Great deals to be had among exercise bikes
Unlike treadmills or elliptical machines, a good exercise bike can be found for around $500 -- and there are a number of good budget options available for $200 or less. That may be because exercise bikes have less complicated mechanisms than treadmills or elliptical trainers, so they can be an economical addition to your home gym. The best exercise bikes cost from $400 to $600. At this price range, you'll find sturdy frames, plenty of resistance levels, preset workout programs, heart -rate monitors and long warranties. Exercise bikes less than $200 can be a decent option for casual exercisers or those just starting out, but they have fewer features and aren't as durable. Still, you'll get more for your $200 in an exercise bike than you will in a treadmill or elliptical machine. If you're willing to spend upward of $1,000 on an exercise bike, you can find a club-quality machine that can stand up to intense use. Bikes in this price range have higher weight limits, so they are a good choice for anyone who weighs more than 300 pounds. However, reviews indicate that most users will do just fine with less expensive stationary bikes.
There are two main types of exercise bikes. Upright bikes resemble a regular bicycle, while recumbent bikes have a reclined position that puts the legs out in front. Prices are comparable between the two types, so it really comes down to which type of bike is more comfortable for you. In general, recumbent bikes are considered more comfortable because of their large padded seats and back support. Upright bikes attract many complaints for their hard seats, which many people find uncomfortable. On the other hand, reviewers say that upright bikes more closely replicate the feel of riding an actual bicycle. Regardless of which type you select, you should look for a bike with an adjustable seat, LCD display and smooth, quiet pedaling.
Evaluating exercise bikes can be tricky because professional reviews are few. ConsumerReports.org hasn't tested exercise bikes in the past few years, and a Google search brings up pages of anonymous sites that claim to review and recommend the best models. Most of these sites don't conduct hands-on tests and are designed to route sales to a particular manufacturer. If a site doesn't list an author or editor, chances are it's not very credible.
As a result, user reviews are the best source of information on exercise bikes. Buzzillions.com, a site that compiles reviews from various online retailers, has the most reviews, with some stationary bikes attracting several hundred individual ratings. However, the reviews at Amazon.com are usually more detailed and thorough, and the site lists verified purchases so you know the review is legit. While Amazon.com doesn't have quite as many reviews as Buzzillions.com, it's still our top destination for reviews on exercise bikes. Walmart.com is also worth a look, especially for budget bikes.
If you aren't sure you want an exercise bike, check out the other ConsumerSearch fitness equipment reports. Treadmills are still the most popular type of home fitness equipment. Elliptical trainers are also gaining in popularity. Fitness experts and owners like them because they reduce knee stress by combining the motions of a treadmill with that of a stair stepper. We also have a report on stair steppers, which might be the least popular piece of fitness equipment these days.