If you’re looking for a quality recumbent for under $1000, Sole’s R92 and NordicTrack’s VR21 are both likely on your short list.
Both bikes come with impressive performance specs, like 20 lb flywheels, smooth acting magnetic resistance systems, and heavy-duty frames.
They both also come with impressive warranties and a generous selection of included features for the price range.
With so many similarities, it can be hard to choose between the R92 and the VR21, but luckily you’ve come to the right place.
In this article, I’ll compare these 2 elite recumbent bikes head-to-head. We’re talking all the key performance specs, features, and everything else these bikes have to offer.
After reading, you’ll be well-equipped to choose the right option for your home.
Off we go!
|Sole R92||NordicTrack Commercial VR21|
|Resistance||20 lb flywheel|
20 levels of magnetic resistance
|20 lb flywheel
25 levels of magnetic resistance
|Frame||134 lb assembled weight|
300 lb weight capacity
|127 lb assembled weight
350 lb weight capacity
3 year parts
1 year labor
|10 year frame
2 year parts
1 year labor
|Features||9" LCD console|
10 workout programs
Included chest strap
USB charging port
|5" LCD console
32 built-in workout programs
iFit compatible (1 month included with purchase)
Chest strap compatible
One touch resistance controls
The Sole R92 vs The NordicTrack Commercial VR21
Sole and NordicTrack are 2 of the biggest names around when it comes to home fitness equipment. Technically, I’m sure NordicTrack is much bigger, but Sole is certainly no slouch (especially when it comes to treadmills).
Anyway, both brands have a lot to be proud of, but they’ve gone about it in different ways.
Sole started out as a treadmill provider for hotel chains, while NordicTrack started out with their famous Ski Machine.
Both brands expanded over the years and the rest, as they say, is history.
And the VR21 is the most affordable model in NordicTrack’s recumbent lineup (actually, NordicTrack doesn’t offer the VR21 directly anymore, but you can still find it through retail sites like Amazon).
These 2 bikes vary a little in price, but both models are available for under $1000, making them fairly budget friendly for home use.
The old adage “the bigger the better” isn’t always true, but when it comes to flywheels, it usually is.
Bigger, heavier flywheels are good for exercise bikes because their extra size allows them to build more momentum as they spin.
And more momentum means a smoother feel while pedaling.
This is because the extra momentum actually helps the pedals continue rotating between strokes, which helps reduce any awkward lags that can occur with cheaper bikes with really light flywheels.
This is true for recumbents too, even though they aren’t usually known for packing massive flywheels like spin bikes are.
For recumbent bikes, I think any flywheel over the 20 lb mark is heavy enough to be considered “heavy” and provide a smooth feel.
With all of this in mind, let’s compare the flywheels on the R92 and the VR21.
This will be easy because both bikes come with a 20 lb flywheel, so no differences there.
And at 20 lb, I would say both bikes are packing a respectable amount of muscle under the hood for recumbents in this price range.
But there’s more to a recumbent’s resistance system than just the flywheel, there’s also the resistance mechanism.
Both of these bikes use a magnetic system, so we can skip the friction brake discussion, but long story short: magnetic systems are better.
The R92 comes with 20 magnetic levels of resistance and the VR21 comes with 25.
Having more resistance levels doesn’t necessarily mean the VR21 can provide more overall resistance, but it does mean you can make smaller incremental changes to the intensity, allowing you to fine tune the feel of your workouts a little more.
Users of both bikes seem to agree that both models have a smooth, quiet feel to them when pedaling.
Overall, the resistance systems on the R92 and the VR21 are very similar. The VR21 has 5 more resistance levels to work with, giving it the slight edge in this category.
It’s important for a recumbent bike to be able to provide a smooth pedal motion and to have enough resistance to challenge you, but it’s also important that it feels stable and secure during workouts.
Getting an idea as to how secure the frame is can be difficult without being able to take the bike for a test drive first, but I’ve found that looking at the assembled weight and the weight capacity is a good place to start.
Seeing higher numbers in both of these specs (especially the assembled weight) is a good sign that the bike will feel more secure when sitting on it.
The R92 comes with an assembled weight of 134 lb, which is massive for a recumbent bike in this price range (for the sake of comparison, the popular Schwinn 270 weighs in at around 87 lb, just sayin’).
Anyway, the R92 comes with a substantial weight, which is a good sign, but it also comes with a respectable weight limit of 300 lb.
It wasn’t easy finding an accurate assembled weight for the VR21 because NordicTrack no longer carries it directly and none of the retail sites list accurate info.
I was able to find the user manual for the VR21 and according to that it has an assembled weight of 127 lb.
This is pretty good for a budget friendly recumbent, but it’s still a few pounds lighter than the R92.
Even so, the VR21 does come with a higher weight capacity of 350 lb, which is great for the larger folks out there.
