Do you want to cycle outdoors, but you lack the time to take your bike out, or visit the gym? Indoor cycling on your home exercise bike gives you the benefits of cycling at the local gym, or cycling outdoors, without leaving the comfort of your home. Additionally, finding the best home exercise bike can give you a much needed break from lifting weights. Firm up that butt, strengthen those lungs. Now you have it…the top 5 exercise and spin bikes reviewed and compared.
Today, spin bikes come with advanced features such as heart rate monitors and speakers to turn a rather boring workout into an entertaining session. There are a lot of things to consider and sift through when looking for the best exercise bike for your home.
Spin bikes mimic the outdoor cycling experience. Most of these bikes have the saddle and handlebar at the same height to make them almost the same as outdoor cycling bikes. They also feature a toe strap that makes the cycling more comfortable.
There are a host of exercise bikes to choose from. If you are torn between Schwinn vs Peloton, and you are also seeing a Proform Exercise Bike in the mix, this guide will help you choose the best for your indoor cycling needs.
Our #1 Pick
ProForm 235 CSX Recumbent Bike
Why this bike is the best:• Sturdy frame to accommodate up to 275 pounds• Step-through design for users with mobility issues• Adjustable seat for comfort• Comes with 18 pre-loaded workout programs • Has useful accessories such as bottle holder, tablet holder, and sound system• Offers silent Eddy-Current resistance
Our Exercise Bike Overview
Schwinn IC3 Indoor Cycling Bike Series
Schwinn IC4 Indoor Cycling Bike Series
Horizon IC7.9 Indoor Cycle
Exercise Bike Reviews
ProForm 235 CSX Recumbent Bike
The ProForm 235 CSX is one of the most affordable bikes from ProForm. It sports a host of great features to make your exercise wholesome. The current model was released in 2015, and has seen minor upgrades to make it better.
Its main features include:
• Steel Frame – It features sturdy construction to accommodate users up to 275 pounds. The steel frame sports a black plain finish that makes it corrosion resistant. There are a couple of plastic parts such as the cover of the console and the resistance section, but these do not affect the durability of the bike. It weighs close to 100 pounds, which means setting up will not be an issue.
• Ergonomic Seat and Handlebars – The seat and the backrest sport a 2-inch padding with comfortable and durable vinyl cover. You can adjust the base frame of the seat for more comfort based on your height. The seat can also move backward or forward along the rail to further offer comfort. There are two handlebars on the sides of the seat – these are not adjustable, but they offer a comfortable grip.
• Eddy Current Resistance System – This system couples a motor with magnetic brakes to offer smooth resistance. You need to add 4 D-Type batteries for the resistance to work. You can adjust the resistance by tapping the +/- buttons on the unit’s console.
• LCD Console with LED Backlight – With a value LED backlight, you can see readings on the console at any time. This console shows revolutions per minute, power output, a heart rate, resistance level, distance, time, and calories burnt. From the console, you can choose one of two workout programs — Calorie Workouts or Watts Workout Programs. This console connects with most smartphones, but it does not connect to the internet. There is a sound system and a tablet holder near the console to make your workout more entertaining.
• Easy Assembly – Most of the parts such as the motor, flywheel, belt, and pulley come pre-assembled. During assembly, all you need is to attach the handlebars, console, and pedals, and you are good to start. There is also a basic toolkit included in the package to get you started.
Pros• Sturdy frame to accommodate up to 275 pounds• Step-through design for users with mobility issues• Adjustable seat for comfort• Comes with 18 pre-loaded workout programs • Has useful accessories such as bottle holder, tablet holder, and sound system• Offers silent Eddy-Current resistanceCons• Front handles positioned too low, so users above five-feet-eight knocks on them• Doesn’t include a battery pack• The tablet holder is too close to the display, and tablets interfere with readings
Schwinn IC3 Indoor Cycling Bike
This is an upright exercise bike that promises to deliver fun during all workout sessions. One of the main features of the bike is the infinite resistance that ensures the bike accommodates both first-time and experienced indoor cyclists. Its padded handlebars, LCD console, and ergonomic build further make it a great choice for indoor cycling enthusiasts. It has the following features:• Steel frame – The bike can accommodate users up to 300 pounds without the frame wobbling. This frame comes with a 5-year warranty. Better yet, the frame is only 114 pounds heavy, so one can set the unit without asking for help.
• Padded Seat and Handlebars – The unit sports a race-style seat with padding and ventilation for comfort. You can adjust the height of the seat to match your height. Its padded handlebars offer enhanced grip during high-intensity workouts.
