The Nautilus R616 Recumbent Exercise Bike was released in fall 2014, as the top-of-the-line model in a collection that also includes the highly rated R614.
But is the difference in price justified, or do you get better value for money with the lower priced design?
This is just one of the questions we wanted to answer with our recumbent bike review. We’ll also take an in-depth look at the workout programs, warranty, display console functions, and design features.
Ergonomic design features
Between $300 and $600 is generally regarded as the most popular and competitive price category for recumbent bikes.
Not only does this include Nautilus’ recent collection, but also ProForm’s innovative 440 ES, and a whole host of Schwinn models (230, 270, 520).
So how does the Nautilus R616 compare?
Firstly, you have the 25 levels of Eddy Current Braking (ECB) resistance – an increase over the 20 available with their lower priced R614, and the same number as the Schwinn 270.
Moving onto the seat, and the Nautilus model actually has better ventilation in the back support than the majority of recumbent bikes in this price range, helping you stay cool.
The only exception to this is the ProForm 440 ES, although the seat doesn’t offer the same ergonomic contouring as the Nautilus, meaning you’re likely to move around a bit more.
While the ECB resistance keeps your workouts quiet, the high-speed high-inertia perimeter-weighted flywheel is making sure the cycling motion remains smooth and consistent.
This is helped by the upgrade to deluxe oversized pedals since the R614, offering a wider variety of foot positions and resulting in a more efficient transfer of power.
The low profile crossbeam and walk through design, coupled with the lumbar support and reclined seated position create workouts that aren’t just effective, but low impact and comfortable as well.
Nautilus R616 – Features Summary
- Blue backlit Dual Track LCD display – two LCD windows display the status up to 13 workout details
- Bluetooth LE connectivity and Charging USB port
- 29 programs, 25 levels of resistance, 4 user profiles and more
- Acoustic chambered speakers for big sound
- Grip heart rate or telemetry enabled for chest strap
Display console design
A growing trend amongst fitness equipment companies is to integrate smartphone and tablet support into their equipment.
This is great news if you enjoy watching movies while you workout, but there are some subtle features you need to look for to enjoy this experience without sacrificing on your performance.
Firstly we have the media shelf. Many modern recumbent bikes over $300 now have either a reading rack or media shelf to support a tablet or smartphone. However, in many cases the positioning means you have to choose between monitoring workout feedback and catching up on some Netflix.
Bikes like the R92 and LCR from Sole Fitness are examples of this, where they only use a single screen with the media shelf directly below.
In contrast, Nautilus has designed the R616 with DualTrack™ backlit LCD screens. This means that although one is still blocked by the tablet, you can still keep track of important feedback like time and distance using the lower display.
However, if you still feel like you would want full access to your workout information at the same time as using a tablet, it’s worth taking a look at the Diamondback Fitness 910SR.
Diamondback actually created a holder for the tablet on top of the display, although this does mean it’s further away when it comes to making selections, and can only be used with the tablet in a portrait orientation. So even this isn’t a perfect solution.
Although there aren’t many differences over the lower priced R614 design, this isn’t too surprising. For a comparatively low priced bike, the R614 offers such a wealth of workout and entertainment features that it’s difficult for any bike under $1000 to really build on this.
iFit enabled recumbents are an exception to the rule. This is due to what’s possible with the software, including the planning virtual cycling routes and access to hundreds of online fitness programs.
The closest iFit enabled bike we could find to this price point is the NordicTrack Commercial VR Pro. Their GX 5.0 is actually closer in terms of price, but is iFit compatible rather than enabled, meaning you would need to spend a further $100 for the module to access the full features.
In addition to the multiple display screens, the R616 features a 3-speed adjustable cooling fan, built-in speakers, a USB charging station, and Bluetooth connectivity for syncing your workout data.
Feedback displayed on screen includes revolutions per minute (RPM), speed, time, distance, calories burned, and heart rate.
Sync workout data to NautilusConnect and MyFitnessPal
One of the major upgrades over the Nautilus R614 is the addition of Bluetooth connectivity, which allows you to sync workout data wirelessly to a number of fitness apps.
