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Shopping Guide for Best Exercise Bikes

We know you’ve heard it before: you should get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise every week. But not everyone can pack those extra hours into a busy schedule. Having an exercise bike at home can help. You can meet your mark without leaving the house.

The trouble is, picking the right exercise bike can be confusing, especially if you're a first-time buyer. There are hundreds of makes and models on the market, and not all of them are worth your money. If you want to find a quality stationary cycle that meets your individual requirements and offers the best value for your money, you've come to the right place.

At BestReviews, fair and thorough reviews are our mission. We test products in our labs, gather expert opinions, consult existing customers, and analyze mounds of data to direct you, the consumer, to the perfect products to fit your needs. Furthermore, we never accept free samples from manufacturers, so you can trust what we have to say.

Check out the matrix above for our top five picks, or read on for our ultimate guide to exercise bikes. You’ll be on your way to 150 minutes of exercise per week (and more!) before you know it.

Riding a stationary exercise bike can help increase your stamina, maximize lung capacity, improve your blood pressure, reduce chances of diabetes, and much more.

Types of Exercise Bikes

Let's take a look at the most common types of exercise bikes and their main features.

Exercise bike types

Upright Exercise Bikes

  • Upright exercise bikes are the standard type of stationary bike that most users are familiar with.

  • Users sit in an upright position, not crouched forward like on a road bike.

  • Resistance is created using magnets or electromagnetic induction, so the feel of pedaling is slightly different from riding a regular bike.

  • Upright exercise bikes tend to be the most affordable type of exercise bike, with some basic models priced at under $100.

Product in Depth

Product in Depth

Exerpeutic Folding Magnetic Upright

Features

In terms of features, the Exerpeutic Folding Magnetic Upright Bike provides everything you need. The handlebar-mounted digital display is clear and concise, giving information on distance covered, calories burned, your speed, the time you've been pedaling, and your heart rate. There are eight tension settings (making it increasingly difficult to pedal) which are controlled by a large, tactile knob mounted just below the handlebars. Under that, there's a little pocket suitable for a TV remote control. This is especially handy given the near-silent belt drive, which makes the machine quiet enough for you to watch your favorite program while exercising.

Exercise bike types

Spinning Bikes

  • Also known as "indoor-cycling bikes," spinning bikes give you the experience closest to riding a regular road bike.

  • The handlebars on spinning bikes are lower, meaning you have to crouch forward while using them. This also makes it easier to lift yourself out of the saddle for a more intense workout.

  • The weighted flywheel keeps turning with its own inertia when you stop pedalling, so it feels more like riding a regular bicycle.

Andrew
EXPERT CONSULTANT

Andrew is a lifelong athlete who routinely pushes himself to the limit in training and sports, with a focus on elite rowing. He was a national champion and four-year member of the Harvard crew team, and he represented the US at World Championships. He has trained alongside some of the world’s top Olympiads, and his love for rowing has sent him to the most elite racing events around the world. Through his experience and network of colleagues, he has gained great insight into the best rowing equipment.


Andrew  |  National Champion Rower
Exercise bike types

Recumbent Exercise Bikes

  • The seats of recumbent exercise bikes are reclined and have backs, so they're much more comfortable, particularly for long workouts or for those who suffer from lower back pain.

  • Because your upper body is supported, your legs work harder on a recumbent bike.

  • A recumbent exercise bike can come with the same kind of enclosed flywheel as an upright bike or a weighted flywheel like a spinning bike.

  • Due to their size and extra parts, recumbent exercise bikes generally cost more than upright exercise bikes and spinning bikes.

If you’re looking for a gentle bike-riding experience, consider the benefits of a recumbent exercise bike.

Staff
BestReviews

Considerations for Selecting an Exercise Bike

Considerations

Display

Most exercise bikes have an LCD display which shows certain measurements, such as your heart rate, speed, distance traveled, and how long you've been pedaling.

