If you’re someone like me who really gets a buzz from exercising, then this year will have been a bit of a difficult one for you too.
After a slightly lazier than normal year in 2019, 2020 started with me getting right back into the swing of my training. I started going to F45 training a few times a week and as well as loving it, I was seeing great results. Things were going great and then suddenly COVID came along. Like most of the world, my fitness routine then fell apart overnight.
I was initially determined to stay active, so I went through the same fitness phases that as most of the country and tried it all from Zoom HIIT workouts to the hillwalking but struggled to find something that I enjoyed.
A couple of months back Echelon got in touch and asked if I fancied trying one of their bikes for a month and it’s been the first form of training that I’ve properly enjoyed since I was going to F45.
What is Echelon?
Echelon is a home workout system that provides live and on-demand training via their app. At present their range comprises of connected spin bikes and a rower. These enable you to take part in a live workout along with users from all around the world.
For a past month now, I’ve been training using the Echelon Connect EX3 Bike and it’s really helped me feel like I’m back into a proper training routine again.
Setting up the Echelon Connect EX3 Bike
The first thing to note about the Echelon Connect EX3 bike is that it is a heavy piece of kit so getting it from the pavement up a flight of stairs was a workout in itself for me. I’d say it takes a minimum of 2 people to lift it so it’s something to keep in mind when arranging your delivery.
Building the bike itself took me a just under an hour. The instructions were not the most straight forward to follow but luckily the bulk of the assembly was pretty much common sense anyway. All of the tools that you need to put it together are included too which definitely gets them bonus points.
One thing that I never realised about Echelon before I tried it is that unlike some other brands of at home spin bike, it doesn’t actually come with a built-in screen. In order to use the Echelon Fit app and connect to the classes, you need to link it to a compatible smartphone or tablet. I installed the app on my iPad and used that. The larger the screen you have, the better I’d say.
With everything powered up and after a few quick adjustments to the seat and handlebar height, I was ready to try my first class!
Echelon Live and On-Demand Classes
The Echelon app is split between live and on-demand classes. There are around 20 new live classes per day and thousands of on-demand classes to choose from. I found that they vary in length between 20 and 75 minutes.
At first glance, the class names are a little ambiguous and don’t give a lot away. Some are named after musical genres and others have names like Fusion, Power, Endurance etc. After trying a few of each it made more sense, I tended to radiate towards the Fusion classes most often which was a hybrid class that offered a mix of resistance and endurance.
The Echelon bike itself has 32 resistance levels and the instructors stick to 5 intensity zones during their classes, instruction you to go up and down just like in any other class. The great thing about this was the level indicator actually let you know the precise level that you have selected. I thought that it made it easier to track and improve on next time.
As the bulk of the users are in North America, the bulk of the live classes don’t kick off until around 11 am UK time. This does mean that if you are in the UK and you like to spin in the morning before work that you’d have to take part in an on-demand class instead. It’s something that I think they should look at to make it appeal more to UK and European users.
I tried both types of class but I much preferred taking part in the live classes as I feel more involved and part of the group. The fact that they have a live leaderboard where you can compete against other riders gave me a little extra motivation too.
The instructors are all pretty chatty so again I found this worked better when I took a class that was live. If you’re a serious spin fan then I can see how the chit chat might not be your bag but for me, it did add to the feeling of being connected to a group, all the while spinning alone in my living room!
They also offer a selection of on-demand scenic rides. These enable you to try out virtual routes in some lovely places like Hawaii and the mountains of France.
How much does Echelon cost?
Off the bat, Echelon is quite an expensive investment. It costs from £1,199 for the bike itself and on top of that, you then have to sign up for a subscription to the Echelon Fit App for £39.99 per month.
The longer you stick with them the cheaper things work out though and once you have the bike, you only need to pay for the monthly app plan going forward. That obviously works out a lot cheaper than the average monthly gym membership and the longer you lock-in your membership for, the cheaper it gets.
Echelon Connect EX3 Review
As with anything, there are things about Echelon that I loved and things that I’d like to see improved upon.
Firstly, I love that fact that no matter how busy my day is, I can always squeeze in a class. I don’t have to commute to a gym, I don’t have to get changed (hey I can ride in my PJ’s if I want) and I can take a class length that works with my schedule.
Even though Echelon is a Virtual thing, they have quite a strong sense of community. I felt like I got to know the instructors and their personalities well and I even spotted a few regular riders. If you’re someone who likes to feel part of a team, then you can join their very active groups on Facebook.
Training at home also feels entirely safe. I know that gyms are now back open, and in some respect, things are getting back to normal but personally, I’m not yet 100% comfortable about getting my sweat on around other people and by using shared equipment. Having a bike in my living room feels like a real luxury.
I love the live stats that the app offers. I can see what resistance level I’m on, my cadence, my calories and my output right there on the screen without having to faff about with a smartwatch or another third-party app.
There is a couple of things about the bike itself that I’d love them to tweak. I’m not sure if this is just a personal thing or not, but I do find the handlebars on the bike a little far forward for me. This didn’t always make riding the most comfortable and took a bit of getting used too. I’d also prefer it is the water bottle slot was up nearer the handlebars as is the norm with other spin bikes.
Most importantly though, I found training with Echelon fun. I especially enjoyed taking part in the classes that Nicole took. She always seemed to be full of energy and always lined up a good selection of tracks too. Taking part in daily rides quickly became a highlight of my day and as far as I’m concerned that is key!
If you’re ready to set up your ride or want to find out more about what Echelon offer, head over to Echelonfit.uk.