The VR21 is NordicTrack’s entry-level recumbent bike, but based on its impressive list of specs and features, you’d be hard pressed to tell.
With a 20 lb flywheel, 25 levels of magnetic resistance, and 32 built-in workout programs, the VR21 makes many higher-end recumbents envious.
But it’s also iFit compatible and backed by a generous warranty.
Put all this together and you’ve got the makings for a very impressive recumbent bike.
Long-story-short: the VR21 is one of the best recumbents in its price range.
But unfortunately, NordicTrack isn’t directly offering this model any more. You can still find it through other retailers, but it’s getting harder and harder to find.
Is it worth the hassle?
Well, that’s what I’m hoping to answer for ya in this review.
After reading, you’ll know everything you need to in order to decide whether or not the VR21 is the right recumbent bike for your home.
The NordicTrack Commercial VR21 Recumbent Bike
NordicTrack’s easily one of the most well-known fitness brands on the planet, so I don’t feel it’s necessary to give ’em much on an intro here.
I will mention though, that as a brand, they’re generally pretty well-respected.
They don’t provide the heaviest-duty equipment around or anything, but when you consider all that ya get for the price, they do have some of the best bikes around when it comes to home use.
Of course now all of their bikes are iFit compatible, so if you’re interested in using this streaming service, NordicTrack makes a lot of sense.
As I mentioned above, the VR21 isn’t available through NordicTrack anymore – yeah, it’s a bit of a bummer.
We’ll talk more about price down below, but I’ll say it again- you have to really watch prices when purchasing from other retail sites (especially these days) because they can really hike ’em up.
- 20 lb flywheel
- 25 levels of magnetic resistance
- Heavy-duty frame
- 350 lb weight capacity
- 32 built-in workout programs
- iFit compatible (but not required)
- Quick touch resistance buttons
- Built-in speakers
- Cooling fan
- Chest strap compatible (but not included)
- Good warranty
- Not offered directly by NordicTrack anymore
- Price can fluctuate greatly
Ok, let’s start off with a review of the VR21’s resistance system.
I think this is the best place to start because this is what gives the bike its “feel”.
And let’s be real, if the bike doesn’t feel smooth and comfortable to use, it doesn’t matter how many other nice features it has, because you probably aren’t going to use it.
The VR21 is a magnetic bike, meaning it uses magnets to create the resistance you feel during workouts.
This is preferable to a friction brake system, that uses physical contact between a felt pad and the flywheel to provide resistance.
In this price range, a magnetic system should be a given.
But even with magnetic systems, the flywheel weights can vary greatly – and yes, flywheel weight is important for recumbent bikes too.
Like spin bikes, a heavier flywheel will provide a smoother pedal motion on recumbent bikes too.
That’s because the extra weight will build more momentum as the flywheel spins, which essentially helps keep the flywheel moving between pedal strokes.
The result is a more seamless feel with each pedal.
The VR21 comes with a 20 lb flywheel, which is very respectable in the world of home recumbent bikes where many popular models are only packing 13 lb.
I should mention that I’ve seen the flywheel for this model listed at 23 lb as well – it’s hard to get a concrete answer since NordicTrack doesn’t offer this bike anymore, but I’ve seen the flywheel listed as 20 lb (9 kg) on the product sheets for several other countries, so I’m going with that. If it actually is 23 lb, I apologize (but that’s even better).
That 20 lb flywheel is heavy enough to provide a smooth feel during workouts and users seem to agree this bike has a nice feel to it.
NordicTrack pairs that solid flywheel with 25 levels of resistance, giving you plenty of control over the intensity of your workouts.
I always say having more resistance levels is a good thing because you can make smaller adjustments to your resistance.
Overall, the VR21 scores very highly for a recumbent in this price range when it comes to the resistance system. You can’t beat a heavy flywheel and plenty of resistance levels.
The VR21 scores highly in the resistance system department, but let’s see how the frame scores.
When looking at a bike’s frame, I like to look at the assembled weight and weight capacity, specifically.
I feel these 2 stats can give us a good idea as to how “heavy-duty” the bike is going to feel during workouts (which is quite important because nobody wants a flimsy bike).
A heavier bike should feel more solid during use and seeing a higher weight capacity often indicates a more structurally sound machine.