• Infinite Resistance – This upright bike offers magnetic resistance that you can adjust infinitely. You can start with low resistance and progress as your fitness level moves up. Its 40-pound flywheel offers a smooth ride all the time.
• Advanced Console Features – This unit features a wireless heart rate monitor to help you keep track of your progress. Workout stats show on a small computer attached on the system. This display shows distance, time, speed, RPM, and calories. If you are wearing a chest strap, the unit can show your heart rate. This small computer runs on batteries as a means to save power.
• Accessories – There is a water bottle holder to your right next to the display to keep you hydrated. You can place large and small water bottles in this holder. There is also a media rack that holds your smartphone or tablet or any other gadget that keeps you entertained. This bike offers you all the essentials without an exorbitant price tag. Better yet, the manufacture offers in-home assembly after shipping in the US, but you will pay more for this.
Pros• Smooth 40-pound flywheel• Has useful accessories such as water bottle and smartphone/tablet holders• Compatible with a chest strap heart rate monitor• Padded handles offer comfortable grip• The seat adjusts vertically and horizontally• Generous warrantyCons• Doesn’t offer preset workout programs• Lacks a cooling fan
Schwinn IC4 Indoor Cycle
IC4 is Schwinn’s most advanced indoor cycling bike. It offers an almost similar construction with the IC3, but its features are more advanced to make your exercise more wholesome. It is also sturdier than the IC3 and has more accessories. While this means that you will pay more for the unit, it also means you will enjoy more features. Features include:• Heavy Duty Steel Frame – This unit accommodates high-intensity exercises for users up to 330 pounds. The steel frame sports a standard triangular shape with a double coat that prevents corrosion. There are ABS plastic parts on the bike, but these too are heavy duty to last long. At 106 pounds, the bike is heavy enough to offer stability, but light enough for a simple setup.
• Seat and Handlebars Comfort – The seat sports a race-style design with 2-inch foam padding and a vinyl top. The saddle adjusts to the movements of the user during a seated workout. Thanks to the collar-based connection, you can adjust the angle of the seat. This also means that you can replace the seat with ease if need be. You can adjust the seat up, down, front, and back. The bike’s handlebar is also four-way adjustable, allowing the bike to accommodate users between five-feet and six-feet-five.
• Magnetic Resistance with Manual Action – You can adjust the resistance of the bike without connecting the bike to a power source as the console does not control the resistance. It offers magnetic resistance with a magnetic brake pad that connects to a tension knob. There are no predetermined tension levels, but you can adjust it from between 0 to 100 percent as increments go up by one percent. There is an emergency stop function on the bike, so you can stop it any time you want. The flywheel on the bike is bi-directional.
• Advanced Console – The console on the IC4 is more advanced than the one on the IC3. It is an LCD display with LED backlight. The display shows RPM, calories, speed, time, distance, resistance level, and pulse. Because the console doesn’t control the resistance level, it only shows where the level stands. To get a pulse reading, you need a chest strap. You can also connect the unit though Bluetooth if you have a Bluetooth chest strap.
• Ease of Assembly – Assembly requires you to add a base tube, seat post and saddle, handlebar, console, and other accessories. This process can take between 30 and 40 minutes. There is a simple step by step guide showing you how to connect all the parts.
Pros• Sturdy steel frame supports up to 330 pounds• Athletic design• Transport wheels make it easy to move• Four way adjustable seat and handlebars to accommodate tall people• Up to 100 resistance levels• Allow Bluetooth connectivity to track heart rateCons• You can only power the console unit via adapter
Peloton Bike is more than the ordinary exercise bike. It offers the standard features of an exercise bike, but offers more programs and guides to help you exercise better. Unique features such as streaming classes and personalized instructors place the bike on another level. You can choose how long you want to work out, compete with friends and other people through the simple console, and choose different pre-loaded themes. Peloton claims to have more than 1 million users. Peloton guides you through the exercise programs and routines to make you better. Features include:• Steel Frame – This is an upright bike that sports a sleek design. Its base occupies a space of 2 x 4 feet, so you can set it up in a small space. The frame is sturdy enough to accommodate users up to 305 pounds. It is also one of the heaviest bikes at 455 pounds, which means you need help setting it up, and it doesn’t wobble during use.
• Adjustable Seat and Handlebar – The seat, handlebar, and screen are adjustable, so you can use them comfortably. The seat is four-way adjustable and so is the handle, allowing users of all heights and sizes between five and seven feet.
• Adjustable Resistance –This unit offers almost-silent belt drive system that lets you exercise without any disruptions. You can adjust the resistance level from the console.
