If you’re looking for a recumbent bike that can do it all, the NordicTrack Commercial VR21 is an excellent choice. This model features built-in speakers and fan as well as 25 different resistance levels to choose from, and 32 preset workouts. It also features compatibility with the iFit interactive personal training platform. Read the full review to find out more as well as learn about its critical flaw.
About The NordicTrack Commercial VR21
NordicTrack were founded in 1975 in Minnesota, USA. Over the decades they have gained a reputation for being a leading manufacturer of quality home fitness machines.
Most famed for their elliptical trainers and treadmills, they also manufacture rowing machines, stationary bikes and cutting edge interactive personal fitness stations.
So the VR21 comes from a Company that doesn’t just have heritage and a reputation for quality, but which also continues to look forward and innovate.
The NordicTrack VR21 sits at toward the cheaper end of NordicTrack range of home-gym equipment. In the UK it retails at around £700.
At first glance, that appears very reasonable for a machine which has a commercial-gym look and feel to it and which is packed with features.
Let’s take a closer look at those features.
Read our in-depth review of the most popular desk bike, the DeskCycle 2, and find out why we recommend it, despite it’s comparatively high cost.
Features of The NordicTrack Commercial VR21
We will break the features of the VR21 into four main categories:
Dimensions and portability
There is no getting away from the fact that this is a substantial and sturdy piece of equipment which will take up quite a lot of floor space. Much more so than cheap entry level recumbent bikes.
The dimensions are listed below in a comparison table so you can check for yourself the difference in size between a typical budget model.
While it may be a fairly bulky recumbent bike, it’s surprisingly light at 48kg, with many competitors weighing twice as much. You will appreciate this when it comes to transporting the VR21 around your house.
If you’ve read our run-down on the 5 best recumbent exercise bikes, you’ll know that we advise to stay away from the budget models.
Our research shows that owners generally report a straightforward assembly process thanks to clear instructions and well-labelled parts.
Monitor & Interactivity
The VR21 features a 5-inch back lit LCD display which is optimized to work with the iFit coaching application. More about that in a minute.
Below the screen is a handy tray so that you can place your tablet or phone there during the workout – something that those looking to grind out some calorie-burn while bingeing on Netflix will surely appreciate.
However, you can also download the iFit app and enjoy countless hours of workouts led by real-world trainers.
Beyond that however, it allows you to compete against other ‘cyclists’ as well as cycle through exotic locations where the iFit app will automatically adjust the resistance to mimic the terrain you’re watching on your device!
Resistance & Flywheel
Talking of resistance there are a whopping 25 levels of resistance to choose from, ensuring that you will always be able to tailor your workout to suit your fitness and ability.
You can expect the resistance to be very smooth as the VR25 features a 9kg flywheel. Compare this to the 5kg flywheel in the cheap model we previously used as the comparator and you can see that NordicTrack have really put some distance between this model and the budget models in terms of build and specification.
Even direct competitors often go with a 7kg flywheel, so you can expect a very smooth pedaling experience from the VR21.
The resistance level is set either automatically by the iFit app or by using the main console. Again this is far superior to the cheap dials of cheaper machines.
Seat & Comfort
The seat on the VR21 has been well-designed and features a good level of cushioning to make sure that lengthy workouts can be enjoyed in comfort. You can adjust the seat along the rail it sits upon, but as you will read below, not everybody is satisfied with the mechanism by which the seat is adjusted and secured.
However, the seat itself is sufficiently wide to accommodate you if you’re on the larger side, but again, some users report that the lack of adjustment in the back support means that it can be difficult to get as comfortable as they would like.
The back support is made from a mesh to ensure good ventilation. Speaking of ventilation the VR21 also features a fan built under the digital display to keep you comfortable as the sweat starts to pour.
The NordicTrack Commercial VR21 Review
NordicTrack have done a great job of sufficiently elevating the VR 21 above budget models to make it appear something of a bargain.
I appreciate that £700 is still expensive, yet your investment gets you a recumbent bike that looks and rides like it should be in a commercial gym. Okay it’s not as heavy-duty are some more expensive models but for most home settings this machine is more than adequate.
The area where NordicTrack has excelled however is interactivity. The iFit platform has succeeded in revolutionizing home fitness and must surely be the envy of competitors whose own interactive programs do not work nearly as well.
The comfort that the VR21 offers, combined with the interactivity and usability of the iFit platform will ensure that your new recumbent bike gets plenty of use and doesn’t become a relic, collecting dust in the corner of a room after 2 months (we’ve all had that experience with a fitness machine!)
Despite all this praise, there is one are where we do have a significant concern: the seat adjustment. At least one user reports that when using the cycle on tougher resistance settings, the seat begins to slide back as you push against the pedals.
This appears to happen because the seat adjustment is set by a gripper as opposed to a bolt mechanism.
Most users do not report this as a problem, however it’s important to go and try the bike if you can before you buy it. This will allow you to try it out and asses for yourself whether this mechanism is likely to be a problem for you.
Certainly if you are intending to use the bike for some hard intervals the seat adjustment gripper may prove to be the VR21 Achilles heel.
Even having pointed out this single – but potentially significant – flaw, for the money there are few recumbent exercise bikes that come with such a rich feature list.
Fewer still that come from such a reputable manufacturer, with a track record of making effective, reliable machines.
If you’re looking for a recumbent exercise bike that will give you an at-home gym experience, the NordicTrack VR21 is definitely worth considering. With plenty of features and quality construction, this bike has everything you could ask for at this price point. The iFit app is the icing on the cake. It’s just a shame that the seat locking mechanism isn’t as robust as it could be, which may pose a problem for heavier users or those wishing to do high-resistance intervals.
Do you own a VR21? If so, leave me a comment below about how it has been working for you. I’d be particularly interested to hear about how you find the seat locking mechanism.