NordicTrack Commercial VR21 Recumbent Exercise Bike Review

With a reputation for quality and high-tech training features, NordicTrack has dominated the home fitness marketing for decades. With something for just about everyone, their range of bikes is known for dependability and excellent value for money. Their Commercial VR21 Recumbent model caught our eye this week so we got one in to take a closer look…

First things first – assembly. It really can be a pain with some recumbent bikes and while the VR21 can’t be described as having a painful assembly process, it’s not particularly easy for one person to put this put together on their own. It can be done but there’s no denying that it’s far easier with two. All in all assembly took under an hour which is not too bad.

Visually, the VR21 is decidedly modern with nice curves and a mesh seat adding to the futuristic effect. The satin black and silver finish combined with the curves in the frame make for an attractive bike that will look great in just about any home. First impressions are that this is a high-quality bike thanks to the thick gauge steel frame and the overall solid feel of it.

Once positioned and levelled this bike doesn’t really register when you try to shake it around. It sits firmly on the floor and at 68kg (149.9lbs) with nice wide stabilisers feels . The seat too is wide and well padded and is designed to accommodate users of up to 125kg (19.6 stone/275.5lbs). The back of the seat is a mesh which helps to keep you comfortable during your workout and the seat is adjustable horizontally. The back of the seat however  does not recline which is a real pity.  It’s set to a middle of the road angle so will be fine if you’re a middle of the road sort of person. If you’re not, we can confirm that a few of our testers who didn’t fit the middle of the road description said they’d prefer to be able to adjust it. More positively, all our testers were able to easily get the perfect distance to the pedals in just a few seconds.

The frame on this recumbent bike looks slick with nice curves but there’s clearly been some proper thought put into the design. It’s an open frame that allows you to step through the bike when mounting and dismounting, rather than having to lift your leg over the middle which is nice and practical and good to see, especially considering that a lot of people that this bike is aimed at will undoubtedly be using it for rehab purposes to increase mobility. In addition to the low step through there are two fixed handles either side of the console. They’re satisfyingly thick and have a finish which provides added grip for those needing assistance getting on and off the bike.

The console features a 5″ backlit LCD high-contrast display that does an excellent job of making it easy to read your live training data. Unlike on an upright bike, the console on a recumbent isn’t all that close to your eyes so it’s good to see that NordicTrack has made sure that the extra distance between eye and console isn’t an issue here. The display is always in line with your natural visual angle meaning you get a great view of the screen. The buttons are all easy to read and make sense for the most part without the need to refer to the user manual. If you’re familiar with any reasonably modern NordicTrack machine you’ll be able to figure all of the aspects out without the manual as this follows the same format.  All the characters on the screen are large and easy to see, displaying time (elapsed or remaining), pulse, speed/rpm, watt, distance (elapsed or remaining) with a clear bright readout making programme selection a doddle.

Speaking of programmes the VR21 has plenty of them. With 33 of them to choose from it’s got plenty to keep things fresh. The programmes are all designed to target specific outcomes such as cardio improvement, calorie burn, endurance and so on. The interval training programmes work well due to the swift resistance changes on this bike. It takes less than 10 seconds to go from min to max and about the same come back down again. While on paper this doesn’t sound all that fast, in practice during a workout we found it to be more than adequate. In the unlikely event that you find that 33 workouts aren’t enough then that’s not a problem as this model is iFit compatible. There’s a tablet holder on the console to hold a tablet or a mobile phone. When the console is used in Bluetooth mode with a smart device and the iFit app, a whole world of variety of training possibilities opens up.

iFit increases even further the already large number of workouts on this recumbent bike. As an iFit subscriber you get the added bonus of being able to map out your own custom routes on Google Maps, gain access to an entire library of more than 400 high-definition workout videos led by professional personal trainers, online races against other iFit members and personalised advice for nutrition, exercise routines and sleep schedule. iFit is a whole world unto itself and offers too much to cover in this review but if you want to know more visit the iFit website for full details.

If you want to use a wireless chest strap for monitoring your heart rate the console comes with a built-in Bluetooth Smart heart rate receiver that’ll work with any Bluetooth chest strap and you also have the option of the pulse sensors on the handles either side of the seat (though the latter aren’t all that good, they do give a rough indication of your pulse).

The VR21 has a sizeable 9kg (19.8lbs)flywheel that ensures a smooth ride and this, combined with the quality of the internal components, gives a really comfortable and smooth experience. As you’d expect from a NordicTrack machine it’s also quiet The addition of a water bottle holder front and centre on the main stem is also a welcome addition.

Best Price

Currently available for £599.00 from NordicTrack

Review Summary - In Brief

The NordicTrack Commercial VR21 is a good recumbent bike. It's comfortable, has a really good range of preset workouts and is easy to use. It's also got interactive training capabilities. This bike delivers an effective workout but it doesn't make the best model for rehabilitation or whole family purposes on account of not being able to adjust the angle of the backrest. If your priority is motivational features then this is a great choice but if you're embarking on a rehab programme or intend the whole family to make use of it then then we'd say that the DKN RB-4i should be at the top of your list. Ergonomically and for sheer comfort, it's one of the best sub-£1000 recumbent bikes we've ever tested and while its interactive features are modest compared with the VR21, they're also free. The RB-4i is also currently on offer making it significantly cheaper than the VR21.

NordicTrack Commercial VR21 Recumbent Specifications

    • 9kg (19.8lbs) flywheel weight
    • 25 digital levels SMR Silent Magnetic Resistance with OneTouch™ controls
    • 5” backlit LCD display
    • Console feedback: RPM, calories, distance, pulse, resistance, speed, time, Watts + Scan mode and Priority mode
    • Heart Rate Measurement via EKG pulse grip sensors + Bluetooth® smart wireless receiver (chest strap optional)
    • iFit Coach Enabled – use the iFit Smart Cardio application connected with tablets or smartphones
    • Oversized lumbar supported saddle
    • Extra-wide ergonomic pedals with adjustable straps
    • Recumbent Step Thru™ design frame
    • Extras: bottle holder, compatible table holder, transportation wheels front mounted
    • AutoBreeze workout fan available
    • Dimensions in use (L x W x H): 132cm (52”) x 56cm (22”) x 150cm (59”)
    • Product Weight: 68kg (149.9lbs)
    • Max. User Weight: 125kg (275.6lbs)
    • Warranty: 5 years frame, 2 years parts and labour (if registered within 28 days of purchase)

NordicTrack Commercial VR21 Recumbent Exercise Bike - Console / Display Unit

NordicTrack Commercial VR21 Recumbent Exercise Bike - User Reviews

The Pros

  • Large comfortable seat
  • Bright, easy to read display
  • Lots of programmes to choose from
  • iFit capability
  • Solid construction

The Cons

  • Backrest cannot be adjusted
  • Not easy to move around
NordicTrack Commercial VR21 Recumbent Exercise Bike Reviewer Ratings

 

Appearance - 8
Smoothness - 8
Comfort - 8
Programmes - 8.5
Ease Of Use - 7.5
Warranty - 8.5
Value for Money - 7.5
Best Price

Currently available for £599.00 from NordicTrack

Also see our Exercise Bike Comparison Table

Whilst every effort is made to give you accurate information we cannot guarantee the technical specification. Models change on a regular basis and may differ slightly from the above review. We recommend you contact the retailer if you have a question regarding technical data. Please read our Legal Disclaimer

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