Exercise Bike Guide 101

Many people have just created their New Year's resolutions and are still fully committed to them. And for most, at least one of those commitments to yourself is to get healthier (especially if you gained some weight from being stuck at home during the pandemic). With health and physical activity being difficult among this pandemic, it is more important than ever to squeeze in time for working out whenever we can. Exercise can help relieve stress or anxiety and lower blood pressure, maintain a healthy weight, build muscle strength, and a whole host of additional health benefits. With indoor exercise bikes, you can have a flexible schedule and workout whenever, whether it's the wee hours of the morning or late at night. You don't have to have your exercises dictated by the gym hours and what exercise equipment is available. With an indoor exercise bike, you have the freedom to reach your fitness goal and burn calories, all from the comfort of your home gym.

What is the difference between an upright bike, a recumbent bike, and a spin bike?

There are three standard styles for an indoor cycling bike: an upright bike, a recumbent bike, and a spinning bike. An upright exercise bike is what you typically picture when you think of cycling indoors. They are the most common stationary bike and the most compact. An upright stationary exercise bike is ideal for people of any age. However, this stationary bike is not recommended for people with back problems who may not feel comfortable with the lack of back support. Otherwise, it is suitable for any skill level. Due to its shape and frame, you will feel like you're riding a standard outdoor bike when you ride an upright bike. The pedals are right below the seat, which gives you a more consistent workout and mimics the conditions you would have if you were exercising outdoors. Doing a stationary bike workout will help you with weight loss, cardio, and building muscle in your lower and upper body.

A recumbent exercise bike allows you to sit in a more reclined position and has a broader bike seat. This is ideal for older adults, or those with physical limitations, or in need of physical therapy. A recumbent bicycle is easier on your low back, gentler on your joints, and provides an excellent workout. Recumbent bikes are also ideal for people who tend to be on the heavier side and want to lose weight since they have a higher weight limit than most upright bikes. Although they won't help you as much with upper body workouts since you are seated while biking, a recumbent bike is an excellent choice if you want to ease into indoor cycling, but your body won't allow you to get into hardcore fitness mode quite yet.

Both upright bikes and recumbent bikes have plenty to offer you as a rider. A recumbent bike can provide a lot of comforts, with padded seats and a stable backrest. Some recumbent bicycles even come with an elbow rest or comfortable handlebar, which further adds to your comfort level while cycling. Recumbent bikes are best for low impact use and are an excellent choice if you want to have a safe and smooth exercise routine. For older adults, heavyset individuals, people with back problems, and those that are working with a physical therapist for rehab, recumbent bikes are a match made in heaven. However, one of the downsides of a recumbent bike is they are not as intense as an upright bike and won't help you lose as much weight as an upright bicycle would. An upright bike provides a consistent, full-body workout and extreme strength exercises. An upright bike is an ideal choice if you are looking to increase your regular physical activity but don't want to pay for a gym membership or a personal trainer to help fulfill your exercise plan, endurance, and strength training goals. An upright bicycle won't offer many of the comfortable features that a recumbent bike has. There is also a slightly higher risk of injury since you are just on a bike seat instead of seated on a cushion, along with a backrest. All in all, both bike options are fantastic and are a great purchase to help you stay fit and healthy. An indoor stationary bike is ideal for you to accomplish your aerobic fitness goals, all from the comfort of your home. Base your choice of an upright or recumbent bicycle on the level of comfort you want to cycle in, the intensity you want your workouts to be,  and your weight loss goals.

Finally, if you really want to kick your health goals up a notch, we have the third option for stationary bikes, a spin bike. Spin classes are ever-growing in popularity due to their high-intensity workouts. An at-home spin bike is similar to those you would find in a cycling studio at a spin class. Spin bikes are geared towards burning calories, improving your heart rate with cardio, lowering your body's workout breaking point, strengthening your core, and being a part of a cyclist community that feels like a team. Spin bikes are ideal fitness equipment and a must-have in any home gym if you are looking to drop the pounds and become ripped in the process.

