Exercise bikes provide a convenient cardiovascular workout
Experts say exercise bikes are a powerful tool to help you lose weight, improve your metabolism and brighten your mood. 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 two main styles of exercise bikes: upright and recumbent. Both deliver a similar heart-pumping ride, but vary in design and experience. Upright bikes are the classic style, using a saddle seat situated above the pedals for a workout that feels similar to riding a bicycle outdoors. "A great benefit to upright bikes is that they take up quite minimal space in the home and are often very easy to move around, many being fitted with small wheels for ease of movement," say editors at ExerciseBikeCentral.com. Because you can stand as well as sit on an upright exercise bike, you can improve "arm and shoulder strength…while engaging more core muscles," according to Good Health magazine. Upright indoor cycles, also known as spin bikes, use a weighted flywheel for a more intense session.
Recumbent bikes replace the upright bicycle seat with a wide seat and full seat back, placing the pedals in front of the user. 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 typically cost between $100 and $2,000. As the price climbs, models become more durable and include extra features. The best exercise bikes include amenities such as a water bottle holder, heart rate monitor and LCD screen to display your workout statistics. Users can still get an effective workout from a less expensive bike, say experts. We feature a few models 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. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages according to your needs and preferences. If you prefer a quiet environment for your workouts so you can watch television or listen to music, the whisper-quiet operation of a magnetic resistance system may be the best option. Many experts prefer magnetic systems for their smooth, quiet operation. If a durable, very low-maintenance machine is more important to you than peace and quiet, air resistance systems are your best bet. Any style you choose has the potential to offer a challenging workout, but be sure to test out the bike before you buy if possible.
An exercise bike's riding comfort can be just as important as the features it offers. Even if you decide to 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.
To track your vitals while working out, many users purchase a separate high-quality heart rate monitor. We cover the best units in our report here. Editors also name top models of other workout equipment in our separate reports on the best elliptical trainers, the best stair climbers and the best 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 from personal trainers and fitness professionals who have experience with different styles and models. Hundreds of owner reviews are analyzed to create a well-rounded picture of the top exercise bikes. We consider performance, of course, as well as other factors such as ease of use, durability, and how well the company stands behind its bikes should trouble arise. In addition to our top upright and recumbent exercise bikes, we name some other great alternatives worth considering plus some great options with smaller price tags.