Cycling is one of the best forms of cardio going. It can be tough, performed in short, intense bursts, or it can be steady state, with miles chewed up over hours. Either way, it represents a low impact way to get your heartrate up, keeping your joints safe even as you gain the cardiovascular benefits. It is a great way to build up strength and definition through your legs, particularly your quads, and can be a fantastic weight loss tool as you burn through the calories.
Life Fitness’ IC5 Indoor Cycle is one of the best at-home cycles money can buy. It is a cut above some of their other offerings, whilst being relatively affordable for many. Complete beginners will get on well with it, whilst even more advanced athletes can be challenged by it.
It’s smart, with a decent colour monitor and Bluetooth connectivity, features a rear-drive design with a high inertia flywheel, and boasts ergonomic, adjustable seat and handlebars. There is a dizzyingly broad range of resistance levels and a whole host of extra features that more than earn its price tag.
The IC5 Indoor Cycle really is one of the best upright cycles in its price bracket, as I recently had the pleasure of finding out for myself – and I’m bringing you the full lowdown right here with my Life Fitness IC5 review.
First Impressions Of The IC5 Indoor Cycle
The IC5 Indoor Cycle is smart looking, all black, chrome and red, as we have all come to expect from Life Fitness. It will look decent in the corner of any room or garage, making it perfect for at-home use.
It’s also pretty easy to assemble. All parts for the IC5 come in a single box, mostly assembled (maybe around two-thirds), with only a little work needed. Important bits like the magnets, flywheel, and crank-arms are pre-assembled, with only the monitor, bottom stabilisers, pedals, seat, and handlebars needing to be added. The instruction manual provides all the steps you will need to run through to put it together, though you may need a little help shifting it (it weighs about 130lbs, or about 60kg).
Once you’ve got it built and set in place, you can start to really appreciate what sets the IC5 Indoor Cycle apart from some of its competitors. It is incredibly well-built and sturdy, giving you a great feeling of support and safety. The plastic covering is tough and easy to keep clean.
Overall, you get the impression of a really good quality, well-built piece of kit that looks fantastic.
Life Fitness IC5 Indoor Cycle Specs And Key Features
The IC5 Indoor Cycle boasts most of the features you should expect of an upright cycle in its price bracket, though they are a lot better designed and made than you will often see.
The monitor is decent. It’s backlit and battery powered, Bluetooth and ANT+ enabled, with a couple of quick start programmes to get you going straight away (called ‘Train with Power’ and ‘Train with Heart Rate’). It tracks all the usual metrics you would want tracking – things like heart rate, speed, calories burned, resistance levels, time spent training, training zone, and so on. It can be connected to the ICG Training App.
The main thing that sets the IC5 Indoor Cycle apart from many of its competitors is its ergonomic construction, however.
As part of this, it has a very narrow Q-factor (the distance between the user’s feet and the bike’s pedals when they sit on the cycle). It’s optimised at 155mm for complete comfort and minimised power wastage. The pedals themselves are SPD compatible, built from very high-quality Shimano, though they can also be used with any old trainers or spinning shoes.
In addition, the IC5’s aluminium seat is very comfortable, with a racing-style mould to reduce soreness and chafing (even if you have thunder thighs, which I do!). Its handlebars are also made from aluminium, keeping things relatively lightweight whilst giving great durability. There will also be more longevity to them than steel would offer, as they are pretty resistant to corrosion. Both are designed with user-assist technology to give you a comfortable performance.
The flywheel is very light, which concerned me when I first read up on the IC5 Indoor Cycle. At 9lbs, or about 4kg, it’s a lot less than I am used to using – I like a flywheel in the 15-20kg range, and I’m not even that fussy. However, it gives a surprising amount of magnetic resistance, very fluidly, smoothly delivered.
There are also a great many resistance levels to switch through, thanks to the flywheel’s magnetic nature. There are a full 100 increments of resistance to climb through, where many will give you 10-20. This means incredibly smooth changes between each level, as the difference between each one will be minimal, and a fantastic way for both beginners and advanced athletes to find what suits them best.
The drive system is built to last, too, so that this resistance should stay pretty consistent over the years, no matter how hard you push the bike. It is a poly-V belt drive that shouldn’t stretch or degrade, meaning you’ll never have to adjust or replace it. The full drive mechanism is at the bike’s rear, which is incredibly simple and clever – it means that all the delicate components are kept away from the user’s sweat splash zone! This kind of simple brilliance really is my favourite kind of engineering – I love it.
Finally, connectivity is great. The Life Fitness IC5 Indoor Cycle comes with Bluetooth connectivity and ANT+, as mentioned above. This allows you to connect the bike to your tablet, tv, or smartphone, giving you access to any media you want, and any spinning apps that might enhance your training.