What should I look for in an exercise bike?

high-quality stationary bike. If one of these components doesn’t work, then your exercise bike won’t work the way it is designed to. It is critical to look at all of the elements of your bike to ensure it will last you a long time, and you can enjoy many hours exercising on it.

  • Frames: The frame of a stationary bike is the most crucial component of an exercise bike. They function as the skeletal support of this entire piece of home exercise equipment. If the framework of your exercise bike is not strong enough, then your exercise machine may easily bend or break while you are going about your regular exercise routine, resulting in an injury. The frame's strength is especially crucial for those with larger body types or who have more weight. When you buy an exercise bike, be sure to test out the bike, both for ease and comfort while riding, as well as the strength of the frame. Make sure the frame is made of sturdy materials. 
  • Maximum User Weight: Each stationary exercise bike has a specific limit of maximum weight it can safely bear. The amount of weight it can carry mainly depends on the framework of the bike. The stronger the frame, the more weight the bike can withstand. Every cyclist has a different body weight and body type. Some of us could be built like The Rock and need a higher maximum user weight than someone who is 5 feet and only weighs 100 pounds. Regardless of if your weight is from muscle or fat, you will want to select an exercise bike where the maximum user weight is much higher than your body weight. That way, there is no risk of you breaking the machine or injuring yourself if you choose a bike frame that can support your weight.
  • Display And Programming: In addition to deciding on the type of stationary indoor bike that is best for your fitness needs, you will also want to consider the display and programming options available. While some stationary bikes may only come with a few resistance options, others can have a whole host of fancy gadgets like a heart rate monitor or a screen that connects to an app or shows the distance cycled and how many calories you've burned.
  • Resistance: Your level of resistance on your bicycle while cycling is essential to the level of intensity you want during your exercise program. The higher the resistance, the harder your exercise will be. There are several different types of resistance systems for stationary bikes. The most common two are the magnetic resistance system and a friction resistance system. A magnetic resistance uses a magnet to provide resistance. A friction resistance system works by increasing pressure on the flywheel with the assistance of friction pads. The third type of resistance system is an infinite resistance system. Infinite resistance can happen in an air bike. The infinite resistance exercise is possible because of you. The level of resistance is based on how hard you pedal. If you go faster, you will face harder resistance. If you go slower, the resistance will automatically become lower. You are in charge of your aerobic activity's resistance and difficulty, based on the speed of your pedaling.
  • Seat: You want to be sure that the bicycle seat is comfortable. Make sure you get a bike seat that fits your size and weight. Many stationary bikes have started offering seats with adjustable seat heights. This adjustable feature is essential since it allows the bicycle seat to adjust to accommodate anyone, no matter what saddle height is required. This way, you can have a tall or short person in the same household use the same stationary bike since they can adjust the seat to a comfortable height for them, instead of buying two separate bikes for each person.
  • Pedals: When selecting your new exercise bike, make sure it has a comfortable and safe pedal. Pedals are secure when your feet have no risk of slipping inside them. Many bike manufacturers now provide a toe cage or straps attached to the pedal to ensure maximum safety while you are cycling. Make sure to check if the toe cage is adjustable or not. If multiple people are using the bike, you want to make sure the straps or toe cage can adjust to fit everyone's feet.

What does a flywheel do on a stationary bike?

The flywheel is the inner mechanism of an exercise bicycle and one of the most crucial components of an exercise bike. The flywheel is the circular wheel either at the front or the back of the bike, depending on the exercise machine. The resistance you receive when cycling comes from the flywheel. The higher the resistance, the more intense your aerobic exercise will be. The weight of the flywheel determines how fluid and comfortable the bike's motion is. The higher the weight results in a more comfortable ride, but these stationary bikes are generally more expensive. Usually, a beginning rider will want to start with a flywheel weight of around 15-22 pounds, while an avid or advanced cyclist may want to consider going up to 33 pounds or more for their flywheel.

Some types of stationary bikes don't have a flywheel. Instead, they have a bladed spinning fan. The benefit of the fan is that it offers an infinite range of resistance since it is not determined by weight but by how hard and fast you pedal. Another bonus of a spinning fan instead of a flywheel is, although they are extremely noisy, they do keep you cooled down during your exercise routine since the fan is blowing in your direction as you cycle.

