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Consumer Reviews

Let’s ride: What to know before buying an indoor exercise bike

Binge-watch your favorite shows or read your new e-book on an exercise bike with a tablet holder.

Riding a bike provides outstanding exercise that benefits the body in numerous ways. However, it’s not always practical to hop on a bike and hit the trails or roadways. Fortunately, an indoor exercise bike will provide similar exercise without you leaving your home or joining a gym.

Modern exercise bikes offer features such as variable resistance and adjustable components for customizable workouts. They come in various sizes to fit different spaces. They also feature displays to help you track your progress or use exercise apps. In our testing, we found that the Schwinn IC4 Indoor Cycling Excercise Bike offers all the essential features plus an adjustable, quiet ride.

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What to know before you buy an exercise bike

Benefits of using an exercise bike

Using an exercise bike to work out will provide several key benefits. When used correctly and regularly, it will create noticeable changes in your strength, flexibility and more.

  • Burns calories
  • Enhances joint flexibility
  • Strengthens muscles
  • Works out the cardiovascular system
  • Builds bone strength
  • Helps you lose weight

Types of exercise bikes

There are four main types of exercise bikes: upright, spin, dual-action and recumbent.

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Upright exercise bikes are the most popular. They offer a position that’s similar to a standard bike, and provide excellent physical and cardiovascular workouts.

The positioning of a spin bike is very similar to a road bike, which makes it ideal for seasoned users who prefer a more intense workout. Another alternative to a standard upright bike is a dual-action model that has movable handles that work the upper body for full-body workouts.

The upright position of most exercise bikes can cause strain on the arms and upper body for some individuals. Because they allow users to sit during workouts, recumbent bikes are a suitable alternative to other models for those who prefer a more relaxed workout.

Your fitness goals

What kind of workouts do you have in mind? For example, do you want to focus on high-intensity rides, or are you more interested in increasing endurance? Your fitness goals will dictate the type of exercise bike that's right for you and what features you should look for, like resistance levels and pre-set programs.

Space considerations

Do you have space for a large bike, or do you need a folding model? Get out the tape measure before settling on an exercise bike. A model that folds is easy to store, as it won’t take up excessive space when it’s not in use.

Exercise bike features

Adjustability

Regardless of the type you select, make sure the bike is comfortable for your frame. Like a regular bike, you should be able to adjust the fit for your body.

Display

Most exercise bikes have a display. The cheapest models usually have a simple LCD screen showing only speed and distance. Others have a high-end monitor that provides data like speed, heart rate and burned calories.

Resistance

Having more resistance levels lets users fine-tune the difficulty of their rides. Choosing an exercise bike with a wide range of resistance levels will allow you to up your intensity as you grow stronger.

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Pre-set workout programs

Exercise bikes with pre-set programs that change the resistance for you are typically more expensive. Models with all the bells and whistles can cost upward of $800. Pre-set programs are helpful for those who don’t want to spend time creating their own custom routines. With pre-set programs, you just hop on and spin.

Extras

Many exercise bikes come with various extras to make your workouts more pleasant. Some features to look out for include water bottle holders, iPhone or iPad docks and speakers.

Exercise bikes cost

Exercise bikes range in price from less than $200 to more than $2,000. While inexpensive models are pretty basic, those on the higher end of the price scale offer numerous levels of tension, large screens and smart technology that provides access to virtual workouts. Many consumers prefer bikes in the $400 to $1,000 range that have a nice selection of useful features for achieving notable results.

Exercise bikes FAQ

I often end up with back pain after a bike ride. Is there an indoor bike for me?

A. Back pain may be the result of a poorly fitted bike. Make sure you adjust your bike, indoor or outdoor, to fit you. If positioning isn't the issue, you may benefit from a recumbent bike, which puts less strain on the back muscles.

How much cardio should I be doing per week on my exercise bike?

A. That all depends on whether you're participating in other activities, but generally, adults should be getting at least 150 minutes of medium-intensity cardiovascular exercise per week. That's a little more than two hours per week, so fitting in a healthy dose of cardio is definitely doable, especially when you have the right equipment at home.

Which exercise bike should I get?

Best of the best exercise bike

Schwinn IC4 Indoor Cycling Exercise Bike: available at Amazon

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Our take: If you are looking for a well-made exercise bike with lots of bells and whistles, this is an outstanding choice with a mid-level price tag.

What we like: This bike is quiet and easy to use. It has a nice screen and is compatible with several apps for interactive workouts.

What we dislike: Some apps take a little effort to set up.

Best bang for your buck exercise bike

Sunny Health and Fitness Pro Indoor Exercise Bike: available at Amazon

Our take: A performance-oriented affordable exercise bike for riders looking to make the most of their indoor training time.

What we like: It's incredibly easy to fine-tune resistance on this machine, and the fit is highly adjustable, too.

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What we dislike: It's a little noisy, according to users. If you're looking for a bike with a fancy display, this is not the model for you.

Honorable mention exercise bike

NordicTrack S22i Studio Cycle: available at Amazon

Our take: This is a feature-packed model that's ideal for pros who want a gym-level workout at home.

What we like: The 22-inch screen provides impressive access to workouts and road simulations. It has a durable build and lots of resistance options to fit different workout preferences.

What we dislike: The price of this exercise bike falls on the higher end of the spectrum.

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Jennifer Manfrin is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money.

BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. BestReviews and its newspaper partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links.

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


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