Buyers Guide | How To Choose An Exercise Bike + 7 Options For Every Budget
2020 is the year for starting or upgrading your at-home gym. With COVID-19 health concerns, going to the gym every day at home and having cardio equipment on hand has increased interest in all biking types, especially indoor biking.
Before you go out and buy just any old exercise bike, though, you should know a few things.
It’s essential to have your fitness goals, budget, space, and physical limitations in mind.
This article will provide all the necessary information you need to buy the perfect exercise bike for your needs.
Important Features of Exercise Bikes
Before we jump straight into the different types of bikes and our top recommendations, it is important to know and understand some of the most important features of exercise bikes.
The seat of your exercise bike will be one of the most essential features. It may be overlooked by new buyers because it isn’t one of the moving parts, but remember, you will be sitting on it while you use your bike, so it should be comfortable.
Recumbent bike seats will be more like chairs, and many of them are quite comfortable. However, it is recommended to try out your recumbent bike seat before buying to be sure that you like the way it feels as you pedal. These can’t be changed, so you want to be sure it works for your body.
Other types of bikes, like spin, upright, and air bikes, all will have seats more similar to standard bicycles. Some exercise bike seats on these specific types of bikes can be changed, so if it doesn’t come with the perfect seat for you, you can install a new one.
If you can’t swap out the seat according to the factory design, then you could also consider finding a seat adaptor to install your preferred seat.
When looking at the handlebars of an exercise bike, consider the riding you want to do. Do you want to be pushed forward like you are on a road bike, or do you want to be upright with some arm movements?
Looking at the positioning of the handlebars, materials, and if they are adjustable, will all impact the riding experience.
The flywheel of the bike is essentially the moving wheel, and it’s housing. This will look different on all types of exercise bikes. The flywheel is adding resistance along with the resistance mechanism in various ways (magnetic, direct, etc.) as you pedal.
Upright and recumbent will be similar styles of flywheels, and because they’re prone to making more noise, they have a housing mechanism to try and minimize the sound. Most spin bikes will have an exposed and weighted flywheel, and air bikes use a fan with an open housing.
Most exercise bike pedals will be flat, and some will include a strap on top to allow you to push the pedal and pull. This can be an excellent way to mix up your biking exercise experience.
Beyond the shape of the pedal and the straps, you should check to see if they are adjustable. Biking in the improper position can do more harm than good, so you don’t want a bike that doesn’t fit your body correctly. In most cases, the seat will at least adjust, allowing you to be in the position as you pedal.
Console / Programs
As you may have noticed, most exercise equipment these days comes with a screen console of some sort. These consoles can sometimes allow you to program different workouts, they can track and save your progress, or in some cases, they’ll simply display your mileage.
Other bike consoles won’t have any screen at all. These are mostly budget spin bikes or air bikes.
Types of Exercise Bikes
The main types of exercise bikes available include an upright bike, recumbent bike, spin bike, and an air bike. These types of exercise bikes can provide a great cardiovascular workout, but there are pros and cons to each one. Knowing the differences between them will help you decide which type of exercise bike is right for you.
Upright bikes are likely the type of exercise bike you’re most familiar with. They are the traditional model of a stationary bike, and as the name suggests, the bike seat positions the rider in the upright position.
Being in the upright position puts additional stress on the body. The positioning makes this bike very similar to riding an actual bike, but it isn’t the best option for all riders depending on your health situation.
However, upright bikes are a great option for riders who have less space and still want an exercise bike’s benefits. Upright bikes take up far less space than a recumbent bike. We recommend upright bikes for riders looking for a bike they can ride for long durations of time for fat-burning, low-intensity workouts.
What is the best upright bike for home use?
Once you’ve narrowed down your options to the ideal type of exercise bike, you need to decide which upright bike to get. While all upright bikes will have very similar designs, their features and functionality will change as your budget changes.
York LC-UB Upright Exercise Bike
For at-home fitness enthusiasts looking for all the benefits of an upright bike without breaking the bank, the York LC-UB Upright Exercise Bike is affordable.
The York LC-UB upright bike is a light, durable exercise bike. Although it won’t have all the bells and whistles bikes double the price will have, the mechanism will provide the workout you desire. Plus, there are a few added features, like a tablet holder, a pulse reader, and a wireless receiver.
SportsArt C545U Upright Exercise Bike
If you’ve gotten used to the ease of use and premium features of upright bikes at your local gym, then the premium option of the SportsArt Performance Series C545U Upright Exercise Bike is one of the best available options.
This comfortable upright bike design also features an easy to read display with the SportsArt WELL+ software that allows the rider to track workouts.
This bike has a pretty low profile so that you can fit it in most homes and apartments. Plus, it is self-generating, so you are not restricted by where your power outlets are located. Even the smallest studio apartment can handle the C545U because of the electromagnetic resistance. This design is ideal for small spaces as it is considerably quieter than chain or belt drive bikes.
