Stages SC3 Indoor Cycle Unveiled: The Good and Bad
The Stages SC3 indoor cycling bike is the top piece of the Stages SC line. From the look of it alone, it deserves to be there. Most certainly the SC3 is one of the slickest looking bikes to ever be made.
It has become the commercial spin bike for some of the world’s top cycling studios and fitness centers like Mercedes Club, and for a good reason. The commercial quality of this bike shines through at every opportunity, even though it is being purchased for at-home use.
The Stages SC3 spin bike is a tad pricey on account of its status as a well known and widely used commercial bike. Costing around $2,600, some people would hold their breath at dropping such an amount on a piece of exercise equipment. While it is good to take into account financial responsibilities, those people might (or might now) change their mind at the end of this Stage SC3 review.
Many of the spin bikes these days come with a top of the line touchscreen consoles in order to help the rider keep track of their riding statistics. The SC3 doesn’t quite come with one of those ultra-advanced pieces of technology, but it does come with the EcoSCRN console. This console will allow me to keep track of exactly what sort of exercise I am getting in while I workout. I will explain further in details about app compatibility and workout feedbacks as well as accuracy.
The q-factor of the Stages SC3 spin bike is 158 mm and feels just right when you get on. Toss in the adjustable seat and handlebars and you can really get comfortable once your workout session starts. Of course, the bike isn’t perfect. I will go over some weaknesses further on in this Stages SC3 bike review. Fortunately, many of the flaws are more about untapped potential rather than actual problems. Before going further, here are links to Amazon and Stages websites where you can buy this indoor bike from.
How Stages SC3 Evolved From Older Models
|Stages SC3||$2,600||EcoSCRN console||Included||FitLoc Height adjustment system||Stages RoadBars||Manual magnetic||Aluminium|
|Stages SC2||$2,000||Sold separately||Sold separately||Pop-Pin adjustment system||Stages RhythmBars||Manual magnetic||Aluminium|
|Stages SC1||$1,700||Sold separately||Sold separately||Pop-Pin adjustment system||Stages RhythmBars||Manual magnetic||Steel|
I’ve had the chance to explore how the Stages SC3 has evolved from its predecessors, the Stages SC2 and Stages SC1, and I must say, it’s evident that Stages is truly dedicated to enhancing the indoor cycling experience for all users. Let me share my personal take on the improvements and the benefits they bring to potential buyers:
- Console Inclusion for Enhanced Data Tracking:
The fact that the Stages SC3 includes the EcoSCRN console right out of the box is a game-changer. It’s a major upgrade over the SC2 and SC1, where you had to purchase the console separately. This means you can now effortlessly track your progress without the hassle of additional purchases. This is a huge win in my book.
- FitLoc Height Adjustment System:
I’m particularly impressed with the FitLoc Height adjustment system introduced in the SC3. It’s a feature that allows you to tailor the cycling experience to your preferred height, making your workouts not just efficient but incredibly comfortable. This is a significant improvement over the Pop-Pin adjustment system used in the SC2 and SC1, which, let’s be honest, wasn’t as user-friendly or precise.
- Stages RoadBars for Enhanced Comfort:
The addition of Stages RoadBars in the SC3 is a real game-changer for comfort during workouts. Trust me; this handlebar design makes a noticeable difference. It significantly enhances user comfort and reduces fatigue compared to the RhythmBars on the SC2 and SC1. It’s a small change with a big impact.
- Quality Construction Materials:
The decision to use aluminum for the SC3’s frame is brilliant. Not only does it make the machine durable, but it’s also lightweight, which makes a world of difference. The SC1, on the other hand, used steel, which is heavier and less corrosion-resistant compared to aluminum. This is a significant upgrade in terms of build quality and transportation.
- Competitive Pricing:
What’s impressive is that, despite all these enhancements, the Stages SC3 is priced at $2,600, which is quite competitive. When you consider the improvements in console inclusion, adjustability, and handlebar design, it’s clear that the SC3 offers great value. It’s not just a premium indoor cycling experience; it’s an affordable one too.
