Best Exercise Bikes with Virtual Courses

By Presser
March 24, 2024
31 min read

Firing up a virtual course on one of the best exercise bikes can offer more than just a boatload of burned calories. Whether it’s a world-famous route, a custom ride powered by Google Maps, or a digital race with a thousand of your closest friends, the best exercise bikes with virtual courses work to create immersive experiences and perhaps the motivation boost you need to hit your fitness goals.

With so many options out there, how can I know which is best for me? So glad you asked. The BarBend team of fitness pros and cycling fiends has been spinning the pedals on bikes with virtual programming for years. Whether you’re keen on racing through the French Alps, cruising down the coast in Malibu, or rehearsing for a real-world race, we rounded up the best options on the market. Check out which of the bikes in our list have the virtual goods to help you reach your fitness goals.

The 6 Best Exercise Bikes with Virtual Courses for 2024

About Our Expert

This article has been reviewed by Amanda Capritto, CPT, CF-L1, CES, CSNC a certified personal trainer, certified nutrition coach, and CrossFit Level 1 Trainer. She reviewed the research we cite to help ensure we’re providing helpful, accurate descriptions and recommendations.

How We Tested and Chose the Best Exercise Bikes with Virtual Courses

After years of assembling, moving, riding, and dripping sweat on — sorry for the visual — over 20 exercise bikes, the BarBend team of certified personal trainers, CrossFit coaches, gym owners, and USA Weightlifting coaches knows what separates the studs from the duds. As we scrutinized the bikes that made our list, we made sure to detail our experiences on the types of virtual courses each brings to the table. 

After testing a bike, we scored it across 13 different categories on a scale from 1 (boo) to 5 (hooray). From their tech capabilities and dynamic programming to adjustability and value, rest assured that each of these bikes has been put to the test. Check out a few of the factors that helped these bikes with virtual courses make the cut.

Dynamic Programming  

As the technology on at-home exercise bikes becomes more advanced, the best fitness apps are offering more than just classes. Sure, you can still sweat through HIIT and Tabata classes, but you can also partake in interactive scenic rides led by trainers, virtual races that can help prepare you for the real thing, and even gamified experiences like Peloton’s Lanebreak.

BarBend lead video reviewer Jake Herod, NASM-CPT, selecting an iFIT class on the NordicTrack S22i.
BarBend lead video reviewer Jake Herod, NASM-CNC, selecting an iFIT class on the NordicTrack S22i.

We made sure to include options that support all kinds of training. If you have a real-life road race coming up, iFIT’s Google Maps integration can let you practice on the actual route you’ll be riding. If competition is what fuels you, gamified training where you routinely try to best your top score can help keep you motivated, as can leaderboards and virtual high fives. The options on our list provide multiple avenues for this kind of immersion. 

Display Type and Size 

Not everybody wants an HD touchscreen in their face as they sweat, but vibrant visuals and premium sound can help transport riders out of their gyms and onto the dusty hills and seaside trails of scenic rides and competitive races. We prioritized bikes with screens around 20 inches to help bring those virtual courses to life. Some displays tilt and rotate, while others employ a curved design to provide a deeper sense of immersion. (1)(2

[Related: The 8 Best Exercise Bikes with Screens]

Outside of the virtual cycling courses, many bikes we selected include off-bike workouts. The tilting and rotating screens on these bikes let you hop off for a quick strength-training session or Pilates class. Of course, embedding high-definition and 2K displays into exercise equipment is a quick way to drive up the price. As such, we also included more affordable options that let you connect your own device while still leveraging the interactive features that make virtual courses so appealing. 


Between the resistance levels, incline range, handlebars, seat stacks, and screens — whew — a quality exercise bike should be able to adjust to you. All the options on our list feature at least 16 levels of resistance, which, in some cases, can be adjusted automatically by a bike’s integrated app. 

Our tester gripping the handlebars on the NordicTrack S22i.
Our tester gripping the handlebars on the NordicTrack S22i.

