It's no secret that in today's day and age, indoor cycling is one of the most popular forms of exercise if you're keen to burn some fat and shed those extra pounds quickly.
And while the market has certainly evolved to insane heights, the recent introduction of the Peloton bike has sent the fitness world into a total frenzy. It's not an overstatement to say that interactive training and live instructor-led classes are all the rage today.
However, let's face it - the Peloton is just so darn expensive!
This bike's whopping price tag actually created a nice market gap that many popular brands like Bowflex, Schwinn, and Keiser, among others are trying to fill. Peloton has serious competition from other brands all of a sudden.
In fact, Bowflex's C6 and Keiser's M3i are two of the most popular models that are considered to be even better (and far cheaper) alternatives to the Peloton in almost every department, while seamlessly integrating some of the high-end performance features we've come to love and expect from a proper exercise bike. Other bikes that can stand toe to toe with the Peloton include the IC2, IC3 and the IC4 which we compared to the Bowflex C6 before.
And if you're someone looking to get into indoor cycling, or even if you're thinking about taking the next step and upgrading your current bike - this wealth of options can definitely make choosing one bike over another a seriously complicated ordeal.
So, that's why - to help you on your shopping quest - I'll be sharing all of the research I've done on both bikes to help you get familiar with their ins and outs, get a clear feel for the differences that set them apart, and I'll even give you my personal recommendation on which bike you should go out and pick up for yourself.
Let's dive right in!
A Quick Overview Of Both Bikes
Before we go and dive head-first into an in-depth comparison of how the bikes stack up against one another, let's take a few minutes to get familiar with the options at hand.
Below, I'll go over what each of the models has to offer, as well as highlight a few things that I like and dislike about them from personal experience.
If you've done any amount of research on the most popular exercise bikes that money can buy in today's day and age - you're likely already somewhat familiar with the Bowflex C6.
After all, it's one of the most beloved exercise bikes across a number of fitness disciplines. And for good reason too - this bike offers just about every essential bell and whistle along with a stellar feature offering at an incredibly affordable price compared to similarly kitted-out options.
In terms of connectivity, the C6 seamlessly integrates with a plethora of cycling apps like the Peloton app, Zwift, RideSocial, Explore the World, Zwift, Sufferfest, FulGaz, and quite a few others too. This means you'll be able to enjoy everything that the world of interactive cycling has got to offer, without having to shell out thousands of dollars or spend an exorbitant amount of money on forced subscriptions either.
In addition to this, it's no secret that Nautilus (the folks behind Bowflex) is known as a reliable and trustworthy manufacturer that delivers on its promises and stays ahead of the curve at all times. They make great exercise equipment like the T616 and T618 that we recently reviewed and compared.
What I Like About The C6
To give you a better feel for the wealth of features that this bike offers, I've decided to condense the extensive list into a quick overview of the most important details you'll want to know about the C6.
Here's an Overview of This Bike's Key Features:
- Super quiet magnetic flywheel, offering 100 different levels of variable magnetic resistance, putting you in total control over your workout.
- Brightly lit LCD display that features stellar heart telemetry and seamless connectivity with most modern devices like smartphones, wearables, tablets, and even TVs.
- Caged footwells, compatible with road bike style pedals, giving you the option to customize the ride to your preference.
- Adjustable seating and handlebars - meaning you don't have to sacrifice all semblance of comfort just to get a proper workout in.
- Loads of creature comforts like an ample media deck, two bottle holders, and even a set of 3-lb dumbbells to help you get a nice upper body workout in while you cycle.
- Max weight of over 330-lbs and a rugged industrial steel frame backed by a 10-year warranty.
- A small footprint along with a set of transport wheels make this bike a perfect fit for small spaces.
What Are The "Cons"
While the C6 is undoubtedly an absolute legend of an exercise bike - there are a few things that I'd consider to be potential "cons" for some people.
Here's a quick list of areas that the C6 falls short in:
- Monthly cost in order to stay connected with Schwinn's interactive training platform and app suite.
- The assembly instructions can seem a tad too brief and nondescript at times, leaving some of the steps up to you to figure out.
- Most of the compatible apps will require their own subscription, overtop of Schwinn's platform.
Where the C6 has enjoyed its fair share of fame and success since its unveiling in late 2019 - the Keiser M3i is the "new kid on the block" coming in with lots to offer to the prospective owner.
Despite the fact that this bike is relatively new to the indoor cycling scene, it's already trending to become one of the top bikes in 2022.
First and foremost, it offers quite a decent range of features, stacking up nicely against other bikes in the category. However, where it really stands out is its innovative tech offering, along with a sleek minimalistic design, and near-unparalleled adjustability.
