Are you confused about shopping for exercise bikes? Read my exercise bike guide where I cover the most important features to look for in a bike, and how to determine the proper type of bike that best suits your needs.
Comfort and Adjustability
Your exercise bike should be comfortable and adjustable. I know it sounds like a no brainer, but you’d be surprised by how many people buy an exercise bike based on price alone, not thinking about how comfortable they’ll be while they’re riding it.
It seems obvious that an exercise bike should be comfortable. Unlike elliptical trainers and treadmills that you stand on when using, you must sit on an exercise bike for long periods of time while operating it so comfort becomes of the utmost importance.
Insist on buying an exercise bike that has an easily adjustable seat and handlebars, and consider the seating options closely.
There are two main exercise bike seating choices:
Upright Exercise Bikes
Riding upright exercise bikes in your home is the closest thing possible to actually getting out and pedaling a real bicycle. People have been riding bicycles for many years both as transportation and as exercise. It is one of the most effective workouts you can do because it strengthens and tones all areas of your body while burning up tons of excess calories.
But for the average user looking for a quality aerobic workout at home, upright exercise bikes are the perfect vehicle.There are many varieties of upright exercise bikes on the market today and they each offer something unique. No matter what your needs and fitness goals may be, there is something out there that will deliver the results you want within a price range you can actually afford.
If money is your primary concern, then an upright stationary bike may be your best pick out of all types of home fitness equipment. You can purchase very basic home cycles that retail in the $100 – $300 price range, but you have to put your expectations in line. These models will feature small consoles with very basic feedback information and they typically do not have the strongest frames and will therefore hold less weight than more expensive bikes. They also do not tend to come with many preprogrammed workouts, if they have any at all.
If you can afford to spend a little more, you can find a bike under the $1,000 price point that will serve you well for many years. In this price range you can expect preprogrammed workouts that deliver variety and magnetic resistance systems which allow you to increase the intensity without stopping the workout. You will also get built-in heart rate sensors on these models and larger consoles which are backlit for easier reading and which deliver more detailed feedback on your workout.
When you look at upright exercise bikes which retail over $1,000, you are looking at higher quality, longer-lasting machines designed to be durable through more intense workouts, with users weighing upwards of 300 pounds. Some of these will still have the same features as lower end models, but many will have more preprogrammed workouts, programs which work off of your active heart rate, and some will have chest straps for more accurate heart rate monitoring.
The higher end models also tend to come with more of the technological features, such as built-in speakers and MP3 player connections and optional TV screens. Some now have TV screens built directly into the console.
Most upright exercise bikes on the market right now are equipped with magnetic resistance and other technological advances that make them extremely quiet and smooth to ride. If you prefer to feel as if you are really riding a bike outdoors, then you may be interested in the Schwinn Airdyne bike. It is designed with the large, open fan flywheel on front and two moving arm handles. You ride it like old school exercise bikes, taking up the resistance with faster pedaling rather than the push of a button. It does come with a small console for basic reporting on the workout as well.
Some higher end models are designed for indoor race training and can be equipped with race style handlebars.
Of course, there is always the spin bike if you are interested in burning as many calories as possible through short, high intensity workouts.
Recumbent Exercise Bike
The Recumbent Exercise Bike helps you enjoy biking . . . one of the most challenging forms of exercise, yet one of the most pleasurable activities as well. Many people think back to their childhood and their time spent roaming the neighborhood on their bike with warm memories, and in adult life many of those grown kids continue to enjoy biking whether it is outdoors or in their living room on an exercise bicycle.
In modern times, the home fitness bike has been taken to new extremes. You have spin cycles for those who want a super challenging workout that burns tons of calories and the recumbent exercise bike for those who want a good workout with some modifications.
A recumbent exercise bike is simply an exercise cycle which has been stretched out into a longer position. You sit much like you would while riding in a car, with your legs stretched directly out in front of your body. This position takes a lot of the pressure off of the knees, hips, and legs.
The stationary recumbent exercise bike was initially used as a tool for physical therapy for people who needed to work their body or burn calories without putting direct pressure on their lower body. Today, it is used a lot by people who are injured, recovering from surgery, or who have health problems which prevent them from balancing on top of an upright bike safely.