Using The Life Fitness IC5 Indoor Cycle
The overriding feeling you get when you first get onto the Life Fitness IC5 Indoor Cycle is one of quality. Life Fitness stock many commercial gyms – their equipment featured prominently in the gym in which I used to train my clients as a PT – and this shows.
For starters, the use of aluminium over steel makes far more of a difference than you might at first imagine. Though the bike is by no means light (see above), it’s far lighter than a piece of cardio equipment of its calibre and sturdiness should be. You really do feel like you can put down as much power as you are able without worry.
I often struggle with cycles in this regard. I am incredibly lower body dominant in terms of strength and power, able to squat and deadlift impressive amounts and sprint quickly, whilst consistently giving a poor showing on the bench press and other upper body strength feats. I could easily tear a lesser model to pieces in a relatively short amount of time, where a model like the IC5 can stand up to anything.
There is also the added benefit that aluminium doesn’t really rust or corrode. You don’t notice this during use, of course, but it’s always nice to know.
A lot of indoor cycles can also be a little janky as you move through their levels. Switching from five to six on some can be a big difference, with gears suddenly grinding into place to stop you in your tracks. Though the range of resistance levels on the IC5 is only slightly wider than average, the minute gradients (about five to ten times that of most bikes, largely thanks to its first-class magnetic resistance system) make everything a lot more comfortable and naturalistic feeling.
You can switch up four or five levels at a time with your muscles catching up to it all in real time, without jarring, better mimicking the feel of road cycling. There is no cliff edge to drop off, just a gradient along which to smoothly move. It’s lovely and refreshing to experience.
The ergonomic designs are clever and make a real difference. The seat is comfortable, which is also refreshing in an indoor cycle. It’s quite often a race between your thighs and bum cheeks as to which will give out first – muscular fatigue in your legs, or posterior ache as the rock-hard seat makes things unbearable. There is none of that with the IC5 – it’s sculpted properly, as a road cycle would be.
Everything is perfectly adjustable, too. You can get the seat and handlebars exactly where you need them. The Q-factor works incredibly well, giving you a comfortable cycle rotation. Realistically, I prefer to train in short, powerful bursts, negating some of the benefit. However, if you’re going to be on a cycle for 15 minutes or more, you should consider making it the IC5 – these elements will keep you comfortable and stable for hours as you train.
I’ll always be the first to tell you that I’m not techy. The above mechanical elements are far more important to me in a piece of training equipment than any monitor smarts. However, software does make a difference, and it is very important to many. The monitor is good quality, with a great colour grading system to sort between difficulty levels. It shows you everything you need to know to get the most out of your workout.
The connectivity is good, too. You can use whatever media or apps you want to make sure you’re getting the best experience.
It’s not the most extravagant machine ever made. However, intelligent design and good quality materials ensure that the IC5 Indoor Cycle is almost the perfect bike. It really is a joy to use and will allow you to train how you want to train, forever more, with no drama.
Life Fitness IC5 Alternatives
The IC5 isn’t Life Fitness’ only offering, of course. They have plenty of options for indoor cycling.
The IC5 is also pretty pricey. It’s worth every penny and then some, but if you’re budget won’t stretch that far – or if you don’t want it to, which many won’t – there are some cheaper options that will still give you a great deal of utility.
The Life Fitness IC2 Indoor Cycle is a good place to look. It’s around 2/3 the price of its big brother, whilst delivering much that the IC5 is known for. It has a smooth drive to it, everything is ergonomically designed, aluminium features heavily, and the slightly weightier flywheel gives a reassuring amount of resistance.
It’s an entry level cycle that is nevertheless made from first-class materials, with all the engineering smarts that Life Fitness give to all of their products. The belt is the same as in the IC5, meaning little to no maintenance and great longevity, and the dual sided pedals are fully compatible with SPD cleats. The saddle is as comfortable as the IC5’s, designed for sporting use and extended training bouts, and both it and the handlebars are fully adjustable.
It isn’t quite as clever as the IC5, but the IC2 does a very good job of everything you need it to do. You get a bit of a bargain, here.
I really like Life Fitness’ IC5 Indoor Cycle, as I’m sure you can tell. It’s incredibly well made, from fantastic materials, with extra little details and flourishes that make all the difference. You really do get the last word in intelligent simplicity with the entire build.
It is easy to live with, with little to no maintenance needed, and has great longevity. This longevity is evident both in how durable the machine itself is, but also in what it delivers. The seat and the Q-factor mean that your body won’t feel too beaten up by using it for long bouts over a number of years. The connectivity will ensure that you don’t get bored, and that you’re always able to challenge yourself.
It is simply a great indoor cycle. It is priced accordingly, so you may need to have a long think about your budget (and consider the IC2 if it makes things easier!), but rest assured that it is worth every penny Life Fitness charge.