Working out from the comfort of your own home has never been easier thanks to the widespread availability of versatile and cost-effective exercise equipment designed specifically for personal use. Whether it’s inclement weather or a lapse in your gym membership that’s keeping you indoors, the time-saving benefits of home workouts and the convenience of having your equipment within reach are hard to ignore. Achieving an optimal level of whole-body workout requires a wide range of home fitness equipment, and the best exercise bike will be an essential piece of the puzzle whether you’re adding to an existing home gym or starting from scratch.
When placed up against other common home fitness equipment in their class, exercise bikes have a clear-cut advantage in a variety of capacities. They provide a top-notch cardio workout in a form that’s more compact and lightweight than a treadmill or elliptical machine, making them great for apartments and upstairs workouts, and they’re an efficient way to gain significant muscular development in the lower half of your body while offering a relatively low-impact workout overall. In this guide, we’ll walk you through a variety of models and show you how to find the best exercise bike for your needs.
- Best touchscreen exercise bike: NordicTrack Commercial Studio Cycle
- Best exercise bike with one-on-one coaching: The MYX Plus
- Best exercise bike for customized workouts: Bowflex C6 Bike
- Most comfortable exercise bike: Schwinn Recumbent Bike
- Best space-saving exercise bike: Sunny Health & Fitness Magnetic Mini Exercise Bike
- Best budget exercise bikes: XTERRA Fitness FB150 Folding Exercise Bike
Things to consider when buying exercise bikes
Exercise bikes come with varying degrees of bells and whistles, and options including coaching subscriptions as well as convenient tech like touch screens are commonly found. Models are also available with more traditional variants including adjustable levels of resistance and designs built around comfort and space efficiency. The best exercise bike for you will fit your space and your needs while providing an enhanced level of accessibility and ultimately ensuring that you benefit from opting for a home workout over a traditional bike.
Screen or no screen?
Arguably the most prominent recent advancement in-home fitness technology is the introduction and integration of touchscreen-based controls and fitness guides into workout equipment itself. Screen functionality on home fitness equipment is convenient for all the same reasons that smartphones have risen to prominence, offering users heads-up access to real-time stats for more granular monitoring of workouts. Basic stats that might be commonly found on the screen of an exercise bike include timers, resistance settings, speeds, and distance traveled, but some models with screen functionality include the added bonus of streaming video workout guides and other visual media directly in front of you during workouts. These systems can assist greatly by giving users the feeling of experiencing an in-person workout with a trainer and can also provide an example against which to compare your form and technique.
Generally speaking, screens are so common nowadays that they can be found even in their most basic forms on some more affordable models. Simple LCD displays that keep track of your progress and light up can be an enormously helpful resource during a workout that requires intensity and focus, allowing you to free up your attention without worrying about monitoring yourself. In any workout routine, and especially on an exercise bike, the concept of interval training is key to maximizing your results and getting the most out of a workout, and a simple screen and timer are the perfect hands-free tool for facilitating such an experience.
Best touchscreen exercise bike: NordicTrack Commercial Studio Cycle
Includes a one-year family membership to the iFit workout program. Amazon
This NordicTrack bike sports a stylish 22-inch touchscreen with full 360-degree rotation for streaming workouts straight to your bike. The included subscription allows up to five user-profiles and gives you access to a whole host of live and pre-recorded workout routines.
Do you want coaching and group lessons?
Another basic advantage of an exercise bike over a traditional bike is the ability to participate in guided workouts and coaching tailored specifically to your needs through a variety of trainer systems. Coaching in traditional settings requires in-person participation between two or more people and usually involves travel, which makes exercise bike-based training a much more flexible and time-efficient model that also allows for customizable routines and that works around your schedule.
Workout subscriptions vary depending on the exercise bike system that you choose, with some offering a true subscription to provide access to guides and others granting users access to an entire library of coaching lessons on purchase. The best choice for you will be determined by your lifestyle and schedule as well as whether you prioritize continual growth or consistency. A subscription service may offer the keys to more elevated, challenging levels of workout and even live workouts for a more personal feel, but this may not be ideal for someone who prefers to do the same workouts every day or who wants to diversify their exercises and make cycling just a portion of a larger routine. In this way, your style of subscription and lesson should hinge upon your interests as well as how far you want to take your home workout.
