The aim of the following review is to share some knowledge on exercise bikes. Being informative and assisting in decision making when purchasing the best exercise bike for your needs. Then getting the most from yours afterwards. With any luck after reading you will understand the various types available, the pros and cons of each, and factors to consider when purchasing, Hope you enjoy!
Types of Exercise Bike
There are three main types, each has its points of difference. These are worth thinking about before you decide on the best exercise bike to spend your hard-earned cash on. Below we give a brief description of each.
A stationary upright bike places you in a similar position as if you were riding on the road on an everyday basis. There are small seats, handle bars and the ability to stand rather than sit when pedalling should you wish. You ride in upright position so put greater pressure on the lower body than a recumbent model would. There are the typical machines that you see on the gym floor.
Spinning bikes are similar to uprights, but more stripped back. They have open flywheels, and have handle bars that are pushed forward further than on an upright. This allows the rider to bend forward in more of a “racing” position while riding and reach high levels of intensity. Spinners generally take up less space than upright models and are more manoeuvrable. Many gyms often have spin classes and separate spin studios.
These bikes are suitable for seniors or people that wish to reduce pressure on knees and ankles, often when recovering from an injury. This is due to the positioning of the seat in relation to the pedals. The rider is reclined back with a larger seat, feeling like sitting on a chair. There are often handle bars either side of the seat as well as out in front allowing for a more relaxed cycling position.
Exercise Bikes Vs. Other Exercise Equipment
By exercise equipment we basically mean other cardio machines that you would typically find in the gym such as rowing machines, treadmills and step machines. This isn’t relevant if you have a specific goal or training purpose that you are focused on. For example if you are training to run a marathon then clearly a treadmill is advantageous. Instead we are thinking about general health and fitness benefits.
Points of difference
One major point of difference is the effect on your joints. Cycling is low impact when compared to a treadmill or stepper as you do not have the constant pounding step by step. It has a smoother more consistent motion, so is kinder on the hips, knees and ankles.
On a technical basis, the cardiovascular benefits of each machine are the same as long as the same levels of intensity are achieved. However, it is far simpler to achieve high intensity on a bike than a treadmill or stepper. This is because your body controls the speed that the pedals turn. Whereas on a treadmill you have to program it to speed up or down. Also, sprinting is easier than on a running machine, as the belt often cannot move as fast as a sprint or offer the stride length required. This means bikes favour higher intensity work outs and the benefits that come with them such as increased cardio performance and calorie burning.
A rowing machine is more comparable in terms of the ability to get a high intensity work out, as you are able to increase speed easily and instantly. It also provides more of a full body work out as it engages your back and arms to a great degree. However, for this reason you are not able to move your legs with the same speed as when cycling. When leg speed and leg endurance are your focus, a bike provides that to a greater degree.
Buying Guide – Features to Consider when Choosing the Best Exercise Bike
Okay so this is an obvious one. The cost is of course an important consideration and you probably have a budget in mind. That’s why we have a guide by price further down the page. The aim is to get the best value for money in your price range. But also to understand what the benefits would be from trading up to the next bracket. Plus if there is actually a particular feature that is worth trading up for?
You may be wondering why this is so high up the list? Well for many people reading this the size of the equipment, and therefore where they can store it, could be a limiting factor. Not everyone has room for a home gym. If you have to fit a machine into your spare bedroom the amount of space it takes up can be important.
Hopefully you have read our guide on the types of bike above and have decided which is right for you. There are pros and cons to each variety and these should be considered when selecting.
We could write a whole article on this subject (maybe one day we will) but we’ll keep this concise. There are 3 common types of resistance system that you will regularly see.
Direct contact resistance
Which uses friction via a brake pad applied directly to the flywheel of the bike. Levels of resistance are adjusted by increasing levels of friction in the same manor as brakes on a road cycle. These provide accurate changes in levels of resistance but can be noisy and parts wear out and need replacing.
Using varying levels of electromagnetic induction on the flywheel to provide changes in resistance. These are quiet as the moving parts do not rub against each other as the wheel spins, in the way that parts on a direct contact resistance machine do. The resistance levels can be changed with great accuracy. Maintenance is very low but on the very rare occasion something does go wrong they can be harder to repair.
