“Have you tested any of these exercise bikes, which is the best?” This was a message from one of our editors after he had seen one of the ‘smart’ bikes at a shopping mall. It turned out to be the FlexBike from FlexNest, which I coincidentally happened to have for review at home. His biggest question: “If I buy one, will it end up becoming a dumping ground for clothes?” And that’s a fair one to ask before anyone decides to invest in any form of big gym equipment.
At Rs 29,999, the FlexBike is not cheap, making the concern even more legitimate. However, with the FlexBike, the proposition is not the bike alone. It is the online classes which are supposed to keep a user motivated while they ride the bike alone in a room. These classes can be downloaded from the FlexNest app.
But is the FlexBike the right one for you? And should you consider it, especially if you have been struggling to get some form of fitness started? Here’s what I thought after using it for over a month.
The FlexBike: How does it work?
If you buy the bike, FlexNest will send folks to set it up for you. But unlike some of the other more fancy Peloton clones that are trying to hit the market in India, which pack a full screen, this one relies on your phone or tablet for the visual element.
In order for the bike to connect, you just need to open the FlexNest app on your preferred device and give it access to Bluetooth. After that just go to the ride tab on the app, tap on Quick Ride, pedal the FlexBike so that the app can detect it, and start recording your session.
The screen will display the RPM (Rounds Per Minute), the Resistance, which you can manually increase or decrease on the bike by tinkering with the knob placed strategically on the bar below, the number of calories burnt, the distance you cycled, the amount of time.
The bike does not have a live heart-rate sensor, so you will not get to see that data in the session, though you can wear a fitness band or watch while riding and see it separately on another bike.
The FlexBike: What does it feel like?
FlexNest bikes are designed in Germany but built in Taiwan. It does look very premium at first glance given the Black and orange accents and the overall matte finish. But that feeling went away when I realised that some of the orange accents on the wheels were just stick-ons.
Still, the bike is impressive and there are plenty of options to increase the seat height (not a requirement for me) and the bike handle as well. However, I must caution that people who are on the taller side might not find it the most comfortable experience. My husband, who is six feet tall, felt he would have preferred the handle and seat to go a bit higher. The maximum settings were not good enough for him. But for the average Indian man and woman, the bike’s height settings should be good enough.
The first time I rode the bike, what really struck me was how smooth it was, even when I increased the resistance. That’s something I’ve never experienced on my budget indoor exercise bike, which does not have magnetic resistance.
The FlexBike: The app and classes
One has to download each class on the FlexNest app. Thankfully, these are divided into beginner, intermediate and advanced. I stuck to beginner because I find riding an exercise bike an extremely boring task. But when I switched to the classes, I was convinced that perhaps this is something worth buying to keep the cardio levels going and I actually managed to do some 20-odd minutes, even when I felt really tired some days.
The spinning classes, even at the beginner level are no joke as I saw in FlexNest. In the virtual class, you have a trainer sitting on a FlexBike, telling you and others exactly what to do— these sessions are pre-recorded.
There’s also a leaderboard where you can see how you and others are faring in the class. It really does act as a motivator to keep trying, especially when the trainer is saying crank the resistance and your body is saying, ‘no way.’
I quite enjoyed the beginner classes with Hindi pop music playing and found them much easier to do. Even when the trainer asked the class to increase resistance to 40-50, I found it bearable though I struggled with the RPM speeds. However, another beginner class with a different trainer proved much harder. The moment the trainer asked the class to set the resistance to 90 and keep RPM above 120, I knew I wasn’t ready for this. I felt that particular class really played fast and loose with the word beginner, though I somehow managed to complete 20 minutes.
With regard to the virtual ride-ons, where a different kind of scenery plays on the screen trying to convince you are riding in clear blue-skied France and not in smoggy Delhi, I was not convinced. For me, the classes were the best way to continue spinning for 20 minutes or more, and I actually learned some good tips from the trainers as well on how to keep going. FlexNest says that the classes are complimentary for one year, though the price for the classes is not yet confirmed.
The FlexBike: Should you get it?
If you are looking for a fitness bike to keep the cardio going and do not have the time to step out, the FlexBike is a solid option. This is also a good option for those who cannot go to gyms given some pre-existing conditions, which make them more vulnerable to Covid-19.
Frankly, the classes can be a big motivator for ensuring that you spend at least 20 minutes on the bike. It can be all the difference you need to get the adrenaline going. If you are regularly into fitness, a smart bike like FlexBike is a good investment and easy way to complete your daily cardio goals.