Last Updated: November 12, 2020
Looking for an affordable alternative option to the Peloton bike? Do you want a bike that is sturdy, well-built, and comfortable that doesn’t cost several thousand dollars? We tested the Bowflex C6 bike which offers exceptional functionality at a great price. This works well as an alternative to the Peloton bike for those who want quality and durability but are happy to use the app on a tablet or phone rather than pay for an attached touchscreen.
The Bowflex C6 indoor exercise bike has 100 levels of magnetic resistance, four adjustment points for comfort, dual SPD and flat pedals, a computer console and tablet holder. The C6 also has Bluetooth and cadence sensors in the pedal cranks so you can sync your bike to various cycling apps and get accurate cadence metrics. The C6 is reasonably priced below $1000 which makes it less than half the cost of a Peloton bike. C6 owners can subscribe to Peloton digital, Zwift, Explore the World, or any other number of fitness apps that will sync with your bike so you can access your favorite content without being locked into one single subscription service.
Who It’s For: Riders looking for a Bluetooth enabled bike that will sync with various fitness apps
Bowflex has manufactured the C6 with several key features that make it a good buy for users who:
- Want to use several different apps that will sync with the bike
- Desire quality construction at a reasonable price
- Want a quiet bike that can be used in a shared space
- Don’t need an attached touchscreen
- Currently own a tablet or iPad to use on the bike
- Want hybrid SPD clipless and flat pedals for varied shoe preferences
- Want the freedom to ride with or without a subscription app
- Appreciate the 100 levels of digital resistance
Our Video Review
- LCD backlit computer console:
- Many commercial spin bikes feature either a very basic console or none at all, so the computer console on the C6 is a step up for an indoor studio bike. The computer displays your speed, rpms, estimated calories, wattage, etc.
- Cadence Sensors in pedals transmit RPM’s and speed to console:
- Cadence sensors also transmit this information to 3rd party apps, however, you may have to adjust your metrics to accurately calibrate RPMs with various apps.
- Various handlebar grips both vertical and horizontal:
- Handlebars have a spongy coating that keeps them sweat resistant and comfortable while riding. There are multiple hand positions for various riding styles.
- Magnetic Resistance levels 1-100:
- Resistance is adjusted via a resistance knob on the top tube. Levels 1-100 are easy to use and understand. This also translates easily to Peloton’s 1-100 resistance levels.
- Four adjustment points:
- Seat up/down and forward/aft, Handlebars up/down and forward/aft.
- Many indoor bikes only offer three adjustment points, so we love seeing more options here. The handlebars can be moved forward or aft to create more space between your knees and the bars if needed.
- Bluetooth enabled to sync with any number of external fitness apps:
- Use your favorite 3rd party app to stream or sync workouts and classes on your tablet to use while riding. You must have your own subscription to any external app, a membership is not included with the C6 to Peloton, Zwift, etc.
- Front mounted 3lb weights, included:
- Front mounted hand weights are easy to reach but still out of your way. These are tucked under the water bottle cages for convenience.
- Armband heart rate strap included:
- Less invasive than a sweaty chest strap, the arm band HR monitor can be used by any rider to transmit your HR to the console or compatible app.
- Frame: Steel frame welded for stability
- Stabilizers: Front and rear stabilizers hold bike securely
- Saddle: Light padding, racing style seat; not replaceable
- Pedals: Hybrid SPD and flat with cage
- Flywheel: Weighted
- Bike weight: 106lbs
- Footprint: 48.7″L x 21.2″W x 51.8″H
- Max Weight: 330lbs
- LCD backlit computer console with speed, rpms, estimated calories, wattage, etc.
