Top 10 Exercise Bikes To Spin Up Your Health in 2019
Cardiovascular exercise, or cardio, has many wide-ranging health benefits. A sustained cardio program can help you lose weight, and in particular, belly fat. It can improve your mental acuity, especially brain growth, help with stress prevention, and blocking anxiety and depression disorders. From the name alone, it obviously improves your cardiovascular health, your heart, lungs, and vascular systems. In some studies, it appears to have the capability to actually reverse some heart disease risk factors.
Weight loss, at its most basic, is quite simple – burn more calories than you take in. In other words, to lose weight, create a calorie deficit. This can be done by diet alone, but it is done more efficiently by a combination of diet and exercise. All exercises burn calories, but cardio burns more calories; in some studies, cardio has been shown to burn more than 60% more calories than weight resistance training.
There are two different types of cardio – aerobic and anaerobic. Aerobic exercises like running and biking make your heart work faster, and your lungs take in more oxygen to support that exercise. Anaerobic exercise, like sprinting, make you move quickly and expend available oxygen. While they both expend oxygen, aerobic exercises allow you to sustain the activity for a longer period of time.
But how do you know your aerobic exercise program is actually effective? The effectiveness of aerobic exercise is measured in one way by your heart rate. As you exercise harder, your heart rate increases. For health and personal safety, a maximum heart rate is calculated, which is a function of your age. A simplified formula to calculate your maximum heart rate is 220 minus your age; a forty-year-old would have a maximum heart rate of 180. Now that you know your maximum heart rate, you can also calculate your target heart rate zone. This is calculated as a percentage of your maximum heart rate, normally between 50 and 85%, depending on your fitness level. This lets you know if you are exercising at the right pace and intensity; too low, you lose benefits of cardio exercising, but too high any you put yourself at risk.
So, now that we have a little of the science out of the way, what are the best ways to get started with a cardio program? First, you should check with your physician to make sure that you are healthy enough to begin doing cardio. Assuming you are, then it’s just a matter of starting to move more. Start by taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or parking further away from the store. Take a daily walk. Or begin a formal cardio exercise program. This might be starting a jogging or running program, swimming, etc.
Sounds easy so far, right? Now start to think of all the things that can get in the way of being successful in your cardio workout. The cost of joining a health club or gym. Finding the time to go there and exercise. Avoiding the elements when it comes to walking or running outdoors. There are quite a few barriers that will get thrown up in front of you, no matter how committed you are.
One way to overcome many of these barriers is to have fitness equipment available right in your home. You don’t have to drive to the gym, worry about whether or not it will rain, or find someone to watch the kids. While there are various types of cardio equipment available, such as elliptical machines, treadmills, stair climbers, rowing machines, and several others, we are going to focus here on stationary bicycles, or also known as indoor cycling bicycles.
THE STATIONARY BICYCLE
Why a stationary bicycle? First and foremost, it is an excellent vehicle for a cardio improvement program. A stationary bicycle is a pretty much a “plug and play” option; set it up, sit down, start pedaling. While some upper end models can get a little pricey, when you compare the years of use you will get, to the cost of a gym membership for the same period, they are a great value alternative. Accessibility is important; having a bike in your home allows you to make use of that half hour between getting home and starting dinner, or that free time after you get the kids out the door for school. An exercise bicycle in your home takes inclement weather out of the picture.
Many models of stationary bikes are also set up for multi-tasking. They have holders for your phone or tablet so you can read or listen to music and podcasts while you are exercising. Park it in front of the television to binge watch your favorite series. Many have built in monitors for heart rate, speed, distance, and pulse, and others have pre-programmed cardio exercises built in to help you stay within your target heart range. An example of a stationary bike is shown below.
All in all, stationary bicycles are an excellent, efficient way to begin and sustain a cardiovascular improvement program.
Fact Sheet – Product Comparison Table
Here, we will take a high-level look at the ten different stationary bicycles we are going to review in this article. You’ll get a brief description of the bike, a price range indication, and a quality/value rating of the bike, derived from the selling web site, and compiled from reviews by customers who have purchased that particular model. Later in the article, I’ll throw in my comments on each of the models, their overall functionality, and then recommend one or more as “best of the best. We’ll also take a look at several key features and functionalities of the bikes, and discuss how they may help structure your purchasing decisions when you are ready to pull the trigger on an exercise bicycle.
