NordicTrack S22i Bike

NordicTrack Commercial S22i Studio Bike (review)


One of the few good things about the pandemic is that more people are exercising at home. This has helped propel the ‘connected fitness’ movement, which is what happens when you add internet connectivity to exercise equipment. The benefits? You can participate in live and interactive classes, access expert trainers or just be transported to another place altogether.

A major player in this space is NordicTrack, which makes a wide range of fitness equipment including treadmills, ellipticals, exercise bikes, rowers and resistance systems. NordicTrack machines can access iFIT, a ‘fitness ecosystem’ that delivers world-class trainers, classes in exotic locations and much more, across your choice of equipment. This could be a guided run in Hawaii on a treadmill or a hill-climb in Alaska on an exercise bike, for example.

We’ve had the opportunity to give NordicTrack’s Commercial S22i Studio Bike, along with an iFIT subscription, a spin to see what it offers.

NordicTrack’s S22i’s key features

Starting with the basics, the S22i has a 13kg inertia-enhanced flywheel for spinning with the pedals. There’s an electronic resistance system (called Silent Magnetic Resistance) that opposes the spinning force, rather than a physical friction pad or ‘brake’. This works in tandem with the S22i’s powered incline and decline ability. You can adjust the bike to tilt upwards +20 degrees or downwards -10 degrees, and the resistance changes accordingly. This is used to simulate terrain on rides and can also be adjusted remotely by a trainer.

Exercise bike with large screen

Another key feature of the S22i is the rather large colour touchscreen. It feels like quite a luxury at 22-inches, and is fantastic for viewing classes and scenic rides, as well as all your stats and controls. The screen is mounted on a sturdy post that can be raised and lowered, tilts and swivels 360 degrees.

Other features include two 1.4KG dumbbells, a dual water bottle holder, road bike pedals (with foot straps) and cycling seat. It’s handy that the latter are what you’d find on normal bike, so you can change them to suit your tastes or add toe-clip pedals instead.

The bike weighs 150kg and sits sturdily on its adjustable levelling feet, and there are rollers on the front for moving it. It’s built from commercial-grade steel, with a lifetime warranty on the frame, a 2-year parts and 1-year labour warranty.

Aesthetics are a personal thing, however, we’d say that the S22i is attractive and the black paint won’t clash with most decors.

Ergonomics and feel

In terms of comfort, the S22i has decent adjustability. There are quick-release handles for seat position and height, and, while a bit heavy thanks to the monitor, the handlebars can be moved up and down as well.

The handlebars have a grippy surface so they’re easy to hold, and have positions to support upright riding, standing and sprinting. There’s also a handy tray for placing your phone and TV remote, with two holders for the dumbbells alongside. While the dual water bottle cage is useful, I kept hitting my knees on it during standing pedalling. It would be good if these were removable or could be moved upwards. 

The screen has two 2-inch digitally amplified speakers that are loud enough to be heard above your cycling and the built-in fan. By the way, we love the cooling that the fan provides, and it has a couple of speed settings should you get really hot.

When hopping on the bike, it feels quite sturdy and doesn’t shake during vigorous sprints. The pedal action is also very smooth, and the electronic resistance feels consistent and strong when ramped up. You can adjust the resistance and cycling angle from buttons on the handlebars as well as on-screen slider controls.

Favourite things

There are lots of things to like about exercising with the S22i. In broad terms, the biggest benefit is that it’s so much more than a stationary bike. There’s an incredible depth and breadth of training experiences, thanks to the iFIT community. You can jump right into virtual rides with amazing athletes and fitness professionals, in exotic locations all over the world, and that huge 22in screen really draws you in. Or, try a live session, where you’ll join other riders, compare stats in real-time and the trainer can even automatically adjust your bike’s resistance to keep you from slacking off!

This last point is shouldn’t be understated as the S22i’s automatic bike adjustment feature is something not available on other fitness bikes. It’s part of regular rides too, so when you reach a steep hill on, say, a ride outside of Tucson, the bike’s inclination automatically increases, and the peddling gets harder. And once you get over the hill, the bike pitches downward, the pedal resistance lightens up and you can catch your breath before the next climb. All of this happens seamlessly without needing to fiddle with the incline or resistance controls – and is really a game changer.

The added dumbbells are good to have too, so you can do some upper body work. They’re fairly light, so may not suit all fitness levels, but you can always add your own. And as the screen swivels, you can do off-bike workouts and still see the display.

