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Indoor Cycling Exercise Bikes - How to Choose and What to Buy

Updated on November 15, 2016
janderson99 profile image

Dr John applies his Biochemistry & Physiology research background (PhD) to develop reviews of exercises, training, run, walk, workouts, gym

Are you considering buying an exercise bike? Indoor Cycling Exercise Bikes are perhaps the most popular form of home workout equipment because they are easy to use, convenient, affordable, durable and can be adapted to a variety of workout programs. Exercise bikes have proven health benefits.

Exercise Bikes can be used to supplement running, athletics, lifting weights and bodybuilding programs by adding variety and aerobic fitness training. But where to start? How do you go about choosing the bike equipment that suits you perfectly? There are so many types and options. Where do you start? What to buy? This article is designed to help you choose the best bike for your needs and budget?

Exercise Bike Styles and Design Options

Below are some of your choices when it deciding to buy a workout bike. What you select depends on your objectives, way of life, wellbeing, fitness and health issues and workout preferences. It's a great time to purchase an exercise and training bike as they are cheaper now, due to competition, and are laden with fabulous characteristics than have never been seen before.

Upright Bikes - Upright two wheelers were the only choice you had for years. They look like a standard outdoor road bike. They have a usual two wheeler chair and your feet suspend down to come to the pedals. Upright two wheelers come in a variety of cost ranges from starter to very high cost models with computers and built-in programs. Some benefits of these bikes are that numerous professionals believe they are better at burning calories and generally take up less space than a recumbent bike. They can provide a great way for cyclists to train inside throughout the winter and at night.

Recumbent and Semi Recumbent-Exercise Bikes

The major benefits of recumbent stationary bikes is greater comfort compared with upright bikes.

  • Recumbent bikes have a comfortable seat resembling a comfortable chair, and many models have handlebars next to the seat, which suits many cyclists. The chairs on the recumbent bikes provide a lower body workout while giving better back support, and promote good blood flow to the entire body. Despite the chair, these bikes provide the same exercise workout levels as upright exercise bikes with twice the comfort.
  • Semi-Recumbent exercise bikes are very similar to fully recumbent styles, except the seat is positioned higher so that you are in a more upright position. This means that it is easier to get onto and off the exercise bike.

Dual Action Bike - This is a high-tech spinoff from the standard upright bike design. They have levers, handles and movable bars fitted to the arm handles so that you can exercise your upper body when cycling. You can work on the muscles in your chest, abs, arms and back muscles. This can provide a more intense aerobic workout, burn lots more calories and build-up your arms and shoulders. The downside is that they are not as comfortable as the recumbents and many lack high-tech accessories.

Indoor Cycling Bikes - You will have undoubtedly seen these kinds of workout cycles at the local gym for their exercise programs. They resemble upright bikes but much more sophisticated in the range of features they provide. They are constructed mostly for the serious athlete or dedicated biking devotee for comprehensive weight loss and year-round training programs. Beware that there are shoddy, cheap versions that are a total waste of money. These units have a wide range of features including drop handlebars, that can be used to simulate road riding bikes, fully programmed onboard computers for workout plans stats. Some even have SPD-compatible pedals so that you can use your professional biking shoes on them. These units may be much more than what most indoor cyclists needs and they are expensive.

Guide to Some of the Terminology and Features to Review

Flywheel - This is the fake bike wheel at the front of the cycle machine that your drive when you pedal. It is the heart of the exercise system and there are several components to consider. The first is the dimensions of the flywheel which is rated in kilograms or pounds. The higher the total weight of the flywheel, the more smooth the activity will feel as the weight evens out the variations. Good value household indoor cycles start at about 14kg weight, with commercial gym bikes having flywheels weighing 20kg or more. The other major aspects that is important is the quality of the bearing that permits the flywheel to spin. Check the reviews and warranties as the bearing is one of the first components that fail in cheaper machines.

Magnetic and Friction Braking -There are two major kinds of braking and resistance methods on indoor cycles - Friction and Magnetic Brakes.

  • Friction Braking - A friction pad, like an old fashioned braking pad on a car, comes into contact with the flywheel. You can adjust the resistance with a level or a knob. The harder the brake pad presses against the flywheel, the more difficult it is to pedal. The high resistance levels resemble pushing up steep hills. Friction resistance bikes are generally cheaper than their equivalent magnetic bikes, but the pads wear out and need to be replaced.
  • Magnetic Braking - Magnets are used to adjust the resistance when cycling. A knob or lever is used to move the magnet closer to the flywheel and this creates a braking effect. These bikes are much more expensive and there are no pads to wear out and have to be replaced.