Pooboo Indoor Cycling Bike
|40# flywheel for smooth, stable riding. LED monitor to track exercise data.||(5 / 5)||$$|
|2||L NOW Indoor Cycling Bike||Belt driven, 44# flywheel. Adjustable resistance, built for commercial use.||(5 / 5)||$$$$|
|3||Schwinn Airdyne Pro||Air resistance technology, programmable workout options, large LED display panel||(4.9 / 5)||$$$$|
|4||Concept 2 BikeErg||Air resistance flywheel, self-adjusting resistance, LED display panel||(4.8 / 5)||$$$$|
|5||Pyhigh Indoor Cycling Bike||Adjustable tension settings on 35# flywheel, LCD monitor for exercise tracking||(4.6 / 5)||$$|
|6||BulbHead Slim Cycle 2-in-1 Stationary Bike||Sets up as recumbent and upright model, arm resistance bands for full body workout||(4.6 / 5)||$$|
|7||Ideer Life Exercise Bike||24# magnetic resistance flywheel, 4 removable wheels for transport and storage||(4.2 / 5)||$|
|8||Schwinn AD7 Airdyne Bike||Training programs included, wind resisted flywheel, movable arm support for full body workout||(4.2 / 5)||$$$$|
|9||Stamina Elite Total Body Recumbent Bike||Recumbent design, 8 levels of magnetic resistance, movable hand pedals allow for additional exercise||(4.1 / 5)||$$$|
|10||Efitment Indoor Cycle Bike||48# flywheel with adjustable resistance, performance monitoring||(3.6 / 5)||$$|
You’ve decided on buying an indoor exercise bicycle, but what features and specifications are most important in the buying decision? Like buying a car, some models will be lacking features you want, others will have features you don’t need or want. Exercise bikes are going to be much the same. We’ve identified many here for further discussion; once you’ve gone through them, you can decide where they fit in your personal priority scale while making your decision.
There are three basic types of resistance in an exercise bike. Friction resistance comes from putting brake pads against the flywheel. As you push the pads tighter against the flywheel, it requires more and more energy from you to turn the flywheel, resulting in a stronger cardio workout. The second type is air resistance. Here the flywheel has a series of fins to catch the air. As you pedal faster, the movement of the air over and through the fins creates a higher degree of resistance, again increasing your cardio benefit. The third type is magnetic resistance. Electromagnetic magnets are used to create resistance, caused by the same polarity being matched up in two magnets. Passing greater amounts of electric current through the magnets increases the resistance, requiring you to expend more energy to overcome the resistance. You’ll find proponents of all three types, but typically the friction-type resistance is going to be on the lower end priced bikes.
The overall weight will give you an indication of two elements. First, the overall strength and durability of the bike – a heavier bike will tend to feature steel construction (versus aluminum, or even engineered plastics), which will make it stronger, and also increase the overall weight capacity for the user. This same steel construction, however, will decrease the portability of the bike, as you will be a lot less likely to move a 300# exercise bicycle from room to room.
Where you use and store the bike will be impacted to at least some degree by the footprint of the bicycle. If the bike has a relatively small footprint, and can be folded down somewhat to facilitate storage, it can be used pretty much anywhere. Conversely, a heavy bike, with no folding capability and a large footprint, is going to tend to stay in one place all the time. Depending on whether or not you will have dedicated space, footprint may be a vital category for you.
Materials of construction
We talked about materials of construction a little bit in the “weight” section, but they have implications beyond just the strength and durability of the bike. They can also have impact depending on where the bicycle will be used. If you are using it in a climate-controlled setting, like inside your house, there is really no downside to any of the materials. However, if you plan on leaving the bike outside in your garage and using it there, materials of construction do become an issue. With the changes in temperature and humidity, it opens up the possibility of corrosion and rust on the bicycle. So, a steel construction, or steel chain on the bike, may potentially cause you some issues.
Do the words “some assembly required” make you break out in a cold sweat? Some of these bikes come fully assembled, and some are assembled by the consumer. Some of these models charge a fee for assembly by the seller, which helps him offset the additional shipping costs of a fully assembled exercise bicycle.