Comparable Alternatives to Consider
When comparing the Stages SC3 indoor cycling bike to its competitors within the same price range, it’s evident that the SC3 offers excellent value for its cost, particularly in 2023. With its toothed-belt and magnetic resistance system, it provides users with 100% power efficiency across all resistance levels.
However, it’s important to know that the SC3 lacks one feature that could be important for cyclists who enjoy using platforms like Zwift and Peloton: motorized magnetic resistance that automatically adjusts to simulate varying terrain, such as inclines and declines.
So, for those who prioritize this automatic resistance adjustment feature, here are a couple of comparable indoor cycling bikes to consider:
- Tacx Neo Indoor Cycling Bike:
The Tacx Neo is an excellent choice, particularly for professional and elite riders who use Garmin and Zwift. It offers seamless compatibility with these apps and receives frequent firmware updates to ensure optimal performance. Notably, the Tacx Neo includes features like cooling fans, automatic resistance adjustments, cobblestone simulation on Zwift, and resistance shifters on the handlebars. Moreover, it provides users with the flexibility of choosing from three different crank length options, a feature that surpasses the SC3’s offering of just one crank length option.
- Johnny G Indoor Cycling Bike:
For individuals seeking a commercial-grade spin bike, the Spirit Johnny G is a strong contender. Its standout features include automatic resistance adjustment and gear shifters, available on both aero bars and standard handlebars. This bike is designed with excellent ergonomics, featuring a drop handlebar, a robust adjustment system, and a sleek overall build.
Each of these comparable alternative indoor cycling bikes offers distinct advantages, catering to specific preferences and needs. If you prioritize seamless integration with apps like Zwift and automatic resistance adjustments, the Tacx Neo is an excellent choice. On the other hand, if you’re seeking a commercial-quality spin bike with a range of convenient features, including automatic resistance and gear shifters, the Spirit Johnny G may be the better fit.
SC3 Technical Information:
- EcoSCRN Console monitor
- Pedals and Q-factor
- Stages SC3 flywheel
- SC3 bike resistance
- Drive system & gear ratio
- Handlebars and seat
- SC3 price and warranty
- Shipping and assembly
- Stages SC3 Indoor Cycle pros
- Stages SC3 Indoor Cycle cons
- Width: 24.5″
- Length: 43.5″
- Bike Weight: 96 Pounds
- Max User Weight: 350 Pounds
- Rider Fit Range: 4’10” to 6’10”
- EcoSCRN Console
- Stages Power Meter
- (Optional) Dumbbell holder
- (Optional) Media Shelf
- (Optional) Bike Number Plates
- (Optional) Aerobar
- (Optional) Stages Flight & Stages Cycling University
As we mentioned at the beginning, the SC3 has an extremely slick design and feel. Thanks to its industrial powder coat and blue steel frame, you almost feel like you are on some sort of Tron bike. It comes with a carbon fibre belt and magnetic resistance system in order to give the user an extremely smooth and quiet experience.
The Stages SC3 has some nice features that just make it easier to move. Little wheels to make mobility easier, an adjustment system for both the seat and handlebars (that we will talk about more later), and a build that makes the bike light enough to move around without much difficulty but also enough weight to give some stable rides.
As opposed to other models in the SC line, the Stages SC3 spin bike comes with the EcoSCRN console and the Stages Power Meter by default. This is certainly a good thing, as it allows the rider to keep track of their statistics and finely tune their workouts.
The optional features of the Stages SC3 indoor cycling bike are just that: optional. For those who want help, guidance or some extra entertainment when working out, the Stages Flight app and Stages Cycling University might be good pieces to pick up. However, we can pretty firmly say that none of the optional pieces are necessary to use this bike.
- The EcoSCRN console on the Stages SC3 spin bike is powered by the rider. No batteries needed.
- Always-on backlight which makes it easy to read.