This bike is practically a match made in heaven for commercial settings thanks to the fact that it's built like a tank. And you're able to adjust nearly every little thing on the bike, starting with the ride height, to perfectly match the rider. And while it may not exactly be the most feature-rich offering, Keiser has definitely put in some serious effort to really polish off every feature this bike brings to the table.
What Are The Most Notable Differences?
While the Bowflex C6 and the Keiser M3i may seem closely matched at first glance, there are actually a few things that totally set them apart.
Let's take a look at some of the most notable differences between both models to understand where they diverge, and get a feel for which bike you might be leaning towards.
The Resistance Setup
While both bikes operate around a magnetic resistance system, there are some major differences in this department. Unlike the Bowflex C6's 100 levels of resistance, the Keiser M3i offers a seemingly meager 24. This makes the Bowflex C6 a great exercise machine for cardio.
It's also worthwhile to note that the Keiser M3i is built around a much lighter flywheel, clocking in at only 8-lbs. However, this bike is practically dead-silent, surpassing even the C6 - which is impressive, given how quiet the C6 is known to be.
Unlike the C6's sleek and modern appeal, the Keiser M3i goes for a far more minimalistic, and almost a sort of industrial feel.
The lack of attention to frills and flashy detailing allowed them to really hone in on the ruggedness and reliability of this bike. But on the other hand, the design appeals way better to a commercial gym than the average modern home or apartment.
Adjustability & Customizability
One of the biggest selling points of the M3i is the fact that you can adjust most of the parts on the bike, starting with the fact that you can change the height of the seat to match your build. In addition to this, Keiser put a lot of thought into the ergonomics of this bike, even down to the finer details like making sure the pedals were shaped after the modern shoe.
However, while the C6 doesn't treat that far into the world of adjustability, you've got plenty of options to play with at over half the M3i's cost in savings. You can easily swap out the seat, as well as adjust the grips and pedals to your liking, which is more than enough for the average at-home cyclist.
While Keiser boasts about their "innovative tech" that comes packed into the M3i, realistically speaking, the whole feature offering isn't all that impressive, and it actually falls far behind the C6.
The M3i offers standard telemetry and BlueTooth hookups but doesn't really venture beyond that. And if you want to get your bike hooked up to some interactive training apps, you'll need to buy a wholly separate adapter to make it work, which comes on top of the bike's already high cost.
Comparing Workout Programs
Now that we've gotten a nice little overview of what either exercise bike brings to the table in terms of features and perks - let's get into the meat and bones.
Below, I'll be covering some of the essential interactive training workout programs that you'll be able to enjoy. I'll also go over how well each of the bikes integrates into the apps to give you some insight on the experience you'll be having with either model in this department.
This app packs thousands of interactive programs and instructor-led classes into one amazing wealth of training content geared towards just about any fitness discipline out there.
For a meager $12.99 per month, you'll be able to enjoy live guided lessons, take part in challenges, and embark on fitness programs that'll have you knocking out fitness goal after fitness goal in no time - all from the comfort of your very own home.
While Peloton goes wild with interactive training - Zwift combines the worlds of fitness and gaming to create an amazing and super engaging virtual cycling experience. I tired Zwift and I love it, even though I like taking my GTX 3 for a ride outside every now and then, Zwift is a great alternative if want to cycle indoors.
You'll be able to take part in races, practice your times on challenging virtual tracks, and spice up the whole indoor cycling experience with this awesome light-weight app. Having an exercise bike that works with Zwift will definitely enrich your workout routine.
If you want to add a nice social edge to your training - Strava is definitely a cycling app that should be on your radar.
This app allows you to keep track of your vital scores, fitness progress, and see how you stack up against friends or other members of the fitness community, and the best part lies in the fact that it's completely free to get started with.
How Well Does Each Bike Connect With These Apps?
Now that we've gotten a better feel for some of the interactive apps you'll be able to enjoy with either bike - let's talk about how easy it is to get set up on either model.
Let's start with the C6 - this bike connects with each of the apps above flawlessly, right from the get-go. This means there's no need for any sort of additional setup or any sort of extra accessories that you'll need to get started, aside from some sort of a smart device (phone, tablet, or even a smart TV).
On the other hand, the M3i is a bit more challenging to get started with. Firstly, you'll need to pick up their branded M-series converter module, which you'll then need to hook up to your bike's console.
Thankfully, the installation is pretty easy - just slap it onto the back of the media holder and you're good to go. However, the added cost and the fact that you'll have to change the batteries every few months can definitely be a bit of a deterrent for some people.
Bowflex C6 vs. Keiser M3i - Which Is The Better Exercise Bike?
Having gone over the bulk of everything you'll need to know about the Bowflex C6 and the Keiser M3i to make an educated buying decision - let's get back to the question at hand.
How well do these two bikes stack up against each other?
