Exercise spin bikes at the gym

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Best Exercise Bike Guide: What to Look For & How to Make a Decision (2018)

With hundreds of brands and thousands of products, it can be pretty overwhelming shopping for any kind of cardio equipment, let alone exercise bikes. The point of this guide is to make buying decisions easier and answer some common questions that will help your workouts and overall fitness.

Let’s get into it!

Recumbent vs Upright

Source: Pinterest

 

Why Buy an Exercise Bike?

Aside from making exercise easier and more convenient, the most common reason to buy an exercise bike is to lose weight or to rehab an injury. They also help you save money on gym memberships and save commuting time (the worst!).

Exercising indoors during the winter is a lot easier with an exercise bike, as is blowing off steam when you’re stuck at home working or watching the kids. Plus, they make great gifts.

Pros:

  • Convenient
  • Easy to use
  • Easy to multitask (read/watch tv)

Cons:

  • Can be hard knees/joints
  • Not all bikes have back support
  • Sometimes low-intensity workouts (e.g. recumbent bikes)

 

What Makes a Good Exercise Bike?

Nothing’s worse than shopping for something that’s not cheap and having no idea where to start. What makes a good exercise bike anyways? Here’s what you need to pay attention to when shopping:

Assembly: Make sure you familiarize yourself beforehand with the assembly requirements to avoid any surprises on delivery day! Or, you can get Amazon to do it.

Resistance: Not all bikes have the same resistance so it’s possible to buy one that’s either too weak or too strong which can limit your workout.

Stability: The heavier the bike, the more stable it will be. Keep that in mind if you’re heavy or just need the additional stability for safety reasons (seniors). All of the specs should be included wherever you look (if you’re buying new).

Comfort: Bike seats are notoriously uncomfortable. They can leave you (e.g. your groin/backside) feeling quite sore after extended periods of use. It’s possible to gauge comfort through product pictures and specs but the easiest thing to do is try before you buy.

Exercise Bike Meme

Source: MeMe

Bad knees: Most bikes require a full 90-degree bend in the leg which can strain your knees. If you’ve had issues with your knees in the past, make sure the bike can be adjusted to your best fit.

To minimize the strain on your knees, and make it easier to choose the right bike, try to better understand your optimum leg angle (e.g. the amount of bend you need) and the most comfortable position for your feet.

One of the best ways to protect your knees is by strengthening your quadriceps. The higher the resistance level, the more strain you’ll put on your knees.

Maintenance: The build quality of the bike will dictate the level of required maintenance. For example, chain driven bikes require oil/lubrication and won’t last as long as belt driven models. Frictionless bikes are great because you don’t have to worry about replacing the brake pads. The more you know about the build quality, the easier it is to predict future maintenance and longevity.

Noise: Noisy bikes make multitasking harder (e.g. reading/watching TV) and can be bothersome to roommates/neighbors. If you can’t test the bike yourself, check to see how it’s built. Generally, the better the build quality, the quieter the bike will be.

Size: Take a close look at the bike’s weight and dimensions before spending any money.  Make sure the dimensions work with the space. The bigger and heavier the bike, the harder setup and storage becomes.

iPads/Books: Some bikes have ‘media racks’ for your phone/tablet/magazine so if you’re somebody that gets bored during workouts, and you need something to keep your mind occupied, make sure whichever bike you choose comes with a media rack.

Safety: Some bikes can be quite powerful and borderline dangerous if you’re not careful. Over pedaling and having your feet slip can cause injuries to the back of your legs. Choose a bike that has resistance levels well-suited for your fitness level and ability.

 

Things to Know Before Buying

Damages & delays: lots of people complain about the shipping process, whether it be delays or damage, so something to consider when buying online.

Try before you buy: if it’s possible, find a gym or retail location nearby where you can test out the bike before trying, it can be really disappointing to order something, wait for it, find out you don’t like it, then having to ship it back.

Dust, dust, dust! Before surrendering your credit card make sure you — or whoever the bike is for — is committed to using it. Exercise bikes are great workout machines and dust collectors : )

Exercise bike meme

Great for losing weight AND drying clothes! » Source: Pinterest

 

Best Exercise Bike Reviews (2018):

Assuming that you’re looking for a specific type of exercise bike, I broke my comparisons into categories to make things easier. Here they are:

Empty spin bikes at the gym

Best Upright Bikes: Rides just like a regular bicycle, no back support whatsoever. Upright bikes are much more challenging than recumbent bikes. If you want to really push yourself, try sprinting on an upright bike (e.g. stand and pedal).