To accommodate riders of all shapes and sizes — even our tallest tester, who stands 6 feet 3 inches — the seats and handlebars on most of these bikes can adjust four ways: forward, backward, up, and down. If you’re spending this kind of money, you’ll want to be able to reach the pedals without crunching a few vertebrae in the process.  

Best Overall Exercise Bike With Virtual Courses: NordicTrack S22i

NordicTrack Commercial S22i

NordicTrack Commercial S22i

NordicTrack Commercial S22i

The NordicTrack Commercial S22i is high-tech and high quality, featuring both advancements like a 22” touchscreen display, and solid specs like 24 levels of quiet magnetic resistance.


  • Price: $1,999
  • Dimensions: 58″ H x 61″ L x 22″ W 
  • Display: 22” HD touchscreen
  • Weight: 205lbs
  • Resistance type: 24 levels of magnetic resistance
  • Weight Capacity: 350lbs


  • With iFIT, users can virtually train on real-world courses like the Tour de France or take scenic rides across the world via its Google Maps integration.
  • The SmartAdjust capability can automatically adjust your resistance and incline to match the elevation and terrain of your course.
  • Its heavy 32-pound flywheel can ensure smooth adjustment to help keep your focus on the ride.


  • Access to iFIT’s plethora of virtual courses will set you back $39.99 per month, but we think it’s key to the bike’s appeal.
  • The 22-inch display and 205-pound overall weight may make it difficult to move around. 

The NordicTrack S22i’s 22-inch HD touchscreen is compatible with the iFIT app, which, via its Google Maps integration, allows riders to pedal scenic trails from across the world, including real-world courses like the Tour de France. This way, you can practice routes at home before biking them for real, and the bike’s incline and decline capabilities can even replicate the feel of tackling hills and valleys. All this potential helped the S22i earn 5’s out of 5 for dynamic programming, tech capabilities, and customizations from BarBend editorial member Kate Meier, NASM-CPT, USAW-L1, CF-L1.

BarBend lead video reviewer Jake Herod riding the NordicTrack S22i.
BarBend lead video reviewer Jake Herod, NASM-CNC, riding the NordicTrack S22i.

When she took on iFIT’s Hawaii Series, Meier loved how the bike’s incline and decline capability brought the ride to life. “Not many bikes even have incline and decline, so pairing it with iFIT really made the dips and rises in elevation feel life-like,” she said. It doesn’t all have to be fun and games, though — another tester pointed out how this feature could support training for real races. “Being able to load up one of these virtual courses on the S22i could also help you prepare for a real-life race on that course,” they said.

The S22i’s heavy-duty steel frame provides a solid base during your virtual sweats, and the 32-pound flywheel works to provide smooth transitions through its 24 resistance levels. Meier rated its durability, adjustability, and ergonomics all 4 out of 5 or higher. 

“It’s definitely a sturdy bike, but I thought the automatic resistance adjustment was smoother than manually tapping the button,” she pointed out. “Plus, the seat, handlebars, and even the screen are adjustable, so I could get a full-body workout in with iFIT’s strength and yoga sessions off the bike.”

[Related: iFit Review – Is Virtual Coaching The New Normal?]

That sturdiness translates to weight. The S22i weighs 205 pounds — roughly 70 to 85 pounds heavier than comparable bikes — and its 22-inch display can make transport difficult.

BarBend lead video reviewer Jake Herod, NASM-CPT, adjusting the resistance on the NordicTrack S22i.
BarBend lead video reviewer Jake Herod, NASM-CPT, adjusting the resistance on the NordicTrack S22i.

Even though it scrapes the top of the average price range for exercise bikes — roughly $1,200 to $2,000 — Meier rated its value 4.5 out of 5 with one caveat. “This thing is a beast, but without iFIT, it would be pretty unimpressive.” iFIT costs an additional $39 per month after your initial free trial. 

Read our full NordicTrack S22i Exercise Bike Review.

