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Exercise Bikes at Home?
Built for low-impact, easy use, exercise bikes provide great cardiovascular workouts in the comfort of your own home. You can simply jump on and crank out an excellent session that will get your heart rate pumping while putting far less stress on your joints. Additionally, and depending on the model and brand of the stationary exercise bike, sitting on a seat/saddle can be much more comfortable over long workouts than other styles of cardio equipment.
Read on as we dig in to help with all the questions you have about the best stationary bikes as well as share links to our specific stationary bike reviews.
Choosing the right stationary exercise bike requires some serious consideration. There are a lot of options and styles to choose from. As with any piece of exercise equipment you first need to ask yourself some basic, but necessary, questions.
First, what is your current fitness level? Do you have any physical limitations that might make one style of bike more preferred over another? There are a few very different styles of exercise bikes that we will discuss shortly.
Second, what are your fitness goals? Need more stamina? Want to shed some pounds? Do you want to compete in a race? Or do you just want to get started on a healthier path? Doing this little bit of fitness-related soul-searching will help you find out which style of exercise bike is best for you.
Best Exercise Bikes by Price
There’s a large variety of stationary bikes on the market, from name brands to unknowns, and from top-of-the-line to entry-level. Depending on your ultimate goal and budget constraints, you’ll be able to find the perfect bike to fit your needs. To help you even more, we’ve broken down our top choices for stationary exercise bikes by price and style below:
PRICE RANGE: Under $200
Exerpeutic Folding Magnetic Upright Bike with Pulse $136 – 6,334 Reviews
Sunny Health and Fitness SF-B1203 Trainer $139 – 1,003 Reviews
Schwinn A10 Upright Bike $199 – 424 Reviews
PRICE RANGE: $200-$500
Schwinn 170 Upright Bike Review $299 – 455 Reviews
Nautilus U616 Upright Bike Review $449 – 108 Reviews
Schwinn AD6 Airdyne Upright Exercise Bike $479 – 563 Reviews
PRICE RANGE: $500-$1000
PRICE RANGE: Over $1,000
Life Fitness C3 Go Upright Lifecycle Review $2,300 – 7 Reviews
Expresso Interactive Upright Exercise Bike – S3U Review $2,800 – 6 Reviews
Other Stationary Exercise Bike Styles Compared
Indoor exercise bikes, or “stationary bikes”, can be grouped into three basic styles: upright stationary exercise bikes, indoor cycles/Spin Bikes, and recumbent bikes. Here are some benefits and a discussion on how each of these bike styles differ along with our top picks for each category.
Stationary bikes provide a workout more consistent to outdoor bicycling since it places you in that traditional body position. This body position enables you to engage your abdominals, which is something that the sit-down style recumbent bike fails to target. Your upper body including biceps, triceps, and shoulders are also getting put to use in an upright body position.
One last advantage of the stationary exercise bike is that its footprint is far smaller than that of a recumbent bike. Like the recumbent bikes, these upright exercise bikes are also often loaded with extra features to make your workout more enjoyable. The more expensive the model, the better options you can expect. Overall, a stationary exercise bike is great for someone who is familiar with exercising already and in better physical condition. This is a great option for someone looking to take their level of physical fitness to the next level.
Our Top Stationary Exercise Bike Picks
There are a lot of choices, but our favorite stationary bikes are:
#1. Nice Design & Heart Rate Monitoring: Exerpeutic Folding Magnetic Upright Bike with Pulse
The Exerpeutic Folding Magnetic Upright Bike has a strong steel x-frame design that is capable of holding up to 300 lbs when the bike itself only weighs 39 lbs. Being light-weight and foldable to half of its original size makes this bike a great option for people with limited exercise space as it can be easily stored in a closet or under a bed. This is also one of the cheapest bikes that you will be able to find on the market with the ability to track your heart rate.
The Exerpeutic Upright Bike has an eight-level magnetic tension control system and a 3-piece, high-torque crank system that provide a smooth and consistent cycling motion. The large pedals and seat make this a perfect stationary exercise bike for anyone from 5’3” to 6’1”. It’s clear that Exerpeutic doesn’t believe that low cost equals bad quality. And they prove it with the Folding Magnetic Upright Bike.