As mentioned above, a recumbent bike is going to be one of the larger bike options. They are the most modern design for an exercise bike, and while you are still in a seated position as you pedal, there is a backrest. The recumbent positioning is far less stressful on your body and is a great option for the elderly or those with mobility issues.
The relaxed, inclined position allows the rider to exercise comfortably and provides a lot of adjustability. Since you aren’t having to support your upper body as you pedal, this also gives the rider the option to read a book or multi-task in another way while they ride.
What is the best recumbent bike for home use?
Similar to choosing the best upright bike for home use, your budget is a driving force. When you’ve settled on your overall budget, then start digging into some other aspects. With a recumbent bike, more so than other types of exercise bikes, you need to consider where you will put it. Then, when you’re sure you have space for it, ask yourself, which features are most important to me?
To help narrow down your search, listed below are two of the best recumbent bikes for home use:
York RB420 Recumbent Exercise Bike
If you’re searching for a high-quality recumbent bike with plenty of added features and a sleek design, but you’re on a budget, then the York RB420 Recumbent Exercise Bike is an excellent option.
Like the York upright bike discussed above, the RB420 Recumbent Bike functionality emphasizes user exercise experience. The sturdy design is built to last and includes 12 programs to keep every ride interesting and adjustable.
Impulse Encore ECR7 Recumbent Exercise Bike
If you have a higher budget, then the Impulse Encore ECR7 Recumbent Exercise Bike is ideal. Like most premium exercise bikes on our list, the Impulse Encore ECR7 does not require a power source because it uses self-generating technology.
Although it requires no power source, it does have an easy to read LED screen to show your progress during your workout.
Unlike other recumbent bike options, the Impulse Encore has a breathable backrest. This keeps the air flowing around your back, keeping you from overheating during your workout.
Spin bikes are designed for a premier and authentic fitness experience.
They are very similar to upright bikes in the fact that they position the rider very similar to riding an actual bicycle. However, spin bikes are less comfortable than an upright bike. Some retail locations will classify spin bikes as upright bikes, so it is important to know the differences.
Spin bikes will always prioritize speed, functionality, and overall fitness experience. The bike seat and the handles will usually be the same height, forcing the rider into the same aerodynamic position as road bikers when biking. The other main difference is that a spin bike will have a direct contact resistance flybar.
We recommend spin bikes for serious athletes looking for a way to train in the comfort of their home.
What is the best spin bike for home use?
As mentioned, some companies will classify spin bikes as an upright bike, so when choosing a spin bike, be sure that you are getting a spin bike. You can purchase a spin bike in association with specific exercise programs, but if you are more interested in the bike design matching your budget, these two spin bikes are worth a look:
Schwinn IC Classic Indoor Cycle
Schwinn is a longstanding and trustworthy name in the bike industry, and their spin bikes are no exception. The Schwinn IC Classic Indoor Cycle is designed with a high-performance, durable frame and a perimeter weighted flywheel for a smoother ride.
Spin bikes tend to be simpler in design than both upright and recumbent bikes, so don’t expect the Schwinn IC Classic Spin Bike to have many features. While there isn’t a screen to track your workouts, you still have a standard spin bike’s functionality with the versatility of not being restricted by outlets.
Precor Spinner Shift Spin Bike
If you’re looking for a more advanced spin bike for your home, then the Precor Spinner Shift Indoor Cycle is ideal. You’ll get an extremely fluid pedaling motion with a weighted flywheel, making it far more relatable to outdoor cycling.
Designed for studio use, you know that the Precor has a sturdy and reliable frame. You can plan to use this spin bike for years to come. The steel frame may seem large at first, but it adds adjustability and functionality to the bike, making it easy to share with other riders at home.
Air bikes are unique compared to the other types of exercise bikes on our list because they do not have fixed handles. Air bike handles move in conjunction with your pedaling action. This is great because you are in the upright position, and you get the combined action of pedaling along with an upper-body workout.
They are called air bikes because they have a fan inside the front portion of the bike. This fan creates wind resistance, so the harder you pedal, the more resistance you will feel from the fan.
Of the best things about this specific air bike design is that it is easy to move and fit in a small space, and the design makes it incredibly efficient at burning calories. You don’t need an outlet to power an air bike unless you’re using the screen during your workout.
Octane ADX Airdyne Air Bike
If you are interested in an Air Bike for your at-home gym, the Octane Airdyne ADX Air Bike is one of the best available options. This air bike features a 26-blade high-performance fan for optimal resistance, perfect for those high-intensity interval training days.
The Octane Airdyne delivers the best performance of any air bike thanks to its bio-mechanically correct design and unique belt drive system.
If you're looking for the ultimate HIIT workout, the Octane ADX is right up your alley.
There you have it bikers. We’ve covered exercise bikes from their features to the different types on the market, and you now have all the information you need to find the perfect bike for you.
Simply take your pick between upright, recumbent, spin, and air bikes. Then select the features you want. Finish by setting your budget, and you’re off to the races.
Have fun and bike on!
Meg is a full-time digital content writer focusing on health/wellness, outdoor recreation, and environmentalism, and you can find her chasing new desert adventures in the American SW in her free time.