Size: 49" L x 20" W x 44" H
Weight: 104 lbs
Flywheel: 28.6 lbs (rear)
Weight limit: 300 lbs
Height range: 4'5" – 6'8"
Resistance: Magnetic, 32 levels
There’s no shortage of smart and connected exercise bikes available right now, and for a variety of different price points. While its not the cheapest connected bike around, the Echelon Ex-3 still manages to come in at the lower end of the spectrum — especially compared to other big brands like Peloton.
Granted you lose some of the more premium hardware you’d get on more expensive bikes. There’s no built-in display, and the bike itself is overly reliant on a companion app on your phone. But, regardless of that it lacks, the Echelon Ex-3 Smart Connect Bike is able to offer a great cycling experience alongside a fitness platform with just about everything you would need for your home workouts. How does it compare to some of the best exercise bikes on the market? Read our Echelon EX-3 smart connect bike review to find out more.
Echelon Ex-3 Smart Connect Bike review: Price and subscription
The Echelon EX-3 Smart Connect Bike can be purchased for $800 in the U.S., though it does regularly go on sale. The Echelon FitPass, which covers bodyweight workouts (or those you don’t need equipment for), costs $11.99 a month. If you do want cycling workouts, the Echelon Premium memberships are also available, priced at $34.99 a month, $399.99 a year or $699 for two years. This offers all the same benefits as FitPass for up to five people, as well as classes for Echelon’s smart fitness equipment.
In the U.K. the Echelon EX-3 originally retailed for £949, but is currently available for £749. FitPass subscriptions cost £12.99 a month, while Premier memberships are £29.99 a month. It’s also possible to subscribe for £299.90 a year or £476.76 for two years.
Echelon Ex-3 Smart Connect Bike review: Design and Setup
The Echelon Ex-3 Connect was fairly easy to build and set up. Like other large fitness equipment, the most complicated parts are already done by the time it arrives, and all it takes is for you to piece the rest together.
While I felt the illustrations in the manual could have been a little larger, and the different screws better labelled, I didn’t have any major problems getting the bike up and running. Threading the electrical wires through the casing was a little bit fiddly, but it was manageable. And, unlike just about every piece of Ikea furniture I’ve ever built, I didn’t have to go back and repeat parts because the instructions were unclear or I hadn’t paid attention.
Overall it took me around 45 minutes to put everything together, though the process was aided by the use of an electric screwdriver.
From a design standpoint, the Echelon Ex-3 Connect doesn’t really have anything too out of the ordinary. The lack of a display is the most glaring omission, with the Ex-3 instead offering an adjustable tablet stand to house your own device. Personally I think it’s better this way, since you’re not beholden to Echelon's hardware, and can swap and change your device whenever you see fit. It’ll also help keep the price down, which is nice.
Beyond that the design is nothing overly spectacular. The frame on our review model was a mix of black and red, though pure black is available. Everything appears to be made of either thin plastic covering or sold metal, offering quite a sturdy feel to the whole bike. Two maneuvering wheels at the very front let you reposition the bike as you see fit. Just be aware you need to tilt the bike quite far forward before those wheels hit the ground and become useful.
The seat has two levels of adjustment, while the front bar can be raised or lowered to match your own shape. The seat itself is made from a covered foam-like material, and is designed for comfort.The pedals offer a dual-purpose design, with a choice of traditional toe cages or clip-in cycling shoes (check out the best shoes for Peloton and indoor cycling here). There’s also a large button to force a connection to your tablet’s Bluetooth, though in my experience this happened automatically once the pedals started turning.
Also included are dual water bottle holders at the font of the bike, and a dumbbell rack at the very back.
Echelon Ex-3 Smart Connect Bike review: Performance
The main thing you need to know about the Echelon EX-3 is that it’s almost completely reliant on a connection to the companion app. Without that crucial link the resistance lever is totally unresponsive, leaving you to cycle at the lowest possible setting. If you can’t get that Bluetooth link you’re going to end up having to spend a few minutes figuring out why. Odds are restarting your phone (or tablet) will fix the problem, but it’s an annoying issue to be faced with mid-workout.
