on the handlebars. Without an iFIT subscription, though, you won’t be able to access the live and on-demand workouts or take advantage of automatic speed, incline and resistance adjustments—which negates some of the major selling points of this bike.

No. The S22i has hybrid SPD+Toe Clip pedals instead of standard road bike pedals, so you can wear your normal athletic shoes or use SPD compatible clip-in cycling shoes. SPD cleats and cycling shoes are not included.

The NordicTrack S22i Studio Cycle Bike is a high-end indoor cycling bike with a wealth of features that make riding in place a lot more exciting. It’s well worth the investment—including the additional $39 a month for an iFit subscription—if you like streaming interactive workout classes and virtual rides, and like the idea of letting a remote instructor control the incline and decline of the bike to make your workout more challenging. But if you’re not interested in those types of features, you’ll likely be better served by a more budget-friendly bike.

Prices are accurate and items in stock as of publish time.

NordicTrack S22i Review: Best Studio Bike of 2022? - SI Showcase - Sports Illustrated

Multi Adjustable Bench Ashley Mateo is an award-winning journalist and editor whose writing has appeared in outlets including The Wall Street Journal, TIME, Runner's World, Women's Running, Men's Journal, Health, Women's Health, Bicycling, and more. She is also an RRCA- and UESCA-certified running coach based in Denver.This author is writing sponsored content paid for by Pillar4 and not affiliated with Sports Illustrated.