When riding, there’s a braod selection of stats so you can monitor your performance and exertion. This includes pedal cadence, watts, speed, calories, vertical gain and loss, and heart rate. You can choose between different screen configurations too, such as a full screen of stats or a small band across the top. There are also full-screen views so you can soak up the scenery, examine a performance graph or track the training oval.

By sliding on-screen resistance and incline controls or using the handlebar buttons, you can make adjustments along your ride. There are resistance 24 digital increments overall so you can ramp you progression gradually. 

You can also connect Bluetooth devices such as earbuds and heart rate monitors. It’s fairly easy to do, and it even works with Apple’s AirPods.

Room to improve

The S22i uses Wi-Fi to stream content. This is fine assuming that you have a decent internet connection speed. While our connection is 100Mbps downstream, there were still times when ride footage was low resolution with some pixilation. This could be due to the original footage, as other content looked much better on the HD display. In some cases, the footage would look a little blurry at the beginning of a video, and then get better as bandwidth increased. If you have a slow internet connection, this is worth keeping in mind.

Some brands of connected fitness devices support 3rd party apps, such as Netflix, Youtube or even social networking feeds. This would have been a great option on the S22i and another way to make use of the huge screen. There doesn’t appear to be a way to ‘take over’ the display either, via a HDMI port or some other way, so you’re locked down to iFIT content and that’s about it.

Another strange omission is an on/off switch. There doesn’t appear to be a standby mode that automaticlly switches off the screen when the bike is not in use either. This means that you’ll need to pull the plug after a ride or otherwise leave it on all day.

The S22i could also see some improvements in terms of device integration. You can’t pair it with the iFIT app or use it to control resistance or inclination from your phone. The app is more about managing your account and accessing stats and training content. Also, for those that use an Apple Watch, it would be fantastic to connect its heart-rate monitoring to the bike, however this isn’t currently supported. There is a workaround using the Echo App which will relay your heartrate to the S22i, but you’ll need to pay a fee for sessions longer than 20 min.

However, at time of writing NordicTrak has just introduced a SmartAdjust feature, which the company describes as:

…a customized technology that automatically follows and scales each adjustment that you make to your NordicTrack machine during your workout and stores that information internally. Doing so will help your machine gauge your level of training over time and automatically make adjustments so you don’t have to for all future workouts.

So, perhaps the capability to control the machine from the app exists, and we’ll see more options added in the future.

Lastly, while the has two rollers, its 150kg heft as well as the 22-inch display mean that it’s not all that easy to reposition. We have a narrow closet to hide our Technogym spin bike when it’s not in use, however, the S22i is much harder to move and barely fits in the same space. It’s worth checking the dimensions if you plan to store the S22i somewhere

Manual rides

If you don’t feel like a guided riding session or live in-studio class, you can choose the ride manual mode. This also works when the bike is offline and includes a timer, the usual stats and an elliptical lap graphic that plots your progress. While this is a good option, it would be nice to see other ‘offline’ training modes, like intervals, hills, etc., that are available on other bikes.

Does it deliver?

If you want to add an exercise bike to your home setup, there are many choices to consider. You could go with something basic that doesn’t connect to the internet or a fully featured machine like NordicTrack’s S22i or a Peloton. With these two latter choices, you will need to invest both in the bike itself, and at $3,999 (currently on sale for $2,499) for the S22i, and $3,695 for the Peloton Bike+ Basic, neither are cheap. Then, to access on-demand and live training classes, there’s a subscription fee on top. A one-year Family iFIT subscription is $549 – and currently on sale for $479. Peloton’s All-Access Membership costs $708 annually.

The question is if these ‘connected-fitness’ bikes provide you with an elevated experience. From our experience with the S22i and iFIT, the answer is yes, the on-screen services really do motivate your and keep you coming back. However, just like joining a gym, you have to put the work in regularly to get a return on your investment, but you will see results.

GadgetGuy’s take

Overall, the Nordictrak S22i is a quality foundation for the iFIT training ecosystem and fulfils its promises. Just be wary that it’s expensive, so you’ll need to use it often to get your money’s worth.

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NordicTrack Commercial S22i Studio Bike
The NordicTrack S22i is a solid machine with an incredible range of training classes and fitness experiences - but it doesn't come cheap.
Value for money
Ease of use
Automatic bike adjustments (incline, resistance) that follow the terrain on your ride, or can be controlled remotely by your trainer
Incredible selection of rides, locations, trainers and workouts
22-inch touchscreen is wonderful to view content on and interact with
Sturdy, attractive bike with solid construction
Fan built into the display is great for keeping cool
Cost of bike plus subscription is expensive
Manual riding is limited to duration with no program options
Needs an off switch
Lack of 3rd party apps like Netflix or YouTube