They are also used by people who are completely healthy but who want to incorporate their upper body for a complete workout. Since a recumbent exercise bike comes with a full sized seat with a supportive back, users can actually pump their arms with dumbbells or simply pump them at their sides as if walking while operating the bike. This includes a strengthening element and considerably boosts calorie burn.
While the positioning of the seat may sound like the bike offers a less demanding workout, this is not completely true. Recumbent style bikes come with all the features that make an upright bike so challenging. Depending on the exact brand and model you select, they will have a variety of preprogrammed workout options which take you through a variety of resistance levels and speeds to deliver a very challenging workout.
The ability to change the resistance is key for getting a good workout on a recumbent exercise bike. As long as you are willing to push yourself and make the most of your exercise time, you can get a great fat burning workout without putting any stress or strain on your body.
If you are interested in purchasing one of these cycles, try to stick with familiar name brands. Schwinn is a good brand to check into for durable, high quality lower priced models and NordicTrack is one of the leading brands if you want more advanced technological features.
Today’s recumbent bikes come with MP3 plug-ins, slots for workout discs designed by the world’s top fitness trainers, and magnetic brake systems which operate so quiet you can watch TV or talk to others with little to no interference from the bike.
Some of the best through models come with a step through design which eliminates the center bar you would have to climb over to mount an upright bike. These models allow you to step into the center of the bike and simply sit down, further eliminating any pressure on the body.
Most users who aren’t bike enthusiasts will be more comfortable on a recumbent bike and will be more likely to use an exercise bike on a regular basis.
Resistance Type and Operation
Exercise bikes provide adjustable resistance in one of two ways. The cheaper models use a tension belt, and the mid to high priced exercise bikes use magnetic resistance. Make sure your bike is outfitted with eddy current magnetic resistance is you can afford it, it’s the best resistance choice for smooth operation and durability.
When looking at bikes with magnetic resistance, try to get a bike that has push button or electronic resistance control, because you don’t want to be fiddling with knobs during your workout.
Heart Rate Monitor
Exercise bikes come in three flavors of heart rate control. Either no heart rate control on the budget models, pulse grip heart rate control on the mid-level bikes or wireless heart rate control.
Wireless heart rate control, like on the Ignite 746 recumbent bike is best, and gives the most accurate reading.
Some high end models even offer heart rate controlled workouts where the resistance of the bike is automatically adjusted to meet your target heart rate.
It’s important it is to have an exercise bike equipped with some form of heart rate monitor. Most bikes have at least a pulse grip point on the handlebars to check your heart rate while exercising.
Display Console and Built-in Workouts
Display consoles on exercise bikes vary greatly – from tiny little led displays, to full function backlit LCD readouts that show heart rate, time, distance, workout mode and speed.
Cheap exercise bikes have a poor display (or no display) and no built-in workouts. Avoid getting a cheap exercise bike, because the lack of feedback with no display console will quickly lead to boredom and lack of motivation.
When you move into the $300-$600 dollar range there are a lot more display console choices.
A good display console like the one found on the Schwinn 213 gives you feedback information on heart rate, time, distance, calories burned and is easily viewable at a glance to keep your workout on track.
High end exercise bikes throw-in everything but the kitchen sink. More workouts, larger more detailed led display consoles and 10+ built in workouts at a minimum.
Don’t think you can walk into a store and spend $100 bucks and get a decent exercise bike. And yes, I know they sell cheap models at stores like Walmart and Costco that look good for the money, but they’re not worth your tome.
A good exercise bike will set you back a minimum of $300 – and even at that price you’re not getting a great bike, but one that might work well for the average user for a few years.
Good mid-level models like a Schwinn exercise bike will cost between $300-$500 dollars. For your extra investment you’ll get smooth silent operation, magnetic resistance, a more comfortable seat, built in workout programs and heart rate control.
Higher end exercise bikes are about $600 and up. When you make an investment this large you should get: push button resistance control, a hi tech led display console, longer warranty, pulse driven workouts, adjustable handlebars and tons of built-in workout programs.
Exercise Bike Guide Bottom Line
Now that you’re armed with the knowledge you need to get an exercise bike, go see my picks for best exercise bike here. Or go read the exercise bike reviews and see how the machines on you’re list stack up to the competition.