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Bowflex C6 Bike review: The perfect at-home bike for every skill level

Bowflex C6 Hero
(Image: © Russell Holly / Android Central)

I'm an avid cyclist. My weekends typically consist of 50-70 mile rides, and I love pushing myself further every chance I get. When it gets cold here, I can't really go out and do much. I've researched dozens of indoor trainers to put my bike on so I can ride indoors, but they tend to take up a lot of space that I don't always have. But more than that, setting a trainer up is only really useful for me. I wanted something that anyone else in the house could also do, and I didn't want one of those bikes with the giant monitor on it that only does proprietary cycling things.

It didn't seem like this thing I wanted was possible, much less existed. Thankfully, Bowflex stepped up and made something that bizarrely checked every single box I had.

For people who want:

  • High quality, sturdy build for every body type
  • Relatively compact design to fit in most rooms easily
  • Integration with dozens of the most popular cycling apps
  • Less than half the price of a Peloton Bike

Not for people who want:

  • Automatic incline changes
  • Integrated display
  • Something you can use your existing bike with

Bowflex C6 Bike: Bring your own screen

Bowflex C6 Connected

Bowflex C6 Connected (Image credit: Russell Holly / iMore)

At first glance, the Bowflex C6 looks like a standard indoor trainer. And really, that's because it more or less is exactly the same kind of bike you'd see at your local gym or tucked away in a hotel room. You can easily hop on this thing, spin for 20 minutes, and leave without ever activating any of the special features. There's a simple display panel on the bike to give you speed and distance with a timer so you can just hop on and go. You could easily install this bike in your house in about 30 minutes and never connect a screen to this bike, if that's what you really wanted.

If you do decide to pair your phone or tablet to this bike, you're in for a much better time.

There's a pair of soft, grippy hooks for you to slide whatever size screen you want in. I grabbed my 2020 iPad Pro 12.9 and installed Zwift, a popular app for virtually cycling with a group from your home trainer. Zwift immediately recognized the Power meter, Cadence sensor, and Heartrate monitor. Like a Peloton bike, there's a magnetic resistance knob to turn to increase difficulty. Once connected, the app acted as though it was integrated with my bike. Every move I made with the pedals was reflected in the animated character on the screen. When I went faster on my bike, my character went faster. I could join a group ride and spin with all of my friends and it was a blast.

This level of integration works with so many other apps. I could hop on TrainerRoad, Rouvy, and several other similarly integrated apps with high-end visuals, or I could just connect Strava and watch something on Netflix while I spin and have the results of the workout posted for everyone to see. It's even possible to install the Peloton app and get all of the same workouts and interactions you get by using the actual Peloton bike. For me, this level of flexibility is everything. As much as I enjoy the Peloton experience, not being able to do something like pull up YouTube or watch a movie on that big beautiful screen when I didn't really want to be in a "class" workout was a huge drawback. With the Bowflex C6, I can do whatever I want, including annoy my co-workers by joining a meeting while I'm on my bike. Yes, I'm that guy. No, I'm not sorry.

Bowflex C6 Bike: Something for everyone

Bowflex C6 Russell

Bowflex C6 Russell (Image credit: Russell Holly / iMore)

The flexibility doesn't end with the software. If I wanted to swap out the included standard shoe friendly pedals with a clipless setup similar to my outdoor bike, I can with ease. The height of the seat can be easily adjusted to multiple body sizes. The seat itself can be replaced with larger options to accommodate multiple body types. The bike itself comes with simple arm weights for people who want an additional challenge when they ride.

This is an indoor bike for everyone, and all body types and skill levels are welcome here.

This is an indoor bike for everyone, every body type and skill level is welcome here. And It's very easy to make adjustments so other people in the house can use this bike, which is something you can't really say about an indoor trainer you connect a road bike to. My Cannondale is pretty much fit to me and no one else, and changes aren't done lightly. But on the Bowflex, anyone could walk in and make a few changes to feel very comfortable riding for an extended period of time.

One final design note I'm particularly pleased with is the pair of bottle holders. Instead of making these fit a standard bottle size, Bowflex left the canister area open and made it possible to put anything and everything there. If I want a pair of cycling bottles there, I can do so with ease. If I only need one slot for water and the other can hold my phone, it's easy. If I want to put two Gatorade bottles there instead, no problem. The design, like most of the rest of the bike, gives me the flexibility to be exactly the kind of cyclist I want to be that day.

All of that having been said, there is one downside to having this over a high-end trainer for my road bike. Increasing difficulty when you ride, giving the feel of traveling uphill, for example, is done with a magnetic resistance knob. Which is fine, honestly, I'm never "in the zone" enough to feel like I can't quickly tweak my resistance as I virtually travel uphill. But having spent a lot of time on other trainers with this feature, having it there automatically does make the whole experience feel more real and I can see that being a big point of interest for solo folks.

Bowflex C6 Bike: Should you buy it?

Yes. In fact, hell yes. Look, we're all stuck indoors right now and that's not great. This bike couldn't have shown up on my doorstep at a better time, but even after Planet Earth isn't closed for business anymore, I'm going to have a lot of fun on this bike in the early mornings before my work shift and in the winter when I would prefer to avoid wearing five layers just to not freeze to death on my bike for a good ride.

But really, the defining feature for me here is flexibility. Bowflex has created a system where I can work out exactly the way I want depending on my mood, but also made it so everyone else in my house can do the same. It's a remarkable combination and less than half the price of the Peloton bike that gets so much attention in this space.

If you want a way to get a serious workout in while you're stuck inside, this is my best recommendation for most people.

Russell is a Contributing Editor at iMore. He's a passionate futurist whose trusty iPad mini is never far from reach. You can usually find him chasing the next tech trend, much to the pain of his wallet. Reach out on Twitter!

3 Comments
  • Hi Russell, I don't know if you'll ever see this comment given how long it's been since this article was published, but I want to thank you because, based on your review, I went ahead and ordered the C6. It arrived the other day and I agree: this is a great exercise bike! And I'm very glad to have saved the roughly $1500 I would've spent on a Peloton etc.! By the way, I clicked on your link to go to the Bowflex site, so I'm hoping you got the affiliate commission. If not, I'd be happy to verify I bought the bike because of your review, if Bowflex would accept my word for it etc. Thanks again!
  • Also, the fact that you have to turn a magnetic resistance kn*b to turn to increase difficulty is not a problem because it's very smooth and easy and not a big deal. i.e., I can go from easy to difficult very quickly etc. [your algorithm won't let me use that word. Go figure.]
  • Nice review, though I’m confused about the automatic resistance adjustments, as I’ve seen other reviews say that the C6 does allow for apps to control resistance “using ERG mode”. Any thoughts on the validity of that? Thanks!