Exercise Bike Buyer’s Guide: What You Need To Know
Exercise bikes are fast becoming one of the most popular pieces of home gym equipment – and for good reason. They’re an affordable long-term investment that offers a great overall workout without taking up very much space.
Indeed, interest in exercise bikes has grown exponentially in general. This is evidenced by the current spin class rage. Head to nearly any gym in the country and you’re sure to see a nearly full sign-up sheet for that day’s spin class. Purchasing an exercise bike for use at home is simply a way to extend the spin class experience. They are also an excellent way for avid outdoor cyclists to stay in great shape during bad weather.
Yet choosing the best exercise bike for you is not always the easiest task. There are so many options to choose from that the sheer number of options can be overwhelming. Exercise bikes are often advertised with a number of words and jargon that, while important, make little sense to the average user.
And then there is the fact that different types of exercise bikes are better suited to different people. The best exercise bike for you depends on your needs, preferences, and fitness goals.
Below we run through the exercise bike basics you have to know. If you’re in the market for your first exercise bike or your fifth, the information below will help you find the perfect one for you.
Benefits Of Exercise Bikes
The benefits of riding an exercise bike on a regular basis are numerous and cannot be overstated. They are simply one of the best tools to get in shape from the comfort of your own home. The most common practical benefits of exercise bikes include:
- Convenient – All-in-one piece of workout equipment. Simply get on and ride.
- Stowable – When your workout is finished, simply stow your exercise bike to the side. Most don’t take up much space and many break down for even more space savings.
- Easy to Use – Almost anyone can use one. There is a very small learning curve. You’ll be working out in minutes!
- Beginner Friendly – Exercise bikes are the perfect tool for those that aren’t used to exercising. They are also great for those that are very overweight.
- Low Risk – There is very little risk of injury on an exercise bike. They’re safe and don’t stress your knees, ankles, or joints like other forms of cardio exercise.
And then, of course, there are the actual health benefits of riding an exercise bike. These health benefits include:
- Burn Calories – Riding an exercise bike is an excellent form of cardio exercise. It helps burn calories, which helps you burn fat and lose weight.
- Build Muscle – At the same time that it burns calories, an exercise bike also builds muscle, primarily in your legs.
- Increase Mobility – Riding an exercise bike improves the mobility and flexibility of your joints without causing unneeded stress.
- Improve Endurance – As you become a more experienced exercise cyclist, your endurance will improve. You will be able to go for longer, more intense rides with the same amount of effort.
- Increase Metabolism – Cardio boosts your metabolism, increasing your overall health and helping you maintain a healthy weight.
- Improve Heart Health – Riding an exercise bike works your heart. Like any other muscle, it needs regular exercise to stay in great shape. Cardio improves heart function and reduces the risk of many diseases including heart disease.
- Boost Brain – Riding an exercise bike not only benefits your body. It also benefits your mind. Cardio boosts the levels of healthy chemicals in your brain, reducing stress, improving mood, and increasing memory and concentration in the process.
Now that you know all the benefits of riding an exercise bike, what is stopping you from investing in one for your own home?
Types Of Exercise Bikes
Head down to your local health and fitness store or browse online and you’ll come across a handful of types of exercise bikes. Each of these has its own specific set of pros and cons. It is essential to find the one best suited to you personally.
One of the most popular types of exercise bike, the upright stationary exercise bike is designed much like a traditional road bicycle. The seat is located almost directly over the pedals with the handlebars at a near equal height to the seat.
Upright stationary bikes have a high center of gravity and force the user to lean slightly forward. For this reason, they are often uncomfortable for users suffering from back or neck pain.
They are also difficult for elderly people to use. On the other hand, these exercise bikes are the cheapest and most versatile. They allow you to stand up while riding for even more effective fat blasting workouts.
On a recumbent stationary exercise bike, the seat is located almost in line with the pedals. The rider is essentially in a seated, nearly laidback position with their arms at their sides.
Recumbent stationary bicycles are the ideal option for elderly users and those suffering from back or neck pain. They are also far more comfortable than upright exercise bikes.
Using a recumbent exercise bike is much like sitting on a piece of furniture – except your legs get a great workout. Unfortunately, they are not as diverse a choice and do not allow the user to stand up. They are also a far cry from normal road bicycles in design.