Best Budget Exercise Bike With Virtual Courses: ProForm Carbon CX

ProForm Carbon CX Exercise Bike

ProForm Carbon CX Exercise Bike

ProForm Carbon CX Exercise Bike

The ProForm Carbon CX is a sturdy steel 125-pound build with 16 levels of silent magnetic resistance. In addition to being one of the quietest options on the market, this bike also comes with a free year of iFit and a swiveling tablet holder, so you can stream classes on and off the bike.


  • Price: $399
  • Dimensions: 51″ H x 52.5″ L x 21.9″ W
  • Display: 180-degree swiveling tablet holder
  • Weight: 125lbs
  • Resistance: 16 levels of magnetic resistance
  • Weight Capacity: 250lbs


  • By eschewing a touchscreen for a tablet holder, this budget bike costs just $399. 
  • After connecting your own device, you can take advantage of the bike’s iFIT compatibility to cruise with a trainer on a scenic ride.
  • iFIT’s SmartAdjust can also automatically adjust your resistance to match the terrain of your ride.
  • It has a pair of wheels to assist with transport. 


  • Since there’s no built-in screen, you’ll need to stream iFIT content on your own device. 
  • An iFIT membership costs $39.99 per month after your initial 30-day free trial.
  • This no-frills bike lacks conveniences like heart rate sensors, fans, or speakers.

Most bikes that stream virtual classes and scenic rides have a dedicated touchscreen to bring those rides to life. The ProForm Carbon CX, on the other hand, eschews a fancy display for a tablet holder, all in the name of saving you some cash. Once you connect your own device via Bluetooth, this budget-friendly bike can take advantage of iFIT’s SmartAdjust technology and Google Maps integration, which allows you to virtually navigate courses from around the world.

BarBend reviews writer Matt Cummings on the ProForm Carbon CX.
BarBend Reviews Writer Matt Cummings riding the ProForm Carbon CX.

One of our testers, a certified personal trainer, appreciated the option to use his own tablet. “Honestly, I’d take a quality bike that forced me to use my own device over an average bike loaded with tech,” they said, rating its tech capabilities 3 out of 5. “It has Bluetooth connectivity, so you can just sync your phone or tablet and use iFIT as if it did have a huge screen, anyways.” 

[Related: Best Budget Exercise Bikes]

While they appreciated the included dumbbells and water bottle holder, its lack of common conveniences — like heart rate sensors, speakers, or fans — earned the Carbon CX a rating of 3 out of 5 from our tester.

After testing it myself, I tend to agree that trading a built-in screen for its swiveling device holder may be worth the roughly $450 you’d save compared to most bikes with iFIT integration — just don’t forget about the app’s $39.99 monthly subscription. 

BarBend reviews writer Matt Cummings adjusting the resistance knob on the ProForm Carbon CX.
BarBend reviews writer Matt Cummings adjusting the resistance knob on the ProForm Carbon CX.

At $399, the Carbon CX can still leverage iFIT’s two main draws — Google Maps-powered virtual courses and trainer-led scenic rides from around the world. Given the ability to practice virtually on a course that you could potentially race in real-life, our tester and I also agreed on our ratings for value — 4.5 out of 5.

Even though I wouldn’t quite call the 28-pound flywheel heavy (we like to see at least 30 pounds), I gave its durability, customizations, and portability all a 5 out of 5. I didn’t experience any instability or wobble from the steel frame, and the built-in transport wheels made moving it around the gym a breeze.

Read our full ProForm Carbon CX Exercise Bike Review.

Best High-End Exercise Bike With Virtual Courses: CAROL Bike




The CAROL bike’s AI capabilities provide you with tailored training, designed to give you the best workout in the least amount of time. Customers have a 100-day trial period to decide whether or not this bike is right for them.


  • Price: $2,595
  • Dimensions: 45.5″ L x 22″ W
  • Display: 11” IPS touchscreen with 2K resolution
  • Weight: 120lbs
  • Resistance: AI-controlled, motorized resistance
  • Weight Capacity: 330lbs


  • Its 2K 11-inch touchscreen can stream scenic rides and courses from apps like Peloton or Zwift, or virtual races against thousands of other users.
  • Since the bike is not locked into just one app, you can find the best fitness app to support your training, whether it’s for an upcoming real-world race or casual scenic rides.
  • The AI onboard this bike uses your metrics and cardiovascular optimization logic to automatically adjust your resistance during its unique REHIT workouts.