In terms of assembled dimensions, the VR21 is a little longer and the R92 is a bit wider, but we’re only talking a few inches here or there, so they’re basically the same size.
Overall, both bikes come with pretty heavy-duty frames, but the R92 is a bit heavier than the VR21. That said, the VR21 comes with a higher weight capacity.
Split-decision for this one.
Moving on, let’s compare warranties.
I don’t think the warranty should be the end-all deciding factor when choosing a bike, but it should definitely be considered. After all, warranties are your insurance policies for your new equipment.
Sole backs their R92 with the following residential warranty:
- Lifetime frame
- 3 year parts
- 1 year labor
And NordicTrack backs their VR21 with this residential warranty:
- 10 year frame
- 2 year parts
- 1 year labor
Ok, so Sole’s frame warranty is a lot better, but the rest of it is fairly comparable. Three years on parts is obviously better than 2, but that’s not a huge difference.
Overall, I’d argue both bikes come with good warranties for their price range, but Sole takes this category with the superior guarantee.
That about does it for the performance side of things, so let’s move on and compare the additional features each bike has to offer.
The R92 is a pretty basic recumbent, in that it doesn’t have a lot of flashy features to speak of, but it does come with all the basics you’d want.
- 9″ LCD console
- 10 standard workout programs
- Bluetooth compatibility with fitness apps
- Bluetooth speakers
- An included chest strap heart rate monitor
- USB charging port
- Cooling fan
- Water bottle holder
So, this bike doesn’t come with a ton of workout programs, but there are enough to get the job done, especially for those who usually like to use the manual mode anyway.
It’s awesome that it comes with bluetooth speakers and an included chest strap though.
Moving on, the Commercial VR21 comes with the following features:
- 5″ LCD console
- 32 built-in workout programs
- iFit compatible (1 month included with purchase)
- Heart rate monitor compatible (but not included)
- AutoBreeze cooling fan
- One touch resistance controls
- Built-in speakers
- Water bottle holder
So there are some big differences between these bikes when it comes to their features.
You’ll notice that the VR21 comes with a lot more built-in workouts to choose from, so if this is something you’re looking for, it might be the deciding factor for ya.
The VR21 is also compatible with iFit- NordicTrack’s streaming workout app (monthly subscription fee required).
NordicTrack throws in a free month with purchase, but you don’t have to sign up for it if you don’t want to.
You can’t watch the workouts directly on the VR21, instead you connect the bike to the app on your tablet or phone and use it that way.
A lot of buyers get frustrated because NordicTrack doesn’t make it easy to bypass the iFit sign up that pops up on your screen when you first turn it on.
This is a bit shiesty if you ask me, but you can bypass this screen without signing up if you hold the iFit button for 20 seconds.
After doing this, the screen will go away and you can use the rest of the features normally without an iFit membership.
Otherwise, all of the other features on the VR21 are pretty standard, although it doesn’t come with a chest strap like the R92 does.
Time to talk numbers.
Before I quote the prices for these bikes, please remember that these prices can change throughout the year, so don’t be angry if these numbers aren’t 100% accurate when you read this.
That said, at the time of writing this, here are the prices for these bikes:
Sole R92: $999
NordicTrack Commercial VR21: $812
So, the R92 is about $200 more than the VR21, give or take a few bucks.
This still puts both bikes in what I’d consider a budget-friendly price range for home recumbent bikes.
The real question is whether or not the R92 is worth the extra cash or if it makes more sense to save and go with the VR21…
I save this spot for any extra thoughts I want to share before I finish my comparison.
In this case, I just want to share that NordicTrack’s customer service has a pretty awful reputation for being difficult to work with.
Tons of users have complained that they’re hard to contact and that it can take forever to hear back from them once you do.
Honestly, there are plenty of complaints about Sole’s customer service too, although they aren’t quite as infamous as NordicTrack’s.
Poor customer service, unfortunately, is kinda the norm for these larger fitness equipment companies.
Hopefully you won’t have to deal with them on either side, but if you do, don’t be surprised if it’s a tedious experience.
Ok, time to wrap this up.
Looking at these 2 recumbents side by side, I think it’s pretty easy to say that both models have a lot to offer.
Both come with impressive resistance systems, heavy-duty frames, and generous warranties.
Both also come with a nice selection of additional tech features.
I’d even go as far as saying I think both models are amongst the best recumbent bikes in this price range.
But, if I had to choose between the Sole R92 and the NordicTrack Commercial VR21 today, I’d go with…
Yeah, it’s a tough call, but I like the heavier frame and the longer warranty Sole has to offer.
That said, if you’re looking for a bike with a lot of workouts or if you’re interested in workout streaming, it makes more sense to go with the VR21.
Overall, if this was boxing, it would be a split-decision, but at the end of the day, I think the R92 is the better bike.