Every model here has some level of resistance adjustment. As noted earlier, the greater the resistance, the more energy you must output to move the flywheel. Some of these models automatically adjust resistance based on your output (the faster you pedal, the higher the resistance), others involve turning a small knob or dial to manually adjust the dial, while a few have specialized programs to simulate a real bicycle ride, and adjust resistance automatically to simulate hills, curves, and faster speeds.
Full body workout
While every model here will give you a cardio workout, and help strengthen your leg muscles, some of these exercise bikes allow you the ability to move your arms while pedaling, thereby giving you a full body workout, burning more calories in the same period of time, and increasing the aerobic benefits of the exercise.
It may not seem so important, but the comfort of the seat on your model is going to go a long way in determining whether you stick with your exercise program, or whether your exercise bike becomes a very expensive clothes hanger. The seat should be large enough for full support, and well-padded for comfort. Some models allow for optional seats to be purchased and used in place of the standard seat.
Maximum user weight
No matter how heavy duty the construction, each of these bikes has a recommended maximum user weight. This may or may not be a consideration for you in your purchase decision, but it is a specification that should be verified before signing the final papers or hitting the “send” button.
This is another factor in the overall resistance calculation, as a heavier flywheel will provide greater resistance than a lighter one. Flywheels range from the mid-twenties to high-forty-pound weights. Heavier flywheels also tend to give a smoother, more stable ride, with less vibration.
We talked about this a little in the “resistance” session. Some of these bikes have built in programs where you can choose a simulated hill course, an interval program (where you vary your speed and intensity for specific time periods), and increased resistance, as in riding against the wind. The truly sophisticated programs will actually match your riding to a specific racing course, such as those from the Tour de France.
Many of these models feature performance statistics packages, where the bicycle automatically measures pre-defined outputs from your ride. These outputs can include speed, distance, pulse, heart rate, calories burned, and time. To measure heart rate, some bikes will have built-in sensors in the hand grips, while others will work with a separate heart rate monitor and a Bluetooth connection. Many will track historical data so you can monitor your performance over time.
While model specific, virtually all models offer some type of warranty. Features typically warrantied are frame, parts, electrical systems, and labor (where the bicycles have been assembled by the supplier).
Users will look for some level of storage on the bike. Commonly sought features include a hanging rack for a workout towel, water bottle storage, and a shelf or rack for your phone or tablet. The distractions of listening to music or watching a movie while exercising make the time go by faster, and a more enjoyable exercise session.
Every exercise bicycle has some mechanism to transfer the rotation of the pedals to the rotation of the flywheel; this is the drive chain, similar to the transmission in an automobile. The drive mechanism may be steel chain, leather, polymer or plastic belts.
This can be a critical measurement for a household of differently sized people using the same bicycle. At best, both the seat and handle will have a four-way adjustment capability – up, down, forward, and backward. In some models, only the seat will have a four-way adjustment, with the handles having two way, up and down.
Several of these models come with optional equipment. The most popular options will be special pedals, or clips for the existing pedals, optional seats with extra size and padding, and wind deflectors for those bikes with air resistance, so the air is not blown back into your face.
Yes, I understand. No matter how much you say it won’t matter, it always does to some extent. I prefer to think of it as value rather than price – the combination of price and features that makes that particular model attractive to you. I try to derive the value from things I must have (comfortable seat), things that are nice to have (programmable workouts and performance modeling), and “bells and whistles”, features I really have no use for (storage, full body workout). List out each feature here, classify it according to my scale, and normally one or two models will jump out as best for you.
MAKING YOUR DECISION
So far, we’ve had a fairly detailed review of what is important in an exercise bicycle, and a high-level review of ten different models of exercise bikes. We’ve also seen what real customers think of them, and classified the ten into different prices ranges so you can see how they fit into your budget.
You should now see how all these elements come together – price, functionality, features, and specifications. Let’s take a detailed, model-by-model look at each of them now. We can then come up with the best exercise bikes from this group.
Top 10 Best Cycling Bikes
Featuring a large, 40-pound flywheel, this unit should have excellent stability and a smooth ride. With a 35” x 17” footprint and 108-pounds, this bike will support up to 330-pounds of rider weight. A large LED screen let’s you track and view six different functions. Storage capability for tablets, water bottles, towels, and anything else you might need.
Features and Specifications:
- The unit has a four-way adjustable seat for rider comfort. Handlebars also adjust four ways to fit any height rider comfortably.
