When it comes to low impact, full body cardio workouts there are few better options than an elliptical cross trainer and when it comes to home fitness equipment there are few brands better than NordicTrack, so it stands to reason that the NordicTrack FreeStride FS9i Cross Trainer will be right up there as one of the best options for your home cardio workouts.
Having heard good things and not wanting to miss out on the hype, we thought we’d take one for a month’s worth of testing to see if the Peloton of the cross trainer world really could live up to expectation – and you can find out what we thought right here in our full NordicTrack FreeStride Trainer FS9i review.
FreeStride Trainer FS9i First Impressions
The FS9i is a new and improved version of the FS7i but supposedly takes many of the elements that made that a great home cardio machine and improves upon them. The FS9i (like its predecessor) is a pretty hefty investment so anyone taking the plunge should do plenty of research before buying one. If you are here, then you have probably already done plenty of that but we will take you through our journey with this machine from the moment we took delivery of it through to 4 weeks of usage.
It’s hard not to be impressed by the FS9i. To describe it as a cross trainer is perhaps doing it a disservice and NordicTrack actually pitch it as a 3-in-1 piece of equipment as it can function as a stepper and as a treadmill (kind of we will add) as well as functioning as a standard cross trainer.
When you first take delivery of the FreeStride Trainer FS9i you are tasked with the initial setup. This is relatively straightforward and can be performed by one person. It is a heavy piece of equipment so delivery is limited to ground floor rooms and unless you have plenty of space on the first or second floor (and a small army of very strong lifters) we’d probably recommend you install it on the ground floor.
Once set up, the FS9i looks incredible. With its smooth two tone grey matte finish and its solid steel construction you can see this is a serious piece of kit that is designed to last. It is incredibly robust and gives any commercial cross trainer a run for its money – in fact, we would go as far to say that on first inspection it looks and feels as good as anything we have seen in its price range.
The FS9i takes up a fair amount of space and will dominate any space you put it in, but it does make an amazing focal point of any home gym and also works perfectly if you only want one piece of home gym equipment – in fairness, as far as cardio is concerned it is all you will need.
The large 10 inch central display promises high definition resolutions and almost hypnotically lures you in until you give in and get started. Of course, the offer of live and interactive workout sessions is one of the biggest appeals of this elliptical but it is the overall build quality that is likely to have you coming back for workout after sweaty workout.
NordicTrack FreeStride FS9i Specifications
The FreeStride FS9i is a beast of a machine in terms of its sheer presence but also in terms of its tech specs. Although it looks big and bold it will still take up less of an overall footprint than most non-folding treadmills and promises workouts that are far easier going on your joints. It measures up at 148cm (l) x 75cm (w) x 188cm (h) and weighs in just shy of 110kg. There are transport wheels included so you can move it easily enough in to the ideal position for your workout each time you use it.
With a maximum user weight of 170kg, this is an ideal machine for anyone who is looking to get in to shape or for anyone looking to maintain or improve their peak physical fitness levels. The 170kg limit is a testament to the overall build quality of this machine which is also backed up by a 2 year parts and labour warranty (with 5 year warranty on the frame).
The foot plates are incredibly oversized, as are the handlebars – and so it is almost impossible not to find a comfortable position to workout from. Perhaps more importantly, the stride length is adjustable from 0″ to 32″ which makes it ideal for users of all heights and experience levels. When you consider that most good quality ellipticals have a stride length of around 21 to 22 inches you get the idea as to how expansive the FS9i really is. In addition to that, there is an automatic stride length adjuster to find the ideal position for each user – this makes it very easy to just get on and go each time you want to work out.
There are incline and decline settings of up to 10% each way. The decline in particular makes for an interesting experience and these can be controlled manually as well as by the interactive live trainers or as part of a pre-set program. When it comes to creating a challenging workout there are also 26 levels of digital resistance and when combined with the incline the top levels are incredibly challenging and should be enough to push the most advanced of users – whilst at the other end of the resistance levels it is accessible for complete beginners.