Given how well-matched both options may seem on-paper, making a definitive choice on which one you should go for can be pretty tough. That's why to help you get a better feel for which one might be the right bike for you, I'll be comparing your options across some of the most important areas that people have questions about when picking out a bike for themselves.
Which One Is Built Better?
While the Keiser M3i is marketed as being built to be rugged and last practically a lifetime, I'm personally not convinced that it's all that better than the C6.
The M3i's frame is made from anti-corrosive aluminum, and the V-shaped frame is structurally far less stable than the C6's bulkier, but well-supported industrial steel design.
That being said, every owner that I've heard from has had an absolutely fantastic experience when it comes to the durability and reliability of the M3i, which puts it roughly on-par with the C6, at best, in my books.
Which Bike Is Quieter?
Both of these bikes are known for being incredibly quiet, making both of them a great fit for sound-conscious folks. However, while the M3i is quieter than the Bowflex C6 - it's only a marginal difference at best, and I've found that when you're going full-gas on either bike, you likely won't even notice the difference.
Which One Is More Comfortable?
Bowflex Takes the Cake Here
While the M3i does offer some extra adjustability over the C6, as well as a more ergonomic design at large, it's definitely better suited for an industrial setting, where comfort isn't the biggest focal point.
By comparison, the C6 offers way more creature comforts, and in terms of raw comfort - I have to say that I prefer the seat and grips of the C6 over the M3i by far. They feel much better to the touch and are far more accomodating when it comes to a diverse group of riders in terms of build and size.
Which Bike offers More Features?
Bowflex BY FAR
By far, the Bowflex C6 leads ahead of the Keiser M3i in this category. Starting with the wealth of creature comforts it boasts over the latter, along with the fact that you get a whole 100 levels of resistance to play with instead of the M3i's 24. This makes the C6 an ideal bike for beginners.
However, the M3i does offer a tiny bit more adjustability, namely when it comes to adjusting the height of the seat.
What Are The Customer Reviews Saying?
In terms of public sentiment, both bikes are very closely matched with most owners having an absolutely fantastic experience with either model.
The Bowflex C6 is largely complimented on being super sturdy, having absolutely stellar zero-effort integration with interactive apps, and being very easy to assemble.
On the other hand, the Keiser M3i's owners love the fact that the bike is pretty much dead-silent, brings adjustable seat-height to a whole new level, and features a lot of attention to detail when it comes to the design and feel of the bike as a whole.
How Do They Compare Price-Wise?
At the time of writing, the Bowflex C6 sits at roughly half the cost of the Keiser M3i. This definitely puts it ahead in my books, as you get to enjoy many of the same features, along with quite a few that the M3i simply doesn't offer at a humongous discount.
The Bowflex C6 offers a nice and simple policy of 10-years of coverage for the frame, 3-years on parts, and 1-year for labor.
At the same time, the M3i's coverage is a tad more obfuscated. According to Keiser's website:
The frame is covered for 10 years.
Certain electronics and cylinders come with 3 years of coverage.
The compressor, dryer, cables, pulleys, and bearings are covered for 2 years.
And the Chrome finish gets 1 year, while other minor aesthetic details are backed by a 90-day policy.
Which Bike Fits Best In Small Spaces?
The M3i sits at a nice 45-inches long and 26-inches wide. On the other hand, the C6 is 48.7-inches long and 21.2-inches wide.
However, the real difference here lies in the weight of both bikes. The M3i weighs only 85-pounds in comparison to the C6's 106-lbs.
This, along with the incredibly quiet light-weight flywheel setup makes the M3i a great fit for most small spaces. But I wouldn't say that the C6 lags far behind either.
Ease Of Setup
The Bowflex C6 ships with some very easy to follow instructions and even some videos to help just about anyone get the bike together in under 45 minutes tops.
In comparison to this, the Keiser M3i arrives with a partially put together base, leaving it in your hands to finish the job on your own.
The whole process is relatively straightforward, but with the amount of finer details you'll need to sort out between steps, most M3i owners have reported the actual assembly time to be roughly an hour, instead of the 45 minutes advertised by Keiser.
Which Bike Should You Get - My Recommendation
If you've kept up with me this far - you're now a near-certified expert when it comes to both of these bikes. We've covered the ins and outs of either model, their pros and cons, as well as their key differences.
So, now it's time for me to give you my personal recommendation on which bike you should opt for over the other.
After all of my research and testing, I picked up the Bowflex C6.
This is due to the fact that it matches up with the M3i incredibly closely in the key areas they share and offers a fair bit of extra stuff on top - all at half the cost of the M3i. All in all, the C6 is built to last, features out of the box connectivity with top apps, and offers a fantastic cycling experience, at a super affordable price. The Bowflex C6 might not be a full body exercise machine like other exercise machines I used before (such as the Concept2 rower or the RW900) but it gets the job done as an exercise bike.
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