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Exercise Bike Buying Guide

You can trace the history of the stationary exercise bike all the way back to the late 18th century; invented by Francis Lowndes he patented his new design the Gymnasticon with the primary intention to train the joints and help rehabilitate the sick with minimal impact. The modern exercise bikes of today are dramatically different to this common ancestor but follow the same principles, all are designed to ensure an exhilarating cardio workout that doesn’t pressure your joints for more enjoyable and beneficial exercise.

From their humble beginnings cycles have always been a popular, welcome piece of equipment in most gyms as they appeal to most fitness enthusiasts. With simple to use consoles, great ranges of resistance levels and pre-programmed workouts it’s easy to see why the exercise bike has been and still is hugely popular.

Different Types

Three different styles of bikes have stemmed from the original design; those styles are recumbents, upright and indoor racing. All three are quite different in design but follow a common similarity, they all operate from a steel spinning flywheel that generates and stores energy when a force is applied to the pedals where it begins to rotate.

Recumbent bikes are ideal for sufferers of back pain that require lumbar support, they place your body in a horizontal alignment with the pedals as oppose to been above them which alleviates any pressure on your back and places more focus on your legs and glutes. The addition of a backrest support pad provides that crucial lower back support that upright versions don’t provide.

Upright bikes are likely the most recognised version of all three. They place you in a conventional cycling position like any road bike would, because of this most argue that they are more effective than recumbents as they utilise more muscle groups to burn more calories. Most have adjustable seats, computer operated resistance levels and multitudes of workout programmes so they are also quite versatile.

Indoor cycles are for intense workouts that accurately simulate road biking better than the other two stationary options. They are more basic than uprights or recumbents however they are naturally more robust and boast larger flywheels. The sheer size of the flywheels generates more energy forcing you to pedal quicker and work harder; it is common to see classes of indoor cyclists dripping with sweat in most gyms.

Key Features

Flywheel

The first component to look at with any bike is the flywheel. The size of a flywheel is generally measured in either kg or pounds; you should expect a reasonable quality machine to operate from at least a 6kg one. The benefit of a larger flywheel is primarily for a smooth motion and quiet operation, it may not instinctively be the first feature you would look for but rest assured you should pay close attention to this all important component.

Adjustments

Finding a bike that suits your measurements shouldn’t be to challenging as most come with a good range of adjustments however you should check to make sure. The seat pad is naturally the most vital part to adjust, recumbents adjust horizontally because they’re horizontally aligned but upright cycles are the ones to watch. All adjust vertically but try and pick one out with horizontal adjustment too so that you’re not leaning too far away or too close to prevent back injuries.

Adjustable handlebars are not as common, they are particularly important on indoor bikes because you rely on the handlebars to lean on during high intensity bursts, for other versions you can get by without them adjusting though. Pedal straps must also be adjustable and this is almost mandatory for most models now, it’s important to be able to secure your feet firmly into place otherwise you’ll never be able to pick up momentum with your feet slipping off the pedals.

Braking

All stationary cycles are reliant on brakes to some degree; our programmable machines use a magnetic braking system that is highly efficient and very reliable for long lasting use. This particular design uses a magnet to increase or decrease resistance on the flywheel, the parts don’t make contact so they aren’t prone to wear and tear from friction.

Indoor racers on the other hand more commonly use a simple push brake design, a feathered pad can be pushed on the flywheel to slowly bring it to a halt or to apply varying levels of resistance as well, the more expensive the bike the more reliable the brakes will be, which is a good reason why many pay more to prevent having to replace the machine further down the line.

Console

Almost every exercise bike now comes with some form a console display, indoor cycles have basic displays that just provide a readout of vital workout feedback such as your time, distance, calories etc… Uprights and recumbents on the other hand can offer much more, strive for a model that features a good range of resistance levels and plenty of workout programmes too. You may not feel like you’ll ever get use out of them but getting in shape and staying in shape is a marathon not a sprint, those programmes will be a much needed source of variation to avoid becoming de-motivated at some point or another.

Resistance Levels

Consistent weight loss requires increasing your metabolism but also maintaining a good level of progression, to do this resistance levels must be used and gradually increased over time as you get fitter. An exercise bike with roughly 16 difficulty levels has more than enough to keep this rate of progress consistent almost indefinitely.

Framework & Build Quality

It’s hard to determine build quality online but not impossible, this is why a lot of cycles are more expensive than others. Chunky framework and exposed steel are good indications to observe, don’t be fooled by the plastic trim making the machine look bigger than it actually is underneath as it can mask the true quality. Always look to the thickness of the framework and check the maximum user weight too; this is a clear marker of what the machine can really hold.

Comfort & Access

Seat pads are notoriously uncomfortable on cheap fitness equipment, the seat pad should be large, foam and ergonomically moulded so that you don’t have a sore backside every time you finish a workout, it’s not a pleasant experience.

For those with limited access and range of motion recumbents and some uprights have a step-through frame design so that you don’t have to step over the bike to get onto it, this is certainly worth looking into if this is the case.

Benefits

  • Cycling is a low impact form of exercise so it doesn’t stress or impact the joints
  • Regular exercise has been proven to release endorphins which give you a feel good sensation and help toward a more positive mental state
  • Multiple workout programmes and resistance levels allow you to consistently improve your general fitness levels and weight loss
  • The convenience factor plays a large role for those who lead packed up lifestyles, been able to stroll into another room in your house for a quick workout is highly appealing
  • Exercise bikes are very user friendly, with most you can just step on and start for those who don’t want to mess around setting up programmes
  • Because stationary bikes are an indoor exercise users can commit to year round training without concern for inclement weather conditions
  • Greater control of the workout over road cycling means you can get more out of your workout and work towards a specific target
  • Regular exercise can reduce the risk of heart disease and also helps to increase your lung capacity
  • The compact design of exercise cycles makes them more convenient than larger machines like treadmills and cross trainers as they don’t demand half as much space
  • Good adjustability range makes them accommodating for multiple users and families

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: What bikes would be suitable for someone over 6ft 2”?

Answer: Most of our upright bikes and indoor cycles over £250.00 have a wider range of seat adjustments and better build quality to allow for taller users

Question: Are they easy to assemble?

Answer: Exercise bikes are very straight forward to assemble, most just require you to attach the front and rear stabilisers, the main upright stem, console and pedals and generally only take about an 1 hour and a half to assemble.

Question: Do they have to be mains powered?

Answer: Most bikes are mains operated however we do sell some manual exercise bikes that are just battery powered, they still have some resistance levels but no workout programmes so are a bit more basic but you can place them anywhere you like.

Question: I’m a serious regular user, how much would you recommend spending?

Answer: The great thing about exercise bikes is that they are generally quite cheap; you can get an exercise bike for hard wearing use from about £400.00 upwards, which is what we’d recommend spending at least anyway.

Question: Do you sell any that fold up?

Answer: We don’t actually sell any models that fold up; the main reason is that they are already so compact that a fold up option isn’t necessary in most circumstances.

Question: How would it come delivered?

Answer: Because most cycles don’t weigh as much as cross trainers or treadmills we generally use a free express 1 man courier service however for some of our more expensive heavy duty models 2 man delivery is available. The 2-man option will be available on the individual listing page for the 2 man eligible products.

Question: What would you recommend for a starter?

Answer: For a starter we would normally direct you towards our upright bikes for around £200, they have great features to accommodate for starters but also have good scope for progression too without having to spend an absolute fortune.

We hope that you have found this guide insightful and informative; feel free to view our range of exercise bikes.