The bike tries to auto-connect as soon as you start pedaling, and once connected to the app things happen about as smoothly as you might expect. Your choices are to cycle freestyle, or join one of the classes — with live and on-demand options available to Echelon Fit subscribers. You get a 30-day free trial to Echelon Fit when you buy, but letting that subscription lapse locks you out of everything except Freestyle mode.
Speed, cadence, watts and other stats are visible at the bottom of the screen, above your current session time. The left-hand side of the screen features a league table, so you can compete with your classmates, and on the right are buttons with elapsed time (again), music playback, and an option to sync with a separate heart-rate monitor. Local music playback doesn’t appear to have shuffle or repeat options, so you may be better off using a more fully-featured standalone app instead.
My main gripe with the Echelon Ex-3 Connect is that the resistance lever isn’t the most responsive. When you start up your workout it can take several seconds before it registers you’re trying to up the ante, and the precision is lacking. Even after several weeks using the bike I find myself struggling to pick the right resistance level. I’m either twisting the dial too much, and overshooting, or so little thay the bike fails to even register it.
Once connected, and provided you can sort-of get the hang of the subtleties of the resistance lever, the Echelon Ex-3 works exactly as described. You sit down, make sure the bike is connected to the app properly, and get pedaling. How you pedal is entirely up to you (or your on-screen trainer), and the magnetic resistance has so far worked absolutely perfectly.
Though I’m not sure how I will fare against an extended workout, the foam seat has been fine for short bursts of cycling, but there have been plenty of occasions where it’s started to get fairly uncomfortable by the end of my longer sessions.
Echelon Ex-3 Smart Connect Bike review: Live and on-demand classes
Echelon offers a wide variety of classes, all of which are locked behind a subscription. Those of you with the Echelon Ex-3, or any other piece of the company’s equipment, will need a premium membership to get the most out of the classes on offer. FitPass may be cheaper, but only offers off-equipment workouts on its own.
Granted there are plenty of off-equipment workouts for you to choose from as part of the FitPass subscription. Yoga, Zumba, kickboxing Boot Camp, HIIT, Kickboxing and Pilates to name a few. Those classes are all organized into their respective categories, making them relatively easy to find.
As for the Premium membership classes, Echelon has a daily schedule of classes going up throughout the day, some of which then get added to the on-demand catalogue, which itself has over 2,000 workouts available whenever you like.
Classes can be filtered by time, intensity, the instructor and even the kind of music they’re playing as you ride. I guarantee that after trying some of the different classes and instructors you’ll have picked out your favorites and will stick with them going forward.
The benefit to the classes is that you have that extra voice guiding you and pushing you into trying different things, rather than sitting there and pedalling at a semi-constant pace for the duration of your workout. You also have the option to compete against everyone else taking part, which may just be the perfect motivation to try a little harder than last time.
It is possible to take part in some Echelon classes with your own equipment, though the app really doesn’t like it when you do. The company offers a 30-day free trial to its premium membership, which should give you ample opportunity to test that out for yourself and see if you run into any problems.
Without the subscription you are restricted to using the Ex-3 in freestyle mode. Which is perfectly adequate by itself, though you have to jump into the settings menu to find it. It would be nice if the mode was displayed a little more prominently, but right now it’s not too taxing to get things going. It’s ideal if you like cycling at your own pace, like me, or if you want to rely on instruction from elsewhere.
Echelon Ex-3 Smart Connect Bike review: Verdict
If you’re looking for a no-frills connected exercise bike, you can do worse than pick up the Echelon Ex-3. The bike is relatively cheap, and the paid subscriptions give you access to thousands of different classes and workouts to help you get the most out of your equipment. That includes plenty of alternatives for the days when you just don’t feel in the mood for more cardio.
Of course the relatively low price comes at the expense of more upscale features, like the built-in displays you get from more premium bikes — including those offered by Echelon itself. While I prefer it this way, this fact means it’s not going to be the right option for everyone.
Overall the Echelon Ex-3 is a great bike, albeit far from perfect. The resistance dial is fiddly, and takes a while to get the hang of, and the seat can take its toll during those lengthy rides. Still, it gives you the freedom to workout in a way that suits you, with the option to do as much or as little as you like. So whether you’re a hardcore cyclist or someone who generally hates exercise, the bike (and its app) have plenty to offer.