Best Recumbent Bikes: In a seated position with back support, you can get recumbent bikes for indoors or outdoors. They’re good if you have a bad back, doing rehab, or just trying to stay active. However, compared to other cardio machines, they’re a much easier workout.

Best Airdyne BikesA dual-action bike with no set resistance levels, the harder you pedal the harder the resistance becomes. Dual-action bikes have arm attachments and offer a full body workout (example). Push and pull with your arms as you pedal (great way to burn LOTS of calories). Also called air bikes or fan bikes.

Best Spin BikesAn upright bike where you have to lean forward to reach the handlebars. Spin bikes are often used for HIIT with athletes or in spin classes at the gym. One of the best ways to build muscle and lose weight at the same time.

Best Folding BikesYou guessed it — exercise bikes that fold. They cater to a special group of people who want to exercise at home but don’t have much space to work with.

Best Desk Bikes: There are two types of desk bikes: ones that go under a desk like DeskCycle and ones that are the desk like The Fit Desk. They’re meant to keep you moving while you work.

Best Bike Trainers: An attachment that you stick to an outdoor bike to make it stationary. The bike trainer attachment suspends your bike off the ground so you can pedal without actually going anywhere. Great for training indoors during the winter.

Best Exercise Bike for Seniors: We compared a few popular seniors products to help answer and address any questions or concerns you may have.

 

Popular Brands

If you find a brand with good customer service, a reasonable warranty/return policy, you should probably stick with them. But other than that, in terms of actual quality, the products are often quite comparable across brands. Here are some of the biggest / most popular names in the industry:

Popular exercise brand logos

A few of the many exercise bike / fitness brands out there (P.S. Paradigm owns Exerpeutic + ProGear)

  • Exerpeutic
  • Life Fitness
  • Marcy
  • Nautilus
  • ProForm
  • Scwhinn
  • SOLE
  • Stamina
  • Sunny Health & Fitness
  • Fitness Reality
  • Goplus

What’s Better: New or Used?

That largely depends on what you’re looking for but there are pros/cons to both.

New: More expensive but you get warranty, returns, and customer service. Plus, they last longer (usually).

Used: Upside is saving money. The downsides are no guarantees, harder resale, and requires a lot more effort (find something you like, coordinate viewing times, move 100 lb bike on your own).

If you can’t decide what to do, here are some other things to consider:

What features are most important to you? The fancier the bike, the more things can go wrong. So if you want something with all of the bells and whistles, it might make more sense buying new so you have warranty/returns/customer service to fall back on.

How often will you be using it? The more you plan to use the bike, the more wear and tear you can expect and the more valuable a warranty becomes

What’s your budget? Figure out what you’re comfortable spending then go browse Craigslist, Walmart, and Amazon for new and used bikes that fall within your price range and compare the overall value.

Craigslist: Save time by setting up email notifications to alert you of new postings that fit your search criteria. Try expanding your search to neighboring cities, particularly large ones that you’re willing to drive to, to increase your chances of finding a good deal.)

eBay: Better (and safer) than Craigslist because transactions are made online. Very easy to find credible sellers because sellers reputations are based entirely on feedback. You can also setup email notifications for items on eBay so you’re not having to search manually every single day.

 

Workouts (Bonus)

With so many different types of exercise programs and workouts, it’s sometimes tough to know where to start.

But depending on how much time you have / what you’re in the mood for, you can narrow your choices pretty quickly.

Here are a few ideas to get you started (check out Pinterest for more):

Workout #1: High intensity (20 mins)


Workout #2: Moderate intensity
(30 mins)

  • 5 mins warm-up
  • 5-mins @ 90%
  • 5-mins @ 70%
  • 5-mins @ 90%
  • 5-mins cooldown

Workout #3: Moderate intensity (33 mins)

  • 5-mins warm-up
  • 2-mins @ level 7
  • 2-mins @ level 8
  • 2-mins @ level 9
  • 2-mins @ level 10
  • 2-mins @ level 9
  • 2-mins @ level 8
  • 2-mins @ level 7
  • 2-mins @ level 8
  • 2-mins @ level 9
  • 5-mins @ level 10
  • 5-mins cool-down

Exercise bikes can help you and your family lose weight in the comfort of your own home, build muscle, and more importantly, stay active.

Before spending any money, make sure to decide on the type of bike you want, how much you’re willing to pay, and then start the research process.

What kind of exercise bike do you ride and/or recommend? Let me know in the comments below!


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