Chain Drive - You need a way of connecting the pedals to the flywheel and the conventional way is using a chain that works identically to that of a road bike. A chain connects the drive flywheel or wheel of the machine to the crank. All chain need oiling add adjusting for tightness.

Belt Drive - These bikes use belt rather than a chain. The belt provides a smoother action, are easier to adjust, don't need oiling and are silent in operation..

Micro-Adjustment - This refers to the precision and extent to which to seats and handlebars can be adjusted. Cheaper bikes have very coarse adjustments often using simple peg-adjustment. For the four major adjustments you need to make (vertical and horizontal seat and handlebar adjustments), having a more precise adjustments may be important for comfort and reducing strain. Go for the Micro-Adjustment models if you can afford it.

Pedals - There are at least two major pedal options:

  • 'Basket' pedals are the simplest and can be used with virtually all types of training shoes and footwear. Your feet and shoes fit into the 'baskets' fitted to the pedals. There are various ways of adjusting tightness.
  • 'Basket Pedals with Cycling Shoe Clips'. These pedals can be used with specialist cycling shoes, an so you can wear the shoes you normally wear on your road bike. This type of pedal is much safer to use because it reduces the risk of slippage from the pedal.

Questions and Answers (Q&A)

Q: Can You use a commercial fitness bike like the ones used in gyms as home indoor cycles?
A: Yes you can, but you will pay a bit more for the higher quality and they can be quite a bit larger than the usual home cycle. You'll get a sturdier bike which will require less maintenance and will have a higher weight flywheel providing smooth cycling.

Q: What's the difference between an exercise bike and spinning bike?
A: An exercise bike will have a nice comfy seat and will free-wheel easily when you're not pedalling. Indoor spinning wheel cycles are much more like standard road bike equivalents but with a fixed wheel arrangement. A fitness bike can be either of the two basic types including the recumbent options.

Q: Where's the best place to buy Indoor Cycling Equipment and Exercise Bikes?
A: It is best to buy from a reliable specialist fitness equipment retailer or an online supplier. Always try out the equipment at the local show room or gym before buying online. Read the specifications and reviews

Q: Am I too heavy for an indoor cycle?
A: No, simply look at the specifications as there are cycles that cater for all sizes.

Q: Which indoor bike should I buy?
A: This really depends on your needs. Try before you buy at you local supplier or gym.

  • Exercise Recumbent Bikes provide an excellent aerobic exercise with low impact, and are more comfortable, less expensive and more compact than other home fitness equipment.
  • Exercise Bikes (or Stationary Bikes) provide a fabulous way to keep in shape in all seasons and you can train whenever and as often as you want.
  • Indoor Cycles ( Spin Bikes) are generally used for more serious and professional workouts and training sessions and resemble riding on the road. They have less comfortable seats than the other model, but these cycles are designed for high performance, speed and more serious training workouts than for comfort.

Q: How Much will an Indoor Exercise Bike Cost?
A: Finding your ideal Bike for getting fit or losing weight can be a real challenge. Prices can vary from about $200 to $1000 or more. There are a huge variety of models to choose from for exercise bikes and for the various indoor cycles. As always it is a compromise between expense, quality, specifications and features. Do your homework on the reviews and specifications and try the various models before making your final decisions.

Indicative Prices and Features

Shown below is an indicative idea of what you get for the various models and price ranges. Please note that the prices shown are only indicative, and the models shown may not be the best buys for the price range. Do your own research!

© janderson99-HubPages

© 2012 Dr. John Anderson


Submit a Comment
  • vibesites profile image


    5 years ago from United States

    Thanks for your exercise bikes buying guide and Q&A part. I love it! I think I may have picked a favorite. Well-researched and comprehensive. Voted up and useful. :)

  • janderson99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Dr. John Anderson 

    6 years ago from Australia on Planet Water

    Thanks your comments

  • profile image


    6 years ago

    This article is very helpful. Getting a good gear is important, getting good cycling also adds to the safety and fun of cycling.

  • diogenes profile image


    6 years ago from UK and Mexico

    I thought I would have a look at one of your articles and I am also in the market for one of these having finally worn out my "Infiniti" after 5 years. Great bike but now the magnetic resistance hardly works.

    Good, useful article, so voted



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