The VR21 comes with an in box weight of 149 lb…
NordicTrack always gives us the “in box” weight instead of the “assembled weight” and I find it a bit annoying because the “in box” weight also includes the weight of all the packaging, making it harder to discern how much the actual bike weighs.
Luckily, I was able to get my hands on the assembly manual and according to that, the assembled weight of the VR21 is 127 lb.
Which is still really good, compared to other home recumbent bikes that weigh around 90 lb (like Schwinn’s 270).
The VR21 also comes with a weight limit of 350 lb, which is very high compared to the 300 lb average.
Seeing a weight limit this high is another great sign of how well-built the VR21 is.
In terms of dimensions, the VR21 is pretty average, taking up a footprint of roughly 5′ x 2′ (L x W).
Overall, I like how heavy-duty this recumbent is – it comes with a heavier assembled weight and a higher weight limit than most options in this price range.
NordicTrack’s Commercial VR21 Recumbent Bike comes with the following residential warranty:
- 10 year frame
- 2 year parts
- 1 year labor
Overall, I think this is a really good warranty.
Ten years on the frame is pretty generous for a bike in this price range. True, some bikes (like Sole’s R92) offer lifetime frame guarantees, but not many do.
Two years on parts is also pretty good, considering most will offer somewhere between 1- 3 years.
One year on labor is pretty standard, so nothing too special there.
All in all though, a very good home warranty.
Oh, almost forgot: even though NordicTrack calls this the “Commercial” VR21, there is no commercial warranty – and let’s be real, this bike is in no way, shape, or form a commercial bike (but we can’t blame NordicTrack for trying).
The Commercial VR21 Recumbent Bike comes with the following features:
5″ LCD console- the display on this bike is pretty basic, but it’s back lit for better visibility and it’s large enough to clearly see all your workout metrics.
32 workout programs- this bike comes with a boat load of built-in workouts to choose from. This is awesome for the folks who don’t want to pay for the monthly iFit membership.
iFit compatible- this bike is compatible with NordicTrack’s streaming service, iFit, and I believe you get a free month when you purchase. Through iFit, you get access to unlimited, instructor-led workouts, as well as scenic rides, metric tracking, and all that stuff. NordicTrack pushes iFit pretty hard, but you don’t have to sign up! Many users complain about this, but if you simply hold the iFit button for 20 seconds, you can start using this bike without signing up for iFit!
Built-in speakers- you can plug you mp3 player up to the console via the audio port and listen to your music through the built-in speakers if ya like.
Heart rate monitoring- you can grab the grip monitors on the handles to see what your heart rate is, but the VR21 is also compatible with chest straps for more accurate readings (one not included).
Cooling fan- there’s a built-in fan to help keep ya cool during workouts.
Quick touch resistance buttons- you can instantly set your resistance with a push of the button, a convenient feature.
Water bottle holder- lastly, there’s a place to store your beverage of choice.
Ok, let’s talk numbers.
This part is harder than usual because the VR21 isn’t offered by NordicTrack anymore – this means retailers can use supply and demand to hike up prices as they see fit.
I’ve seen this a lot on Amazon, for example.
The original retail price for the VR21 was $999 I believe, which I think was a fair price.
But I’ve seen some retailers asking for $1500 and more for the VR21 and that’s just ridiculous because you can get the VR25 for that.
I’ve seen it on other sites for $699 and I think that’s a great price.
Overall, the price on this bike can vary greatly and it’s getting harder to find. Personally, I wouldn’t pay over $1k for it, but to each their own.
Ok, it’s about time to wrap things up.
Looking over the specs and features, I think it’s fair to say the VR21 has a lot going for it.
Most impressively, it comes with a heavy flywheel and lots of resistance levels to work with, but I also like how heavy-duty the frame is.
It’s also nice that it offers folks the ability to link up with iFit (via their tablets), but I think the fact that it comes with so many built-in workouts is even more impressive.
And to make things better, it’s even backed by a good residential warranty.
The biggest downside is that NordicTrack isn’t offering this model anymore, so the prices through other retailers are all over the place.
So, is it worth investing in?
But I wouldn’t pay over $1k for it, I think that’s too much considering the upgraded VR25 is only around $1500.