• Advanced Console – Unlike other systems that come with a simple LCD screen, the Peloton Bike sports a 22-inch touchscreen that offers you a clear display of your workout stats, workout programs, and workout instructors. From the screen, you have an on-demand workout library, so you can take a class anytime. It also saves past-performance stats so you can try and beat your previous workout goals. With a leaderboard, you can compete with others.
• Peloton Membership Options – Because Peloton seeks to offer you more, you can subscribe to workout programs and live trainers. The basic membership is the Peloton Membership, which allows you to connect to more than 20 live classes, thousands of pre-loaded classes, unlimited user profiles, live metrics, and a leaderboard. There is also a Digital Membership that adds instructor-customized programs for you.
Pros• Compact construction with a sturdy frame• Thousands of on-demand classes• Instructor-customized live classes• Accommodates up to 305 pounds• Integrates well with other exercise routines such as dumbbells • Easy to use interfaceCons • You need to pay a monthly subscription fee• Heavy frame means you need help setting up
Horizon Fitness Elite IC7
This bike sports a design that accommodates different spinning workouts. It offers a sturdy frame much like what you have on commercial grade bikes. It also offers a friction brake and an exercise meter that makes it easier to use this upright bike. • Durable Steel Frame – This unit features a steel frame that accommodates up to 300 pounds for all sorts of spin workouts. The double coating on the frame makes it corrosion resistant with a scratch resistant powder finish. There are different high-plastic covers on the brake mechanism that adds to the aesthetics of the bike.
• Adjustable Seat and Handlebar – The race-style seat sports a 2-inch foam padding to keep you comfortable. The seat adjusts four-way (up, down, front, and back), and so are the handlebars. This allows the unit to accommodate users between 5 and 6.5 feet. It comes with a multi-grip system with integrated aero bars.
• Advanced Drive and Resistance System – This uses a belt drive system with a heavy belt that offers silent operation. Its flywheel is bi-directional, which means you can cycle in reverse too. This flywheel is 44 pounds, which is one of the heaviest, to deliver a consistent momentum. The pedals are dual-sided with a toe cage on one side, making them easier to use.
• Advanced Console – There is a simple meter that displays simple metrics such as distance, speed, RPM, calories, time, and pulse. On the screen, it shows time and data as well to help you manage your schedules. This console is telemetric to track your heart rate from a chest strap. It works with so many chest straps. You will find the unit easy to operate as there are only two buttons. This meter runs on a 3V battery.
• Easy Assembly – This bike comes almost fully assembled. You will only need to attach the base bars, pedals, console, and handlebars. The process doesn’t take more than 20 minutes, and you have all the tools you need to assemble the unit. There is also a clear instruction to help you assemble the unit fast. The only thing you need is to lubricate the brake using silicone lubricant.
Pros • Accommodates up to 300 pounds• Has transport wheels for easy transportation• 4-way adjustable seat with 2-way adjustable handle for comfort• Comes with accessories such as HR chest strap and water bottle holder• Sports durable metallic and ABS plastic parts• Well-balanced flywheel for smooth operation • Heavy-duty crank to support heavy usersCons• Handlebar limits users by not adjusting back and forth• Pedals lack SPD clips
What are the Benefits of an Exercise Bike?
An exercise bike is a great exercise gear to exercise your whole body. The bike is better than other cardio equipment as it does not strain your joints. Using the stationary bike has a host of benefits including:
• Boosting cardio fitness: Cycling increases your heart beat, thus strengthening your heart, lungs, and muscles. It also enhances the flow of your blood in your body to keep you healthy at all times.
• Lose Weight: Cycling can help you burn up to 600 calories in one hour. This is an easy way to burn calories fast. To lose weight, you need to burn more calories than you consume. In fact, a study conducted in 2010 showed that indoor cycling helps burn a lot of fat when combined with a low-calorie diet.
• Low-Impact on Joints: Unlike other cardio equipment, spin bikes use smooth movements to protect your joints. Running, jogging, and jumping are high-impact exercises that stress your joints. Your feet do not necessarily lift the pedals and this makes the exercise kinder to your joints.
• Strengthen the Lower Body: If you engage in high intensity training, it strengthens the lower body and the muscles, especially the hamstrings, calves, and quadriceps.
• Safer Cycling: Unlike outdoor cycling, indoor cycling does not expose you to hazards such as uneven road surfaces, drunk drivers, and poor visibility. Again, you do not have to deal with elements in the outdoor environment.