- Cadence Sensors in pedals transmit RPM’s and estimated speed to console
- Two oversized water bottle cages
- Various handlebar grips both vertical and horizontal
- Magnetic Resistance; Resistance Knob
- Digital Resistance levels 1-100
- Four adjustment points: Seat up/down and forward/aft, Handlebars up/down and forward/aft
- Bluetooth enabled to sync with any number of external fitness apps
- No preloaded programs
- 3lb Weights included, attached below forward water bottle cages
- Requires power source to activate console
- Requires internet connection to run apps
- All external apps require their own subscription
- Armband heart rate strap included
- 10 years frame
- 3 years electronics/parts
- 1 year labor
The Bowflex C6 bike is a solid, well-built bike that looks and feels as sturdy as any we’ve ridden. The frame and engineering are top-notch and the geometry works for riders of all sizes. Dual caged/SPD pedals make this a good option for riders who already own spin shoes or want to just ride with a standard athletic shoe. The computer console is clear and easy to read with backlit metrics that appear in real time. The bike syncs via Bluetooth with any number of 3rd party apps, so you aren’t locked into one set subscription. This bike uses a resistance knob with 100 levels of magnetic resistance and offers many of the features and benefits of more expensive models at half the price.
In-depth Review of Bowflex C6 Bike
- Steel Frame
- The Bowflex C6 consists of a steel frame with welded junction points, front mounted wheels, a plastic drive cover and steel handlebars coated with a spongy grip material. The bike feels stable when you are riding.
- Adjustable Levelers
- There are also adjustable levelers under the front and rear stabilizers so you can make sure the bike doesn’t rock on your floor. Each leveler can be individually adjusted via the notched knob on the side.
- Four Points of Adjustment
- Seat raises up and down
- Seat moves forward and aft
- Handlebars lift up and down
- Handlebars move forward and aft
- Hybrid SPD/Flat Pedals
- We are impressed with the Bowflex C6 pedal. Unlike other spin bikes which use plastic pedals, these are aluminum for strength with rubber grips along the perimeter. These are dual pedals: one side has SPD clips and the other is a flat pedal with an adjustable cage on top that will support any athletic shoe.
- We love that Bowflex has opted for quality pedals that are useable by most riders. Rather than the Peloton pedals which will only work with Delta LOOK cleats, the C6 pedals support SPD shoes (your standard spin bike shoe) and regular athletic shoes. This means riders of all experience levels can enjoy the C6. You don’t have to have a separate pair of cycling shoes for every rider.
- The pedals are replaceable with any 9/16″ pedal. Pedal cranks are 170mm long.
- The Bowflex C6 includes an AC power adapter that plugs into the left side of the front stabilizer. Power is required to operate the console. However, the resistance knob is magnetically calibrated so it does not require a power source. If you want to ride without power, the bike will function — you just won’t get any data from the console. Bluetooth connectivity also requires a power source.
- 40lb FlyWheel
- Flywheel weight matters. When using an indoor bike, you don’t have the benefit of external momentum to keep your wheel spinning. For this reason, exercise bikes are designed to have weighted flywheels that gain and maintain inertia as they spin. This keeps the flywheel motion smooth and fluid. If a flywheel is underweighted, it can lag on the backend without enough momentum to pull it through the full rotation. Less expensive bikes typically have lighter flywheels which may translate into a jerky pedal motion. We love that the Bowflex C6 uses a 40lb flywheel. This is heavier than both the Peloton and NordicTrack flywheels (at roughly 30lbs each). Commercial bikes found in gyms often have 50lb flywheels, so the C6 provides you a quality weighted flywheel for a smooth feel and consistent motion while riding.
- Weighted flywheels also provide more support (due to the added weight) when standing out of the saddle.
- Comfort and Design
- The Bowflex C6 saddle is lightly padded and moderately comfortable. We say moderately because no bike saddle is really very comfortable. In fact, wide padded saddles can lead to an increased risk of saddle sores and raw spots. A slim saddle with minimal padding is actually preferable for long rides or consistent use as it reduces friction points on the inner thigh and groin area and reduces sweat and/or moisture build up. If you are new to indoor cycling, the saddle may feel a bit uncomfortable at first, but after a few rides (and increased glute definition) you will get used to it.
- The saddle cannot be swapped out for a different seat but you could add a gel seat cover if desired. If you do this, make sure to adjust the height of your seat stem as many gel covers add a few inches of depth.
- Two Seat Adjustments
- You can raise and lower the saddle as well as move it forward and aft. Ideal positioning keeps a gentle 25-35 degree bend in the knee with the foot flat in the pedal. Seat adjustment on the Peloton is adequate. There are measurements on both the seat tube and saddle carriage so you can find the right setting each time. This is especially helpful for households with multiple riders.