  • Utilizing its high-end technology like AI optimization, science-backed workouts, and software updates requires a $15 monthly subscription.
  • Its $2,595 price tag exceeds the average range of exercise bikes we have tested by about $600.

While many bikes are locked into just one fitness app — looking at you, Peloton — the cutting-edge CAROL Bike allows you to access your existing subscriptions on its 11-inch 2K touchscreen. After logging in to Zwift, Kinomap, Peloton, or another app of your choosing, you’ll be able to enjoy scenic rides and take on real-life virtual courses to prepare for your next race or reach the top of the virtual leaderboard. Our tester scored it a 4 out of 5 or higher in 10 of our 12 categories, including tech capabilities, dynamic programming, and customizations.

Our BarBend tester riding the CAROL Bike.
Our BarBend tester riding the CAROL Bike.

What separates the CAROL Bike from its competitors is its AI-powered resistance technology, which is designed to maximize your training with the scientifically-backed concept of REHIT — reduced-exertion HIIT. These workouts are unique to the CAROL Bike and, according to our tester, make it stand out. 

“The HIIT-style workouts on this bike are incredible. I think most people would get this bike for that, not just the ‘unlocked’ display,” they said, rating this dynamic programming 4.5 out of 5. “I mean, the science speaks for itself — you can see results in a fraction of the time.” 

[Related: The 6 Benefits of HIIT]

The science they speak of relates to a study commissioned by the American Council on Exercise, which showed that a 10-minute session of REHIT on the CAROL Bike provided greater cardiorespiratory benefits than 30 minutes of continuous moderate-intensity training. (3

Sometimes, though, you want a longer, more leisurely workout. Outside of its REHIT sessions, the CAROL Bike operates like other bikes with magnetic resistance, meaning you can still take classes and follow virtual courses at your own pace. 

Our tester using the touchscreen on the CAROL Bike.
Our tester selecting a REHIT workout on the CAROL Bike.

All this high-end technology does not come cheap, however. The CAROL Bike’s $2,595 price tag — and the $15 monthly subscription cost to take advantage of its features — earned it a 3.5 out of 5 for value. Its AI-powered system can certainly deliver results, but it still comes at roughly $600 more than the NordicTrack S22i and over $1,000 more than the Peloton Bike.  

[Related: The 9 Best Exercise Bikes for Heavy People]

Best Peloton-Alternative Exercise Bike with Virtual Courses: Echelon Connect EX-8s

Echelon Connect EX-8s Exercise Bike

Echelon Connect EX-8s Exercise Bike

Echelon Connect EX-8s Exercise Bike

The Echelon EX-8s can glam up your home gym with a dual-flywheel design outfitted with LEDs you can customize by color, tempo, and brightness. The 24-inch touchscreen is curved to offer a deeper sense of immersion during classes on the Echelon Fit app.  


  • Price: $3,079.99
  • Dimensions: 65’’ H x 59’’ L x 23’’ W
  • Display: 24” curved HD touchscreen
  • Weight: 124lbs
  • Resistance: 32 levels of quiet magnetic resistance
  • Weight Capacity: 300lbs


  • The 24-inch display touchscreen is 2.5 inches larger than the Peloton Bike and also curved to provide deeper immersion during scenic rides and digital races. 
  • Similar to Peloton, the Echelon Fit app offers over 40 daily live classes daily and over 15,000 on-demand workouts. 
  • The app also has real-world routes and a video game-like Worlds mode to rack up points and compete against other riders.


  • The EX-8s costs $3,079 — around $1,600 more than the Peloton Bike.
  • A subscription to Echelon Fit will set you back $39.99 per month or $399.99 per year.
  • Echelon only offers a 1-year warranty for non-Echelon Premier members.