Fan based resistance
Using a large resistance fan rather than a flywheel, which then pushes against the air around it. To increase resistance, you increase the speed at which you pedal. These bikes are simple, easy to use and understand, and the breeze can help cool you down! However, they are noisy and resistance levels are not as accurate to control.
Think about how important accurate resistance levels are to you, contact and magnetic systems are better for riders that place importance on controlling resistance for results. Magnetic is better if you value lower noise levels, but repair and maintenance is often easier on direct contact models.
We don’t mean the aesthetics, we mean the design components that deliver enhanced usability or comfort for the rider. Adjustable seats, handlebars and replaceable pedals that provide a unique fit to each individual rider, ensure correct posture and a comfortable workout. Levers or manual resistance knobs that make it easy for users to select the level of workout difficulty they’re looking for. If you plan to move your bike between rooms or in and out of a large closet you will need a model fitted with convenient transport wheels. Frame design rates among the most important feature categories for virtually every potential buyer. Therefore shouldn’t be ignored when evaluating and comparing different models.
This is the central panel below or behind the handlebars. A media tray for a personal music device and a water bottle holder are two common console items. Both of which are convenient features to have. Heart rate monitors are also included in the Console category. Many exercise bikes have contact sensors built into the handlebars. Which the rider grips in order to get a continuous heart rate reading. Riders who consider heart-rate monitoring to be a valuable exercise tool are sure to consider this category as important.
The workout statistics collected and shown to riders in real time on an LCD screen in the console. These include statistics such as time, speed, distance, and calories burned, in addition to the current resistance setting on the braking system. Some include a measure of cadence, which is a count of pedal rotations per minute (RPM). Cadence is an important statistic for certain types of workouts. When the stationary bike features integrated heart-rate-monitoring capabilities, the heart rate is shown on the LCD screen as well. Display is a very important feature category for anyone who relies on performance data for motivational purposes or for performance bench marking to evaluate fitness gains over time.
Pre-programmed, automated exercise routines built into the equipment that are accessed from the console. Typically utilising automated changes to resistance to mimic varying types of real-world courses. For example, hill or mountain-climbing courses, or producing specialised training routines such as sprints or intervals. Other programs include fat burning high-intensity workouts and strength building high-resistance routines. Choosing a bike with built in workout programs is a great way to decrease boredom and increase motivation.
Heart Rate Monitoring
Heart rate monitoring is an option that is provided on many exercise bikes, and its accuracy is extremely important. Often sensors will be on the handlebars in a place that you would naturally be gripping and takes a pulse from your palm on top and thumb underneath. There are machines that have a chest strap sensor, taking a reading from your heart. Or a sensor that’s placed over your thumb. Heart rate can help more accurately calculate the number of calories you are burning. Useful in training routines that set target heart rates rather than speed or distance.
The majority of people will fit within the majority of weight limits on exercise equipment. However, do not get caught out, warranties are voided if a machine is broken by someone falling outside of the recommended limits. Always check just in case to avoid a potentially costly mistake.
You want a piece of equipment that is going to last, right? So consider how often you are going to use it, how intensely you expect to be pedalling, and your body weight. Then make sure that you choose something that will last you. It is an easy mistake to make to buy something at the lower quality end of the scale only for it to break just after it falls outside the warranty. With you having to fork out again to replace it!
Manufacturers grant buyers written guarantees that promise to repair or replace components within certain time limits. Typically, only delivered when defects in material or workmanship become apparent under conditions of normal and acceptable use. Warranties include guarantees covering every part of the equipment, including the frame, electronic components, mechanical parts, and wearable parts including seats and drive belts. They may also include guarantees to provide labour associated with repairs. Warranties are a very important part of choosing a bike because they represent a substantial monetary investment. Ensure all parts are covered under warranty. Specifically brakes, electronics, frame, as these are most likely to ware, plus of course labour.
In an ideal world, you want to be able to contact the manufacturer for assistance should you need to. There are various ways that you can do so. These can include instant communication methods like direct phone assistance and online chat. It should also include email communication and social media contact through platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. You can utilise support methods to get assistance during initial assembly, to learn more about built in functions, and to get help with repairs under warranty. Many people may never make use of the support available. But it is comforting to know it is there should you need it. As you are looking at purchase options it is worth considering the support options that come with any purchase. Don’t get caught out with a shiny new bike but no help when you can’t work out how to put it together!