Look for a bike with a clear and easy-to-use display, as you don't want to be struggling to figure it out while you're sweating away.

Product in Depth

Product in Depth

Schwinn 230 Recumbent Bike

Components

They really thought of everything when they made the Schwinn 230 Recumbent Bike. This machine is perfectly designed for meeting even the most hardcore of fitness goals. With 20 resistance levels linked to a weighted flywheel, your workout can be as easy or as challenging as you make it. The bike's recumbent style is comfortable and supports the lower back, so you can work out for longer without experiencing the kind of discomfort regular bicycle seats can cause. You can monitor 13 different display feedbacks on the two-window LCD display, follow one of 22 programs, track your fitness goals, and export your data to My Fitness Pal or SchwinnConnect via the built-in USB port. There's even a fan built into the handlebars to keep you cool.

Considerations

Heart Rate Monitor

Even the most basic exercise bikes tend to come with a heart rate monitor. It's important to keep an eye on your heart rate during exercise because you’ll only benefit if you're working hard enough to elevate it.

People with more detailed exercise plans may know their optimum heart rate for reaching their specific goals. In this case, an accurate monitor is vital to make sure heart rate is kept in the desired range.

DID YOU KNOW?

Most exercise bikes come with a contact-based heart rate monitor on the handlebars. However, some models come with a monitor that straps to your chest, which is more accurate.

Considerations

Resistance

Look at how many levels of resistance the exercise bike you're considering has. About 20 levels is average for a gym-quality fitness cycle, but basic models may have fewer.

Normally, the high resistance on a bike with 20 resistance levels is the same as one with 10 levels, but you have fewer levels in between. This means it's harder to fine-tune the resistance to your current fitness levels and goals.

EXPERT TIP

Unless you're trying to build muscle or train for biking uphill out in the real world, sticking to a lower resistance but pedalling at a faster speed is just as aerobically effective as pedalling slower at a higher resistance.


Andrew  | National Champion Rower
Considerations

Programs

Higher-end exercise bikes tend to come with preset programs to help boost your workout. These programs automatically change the resistance on your cycle. A program might start out on a low resistance, then build up to a medium resistance before going back to a lower resistance, and so on.

Programs are great if you're not clear on how to build your exercise regimen or if you find it hard to push yourself without encouragement. An exercise bike with a wide range of programs will suit people with a variety of fitness levels.

Product in Depth

Product in Depth

Exerpeutic Folding Magnetic Upright

Ease of Use

The Exerpeutic Folding Magnetic Upright Bike does what it does very well. It looks good, it's incredibly robust, and it has all the features you really need. It folds easily so that you can keep it out of the way. It's cheap to buy but not cheaply made, and it has literally thousands of happy owners who use it regularly because it's so easy to live with. Our prize for best value goes, without a doubt, to the Exerpeutic Folding Magnetic Upright Bike.

Considerations

Height Adjustability

Exercise bikes have adjustable seats, so they're suitable for adults of most heights.

That said, exercise bikes do have a recommended height range — often between 5'3" and 6'3" — so an average model can still leave a good chunk of people out.

It's not advisable to use an exercise bike you're too tall or short for, as over- or under-extending your knees when cycling can be uncomfortable and even lead to injuries.

EXPERT TIP

Check the approved height range of an exercise bike before buying. If you're particularly tall or short, you may have to shop around to find a suitable model.


Andrew  | National Champion Rower
Considerations

Weight Limit

All exercise bikes have a maximum weight limit, so check to make sure you don't exceed it.

In most cases, the weight limit is between 220 and 300 pounds, but this does vary. Heavier users may find some recumbent models have higher weight limits.

Using an exercise bike is safer and often more convenient than biking on the street. There's no hassle so you can get exercising quickly while you're doing something else, like watching TV.