Nautilus® Trainer is the company’s own app that can be downloaded from the App Store, but you can also sync your workout data to MyFitnessPal for automatic updates towards your daily goals. You still have the option to export results to a USB drive if you don’t want to take advantage of Bluetooth.
You can view a full list of supported devices and get started by creating your own profile over at www.nautilusconnect.com.
Preset workout programs and user profiles
If you want to see the greatest improvements in your physical fitness in the shortest time, you can’t ignore the importance of workout variation.
Due to a process known as muscle adaptation, your body will naturally become more efficient at an exercise the more frequently it’s performed. This is one of the reasons someone just starting a fitness program sees faster gains than someone who has been training for a number of years.
As well as the Quick Start (Manual) program, where you can start a workout and don’t follow a set profile, there are also a number of preset programs to choose from.
Because specific programs are better suited to specific fitness goals, Nautilus have grouped them into five main categories; Fun Rides, Mountains, Challenges, Heart Rate Controlled, and Fitness Tests.
Workout program categories
- Fun Rides – A collection of lower intensity programs with less variation in resistance levels and more of a focus on steady-state cardio. Ideal for anyone starting a new fitness routine.
- Mountains – Greater variation in resistance levels than the Fun Rides, with varying levels of intensity. The two most challenging programs – Mount Hood and Summit Pass – are the best options for developing lower body strength.
- Challenges – As the name suggests, these are the highest intensity programs, with two variations of interval training. If you’re looking to increase your endurance, these are the programs for you.
- Heart Rate Controlled (HRC) – These programs let you set a target heart rate for your workout. Provided you are holding onto the touch sensors or wearing a chest belt, the resistance system will then automatically adjust to keep you at your target level.
- Fitness Tests – More detail on these below.
As well as being able to monitor your progress with the data sync to fitness apps, you can choose between two different types of fitness test.
Each of these tests will generate a score, which can then be used for future comparisons to see just how much your fitness is improving.
Whereas the R614 model only offered the standard Fitness Test that compares power output to heart rate, the R616 also includes the popular Recovery Test program.
This measures how quickly your heart rate returns to normal after exercise, with a reduced recovery time being an indicator of improving physical fitness.
After doubling the number of user profiles compared to the R614, you now have four to choose from, which is level with bikes like the BodyCraft R25 Platinum and Kettler RE7 (both usually retail close to $1500).
These allow you to enter some basic personal information, such as weight and age, which is then used in calculations to make your workout feedback more accurate.
Having four makes it ideal for family environments where several people might be using the bike as part of their fitness routine. With your information stored in profiles, there’s no need to re-enter anything each time you start a new workout.
Workout results are also stored against specific profiles, making it easier for multiple people to track their workout history once you sync the data to MyFitnessPal or NautilusConnect.
Comparing the R616 with the R414
From a design perspective, the R616 is very similar to the earlier R614 model. You still have the walk-through frame, heart rate touch sensors built into the handles, and high speed, perimeter weighted flywheel for smoother cycling.
In fact, the only physical difference we noticed with the frame that can be used to tell the bikes apart is that the frame is solid under the seat for the R616, while the R614 has a space.
We thought this might be to increase weight capacity, but it’s actually the same for both bikes at 300 lbs.
There’s also a slight difference between the pedals of the two bikes, with the upgraded R616 offering an oversized deluxe version.
We’ve also seen some companies vary the warranty coverage between equipment in the same range, such as the Precor RBK collection. However, despite the difference in price, Nautilus maintains the high level of warranty coverage for both models.
Although we would have perhaps liked to see lifetime coverage on the frame for the top-of-the-line model, it’s rare to find this on bikes under $1000. The coverage offered here by Nautilus is also exactly the same as Schwinn offer for their bestselling 270 model.
If a lifetime warranty on the frame is something that’s important to you, this is something that’s offered by the Horizon Fitness RC-30, which has a similar average rating and available in the same price range as the Nautilus R616. However, this does mean that you sacrifice the NautilusConnect performance tracking.