- Bowflex indicates the bike can be adjusted to fit riders between 4’6” and 6’6”.
- LCD Display
- The bike computer displays time, calories, speed, distance, cadence (RPM), levels, and pulse (heart rate).
- You can select Miles or Kilometers on the console.
- To switch units between kilometers and miles before a workout, push the Increase and Decrease buttons at the same time and hold for 3 seconds. Then, push the Increase/Decrease button to change the units (km/mi). Once the desired unit of distance is displayed, push any other button to save your preference.
- One thing we noticed is there is one external cord that extends from the back of the console and drapes into the head tube. Occasionally, we found this got in the way of either the weights or the water bottle cage. We recommend tucking this cord back out of the way so you don’t catch it when grabbing for your weights or water bottle.
- Tablet Holder
- Above the console computer is a tablet holder that should hold most devices securely. It is not adjustable, so you may need to remove any protective covers that are thick or heavy in order for your tablet to fit. The tablet holder does not pivot or swivel (although it doesn’t really need to since the tablet itself is removable). The tablet holder and Bluetooth connection built into the bike enhance functionality significantly.
- Bluetooth/Cadence Sensor
- Since the bike is Bluetooth enabled, it will sync with any number of external fitness apps which can be viewed on your tablet. Sometimes your workout metrics may be a bit off based on disparities between your weight and how the app calculates calories or wattage, but this can be adjusted by playing with your personal metrics in the app. For example, if an app is overestimating your calories and/or wattage, adjust your weight so it more closely resembles what is displayed on the console. The console — especially if used in conjunction with the armband heart rate strap — will typically be more accurate than 3rd party apps. We love the streamlined functionality here as the bike is designed to work with any number of apps. You are not limited to one or a few that may be preselected by Bowflex. If the app syncs via Bluetooth and can interpret the cadence sensor, you should be able to get some (but maybe not all) of your ride info to stream to the bike. Bike metrics will be in real time; app metrics may be slightly delayed.
- Apps that are supported (as listed by Bowflex) include:
- Explore the World, Peloton, Zwift, Sufferfest, Rouvy, FulGaz, Tacx, TrainerRoad and MyFitness Pal
- No Fans
- There are no fans on the C6 bike.
- Two front mounted weight cages (3lb weights included)
- The bike layout makes sense on the C6. When the weights are tucked back behind the saddle they can be hard to reach; when they rest on a tray on the handlebars they can get in the way. We like the weights at the front of the bike, but tucked up under the water bottle cages and handlebars. This way, you can reach them when necessary but they’re not in your way either. There is a chance that your knees could possibly contact the weights — especially for taller riders — so we recommend making sure your handlebars are raised enough that you don’t contact the weight or water bottle cages with your knees when riding out of the saddle.
- The Bowflex C6 is a comfortable, stable ride. We are impressed with the stability of the bike especially considering it only weighs 106 pounds. It is noticeably lighter than other bikes we’ve tested and moved around our review studio. The wheels on the front stabilizers make it easy to roll out of the way. Exercise bikes are thankfully smaller and usually quieter than comparable equipment such as treadmills or rowers. We love that the C6 can be tucked alongside a wall and doesn’t make any noise when you ride it. This is a bike that you could easily use in the same room where others are watching TV or reading, etc. The C6 makes literally no noise as you ride it. Similarly, the pedal motion is even throughout the stroke due to both a weighted flywheel and stable geometry.
Incline / Decline range
- There is no incline or decline built into the C6 bike. The NordicTrack s22i and some ProForm bikes offer incline and decline, but the Bowflex bike sits firmly on the ground. It will not create any incline while riding.
- Magnetic resistance creates frictionless resistance against the flywheel. This type of resistance is found on high-end bikes because it is quiet, there are no friction points and therefore less wear and tear of the flywheel and brake pads. Magnetic resistance is also very quiet. Since there is no contact, you don’t feel or hear any squeaking or rubbing noise when pedalling — regardless of resistance level.