- The console displays the Max, Average and Ride totals for all statistics
- The console displays the following statistics: Kilojoules (work), Kcal (calories), Watts, RPM, Speed, Heart Rate (if wearing a strap), Time, and Distance
- The STAGE button allows for up to 99 sections of time (laps). Data does not start to record or average during the warm-up stage (so total ride data is not skewed with poor warm-up data).
- The Stages Power Meter can send workout data via both ANT+ and Bluetooth.
- The Stages Power Meter has 2000+ hours battery life via two standard AA batteries
- SC3 can connect to Zwift and transfer watt and RPM to the app
The EcoSCRN console that comes with the Stages SC3 indoor cycling bike is what separates it from its compatriots in the SC line. Instead of being battery powered, it gets all of its juice from the effort you expend while riding on the bike. This is an extremely convenient feature that crosses off one less maintenance concern for the owner of the bike. If you want the data from the device itself without having to copy it all down after the workout, it does have the ability to transfer that data via a USB.
The console itself might not look like those hyper-futuristic ones you might see on some other high-tier spin bikes, but it will do the job well. The fact that it has the Max, Average and Ride totals for all of the statistics that it does track must be noted as a quality feature for those who really want to gather information about their workouts. It also does the job of tracking all of the necessary statistics like RPM, speed, time and distance while adding in some nice new ones like the kilojoules. Heart rate can also be measured if you are wearing a chest strap. Another nice feature about this screen is that it will ignore the warm-up stats when configuring your final statistics.
Now when you are trying to figure out how well you did on your workout, you won’t have to spend any time trying to account for the warm-up phase. As for the power meter that comes with the SC3, it is a nice feature. Not quite as impactful as the EcoSCRN console, but it still does a good job of allowing its cyclists to accurately measure their power levels. Lastly, the Stages power meters have the ability to connect to most popular third-party apps including Zwift. They have ANT+ and Bluetooth capabilities.
Q-Factor and Pedals:
- The Stages SC3 pedals are SPD-compatible and have toe cages.
- The Q-Factor of the SC3 is 158 mm.
- Stages SC3 reads the rider’s actual power through the sensor attached to the crank arm (seen in the image). It leads to ultimate power accuracy
One of the things that separates the SC3 apart from other spin bikes is its 158 mm Q-Factor. It does a really good job of making you feel like you are on a real bike, even as you might be watching TV while you ride.
For those who are unaware, the Q-Factor is the distance between your feet while sitting on the bike. Too much distance and it tends to become uncomfortable or give an unnatural feel to the ride.
As for the pedals, the SPD compatibility means that they can be used with regular shoes and special bike cleats. Those are typically useful for people who are looking to take their cycling to the next level.
- The SC3 spin bike has a 20 kg flywheel.
- The flywheel is “high inertia, cast iron perimeter weighted.”
- The SC3 flywheel is fixed.
With the gear ratio of 5:1 and the magnetic resistance, this makes the 20 kg flywheel on the Stages SC3 quite a good one.
The flywheel is at the front of the bike. This means that it is more vulnerable to those drops of sweat coming from the rider. Fortunately, because of the coating on the flywheel, it is actually quite resistant to this sweat.
Because of the cast iron perimeter on the flywheel, it is also quite resistant to damage when it might accidentally bump against some other object in the home. Obviously, this does not mean that we recommend flinging the machine around in order to see how much damage it really can withstand, it does mean it should last you a very long time. Once it stops, that’s where the warranty can come in and help (we shall cover that further down on the page).
The flywheel is fixed, which means that the pedals and the flywheel don’t turn independently. They are connected to one another, turning and stopping at the same time. If you want to release your shoes from the pedal clips (or cage), you need to wait until the flywheel stops turning.
Depending on how you like to run your cycling sessions, this can really make a difference. This can be good for some, as it means that you constantly have to pedal without stopping. That means more effective workout sessions for the user. You can also pedal in reverse with resistance, working out different leg muscles than you normally would.