Dual-action stationary exercise bikes are the most popular option after upright and recumbent. However, they are also very different from a traditional road bike.
Dual-action exercise bikes combine the movement of bicycling pedals with moving handlebars. This allows you to squeeze in an upper body workout in addition to your lower body workout. It’s a great low-impact aerobic workout for building muscle.
At first glance, indoor cycles look very similar to upright stationary exercise bikes. They both use an upright seat and forward handlebars. Indeed, they are both designed in much the same way as a normal road bike.
The key difference is on the inside. Indoor cycles use a weighted flywheel connected to the pedals through a transmission system for resistance. This setup closely mimics a road bike. Upright and recumbent exercise bikes generally use electromagnetic induction for resistance.
For these reasons, serious outdoor cyclists are generally best off using an indoor cycle for training during the off season. Indoor cycles are also the most common type of exercise bike seen in gym spin classes.
Interactive exercise bikes feature high-quality LCD screens with virtual courses. This makes it feel like you’re actually riding a bike outside while training. On the other hand, folding exercise bikes, as their name implies, simply fold down after use for better storage.
Top 5 Reasons To Buy An Exercise Bike
There are countless reasons you need to be exercising, but most people shy away at the thought of going to a gym, overworking themselves, or spending massive amounts of money on equipment that they may only use once or twice.
When it comes to exercise bikes, though, the reasons you need to buy one are even greater. They’re one of the best ways to exercise at home, and don’t have near the intensity levels of other forms of exercise, which means it’s easy for people to motivate themselves to use them on a regular basis.
Reason #1: Stationary Bikes Help You Lose Weight, And Improve Your Fitness
A lot of people, especially beginners, do not want to spend excessive amounts of time at the gym. Even fewer have the motivation to actually go to the gym the first few times, to help them get over the “hump” and make exercise a regular part of their life.
Exercise bikes change it because they’re easy to get started on, affordable, and work great for improving fitness levels so that the more intensive types of exercise don’t seem so daunting.
Reason #2: Bikes Help Prevent You From Training Too Hard
Injuries are a real possibility, especially if you haven’t acclimated your body to the levels of intensity most workout routines require.
Bikes help prevent those injuries because they’re one of the best ways to get low impact, high cardio exercises out of just about every workout routine we’ve tried.
If you start a new routine and push yourself too hard, you’re not going to want to keep the routine going for any extended period of time. That’s where bikes excel, because you can adjust the intensity as you progress, finding the perfect zone for yourself.
Reason #3: It’s Easy To Push Yourself Harder During Each Routine
When you’re just getting started, you’ll want to stay at a lower rate of exertion. However, as you start to feel the benefits of the routine, you’re going to naturally want to push yourself harder, and harder.
With a bike, pushing yourself harder is easy. You can either increase your rate of exertion, by pedaling harder for longer periods of time, or you can hit a button and increase the resistance you feel.
This level of customization isn’t really possible with other forms of exercise.
Reason #4: You Can Use Them Any Time, Almost Anywhere
Feel like working out first thing in the morning? Your bike will be waiting for you.
Are you more of a night owl, living in an apartment with neighbors below you? No worries. Your bike is ready, and it’s quiet enough your neighbors will never hear you.
Everyone is different, and the best time to exercise varies with each individual. That means you can choose when you really want to exercise, and don’t have to worry about long lines at the gym, or waiting for machines to free up so you can get on them.
Reason #5: They Allow You To Make The Best Use Of Your Time
In today’s society, multitasking is more important than ever. If you’re involved in a high intensity workout program at your gym, it’s going to require your undivided attention.
Having an exercise bike in your house? You can do whatever you want while you’re exercising.
You can watch TV. You can read a book. You can fill out reports for work. You can even catch up on conversations with friends you haven’t talked to in forever.
How To Choose An Exercise Bike
It is essential that you choose the right exercise bike for you. The right bike will increase the overall effectiveness of your workouts, ensuring that you meet your fitness goals. Below are a few of the most important factors to take into consideration when shopping for your next exercise bike.
As discussed above, knowing the type of exercise bike best suited for you will narrow down your search considerably. Though it varies from person to person, upright are best suited for those on a budget, recumbent are for those that require the most stability and support possible, and indoor cycles are great for hardcore fitness enthusiasts and die hard outdoor cyclists.
