The NordicTrack VR Pro Recumbent Bike features a larger flywheel, more resistance levels, and a wider choice of workouts than their GX 4.5 and GX 5.0 designs.
But how does it compare with other recumbent bikes at this price range in terms of entertainment features, workout programs, and warranty coverage?
In our review we’ll take a close look at the frame design, console functions, iFit compatibility, and workout programs. This should help you decide if the NordicTrack VR Pro is the best recumbent exercise bike for your budget and fitness goals.
Recumbent bikes are designed to provide low impact cardiovascular workouts, and to see the most benefit, there’s a number of important features to think about.
Firstly there’s getting on and off the bike, which is made easier thanks to the Step Thru™ design and low crossbar height. You also have the two sets of handles to assist you with standing up out of the reclined position after your workout.
Ideally you want to spend as much time as possible in the reclined position the bike is designed for, and minimal time at the console.
This is why the VR Pro features such a wide range of onboard workout programs, which automatically adjust the resistance for you. If you decide to use the manual program instead, you also have controls attached to the handle next to the seat, meaning you can increase and decrease the resistance without leaning forward.
The seat itself features ergonomically molded cushioning to provide a high level of comfort, with a contoured back section providing additional lumbar support. The distance from the pedals can also be adjusted using the lever below, making it ideal for family environments and a range of user heights.
All of this is built around a sturdy commercial-grade frame design, that’s capable of supporting up to 350 lbs, while still being light enough to move around using the transport wheels if needed.
OneTouch quick select buttons on the console also cut down on the time it takes to switch between the 26 levels of digital resistance, which control how much force is applied to the 23 lb inertia enhanced flywheel.
For a recumbent exercise bike you’re really getting all the features you need to create effective cardiovascular workouts that are smooth enough to emulate an outdoor cycling experience.
Silent Magnetic Resistance (SMR) technology also combines with the 3-piece crank system to ensure the flywheel rotation remains quiet, while improving the bike’s strength and durability.
In addition to the workout fan and mesh back support, storage areas either side of the seat allow you to keep a water bottle within easy reach to stay hydrated and maintain performance.
NordicTrack VR Pro – Features Summary
- 32 Onboard workout apps
- 26 Digital Resistance Levels
- CardioGrip™ Heart Rate Monitor
- 7″ Backlit Display
- 23 lb. Effective Inertia-Enhanced Flywheel
- Polar® Wireless Chest Strap Included
- Step Thru™ Design
- RaceTrack™ Display
One of the things NordicTrack do very well is console design, combining entertainment features with workout options in a way that’s intuitive and easy to use.
They also tend to follow a similar design pattern across all of their fitness equipment, which cuts down on the learning curve if you’re buying an exercise bike to go alongside your treadmill or elliptical.
A 7″ backlit LED screen creates a wide enough viewing angle to display a variety of workout information that’s clearly visible even in low light. This is larger than the screen on their GX 4.5 (4″ screen) and GX 5.0 (5″ screen) recumbent bikes.
Workout feedback includes:
- Total calories burned
- Resistance level
- Workout duration
- Calories burned per hour
- Laps completed
The ‘Laps completed’ stat is based on how many laps of a quarter mile track you complete during your workout, and can be a useful measure of improvement between workouts.
Although this is something that’s missing from the ‘Set-A-Goal’ workout programs, we would have also liked to see ‘Pace’ included in the feedback. This would save having to make the calculation manually based on the distance and time after your workout, which only gives you an average.
The NordicTrack VR Pro also offers two forms of heart rate monitoring: touch, and telemetry (chest strap).
Having the CardioGrip™ touch sensors built into the handles by the seat makes it easier to maintain constant contact compared to holding onto the handles on a treadmill. But you still might want to take a drink, make manual changes to the resistance level, or change the volume on the speakers.
That’s why a Polar® Wireless chest strap has been included to transmit a continuous signal to the receiver in the console, and provide a more accurate reading on the screen.