- The bike has a steel drive chain and cupped pedals to simulate an outdoor bike ride.
- Resistance can be easily adjusted with the turn of a knob, even while riding.
- A 5.0 rating with a $$ price makes this an excellent value exercise bicycle.
- The tracking capabilities let’s you see your performance in real time, and helps you improve your overall cardio workout by staying in target heart rate zones.
- The bike has a wide base for stability, and wheels for easy movement from place to place.
- The exercise bike is shipped unassembled, or can be assembled for an additional charge.
- No warranty information is given, but two and three-year warranties are available for purchase.
This bike is at the very top end of the $$ price range, and would easily go over that with assembly and additional warranty coverage. Reviews are limited, but all are very favorable. The heavy-duty steel frame and chain drive system should offer solid construction and good durability.
This heavy-duty, 135-pound bike is built for commercial applications, so should easily be able to stand up to at-home usage. The ergonomic polyurethane seat, with the steel construction, will support a 350-pound rider. Four-way adjustable seat and handlebars make it easy for multiple users to enjoy the exercise cycle.
Features and Specifications:
- This exercise bicycle comes with a heavy duty 44-pound flywheel for stability and solid weight friction resistance and a leather belt drive.
- A 3.5” LCD screen makes it easy to monitor vital statistics simultaneously. Sensors in the handle grips allow heart rate monitoring in real time.
- The frame has four-corner adjustments for stability even on uneven flooring, and has transport wheels for easy movement.
- The commercial specifications and full adjustment capabilities make this a great bike for a multi-person household.
- The resistance control knob is adjustable while riding, and micro- resistance adjustments are possible. Pushing the resistance knob down immediately stops the flywheel.
- The bike is available in two colors, and standard seat and pedal configurations allow for retro-fit to different seats or pedals.
- The bicycle is shipped unassembled; assembly is available at additional cost to the purchaser.
- No warranty information is available on the exercise bicycle.
Given that this bicycle is a commercial grade model, the $$$$ price tag should not scare anyone away that is looking for a high-use cycle. The lack of warranty information is a little off-setting, but hopefully can be obtained from the manufacturer. The bike features full feature availability, without adding a bunch of extra cost and unnecessary functionality.
Schwinn made their first bicycle all the way back in 1895, and is still active in the marketplace today. This exercise bike is an excellent example of their commitment to the sport, featuring a 26-blade air resistance flywheel. It allows up to nine programmable workouts, so you can maximize your cardio benefits. Several options for the bike are shown which would drive it well into $$$$ country.
Features and Specifications:
- With a 42” x 20” footprint and a moisture repellent steel frame, this bike will support a rider up to 350-pounds.
- A large LCD screen monitors seven different metrics of your performance.
- Movable handle bars allow for a full-body workout.
- This bike comes with a very competitive ten-year frame, two-year parts, and six-month labor warranty.
- Standardized clamp and rail fittings allow for easy change-out to your choice of customized pedals or seats if desired.
- Resistance is automatically adjusted based on the force you exert on the pedals. The single belt drive transmission allows efficient energy transfer to the flywheel.
- Some users commented on a couple difficulties with the assembly of the bike.
- Specifications list the seat as oversized and padded, but some users complained of the comfort level.
With Schwinn, you know you will be buying from a manufacturer that knows bikes, and has over a century of staying power in that market. This is a solid well-built bicycle, but starts to get into the “bells and whistles” category, with some base functionality and several options that may or not appeal to riders.
With a 48” x 24” footprint and aluminum frame, this bike weighs in at a light 58-pounds, yet still supports a 300-pound rider. It features a four-way adjustable seat and two-way adjustable handlebars, and allows easy change out to customized equipment the user may desire. It features an air resistance flywheel, with self-adjusting resistance.
Features and Specifications:
- The flywheel has an adjustable damper, that let’s you regulate the amount of air entering the flywheel to simulate real-life situations such as hill climbs.
- The performance monitor captures several key exercise metrics, and is also compatible with Bluetooth technology wireless heart rate belts. Statistics are stored in the monitor so performance over time can be monitored.
- The bike features high strength polygroove belts for long life and a quieter ride.
- The manufacturer also makes indoor rowing and ski machines, and has proven familiarity with air resistance technology.
- This exercise cycle is supported by a five-year frame warranty, and a two-year warranty on parts.