Above all else, exercise bikes that include lessons and coaching will provide you with guidelines to ensure that you are doing your workouts properly and performing in a way that is beneficial for your body, guiding you through a process that has been pre-planned and vetted. Any consumer can benefit from some measure of workout guidelines, but the extent to which you want to customize your experience will determine whether a subscription is right for you.
Best exercise bike with one-on-one coaching: The MYX Plus
More Than Just A Bike
Heart rate zone monitoring and a 360-degree swivel screen. Amazon
This bike is part of a robust workout package from MYX that offers access to a rigorous 1:1 coaching system with a focus on total-body fitness. There’s a calibrated approach to this setup, allowing for customizable user experiences and integration with optional weight and mat training. With the rust-proof bike, you also get a Polar OH1 heart rate monitor, weights, a roller, and foam mats. The MYX is an all-in-one workout system with an emphasis on the mind as much as the body. The 21.5-inch touchscreen tablet features a crisp picture and smooth, seamless operation. The membership costs $29 a month, but you can have up to five separate user profiles.
How challenging do you want your rides to be?
One of the key elements of design in an exercise bike that will determine its flexibility as well as the extent to which it can emulate a real outdoor cycling experience is its resistance levels and the number of gradations it can provide. On real terrain, inclines and declines of all sorts will affect the rider’s experience and constantly alter the amount of force required to push the bike depending on whether it’s traveling uphill or downhill. An exercise bike’s ability to provide multiple resistance levels will be key in its success at satisfactorily mimicking the sensation and benefits of a real-world distance ride.
In trying to replace a traditional bike workout, an exercise bike must be able to switch between a number of resistance levels easily and seamlessly. These devices typically use one of two resistance systems: one based upon friction, or another based upon magnetism. Friction resistance systems work much in the same way that a vehicle brake pad functions, with varying degrees of resistance directly correlating to the amount of pressure the pad applies to the flywheel. These systems are simple and cost-effective, but they run the risk of wearing out over time and requiring maintenance. Magnetic resistance systems, however, require no contact between moving parts to function properly, instead of relying upon magnets that impede flywheel motion from a variety of distances, resulting in silent and maintenance-free operation.
Magnetic resistance systems tend to offer many more gradations of resistance along with a much wider range than friction systems, allowing for a smooth and granular adjustment that allows users to dial in their workout to their exact specifications with the simple turning of a knob.
Best exercise bike for customized workouts: Bowflex C6 Bike
A Real Eye-Grabber
A stylish, well-rounded unit built for versatility. Bowflex
The Bowflex C6 Bike offers a whopping 100 micro-adjustable magnetic resistance levels for a quiet and smooth ride in a compact form. Three-pound dumbbells, a backlit control console, and a Bluetooth heart rate armband allow users to engage in their preferred level of workout with minimal fuss and downtime.
How important is comfort for you?
Working out on an exercise bike is by nature one of the best low-impact cardio exercises out there, but even within this family of equipment, there are a few differences in design that can have a large impact on comfort and workout complexity depending on the style of bike. The most common forms of exercise bike come in either recumbent or upright designs, and it’s important to consider the personal needs of the intended user’s body when trying to choose between the two.
A recumbent bike is by far the most comfortable and ergonomically-friendly style of exercise bike available, providing users with larger, soft seats that include arms and backs. The workout position required when operating a recumbent bike offers the most minimal impact on users’ joints and delivers outstanding levels of lower back support, lowering the likelihood of operator injury or strain. Users with ongoing hip, back, or joint pain or with neurological conditions can benefit from the safe and thoughtful design of a recumbent model while still maintaining an effective low-impact workout.
Upright bikes put less emphasis on comfort and usually offer a user experience much more similar to that of traditional cycling, with handlebars and a seat that prioritize recreating the full-body workout of outdoor cycling, which engages more muscles in the lower and upper body. Some upright models do have seats designed to mitigate potential discomfort, but if you’re not riding on your exercise bike for extremely prolonged periods or have pre-existing pain or joint conditions, the choice between a recumbent model and an upright model may just come down to how much impact you’re looking to get out of a workout.
