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The New Sole CC81 Cardio Climber – A Step Above The Rest [A Review]

sole cc81 cardio climber review

If you’re looking to put a new spin on your workout routine, the Sole CC81 Cardio Climber might be worth considering. The innovative design combines the upper body movements of a traditional climber with the lower body movements of a stepper.

The result is a compact fitness machine capable of dishing out an intense, fully body workouts right from the comfort of your living room.

Highlights of the CC81 include a heavy-duty steel frame, 20 levels of magnetic resistance, and multi-adjustable hand grips. It’s also sporting the Sole name, which is always a plus in my book.

If you’re interested in learning more about this unique fitness machine, you’ve come to the right place. In this review, we’ll take a look at everything the CC81 has to offer.

After reading, you’ll have a better understanding as to whether or not this is the right piece of equipment to add to your home gym.

The Sole CC81 Cardio Climber

Sole’s CC81 fits into an interesting spot in the home climbing machine market. If you’ve done much research on these machines, you’ve probably noticed there’s a huge discrepancy between models, both in terms of price and quality.

Home climbers tend to cost $125 or $3000+. There doesn’t seem to be many options in between. And as you might guess, there’s a big difference in terms of quality between the climbers that fit into those 2 categories.

With a sale price of roughly $1600, the CC81 might be the answer to this problem.

Sole has gained a great reputation in the home fitness world for building durable machines and then backing them with great warranties.

They’re most recognized for their treadmills and ellipticals, but they put the same attention to quality performance in all of their products.

The CC81 is one of their newest products and the only climber in their lineup.


  • Heavy-duty, welded steel frame
  • Compact foot print
  • Low impact, full body workout
  • 25 lb flywheel
  • 20 levels of magnetic resistance
  • Multi-adjustable handlebars
  • Bluetooth connectivity with fitness apps
  • Custom designed foot pedals
  • Integrated tablet holder
  • Chest strap heart rate monitor included
  • Great warranty


  • Only 10 workout programs to choose from


One of the most important features for a climber is having a sturdy frame. Especially considering these are machines that are theoretically designed for HIIT and other intense type workouts.

This happens to be one of the biggest issues we see with a lot of the really affordable climbing machines on the market- wimpy frames.

If you’ve seen these online, or on tv, you know what I mean.

A lot of them come with 300 lb weight capacities, but looking at them it’s hard to believe they’d feel stable with a 250 lb person working at any level of intensity.

I’m not hating on these devices, for the price I’m sure they’re ok.

I think what I’m trying to say is that there’s a notable difference when you look at the Sole CC81. At first glance, it looks like a real piece of fitness equipment, maybe even something you’d see in a commercial gym.

What’s especially obvious is the frame- it’s thicker and more robust. The CC81 is built with high end, welded steel all around (this will be more obvious when we get to the warranty section below).

The fact that this machine comes with a 400 lb weight capacity is another sign of how durable the frame is.

Unlike many of the more affordable options, the cardio climber doesn’t fold (having a non-folding frame makes the machine more stable). Luckily, its footprint is pretty compact at 59″ x 31″ (L x W).

For comparison’s sake, that’s about 2 feet shorter than most home treadmills and ellipticals.

Oh, for homes with low ceilings- add 10″ to your tallest user and that is the minimum ceiling height necessary for safe use. Actually, you don’t want your head coming all the way to your ceiling, so I’d add another inch or 2 just to be really safe.

Overall, the CC81 scores highly in the frame department with it’s heavy-duty steel construction and compact footprint.


A flywheel on a climbing machine? Yup, you heard it here first. The CC81 comes with a 25 lb flywheel, providing a smooth feel and the ability to really crank up the intensity.

Most home climbers don’t come with a flywheel or any adjustable resistance for that matter -but this is Sole we’re talking about here.

Flywheel weight is often discussed with regards to spin bikes and elliptical machines because these device utilize them for operation.

In both cases, having a heavier flywheel is preferred, because it provides smoother operation and allows for more overall resistance.

Twenty pounds is the unofficial line in the sand- at this weight or heavier, it’s likely the bike or elliptical will operate smoothly.

At 25 lb, the CC81 is packing a surprisingly heavy flywheel. This ensures smooth operation, but it also gives this climber enough muscle under the hood to provide an intense workout.

This heavy flywheel is paired with 20 levels of magnetic resistance, giving you plenty of control over the intensity of your workouts.

To me, the design of this machine reminds me as if they took an elliptical and aligned it vertically. And I mean this in a good way.

It makes sense- ellipticals are highly effective and they work great. Why do climbers have to be so small anyway? I guess the CC81 proves they don’t have to be.

When working out on this climber, both the arms and legs move vertically, as if you were climbing a rock wall. The step height is roughly 10″ and your arms can move between 1″ – 15″ depending on your preference.

If you took a stepper and added handles, the CC81 would be the result.

Overall, the Cardio Climber knocks it out of the park with a 25 lb flywheel and 20 levels of magnetic resistance to work with. This climber should have enough muscle to challenge even the most advanced athletes.


The Sole CC81 Cardio Climber comes with the following features:

Multi-adjustable hand grips- the handles on the CC81 are very adjustable. Not only can you choose between 4 different height positions, but you can also choose between having the handles face you or face to the side. This is a nice feature because it makes for a more comfortable workout, but also allows you to target specific upper body muscle groups.

Resistance knob dial- I mentioned there are 20 levels of resistance, but I didn’t mention that you make these selections by turning a dial. It’s a neat and convenient way to make your selections.

10 workout programs- all Sole products come with 10 workout programs. These include 6 standard programs, 2 custom workouts, and 2 heart rate guided programs.

Chest strap heart rate monitor- speaking of heart rate, Sole includes a chest strap monitor to make tracking your heart rate easier and more accurate.

