An exercise bike is a popular addition to the home gym, especially as they are relatively inexpensive compared to many others types of fitness equipment. It provides a cardiovascular workout, as well as improving overall fitness and stamina, so it offers a great all round exercise. It is also suitable for all levels of fitness and is a low impact type of exercise.
It is perfect for those cold and rainy days when you just don’t feel like taking your bicycle out; and of course you can do other activities while you cycle such as listening to music or watching the TV.
Prices for exercise bikes can range from about £50 to well over £5,000 so you should find a balance between your budget and your ideal exercise bike. There are many different brands of exercise bike on the market today, including many different features, so it's important to decide what are the most important criteria for you in your buying choice. Here we explain some of the types of products you can expect to find and give you some advice on choosing the best exercise bike for your requirements.
Upright Exercise Bikes
This is the most popular type of exercise bike where the user sits upright, similar to a real bicycle.
Recumbent Exercise Bikes
With this type of exercise bike, the user sits or leans back against a backrest and the pedals are in front of you instead of below you. Some recumbent exercise bikes have a breathable backrest.
Some people prefer this type of exercise bike although others find it harder on the legs. It can also be good for those recovering from back injuries as it provides support.
There are certain models which are designed with a step- through design so that it easier to get on and off the exercise bike. This is very useful for older people or for people recovering from injury but step-through models do tend to be in the more expensive price range.
Hybrid Exercise Bikes
There are some models which offer a dual function - these usually combine an exercise bike with a cross trainer to provide an upper body workout, and there are also dual exercise bikes with rower function.
The basic features that you will find on an exercise bike are:
- Adjustable seat height. The levels of adjustment can vary enormously though, as some have very limited adjustment while others can have twenty or more levels.
- Handlebar adjustment
Features which you might also find on an exercise bike are:
- Heart rate controls
- Fat monitor to measure body fat
- Heart monitor via the hand grips
- Self-balancing pedals so that the pedal is always in the correct position for the user.
- iPod or MP3 compatibility
- Speaker for iPod or MP3
- Water bottle holder and/or reading rack
- Integrated fan
But remember that extra features cost, so only buy what you will really need or you will be wasting money!
There are also exercise bikes available which offers the user a more intensive workout and are designed for indoor racing, with features such as racing seat, special racing pedals and a specially designed frame.
This can vary widely from a small LED monochrome display showing basic information to a 7 inch to 15 inch colour LCD display. The more advanced ones are often backlit for easier visibility and some have touch screen controls.
Some of the most expensive ones have the capability to play movies and television and are iPod compatible, with the ability to charge iPods and view the playlist. Others have USB connectivity so that you can connect the exercise bike to your laptop to monitor your performance and track progress.
Basic information displayed on the display might include:
Other more advanced information might include:
- Calories burned
- Heart Rate
- Heart rate average chart
- Watt average chart
- Speed average Chart
Many exercise bikes have some sort of manual and/or pre-set programmes, some far more comprehensive than others. Some are designed for overall fitness and stamina while others are designed for more specific goals such as cardiovascular programmes. Modes and programmes can include:
- Quick start mode
- Warm up mode
- Cool down mode
- Manual mode
- Heart rate mode
- Race mode
- Hill mode
- Random mode
- Resistance mode
- Sports training mode
- Fat burn
- Extreme heart rate
- Goal workouts
- Custom workouts
- User profiles
These are just examples; some have over 40 pre-programmed workouts!
Many exercise bikes on the market today use electromagnetic resistance. Although they tend to be slightly more expensive, they can usually be adjusted more easily and are smoother to use. Some magnetic resistance exercise bikes have manual adjustment and others have automated adjustments. They are also more durable and longer lasting than non-magnetic exercise bikes. Some models have bi-directional resistance.
The cheaper models which do not use electromagnetic resistance have to be adjusted manually.
Most models have several levels of resistance so that you can increase the level as your stamina and fitness grows.
Out of all the pieces of gym equipment which can be used in the home, the exercise bike is probably the most space efficient and can be used in smaller homes, depending on the model chosen.
However, they do vary in size and you must make sure that there is ample room for the exercise bike so that you can pedal freely on it. Many models are foldable so that they are very easy to store.
If you will be moving your exercise bike for storage or other purposes you should also check the weight as here too you can find big differences between models. Some weigh as little as 20kg while others are over 60kg or even heavier, with some of the high spec professional models coming in at over 100 kg. However most are in the range of 35kg to 60kg. Bear in mind though that it is likely to be a balance as the ultra-light exercise bikes are not likely to offer the higher specifications that the sturdier models do. Some models do have transport wheels to make them easier to move around the house.
Due to the design, recumbent exercise bikes are often heavier than upright ones.
Exercise bikes are either:
- Battery powered making them more portable – however the battery powered exercise bikes are often less fully featured than the mains and self-powered ones.
- Run by mains electricity – these are usually more sophisticated than the battery powered exercise bikes but are less portable.
- Self-powered – these are self-powered and do not require to be hooked up to the electricity and are therefore more portable but usually more expensive.
||Body Sculpture Exercise Bikes Body Sculpture – this manufacturer sells an extensive range of exercise bikes, both upright and recumbent, including a dual action bike which also offers a work out for the arms.
||Bremshey Exercise Bikes Bremshey – their range of recumbent and upright exercise bikes include those with ergonomic design and an upright exercise bike designed especially for racing training.
||Confidence Exercise Bikes Confidence – their range include an ultra-portable exercise bike which weighs just 20kg.
||Life Fitness Exercise Bikes Life Fitness – as with many of their other products in the fitness range, the user can choose to have a basic or advanced console on their exercise bike. They have some very sophisticated models available which are IPod compatible and have USB connectivity to track progress with a virtual trainer.
||Matrix Exercise Bikes Matrix – they offer a range of premium exercise bikes in several models including one with iPod capability and a hybrid recumbent/upright model.
||Reebok Exercise Bikes Reebok – their exercise bikes are to be found either in their entry-level i-Series, available in several colours, or their high spec Performance series.
||Scifit Exercise Bikes Scifit – they offer state-of-the –art recumbent and upright exercise bikes.
||Trixter Exercise Bikes Trixter – this specialist company offers interactive and innovative exercise bikes, including one with sensors and a large screen to accurately simulate the experience of riding outdoors through a virtual world.
||Tunturi Exercise Bikes Tunturi – they have several models available in their Competence, Performance and Endurance ranges, both upright and step-through recumbent machines.
||V-Fit Exercise Bikes V-Fit – these exercise bikes are manufactured by Benys and the range includes very inexpensive air resistance models through to higher end models including one with dual function.
||Vision Exercise Bikes Vision – the exercise bikes that they offer can be customised with different console options from Simple to Premier and include recumbent and upright exercise bikes as well as an indoor training cycle and one which offers both an upper and lower body workout.
||York Exercise Bikes York – their range includes two dual models, a cycle/rower and a cycle/cross trainer.
Cardiovascular – this refers to the functions of the heart, arteries and veins.
Console – this is the part of the exercise bike where the controls and LCD screen are located.
Frame – this is the part of the exercise bike to which the other parts such as the pedals, handlebars, console and seat are attached.
Heart Rate Monitor – this detects the heart rate or pulse of the user, through the hand grips or as a belt on the chest.
Odometer – this indicates the distance cycled.
Self-presenting Pedals – also called self-balancing pedals, this feature automatically ensures that the pedals are always the right way up for ease of use.
RPM – this stands for revolutions per minute, or the rate that the pedals turn one rotation per minute.