Of course, it can also be bad. If you get cramps or there is some sort of emergency, you can’t jump off of the bike until the flywheel stops turning. You also will be unable to take a break unless you completely stop the workout.
Stages SC3 Resistance:
- The SC3 features a manually adjustable magnetic resistance system.
- This means that it cannot be controlled with wireless third party (or any) fitness apps.
- The SprintShift system means that it is adjustable with custom workload settings.
- It does not have a set amount of resistance levels listed.
- There is an emergency push-to-stop for those who might run into an issue while riding.
The Stages SC3 spin bike is somewhat unique in how it goes about the resistance of the bike. Instead of having a set amount of resistance levels, the SprintShift system allows for the user to adjust the resistance settings to just how they want it at any given point.
This method is much more fluid than the traditional method of twisting a knob over and over again. Therefore, it is much more suited for those who want to get some high-intensity interval training (HIIT) training into their workload. It also works well for other interval-based workouts.
The SC3 does not have the ability to automatically change resistance levels, unlike the SB20 bike. While the process might be more fluid because of the SprintShift system, it does lack the ability to allow the third-party apps like Zwift to automatically simulate the “terrain” that the rider would be riding on.
Handlebars and Seat:
- The Stages SC3 features the Stages RoadBar handlebars in order to accommodate all sorts of hand positions.
- The SC3 has a unisex seat to appeal to all people.
- The FitLoc height adjustment system allows for fluid seat changes. It is estimated to be five times faster than the standard indoor bike.
- There is an optional media shelf available for purchase.
One of the big selling points of the Stages SC3 spin bike is the RoadBar handlebars. Compared to the SC2’s RhythmBars, the RoadBar handles are adjustable vertically as well as horizontally. They also have all the possible positions a rider could want, as both riders who normally train indoors and those who ride outdoors can find their preferred arm positions on the SC3.
Similar to the SC2’s handlebars, they are defined as “comfort coated” aluminum. We’re still not exactly sure what that comfort coating is actually made of, but there is no false advertising here. They are comfortable. In terms of the seat, the main feature is the FitLoc lever system. It allows for extremely quick height adjustment in the seat compared to the traditional twist-to-lock systems.
For those in homes with more than one cyclist, especially who are of significantly different builds, this feature makes it much more convenient to switch back and forth from custom seat settings. The seat can also be adjusted in similarly easy fashion in using the fore/aft adjustment. Because of this adjustability (both vertically and horizontally), it allows the SC3 to fit an extremely wide range of users.
Drivetrain and Gear Ratio:
- The Stages SC3 drivetrain gear ratio is 5:1.
- The SC3 has carbon fiber belt
- This indoor bike uses a toothed belt and toothed belt ring for maximum power efficiency
There isn’t a whole lot to write home about in terms of the SC3’s gear ratio and the belt. The Carbon Drive™ carbon fiber belt does the job it is supposed to.
It remains quiet while giving a good system of resistance to the flywheel. There are no noisy chains to be found here. Admittedly, the fact that the carbon fiber does a good job of resisting any sort of sweat corrosion on the belt is a pro.
The gear ratio is 5:1. For those who are unaware, these bikes have a small pulley belt and a big belt ring connected to the flywheel. For every turn of the big wheel, the small pulley turns 5 times.
The combination of this drivetrain and gear ratio makes for a bike that delivers an extremely solid workout, regardless of how high the resistance setting goes.
SC3 Bike Price and Warranty:
- The Stages SC3 bike is currently listed at around $2,600
- With all of the optional (physical) pieces of equipment added on, that price ranges by $220+
- The SC3’s warranty includes:
15 years on the frame
10 years on the carbon fiber belt
3 years on the mechanical system
1 year for both the labor and electronics
6 months for the wear items
As the Stage SC3 indoor cycling bike is the most advanced in the SC series, it does come with the appropriate cost. It is more expensive than any of the others in this series, and will put a firm dent in many people’s pockets. Whether that price is warranted is up to the user.
