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May 20, 2022
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Best exercise bikes {year}: how to choose the right bike for you

Best exercise bikes {year}: how to choose the right bike for you

(Image credit: Getty)

Having one of the best exercise bikes in your home gym can really lift your workout routine. These machines are great for burning through calories – and regular sessions on your bike could even help to improve your VO2 max. 

Exercise bikes don’t have to be expensive, either – there are plenty of great budget options to choose from. We really rate the Yosuda Indoor Stationary Cycling Bike and the Sunny Health and Fitness SB1002 Bike, which are both under $400.

At the other end of the scale, you can find models like the Peloton Bike and the Echelon Connect EX3. These cost over $1000, but they come with a lot more features – such as cadence trackers and special subscription platforms. 

If you’re looking for more tips on cycling gear, we’ve also got a round-up of the best shoes for Peloton and a run down of the top exercise bikes on sale. But if you’re simply searching for the very best machines available, then read on.

Best for home workouts

(Image credit: Louise Carey)

This model has motivating classes both on and off the bike

Specifications

Dimensions: 59” x 53” x 23”

Weight: 135lbs / 61kg

Max user weight: 297lbs (134kg)

Max height: 6’4”

Display?: 21.5” color touchscreen

Resistance levels: 100

Pedals: Look Delta-compatible cleats (clip in)

Workouts: Live and on-demand via Peloton app (subscription required)

Reasons to buy

+

Stunning build 

+

Large HD screen 

+

No complicated setup required 

Reasons to avoid

Expensive

Monthly subscription for classes

Cycling shoes needed

If you’ve ever had a passing interest in fitness, the likelihood is that you’ve heard the Peloton name more than once. Peloton is known for its high-end fitness equipment, and the Peloton Bike was one of the key products that kickstarted its empire. This exercise bike features a sturdy, robust frame with a sleek design that doesn’t look out of place in even the most stylish living rooms. Plus, the large HD touchscreen delivers an immersive experience, streaming an extensive variety of workouts into your home.

If you’re a fan of spin-style workouts, but you don’t have the time or inclination to travel to a spin studio, then the Peloton Bike combined with the Peloton All-Access Membership App delivers the perfect halfway house experience. You’ll have all the fun and excitement of a lively in-person class and, while not quite a replacement for exercising with other people, the leadership board helps to add a competitive, community-based aspect as well. 

However, for this premium experience, you do have to pay a fittingly premium price. The upfront cost for the Peloton Bike itself is already more expensive than most exercise bikes, but when you add in the monthly membership cost for the app ($39 / £39 / AU$59), this will potentially price many people out. 

Best budget exercise bike

(Image credit: Future)

This cheap exercise bike is surprisingly sturdy and comes with an extra-comfy seat

Specifications

Dimensions: 40.5” x 21.5” x 45”

Weight: 68.8lbs / 31.2kg

Max user weight: 270lbs (122kg)

Max height: 6’

Display?: Basic 1” x 2” LCD display

Resistance levels: Infinite

Workouts: None

Pedals: Standard toe cage

Reasons to buy

+

Smooth belt driven flywheel

+

Good value

+

Sturdy

Reasons to avoid

Basic display

No programmed workouts

Limited features

Despite its low price, the Yosuda is a solid little machine that can withstand some vigorous workouts. You have to do a bit of heavy lifting and set-up with this model (it weighs 73lbs and took us 45 minutes to assemble) but once it’s built, you’ll have a nice bike that should last you for a long time.

We were taken aback by how comfortable the seat was – we actually preferred it to most other models, including the Peloton. We were also impressed with how smooth the ride felt when you’re on it – and it’s whisper quiet too, so you won’t irritate your neighbours.

At this price you won’t find many flashy features. The bike can display your calories, distance, time and speed, but it won’t show your actual cadence. The dated looking console is also very small, so if you’re short-sighted you might have to squint to see the metrics. 

There is a device holder, so if you’ve subscribed to a cycling platform you can watch your favorite classes on your phone or tablet. The pedals are a cage-design, so you can wear whatever trainers you like when you hop on. This does mean that you’re not experiencing the most efficient riding, as your up-strokes won’t be powering the pedals in the same way they do when you’re clipped in, but it does save you the expense of buying some new cleats.