As you embark on a virtual scenic ride through Rome or Paris, the EX-8s’ curved (and massive) 24-inch display may trick you into thinking you can stop off for a baguette. According to several studies, the curved screen on Echelon Connect EX-8s can create a more engaging and immersive experience than the flat displays on options like the Peloton Bike. (1)(2) That, plus the classes and scenic rides available via the Echelon Fit app, are what led us to declare the EX-8s as a viable Peloton alternative. 

Our BarBend tester riding the Echelon Connect EX-8s.
Our BarBend tester riding the Echelon Connect EX-8s.

While the Peloton app may be untouchable when it comes to studio classes, Echelon Fit’s got its own library of classes, as well as scenic rides that can help you prepare for a real-world race or casually explore new locales. There’s also Worlds, Echelon’s gamified racing platform, which can provide some added motivation as you try to attempt to best your high score. Our tester, a CrossFit Level 1 trainer, rated the app a 4 out of 5 overall. 

[Related: The 8 Best Magnetic Exercise Bikes]

Our tester also liked the EX-8s’ curved HD touchscreen. “With a curved screen, you can actually feel like you’re on that trail or route,” they said, rating its tech capabilities 4.5 out of 5. 

Much like other fitness apps, access to Echelon Fit’s virtual rides requires a membership. You can save about 17 percent off the $39.99 monthly fee if you pay annually (it comes out to $33.33 per month). Another benefit of the app? An extended 5-year warranty. Considering the measly 1-year alternative for non-members, this is a solid upgrade.

The curved HD touchscreen on the Echelon Connect EX-8s.
The curved HD touchscreen on the Echelon Connect EX-8s.

Overall, though, one area the Peloton Bike may have the edge on the EX-8s beat is in its value. The EX-8s, which includes high-end flourishes like customizable flywheel LEDs and a unique shock absorption system, costs $3,079.99, around $1,600 more than the Peloton Bike. As such, it garnered just a 3 out of 5 for value from our tester. 

Read our full Echelon Connect EX-8s Exercise Bike Review.

Best Exercise Bike With Virtual Courses and Streaming: Bowflex VeloCore

BowFlex VeloCore Bike

BowFlex VeloCore Bike

BowFlex VeloCore Bike

Bowflex features an innovative leaning mode and can support users up to 325 pounds. Plus, you’ll receive a two month free trial to JRNY with your purchase.


  • Price: $2,199
  • Dimensions: 55.3” H x 59.8″ L x 24.1″ W  
  • Display: 22” HD touchscreen
  • Weight: 158lbs
  • Resistance: 100 levels of magnetic resistance
  • Weight Capacity: 325lbs


  • A JRNY subscription gives you access to access streamers like Netflix and Hulu, while providing over 200 scenic rides from around the world. 
  • The app can use your workout data to recommend classes based on your current fitness level.
  • Its “leaning” mode can tilt side to side to better replicate the feel of a road bike.


  • In order to access JRNY’s recommended cycling workouts and entertainment apps, you’ll have to pay a $19.99 monthly subscription.
  • Our testing team believes the programming on Peloton and iFIT is more engaging than JRNY.
  • The complex frame required 3 hours for our tester to assemble.

With apps like Netflix and Amazon Prime preloaded on the display of the Bowflex VeloCore, you can keep tabs on your favorite shows in between your virtual rides on JRNY’s Explore the World platform. Whether you need to prepare for a real-life race on one of its 200 scenic routes, or just want to add some variety and scenery to your rides, you can pump the pedals through the Swiss Alps or cruise down Route 66 via the 22-inch HD touchscreen.

[Related: The 8 Best Exercise Bikes for Beginners]

While our tester, a CrossFit Level-1 trainer, wasn’t thrilled that its monthly $19.99 subscription is required to reach those virtual destinations — as well as access to the streamers — this is in line with other apps offering rides on similar courses. “Some other apps have coaches on everything — studio classes and scenic rides,” they said, rating JRNY’s programming 5 out of 5. “Explore the World only lets you use your own music or podcast to enjoy the ride or zero in on your training.” 

