It’s so cruel that New Years Resolutions have to line up with the coldest, darkest part of the year. Fitness goals are among the most common resolutions, but it’s a pain to exercise outdoors in the dead of winter or fight the limited amount of daylight to squeeze in a gym workout before or after the work day. Which is why we’ve rounded up the best exercise bikes to fuel your motivation.
Home cardio equipment, like treadmills and bikes, are the perfect way to stay consistent this winter and enjoy the physical and mental benefits of regular exercise.
Of all home exercise equipment, why choose an exercise bike? For one, cycling is easier on weight-bearing joints like your hips, knees, and ankles than other forms of cardio training, like running. The movement of biking actually helps lubricate the joints and improves range of motion. Turn up the tension and you’ve got a lower body strength workout, too, engaging legs, hips, glutes, and the lower abdomen. Cycling can improve heart health and lung function, as well as increase overall endurance. And thanks to the past decade’s boom in group fitness à la Soulcycle, Flywheel, et al., the best exercise bikes hit a workout sweet spot that is both fun (great music, engaging instructors) and motivating (leaderboards, personal stats).
With streaming workouts and “connected fitness” (wifi-enabled screens mounted over handlebars) the best exercise bikes can replicate much of the studio experience at home—the playlists, the instructors, and the classes can be cued up like a Netflix show. That also means there is a lot of junk on the market; machines with superfulous tech and mandatory streaming subscriptions. Home exercise bikes can range from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars, and you want to make ‘em count. We dug through what’s out there to compare and contrast what’s available, finally coming down to a few of the best exercise bikes for a variety of users and needs.
Best Value Exercise Bike
Barwing Stationary Bicycle
If you’re looking for a solid ride at an affordable price, this Barwing bike is the model for you. Using a combination of magnetic resistance and a belt-drive system, this bike delivers as much as 35 pounds of resistance smoothly and quietly. Unlike other budget models, the seat can be adjusted not just vertically but also horizontally, which is important for correct form, particularly for protecting the knees from unnecessary strain. Additionally, the handlebar height is adjustable, another feature uncommon to budget bikes.
We also like that it has a bracket mount for phones and tablets, making it easy to stream workouts from brands like Peloton without the price tag of their equipment (or just mindlessly peddle while mindlessly binging TV—hey, it’s healthier than doing the same thing on the couch!). Lastly, the bike has two transport wheels on the bottom, making it easy to move out of the way when you’re done sweating.
Best Exercise Bike Under $500
Yosuda Indoor Cycling Bike
A good way to save a lot of money on a home exercise bike is to opt for a model without a screen. A simple tablet or phone mount lets you stream your preferred content, freeing you from mandatory membership fees.
This indoor cycling bike by Yosuda has everything you need in a home exercise bike and nothing you don’t. It has a heavy-duty steel frame for stability, a 35 pound flywheel for resistance, and runs on a belt driven system (as opposed to chain driven) so it’s fairly quiet. We also like that it has adjustable cage pedals, so you can cycle in sneakers and don’t need to add cycling shoes to your startup costs. Lastly, its footprint comes in at just 22 inches wide and 40 inches long, making it an easy fit for most homes.
Best Splurge Exercise Bike
The Peloton exercise bike is pricey, but by all accounts very much worth it for anyone who is looking for an immersive, class-like experience. Here’s the thing with these “connected fitness” bikes: they all require you pay a monthly membership fee for their library of streamable workouts. And there is no beating Peloton’s offerings in this department, given the breadth and depth of instructors, music, and class variety. Peloton All-Access (which costs $39/month and is, again, required with purchase) also sets itself apart by offering live classes, which is about as close as you can get to the “real thing” these days.
The bike, too, is studio quality and supports users from 4’11” to 6’4” and up to about 300 pounds. Its footprint comes in at two feet by four feet, making it one of the more compact options for connected bikes.
If you are already a fan of the SoulCycle experience, you may like its bike better than the Peloton. However, the bike itself is more expensive, the monthly membership costs more, and because it is so new, it has yet to solidify a reputation the way the Peloton bike has.
Best Exercise Bike For Small Spaces
XTERRA FB150 Folding Exercise Bike
If you aren’t interested in having an exercise bike as a permanent piece of furniture, a folding model may be right for you. The major compromises you make with a folding exercise bike are stability and resistance. This style is best suited for someone looking for a low-impact, steady state cardio workout and would be great for those with joint pain, anyone new to or getting back into exercise who doesn’t want to spend a lot, or for just watching TV instead of being on the couch. A compact, folding bike is not what you want for interval workouts or building muscle.
The FB150 from XTERRA has a big, cushy seat and padded handle bars for comfort and offers eight levels of resistance. It has a simple LCD display to track time, speed, and distance (it also purports to track calorie burn and pulse, but cardio machines are categorically unreliable for both of these stats). Buyers seem to be satisfied with the FB150, giving it an average rating of 4.6 stars across over 6,000 reviews on Amazon.
Best Exercise Bike For Streaming Options
As we’ve mentioned, most exercise bikes with built-in consoles require membership to the company’s proprietary streaming service. That is true here of Bowflex and its JRNY system. JRNY offers trainer-led videos and world destination rides, but it can also support Peloton and Zwift memberships, as well as pretty much all Netflix-esque streaming service (Hulu, Amazon, you get the picture). Bottom line, it seems pretty hard to get bored, which is good news for consistency.
Beyond streaming options, the other feature that sets this Bowflex model apart from other exercise bikes is “leaning mode,” which allows the rider greater range of motion above the waist, engaging the arms and core. This is pretty exciting for anyone used to taking sharp turns outdoors or riding with the beat in class.
Best Recumbent Exercise Bike
Marcy Recumbent Exercise Bike
A recumbent bike is a great choice for those with limited mobility, or those looking to avoid any back and knee stress that may flare up when mounting an upright-style bike. The low to the ground design of a recumbent makes getting on and off easy, so users can get their heart rate up with minimum impact.
We—and over 11,000 Amazon reviewers—like this inexpensive model from Marcy for its additional considerations for the recumbent biker. A padded seat and back rest add comfort, and handles help the user stay steady up top while working the legs. Eight resistance levels should be enough to feel a little burn, but this is not the machine (or position) for building significant muscle mass.
Best Exercise Bike
Flexispot Deskcise Pro
And, lastly, a home exercise bike for the ultimate multi-tasker. There are not as many standing desk-bike hybrids on the market as you would expect, but we’re sure various manufacturers are hard at work changing that, given the proliferation of remote work spurred by the coronavirus.
For now, Flexispot dominates the work/workout from home sweet spot with models that fit under standing desks and models with their own 20” x 23” desktop. These bikes offer eight levels of resistance and are best for steady state cardio rather than intense interval training. They’re quiet, too, which is ideal for work time and shared spaces.