The informational resources that manufacturers provide you to learn about assembly and use. Commonly including online FAQs, guides, and manuals. Many manufacturers publish tutorials and videos online to assist in assembly and setup. Also to demonstrate proper use of your bike. Exercise bikes come in varying degrees of difficulty to assemble. They are often quite straightforward to operate. However knowing you have the material to assist you to hand, can give valuable peace of mind.
Unlike some other exercise equipment such as treadmills you are in constant control of the speed at which the machine operates. Therefore, when injured or tired you stop pedalling and climb off. However, while many have flywheels or fans enclosed, some cycles have open access to moving parts. It is possible for clothing or even fingers (yours or someone else’s) to get caught while still spinning. If you think there is a chance of this, for instance if you have small children, keep this in mind when choosing your model.
The choice of the best exercise bike is subjective as one person will place importance on a different set of criteria than another. For example, someone fitting it into a spare room may value size and storage over one who is adding it to a large home gym. In the same way someone recovering from an injury may prefer a recumbent model while one training for a long-distance event may value ability to easily control resistance and monitor heart rate.
Our advice is to give thought to all of the factors described above. Rank them or apply values to them for your own personal situation and objectives. Then see which model is the best exercise bike for your needs.
Our Top Picks for Best Exercise Bike:
Best Budget Upright Exercise Bike
- Fold-able and compact, making it very easy to store
- Amazon Prime delivery available
- LDC display with time, distance, speed, calories and heart rate
- Maximum user weight low at 100kg
- Only 8 resistance levels
- No programmed workouts
Suitable for: A good option if you plan to use occasionally when time is short and you can’t make it to the gym. Also suitable if storage space is restricted or you wish to be able to store out of sight.
Read full detailed review here
Best Upright Exercise Bike Under £250
- Wheels to aid storage
- MP3 input socket
- Easy to read screen with standard display and 12 workout settings
- Standard warranty just 12 months
- Not able to adjust handlebars
Suitable for: A strong entry level machine for someone that planned to use regularly. Without some of the “bells and whistles” of more expensive machines but does the basics well.
Read full detailed review here
Best Upright Exercise Bike Under £500
- Adjustable handlebars
- Video tutorials with personal trainer and maintenance advice
- Colour touchscreen with standard display and 21 programs
- 2 years all parts in home service and repair warranty, 5 years frame
- None! Can’t fault this at the price.
Suitable for: Very good piece of equipment for the price, all round machine doing everything well. Perfect if you are just training for fitness rather than road cycling. If you are training for road cycling a spin bike would be a better option.
Read full detailed review here
Best Upright Exercise Bike Under £1,000
- Extremely durable
- Lifetime warranty on motor, frame and magnetic brakes, 3 years on parts and labour
- Highly advanced LCD display with all standard displays, 22 programs, message centre and connectivity to partners apps such as Nike+®, Garmin® and MyFitnessPal® through Wahoo’s RunFit; and to Apple® Health, Jawbone™ and Fitbit®
- Handlebars not adjustable
Suitable for: Built to last with a warranty to match, suitable for everyday use at a sports club or private gym. Connectivity to variety of apps make sit very good for the technologically minded who want to track performance a stave off boredom.
Read full detailed review here
Best Recumbent Exercise Bike
- Controls on handlebars beside saddle for easy access
- Max user weight is very high at 160kg
- 3 years all parts in home service and repair warranty, lifetime frame
- Over-sized self-balancing pedals as standard
- Large heavy machine means storage and moving around the home is difficult
Suitable for: Great bike for those with joint problems or recovering from injury.
Read full detailed review here
Best Spin Bike
- Real bike feel with great bio-mechanics
- Dual sided pedals for use with cleats or normal gym shoes
- Poly-v Belt Drivetrain requires less maintenance
- Ergo-formed handlebar provides great comfort
- Not cheap – quality reflected in the price
Suitable for: Indoor training for serious cyclists preparing for an event, or use at a sports club or private gym. Commercial level standard of equipment.
Read full detailed review here
Final Word on Finding the Best Exercise Bike for You
Hopefully you found our article helpful, if we have aided you along the path of selecting the best exercise bike for your needs, you get the most from your work outs, and your fitness goals are on track, then we have fulfilled our objective. Happy cycling!
A helpful link with info on choosing the best exercise bike for you: