As the seasons change and outdoor workouts sound a little less appealing, the best exercise bikes present a smart and convenient way to maintain your fitness goals. These compact, versatile machines aren’t just designed to keep you moving through winter; they’re a reliable way to train and maintain your endurance when you might otherwise subject yourself to the elements or worse, sit around on the couch. With the ability to (almost) simulate the thrill of outdoor cycling from the comfort of your home, spin bikes offer a convenient solution to keep your body on course. Whether you’re seeking a vigorous cardio session, a low-impact workout or just a fun way to break a sweat, an exercise bike is your all-in-one companion for staying active.
With a plethora of exercise bike options on the market, finding the perfect one for your specific needs can be a tad confusing. Fear not, though; we’re here to guide you through the process of identifying the right exercise bike that suits you best. Whether you’re a serious cyclist looking for a performance-oriented model like the Schwinn IC4 or someone who simply wants an enjoyable way to stay active indoors (in which case, we’d recommend the budget-friendly Yosuda YB001), there’s a bike in this world designed for you.
Read on for our recommendations, and head to the bottom of this article for additional information on what to look for when the time comes to invest in a bike of your very own.
How We Chose The Best Exercise Bikes
The two authors of this piece have published dozens of fitness stories. We own some of these exercise bikes ourselves or were able to test others at local fitness centers. When we couldn’t test a bike in-person, we performed extensive research by reviewing what’s available on the market now, and by taking a look at product specifications, designs, added features and anything else that set one bike apart from another to ensure this list encompasses the best of the best. Finally, we also polled a variety of fitness professionals, including personal trainers, coaches and physical therapists, about what to look for in an exercise bike.
What To Consider When Shopping For An Exercise Bike
Because exercise bikes aren’t usually cheap, often take up quite a bit of space and take time to set up, buying the right one for you out the gate is important. Here are a few things to consider when choosing which model is right for you.
Exercise bikes are a wonderful way for anyone to improve their fitness, but if it’s not comfortable, it’s more likely to become a drying rack for your clothes than an exercise machine.
A lot of that boils down to the seat. Seats that are too hard or too small aren’t only uncomfortable—they can lead to tailbone pain, strain on your lower back and cause chafing and sores. Look for words like “ergonomic,” “padded” and “gel”—anything that suggests there is some cushioning. If the seat isn’t as comfortable as you were hoping it would be, you can always purchase a seat cushion or, in some cases, swap out the seat for one you like more.
Being able to control the resistance helps make a cycling session easier or harder. Without enough resistance, you might not feel like you’re really getting a workout in. With too much resistance, you may not be able to maintain proper positioning, which makes the risk of injury more likely (and, if you’re taking a class, it may make it more challenging to keep up). On some bikes, it’s a knob you can turn up or down. On other bikes, it’s a pair of buttons that can add or reduce resistance.
Exercise bikes take up a fair amount of room, so it’s important to consider if you have enough space for a recumbent bike or an upright bike. In the area you plan to keep your bike, is there sufficient space to easily get on and off? Fitness professional Jeanette DePatie notes that “if you need to move things around or drag the bike out of the corner to use it, you may be less like to use it.”
Maximum Weight Capacity
Another element to consider, DePatie says, is the weight limit of the bike. “Many exercise bikes have stringent weight limits,” she warns. “Make sure the bike can accommodate the weights of everyone who wants to ride.”
Shoe Clips Vs. Foot Straps
How your feet stay connected to your bike is crucial for control, comfort and safety. Most bikes have one of two options: Shoe clips (where you wear specialized shoes that lock onto the pedals) or foot straps (which are pedals that work with any athletic shoe).
Both have their pros and cons, but at the end of the day, this comes down to preference. That being said, Marisella Villano, an indoor cycling instructor in the Hamptons, recommends pedals with shoe clips, “because it provides the most efficiency in the peddle stroke” which in turn helps burn more calories.
It’s important to consider what you hope to get out of your exercise bike and to choose one that matches how you want to ride, notes physical therapist and founder of The Healthy Hiker, Alicia Filley.
Two of the biggest upgrades to come to exercise bikes in recent years have been the ability to connect to Wi-Fi and displays (specifically how they’re used). Some bikes are Wi-Fi-enabled, allowing riders to watch Netflix, stream exercise programs or play games on their screen while they exercise. Others have no screens or electronic connectivity, which helps keep them at a lower price point.
When looking at different bikes, Filley says to “Ask yourself some questions like, ‘Do you want lots of workout options or just a bike to peddle while you watch TV?’ and ‘Do you want access to an internet community or is this a solo activity?’” For some people, connectivity is key when getting on the bike before a big workout, but others would prefer to guide themselves.
Exercise bikes can run thousands of dollars, so it’s important to choose one with a solid warranty program, meaning the manufacturer will repair or replace the bike if it breaks down within a certain timeframe. Each company has different policies, so look at each and compare how long the warranty lasts (one-to-five years is typical) and what it covers.
What Exercise Bikes Are Good For Home?
Keith Hodges, a National Academy of Sports Medicine-certified personal trainer and performance coach, and founder of Mind In Muscle Coaching in Los Angeles, weighs in: “When purchasing a bike for in-home workouts, make sure the bike you purchase is the best for you,” he says. “Be sure to select a style that you like that is within your budget. Your bike should come with different resistance levels to change the intensity of your workouts along with an adjustable seat. Most bikes come with monitors and programmed workouts, should you choose to join a live workout or follow a program on-demand.” And if you want to track your progress, “It should be Bluetooth compatible to sync with your Fitbit, Apple Watch, Polar Strap, Garmin, Whoop or Oura Ring,” he adds.
Can You Lose Weight Using An Exercise Bike?
Absolutely, says Hodges. “Cycling is a form of exercise and to see a reduction in weight, you must be at a caloric deficit.” In other words: The calories burned from cycling can contribute to weight loss. “If your goal is to lose one pound per week, you should aim to burn an excess of 3,500 calories per week,” says Hodges. But for best results, he adds, “You’ll also have to consume less calories from food in addition to riding an exercise bike.”
Can You Lose Belly Fat By Riding A Stationary Bike?
Yes, riding a stationary bike can contribute to losing belly fat when combined with a calorie-controlled diet and consistent exercise, as it helps burn calories, increase overall metabolism and reduce overall body fat, which includes the abdominal area. However, targeting your belly is not possible, so fat loss will occur throughout the body rather than exclusively in the belly.
Is 30 Minutes Of Exercise Bike A Day Enough?
Yes, 30 minutes of exercise on a stationary bike per day can be a beneficial component of a balanced fitness routine, contributing to cardiovascular health, calorie expenditure and weight management. However, the effectiveness of this duration depends on a number of factors, including exercise intensity, individual fitness goals and diet. To maximize fitness and weight loss, some individuals need more than 30 minutes per day, while others may find it sufficient. Consulting with a fitness professional or healthcare provider can help determine the appropriate exercise duration for your specific needs and goals.
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