Exercise bikes come with so many features these days – they are a far cry from the bare bones bikes of the past – that the best way to find the right machine is to try before you buy.
Even if you’re planning on purchasing online (where the best deals are found), heading down to a local fitness supply store for a test ride is essential. Though most exercise bikes are adjustable, this ensures that you find one in a good size for your body.
The most important factors to look at in addition to size and type are discussed in greater detail below.
- Display – A clear display is essential. Look for one that shows heart rate, calories burned, speed, revolutions per minute (RPM), resistance levels, time, and distance. You might also consider an interactive display that shows virtual courses.
- Programming – Consider a machine that is highly programmable. Many have routines that can be adjusted to your fitness level, age, weight, and gender.
- Heart-Rate Monitor – A heart-rate monitor can help you make the most of your workout. Those with chest straps are best but contact monitors work well too. (You can also invest in a separate stand-alone heart-rate monitor if your exercise bike doesn’t have one.)
- Resistance – Select a machine with easily adjustable resistance. Though it might not seem like it now, you will progress. And you will want to make your workouts harder.
- Extra Features – Consider extra features like water bottle holders and book rests. Do you require these?
- Storage – How easy will your exercise bike be to store? Is it a folding model? Does it come with child-safety locks (if you have children)?
Keep your eyes out on warranties. Look for one that provides at least two years (if not three) of coverage on major moving parts. Coverage for a year of labor is also preferred.
Naturally, price is something else that everyone needs to consider. Compare features of exercise bikes within your budget. Though there are great budget value bikes out there, spending a little bit more money will net you a more durable machine that will last for much longer (and often provide a better workout in the process).
Using Your Exercise Bike
Getting started on your exercise bike for the first time can be intimidating. Luckily, it really is very easy. The two key parts of using your exercise bike are the set-up and the workout.
Proper set-up is very important. It will give you an effective workout and greatly reduce your risk of injury. The four factors to consider include:
- Seat Height – With one leg fully extended on your upright stationary bike in the pedal, you should have only a small bend in your knee (maybe 10 degrees). Ensure you can pedal comfortably without having to point or flex your foot. Recumbent bike seats adjust back and forth. Make sure your legs almost fully extend, with a small bend in the knee.
- Seat Fore & Aft – On an upright bike, you must adjust seat fore and aft (forward and backward) in addition to height. Make sure that your knees are closely aligned with your ankles during pedaling.
- Handlebar Height – The last thing to adjust on an upright bike is handlebar height. Make sure they are in a comfortable position that you can reach easily. Raise the handlebars slightly higher to alleviate lower back stress.
- Foot Straps – If your exercise bicycle has foot straps, make use of this feature. Tighten them snugly to your feat. These will help you to both push and pull, a much more efficient pedal stroke.
Now, that your exercise bicycle is properly set up, it’s time to workout. Naturally, your specific workout should be individually tailored. However, it is worth noting that adding resistance simulates hills and inclines.
It is also smart to note that both pushing and pulling on the pedals (with foot straps firmly tightened) creates a more effective workout. If your exercise bike features programmed routines, you can try one of these for your first workout to gauge your fitness level.
Is It Safe To Ride a Stationary Bike?
Absolutely. A stationary bike is one of the best forms of low impact exercise you can do. Whether you’re pregnant, or you have injuries, like a sciatica, you can determine the level of intensity, and how hard you push yourself when you’re using a stationary bike.
It’s also one of the safest ways to start shedding your first few pounds, if you might be considerably overweight. The bike itself will support your weight, so you don’t have to worry about the crushing motions on your joints that happen with other types of exercise.
The same goes for lower back pain. If you’re experiencing pain in your back, the last thing you want to do is potentially exacerbate it by bending, twisting, or lifting heavy weights.
Most times, the subtle motions and stretching of the muscles between your legs and lower back that happen while you’re riding a stationary bike will be enough to help alleviate the pain you’re feeling, allowing you to heal much sooner than you would if you were performing high intensity exercises.
If you’re concerned that you may have an issue not talked about here, you can still consult your doctor for the final answer on whether or not it is safe to ride a stationary bike. They’ll understand your physiology and any problems you may have that you’re concerned about, and be able to tell you whether or not they think you should consider riding a bike for exercise.
