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Which exercise bike is best?

Exercise bikes are among the best-selling home fitness equipment. Not only do they offer a great workout and major calorie burn, they also lend themselves to dynamic use.

The main types of exercise bikes include upright, indoor, recumbent and air bikes. Each model offers adjustable resistance to deliver true-to-life riding experiences and intense workouts. 

NordicTrack Commercial S22i Studio Cycle, one of the leading indoor models, is full of high-tech features to help cyclists get the most out of every ride. 

What to know before you buy exercise bikes

Exercise bike types

With so many exercise bikes to choose from, you might be wondering where to begin your search. Understanding the four basic types and determining which one is best for your exercise needs is an easy way to narrow your options.

  • Upright: Upright bikes place riders in upright positions, not pitched forward like on bicycles. They often have smooth magnetic resistance that offers a different riding experience than road bicycles.
  • Indoor: Indoor or spinning bikes simulate outdoor cycling experiences with a weighted flywheel that offers realistic resistance. Many models are equipped with a wealth of high-tech features such as Bluetooth connectivity. 
  • Recumbent: On recumbent bikes, riders are in a reclined position with their legs positioned almost as high as their hips. Legs do the brunt of work in these models, which are particularly popular for long-distance or resistance training. 
  • Air: Air bikes work the upper and lower body simultaneously by pedaling and pulling levers. They have fan-based resistance and the faster a rider pedals, the more the resistance increases. 

Interactive vs. preset programs

With the exception of air bikes, exercise bikes are equipped with either preset or interactive programs. Preset programs are built into the dashboard or display of budget and mid-range models. Each program adjusts the incline or resistance based on difficulty, and some programs adjust it multiple times during a session. Riders can manually adjust settings as well. 

Interactive programs, which stream live or on-demand classes, are seen only on premium exercise bikes. Some of the most expensive exercise bikes have high-definition touchscreens, whereas other models lack screens. Instead, some bikes allow users to connect smartphones or tablets to access interactive streaming platforms. 

What to look for in quality exercise bikes

Bluetooth capabilities

Many exercise bikes have Bluetooth capabilities, a feature that allows riders to connect compatible earbuds, headphones, smartphones and tablets. Riders can also pair fitness trackers and smartwatches to Bluetooth exercise bikes and log essential health information or performance metrics. 

Adjustable features

Adjustable seat height is a standard feature in exercise bikes, and on average, they adjust anywhere from 5-14 inches. Certain models also have adjustable handlebars that can be drawn closer to the body or raised. 

Exercise bikes introduce new challenges to riders with adjustable incline, decline and resistance levels. Incline and decline simulate uphill and downhill riding, and most bikes offer a range of -15% to 20%. Resistance levels vary considerably among exercise bikes, and depending on the model, they offer up to 100 levels. High-end bikes compatible with interactive classes allow instructors to adjust resistance too.

Pedal design

Most exercise bikes have wide pedals with straps, some of which are adjustable to secure the foot. Other pedals have toe cages that stabilize the forefoot. Some higher-end exercise bikes have clipless pedals compatible with cycling shoes.

How much you can expect to spend on exercise bikes

Entry-level exercise bikes with limited adjustability features cost around $350. Midrange options, particularly models with several preset programs, cost $450-$850. Top-tier exercise bikes with high-tech capabilities range from $900-$1,500, and high-end models run as high as $2,200.

Exercise bikes FAQ

Is delivery free with an exercise bike?

A. Some retailers and manufacturers offer free delivery, but others charge an additional fee. Although some exercise bikes are delivered in one piece, certain models require assembly. Like delivery, there may or may not be an extra charge for assembly service. 

Do exercise bikes have accurate heart rate trackers?

A. At best, the heart rate trackers on exercise bikes provide estimates. This is caused by a few variables, including inconsistent readings and motion artifacts. Instead, many riders prefer using fitness trackers or smartwatches for more accurate monitoring. 

What are the best exercise bikes to buy?

Top exercise bike

NordicTrack Commercial S22i Studio Cycle

NordicTrack Commercial S22i Studio Cycle

What you need to know: If you’re looking for a studio-quality experience, this high-end cycle offers interactive classes through iFit.

What you’ll love: The bike comes with a 22-inch rotating HD touchscreen with brilliant image and video quality. Thanks to an updated drive design, the bike operates quietly and smoothly. There are 24 digital resistance levels and incline controls that offer dynamic workouts. 

What you should consider: After the free iFit trial expires, it costs $180-$400 annually.

Where to buy: Sold by NordicTrack

Top exercise bike for money

Schwinn IC4 Indoor Cycling Bike

Schwinn IC4 Indoor Cycling Bike

What you need to know: Even when you’re on a budget, you can enjoy immersive classes on this smart Schwinn bike. 

What you’ll love: It has a device dock that holds most smartphones and tablets. The dual-sided pedals let users wear sneakers or SPDs. It comes with a one-year Jrny membership with access to unlimited classes and programs. Smooth magnetic resistance is realistic yet easy on knees.

What you should consider: Some riders didn’t like the free weight placement, noting they had to hunch over to reach them. 

Where to buy: Sold by Schwinn and Dick’s Sporting Goods

Worth checking out

Nautilus R618 Recumbent Bike

Nautilus R618 Recumbent Bike

What you need to know: This recumbent bike, suitable for users of all levels, has the durable construction of gym and studio models. 

What you’ll love: The seat has a perforated design that promotes air circulation. The bike offers 29 preset programs, including customizable training options. It’s ergonomically designed for comfortable, safe riding for users of all fitness levels, including novice riders.

What you should consider: It has a large footprint compared to upright and indoor bikes.

Where to buy: Sold by Nautilus and Dick’s Sporting Goods

 

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Sian Babish writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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