#2. Great Quality & Console: Schwinn 130 Upright Exercise Bike
Schwinn has been an innovator in the cycling world for over 100 years and the quality of the 130 Upright Exercise Bike takes advantage of the knowledge that they gained. This stationary bike has a strong steel frame and a high-inertia perimeter weighted flywheel that provides a stabile cycling platform. For the price of this bike, the DualTrack™ computer console is superior to the competition. The console is equipped with 22 programs, including eight heart rate programs, connectivity to apps to track workout data, MP3 input and charging, built-in speakers, a 3-speed fan and a media shelf. Schwinn also equips this bike with 20 levels of eddy current brake resistance so that you can find your perfect level of intensity.
For around $300, the Schwinn 130 Upright Exercise Bike is a smart buy no matter how much money you’re looking to spend.
#3. Top of the Line Quality and Features: SOLE Fitness LCB Light Commercial Upright Bike
SOLE Fitness brings and amazing stationary bike in the SOLE LCB Bike built for light commercial use but equally excellent for home use. This stationary bike features 40 levels of resistance and a 30-pound flywheel which ensures a smooth transition between levels of resistance. A great addition is the pulse grip heart rate monitoring and optional chest strap heart rate monitoring (strap not included). The bike is very adjustable from the bars to the seat. Plus it has tons of features including it’s great LCD console, MP3 compatibility, and built-in fan.
We’re impressed with the bike’s 300 lb user weight capacity and rock solid warranties. So if you’re looking for a stationary bike that’s built tough enough for the heavy use of a fitness club the SOLE Fitness LCB Light Commercial Upright Bike will do it for you.
Indoor Cycles and Spin Bikes
Click here for our full indoor cycles and Spin Bike Reviews guide. Indoor cycles, or Spin Bikes (which is actually a brand of indoor cycles), are the next level of exercise bikes. They are designed not like a traditionally bicycle, but closer to a sleek outdoor road cycle. You shouldn’t expect to get a lot of extras like on the recumbent and upright exercise bikes. The indoor cycles are designed like road bikes and there’s no time for playing games or messing with your iPad when you’re racing down the road. This type of exercise bike gives the rider superior quality and design coupled with the ability to get a very intense cardio workout.
Indoor Cycles vs. Upright Stationary Bikes
The most obvious difference on these bikes is a weighted flywheel and transmission system that is connected to the pedals that creates that road bike feel. Your body leans forward, almost crouching, just like on a road bike. The best indoor cycles will give you more options for adjustability, allowing the seat and handlebars to be moved not only up and down but also fore and aft. This allows you to get into the cycling position that you are most comfortable with and that resembles your road bike experience. Indoor cycles also allow you to pedal while standing, again adding another realistic element that is missing on other exercise bike designs.
There are more subtle features that mainly experienced cyclists or fitness gurus (geeks) would recognize. Nuances like ergonomically designed pedals and Q-factor that provide a more realistic cycling motion and take stress off of knees and ankles. For those unfamiliar with Q-factor it is the distance between the crank arm attachment points. A narrower Q-factor is beneficial because it provides a more neutral body position that alleviates stress and fatigue. These bikes are typically marketed to the most serious cyclists and exercisers. The indoor cycle design is made for one purpose…to get the job done, whether that job is building endurance, losing weight or getting you ready for a big race.
Make sure you do your own research by reading our reviews, but our top two indoor cycle/Spin Bike choices are:
#1. Quality Entry-Level Option: Sunny Health & Fitness Pro Indoor Cycle Bike (SF-B901)
The Sunny Health & Fitness Pro Indoor Cycle Bike is a well designed bike for cycling enthusiasts who don’t want to break the bank on an indoor bike purchase. Coming in under $300, this bike has a strong steel frame and heavy duty cranks that can take some serious abuse. The 40 lb flywheel, chain drive and adjustable resistance system provide a smooth and consistent cycling motion. This bike supports 275 lbs and has a fully adjustable seat and handlebars to fit a wide range of users.
#2. Top of the Line in Every Way: Keiser M3 Indoor Cycle
The Keiser M3 Plus Indoor Cycle is beautifully designed indoor bike equipped by one of the top manufacturers of exercise equipment. This model is one of the favorites among indoor Spin enthusiasts in the United States and across the world. Of course, the components on this bike are unmatchable with Shimano pedals, a revolutionary 24-gear magnetic resistance system that has no touching parts, and a near-silent belt drive that requires practically zero maintenance. It also has a computer console that is equipped with heart rate telemetry so that a chest strap can be used.
