Buying An Exercise Bike 101

A Simple 2-Question Exercise Bike Buying Guide


buying an exercise bikeBuying an exercise bike? You have a lot of choices – some you probably don’t even know about.

This exercise bike buying guide will tell you what you need to know before buying so you can find the best bike for you.


Exercise Bike Buying Guide: Question #1


1) What Type of Bike Do You Want?

You have several options here.


A) Recumbent Bikes

exercise bike buying guideRecumbent bikes are probably the most popular exercise bikes on the market with the chair-like or bucket seats.

Your body is placed in a semi reclining position and your legs angle out in front of you, tilted downwards to reach the pedals instead of hanging down as on an upright bike.

Many people find that recumbent bikes are much more comfortable – especially for longer workouts. Many offer lumbar support and are easier to get on and off.


B) Upright Bikes

These are also called “Stationary bikes” although this term is now becoming a catch-all term for both upright and recumbent bikes. These are the traditional exercise bikes that have been around for years and are similar in form to traditional outdoor bikes.

buying an exercise bikeA fairly new type of upright bike has come onto the market in the last few years – the spinner or ‘indoor cycle’. This is similar to the bikes that you see in the health club used for spinning class.

These are usually more expensive than your classic stationary bike and built for much more intense workouts. They are ideal for people who want more of an outdoor cycling feel.

Another offshoot of the standard upright bike is the ‘Dual Action’ Stationary bike like the Schwinn Airdyne. These bikes have movable bars or levers on arm handles to incorporate your upper body into the workout.

They tend to use air resistance instead of magnetic resistance. The harder you pedal, the more resistance you get – so you never top out on your resistance. They can be windy – which can keep you cool – but it can also be a bit loud and blow your papers or light objects around.

Know what you want before you start comparing different exercise bikes. Recumbent bikes tend to feel more comfortable. However if you’re an avid outdoor cyclist, you may prefer the feel of an upright.


Exercise Bike Buying Guide – Question #2


2) What’s Your Budget?

The next thing you need to decide on is your budget.

There are really 3 price categories with stationary bikes:


1) Under $500

2) Between $500 – 1000

3) $1000 +


Under $500:

While there are some average exercise bikes under $500, don’t expect to get a top quality machine for this price. You’ll probably find plastic parts that break easily, hard-to-read non-backlit consoles and squeaks the develop after the first month of use. You also won’t get very good ergonomics (like knee strain or pedals out in front of you instead of out and down).

Still, you can probably find a few good gems in this category if you look (but be prepared to look!). If you don’t plan on using your exercise cycle much or if you’re on a strict budget, this may be a good price point for you. Two of the more popular brands in this category are the Horizon and the Schwinn models.


exercise bike buying guide - Horizon recumbent
Horizon RC30 Recumbent Bike


Between $500 – $1000:

You can usually get a very solid, quality exercise bike for your home in this category. Unlike treadmills, you can still get a quality made, ‘premium’ bike for under $1000.

Most exercise bikes here offer a smooth ride, magnetic resistance and more sophisticated, backlit consoles that give you feedback on your workout. You should also expect several built-in workout programs, foot straps and heart rate monitors. Strong brands in this category include Nordic Track and Sole.


nordictrack exercise bike buying guide
Nordictrack Commercial Pro Recumbent with iFit


$1000 +:

These exercise bikes are either the cream of the crop for the advanced home exerciser, ‘indoor cycles’ or they are commercial grade for the health club. You’re going to enjoy proper ergonomics with less strain on your joints, knees and hips. You’ll also get the latest workout programs, fitness tracking and more. Examples of bikes in this category include spinners and commercial bikes like Sole , Diamondback and Life Cycle.

Always remember that with exercise bikes – in general – you get what you pay for so try to spend the most that you can and get a quality machine that will last you.


exercise bike buying guide
Sole R92 Bike


These are really the 2 most important features to decide on: the type of bike and the price you can afford. Here are a few more features you should know about when buying an exercise bike.


  • Resistance

There are several different types of resistance you’ll find in your exercise bike

1) Direct Tension – offers you a manual adjustment of resistance

2) Air – resistance is provided by pedaling against the airflow of a fan blade (found on dual action bikes)

3) Magnetic Resistance – this is the most sophisticated type of resistance allowing magnetic currents to create and track the resistance. It generally allows for a greater variety of workout levels.

Magnetic resistance is generally viewed as the best option since it tends to be quieter and provides a more even feel when pedalling.


  • Workout Programs / Console

Most exercise bikes give you information on speed, distance travelled, and time of the workout. The more sophisticated you go, you’ll also find things like total calories and fat burned, resistance level, heart rate and program mode.

You can also get exercise bikes with numerous preprogrammed workouts and information storage as well as iFit compatibility (internet connection and online tracking) and iPod docks with speakers.


nordictrack commercial vr pro console
Nordictrack VR Pro Console


The higher end bikes also usually have backlit consoles – which you really want because they help you see your workout stats more clearly. Non-backlit consoles can be hard to read.

It really depends on your personal preferences whether you choose a bike with 10 preset programs and an ultra high tech computer display or one with just a simple display.

However, keep in mind that in general, the higher priced bikes have more sophisticated options.


  • Warranty

Exercise Bikes come with a variety of warranties from 90 days to lifetime warranties on different parts of the bike. For example, parts and labor may be covered for 6 months, electronics for 1 year and the frame for a lifetime.

In general keep in mind that a longer warranty is indicative of a higher quality machine. Manufacturers will easily give you a longer warranty when they don’t expect the bike to break down.


  • Proper Ergonomic Design

This is another factor that gets better, the higher up in price you go. Higher end bikes usually have more comfortable ergonomic design (i.e. foot pedals lower than your seat, easy seat adjustments)

The seat design is also important, especially with recumbent bikes. Higher quality bikes usually have some type of lumbar support and comfortable padded seats which can also adjust based on your height.


proform exercise bike


So those are a few things to look at before buying an exercise bike. Unlike treadmills, ellipticals or home gyms, bikes are relatively easier to buy. There are really only a few “must-have” areas you have to consider. Make sure you go with a good brand and a style of bike that suits your needs. And then get excited about using your new home exercise bike!

For a list of where to buy upright or recumbent bikes at a discount visit Where To Buy Exercise Bikes


recumbent bike review

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