Another immersive feature we haven’t seen on other bikes is the “leaning” mode, which allows the frame to tilt laterally to mimic the turns of the virtual course you’re riding. “I really do like the leaning feature that simulates outdoor riding. Also, it’s nice that you can just hit a button to turn it off,” they noted. This and its 100 levels of resistance — the same amount you’ll find on the Peloton Bike — helped it earn 4.5’s out of 5 for adjustability, ergonomics, and customizations.

As far as the programming, our tester highlighted the scenic virtual courses on JRNY, but felt it may be lagging behind others like Peloton. “I’m an admitted Peloton snob, so even though I don’t think it’s on their level yet, I did enjoy the virtual scenic rides on JRNY.”

[Related: The Best Exercise Bikes on Amazon]

Also, setting up this bike is a pain. Our tester spent 3 hours assembling this one, hence their 3 out of 5 rating for setup. “Definitely grab a friend to help you move the box inside,” they said, “and see if they’ll stick around to put it together, too.”

Best Exercise Bike With Virtual Courses and Studio Classes: Peloton Bike

Original Peloton Bike

Original Peloton Bike

Original Peloton Bike

The bike that started the Peloton craze offers a 22-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth connectivity, a five-megapixel front-facing camera, and a built-in microphone. The Peloton membership offers access to thousands of live and on-demand cycling classes as well as progress tracking and leaderboards.


  • Price: $1,445
  • Dimensions: 51.25″ H x 51″ L x 24″ W 
  • Display: 22” HD touchscreen
  • Weight: 135lbs
  • Resistance: 100 levels of magnetic Resistance
  • Weight Capacity: 297lbs


  • Between its guided, timed, and distance-based scenic rides, the Peloton app proves that it has more to offer than its world-class live studio classes.
  • If you’re after competition and camaraderie, you’ll like Peloton’s leaderboards, virtual high-fives, and gamified Lanebreak mode. 
  • Its impressive 100 levels of magnetic resistance far surpass the typical range of 16 to 32 levels.


  • Access to the Peloton app’s studio classes costs $44 per month, the most of any app we’ve tested.
  • You’ll either need Delta-compatible cycling shoes or to swap out the standard pedals.

Being synonymous with at-home indoor cycling bikes just wasn’t enough for Peloton. In addition to the Peloton app’s wealth of world-class studio classes and semi-celebrity instructors, it offers three types of scenic rides to bolster its already impressive library. Whether you need a guided ride in Iceland, a 20-minute jaunt through Tuscany, or want to prepare for a 10K in Savannah, you’ll find a wealth of options to choose from.

The Peloton Bike in the BarBend gym.
The Peloton Bike.

The Peloton bug has certainly stung BarBend’s team of cycling enthusiasts, with its dynamic programming garnering a 5 out of 5 from our tester, a certified personal trainer. 

[Related: The 8 Best Commercial Exercise Bikes]

BarBend editorial member — and resident “Peloton guy” — Randall Colburn thinks Peloton has staked its claim as the industry leader when it comes to studio classes. “I love being able to hop from a HIIT ride to an off-bike strength class to a yoga cooldown,” he said. “The instructors provide motivation, allow room for adjustments, and routinely make me laugh. I would die for Denis Morton.”

When a cruise through Big Sur with Denis Morton doesn’t sound appealing — but, come on, it always does — Colburn loves using Lanebreak for a different kind of challenge. “Lanebreak is a lot of fun — and can be really tough. It’s kind of like Guitar Hero, honestly, as the music sets the pace and you rack up points by bouncing between different lanes. The desire to top my high score is incredibly motivating, and it’s great if you’re not in the mood for a full class.”

The Peloton Bike pedals can be switched out with SPD-compatible options.
The pedals on the Peloton Bike.

The hardware is impressive, too. Its 38-pound flywheel makes for smooth adjustments to its 100 levels of resistance, while the powder-coated steel frame can support riders up to 297 pounds. Its seat is adjustable four ways — up, down, forwards, and backwards — and the handlebar height can also be adjusted. Our tallest tester — 6 feet 3 inches — had no problem getting comfortable for a ride. 

