Do you want an upright, indoor or a recumbent exercise bike? If you have joint or back trouble, the reclined position of a recumbent bike is strongly recommended. If you want to most closely mimic the experience of riding a bicycle outdoors, an indoor bike -- often called a spin bike -- is the way to go. Those are built to allow users to do things like stand on the pedals and lean forward for greater speed or to tackle "virtual" inclines. Classic upright bikes put users in the same seating position as a spin bike -- with the user above the pedals -- but are more suitable for those that seek a good, but less intense work out.
Test-drive the bike first. Experts recommend trying out different models before you purchase an exercise bike. "Make sure the bike fits you properly," says exercise physiologist Kelli Calabrese. She recommends getting help from the merchant or a trainer "to be sure the seat height is correct and you're not sitting too far away from the handlebars."
What are your fitness goals? Choose an exercise bike that will best help you reach your fitness goals. For example, if you need help tracking your intensity and progress, look for a model that tracks distance, speed and calories, and includes a built-in heart rate monitor.
How much space do you have? Before you purchase something as large as a stationary bike, you should know where you plan to use it. Measure the available space, and don't forget to measure your ceiling height; upright exercise bikes add 6 to 12 inches to your overall height. Also factor in the weight of the bike. If it's light enough, you may be able to use the bike in an open space and then move it into storage. Some exercise bikes fold up and can be put away between uses.
Elsewhere in this Report:
Best Reviewed Exercise Bikes: What's the difference between upright, indoor (or spin), and recumbent exercise bikes? Editors offer insight and name top models and budget-friendly options
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.
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.