The top performers in our review are the Proform 8.0 EX, the Gold Award winner; the NordicTrack GX 4.4 Pro, the Silver Award winner; and the Diamondback Fitness 510Sr, the Bronze Award winner. Here’s more on choosing an exercise bike to meet your needs, along with detail on how we arrived at our ranking of 10 products.
Whether you desire a strong cardiovascular workout, want to work out from your own home or want to enjoy biking during the cold, winter months, an exercise bike can be an excellent exercise companion. Stationary bikes provide a vigorous workout without taking up a lot of space in your home gym. Exercise bikes provide workouts that are low-impact, meaning they are easier on your joints than running on a treadmill or on pavement. Alternatively, if you do run, a stationary bike can provide an excellent cross-training complement to your walking or jogging by working different muscles than those activities do. The ultimate stationary bikes are those you find in commercial gyms. Yet few consumers are prepared to spend $1,000 and up, which is what such models generally cost. Our reviews focus on models than cost between $400 and $800. If you are interested in learning more, we have other articles on exercise bikes and their many benefits.
There are three main type of exercise bikes: recumbent, upright and spin. A recumbent bike is designed to provide back support for the user. The pedals are located in front of the rider and the bike is designed with a comfortable seating position. Many of the best exercise bikes provide a seat so you can lean back and recline. Recumbent bikes are recommended for the elderly or those who desire less impact on your joints.
The design of an upright exercise bike is very similar to any commuter bike. However, this type of bike is best suited for someone who can easily move, as you must step onto the bike and up to its seat. Upright bikes are smaller than recumbent bikes, making them better choices if your workout space is tight.
We didn’t test the third kind of home exercise bike, known as spin bikes. These resemble road bikes – lightweight bicycles made for intense, long bike rides – and have price tags much like their road counterparts, typically ranging upward of $800. Ideal only for serious cyclists, spin bikes are less comfortable to use, and many models require you to wear specialized cycling shoes that clip onto the pedals for higher performance.
We compared a variety of recumbent and upright bikes and evaluated what they offered in terms of resistance, workout settings, comfort options and heart rate grips. The following is what we found.
Exercise bikes feature a variety of resistance levels. The higher the level, the more difficult it is to pedal, which results in a more strenuous workout. The range is crucial on an exercise bike, as it allows you to focus your workout on your specific needs, from low to high resistance. Most exercise bikes feature up to 16 resistance levels, while the best bikes feature 20 or more. When adjusting the resistance levels, you can adjust most recumbent and upright bikes electronically using the electronic console on the device.
There are two main types of resistance found on consumer stationary bikes. Magnetic resistance is the most popular option. With this option, the bike features ferrous magnets that surround the bike’s flywheel. These magnets are controlled by the electronic console or the manual dial. All models we reviewed use this type of resistance. Less expensive models, such as those $200 or less, tend to offer friction resistance. With this resistance, a felt or fabric pad presses against the flywheel. However, be aware that this type of bike requires regular maintenance as the pad can quickly become worn down and will need to be replaced.
Many of the best stationary bikes include pre-set workouts programmed into the bike’s system. These pre-set programs can add some versatility to your daily workouts. The workouts are often designed by a personal trainer, and each workout has a specific focus in mind, such as building endurance, burning calories, maintaining a target heart rate or climbing hills. The best exercise bikes have more than 20 workouts programmed into the system, whereas many good products have 10 to 16.
An exercise bike should adjust to meet your specific needs. On the best models, you can adjust the seat both vertically and horizontally to get in a comfortable position for your specific height. However, some models also allow you to adjust the positioning of the handlebars, so you can get the perfect grip for your ride. You may also be able to adjust the console on the bike so no matter your biking position or your height, you can easily view your workout statistics.
Heart Rate Grips
Many of the best products provide powerful heart rate monitors that can give you personal fitness tracking readings. Most products feature a heart rate monitor within the grips of the handlebars. Another option is heart rate monitor straps that you wear on your body, usually on your chest, that are compatible with exercise bikes. These provide the most accurate heart rate readings and fitness tracking information. However, most exercise bikes do not include a heart rate strap, and you must purchase it separately.
Many stationary bikes include several features designed to help you receive an intense, yet enjoyable workout. Here are a few additional factors to consider.
Electronic Display Capabilities
Most recumbent and upright stationary bikes feature an electronic display console where you can control all of the functions and settings on the machine. The console features buttons you can choose to adjust your resistance level or choose from a series of pre-set workouts that are programmed into the machine. The console is also beneficial, as it allows you to view your statistics of the ride. Most consoles will display your fitness tracking data, such as your distance, time, speed, calories burned and heart rate.
Integrated Media Center
You will find that entertainment features are popular on many of the best bikes. Built-in speakers as well as MP3 connectivity are common perks of the newest exercise bikes. Many systems also integrate with mobile apps, such as Google Maps and iFit, which allow you to keep track of courses, manage workouts and view past statistics.
Our top three models boast outstanding comfort and versatility options. All three exercise bikes offer a high number of pre-set workouts and resistance levels to ensure your workouts are never boring.
Additionally, another product to consider is the Diamondback Fitness 510UB. This bike is similar to our number three product, the Diamondback Fitness 510Sr; however, the 510UB features an upright design instead of the 510Sr’s recumbent design. They both boast numerous options for ensuring maximum comfort during the duration of your ride, as well as numerous entertainment features.
Regardless of how in shape you currently are, with the help of an exercise bike you can boost your overall health, improve your fitness and lose weight without placing any extra strain on your body.