It can be hard to find a stationary bike that delivers a challenging workout plus plenty of features for less than $200. However, the Stamina 5325 offers eight levels of resistance and a host of extras for a budget-friendly price. Users say there's a notable difference between the eight resistance levels, allowing those with varying fitness levels to benefit from using this model.
Another lower-cost upright option, the ProForm 290 SPX , has a friction resistance system that utilizes a chain drive. This may help simulate a real road bike better than the Stamina 5325, but the ProForm is noisier than the Stamina's magnetic resistance system and costs $100 more.
Many users complain that the ProForm 290 SPX can be uncomfortable, saying its seat and handlebars don't adjust well for shorter riders. The Stamina 5325 may not be as plush as some high-end exercise bikes, but compared to the ProForm there's little to complain about. With a footprint of 34 inches long by 26 inches wide, the Stamina 5325 is also a good deal smaller than many exercise bikes -- including the 290 SPX that measures 49 inches long by 20 inches wide -- so it should have no trouble fitting into confined or cluttered spaces.
The Stamina 5325 comes equipped with a heart rate monitor that uses sensors built into the handlebars, a rare feature on a machine that costs so little. While the Stamina doesn't have the best warranty in the business -- one year for the frame and 90 days for parts -- owners find it durable enough that the short warranty isn't a major concern. In the few instances that the machine did malfunction, users report a responsive and helpful customer service experience.
For those who are very serious about their stationary cycling and have the budget to match, Schwinn Airdyne models are time-tested standouts. Unlike the Stamina 5325 that uses a magnetic resistance system, Airdyne bikes are equipped with air resistance systems that use a large fan to increase resistance the faster you pedal. They're also very low maintenance compared to the magnetic, friction or hydraulic systems used in other exercise bikes.
We found the most feedback for the Schwinn Airdyne Evolution Comp ; although it's now discontinued, it can still be found at some retailers. Current Airdyne exercise bikes include the comparable Schwinn Airdyne AD6 and step-down AD2 . Reviews for both are limited, but largely positive thus far. They cost more than the Stamina 5325 but are considerably less than some high-end bikes like the ProForm Tour de France .
You might expect the mid-range Airdyne to have some durability issues, but reviews indicate that these exercise bikes will outlast most competitors in any price range. One owner posting at Amazon.com claims that his Schwinn Airdyne Evolution Comp is still in perfect working order after putting about 5,000 miles on it. Considering its longevity and low maintenance, the Schwinn Airdyne appears to be a worthy investment.
Most of today's exercise bikes come packed with features such as heart rate monitors, preset fitness programs and multiple levels of resistance. The ProForm Tour de France, for example, includes 24 workout programs that are actually pre-mapped iFit routes powered by Google maps. Users follow the virtual courses while the electromagnetic resistance and unique incline-decline feature mimics the real-life topography. By comparison, the Schwinn Airdyne Evolution Comp comes with just two workout programs. It doesn't use resistance levels per se, instead self-adjusting to the force you exert. It also lacks a heart rate monitor, but is compatible with third-party wireless monitors.
Yet the chief drawback of the ProForm Tour de France, aside from its cost, is its durability. User reviews at sites like Amazon.com are fairly discouraging on that score. Complaints about broken parts and poor customer service greatly outnumber reports from owners who are completely satisfied. The new TDF Centennial (Est. $2,000) is now available, but feedback is too limited to determine whether ProForm has solved these issues in the new version.