The biggest advantage that the SC3 has over its fellow SC bikes is the inclusion of the EcoSCRN console and Stages Power Meter in the default package. These two objects really do bring the SC3 up to the level of many other top-tier spin bikes. It allows for the user to connect to devices by ANT+ and Bluetooth, while also keeping track of the statistics gathered during the workouts.
As with many Stages bikes, the warranties will make sure that if you do decide to drop the money on this exercise machine, it will be protected. The warranties attached to this bike are extremely generous and can guarantee that anything that goes wrong with it will be replaced.
Assembly and Shipping:
- Shipped in a single box, so there is limited setup required.
- Should take about 1-2 weeks to arrive normally, though there are a variety of factors that could affect that.
The Stages SC3 can be acquired through both online sellers and from the company directly. The shipping process can vary depending on a host of factors.
Something mildly odd might happen, like a global pandemic that decides to pop up and shut down or slow down mail services everywhere. Or the package could simply be mailed to the wrong location. It just depends on how lucky you are feeling in 2020.
Stages SC3 Cycle Pros:
The EcoSCRN Console:
Undoubtedly the biggest advantage that the Stages SC3 has over its brethren in the SC line is this console. It allows the rider to keep track of all the statistics that they could want. The fact that it doesn’t require any batteries only adds to the value that you get from this piece of technology. It might not be the most advanced bike console on the market, but it certainly does the job well here.
Similar to the SC2, the SprintShift resistance system on the Stages SC3 is a certain highlight. The system is as close as you can get to automatic resistance transitions without actually having that feature. It just makes it so much easier to implement those interval workouts compared to the normal knobs of many other indoor cycling bikes.
The Customizable Setup:
With the combination of the Stages RoadBars and the FitLoc adjustment system, the SC3 is extremely adaptable to just about any cyclist. Both the seat and handlebars can be adjustable vertically and horizontally, and both can be done in a much quicker fashion than one might expect. This can be really handy if you have multiple users of the bike in your home or just want to try out different settings.
Power Transfer and Tracking Efficiency:
With the automotive-grade toothed-belt (Timing belt) and tooth pulley which is similar to a camshaft, the Stages SC3 indoor cycling bike doesn’t allow power loose during intense cycling sessions. It’s a very common issue among belt-driven spin bikes on the market but when buying this SC3, you don’t have to worry about it. Also, thanks to the belt-in sensor right on the crankarms, you get superior power/watt output feedbacks.
Stages SC3 Cycle Cons:
A Confusing Resistance System:
We praised the resistance system on the SC3 for how easy it is to adjust. It is not, however, easy to adjust to. Considering how many other bikes use a traditional resistance system of various levels, actually getting a handle on this type of resistance can take some time. You might never get fully used to it, as there just isn’t that same firm security of having a number of fixed levels.
The Potential For More:
Possibly the biggest con about the SC3 is that it leaves you feeling like there should just be more. Like it is missing something that would truly send it into the spin bike hall of fame. Whether it is that more advanced console or a classic resistance level, a thought just remains in the back of the mind that Stages had the potential to go for greatness.
While it might have some imperfections, the Stages SC3 indoor cycling bike is most certainly one of the higher-tier products on the market. The fact that the SC3 comes with the EcoSCRN and the Stages Power Meter definitely puts it ahead of the other bikes in the SC series. The only question that might need to be asked is do these features put it above other indoor bikes of the same tier from other companies like Garmin, Wahoo, and Mad Dogg? It certainly still serves as an excellent piece of exercise equipment for users with the design and features. After all, there is a reason that some of the world’s top fitness operators choose it. Virgin Active, Equinox Fitness Club, the YMCA, Fitness First and others have all picked it as their commercial bike of choice. However, as we have mentioned, there is still that lingering feeling that somehow it is only a few steps away from truly leaving its mark in the world of indoor cycling. Only you can decide whether or not that last step is worth investing in this very good spin bike.