This bike is completely adjustable with a four-way adjustable seat and handlebars that will move horizontally to fit just about any body size. The Keiser M3 Plus Indoor Cycle is every cyclists dream.
Recumbent bikes are an excellent option for people with physical limitations, in particular people with lower back injuries/pain or neurological conditions. While still offering a challenging workout, recumbent bikes put the rider into a more comfortable, natural reclined body position with a seat that cradles the lower body and encourages better spinal posture. This helps reduce body fatigue and minimize muscle soreness. If you’re affected by joint issues like rheumatoid arthritis, this bike style spreads your weight more equally across your buttocks and back to alleviate aches and pains. Overall, this posture is far gentler on joints as it takes stress off of the hips, knees and ankles. Because the recumbent bike style features the ability to do extremely low impact exercise, the risk of pain is reduced and you can start to build strength.
Recumbent bikes often include a lot of features that make the whole exercising experience more enjoyable. They’re often loaded with computer consoles that have programmed workouts, connections for iPods/MP3 players, fans, speakers, media shelves, etc. Generally, the higher the price range of the bike, the more features you’ll find included. Recumbent bikes are great options for people new to cycling or new to physical fitness in general. It’s an excellent piece of equipment for someone just starting out and looking to get into a healthier lifestyle.
When it comes to the two best recumbent bikes, our choices are:
#1. Budget-Friendly Quality: Exerpeutic 900XL Extended Capacity Recumbent Bike with Pulse
The Exerpeutic 900XL Recumbent Bike is a sturdy bike for a budget-friendly price well under $200. It doesn’t have a lot of bells and whistles. However it does have heart rate sensors in the hand grips so that you can track your intensity while exercising. This bike has a solid frame, a sturdy footprint and a 300 lb weight capacity that will ensure years of reliable use. It has a durable and user-friendly design that allows you to step through the machine. This makes it easy to get on and off. The oversized pedals and large, adjustable seat make this stationary bike a popular choice for riders of all sizes.
Exerpeutic is providing excellent quality for a low price with the 900XL Recumbent Bike. Built for low-impact, easy use, stationary exercise bikes (including recumbent bikes, upright bikes, and indoor cycles) provide great cardiovascular workouts in the comfort of your own home.
#2. Superior Quality & Features: Nautilus R616 Recumbent Bike
It doesn’t get much better than the Nautilus R616 Recumbent Bike. For the name and the features on this bike, you could expect to pay over a thousand dollars. As things stand, you’ll pay a lot less. This bike has 25 levels of eddy current brake resistance, grip sensors and telemetry enabled heart rate monitoring, iPod/MP3 connectivity, media shelf, 3-speed cooling fan, and an excellent computer console. The DualTrackTM console is packed with 29 workout programs, including nine heart rate profiles, designed by fitness professionals. It also has connectivity to apps that can greatly enhance your training experience.
There aren’t many names bigger than Nautilus in the fitness world and when they make an offering like the Nautilus R616 Recumbent Bike, you jump on it. Built for low-impact, easy use, stationary exercise bikes (including recumbent bikes, upright stationary exercise bikes, and indoor cycles) provide great cardiovascular workouts in the comfort of your own home.
Upright Exercise Bikes
On an upright exercise bike, the rider sits above the bike’s frame similarly to the traditional bicycles that you may be accustomed to. Your posture is “sitting upright” rather than reclined. In some cases you may be slightly hunched over with your neck slightly bent. This in itself can create some muscle soreness and fatigue for novice riders. The seat is also usually traditional in style and is smaller than the recumbent bike’s larger saddle. Again, for novice riders or until you become accustomed to it, you’re likely to encounter a bit of seat soreness. It’s normal and usually goes away quickly.
Benefits of Upright Stationary Exercise Bikes and How They Work
Low Impact Workouts
The key benefit of a stationary exercise bike over other fitness equipment like a treadmill, is that they provide low impact workouts. Most runners will end up with some type of lower extremity injury at some point in their life. Some much worse than others. Using an exercise bike is a lot easier on your joints. You’ll likely be less susceptible to hip, knee, ankle or tendon injuries than you will from running on the street. In fact, stationary bike styles like the recumbent bike are often a recommended piece of exercise equipment for people with lower body injuries. This style of bike balances out your body weight to alleviate stress. If you have a leg, knee or ankle injury this low impact position allows you to exert pain-free force.