- With its lightweight frame and wheels for easy transport, this is truly a portable bike. The special powder coating and aluminum frame give the bike strong corrosion resistance.
- The bike does not have the ability for arm work, so full-body workouts are not possible.
- The lack of front to back seat adjustment was a concern for some customers.
- The bike has a small cradle for storage. It will work with a phone, but is to small to set a tablet there.
A 4.8 quality review and a high $$$$ price may scare some away from this bike, but it does show a 5.0 rating on a different site (although a limited sample of reviewers). Overall a functional bike, with nice Bluetooth features, but probably not the best value of the bikes in this list.
This bicycle comes with a 35-pound flywheel with friction resistance. Four-way seat and two-way handlebar adjustments allow a good level of user customization. The 40” x 22” footprint is fairly compact, and the included wheels make it easy to move. The LCD monitor allows for five different metrics.
Features and Specifications:
- This stationary bike features easy resistance adjustment just by turning a dial, and pressing down on it lets you make an emergency stop.
- The 79-pound frame supports user weights up to 280-pounds.
- The bike features belt drive with friction flywheel resistance, and a digital monitor tracks six different workout measures.
- Relatively lightweight with a compact footprint, the bike also has wheels for easy movement to other rooms or for storage.
- Anti-slip pedals with toe cages and straps offer increased safety while working out.
- Based on user reviews, this bike is not adjustable enough to work for taller riders (6’3” male specifically mentioned, and seller points out height under 6’1” is needed).
- Speed and distance measures are in kilometers and cannot be changed to miles. There is no heart rate measurement functionality with this model.
- Storage for water bottle and phone but nothing large enough for tablet.
As we start to creep down into $$ price range, we also are seeing features that are standard on other bikes disappearing, such as the heart rate monitor. This unit has some fairly tight size limitation issues, which could make it unusable for taller riders. All in all, it might be a good starter cycle, but there are better values in our list.
This is a two-in-one bicycle, which converts from an upright stationary bike into a recumbent (more of a flat, laying-down position) cycle. It features built-in arm resistance bands, for extra cardio burn and a full body workout, supported by a built-in heart rate monitor. Magnetic resistance offers eight different resistance settings.
Features and Specifications:
- This bicycle is lightweight and convertible to a recumbent bike for easier pedaling. It also folds almost flat for easy storage when you don’t have the space to leave it set up all the time.
- The built-in sensors allow you to monitor your heart rate to stay in the proper fitness zone while working out. A digital display tracks other key exercise metrics.
- Adjustable tension resistance bands let you work out your arms and upper body while pedaling, giving additional cardio benefits in less time.
- This exercise bicycle comes with a free phone app, that gives you access to live training classes.
- Convertibility from upright to recumbent postures lets you work different muscles at different intensities.
- While it will block the digital monitor, there is a place to put your tablet while exercising.
- Maximum body weight supported is 250 pounds, which may not be suitable for some users.
- Based on the limits of the seat adjustments, the cycle may not be suitable for shorter users (around five feet).
If you are having difficulty making up your mind between an upright or stationary exercise bicycle, this might be the answer for you. It’s fairly lightweight, and folds down to 16” wide for storage, but may not be right for very large or very small users. The $$ price makes it suitable for first time purchasers.
This bicycle has a 24-pound, magnetic resistance flywheel, powered by a quiet belt-driven mechanism. It has a large platform that could support a water bottle or drink cup and everything from a phone all the way up to a laptop. A four-way adjustable seat, and height adjustable handle bars offer comfortable, user specific settings.
Features and Specifications:
- A built-in, six feature LCD monitor lets you view your exercise statistics on a real-time basis. Heart rate sensors are also included.
- Transport wheels and fold in pedals and stabilizers make for easy storage.
- The exercise bicycle comes with eight levels of resistance settings.
- This is a lightweight bike with all basic features and functionality at a low $ price. It does not have a large footprint, and folds down for easy storage in smaller areas.
- This bike has a shock absorbing system, which helps absorb vibration while providing extra support to the rider.
- The cycle comes with a one-year warranty.
- Most user complaints are around seat comfort, and the lack of front to back handlebar adjustment.
- There is some confusion on the specifications on the web site, as one place cites maximum rider weight of 330-pounds, while another says 220-pounds.
