Fitness has never been a priority for me, but during the pandemic a sudden shift made me realise where I was going wrong with my health. For someone who always ignored what his body was trying to say, I am now a lot fitter, physically and mentally. I did it on my own, without going to a gym or paying a trainer. Although doing rigorous exercise in the morning has mostly worked, I felt professional help would have made a difference. After all, this is not a one-time thing and spending time and money on your body is not a luxury. This is exactly the space into which the Flexbike+ has slipped over the past few weeks, as my personal trainer at home.
The Flexbike+ tries to recreate the experience of cycling in a home studio through an internet-connected bike that features a 22-inch touchscreen console, an easy-to-adjust seat, and access to on-demand classes. I still do exercise in the morning, but I also love working out on the Flexbike+at home at the time that suits me without going to the gym or a workout class.
Here’s my review of the connected cycle.
The Flexbike+ retails for Rs 59,999, including delivery and setup. When you purchase a Flexbike+, you are eligible to get a complimentary all-access membership to access Flexnext content — more on that later. You can buy the Flexbike+ as a standalone unit, or in a package with accessories that add to your cost. For my review, I will focus on the Flexbike+ alone.
Flexbike+: Delivery and set up
I got a phone call from the company to arrange a date and time, and to confirm which floor of the house I’d like to install the bike on. Delivery and setup are part of every Flexnext bike purchase. Once I scheduled my delivery date, a guy came to my house and assembled the bike in front of me in about 40-odd minutes. Once the bike was assembled, another 10 minutes went by setting up my Flexnext account and logging in before I was able to ride. Don’t worry; the guy will help you navigate the interface and explain the basics of the bike.
Flexbike+: Fairly compact
Mine is a slightly big room, so it wasn’t a big task to fit the Flexibike+ into the corner of my bedroom. The bike doesn’t take up a ton of space and plugs into a wall socket. It has rollers, so you can move it around. However, the bike is heavy and I’d not recommend changing the position of the bike or moving it unnecessarily from room to room. Be sure not to keep the bike in the balcony or where there is a chance of being damaged by water or other elements.
The bike’s frame is made of steel and it’s all black, which gives it a premium look. A horizontal bar connects the two rear feet, and from the center of this, a tube travels diagonally upwards to the handlebar. Between the fork legs, you’ll find the flywheel, from which a belt travels rearward towards the cranks, which are fixed through the aforementioned diagonal tube. The bike also comes with an adjustable seat. It was pretty easy to adjust the height of the seat, thanks to simple adjustable knobs.
At the front of the bike is a plastic cradle for a water bottle. In the front of the handlebar arrangement is an enormous adjustable 22-inch HD touchscreen, which is used to stream classes (more on that later). The monitor has built-in speakers, and you can also connect a pair of headphones via Bluetooth. A large resistance knob, as with most indoor-style fitness bikes, is there to increase or decrease the bike’s resistance mechanics. The good thing is that it is positioned in such a way that it’s easily within your reach. To be clear, the handlebar cannot move forward and back, nor can it be tilted in any way.
Flexbike+: On-screen interface
The main draw of the Flexbike+ is not the hardware but the software. The giant high-definition Wi-Fi-enabled screen separates the Flexbike+ from the standard, more affordable Flexible. But why do you need a monitor attached to the indoor bicycle? Well, it’s not a gimmick but rather the most important aspect of a premium bike: classes. Upon turning it on, you will be greeted with a login screen just like a computer.
Flexnext allows you to create multiple profiles depending on how many people in your family want to use the bike. Enter the login screen and you will see a dashboard with classes. Here, you will find tons of classes (more on that in a bit), instructors, challenges, etc. Stream-on-demand classes and the rider can compete with other participants and get a snapshot of a cardio workout (by the way I like the way a live leaderboard ranks riders based on the “output”).
Flexbike+: Ease of use and classes
I tested the Flexbike+ for over a month, averaging about 3 classes a week. I didn’t solely rely on a bike for fitness like many others as I was already exercising a bit daily. But yes, I struck a good balance between the connected indoor bicycle and running in the open. It took me about two to three days to get used to the bike, but once the muscle soreness went away I enjoyed exercising on the bike. Changing the resistance on this bike is so easy. The physical resistance knob works best for the on-demand classes with targeted metrics.
For me, what worked with a device like a connected indoor bicycle is that there’s no commitment like in a gym, where I have to go no matter how busy I am. It’s easy to get on a bike, work out for 20 or 30 odd minutes (based on your stamina), and still be in your home. There were days when I was already exhausted from running in the morning and evening, and I had no energy left to get on a bike. But then, it was me who was choosing how I want my daily fitness routine to be.
There are so many different classes to choose from and instructors to try out. You can choose between beginner, intermediate and advanced levels based on your comfort. They offer a variety of classes and the selection is split between live and on-demand classes. The majority of classes I took were where I connected with music. I haven’t gotten bored with the classes or instructors.
The community angle is interesting. On any given ride, I was competing with riders from across the country. Another thing I liked about the bike is that during a ride, the touchscreen tablet displays (which streams Flexnext-branded classes from its studios in New Delhi and Dubai) displays all sorts of stats: ride time (elapsed and remaining), current speed, distance covered, cadence (how fast you’re pedalling, in revolutions per minute), resistance intensity, and calories burned, which is informed by your body size, effort level. Any classes you started can be paused but in case you could not finish them (it happened to me a lot of times), there is no way you can start where you have paused.
Is the Flexbike+ worth it?
The Flexbike+ is not cheap. At Rs 59,999, the upfront cost is definitely high but if you think rationally that cost is less compared to a membership in a good gym. The perk here is the convenience and being able to work out from home without stepping out. One of the things I liked about the Flexbike+ is that I never knew I wanted a connected indoor fitness bicycle. I always hated going to a gym (I feel embarrassed there) but now I have an option to turn my room into a home studio. Yes, the cost of ownership of this bike is high, but think about the long-term benefits.