Great for Any Fitness Level
On other pieces of exercise equipment, your level of physical fitness greatly affects your capacity to exercise. For example, some people may be only able to walk, jog or run on a treadmill for 5-10 minutes before they are winded. Believe it or not, equipment like rowers and elliptical machines take a good deal of coordination to be used effectively.
Anyone, on the other hand, can jump on a stationary exercise bike and pedal for a full-length workout. A beginner can start with little or no resistance and gradually work their intensity up. On the flip side, an advanced user can use high resistance and high speed for their optimal workout. Additionally, the recumbent style indoor exercise bike is a great option for elderly, overweight or injured users as it takes a great deal of stress off of the lower body while still allowing you to work and strengthen those same muscles.
Weight Loss – Feel the Burn
Weight loss is another benefit of using a stationary bike regularly. It’s kind of a misconception, in our opinion, that you can burn the most calories on a treadmill. Running on a treadmill at 5 mph for an hour will allow you to burn up around 700 calories. At 7.5 mph, you can burn up to 1,100. But not everyone can run at that pace for that long, especially a beginner. Our theory is that most people can cycle far longer than they can run due to its low impact nature and comfort level of an upright stationary exercise bike. Cycling for an hour at a vigorous rate can help you burn over 900 calories. So, if you can cycle for an hour, but only run for 15, 20, 30 minutes, where are you actually burning more calories?
Cardiovascular Improvement – Spin for Heart Health
If you want proof that a stationary exercise bike can provide a good cardio workout, take a look at the rise in popularity of Spinning Bike classes. We’ve all seen the commercials. There is no doubt that those people are getting a good cardio workout. Being able to raise your heart rate for just 20 minutes every day can improve your health and reduce your chances of heart disease. For cardiovascular improvement, most experts say you should train at about 70-80% of your maximum heart rate. At this rate, your heart and lungs are asked to work harder and in return your overall cardiovascular fitness is improved.
Another great result of cardiovascular training is the feeling you get after completion. This level of exercise intensity is what causes the brain to release endorphins and can cause feelings of euphoria. It’s not just a feeling of accomplishment; it’s an actual chemical release in the body. Cardiovascular training has been scientifically proven to have positive effects on increasing brain activity and reducing depression.
Stationary Bikes for Home Use
The benefits of a stationary exercise bike at home often outweigh going to a gym and paying for a membership. First and foremost, there’s the price. If you really want to get started, you can find a good entry-level exercise bike for around $100. That’s about a month or two of gym fees, plus gas for getting across town. The biggest advantage, however, is the amount of exercise that you will get in versus having a gym membership.
Picture this: You had to work late again, you just got home, a little stressed out, and haven’t eaten dinner yet. You would just rather relax than go to the gym before you have to go to bed and do it all over again. We’ve all been there. With your own upright or recumbent bike, you can eat dinner and then jump on your bike and relax while you pedal through a couple of your favorite primetime television shows. The convenience of having a stationary bicycle in your home will greatly increase your opportunities to exercise.
Final Word on the Best Exercise Bikes
There are many models on the market but the best exercise bike is the one that fits all your needs. We have assembled some of our favorites above to help you determine what might fit you the best. Finding the perfect upright stationary exercise bike is going to come down to a handful of questions:
- What is your current fitness level?
- Are you a beginner?
- Do you already exercise quite often?
- Are you a fitness expert?
- What are you looking to achieve with your stationary exercise bike?
- Do you want to get a little healthier?
- Do you want to get a LOT healthier?
- Want to increase your cardiovascular fitness or lose weight?
- Thinking of training for road races?
- What bike features are most important to you?
- Do you need motivational tools like workout programs?
- Want to stay connected to the outside world with your phone, MP3 player and/or tablet?
- Could you care less about modern conveniences and you’re only concerned about getting a quality bike with quality components?
Take some time to think about it and answer these questions. If you’re honest with yourself when answering these questions, finding the ideal exercise bike for your fitness needs will be a breeze.