As we move into the $ and $$ price ranges, the quality ratings seem to drop correspondingly. If you go back and look at the section on features, it gets harder and harder to find the corresponding information on the web sites. This is the only $ exercise cycle on our list, and, while the features overall are not bad, I would caution the user that you get what you pay for.
This is a real beast, featuring the historic Schwinn name, and clocking in at 132-pounds, and the support and stability for a 350-pound rider. Featuring a five-year frame warranty, it is built to last. With a single belt drive and infinite resistance settings for an air resistance fan, it will definitely fuel your cardio needs.
Features and Specifications:
- A four-way adjustable seat and multi-position hand grips offer comfortable workout positions. Moveable arm bars support a full body workout.
- This cycle has built in interval and target programs, and heart rate level indicators that support both aerobic and anaerobic cardio exercises.
- A built-in console keeps track of seven different exercise measurements.
- The Schwinn name has been known and respected in cycling for over one hundred years.
- Progressive wind resistance increases the intensity of your workout as you pedal harder.
- Excellent warranty for the bike, including one year on parts and 90 days on labor.
- Most of the lower customer reviews related to assembly difficulty, lack of Bluetooth functionality, and no storage rack or table for a tablet. Storage is provided for phone and water bottle.
I was somewhat surprised to see a fairly low 4.2 rating on this bike, compared to a 4.9 on the similar Airdyne Pro. Both have similar features, and the Pro offers a slightly better warranty, as it is built more for the commercial market. With a few $$ bikes having similar or better ratings, I would not buy this bike without an opportunity to try it out in advance.
This is a recumbent exercise bicycle, designed to relieve pressure by allowing you to sit at an angle rather than vertically. The bike has a multi-function display, and heart rate sensors in the handles that will feed information to the display. The seat is adjustable forward and backward, up and down; however, the back of the seat is not adjustable.
Features and Specifications:
- This is a fairly heavy bike, at just over 120-pounds, but has wheels to assist in moving it from place to place.
- Available hand pedals allow you to have an upper body workout with resistance, but they do not work in conjunction with pedaling; you have to choose one or the other. You cannot set resistance for both at the same time.
- There are eight different levels of magnetic resistance, and the monitor tracks five different metrics to see your output.
- Full-sized, padded seat is much more comfortable that a standard bicycle seat.
- Free assembly is included with the purchase of this exercise bicycle.
- Major complaints from users that resistance cannot be applied to the foot pedals and arm pedals at the same time.
- With a $$$ price tag, a lot of functionality seems to be missing – greater functionality in tracking metrics, holder for phone or tablet, adjustable seat back, etc.
- Maximum body weight is 250-pounds, which may be too light for some riders.
There appears to be a love-hate response to this exercise cycle. Several one-star reviews, and several five-star reviews, averaging out to a 4.1. With the price at the high end of the $$$ range, and the features at the low end, this does not appear to be a good overall value.
This bike has various weight flywheels available; this summary is based on the 48-pound wheel. It is belt driven, with leather pad friction resistance. A four-way adjustable seat is featured, with two-way adjustable hand grips. Handles have pulse grips to measure your heartbeat, and an LCD monitor displays six vital signs as you exercise.
Features and Specifications:
- The bike has a 51” x 20” footprint, and, with the 48-pound flywheel, weighs 123-pounds, supporting up to a 275-pound user.
- Transport wheels make for easy movement from location to location.
- The bike features a belt drive, micro-adjustment magnetic resistance system.
- Adjustable seat, pedals, and handlebars make for a customized, comfortable ride. Handlebars have built-in heart rate monitors.
- The heavy flywheel will really push the users, and should amplify training results.
- Most users are very complimentary about the ease of assembly and adjustments to allow for multiple users.
- The 3.6 rating is easily the lowest rating of the ten exercise bicycles listed here. Well over 1/3 of users rated the bike 3 or below, with most complaining about the noise of operation.
- While it has a holder for a water bottle, there is no storage for tablet or phone on the bike frame.
Overall, users judged the quality of this bike to be insufficient, mentioning the noisy ride, light frame, and poor customer support. With three cheaper bikes than this one on the list having a higher rating, this just is not a good value. The other ones may have their own issues, but you would still spend less money than on this model.
Before we render our decision, let’s look back at how we got to this point. We began by talking about exercise in general, and cardiovascular exercise, or cardio, in particular. We covered why cardio is important in your overall health and fitness goals, how cardio works within your body, and why it is so effective.
