Stationary bikes or “exercise bikes” as they are commonly known are one of the most common purchases for people looking to get in shape.
A common issue that people have though is getting poor quality exercise bikes, either because they haven’t shopped around enough or because they went for the cheapest bike available.
This is a shame because a poor quality stationary bike will quickly turn into a very expensive place to hang your laundry. Whereas a high quality bike will be a pleasure to use (okay maybe that’s a step too far, let’s say not un-pleasurable) and as a result you’re more likely to use it more often.
Benefits of Stationary Bikes
There are many benefits to stationary bikes from the practical to the physical. From a practical standpoint they are relatively inexpensive compared to other pieces of cardio equipment that you can buy for your home. They also take up less space, some models can even be folded up or kept under your desk (we will be reviewing a couple of these later). They are usually simple to assemble and maintain which can save you a lot of stress (completely when compared to treadmills).
The physical benefits of cycling are numerous. Cycling is an excellent way to increase leg muscles and will complement a strength training program very well. It is also a great calorie burner, and can make huge cardiovascular improvements to your fitness.
Exercise bikes are excellent for high intensity interval training, but also for low intensity steady state. In other words if you want to perform a really tough session that only lasts 10 minutes, or a nice and gentle session that lasts an hour then cycling is perfect for you.
Another big benefit of exercise bikes is their low injury rate, unlike running or strength training cycling is pretty much injury-proof provided you are sensible with it. This makes it accessible to anyone who wants to have a go.
What makes a good stationary bike?
There are many different bikes out there, catering for vastly different desires. So it is quite hard to describe what makes a good stationary bike, for example if you’re looking for the most powerful bike on the market then you’d want something that was big, heavy duty and made a lot of noise. But for someone who is looking for a quiet, small bike that they can fold away after use this bike would not be appropriate.
So instead we have to look at more general features, how durable is the bike? What is the price like, and does it reflect the product? Does this product come with a warranty and what is the returns policy like? For each bike we will look at what makes it special, who it is best suited for, and we’ll also look at the general features mentioned above.
Bike #1. The Simple Storage Bike
Sunny Health & Fitness have been selling fitness equipment for over a decade. Based in California, they are known for high quality products at reasonable prices. This first offering is their “SF-B2605 Folding Magnetic Upright Exercise Bike”.
The bike is cleverly designed to fold up like an ironing board, therefore taking up minimal space when not in use. This bike is perfect for people who are looking to cycle more but are very limited in the amount of space they have available to them. It would also suit anyone who doesn’t want a great big exercise bike in the middle of their living room – regardless of how much space their house has.
For such a lightweight machine, this bike has some decent features. It has 8 resistance levels, meaning that it can suit a wide range of fitness levels. The display system can show you the duration and speed of your cycling, your pulse, how far you have traveled, and will give you an idea of the amount of calories that you have burned.
Due to the lightweight design it should be noted that there is a max weight of 220lbs for this bike, so if you are heavier than this you might want to look for a sturdier design. But for those of you who are under this weight, you’ve got yourself a fantastic bike here, at a very reasonable price. There is a manufacturer’s warranty included with this product.
NB: If you really like this design but do weigh more than 220lbs, the company offers a similar bike that can take 250lbs of weight.
Bike #2. The Spin Class bike
Another offering from Sunny Health & Fitness, the “Pro Indoor Cycling Bike” couldn’t be more different from their folding bike. This is a proper Spin Class bike which uses a 40lb flywheel. Whereas the last bike was a space-saving dream, this bike isn’t going anywhere (though it does have transportation wheels).
But what this product lacks in maneuverability it more than makes up for as an out and out cycling bike. This is a heavy duty spin bike which is a lot closer to a real bike in design and in speed. A 40lb flywheel is very heavy which may make the bike more cumbersome to move, but will make for a much smoother cycle. The bike can also take the weight of a 275lb person.
The seat can be adjusted in the normal way (up and down) but can also be adjusted forward and backwards to suit your riding style. The resistance can be changed using a tension knob and there is a safety stop switch that you can use if you feel like the wheel is spinning too fast. The seat is made of padded leather but like all cycle seats will only provide temporary comfort, you might want to look into an additional seat pad for extra comfort.
These bikes are designed for spin classes, so would be perfect for using with a spin-class DVD or for creating your own HIIT workouts. A lot of people find that once they’ve used a spin bike it is very difficult to go back to regular stationary bikes. There is a manufacturer’s warranty included with this product.
Bike #3. The Recumbent Bike
Marcy Fitness has been around since 1959 and sells a whole range of fitness equipment, from barbells to benches, to cardio equipment. This bike is perfect for people who are new to fitness, and particularly to people who are overweight or obese. The bike can withstand weights of 350-400lb making it much more accessible than the previous bikes we looked at.
Everything about this bike is designed for comfort, the position of the seat and pedals make it a lot easier than a regular bike. The seat is extremely well padded and comes with a very decent back support. Some people would say that this is a bad thing and that exercise should not be comfortable, this bike is not for them.
Firstly for very overweight or very unfit people, a recumbent bike may be their only option due to the limitations imposed by their size. Secondly, low intensity exercise that you can do whilst watching a movie or reading a book is a decent calorie burner, much like going for a walk. If you can sit down and pedal whilst playing video games then you are going to burn 200 calories more than if you had sat down on a couch to play video games instead.
As a bike it has some fairly standard features, 8 resistance levels that can be changed using an adjustable knob. A computer screen that will tell you your speed, distance, and the calories that you’ve burned. Marcy does seem to have a warranty on their product, but it is not made clear and you have to contact the seller directly if you want specifics.
Bike #4. The Regular Stationary Bike
So far we have looked at an easy-to-store bike, a bike designed for high intensity exercise lovers, and a bike that is perfect for the beginner. But what about your regular stationary bike? Fitleader are a fitness equipment company that specialize in stationary bikes. Their Upright stationary bike looks exactly like a stationary bike should, and has many excellent design features.
This is the bike for the regular person who wants a decent high-quality bike for a fair price. The bike can handle up to 290lbs of weight and comes with a fully adjustable seat, meaning that it will suit the majority of exercisers.
There are 8 different resistance levels and they use silent magnetic resistance to ensure that their bike is as quiet as possible whilst pedaling. The handles have pulse sensors that can give you a pretty accurate heart rate reading and the flywheel has been designed to mimic road racing as much as possible. The warranty for this product is not immediately clear as you have to contact the seller directly, which is something that could be improved. This may not be the cheapest stationary bike but it is still great value for money and will last an age.
We have looked at four completely different stationary bikes here, that are suited to people with very different goals and desires. The first bike is perfect for people who have limited space, or who want to store their bike away between sessions.
The second bike is perfect for very fit people, or people who aspire to be fit. This bike is not going to be able to be stored away but will allow for a higher intensity workout than any other. The third bike is perfect for those people who are just starting their fitness journey and are looking for a bike that they can use whilst sitting in front of the tv.
The last bike is your everyman bike, decent for any user and a great piece of kit. Properly assess what it is that you want out of your stationary bike and then pick the bike to match those desires. Good luck and enjoy the ride!