As we mentioned earlier, NautilusConnect is a system similar to SchwinnConnect and ViaFit from Horizon Fitness, whereby you can view a history of your workout performance.
Although this is something that’s available on both Nautilus recumbents, you need to use a USB port to transfer data with the R614, whereas the upgraded R616 model lets you connect via Bluetooth.
In terms of the workout programs themselves, the R616 offers a total of 29, compared to a total of 22 for the R614.
The difference is caused by an additional fitness test (Recovery based), twice the number of custom programs, and an increase in the number of preset profiles and heart rate controlled options.
The final difference we noticed was that the LCD displays were backlit for the R616, whereas they weren’t for the R614. This makes it much easier to monitor important feedback in low light conditions, such as early mornings and evenings.
We decided to put together the comparison table below to help summarise a few of these differences.
Nautilus R614 vs. R616:
|Model||Nautilus R614||Nautilus R616|
|Workout Programs||22 Total: 1 Quick Start, 9 Profile, 8 Heart Rate, 2 Fitness Test, 2 Custom||29 Total: 1 Quick Start, 12 Profile, 9 Heart Rate, 2 Fitness Test, 1 Recovery Test, 4 Custom|
|Charging USB Port||Yes||Yes|
|Heart Rate||Contact||Contact & Telemetry Enabled|
|Fan||Yes - 3 Speed||Yes - 3 Speed|
|Oversized Deluxe Pedal||No||Yes|
Ease of assembly / Maintenance required
If you’ve never assembled a piece of fitness equipment before, it can be useful to know what to expect. This includes knowing about any heavy lifting, how easy it is to transport once assembled, and the amount of time you’ll need to get everything setup.
As the developer and manufacturer of equipment for brands like Bowflex and Schwinn, in addition to their own highly acclaimed line of fitness equipment, over the past 30 years Nautilus has built up a wealth of experience in the industry.
This experience has meant they’ve been able to refine the quality of their user manuals to make the step-by-step guides as concise and informative as possible.
The manual for the Nautilus R616 is no exception, with diagrams showing every part, bolt, and tool you’ll need to get the bike assembled.
All the tools you need are actually included in the box, and each step shows you which one you’ll need for fitting the pieces together.
The entire frame arrives already pre-assembled, including the seat rail, flywheel, and crank system, which considerably reduces the complexity and time required.
Weighing in at just over 90 lbs, it’s certainly not as heavy as bikes like the Sole LCR (157 lbs), and once you have the base stabilizers attached there’s really very little lifting required.
Even taking into account the connecting of the cables through the console mast to power the display, it shouldn’t take much longer than 45 minutes to get the R616 ready for your first workout.
Adjustable levellers have also been fitted to the rear stabilizer and crossbar to help compensate for an uneven floor surface and increase stability.
When you’re buying any new piece of fitness equipment, whether it’s a treadmill or recumbent bike, it can be useful to read through as many people’s experiences as possible to help build an unbiased opinion of the overall quality.
Despite not having the same quantity of reviews as some of the well known Schwinn models, the Nautilus R616 maintains a very impressive average rating, with praise for the overall design as well as the responsiveness of customer service.
After reading through each of these reviews ourselves, we put together the following lists of pros and cons based on their feedback.
- Syncs workout data with your Bluetooth enabled smart device
- Quick and easy to assemble
- Light enough for one person to put together without assistance
- Well packaged to prevent damage in transit prior to delivery
- Backlit display screens to make workout feedback easier to read
- Three-speed fan keeps you cool
- High level of warranty coverage for a bike at this price point
- Dual display means you can still track some important workout information if you decide to connect your tablet or smartphone
- Strong, stable frame
- Wide variety of workout programs
- Smooth and quiet cycling motion
- Speakers aren’t as powerful as some people expected
- Seat lacks some of the cushioning of similarly priced bikes
- Not such a big deal, but the telemetry heart rate tracking is an upgrade over the R614. A lack of chest strap means it’s not something you can benefit from without buying this separately
What’s covered by the warranty?
- Frame: 10 years
- Mechanical parts: 2 years
- Electrical: 1 year
- Labor: 90 days