6 Best Exercise Bikes to Stay Active Year-Round
Whether you're looking to slim down, lower blood pressure and cholesterol, or just plain feel more awesome, shoppers say these six home exercise bikes are seriously worth a spin.
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The rise of exercise bikes and the home gym
In late 2020, a team of researchers speculated a big drop in Americans’ physical fitness when gyms and studios were forced to close. But their findings, published in Frontiers in Psychology, told a different story: most people maintained or increased their exercise levels during the pandemic by working out at home. According to National Public Radio (NPR), exercise bikes were one of the most popular new additions to Amercians’ living rooms in this pandemic era—in fact, sales grew by 31% in the first quarter of 2020 over the same period the previous year. Today, market research predicts that demand will continue to grow.
“It’s been amazing to see how many people haven’t stopped working out,” said Colleen Conlon, a certified personal trainer and group fitness instructor at Equinox in New York City, after Covid-19 restrictions first fell into place. “I started doing Zoom classes the week after we went into lockdown.” (Looking for virtual fitness classes? Here are trainers’ top picks.)
Another New York City-based personal trainer, Roxie Jones, suggests that today’s wide range of exercise bikes likely played a big role in keeping Americans in shape. “It’s an easy way to stay engaged and accountable with so many digital cycling platforms.” Even more enticing: a review published in 2019 says that using an exercise bike improves a wide range of health metrics, including aerobic capacity, blood fat profiles, blood pressure levels, and body composition. Plus, on average, one 2015 study found that indoor cycling burns a similar number of calories as going for a run—between nine and 10 calories per minute.
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How to choose the best exercise bike for home use
With so many indoor exercise bikes on the market, it’s important to know what to consider when you’re shopping for one. “Quality matters most,” says Joey Foley, owner and founder of Punch Pedal cycling and boxing studio in Brooklyn, NY. “Pay attention to the customer service for the company, too, because the bike will have issues, and you need to be able to get help to troubleshoot.”
Next, you should pinpoint your goals and what you’re looking to get out of an indoor exercise bike. “Make sure you know what you value before spending the money, because not all bikes are created equally,” says Conlon. “Do you want to be able to track wattage and distance? Do you want your bike to be quiet, so no one in your home can hear you working out? Do you want someone on the other side teaching you?”
Figure out if you want movement based on rhythm, power, or if you’re just looking to train for a race or ride. Once you know what you’re looking for, it will help to narrow down the field.
Don’t miss a beat in your workout routine: here are 8 ways to reduce knee pain from indoor cycling
Exercise bikes and on-demand class platforms
A lot of exercise bikes come with on-demand class platforms or are compatible with different apps and platforms. “I would try as many platforms and classes as you can,” suggests Foley. “Then, I would commit to a platform I like best.”
Most apps and platforms have free trials, so give a couple a go before you make a decision. Most are very affordable. “You’re paying for an experience, and knowledge, not to mention staying connected with a community,” says Jones. “It’s worth it if the user enjoys it and can commit to it.”
“Finally, look for a bike that fits your budget and style,” says Foley. But speaking of budget, It’s important to keep in mind that sometimes cost equals quality. “I would invest in the best quality, even though some seem expensive,” says Jones. “I know some people see the high prices and assume it’s too much, but you’re investing in an experience and your health. I’ve also heard of people purchasing cheaper options and using it only a few times before it just begins collecting dust.” Get the most out of it with these exercise bike products that help keep you healthy.
With all this in mind, here are six of the best indoor exercise bikes to help you stay fit year-round.
Budget: Exerpeutic Folding Magnetic Upright Exercise Bike with Pulse
With over 22,000 reviews for a four-and-a-half out of five star average rating on Amazon, there’s no denying that this Exerpeutic bike is a great indoor option. The bike has a larger seat for a more comfortable experience, eight-levels of magnetic resistance, and an LCD display to track your distance, calories burned, time, speed, and pulse (which you can get from the hand sensors in the handlebars).
If you live in a small apartment and have limited space, this bike easily folds up to half the size and can be wheeled into the corner of the room when not in use. (And with that extra floor space, try these at-home workouts for a stronger core.)
Budget: JEEKEE – Recumbent Exercise Bike
If you prefer to sit back and have support behind you while you cycle, consider this recumbent bike from JEEKEE. It offers a workout free from joint pain, with a high backrest, a large soft seat cushion on an adjustable seat, and a comfortable, ergonomic design. It also has 8 levels of magnetic resistance so you can adjust the intensity of your workout, meaning this bike is suitable for everyone, whether you’re in physical therapy and need some light movement, or you’re looking to improve your endurance and build muscle.
