The Bowflex IC Bike SE makes indoor cycling a breeze

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Dana Zepeda/CNN Underscored
Dana Zepeda/CNN Underscored

Though its popularity may have spiked during the pandemic, indoor cycling is still going strong. Boutique studios like Cyclehouse, SoulCycle and Flywheel have all garnered loyal fans at their high-energy exercise classes in cities like Los Angeles, New York and Miami. And, of course, Peloton cornered the in-house market during the Covid-19 lockdowns. But if you don’t live in a big city or have an extra $1500 to spend on an indoor bike, you can still get a great workout at home without breaking the bank.

The new Bowflex IC Bike SE is an affordable alternative to taking in-person spin classes or investing in smart exercise bikes with even higher price tags. I recently tested the IC Bike SE at home for several weeks and was impressed by how much bang you get for your buck. At just $1,099 when not on sale, it comes with free accessories, a trial subscription to Bowflex’s JRNY app and is compatible with several other fitness apps, including Peloton. Here’s why we think this budget-friendly bike is worth the investment.

Bowflex IC Bike SE


Regardless of whether you’re a novice or experienced spinner, the Bowflex IC Bike SE is a budget-friendly spin bike that’s perfect for training at home, thanks to its compact size, 100 magnetic resistance levels and impressive 10-year warranty.

$999 at Bowflex

What I liked about it

The compact design

Dana Zepeda/CNN Underscored
Dana Zepeda/CNN Underscored

Not everybody has the space for a home gym. Which is just one reason I think Bowflex’s IC Bike SE is a great option for torching calories without having to rearrange furniture to squeeze in a workout. This bike, which measures 4 feet by 2 feet, has a compact footprint and sleek design that fits just about anywhere. I tested it in my garage, but it easily could have fit in the corner of a bedroom or living room without detracting from the decor.

Yet, despite the fact that the IC Bike SE is extremely compact, I was amazed at how sturdy it feels. I won’t lie: I was expecting it to shake during my workouts, especially during those tough hill climbs. But lo and behold, it ended up feeling completely stable during all my rides, even when I was standing up on the pedals. The bike also has a 36-pound flywheel — which is comparable to Peloton’s 38-pound flywheel — and mimics the same feeling you get on an outdoor bike by producing smooth, continuous momentum as you pedal to your virtual destination.

The price tag

If you’re on a tight budget or just want to save a few bucks, investing in the Bowflex IC Bike SE is definitely the way to go. Although it lacks a lot of the bells and whistles of more expensive bikes like the Peloton and The SoulCycle At-Home Bike, the money you’ll save more than makes up for many of these missing features.

For instance, I didn’t miss many of the competition’s higher-end features, especially since Bowflex allows you to sync the Zwift, Peloton and JRNY apps directly to your bike. Simply download these apps on your personal device, then connect to the bike by turning on Bluetooth. This enables you to see real-time metrics on the bike’s 7-inch LCD screen while streaming classes from your smartphone or tablet.

Another big perk of the IC Bike SE is that you don’t have to spend extra money on accessories because they’re already included. The IC Bike SE comes with a pair of 3-pound weights so you can do hybrid strength and cycling classes, as well as pedals equipped with both cages and SPD clips. So you get to decide whether you want to invest in a pair of cycling shoes or just wear sneakers for your indoor workouts. I mostly wore running shoes, but I did try the SPD clips and found they worked well too. Whether or not you think it’s worth investing in a pair of cycling shoes is just a personal preference.

What I didn’t like about it

There’s no touchscreen

Dana Zepeda/CNN Underscored
Dana Zepeda/CNN Underscored

Although downloading fitness apps is a great way to save money, I would have preferred to have a large touchscreen rather than a small LCD screen attached to the IC Bike SE. This feature is available on several of Bowflex’s other bikes, including the VeloCore Bike 22 and the Velocore Bike 16, but isn’t available on this no-frills, budget-conscious model.

And though I appreciated the variety of being able to sync my own fitness apps, I did miss the immersive feeling of streaming classes on a big, built-in monitor. Part of the appeal of companies like Peloton and NordicTrack is that they offer interactive features like auto-adjust and high-fives during your ride. There’s also a leaderboard you can climb. Unfortunately, you don’t get access to these same perks connecting to Bowflex with JRNY or the Peloton digital app.

The seat is uncomfortable

Dana Zepeda/CNN Underscored
Dana Zepeda/CNN Underscored

Let’s be honest: Sitting on any bike for 30 minutes or more might make you sore. But sitting on the IC Bike SE for an extended period of time is downright uncomfortable. The seat is extremely hard, which makes it tough to get used to, especially if you are new to indoor cycling. Although Bowflex does offer an Extra Comfort Bike Seat for an additional $40, you shouldn’t have to spend more of your hard-earned money to ride without a pair of padded bike shorts.

Though I didn’t have the opportunity to test the Extra Comfort Bike Seat, I definitely preferred Peloton’s bike seat to the IC Bike SE. It had a lot more cushion and felt noticeably wider at the base, so I had more room to sit up and down during sprint and hill rides. I wish Bowflex would make the Extra Comfort Bike Seat standard on all their bikes; however, until that time, I would recommend making this extra purchase if you plan to ride regularly.

How it compares

Despite a few drawbacks, I think the IC Bike SE is a great value for anybody looking to get started with an at-home cycling routine. Regardless of whether you’re a longtime rider or brand-new to cycling indoors, this bike is a great way to train on rainy days or stay in shape if you don’t want to commute to an in-person spin class.

The price tag is also significantly lower than The SoulCycle At-Home Bike, Peloton Bike and the Bowflex Velocore Bike 16. While you won’t get interactive features or a large touchscreen, you do have the ability to sync compatible apps with the bike to view real-time metrics on the built-in 7-inch LCD screen. You can also watch TV, read a book or listen to music on your tablet without being tied to one expensive streaming subscription like Peloton and NordicTrack.

Bottom line

Dana Zepeda/CNN Underscored
Dana Zepeda/CNN Underscored

The Bowflex IC Bike SE is a great way to make indoor cycling accessible to everyone. Not only is it affordable but every purchase comes with free accessories, access to popular fitness apps and a fantastic space-saving design. If you’re looking for fancy, high-end features like swiveling monitors, a large touchscreen or tons of storage, this probably isn’t the right bike for you. But if you want a sturdy, sleek machine that’s easy to set up with tons of resistance levels, a powerful flywheel and an impressive 10-year warranty, look no further than the Bowflex IC Bike SE.

Note: The prices above reflect the retailers' listed price at the time of publication.

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