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Choosing the Right Exercise Bike for You

Updated on January 4, 2018
An upright stationary exercise bike.  Ideal for someone with basic conditioning goals.
An upright stationary exercise bike. Ideal for someone with basic conditioning goals.

Introduction

Exercise bikes are a convenient and effective source of conditioning. They come in handy in winter, or general bad weather that is not conducive to outdoor biking, or for someone who either can't or does not like to ride a mobile bicycle.

The general price range for most exercise bikes are $150-$2000. They are a moderate to large purchase. One of many reasons that getting the right one for you is important. Which type that is will be determined by two basic factors: your goal, and your comfort. The first factor will narrow your choice down to one of three basic types - recumbent, upright, and spin. The second factor will determine the brand you will buy.

Choosing the right one for your specific goals and build is more important to your health than you may realize. If you are not comfortable with your equipment, you are more likely to not stick with your exercise program, or perform it less frequently. There are not too many things that deter someone from working out than physical discomfort while doing so.

Recumbent Bikes

A recumbent bike is characterized by one that is lower to the ground, putting you in a more reclined position, with the pedals at the front of the bike. Your legs are outstretched horizontally, rather than vertically.

Advantages of a recumbent bike:

  • Comfort. Especially if you are elderly, or heavy, it may be discomforting to sit on the smaller seat of an upright or spin bike. The seat on a recumbent bike is more reminiscent of a chair than what is normally thought of as a "bicycle seat". Your weight will be distributed over your entire buttocks and back, instead of being centered solely on the ischial tuberosite area.
  • It is ergonomically advantageous for the obese, and for those who may suffer from persistent preexisting pain in the neck, back, or shoulder area.
  • Ease of multitasking. If you wish to do something like watch something on your iPad, or read your kindle or book, it is far easier to do on a recumbent bike.


A mobile recumbent bike.  Stationary bikes are made to mimic the riding experience of each type of mobile bike.
A mobile recumbent bike. Stationary bikes are made to mimic the riding experience of each type of mobile bike.

Upright Bike

This form of stationary exercise bike has a stance of what most people would think of on many types of outside bikes. It has a regular bicycle seat, and your posture is angled, but closer to an upright position, such as on BMX racing bikes, many mountain bikes, and standard leisure bicycles.

Advantages of an upright bike:

  • You can get a more advanced workout due to the upright nature. There is a limit to how fast you can pedal sitting down. When you want to simulate pedaling uphill, or a burst of speed, you will stand up, giving you the ability to pump extra hard.
  • It more closely mimics the BMX and mountain, or "dirt" bikes, for those who ride them. If you are having bad weather and do not wish to go out and ride your mountain bike, this will more closely resemble the workout you will get.
  • Upper body incorporation. Due to the posture, you will have to lean on your arms, and stabilize yourself with your back. Whereas a recumbent bike will work only the legs, the upright bike requires some assistance from the rest of your body.
  • Price. All other options being equal with regard to monitor, the upright bike will be cheaper than a recumbent.

Spin Bike

A spin bike is a variant of the upright bike. The difference is the posture. It mimics the posture of the multi-speed street racing bikes. The upper body is at a much more horizontal angle than the standard upright bike, and there will be much more weight on your arms.

The advantages of a spin bike are similar to that of the aforementioned upright bike, though to varying degrees. You will have a greater arm workout, and the incorporation of your back may be greater or less, depending on your height and absolute posture on the spin bike.

Choosing a Brand

After you have decided on your goals, along with your capabilities, and you have decided on the type of bike you wish to purchase, you will now want to narrow your search down to a specific brand.

If there is more than one person in the household that will be using this bike, you will want to take adjustability into account. If one person is 6'4, and the other 5'2, the bike will need to have considerable leeway on the seating position .

If your goals are even somewhat ambitious, or you think you may reach the point where you may become so, pay attention to the maximum intensity on the bike. No matter what your goals are, learn what variants of programs are available. If your goals are merely for a moderate workout, you will not need the number of intense programs that are available on many of the bikes. Make sure it also has a reliable heart rate monitor.

The weight rating on the bike also needs attention. If you are a particularly large individual, you will need a bike that can handle your weight. If you are of average size, and there won't be anyone using the bike that is exceptionally large, then a bike with a 400 pound weight limit is not necessary. You will pay more for higher weight capacity, so do not get a higher weight rating than you need.

The dimensions of the bike should also not be ignored. If you are a tall person, you do not want to purchase a bike that you will end up hitting your knees on the handles when attempting to use it.

Finally, make sure the manufacturer offers a decent warranty for their bike. A factor in the length of a reasonable warranty is the cost of the bike. If you are going to choose a bike on the upper end of the price range, it should come with a warranty of at least five years.

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