The whole system is powered by a 9kg inertia enhanced flywheel which provides silky smooth operation that is unbelievably quiet – that is until you switch on the interactive sessions that come with the bundled iFit subscription and you have a personal trainer shouting at you (that is of course optional) – and many users will find this very motivating. The speakers themselves are pretty good quality and come in the form of 2 inch speakers (of which there are two).
The 10 inch HD display is touch screen and is one of the most impressive features of the FS9i. It is not all about the screen but this is what sets it apart from the cheaper models and even some of the more expensive competitors. Everything can be controlled from this screen and it has a good level of brightness, sharp detail and is very responsive to user input.
Resistance and incline settings are controlled via soft push buttons either side of the screen but everything else is managed by the touch display.
All in all, this is an incredibly well built machine that looks the part – but what’s it actually like to use?
Using The NordicTrack FreeStride Trainer FS9i
The FS9i is, in a word or two, a joy to use. It is as simple as that. We used this machine for a period of 4 weeks and we can honestly say that we have never had such a disappointed team of reviewers as we did when we told them we had to send the FS9i back!
Perhaps one of the biggest selling points of this machine (aside from its excellent build quality) is its universal appeal. Not only is it suitable for all user levels but it is also suitable for pretty much all body types and crucially users with longer limbs. This model from NordicTrack really does cater for all. On top of this, the 3-in-1 nature of the workouts means you can focus your workouts depending on your fitness goals.
Every aspect of this model oozes quality. The foot pads are both comfortable and help you to feel safe and secure thanks to their excellent grip. They are on the large side but this doesn’t impact the safety or comfort. The same can be said for the handlebars and this is ideal as you can enjoy a range of grip positions that suit you and the padding on them is second to none.
Adjusting to an optimal stride length is quick and easy and means you will always be working out with the settings just right for the user. There are multiple user profiles that can be set up so this is ideal for families or households with multiple users. You also get the iFit family subscription included for 12 months and although this does need to be renewed for future years, it takes the functionality of this elliptical to the next level.
The iFit membership is what connects you to live personal training sessions as well as it giving you access to loads of pre-recorded sessions that include training in exotic locations across the globe. If you don’t want to access this you don’t have to, but you really will be missing out on half the enjoyment of owning this machine if you do. There is also Google Maps functionality which allows you to train anywhere in the world if you so wish.
Another aspect of the FS9i that really impresses is the automated nature of the workouts. If you wish, every aspect of the training session can be taken care of for you – including resistance levels and incline settings. You get an iFit compatible bluetooth heart rate chest strap included when you buy this machine and this allows you to take on sessions that ensure you work out at your optimal target heart rate whatever your fitness goal might be.
When you want to go manual, NordicTrack have made this easy for you too. You can either control the incline and resistance via the buttons next to the monitor or you can use the quick select buttons at the end of the handle bars. This was perhaps the biggest flaw in terms of design for us, as the quick select buttons on the handles are not conveniently positioned and you end up using the ones next to the screen. This is no big issue but it seems like a waste putting them there when the buttons next to the screen are easier to reach.
If you were to compare this machine to a Peloton (apart from the obvious – this isn’t a bike) then there are slightly less daily workout sessions with iFit – but, you do get new daily sessions and the pre-recorded sessions are incredible. In fact, there are over 16,000 sessions to choose from and these are increasing daily. If you compare this model to another cross trainer – well, there isn’t much else that comes close!
The statistic tracking is second to none with the FS9i and you get all your data in real time as well as trends over time and comparisons to others that really help for motivational purposes.
NordicTrack claim that this is a 3-in-1 cardio machine and although that is true to an extent it is a little bit of a stretch. In terms of stepping and elliptical cross training we would say this is achieved well – but to call it a treadmill is a bit of a stretch. In reality, we don’t mind this as treadmills are not the greatest form of cardio unless you really like walking or running. But as a cross trainer – this is about as a good as it gets!
The NordicTrack FreeStride Trainer FS9i is one of the best cross trainers we have ever used and if you can stomach the price tag it will not leave you disappointed. It is incredibly well built, impressively versatile and has some of the best connectivity and motivational workouts we have seen.
This model is likely to last for years to come and will suit all types of user. It is this that makes the FS9i a top buy in our books.