Data tracking- you can use bluetooth to track all your workout data with the free Sole app or any one of several other workout apps if you prefer (Fitbit, Apple Health, Record, Mapmyrun).

Custom designed pedals- Sole partners with physical therapists to help design their pedals. The result is a larger pedal that slopes inward a couple of degrees for extra comfort.

Integrated tablet holder- there’s a conveniently located tablet holder above the console, making it easy to watch your tablet or read a magazine during your workouts.

5″ x 3″ LCD screen- the screen isn’t especially fancy, but it’s large enough to see clearly during your workouts.

Dual water bottle holders- you can hold 2 water bottles or anything else you want to during your workouts. It’s important to stay hydrated!


The Sole CC81 Cardio Climber is backed by the following warranty:

  • Lifetime frame
  • 5 years parts and electronics
  • 2 years labor

Sole is known for generous warranties and this one doesn’t disappoint. Lifetime on the frame is obviously awesome, but 5 years on all parts is equally as impressive.

Two years on labor is also nice- a lot of home fitness machines in this price range only come with 1 year.

Overall, this climbing machine comes with a very nice warranty. It’s hard to compare this to other climbers because there aren’t many comps in this price range.

The closest I could find is the Versaclimber, which actually costs about 2x what the CC81 does, and it only offers 3 years on frame and 1-2 years on parts.

Then there’s the super affordable climbers that come with no warranty or maybe a year.

Either way, Soles warranty is as good as it gets.

Final Thoughts

I think Sole has an interesting product here. The machine itself is well-built and backed by a great warranty- neither of which come as a surprise to me. After all, it’s Sole we’re talking about here, that’s what they do.

My favorite features are the 25 lb flywheel and multi-adjustable handles- both will add to the intensity and comfort of your workouts.

I also like how compact the footprint is. It reminds me a little of the Bowflex M8 in that respect- both of these machines would work well in spaces that couldn’t fit more traditional home fitness equipment.

I think the CC81 Cardio Climber is a good option for folks looking for a different form of exercise. If you’re someone who is bored with the same old treadmill or elliptical workouts, this climber could be a nice change of pace for ya.

As a climber, the vertical orientation of the pedals and handles is going to make for a more intense workout, especially when compared to an elliptical.

Like I said earlier, this is basically a stepper with handles. And if you’ve ever used a stair climber before, you know how challenging they can be.

Overall, the CC81 Cardio Climber is a nice addition to the Sole lineup. It’s durable and tough enough to dish out intense workouts, but could also work for longer, lower intensity cardio sessions. A smart buy.




Will's a licensed physical therapist (DPT) with over 15 years of experience treating patients from all backgrounds. He's been lifting weights and exercising in one form or another since middle school and has been working out in his own home gym for over a decade. When it comes to fitness equipment, there isn't much he hasn't tried. In his spare time, if he isn't writing or working out, he's likely playing basketball, watching movies, or hanging with his family.

15 thoughts on “The New Sole CC81 Cardio Climber – A Step Above The Rest [A Review]”

    1. I used a VersaClimber a few years ago at the Gold’s I used to go to. Those climbers are high-end and can provide a great full body workout. The Sole CC81’s motion is similar, but since it uses a flywheel, I think it feels more like a stair climbing machine with added upper body handles. The VersaClimber doesn’t have any resistance adjustments, so in order to make your workouts more difficult, you have to go faster or longer. The CC81 gives you the ability to increase the resistance, which gives you another dimension to work with. Both machines are high-end and feel well made during use. The CC81 is a little heavier-duty with a 400 lb weight capacity (as compared to the 350 lb limit on the VersaClimber). Overall, you can get a great workout on either machine. The CC81 is priced very well when compared to the VersaClimbers.

  1. Have you seen the Cascade Climber? Between the Versa Climber, CC81 Climber, and Cascade Climber which one would you get.

    1. I’m not familiar with the Cascade Climber, but I checked it out and it looks pretty awesome. I like the adjustable hand/foot positions and that it comes with adjustable resistance. It’s also backed by a great warranty. Personally, if I had to choose between the 3, I’d probably go with the Sole because it’s the most affordable and has the best warranty of the 3. Tough call though, the Cascade Climber looks impressive. I’m still not sure why the VersaClimber costs so much (or why the warranty is so short).

  2. How do you change the batteries in the console? I can’t seem to locate a battery compartment. I assume the batteries need replacement because the console will not turn on (I have not used the machine yet)

    1. Page 5 of the owners manual shows a dc power connector location, but it’s almost impossible to determine where it is based on the small, vague image included. It looks like it could be at one of the corners of the base, but I can’t tell for sure. Look for a small hole that the power plug can fit in. Sorry I can’t help more. If you still can’t find it you could always check with Sole’s tech support: 1-866-MYSOLE1 (866-697-6531).

  3. Do you even own it? Looks like a generic review. Just read the owners manual, watched the video and memorized the specs and wrote a blog post. It doesn’t seem like a genuine owner tested review.

    1. Nope, I don’t own it- never said I did. I provide an objective perspective on the specs and features compared to other similar products. If you don’t find value in that, that’s fine- feel free to get your info elsewhere.

  4. I read a review that said there’s not enough resistance for vertical climbing for a advanced athlete, what’s your opinion on that, do you agree what that other user wrote.
    Thank you

    1. I haven’t come across any complaints regarding the amount of resistance it offers, but we all have different expectations and I wouldn’t be too surprised if an elite athlete found any of these home climbers too easy. It’s nice that the CC81 comes with 20 resistance levels though. And keep in mind, the difficulty can be increased by bumping up the resistance level, but you can also make things more challenging by going faster. With the option to adjust the resistance settings and your speed, I think the CC81 should be able to challenge most home users. I hope that helps and thanks for reading.

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