We then switched gears a little, and reviewed how a stationary bike, or exercise bicycle, is a good fit in a cardio program. We talked about easy access for use in your own home, to avoid trips to the gym. Following this, we did a helicopter view of ten different exercise cycles, looking at their best features, quality rating, and pricing.
This led us into a discussion on the features and specifications of an exercise bicycle. We detailed out each one, and explained why it might or might not be important to you, and relevant to your decision on buying an exercise cycle. After a detailed review of each of the ten bikes – what’s good about them, what’s not so good about them, and what are the overall impressions of the bike – we’re now ready to narrow down the selection to one or two bikes deemed to be the best values. Here we go.
Let’s look at this from the perspective of two different buyers. Our first buyer is just starting a cardio program, and has decided an exercise bicycle would be a good investment for him. There is still some nagging doubt whether he will be able to sustain this exercise, so spending a fortune on a bike is out of the question for him. He does want some standard functionality, but is not willing to spend extra on what he deems are “bells and whistles”.
Our second buyer comes at this decision from a different angle. He already has a successful cardio program underway, and wants to maintain it. Maybe he had a cheaper bike he’s already worn out, or wants one with more features. Maybe he’s been an outdoor exerciser and now wants to work out in the comforts of home. In any case, he wants to buy a bike. Within reason, money is not an issue, but he wants good value for the money he spends.
Let’s start with our novice biker. He’s done his research, and knows working out within a target heart range will improve the overall effectiveness of his exercise. He’s a bigger guy, a little overweight, so a sturdy frame and decent user weight allowance are important also. The idea of sitting on a bike seat for a while has him worried, so comfort is also key on his list. Finally, he has a hard and fast budget of $500, but does not necessarily want to spend that much and find end up with a clothes rack in six months.
We have five exercise bicycles that fall into his category:
- Pooboo Indoor Cycling Bike, Exercise Bike
- PYHIGH Indoor Cycling Bike Belt Drive Stationary
- EFITMENT Indoor Cycle Bike, Cycling Trainer
- BulbHead Slim Cycle 2-in-1 Stationary
- IDEER LIFE Exercise Bike Indoor
With the second highest price, and the (far and away) lowest quality rating, it’s a fairly quick decision to remove the EFITMENT Indoor Cycle from consideration. Users did not like the clunky, noisy ride, and, while if had a heavy flywheel, the rest of the bike did not appear to be very substantial. Our user doesn’t break the 275-pound limit of this bike, but he’s close enough to it that he is worried about the overall strength and stability of this model.
Because it has the only $ price out there of our bikes, the IDEER catches the eye of our buyer. The bike has a fairly light, 24-pound flywheel, which may make it difficult to exert enough energy to stay in the target zone for heart rate. It does have decent features, but the large table looks a little clunky. While it’s portable and stores easily, there are concerns about the conflicting user weight capacity, handlebar adjustment, and seat comfort. Let’s set this one off to the side for a minute.
The BulbHead and the Pyhigh are with the price of two coffees of each other, so no real decision point there. They both have the same 4.6 rating, so again no differentiator. The BulbHead offers an app for live training classes, which is a good “nice to have” for a beginner. The weight limit is only 250-pounds, however. It is convertible to a recumbent bike, and allows both upper and lower body exercises. The Pyhigh goes up to 280-pound capacity, has a 35-pound flywheel and a four-way adjustable seat, but requires learning the metric system for some of the exercise measurements.
These bikes each appear to cover the basics, and both have different advantages and disadvantages. Neither, however, to my eye, really distinguishes itself over the other. Given the price advantage of the IDEER, let’s drop both of these, keep the IDEER on the list, and move over to our last model, the Pooboo.
This model is just barely within the $$ threshold, and is double the price of the IDEER. However, with a 5.0 quality rating, it is worth looking at in more detail. A 40-pound flywheel will provide plenty of resistance, and a six feature LED display will allow real-time readings of speed, heart rate, etc. The steel construction and large footprint indicate durability and stability, and it has a lot of space for tablets, towels, water and so on. There are no real negatives, although the manufacturer does need to be contacted to check on the warranty period.