Andrew
National Champion Rower

Exercise Bike Tips

  • It might sound basic, but a water bottle holder on an exercise bike can be a real lifesaver. Otherwise, you'll have to stop your workout and dismount your exercise bike every time you want to quench your thirst.

  • If you're short on space, a folding exercise bike is ideal. You can fold it up and store it when it's not in use.

  • Many people find it easier to stay motivated when listening to music or watching TV while cycling. Some exercise bikes even have speakers and an audio input, so you can listen to music from your phone or MP3 player.

  • Keep children away from exercise bikes that don't come with safety locks. Curious fingers could get trapped in a number of moving parts.

  • Make sure that you stay hydrated when working out on your exercise bike. This will help prevent muscle cramps and dehydration.

  • Always double check that your exercise bike is stable before riding. During a serious workout, some bikes may wobble or fall over if not situated properly.

  • When riding your exercise bike, monitor if you are putting too much pressure on your hands when gripping the handlebars. If so, adjust your body so your weight is on your legs.

Product in Depth

Product in Depth

Sunny Health & Fitness Pro Indoor

Weight

The Sunny Health & Fitness Pro Indoor Cycling Bike wears its structural rigidity proudly on its sleeve, making a feature of the substantial, girder-like build and prolific, smooth welding. Some self-assembly is required, but most owners only require between 20 and 30 minutes to complete it. Although this is not a fold-up model — and the flywheel alone weighs 40 pounds — moving it about is relatively simple thanks to the built-in transport wheels on the front frame rail.

Exercise Bike Prices

Price

Recumbent Exercise Bike Prices

Recumbent exercise bikes start at around $130 to $150 for very basic models.

The most expensive models can cost over $500. For this price, expect all the best features, such as fitness tracking synced with an app via Bluetooth, built-in speakers with audio input, extra-comfortable seats, and a range of preset programs.

An exercise bike that reclines may be preferable for older individuals.

Andrew
National Champion Rower
Price

Spinning Bike Prices

Basic spinning bikes start around $120 to $150. While you can find some gems in this price range, expect a spartan finish.

However, even the most expensive spinning bikes — usually around $350 to $400 — tend not to have too many extra features. The more expensive spinning bikes generally have heavier flywheels and a better build quality.

If you want the most similar experience to cycling on a regular bicycle — but you want to do it indoors — opt for a spinning bike.
Price

Upright Exercise Bike Prices

Upright exercise bikes can cost as little as $70 to $120 for basic models with nothing but a simple LCD display tracking factors such as speed and distance.

And they can cost as much as $350 to $400 for high-end models with a range of programs, built-in speakers, a quality heart rate monitor, and other extra features.

We recommend avoiding the very cheapest exercise bike models, even if you're on a budget. An extra $20 or $30 can mean the difference between a poorly made machine that will fall apart with regular use and a quality basic model that will withstand years of daily use.

Exercise Bikes FAQ

Q. What kind of exercise bike is best if I'm recovering from an injury?

A. You should always check with your doctor before restarting your exercise routine after an injury. However, recumbent bikes require riders to use fewer muscle groups, and they're more comfortable to sit on, so many people find them the gentlest type of exercise bike to use when recovering from an injury.

Q. Can I use a separate heart rate monitor when using my exercise bike?

A. If getting an accurate heart rate reading during your workout is vital to you, and your chosen exercise bike has a poor-quality heart rate monitor or none at all, don't worry. You can use a heart rate monitor of your choosing to get a better reading. The only inconvenience is that you'll have to look at the display on the heart rate monitor, as it won't show up on your exercise bike's LCD display.

Q. Can cycling be my only form of exercise?

A. Cycling is a great form of cardiovascular exercise, which is important for your health. However, most experts recommend you do some strength training in addition to cardiovascular exercise to keep your body in tip-top condition. This doesn't mean you have to start pumping iron at the gym if you don’t want to. Forms of exercise where you work with your own body weight, such as yoga and pilates, count as strength training.

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