Echelon EX5S Review with Pros, Cons, and My Honest Verdict
Echelon is a relative newcomer to the premium home spin bike market, looking to bite a chunk out of the rapidly growing pie of the booming indoor bike market, and putting up respectable competition to well-established brands like Peloton and NordicTrack. Echelon’s current indoor bike lineup is comprised of four bikes (EX3, EX5, EX5s, and EX7s), and the Smart Connect EX5s sits second from the top after the newly released, highly improved EX7S, with a set of premium features and a price tag to match. The EX5S adds a few features over the bikes sitting lower in Echelon’s product hierarchy, such as frame-mounted kick guards and handy power ports on the front and rear of the bike. The main difference, however, is the large HD touchscreen which replaces the simple device mounts on Echelon’s cheaper bikes.
The Smart Connect EX5S seems to stick with a typical minimalist design language of the most recent crop of premium magnetic home indoor bikes. It comes in matte black paint with deep red accents on the resistance knob, in the center of the flywheel, and around the crank. This seems to be the paint scheme of choice for several comparable spin bikes on the market, like the Bowflex Velocore 22, and it is a subtle colorway that appeals to a wide range of aesthetic preferences as well as blends in well with most home interiors. I like the fact that the touchscreen monitor, while large at 21.5in, is actually fairly thin, which makes for a svelte side profile of the EX5S unlike some bulkier bikes on the market.
Fully assembled, the dimensions of the Smart Connect EX5S are 59″ L x 53″ H x 23″ W with a total footprint of 1.66 ft x 3.44 ft. The EX5S weighs in at 105lbs fully assembled inclusive of the console, which makes it average in terms of weight when comparing to direct competitors like the Bowflex Velocore 22 which is on the heavy end at 158.3 lbs and the Keiser M3i that weighs under 90-lbs.
The EX5S has a premium construction and is impressively well put together. The materials and finish are on par with direct competitors in this price bracket. The powder coated steel frame imparts an air of dutability and stability with clean welds and an absence of sharp edges, and I especially like the classy glossy branding on the seat tube, the head tube and the flywheel. Once assembled, I was impressed with build quality of the EX5S with everything snugly fitting and no discernable wobbles or vibrations while riding. Like many similar indoor bikes, the EX5S has two wheels attached to the front horizontal stabilizer that allowed me to move the bike around with ease.
Out of the box, it took about 30 minutes to fully assemble The Smart Connect EX5S. Once you have the base stabilizers on the ground, it is just a matter of attaching the pedals, the screen and a few bolts here and there and you’re good to go. All required tools and instructions are included. While I am generally comfortable with using tools and the DIY-ethic, it wouldn’t be too hard for most people given how clear the assembly instructions and diagrams from Echelon are. Echelon also provides a very helpful step-by-step assembly video (link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rP18-EiMhcc). For those who prefer not to assemble the bike themselves, Echelon offers an assembly service that can be purchased when ordering the bike, whereby an assembly technician will come to your home at a prescheduled appointment to fully put together the bike with the just a few additional steps remaining, like plugging in the bike to a power outlet and connecting it to your homes wireless network.
Once fully assembled, it can be a little confusing to figure out where to start. This is not unique to the EX5S, but seems like a common denominator across many feature-rich indoor bikes with so many options and functions that it may initially seem daunting to quickly get to know the bike. Usefully, Echelon includes a getting-started playlist which takes the frustrating guesswork out of the process of figuring out all the features. I found this very useful. Even if you are a seasoned user of other indoor bike, it might be worthwhile to take the time to go through the starter playlist which goes over the fundamentals of dealing in a good riding position and using the on-screen interface.
I found it very easy to adjust the position of the saddle, handlebars and managed to quickly find a good riding position to start using the bike without much experimentation. Both the handlebars and the saddle are 4-way adjustable (fore/aft and up/down). The quick-release levers make it a breeze to make quick adjustments, especially useful if the bike is being used by other people in the household. I noticed that compared to other indoor bikes I have used the EX5S has a particularly roomy riding position (the distance between the seat post and the front upright tube is generous, which is something that I believe taller riders will very much appreciate.
Understanding the on-screen interface are especially critical to getting the most out of Echelon’s own software platform, the Echelon FIT. There is a sizeable library of on-demand classes as well as live ride sessions that you can join that vary in length, intensity and even music choices. Once you start each workout, you are in a virtual room with an instructor and a live leaderboard showing others who have joined the same session. The touchscreen has integrated speakers which of course won’t offer an audiophile surround sound experience, but are more than adequate for the purpose. You can also pair your favorite Bluetooth wireless headphones to the system if you prefer. The Bluetooth connectivity is also very useful for connecting heart rate monitors and having your heart rate displayed in real-time on the touchscreen during your workouts.
I found the flywheel to have a very good ride feel and a more than adequate resistance range. The drive is very smooth and there are no weird noises or stutters when pedals are being turned. It does take a considerable amount of turning the resistance knob to ramp up the resistance to the harder end of the spectrum which can be an issue during fast-paced and challenging workouts, but I didn’t think it was a deal breaker. The pedals come with both clip-in and cage options which is a feature I always appreciate because I do use both styles depending on the length and intensity of my planned workouts (cages for shorter and more gentle sessions, clip-ins for longer and harder workouts).
While the touchscreen hardware is great and the software user interface is very acceptable, the touchscreen itself is wirelessly connected to the bike, unlike market leaders like Peloton, which use a wired connection. Wired connections are generally more reliable. The software also seemed to suffer from intermittent connection issues.
EX5s Features and Specs:
- Q-Factor: 202MM
- Pedals: SPD and toe clips
- Flywheel: 33lbs
- Resistance: 32 Levels, Magnetic
- Transmission: Standard Belt (not Toothed)
- Weight capacity: 300 lbs (136 kg)
- Height capacity: 4’6″ to 6’6″
- Bike weight: 105 lbs (47.62kg)
- Bike dimensions: 59″ L x 53″ H x 23″ W
- Monitor: 21.5in Full HD screen
- Monitor Pivot: No
- Connectivity: WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.0, 100 Mbps ethernet
- Applications: Echelon Fit app, only
- RPM tracking: Yes
- Speed tracking: Yes
- Watt tracking: Yes, estimate (no power meter)
Echelon EX5S Bike Pros
- Premium and durable construction
- Competitive price compared to S22i by Nordictrack and Peloton bikes
- Bluetooth connectivity
- Large HD touchscreen
- Large library of on-demand classes and many live instructor-led classes
- Metrics tracking isn’t tied to a subscription, with the EX5S you can see your stats while you are doing workouts, whether you have a subscription or not.
Echelon EX5S Bike Cons
- Resistance adjustment knob doesn’t result in immediate resistance change
- Software instability issues and connectivity dropouts
- Only 1-year limited warranty (compared to longer warranties on competitor bikes)
- The monitor doesn’t pivot right or left for off the bike classes
The Final Verdict
The Echelon Connect EX5S is a good Peloton alternative bike. It is well-built indoor spin bike with a solid feature set at a competitive price point when compared to market-leading bikes like the Peloton bike and NordicTrack S22i. The EX5S improves on the cheaper EX5 by adding a large HD touchscreen and other minor refinements (kick guards and front & rear power ports). The Echelon Fit app has a lot of potentials, but it isn’t as polished or reliable as other subscription-based indoor cycling apps on the market. The good thing is that software can be improved even after the bike has been delivered to the consumer, and if Echelon resolves the software issues soon, the EX5S bike will be a serious contender in the premium indoor spin bike market.