Exercise bikes provide a convenient cardiovascular workout
Experts say exercise bikes are a powerful tool to help you improve your fitness level. Even short sessions can be beneficial, according to numerous studies. Sometimes called stationary bikes, exercise bikes provide the cardiovascular benefits of pedaling a bicycle without stepping outside. Many users prefer this method for getting an effective aerobic workout with minimal joint strain.
There are three main styles of exercise bikes: upright, indoor (often referred to as a "spin" bike) and recumbent. All deliver a heart-pumping ride, but vary in design and experience.
Indoor exercise bikes are all the rage these days. These are often referred to as spin bikes, but that's akin to calling a copy machine a Xerox. Spin, spinning, etc. are terms coined by Mad Dogg Athletics, with Spinning being the name it uses for its indoor bike line. Indoor bikes are designed to more closely replicate the act of using a traditional bicycle. They typically use a weighted flywheel for a more intense session and feature reinforced construction. That allows users to stand and lean forward safely, just as they would if in a bicycle race or climbing a steep hill.
Upright exercise bikes are the classic style. They, too, mimic the riding position of a standard bicycle, with a saddle seat situated above the pedals. However, rather than a flywheel that you power, an upright exercise bicycle is powered by a motor, with programs that simulate different types of terrain or that aim to achieve specific fitness, weight loss or performance goals. One advantage of classic upright exercise bicycles is that their seats tend to be more ample and better padded than those of indoor bikes.
Recumbent bikes replace the upright bicycle seat with a wide seat and full seat back, and place the pedals in front of the user instead of underneath them. ExerciseBikeCentral.com explains, "This form of bike provides great support for the lower back and is easier to get onto than an upright bike, as they have what is known as a 'step through' design, with a low profile that is easy to straddle." Users with hip, knee, foot and back issues usually find that recumbent bikes give them an effective aerobic workout without causing extra pain. (This isn't the same as a pedal machine like the Stamina InMotion E1000 (Est. $90), which has no handlebars and is designed to fit in compact spaces, like under a desk.) Recumbent models tend to be a bit larger than their upright counterparts.
Exercise bikes can cost as little as $100 or as much as $2,000. As the price climbs, models become more durable and include extra features. The best exercise bikes include sturdier build quality, quieter operation, and more workout programs along with other features. However, users can still get an effective workout from a less expensive bike, say experts. We feature a few models priced under $200 that have a solid design and are good values.
To customize your workout, exercise bikes use a tension system to produce a harder or easier ride. Resistance is usually provided by one of three methods: magnetic resistance, friction belts or wheels, or air resistance using a fan, where the resistance increases as you pedal faster. Among those, many experts prefer magnetic systems for their smooth, quiet operation. The whisper-quiet operation of a magnetic resistance system is also the best option if you prefer a quiet environment for your workouts so you can watch television or listen to music. ,. Most of the recommended exercise bikes -- including some budget models -- feature magnetic systems.
An exercise bike's riding comfort can be just as important as the features it offers. Even if you decide to ultimately purchase your exercise bike online, experts say it's crucial to try out different models to find the bike that fits you best. Sit on the exercise bike, adjust the seat and handlebars to make sure they will accommodate your body, and ride for at least 10 minutes.
While some exercise bikes including built-in heart-rate monitors, many users purchase a separate high-end monitors and we name some top choices in a separate report. If you are not sure that an exercise bike is the right piece of fitness equipment for your, we also name the top choices among other types of workout equipment in separate reports on elliptical trainers, stair climbers and treadmills.
To select the best exercise bikes, editors consider how effectively the machine can provide a solid ride, how well components hold up after continued use, and the bike's user-friendly features and comfort. We look at expert reviews, of course, but also analyze hundreds of owner reviews to get the full picture of how an exercise bike performs at home, and over the long haul. We also look at how well the company stands behind its bikes should trouble arise. In addition to our top upright indoor and recumbent exercise bikes, we name some other great alternatives worth considering, plus some good options that can provide a worthwhile workout without emptying your wallet.
Elsewhere in this Report:
Best Recumbent Exercise Bike: If you suffer from back problems, or just find a standard bicycle seat to be a literal pain in the rear, a recumbent exercise bike could be the ticket to a comfortable but very effective workout. We look at the best choices.
Best Indoor Bicycle: Do you dream of racing up and down the French Alps in the Tour de France, but don't have the time to get away? Indoor spin bikes replicate the feel of bicycle racing to provide the most intense exercise.
Best Upright Exercise Bicycle: Classic upright exercise bikes are still the top choice of many looking for an ideal piece of exercise equipment. They are comfortable and affordable.
Buying Guide: Not sure what type of exercise bike is right for you? We discuss what factors to consider to help you make the right choice
Our Sources: These are the expert and user sources we consulted in finding which exercise bikes please their owners, and which are most likely to disappoint. They are listed in order from most helpful to least.