What Is The Best Exercise Bike?
In our experience, the best exercise bike is one that you’re going to use, and that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg.
If you don’t use it, it will never give you the benefits you’re looking for from your exercise routine.
If it costs an arm and a leg, you either aren’t going to buy it, or you may have to give up other things in your life to be able to afford it.
Those two reasons, coupled with the level of quality and craftsmanship, are why we’ve chosen the Sunny Health & Fitness Pro Indoor Cycling Bike as the #1 choice for best exercise bike on the market today.
#1. Choice - Sunny Health & Fitness Pro Indoor Cycling Bike
It features a 40 pound flywheel to give you a wide range of resistance levels, along with a heavy duty crank and smooth drive mechanism to provide effortless feel, and long lasting durability.
The fully adjustable seat and handlebars are designed specifically with your comfort in mind.
It also has built in wheels for easy transport, so you can move it around your house when you need to.
You don’t just have to take our word for it, though. This bike has received hundreds of positive reviews from other customers that have used it, so we know you’ll be happy with your purchase.
To learn more about the Sunny Health & Fitness Pro Indoor Cycling Bike, click here now. You’ll also get to read reviews from other customers that have purchased it, and made it a regular part of their exercise routine.
Before You Buy A Bike
Think back on the benefits we’ve laid out for you. Exercise bikes are:
- Easy to use.
- Extremely beginner friendly.
- Low risk.
On top of this, you’ve got the countless benefits that using an exercise bike provides:
- Easily burn calories.
- Build muscle.
- Increase your mobility.
- Improve your endurance.
- Increase your metabolism.
- Improve your heart health.
- Improve your heart health.
Choosing the right bike comes down to your own personal choice, and whether or not you have any existing injuries. In our opinion, the Sunny Health And Fitness Pro Indoor Cycling Bike is the best for beginners and advanced users alike, while helping reduce the strain you’ll feel if you have injuries that you’re currently coping with.
When you’re just getting started using your bike, make sure that you gradually work your way into more intensive exercises. Follow the routine we’ve laid out for you, and then increase your rate of exertion over time.
If you take it easy on yourself when you’re just starting out, you’re going to be more likely to continue visiting your bike when it comes time to exercise. If you overdo it in the beginning, you’re not going to want to keep doing the routine, and you’ll take longer to see the real benefits that riding a stationary bike can give you.
Proper Exercise Bike Workout Routine For A Beginner
Before you start a new exercise bike workout routine, especially when you’re a beginner, you’ll want to make sure you follow a few key “rules” that will help you make sure you’re not going to injure yourself, or cause yourself to overheat.
Work through each segment of the routine with a goal of finding the right pace / resistance that allows you to exercise at the suggested rate of exertion.
If you’re just getting started, you may notice that your legs tend to tire out quickly. You’ll need to keep pushing forward to make sure your legs build up the endurance required to go for longer distances. Don’t hesitate, or even slow down, if you feel you need to. Each workout will let you go further and push harder than the last.
- For the best results, perform this routine 2-3 times per week, with a day of rest in between each one to avoid overtraining.
- You may find it difficult to perform for a full 30 minutes when you’re starting out. If this is the case, work to your limit, and then add a few minutes on the routine each time you do it in the future.
- To avoid lactic acid building up in your muscles, you want to make sure you’re stretching out before, and after each routine.
Stationary Bike Workout For Beginners
Here you have one workout training to kick things off:
- Spend your first 5 minutes warming up at a comfortable pace, with lower resistance levels.
- Over the next 3-5 minutes, gradually increase the resistance so that you’re working harder than you did during your warm up phase. You should be able to easily hold a conversation at this stage.
- Your next 2 minutes should be spent at a higher resistance to increase your rate of exertion.
- Spend the next 3 minutes decreasing your exertion until you’re back to your comfortable pace.
- Follow this segment with another 3-5 minutes of increased exertion, slightly higher than your baseline.
- Finally, spend your last 5 minutes cooling down, by decreasing the resistance back to your warm up level.
Exercise Bike Workout Plan For Experienced Users
If you want to switch up your routines throughout the week, you can increase or decrease the intensity of your workout based on the resistance levels you choose on the bike, and how hard you’re pushing yourself during each session.