[Related: Peloton vs. NordicTrack — How Do They Compare?]

It’s important to keep in mind that access to the app will cost you $44 per month and you’ll also need to pony up for a pair of Delta-compatible cycling shoes to clip in (though you do have the option to swap the pedals out). For everything it has to offer, though, the $1,445 price point — on the lower end of the $1,200 to $2,000 average for connected bikes — helped it earn a 4.5 out of 5 for value from our tester. 

How Much Does an Exercise Bike with Virtual Courses Cost?

For exercise bikes that offer virtual courses, the technology onboard can be a major driver of the price, but many factors are at play. How deep is an app’s library of rides? Can it make hands-free adjustments to resistance? Is there a recurring subscription required to access the virtual courses? The bikes on our list range from $399 to $3,079.99, but most fall in the middle of that range at roughly $1,400 to $2,000.

Since virtual courses benefit from HD visuals and the immersiveness provided by large displays — not to mention app integration and their associated subscription costs — the bikes on this roundup are a pricey lot. 

[Related: The 8 Best Exercise Bikes Under $500]

We did, however, include a budget option that swaps out a touchscreen for a device holder, so if you’re comfortable navigating courses on your tablet or smartphone, you can save some serious cash. 

What to Consider Before Buying an Exercise Bike with Virtual Courses

Before you drop an exercise bike with virtual courses in your home gym, consider why, exactly, you need it. Are you trying to prepare for an upcoming race? Is the studio cycle class vibe getting a little stale? Maybe instead of booking a trip to Italy, a virtual jaunt around Rome could scratch that travel itch. Here are a few of the factors to think about before clicking add to cart.

Your Fitness Goals

While the handlebars on an exercise bike are great for hanging clothes, using them for low-impact cardio exercise is a better use of your money. Before committing to a bike with virtual courses, ask yourself, “What are my fitness goals?” 

The pedals on the ProForm Carbon CX.
The pedals on the ProForm Carbon CX.

It could be as simple as improving your overall health or getting in more cardio, or maybe it’s a more specific goal like preparing for a real-life race. You may even be looking for programming that supports strength training for cyclists, like iFIT or Peloton. Whatever your end goal is, check the specs on the bike, as well as the courses and classes on offer to find the best match.


Over our years spent in the saddle of exercise bikes, we’ve found that most at-home options fall around $1,200 to $2,000. Prices for bikes that support programming with virtual courses skew higher, as technology like onboard HD touchscreens tends to be a bit more advanced than less expensive options that may feature an LCD display. 

Both the Echelon Connect EX-5 and EX-8s feature a bullhorn handlebar.
Both the Echelon Connect EX-5 and EX-8s feature a bullhorn handlebar.

After you have established your budget, use our price chart to quickly narrow down your available options. An important consideration for bikes with virtual courses is the cost of the programming. 

[Related: The 9 Best Portable Exercise Bikes]

While there are some free apps out there, most fitness apps require a monthly subscription to access their content (or, in the case of an app like JRNY, access to streaming apps like Disney+). Remember that when you commit to one of these bikes, you may also be committing to an app’s monthly subscription cost.

What Motivates You 

Whether it’s the novelty of a virtual ride through Iceland or the competitiveness of flying past other riders on a leaderboard, the programming on integrated fitness apps is designed to keep athletes motivated. If you already put down the deposit on a 10K ride, you may be motivated to find that course virtually and put in the practice. 

Our expert reviewer, Amanda Capritto, CPT, CF-L1, CES, CSNC, highlighted how fitness apps and online workout programs work to provide a motivational boost for all athletes. “Solid, smart programming is what keeps you from spinning your wheels in the gym and failing to see results,” she said. “Even the most dedicated fitness enthusiasts go through periods of low motivation and/or a lack of discipline, and having a coach or program in place can seriously help get through that.”