That leaves us with the lowest and highest priced models of the group, one with a perfect 5.0 rating and the other a somewhat low 4.2. To me the decision comes to this – get the low end model, live with it for a while, make sure it will get used, and accept somewhat lesser functionality, or, pay the extra money, get a higher quality unit, better features, and pray you don’t get tired of it in a month. There is a high level of individuality in this type of decision, but, in my case, I would be a lot more likely to keep using a higher priced model than a lower priced one. It would just be too easy to walk away from the IDEER the first few times I didn’t feel like exercise.
My pick, therefore, is to buy the Pooboo Indoor Cycle.
Let’s move on to the experienced cardio warrior. He’s ready to upgrade, hopefully to a lifetime bike. Primary features for him are going to be strength and stability of the bike, cardio monitoring features, warranty, and enhancements like programmable workout routines. This leaves our remaining list of bicycles as:
- Stamina Elite Total Body Recumbent Bike
- SCHWINN AIRDYNE PRO
- L NOW Indoor Cycling Bike Stationary
- Schwinn AD7 Airdyne Bike
- CONCEPT 2 BIKEERG
We’ll begin with the only $$$ bike on the list, the Stamina Elite. The first thing that catches the eye is the relatively low 4.1 customer rating. When strength, stability, and warranty are on our shopping list, this is a definite red flag. It has a low 250# rider limit, and no storage for tablet or phone. While the recumbent style is intriguing, and it does offer upper and lower body workouts, but not at the same time. Bottom line – you’d be better off dropping down to the Pooboo, the winner of our first cycle, then selecting this bike. This one goes to the curb.
Let’s look at the two Schwinn products – the Airdyne Pro and the AD-7. Schwinn has been making bicycles for over one hundred years, therefore a big plus for both models. The Pro is the pricier of the two, but brings with it a 4.9 rating, versus a 4.2 for the AD-7. The AD-7 has a five-year warranty, has programmable workouts, and a tracking unit for seven different exercise metrics. Users complained about the lack of Bluetooth functionality, and the fact it did not have much in the way of storage for tablets, phones, etc.
The Pro model, which seems to be geared toward commercial use, has a ten-year warranty, so very well could be a “lifetime” bike for our buyer. It’s rated for a 350-pound rider, so strength and stability seem to be a non-issue. It’s also programmable for exercise routines, and tracks seven metrics and an upper body workout capability. Some customers complained about the seat comfort level, but it is an easy change out to a different seat model if desired.
Comparing these two, the Pro seems to be the big brother – a little bigger, stronger, and with more features. With a commercial grade warranty, you are not likely to be looking for another bike any time soon, so it might be worth paying the extra money. For me, we table the Pro for future discussion, and dismiss the AD-7 from the possibilities.
The Concept 2 is also highly rated at 4.8, bringing with it a high $$$$ price also. It weighs in at only 58-pounds, thanks to the air resistance flywheel and an aluminum frame construction. It comes with a five-year warranty, and supports Bluetooth technology so a wireless heart monitor can be used with it. While the seat adjusts four ways, the handlebars only move up and down, leading to comfort issues for some users. While you can store past workout statistics, it does not have the capability for upper body workouts, and there is limited storage available, none for a tablet.
With the price one of this virtually equal to the Schwinn Pro, you can’t help but compare the two side by side. Even ignoring the name, Schwinn is a clear winner with the better rating, warranty, and upper body workout capabilities. Say goodbye to the Concept 2.
To recap, we have the Schwinn Airdyne Pro still in the hunt, and the last remaining entry, the L Now exercise bicycle. The L Now comes in with a 5.0 rating, and can save you a Benjamin versus the Airdyne Pro. It will support a 350-pound rider, and has 4-way seat and handlebar adjustment should provide a comfortable ride for any size user. A little off-setting is that there is no warranty mentioned for what is advertised to be a commercial model. Overall, I don’t think this would be a bad choice.
In the interest of full disclosure, the fact that Schwinn has been making bicycles since the 1890s carries a lot of weight with me. Not to mention my first bike was a fire engine red Schwinn. So, for me, even though it costs a little more, I’d put my money on the Schwinn Airdyne Pro. You can decide how much of the evaluation is subjective vs. objective. I will say that any of the top three would make a fine exercise bicycle.
Hopefully this has been informative, and helps you decide on an exercise bicycle for your personal use. If not, you can always tell me to “pedal” my advice elsewhere.