Overall, a great option for this price; we had very few complaints. 

Best Peloton competitor

(Image credit: Maddy Biddulph)

An immersive riding experience – for less than a Peloton

Specifications

Dimensions: 59” x 23” x 53”

Weight: 105lbs / 48kg

Max user weight: 300lbs (136kg)

Max height: 6’8”

Display?: No

Resistance levels: 32

Pedals: Double sided: SPD compatible (clip in) / cage pedals

Workouts: Live and on-demand via Echelon Fit app (subscription required)

Reasons to buy

+

Great choice of workouts

+

App can be used by 5 people

+

Cheaper Peloton alternative

Reasons to avoid

No screen

Heavy

Functionality limited without app

The Echelon Connect EX3 is a good-looking and cost-effective Peloton alternative, which offers a smooth riding experience and motivating workouts and challenges (via the Echelon app, for which a subscription is needed). The bike itself looks similar to something you’d find in a spin class, and it’s compact and well designed. It also has a max weight capacity of 136kg so is suitable for heavier users.

Unlike a Peloton it doesn’t have a built-in screen, but it has space for a tablet or phone where you can watch free online workouts or classes on the Echelon app – filtered by workout type, music, instructor and duration. Alternatively, you can use another third-party app to access virtual classes. 

The Echelon Connect EX3 is fully integrated and connects with Bluetooth so you can track your stats in real-time. You can also connect it to Facebook to share your workout or compete with friends and family. The magnetic resistance dial, while quiet and smooth, is a little under-sensitive, but nothing that should get in your way. This is an impressive indoor cycling machine that is intuitive to use and a solid investment for both beginners and seasoned riders.

Best budget option without a display

(Image credit: Maddy Biddulph)

A basic but sturdy bike at a budget friendly price

Specifications

Dimensions: 46.5” x 18” x 46”

Weight: 102lbs / 46kg

Max user weight: 275lbs (124kg)

Max height: 5’11

Display?: No

Resistance levels: 100

Pedals: Standard cage pedals

Workouts: Via the Sunny Health & Fitness app (subscription required)

Reasons to buy

+

Affordable

+

Quiet

+

Good resistance range

Reasons to avoid

Limited app

Uncomfortable seat

Doesn’t track cadence

We’ve put a a couple of budget options in this list, as stock availability means that often one model is available when the other one isn’t. This bike comes in as our second favorite, costing less than $400. It’s as good as the Yosuda in most aspects, but it doesn’t have any kind of metrics display. It also doesn’t come with any kind of device holder, so you can’t follow any classes.

It is a little more stylish than the Yosuda model – check out that bold red wheel – and it has a slightly heavier 49lb flywheel. If you’re someone who actually prefers to exercise without constantly monitoring your metrics, then this could be a good option for you.

It’s surprisingly quiet, only measuring 60 decibels when we were pounding away, which is about equivalent to a normal conversation. It also transitions really smoothly across its resistance range. Because it’s such a basic bike, you don’t need to even plug it in – it’s entirely manual. This means that you don’t need to watch out for trailing wires and you also don’t have to worry about excessive electricity bills.

We still rate it as an excellent budget buy that’s perfect for beginners, just don’t expect a lot of fancy features if you’re purchasing this model. 

Best for third-party apps

(Image credit: Bowflex)

An indoor exercise bike that lets you stream Netflix or track your metrics via Zwift

Specifications

Dimensions: 48.1″ x 21.3″ x 57.5″

Weight: 111lbs

Max user weight: 330 lbs.

Display?: 7″ touchscreen

Resistance levels: 100

Pedals: Dual sided: SPD cleats (clip in) / toe cage

Workouts: JRNY app (subscription required)

Reasons to buy

+

Compatible with multiple apps

+

HD touchscreen

Reasons to avoid

Heavy

Monthly fee for subscription content

The Bowflex C7 is a great bike in its own right; it has 100 resistance levels, a 7-inch HD touchscreen and comes with 1.5kg dumbbells. But it’s also a bike that positively encourages the use of third-party apps, which feels refreshing.

If you get the $19.99 JRNY membership, you can hook the bike up to a lot of other apps that you’re already using (Peloton, Zwift, Netflix, Disney, etc.) You’ll still have to pay for these individually, but given that consumers tend to have a wide variety of subscriptions on the go, it feels like a bonus to be able to easily communicate between them. 