What is the best exercise bike to buy?

You can pay anywhere from $200 to over $2,000 for a new exercise bike. Of course, the pricier machines, like the state of the art Peloton bike costing over $2,200, will generally have sturdier designs, more features, and more options for virtual riding. However, more affordable bikes can offer an excellent workout for a fraction of the cost. Here are the top five stationary bikes out there, with varying price tags:

  • Nautilus U616 Upright Exercise Bike: There is a reason this bike is one of the top contenders for the best upright bike. Currently priced around $480, this bike is worth every penny due to its durability and many features. This upright bike has 25 different levels of resistance, as well as 29 pre-written workout programs, so you will never get bored while cycling. It has a media shelf, USB charging port, MP3 input port, speakers, an adjustable fan, and Bluetooth connectivity. The included LCD monitor shows your time, distance, intensity, speed, heart pulse rate, goal, and completion. This stationary bicycle is sure to provide you endless hours of enjoyment and fun exercise.
  • Schwinn 270 Recumbent Bike: With Schwinn's trusted and well-known brand name, this recumbent bike is packed with features and is one of the most popular recumbent bikes on the market.  This bike gives you four user profiles so that multiple family members can use it, and it will save all of your data without any interruptions. This excellent recumbent bike offers a wide range of workout intensity options, with 29 preset exercise programs and 25 levels of resistance to choose from. In the comfort department, it has a ventilated and contoured seat that is well padded. It has excellent back support and an aluminum slider seat rail to adjust the bike seat with ease if needed. At a price just over $750, this recumbent bicycle also features Bluetooth connectivity, a media rack for your phone or tablets, a speaker, and DualTrack blue backlit LCD screens to keep track of all of your data. This bike is an excellent choice for you to cycle in comfort while still getting in an excellent workout. 
  • Vanswe Recumbent Exercise Bike: This recumbent bike provides a fully adjustable seat to accommodate multiple users of different heights, so everyone can keep their legs at a comfortable length when pedaling. The Vanswe recumbent bicycle features a large display screen and Bluetooth connectivity, so you can quickly and reliably access your workout data. With 16 levels of magnetic resistance, textured non-slip foot pedals, and adjustable foot straps, this bike is sure to be a good fit for any individual regardless of their weight, size, height, or workout intensity level. This bike is unique in that the curved handlebars are where the pulse sensors are located. If you place your hands there, then you can get a reliable heart rate reading on the monitor. This recumbent bicycle costs only $250 and is an excellent choice for working out whenever you like and doing so in comfort.
  • Sunny Health & Fitness Belt Drive Indoor Cycling Bike: This bicycle will help you feel just like you are in a spin class. The near-silent transmission, heavy-duty flywheel of 49 pounds, and steel frame are sure to give you one of the most intense cardio workouts of your life. This bike has a fully adjustable seat, so you and other members of your household can customize the height to your precise comfort level. This indoor cycling bike has a very smooth ride due to the heavy flywheel, which allows you to focus on pedaling your hardest and sweating like crazy to burn those calories. At a price just over $330, this bike is an ideal choice if you want intense workouts that will challenge you.
  • Peloton Bike: We saved this unique bike for last. It is on the pricier side, but it has an almost cultish following. This bike is made of quality materials, complete with a 22” HD touchscreen and 2x10 watt sound system. But what really sets it apart is the weekly live classes and the on-demand library. You get the experience of a spin class from the comfort of your own home. This bike is for serious cycling enthusiasts who want to invest in their health. At a starting price of $1,895, this bike means business. You will also need to purchase clip-in shoes and pay for the monthly membership to access the classes.

While running is the gold standard for cardio fitness, exercise bikes allow you to strengthen your legs, glutes, and hips more than running since you can increase the resistance on a bike to work your muscles harder. Cycling also has the benefit of not being as hard on your knees or joints. Get an exercise bike now, so you can have the luxury of working out any time you want from the comfort of your home. In no time at all, you will be rocking that beach body and be healthier than ever.