Most comfortable exercise bike: Schwinn Recumbent Bike
Sit Back And Work Hard
Twenty-five levels of resistance in a comfortable and ergonomic package. Amazon
This Schwinn recumbent bike is an excellent choice if you have joint or back pain. It features dual LCD displays, an adjustable fan, USB charging, console speakers, and an audio input port. Choose from 29 different workout programs and further enhance control and track your workout using the Schwinn Trainer App.
How much space do you have?
In any home fitness setup, space is a key consideration and limiting factor that can determine the extent to which you build out your home gym. While exercise bikes are some of the more compact and less bulky home exercise equipment options out there, it’s still important to make the most out of every bit of your space, especially if you’re looking to acquire more than one device.
Recumbent exercise bike systems typically include a reclined seat as opposed to an upright one, which requires that the frame extend backward somewhat to maintain the proper distance from the seat to the pedals. Other factors that may increase or decrease the size of an exercise bike include handlebars and onboard screens, all of which factor into whether or not a particular model is appropriate for your space. Generally speaking, it’s important to ensure that you allow for adequate space to safely mount and dismount your exercise bike to limit the possibility of accidental injury. In a smaller apartment or room, the size of some bikes may be prohibitive.
Upright bikes tend to be smaller than recumbent models, even with screens included, which make them a better choice when space is tight. These models are not quite as ergonomic, but they still provide the desired workout effects in a smaller package and even engage more of the upper body than recumbent models thanks to the inclusion of handlebars. This ability to engage the upper body makes an upright bike doubly space-efficient since it may eliminate the need for other types of equipment. Still, other models eliminate the seat and handlebars altogether, delivering the same pedaling and leg workout that users expect while occupying next to no vertical space.
Best small exercise bike: Sunny Health & Fitness Magnetic Mini Exercise Bike
Tuck It Away When You’re Done
Advanced customizable workouts in a frame that’s less than 15 inches tall. Amazon
This compact mini exercise bike is a good choice for small spaces and individuals with lower mobility. There’s an onboard digital monitor for displaying your workout time, speed, and distance, and eight resistance levels allow for a flexible routine. If you’re looking for a portable unit to help you burn calories, look no further.
Best exercise bike brands to know
Some producers of exercise bikes have been in-home fitness equipment for decades, while others have their roots in traditional cycling and have since expanded into the market. Determining a manufacturer’s area of specialization will allow you to better understand and choose between competing models and help you pick something that lines up with your style and needs.
Schwinn is a veteran cycling company that was founded in Chicago in 1895 by German-born mechanical engineer Ignaz Schwinn. They’re well known for manufacturing a whole array of bicycles and related products and increased their production of exercise bikes drastically in the 1980s. In 1991, Schwinn was sold to multinational conglomerate Dorel Industries.
The Bowflex brand is owned by fitness manufacturer Nautilus, Inc., and based in Vancouver, Washington. The first Bowflex product was introduced to market in 1986, and the company has since expanded to produce cardio machines, home gyms, dumbbells, smart fitness monitors, and much more.
Sunny Health Fitness
Sunny Health Fitness has been importing and distributing home fitness products for the better part of a decade and has headquarters in Los Angeles, California, and Xiamen, China. They have over 100 employees worldwide and specialize in offering competitive pricing by sourcing products directly from a wide network of manufacturers.
Best budget exercise bikes: What you get for under $500
Introducing an exercise bike into your home doesn’t have to be a complicated process, but if you’re going through the trouble in the first place, it’s important to ensure that it will deliver your desired level and quality of workout once it’s under your roof. For under $500, you can expect an exercise bike to be a barebones setup that can allow a basic pedaling workout with very limited or no customization options. The XTERRA Fitness FB150 Folding Exercise Bike is a good option for these situations because it’s foldable and offers eight resistance levels, but be aware that you’ll be missing out on all the guided workouts, heart rate-related custom tailoring, and superior comfort that comes from more pricey options.
Time to ride…
If you’re looking for an easy way to introduce home fitness equipment into your living space, an exercise bike is a perfect place to start because of its flexibility and small footprint relative to most other cardio equipment. In selecting an exercise bike, go for a model that will provide you the flexibility you’ll expect from a workout—for the price and the size, they’re an incredible value when put up against other types of home gym devices.