It’s also great for all ages and sizes; one 5-star review from James reads, “I’m 68 years old. A recumbent bike is far easier for me to get a decent cardio workout on as I can sit back rather than lean forward. This bike fits the bill nicely, at a reasonable price. It assembled quite easily and has a small footprint. It also has back wheels to facilitate moving it around, and can be stored on end. It is not as large as recumbents at the gyms, but for its size I feel it’s pretty sturdy – and I’m not exactly a ‘lightweight’!”
Mid-Range: Echelon EX-3 Smart Connect Indoor Cycling Bike
Lilitha McSorely, a physiotherapist in Calgary, says this Echelon EX-3 indoor cycling bike is a more budget-friendly option to the trendy-but-pricey Peloton, explaining it comes with similar specifications. “I have two of these exercise bikes in my clinic and am really impressed with them,” she says.
It’s built with a three-way adjustable handlebar and seat, dual sided pedals (so you can use regular athletic shoes or clip-on spin shoes), and offers 32 magnetic resistance levels to get your burn on. You also get a 30-day free trial to Echelon’s catalog of more than 3,000 live and on-demand fitness classes that range from a quick five-minute pick-me-up to 45-minute HIIT classes. (And after those extra-sweaty sessions, trainers swear by this foam roller to accelerate your recovery.)
“Amazing! It’s basically the same high-quality as Peloton at a fraction of the price,” writes user Michele S. “It’s high quality, sturdy, sleek, and easy to assemble and move.”
Mid-Range: YOSUDA PRO Magnetic Exercise Bike
“Our favorite bike under $500 is the YOSUDA bike,” says Nicole Davis, ACE-CPT, a trainer who reviews fitness equipment for Garage Gym Reviews. “It’s priced really well, it’s compact, and has a nice flywheel and micro-adjustable resistance levels.”
This bike’s study design and silent flywheel makes for an ultra smooth, steady riding experience. It also features an LCD monitor that tracks your time, speed, distance, and calories burned as you cycle. Amazon reviewers praise the bike for its seamless functionality, ease-of-use, and YOSUDA’s excellent customer service.
“Well put together, sturdy, and a good fit (I am 6’ 3”), a real value for the price,” writes user ctl. After riding it almost daily, this reviewer ran into an issue and contacted YOSUDA over the matter. “They were prompt and courteous in responding,” they write. “They sent more [replacement] parts than I asked for in order to get a better fix. Wow! Who does that? Needless to say, I am pleased with their fast and excellent customer service. I would recommend this bike highly.”
High-End: NordicTrack S22i Studio Bike
“If you want a great bike with all the bells and whistles, the NordicTrack S22i Studio Bike is one of my top recommendations,” says trainer Stephanie Thomas, ACE-CPT. “It has a 22-inch rotating screen and an auto-adjusting feature for speed and incline.” She also praises NordicTrack’s on-demand iFit classes that help you get—and stay—motivated in your workout routine (and you get a 30-day free iFit membership included). With its smart technology, the bike actually adjusts in sync with the class you’re taking based on the instructor’s cues.
As for the specs, the bike allows for -10 to 20 percent incline, 24 resistance levels, and Bluetooth and wifi connectivity. You can even take rides on routes almost anywhere on Earth thanks to the bike’s Google Maps feature.
User jMO2 says this NordicTrack model has the best features of other top-end bikes like the Peloton, and yet is “worlds apart in other [ways].” “The S22i really does a great job of emulating real-world riding with the ability to incline or decline the bike as conditions dictate,” they write.
High-End: Wahoo KICKR Smart Bike
If you’re a serious rider looking for an indoor bike that is as similar to an outdoor cycling experience as it gets, you’ll want to check out the Wahoo KICKR bike, says Jason Lentzke, an IRONMAN U certified coach. “Wahoo’s shifting and gearing setup is easily the best in the industry, and you will appreciate how quickly you can shift through your drivetrain.”
What does this mean? “You will literally feel like you’re riding your bike outside,” Lentzke says. He also praises the bike’s ability to connect to different indoor cycling apps, like one of his favorites, FulGaz. “[This app] allows you to explore immersive real-world terrain from 40-plus countries and experience the climbs in-real-time,” he says. The KICKR also offers an unmatched -15 to 20 percent incline.
“Best indoor experience I’ve had!” writes user wristen p. “The pedal feel is great and the ERG delay is virtually non-existant. I’m no longer dreading my indoor workouts.”
Beyond the bike: here’s what trainers say are the equipment must-haves for all your at-home workouts
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