NordicTrack Commercial S22i Studio Cycle NTEX02121 Review

By Matthew Green | Updated on

The Quick Summary

We think the NordicTrack Commercial S22i is an excellent spin bike. It has a quiet magnetic resistance system (with a very challenging top-end,) a unique incline function, and a beautiful HD screen. You’ll need an iFit subscription to get the most out of it though.

NordicTrack S22i

What We Like

  • Tough high-end resistance
  • Beautiful screen
  • Huge range of studio and scenic iFit workouts
  • -10% to +20% incline function
  • Automatic resistance and incline adjustment

What We Don’t Like

  • Some components feel cheap
  • Some screen lag when choosing a ride
  • Handlebars aren’t the best we’ve reviewed

The NordicTrack Commercial S22i Studio Cycle is a premium spin bike that competes directly with bikes from Peloton, Keiser, and Echelon.

NordicTrack has included many interesting features, such as an incline/decline function, built-in fan, scenic rides, and automatic instructor control. The S22i also has a beautiful 22-inch HD screen and magnetic resistance.

These advanced features mean the S22i has an expensive price tag though. So, in this review, we’ll help you decide whether it’s the right option for your home gym.

Important: This is a review of the 2021 version of the NordicTrack S22i (NTEX02121-INT.) NordicTrack upgraded the S22i in 2021, but kept the same name. Make sure you know which version you’re buying.

Assembly and Setup

Spin bikes tend to be heavy, as the extra weight improves stability when you’re riding at high speeds or out of the saddle. The NordicTrack Commercial S22i is no exception (93kg boxed weight,) so we recommend asking someone to help you during the assembly process.

With that said, as long as you have someone to assist with the heavy design, the actual assembly is straightforward. It takes around an hour and the instructions are clear.

Once assembled, the bike has pivoting transport wheels for moving it, which is important for such a heavy product. There are also levelling feet to prevent rocking.

Design and Ergonomics

The NordicTrack is a mixed bag when it comes to appearance. We think it has an attractive design, plus we like that the wiring is all internal to keep everything neat.

It’s quite a bulky bike, however, and some of the components have a cheaper feel than you would expect from a premium spin bike. This isn’t the end of the world, and doesn’t affect the ride quality, but it’s something to keep in mind.

In terms of adjustability, the S22i has both horizontal and vertical seat adjustment. There are also multiple positions for the handlebars, which is important for getting the right fit.

A downside is that the Commercial S22i only comes with cage pedals. There’s no option to clip-in with SPD shoes.

Cages do have advantages, such as being able to use them with regular shoes, so this probably isn’t an issue for beginners. But as your fitness improves, you’ll almost certainly want to replace the pedals with a clip in alternative to improve your pedal stroke and power transfer.

Fortunately, it’s easy to swap the pedals, but it’s surprising that NordicTrack haven’t included SPD pedals as standard. The Keiser M3i, for example, has pedals with both cage and SPD options depending on which side you use. When you’re paying this much for a bike, clip in pedals really should be included.

On the upside, the S22i’s 150kg maximum user weight capacity is heavier than many other options on the market.

Onboard Bike Computer

One of the best features of the NordicTrack Commercial S22i stationary bike is the beautiful 22 inch (56cm) HD touchscreen. The screen displays your metrics, including wattage, along with allowing you to access classes via iFit.

Everything is crisp and clear, which adds to the immersiveness – especially when following real-life trails (more on those later.) It also has decent sound quality and volume, although for best results you’ll want to use bluetooth headphones.

It’s important to note that the screen has been upgraded compared with previous versions of the S22i. Older S22i models have significant issues with lag when selecting classes, but the newer model is more responsive and also has improved Wi-Fi connectivity.

There is still some noticeable lag when selecting a ride though. This is really only a minor annoyance, however, as once you’re in a class or scenic ride everything runs smoothly.

Another feature of the S22i’s screen is that it can rotate. This allows you to use it for other types of iFit classes, such as yoga or strength training. The upgraded screen also now has bluetooth headphone connectivity and heart rate monitor connectivity.

One of the few complaints we have is that the poor filtering options can make it difficult to find the class you want. This is a software issue, however, so is something that is likely to be improved over time.

Flywheel and Resistance

Resistance is one of the most important features of a spin bike. It’s vital that the maximum resistance is enough to really challenge you, while remaining smooth and easy to control.