Workout Plans with an Exercise Bike
Whether you are using a Schwinn IC3 or Schwinn IC4, the exercise bike gives you a whole body workout that helps you keep fit. If you are just starting, you need to start slowly, and increase the time and intensity gradually. You can exercise for 25 minutes for a start, and then add one minute every day. You also need to switch between high intensity and low intensity exercises. You can pedal at low intensity for the first 10 minutes, switch to high-intensity for 2 minutes, medium intensity for 5 minutes, high intensity again for 2 minutes, medium intensity for five minutes, and finish off with a low-intensity exercise. Most modern exercise bikes come with exercise programs for different fitness levels. These programs can help you in your workout journey. These programs can help you with strength training, weight loss, and interval training.
Types of Exercise Bikes
Although exercise bikes offer almost the same benefits to those working out, there are differences in the designs of the bikes. Whether you pick the best peloton alternative, or a used peloton bike, you will come across any of the three types of exercise bikes below.Exercise bikes can either be upright, dual-action, or recumbent. You can try all the three to get a variety of exercises, or you can pick one based on your fitness level, joint health, and your goals. • Upright Bike – This bike mimics a regular bike to give you an indoor cycling experience that feels more like outdoor cycling. Its pedals rest under your body. The bike is great at providing cardio workout while strengthening your core muscles and your legs. You can cycle standing or sitting, depending on the muscles you need to exercise. Its upright position, however, places pressure on your hands. These bikes also have a small seat that doesn’t offer comfort for long workout sessions.
• Recumbent Bike – A recumbent bike feels more comfortable than an upright bike. It offers a wider seat positioned back away from the pedals. On the bike, you sit in a reclined position. This bike comes in handy when you need less stress on your joints, lower back, and upper body. In a seated position, the bike supports your body, making the exercises less intense. After the exercise, you will feel less fatigued. If you suffer joint issues, or injuries, or you have mobility issues, consider a recumbent bike.
• Dual-Action Bike – This bike doesn’t look anything like a regular bike. Its handlebars move back and forth to exercise your upper body muscles. As you pedal, you move the hands too, and this gives you a full body workout. There are variations of the three types of bikes above as different manufacturers try to create unique products. For instance, an indoor cycling bike sports the same design as an upright bike, but adds an elevated seat. In this bike, a weighted flywheel positioned in the front provides resistance. You can adjust the resistance so that it feels like you are cycling outdoors into the wind or over a hill. Fan and air bikes are also common. These bikes have no programs, and all you do is cycle to create resistance. You start by pedaling slowly and then increase the speed to increase resistance. These are the most affordable bikes, but you may not track your progress on the bike.
How to Stay Safe When Using an Exercise Bike
Although a stationary indoor cycling bike is safer than a regular outdoor bike, you still need to be cautious not to end up with injuries.
For starters, repetitive motion can cause muscle fatigue if you assume the wrong form when cycling. During intense cycling, you need to stay balanced on the bike lest you fall off and injure yourself. To ensure you are safe on an exercise bike, always observe the following:
• Assume proper form while cycling to avoid putting pressure or stress on some parts of the body more than others. You can check exercise bike tutorials online, or work with a professional trainer.
• If you feel pain in your muscles, take a few days break to allow the body to recover before you resume.
• If you just started cycling indoors, you need to take it slow and advance gradually. Do not exert yourself beyond what your body can handle, especially if you are in a group class.
• If you have underlying medical conditions, talk to your doctor before you start exercising on a stationary bike. This is especially important for people with balance issues, blood pressure, heart problems, and joints conditions.
Indoor cycling is a great way to achieve your fitness goals indoors when it rains or the weather outside isn’t favorable. It boosts your muscle strength, helps you lose weight and burn body fat, and feels easy on your joints.
Choose the Best Bike For You: Points to Consider
A drive system determines how an exercise bike feels when you cycle. These systems can either be chain drive or belt drive. The former is common in older bikes with the chain drive system looking like the one on regular bikes. A roller chain turns the bike’s flywheel. The chain further moves over a sprocket where the pedals are. Most modern bikes do not have chain drive systems as they are noisy and they are less durable with fewer training options.
Belt drive systems are the most common on modern bikes. Rubber belts transfer power from the pedals to the flywheel. This doesn’t offer you the same experience as a regular bike, but it feels smoother and operates quietly. You will pay more for a belt drive system than a chain system. However, because belt drive systems are almost everywhere, the cost is not an issue.
The type of resistance determines how your bike feels when you exercise. Bikes run on felt pad friction or magnetic resistance. Friction resistance is where a felt pad presses on the flywheel to offer resistance. This kind of resistance might feel more like cycling on a regular bike, and it is more affordable than a magnetic resistance bike. However, the friction wears the parts of the bike, making the system less durable.