- One thing we did notice is the levels don’t seem to line up exactly with Peloton’s 100 levels. Each manufacturer measures and calibrates their resistance differently, so level 20 on the C6 may not feel exactly the same as level 20 on the Peloton bike. Additionally, the Peloton bike seems to have more resistance at higher levels (90-100). Bigger, stronger riders who can push more resistance on the bike may notice that the peak 100 level resistance isn’t as challenging on the C6 as on the Peloton bike. However, it is certainly enough to get your heart rate racing. You can also adjust the resistance settings on your C6 if you want more of a challenge.
- When following a 3rd party app, you have to adjust your resistance based on direction from the app — the bike doesn’t have automated resistance that will sync with 3rd party apps.
- Resistance Knob
- The Bowflex C6 uses a resistance knob to adjust different resistance levels. There are both perks and drawbacks to knob resistance.
- Knob resistance is easy to use and reach. We love how intuitive it feels to just reach down and tweak the knob gently to add resistance. It is a good size and feels comfortable in your hand.
- When you turn the resistance knob, your level of resistance is displayed on the LCD screen. In compatible apps, you will often get a metric display of your cadence as well. When using the Peloton app, the cadence is displayed on the screen which is very convenient.
- The only issue is you can’t quickly jump from one level to another. You need to turn up the dial and kind of guess where it will take you. The LCD display is pretty accurate, but it takes just a few seconds to register your resistance level after turning the knob.
- The Bowflex C6 uses a resistance knob to adjust different resistance levels. There are both perks and drawbacks to knob resistance.
- Digital Resistance Levels 1-100
- We love the use of magnetic resistance with preset digital levels. If you are using level 44 (my preferred level for a gradual incline), it will be the same every time you get to level 44.
- The use of 1-100 resistance levels makes it easy to know exactly where you are. Other bikes have 34, 32, or even 16 levels of resistance which is much harder to determine the breakdown in smaller increments. We like that Bowflex has divided their resistance levels into an easy 100.
- No Automated Resistance
- Resistance is not automated in any app or program, you will always have to adjust it yourself.
- Resistance Noise
- Magnetic resistance is quiet and the C6 is pretty quiet when pedalling.
- There are no pre-programmed workouts on the C6. The console displays real-time metrics, but doesn’t offer any programs or training plans.
Subscription Options (must be purchased separately)
- Bowflex Apps
- Bowflex has a few fitness apps (Explore the World, Ride Social, etc.) but these aren’t any better than any other external cycling app you may enjoy. Explore the World app allows you to ride landscape videos all over the world with breathtaking views and videography.
- Peloton Digital app $13/month
- You can purchase a subscription to all the Peloton classes (both live and on demand) via the $13/month digital online app. However, community functionality is reduced in this version. You won’t show up on the Leaderboard or get Shout Outs if you are not on a Peloton bike. (The Peloton app is now available on Apple TV as well)
- Pairing with the Peloton app is easy. Simply turn on the bike and begin to pedal so the screen is active. Press the Bluetooth button on the C6 LCD console. Open the Peloton app and launch a class. Once you have started a class, select the Bluetooth option on the Peloton screen. It will bring up the option of: HR Strap or Cadence. Under the box that says Cadence, you should see: ICBike. This is your Bowflex bike. Select it and your cadence should appear on the Peloton screen so you can see your cadence while watching the program. Your LCD console on the bike still works, so you can get metrics from both the app and the console. The Peloton app won’t give you output metrics for speed or calories, but you can see cadence.
- Zwift App
- Zwift is a very popular virtual reality cycling app where you compete with and against other riders on a virtual course. Zwift allows friends (and competitors) to ride at the same time even if they are across the country. The Bowflex C6 syncs with Zwift for interactive training.
- As mentioned above, the Bowflex C6 bike is very quiet. There is no noise while pedalling or braking.
- No speakers in console. Bluetooth headphones that sync with your tablet are ideal for volume control when using the bike. There are no speakers on the bike itself.
Storage / Folding
The C6 bike does not fold up. There are wheels under the front stabilizer so you can tip the bike and gently roll it out of the way. REMOVE ANY WEIGHTS BEFORE DOING THIS! We made the mistake of rolling the bike without removing the weights first and they came tumbling down towards the screen and our toes.
We also recommend removing your tablet before you tilt and roll the bike. A bike mat under the bike will keep it secure on the floor (so it doesn’t walk) and it will reduce floor vibration and noise as well.