Fortunately, the NordicTrack Commercial S22i has a magnetic resistance system (called Silent Magnetic Resistance or SMR) and a 14.5kg inertia enhanced flywheel. There are 24 resistance levels adjusted using digital controls, and it can generate a tough top-end resistance that will challenge even advanced riders.

Along with digital resistance, the S22i has another way to vary your workouts: the incline function.

The S22i has handle controls to digitally adjust down to a -10% decline and up to a 20% incline. Under the hood, the bike adjusts the resistance to simulate the effects of uphill or downhill riding, although the actual resistance number doesn’t change.

While the incline might seem like a gimmick – you’re basically just being tilted up or down – the incline feature adds a lot to the realism of outdoor rides.

While the incline might seem like a gimmick – you’re basically just being tilted up or down – the incline feature adds a lot to the realism of outdoor rides. The bike automatically adjusts depending on the terrain you’re riding over, which feels much more immersive than just increasing or decreasing the resistance.

It’s not such a useful feature for indoor studio rides, although it’s another way for the instructor to add more variety. Indoor cycling isn’t always fun, so anything that varies your ride is a good thing!

As you would expect from a magnetic bike, the S22i is very quiet when in use. Previous versions were loud when adjusting the incline, but the newest model is much quieter when tilting, making the incline feature more convenient if others are asleep.

Performance and Comfort When Working Out

The NordicTrack Commercial S22i copes well with high intensity workouts or riding out of the saddle. It always feels sturdy and smooth to ride, which isn’t always the case with cheaper spin bikes.

In fact, we think it’s one of the best spin bikes when it comes to overall stability and ride feel.

Unlike cheaper spin bikes, the S22i also measures your power output. This is displayed as both current and average wattage on the screen, so you can accurately assess how hard you’re working. NordicTrack has also improved the metric tracking, which could be unreliable on previous models.

We’re not huge fans of the handlebars though. They aren’t the most comfortable to hold, and the material feels unpleasant when sweaty. It’s not a deal breaker, but hopefully something that could be improved on future models.

The narrow saddle may also be an issue for some people, although this is standard for spin bikes to ensure there is minimal friction when riding for long periods.

Connectivity and Compatibility

When you buy a high-end spin bike like the S22i, the actual bike is only one part of the story. The available content is often just as important.

While the S22i has a basic manual mode with a few programs, to get the most out of this bike you’ll need the iFit features – and the associated subscription. A 30-day iFit trial is included, but after that you’ll need to pay.

iFit is built-in to the on-board computer and provides a huge selection of studio rides (live and on-demand workouts) and scenic rides.

As the resistance and incline are digitally controlled, the iFit trainers can control the difficulty of your workout in real-time, which makes a big difference to how immersive the classes feel. This feature isn’t found on bikes like the Keiser M3i or even the basic Peloton bike.

Make sure you’re willing to pay monthly for iFit, as without a subscription you’re missing out on the best content available on the S22i.

If you’ve ever taken an online indoor cycling class, then you’ll know what to expect from the studio rides. There’s an instructor guiding you through the workout, while providing motivation and background music. iFit also has a live leaderboard and you can chat with the trainers.

These studio rides can provide a great workout, but there is room for improvement. We certainly don’t think the instructors and music selection are up to the same standard as Peloton.

It’s the scenic rides where the NordicTrack really shines. These rides allow you to cycle through some amazing places around the world, with an instructor guiding you through the workout. In contrast to the studio rides, we think the scenic rides are fantastic and the instructors do a great job.

Scenic rides are also when the automatic incline adjustment really comes into its own. Having your bike tilt up and down (with associated resistance changes) as you’re cycling through hills makes the ride much more immersive and fun. If you love the idea of cycling through “real” locations on an indoor bike, then the NordicTrack is one of the best options.

Note: There’s also a “Draw Your Own Route” mode which uses Google Maps. It’s nowhere near as smooth as regular rides, but can be a fun alternative.

Other Features and Accessories

The NordicTrack Commercial S22i Studio Cycle comes with several other interesting features. These include:

  • Dual speakers. As we mentioned earlier, the S22i Studio Bike has decent audio output and can go relatively loud. It’s still better to use the bluetooth headphone option.
  • Autobreeze workout fan. Unlike many spin bikes, the NordicTrack has a fan built into the main console. This provides a nice breeze directly onto your face, although it’s not as powerful as a floor fan.
  • Dual water bottle holders. These are a bit on the small side, but are still useful to have.