Low Intensity Training
Low intensity, steady state training on a stationary bike is one of the best ways to train your system in preparation for more intensive exercise and cardio routines.
The routine that we laid out for beginners is the perfect routine to follow if you’re either just getting started, or are looking for a quick, low intensity routine that you can use to steadily burn off calories without pushing yourself too hard.
Here is the video on how you can perform low intensity training on few machines:
As a general rule, you’ll want to spend your first 5 minutes warming up, and your last 5 minutes cooling down.
You can choose to either set a higher resistance level throughout the remaining 20 minutes, keeping the same pace, or you can spend 5 minutes at a higher rate of exertion, followed by 5 minutes of lower exertion -- repeating the process multiple times until the end of your routine.
During this routine, you may actually only spend 5 to 10 minutes at higher resistance levels, while you spend more time at a comfortable pace that’s designed simply to keep your heart rate up.
Medium Intensity Training
Medium intensity training on a stationary bike is going to follow a similar routine to the one we’ve laid out for beginners, with more emphasis being placed on the amount of time you’re spending at higher exertion rates.
Here is the video of one training we would recommend:
That means you’re going to spend an average of 10-15 minutes of your 30 minute routine at a higher rate of exertion. A medium intensity exercise should cause you to sweat a bit, and keep your heart rate elevated for extended periods of time.
When you’re working at a high rate of exertion, your cooldown period is critical to keep yourself from overheating, getting light headed, dizzy, or feeling nauseous after you finish.
High Intensity Training
A high intensity routine will follow the same 5 minute warm up and cool down periods, but you’re going to spend a majority of your time at the highest rate of exertion you can handle, for the entire 20 minutes you spend in between warm up and cool down.
While this routine may be difficult for most people to achieve, you can alter it slightly.
Here is the 20-minutes HIIT workout video we would recommend.
By spending 5 minutes warming up, and then another 7-8 minutes at a high rate of exertion, you can give yourself a lower intensity period in the middle.
3-4 minutes at a lower rate of exertion will give you a “break”, allowing you to push hard for another 7-8 minutes before your cool down period.
When you’re finished with a high intensity training routine, you need to make sure you stretch your muscles. If you don’t, you may deal with painful cramps throughout the day.
How Fast Will You Lose Weight With An Exercise Bike Workout?
According to the Wisconsin Department of Health and Family Services, you’re able to lose one pound of body weight for every 3,500 calories that you burn.
When it comes to riding a stationary bike, you’re going to want to cycle for at least 1 hour to burn around 400 calories.
While it may seem like you’re going to spend an endless amount of time riding your bike, you can offset the time it will take to start losing weight by focusing on your diet. Eating foods that help increase your metabolism can dramatically reduce the amount of time it takes you to lose weight while you’re using a stationary bike routine.
Stationary Bike Workouts To Lose Weight And Burn Belly Fat
The key to losing weight while you’re using a stationary bike is in the amount of time you spend exercising, along with how hard you’re pushing yourself during each routine.
The American College of Sports and Medicine recommends that you spend at least 60 to 90 minutes doing cardio each day to get your body to start burning off fat. You can either spend the entire time during one session, or break up your routine into multiple 30 minute sessions throughout the day.
You’re going to want to make sure your heart rate stays elevated, though, and that you’re pushing yourself during each routine.
If pushing yourself hard for an entire 90 minutes seems like too much, don’t be afraid to start out slower. You can spend 60 seconds pushing yourself at a higher rate of exertion, followed by 30 seconds of a “slowdown” period that keeps you from overworking yourself.
To lose weight with a stationary bike, though, you’re going to want to push yourself hard enough that your breathing becomes labored, your heart rate stays elevated, and you are sweating.
As a general rule, the more intense your exercise is, the less time you have to spend doing them. If you find yourself pushing hard for the entire session, you can cut the routines down to 30 or 45 minutes.
30-Minute Bike Workout Blasts Calories and Fat
This 1-10 scale seems way more complicated than it really is, but it's a great and easy way for anyone to monitor her exercise intensity when doing cardio. What's more? It requires no equipment. Here is how you use it:
Congratulations, an exercise bike is one of the best tools you can buy for home fitness! We hope that the information above – as well as the rest of the information and reviews on our website – will help you find the best exercise for you.