Most mid and high-end bikes use magnetic resistance systems. Instead of a pad that rubs against the flywheel, these systems use magnets closer or further away from the flywheel. The magnet moves closer or further away from the flywheel to vary the resistance. Because there is no contact between the magnets and the flywheel, this system lasts longer.
Flywheels store kinetic energy, which they then transfer to the pedals to keep the motion smooth. Heavyweight flywheels are better if you need more resistance. These wheels store more energy than the lighter wheels. When cycling on a bike with a heavyweight flywheel, the pedals move slower. However, the bikes place a lot of pressure on the knees.
Lighter flywheels may not store much energy, but they use the energy they store more efficiently, thanks to the fast spins. They are a great option if you need a bike that doesn’t feel hard on your knees. Most of the high-end spin bikes sport a lightweight flywheel.
Spin Bike Pedals
The pedals on a bike determine how comfortable you cycle. Pedals can either have single-sided or dual-sided toe cages. The former sports a cage on one side of the pedal, similar to regular bikes. Also referred to as flat pedals, these pedals allow you to hop on and off the bike with so much ease. They are more affordable than dual-sided toe cage pedals, but they offer you less control when you are pedaling, especially during intense exercise sessions.
Dual-sided pedals allow a high degree of pedaling efficiency as they give you control of the cycling. With these pedals, you will operate the bike more efficiently if your shoes have cleats on them. The pedals may not allow you to hop on and off the bike fast, but they give you so much control during intense cycling sessions. The bike can simulate a mountain bike. You can install these pedals on your bike later.
The Q-Factor determines the comfort of a bike. It is the distance between the cranks measured from the outside of one crank arm to the outside of the opposite crank arm. Wide Q-factors are common on most cheaper bikes. Most people find these bikes less comfortable as they strain the hips and the knees.
Narrow Q-factors have the cranks closer together. Most indoor cycling clubs consider narrower Q-factors as they are more comfortable and offer better cycling efficiency. However, avoid bikes with a Q-factor too narrow as that may cause your legs to rub against the seat.
You need to be comfortable throughout your workout. This is where the adjustability of a workout bike comes in. An adjustable spin bike accommodates users of different heights and sizes. Adjustability is an important feature to most users, but not all manufacturers highlight it on their bikes. As such, you might have to check the reviews of the bikes to know which bike suits your needs.
Bikes that allow you to adjust the seat and the handlebar are better as you can customize your comfort. Some bikes only offer vertical seat and handlebar adjustment to accommodate users of different heights. However, if you need more comfort, you need a bike whose seat and handlebars adjust both horizontally and vertically. This kind of adjustability allows everyone in the house to use the exercise bike. With multiple adjustment options, you can also tweak the resistance of a bike for lighter workout or more intense workout.
Bike’s Maximum Weight and Height
How much can a bike handle before breaking or wobbling uncomfortably? Today, most high-end bikes sport sturdy frames to accommodate just about anyone who steps on them. Bikes such as Schwinn come with steel frames that handle enough weight for all users. Bike rated 220 pounds can still accommodate someone who is 250 pounds, but they might wobble uncomfortably. Stronger bikes accommodate at least 350 pounds, and can accommodate users up to 7 feet tall.
Spin Bike Monitors and Technology
If you are on a budget, you will end up with a bike with low-tech monitor. These monitors offer basic performance tracking such as speed, distance, and time. You will miss out on features such as Bluetooth.
High-end bikes come with easy-to-read backlit monitors. The display shows you a host of statistics on your workout. Some of the figures you see on the screen include:
• Rotations per minute
• Calories burnt
• Heart rate
Modern monitors track your heart rate from the handles, so you do not have to wear a chest strap. Most of them also feature Bluetooth connectivity with ANT+ compatibility. With these additional features, you can connect your phone to stay entertained as you work out. Some systems also connect with your phone through an app so that you can keep track of your progress even better. The only downside with high-end bikes is that they are not the most affordable.
When you are torn between Schwinn vs Peloton, or you need the best Peloton alternative, you need to consider your budget first. If you budget allows, go for the best bike you can afford. A versatile bike with four-way adjustability comes in handy for families, as multiple people use the bike. Better yet, a unit with a lot of computer features allows you to track your performance so that you keep improving at every step.
Upright bikes are the most common, which is why there are more on the list above. However, if you have mobility issues, go with the ProForm exercise bike as its recumbent nature means less stress on your joints and muscles. Any of these would make a great pairing with your other home gym equipment.