In addition, NordicTrack has included a set of small dumbbells with the Commercial S22i. While it’s always nice to have dumbbells for cross-training, the fixed weight is very limited. For a real strength workout, you’ll need to buy a proper set of dumbbells or kettlebells.

Price and Value for Money

The NordicTrack is an expensive bike, but this is to be expected from a model with a large HD screen, magnetic resistance, and power output. In fact, we think the price is reasonable considering the range of features.

With that said, there are other options depending on what you need from an exercise bike. The Keiser M3i, for example, is a great choice if you don’t want to be tied down to one app ecosystem – although there’s no two-way resistance control. The Peloton is a better option for studio workouts, but doesn’t have the scenic classes, two-way resistance, or incline function.

So, if you think you’ll enjoy the scenic rides or incline adjustment, then the NordicTrack Commercial S22i provides plenty of features for a similar price to competing models. 

Specification

SpecValue
Product NameNordicTrack Commercial S22i Studio Cycle
Weight93kg
Dimensions135cm (L) x 56cm (W) x 156cm (H)
Resistance TypeMagnetic
Resistance Levels24
Maximum User Weight150kg

Comparison With Competing Exercise Bikes

NordicTrack S22i Vs Peloton Bike

The standard Peloton Bike is a similar price to the NordicTrack S22i, so these bikes are in direct competition. Both are great bikes for a cardio workout, but which should you buy?

There’s no right answer, as the best exercise bike depends on your requirements. Here are a few differences between these bikes though:

  • The NordicTrack has a longer footprint and is heavier than the Peloton, although it also has a higher maximum user weight.
  • The two bikes have similar touchscreen displays, although the NordicTrack has digital buttons for resistance. The Peloton uses a physical knob, which is more precise but can’t be controlled by apps.
  • The NordicTrack has 24 digital resistance levels, while the Peloton has 100 (this doesn’t mean that the Peloton generates more resistance, just that there are more divisions.)
  • The NordicTrack has an incline function, which the Peloton doesn’t have.
  • The S22i allows for interactive resistance and incline adjustment by the class instructor, but this isn’t possible with the standard Peloton bike.
  • The two have similar subscription prices for a family membership plan, although the NordicTrack has a cheaper option for an individual.
  • Most people would agree that the Peloton has better studio classes, while the NordicTrack wins when it comes to the scenic rides.

In summary, if you’re not a huge fan of the Peloton classes, then we think the S22i is more versatile and provides better value for money. But if you love the Peloton instructors, or aren’t interested in the incline function, then choose the Peloton.

Note: The Peloton Bike+ has some extra features, including a rotating screen and trainer control for resistance. It’s more expensive than the NordicTrack though.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can You Use the NordicTrack Without an iFit Subscription?

You can use the bike in manual mode without a subscription, which allows you to adjust the resistance and incline. There are also a few taster programs. We don’t recommend getting the S22i if you’re not happy to pay for the iFit subscription, however, as this is required for most of the content.

Can You Watch TV or Netflix on the S22i?

No, you can’t watch TV or Netflix on the S22i’s screen – at least not officially. Some people claim to have managed to download Android apps by accessing the screen’s “Admin” mode, but this isn’t recommended. It may even affect your warranty.

Does the NordicTrack S22i Have Live Classes?

Yes, the NordicTrack S22i has both live and on-demand classes via iFit.

Can You Use Zwift on the NordicTrack S22i?

Unfortunately you can’t run Zwift on the NordicTrack S22i. The S22i is built specifically for iFit, so it isn’t compatible with other workout apps.

Where Can You Buy the NordicTrack S22i Bike?

Aside from the NordicTrack UK website, you can buy the S22i at Amazon, Fitness Superstore, and various other online retailers. Make sure you check which version of the S22i you’re buying though.

Should You Buy It?

The NordicTrack Commercial S22i Studio Cycle is a great spin bike. It has tough top-end resistance, an incline function, automatic resistance control, and a stable design. If you like the idea of scenic rides where resistance and incline are automatically adjusted to match the terrain, then it’s one of the best options. You’ll need to subscribe to iFit to access the vast majority of the content though.

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