It doesn’t have the side-to-side ‘leaning’ feature of other bikes in the Bowflex range – like the VeloCore – but it is also about $1000 cheaper. It also features an additional device stand, beneath its screen, so you can actually watch Netflix and stream a class at the same time.

The main drawback of the bike is that the JRNY membership doesn’t actually give you access to classes directly, which seems like a bit of an oversight. Still, if you’re someone who likes to juggle multiple subscriptions at once, this is a great option.

Editor’s note: We’re currently in the process of reviewing this bike and will update the guide accordingly once we’ve finished testing. 

Best exercise bike for endurance training

(Image credit: Wattbike)

A smooth ride for dedicated cyclists and newbies thanks to the electromagnetic resistance

Specifications

Dimensions: 48” x 19” x 39”

Weight: 110lbs / 50kg

Max user weight: 297lbs (135kg)

Max height: 6’5”

Display?: No

Resistance levels: 22

Pedals: Standard toe cage

Workouts: Via Wattbike Hub app

Reasons to buy

+

Study design

+

Easy setup

+

Impressive resistance range

Reasons to avoid

Quite loud

No display

Doesn’t integrate with some third-party apps

This is a competitively priced and high quality machine for anyone looking for an all-rounder exercise bike. It’s well made, with a ton of features that will appeal to both data-hungry athletes and people new to indoor cycling. Make no mistake, this is a big machine, and you’ll need a lot of space to house it. Whilst it’s 11kg lighter than its predecessor the Wattbike Pro, at 44kg it’s still a bit of a beast so you’ll need to find a good location for it before setting it up.

The Wattbike offers a smooth and realistic ride, thanks to its electromagnetic resistance and impressive range through 22 gears. It has auto-resistance that automatically adjusts to simulate different terrains and inclines, making for a more intense workout. As well as the Wattbike Hub app, it syncs nicely with other fitness apps including Zwift.

It doesn’t have a built-in monitor and lacks a USB port to charge your smartphone or tablet, which is a bit frustrating considering this is likely to be your main way of following online workouts. It’s also not compatible with Apple Watch or Fitbit, which is a shame for the high price, but overall this is a well-made and feature-rich exercise bike that delivers on design and functionality.

Editor’s note: We’re currently in the process of reviewing this bike and will update the guide once we’ve finished testing it.

Best exercise bike for beginners

(Image credit: Maddy Biddulph)

Budget-friendly spinning bike for beginners

Specifications

Dimensions: 41” x 9” x 33”

Weight: 112lbs / 51kg

Max user weight: 330lbs (150kg)

Max height: 6’

Display?: Small LCD dial

Resistance levels: 32

Workouts: Limited content on the free Mobi Fitness app

Pedals: Standard toe cage

Reasons to buy

+

Affordable

+

Quiet

+

Compatible with Zwift and Kinomap

Reasons to avoid

No bottle holder

Limited workouts

Basic app 

Good value and streamline, the Mobi Turbo Exercise Bike is a great starter machine for spinning fans on a budget. It is fast to assemble and compact with a small footprint, so it’s suitable for people short on space.

Despite it’s low price it has an efficient auto-resistance feature, automatically adjusting the intensity during workouts to simulate real terrains. This helps to create a more realistic riding experience, and also keeps you from ‘coasting’ or not pushing yourself during a class. However, you can also adjust the resistance via the dial or on the free app if you prefer.

Instead of a touchscreen, the Mobi Turbo exercise bike has a LCD control screen. It’s lacking a water bottle holder, which is frustrating, and the app has very limited workouts – although more content is promised soon. If you have a Peloton or iFit membership you could use these to follow workouts on the bike instead.

This is a no-frills, spinning style bike for people who don’t need a ton of features or virtual classes to keep them motivated. It’s not the prettiest of machines and it’s lacking in functionality, but it has an ergonomic design and a big padded seat that makes riding more comfortable.

How to choose the best exercise bike

You need to consider your goals, budget, and surroundings when buying a new bike. 

If you’re looking for something compact to stash away in your flat, you might favor a simple and lightweight design. Those on a tight budget will want to consider factors like size, brand, and functionality, and if you’re only bothered about the very basics you can save some cash by dialing it back on the flashy features. 