In terms of entertainment features, unfortunately you’re missing the 15″ HDTV that comes with some of NordicTrack’s Commercial treadmills, but you do still have a tablet shelf.
This is wide enough to support a tablet device and let you watch movies while you workout, but does restrict your access to the buttons on the console, and even visibility of the screen.
Unfortunately there’s no real alternative on NordicTrack’s recumbent bikes like there is on their treadmills, where some models have the tablet holder mounted on top of the console.
But if you prioritise workout feedback and performance over using a tablet, at least you still have iPod and MP3 connectivity. This allows you to listen to your favourite motivational workout music via the Intermix Acoustics™ 2.0 Sound System and dual 2″ speakers.
You also have the dual speed CoolAire™ Workout Fan, which combines with the mesh backing of the seat to help keep you cool.
Workout program selection
Although you don’t quite have the same range of options as you do with one of their treadmills (due to the lack of incline), the NordicTrack VR Pro still provides you with a variety of workout programs to suit a range of fitness goals.
- Manual mode
If you want to remain in complete control of the resistance settings throughout your workout, this is the program for you.
You don’t have to set a target or select a resistance profile to follow. Simply sit on the seat and start pedalling, making manual changes to the resistance when you need to.
- Onboard workouts
These are programs that follow a set profile of resistance settings, whereby you can set the workout duration and monitor your workout stats while the resistance changes automatically.
To ensure there’s a program for every fitness level, you can choose from 16 calorie workouts and 16 performance workouts by using the buttons on the console.
We would have liked to see a touch screen menu system for faster program selection, as the current setup requires you to keep pressing either one of the buttons until you find your desired workout profile.
- ‘Set-A-Goal’ workouts
This is a type of program we first saw when reviewing NordicTrack’s treadmills, and allows you to set a target for the number of calories burned, distance, or workout duration.
Some of NordicTrack’s commercial treadmills also offered a ‘Pace’ goal option, but this isn’t something that’s included on any of their recumbent bikes, including the GX 4.5 and GX 5.0.
- iFit workouts
If you’re familiar with NordicTrack fitness equipment then you’ve probably already heard of iFit.
To access these workouts you’ll need to insert the iFit module into the console and have a subscription to the service. If you do, then you can download personalized workouts straight to the console, as long as you’re connected to a wireless network.
Ease of assembly / maintenance required
Being a recumbent bike, you’re obviously not going to have quite the same level of heavy lifting or number of assembly steps that you would with a treadmill or elliptical.
However, it’s reassuring to know that NordicTrack still provide you with assembly instructions that walk you through every step of the process using diagrams and clearly written explanations.
To save you time, the frame, flywheel, and pedal crank system arrive pre-assembled, and once you have the base stabilizers attached all that needs to be done is build the console mount and seat.
There are no complicated connections for the console wires and the entire process is very straightforward, made easier by the parts references and lightweight components.
There’s even an exploded drawing showing how everything fits together at the end of the user manual to use as a reference if needed.
Unfortunately there’s no carry handle attached to the back of the frame, but transport wheels attached to the front stabilizer make it easier to move the bike if needed.
If you want to get the assembly completed in one session, as well as connecting the console to a wireless network for iFit, it’s best to set aside at least 45 to 60 minutes.
One of the reasons we include the maintenance routine with our reviews is because some fitness equipment companies can be quite strict with the products you use to clean them.
By knowing what’s needed and how frequently ahead of time, this can then be factored into your buying decision to help you decide whether or not this is the best choice of equipment for your own home workouts.
Fortunately the NordicTrack VR Pro doesn’t require much in the way of special cleaning solutions, and using a damp cloth to apply a small amount of mild soap to the covers on a regular basis should be all that’s needed.
The manual does a good job of providing solutions to any minor issues you might run into, including details of how to remove the flywheel cover if you need to adjust the reed switch for more accurate console feedback.
Labor is also covered for 1 year under their warranty, which should help with anything that requires professional assistance.
What’s covered by the warranty?
- Frame: Lifetime
- Parts: 1 year
- Labor: 1 year