Benefits of Exercise Bikes with Virtual Courses

In addition to burned calories and improved cardiovascular health, biking a virtual course can open up the benefits of cycling. The rides on tap from iFIT, Peloton, and JRNY virtually replicate routes from around the world, and the tracking capabilities of connected bikes can help provide the metrics you need to keep tabs on your progress. Here are a few of the benefits you can expect from an exercise bike with virtual courses.

Immersive Cycling Experience

If you can imagine watching something like Dune on your iPhone versus in a theater, you know how important it is to immerse yourself in what you’re watching. Whether it’s a movie or virtual ride, a large — or even curved — screen, quality speakers, and crisp resolution can dramatically impact the quality of your riding experience. 

On a stationary bike, that sense of immersion might affect your physical fitness or readiness for a future real-world race. Following an at-home workout on your bike is one thing, but the engagement that a real-life or digital virtual course provides can keep you on task and seeing the results you’re after.


Athletes of all fitness levels can struggle with motivation because — newsflash — physical exercise is hard. To be able to admire the scenery of the Swiss Alps or zero in on the nuances of a real-world course you’ll soon be tackling are great ways to get excited about climbing in the saddle. A review of 66 studies has shown that when it comes to exercise, internal motivation is key to sustaining any fitness plan. (4

The identical pedals on the Echelon Connect EX-8s.
The identical pedals on the Echelon Connect EX-8s.

What virtual courses can offer is a vessel to maximize that motivation by pushing yourself to improve with every new ride. Maybe you’re motivated to climb to the top of the leaderboard. Maybe you already paid for that race you have coming up. Whatever your reason for wanting to load up a virtual course, the apps aboard these exercise bikes can answer the call.

Tracking Your Metrics

Just like apps on your phone, fitness apps like iFIT and Peloton create an easy way to record and manage your workout data, like your best times on certain courses, average heart rate, or calories burned. 

Since these bikes connect to Wi-Fi, they can also sync your health data from the best heart rate monitors, smart watches, or fitness trackers. Having a clear picture of your progress may be another motivating factor for you to train consistently and effectively — plus, you can brag about how fast you finished your last course.

Final Word

As the technology built into fitness equipment advances, there are now more ways than ever to add variety and motivation to your training. When you fire up a virtual course on a connected exercise bike, you may just be interested in checking out the scenery in Patagonia, but you might also be training for a real-life race. Between guided rides with a trainer, Google Maps-powered custom routes, and Tron-like digital worlds, exercise bikes with virtual courses can open up a whole new world of cycling.

Even for the seasoned fitness professionals on the BarBend team, the quality and quantity of virtual rides available can be overwhelming. We loaded up numerous scenic rides and famous routes from all over the world to bring you our insight on which bike and programming can help you hit your fitness goals. Once you find your best match, you can immerse yourself in engaging virtual courses from leading fitness apps, which may just be the motivation boost you need to get across the finish line.


What is the best exercise bike with virtual courses?

With the rare inclusion of incline and decline, along with engaging courses from iFIT, the best exercise bike with virtual courses that we’ve tested is the NordicTrack S22i. As you immerse yourself in your ride via the 22-inch HD touchscreen, iFIT can adjust the resistance and incline adjustments to match the terrain and elevation of your virtual course. Whether you’re using this smart bike to take on a real-world course like the Tour de France or a custom route you carved out on Google Maps, the S22i should have everything you’ll need.

What is the best exercise bike for classes?

Peloton is the bike we just can’t quit. As the gold standard for beginner to advanced live and on-demand classes, the Peloton app’s instructors, interactivity, and functionality just can’t be topped. While other fitness apps may have caught up in terms of scenic rides or virtual courses, our testing team consistently rates the cycling classes on Peloton a 5 out of 5.

Is there an exercise bike that has Netflix or YouTube?

Several bikes on our list can stream content from entertainment apps, so long as you have your own subscription. Peloton, for example, provides access to Netflix, Max, and YouTube TV. JRNY also offers a suite of streaming options to complement its spin classes and scenic bike rides. You can also find bikes with “unlocked” displays — like the CAROL Bike — that allow you to download just about any streaming or fitness app you want.


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