Size and design aren’t the only things to look out for – noise is crucial (and often overlooked) as well. 

If you’re big on classes and group training, you will benefit from bikes like a Peloton, which allow you to jump into a wide range of live-streamed classes, compete against others, and sync your metrics to the app. 

How should you set up your bike before you start spinning?

“There are a few main things to look out for when setting up your bike correctly to support perfect spinning technique,” Hilary Rowland, trainer and co-founder at Boom Cycle, tells us. 

“The best place to start is your saddle-height. Adjust your saddle height so that it’s parallel with your hip. Once you’re on the bike, get into the correct riding position with your front foot at 3 o’clock; your knee should be over the ball of your foot/center of the pedal, with a slight bend in your knee,” Rowland explains. “Next, adjust your handlebars. The distance between your saddle and handlebars should be the same length as your forearm. When it comes to handlebar height, this should be level with the saddle, or a little higher – especially if you are pregnant or have any lower back issues.”

According to Rowland, most spin bikes have a forward and backward adjustor for both the saddle and the handlebars, which should be used if you’re taller or shorter than average. She advises that you shouldn’t be overreaching or feeling scrunched up, adding that ‘ideally, you want to have a slight bend in your elbows when your hands are in the U’s of the handlebars. Any knee pain or overextension of the leg are tell-tale signs of incorrect set-up.”

Different exercise bikes use differing pedal systems. For toe cages and straps, ensure your foot is secured and supported by tightening or loosening it accordingly; if you’re clipping in, you’ll need to flip the pedal to view the clipping point. Read our handy guide on how cycling shoes work if you’re unsure how clipping in works.

What sort of shoes are best for exercise bikes?

Make sure you check the compatibility of your bike before buying shoes and cleats, says Rowland.

Shimano SPD® is the most commonly used two-bolt clip system on indoor and spinning bikes; this is compatible with mountain biking shoes (MTB) and off road cycling, and uses a recessed cleat which makes it easier to walk (and exercise) off the bike. 

Road cyclists generally use a three-bolt system like SPD-SL or LOOK® Delta, found on bikes such as the Peloton, and have unrecessed cleats which are far chunkier. This type of shoe is typically lighter with a rigid sole. 

Some bikes use a dual-sided TRIO®, which are compatible with both, so it’s crucial to check first. 

If you’re sold on spike bikes, SPD® MTB shoes are your best bet. Having Trio pedals means you’ve got the choice between road cycling shoes and MTB shoes, but remember you’ll need to buy your cleats separately when purchasing the best cycling shoes

Are exercise bikes good cardio?

Absolutely. A neat feature on many spinning bikes is the option to track your metrics and progress. Most models allow you to monitor heart rate, calories, distance, cadence, and pace – all in real-time.

Cycling is a low-impact, full-body cardio workout that improves endurance and cardiovascular health. It can also burn fat, blitz calories, reduce the risk of developing chronic illnesses, and increase aerobic capacity. A study published in 2016 by the Journal of the American Heart Association found that regularly cycling to work can lower the risk of obesity and hypertension, and can prevent cardiovascular disease. Another study published in 2018 by the Journal of Education and Training Studies discovered significant positive changes to body composition in women who took part in a six-week spinning training plan.

Related: Are exercise bikes good cardio?

Will spinning tone legs and build muscle?

Cycling recruits many muscle groups, including your quads, glutes, core, and hamstrings. It can therefore help build lower body strength. 

By controlling speed and resistance on your bike, you can work on both your aerobic fitness and strength training. One study, published in Acta Physiologica Hungaria in 2015, indicated that high-intensity intermittent cycling may be needed in younger adults to achieve better strength gains. 

Read more: How to get the most out of our exercise bike

Maddy is a freelance journalist and Level 3 personal trainer specializing in fitness, health and wellbeing content. She has been a writer and editor for 22 years, and has worked for some of the UK’s bestselling newspapers and women’s magazines, including Marie Claire, The Sunday Times and Women’s Health. Maddy loves HIIT training and can often be found working out while her two young daughters do matching burpees or star jumps. As a massive foodie, she loves cooking and trying out new healthy recipes (especially ones with hidden vegetables so the kids eat them). 

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