How to choose an exercise bike
12 tips on how to choose the right exercise bike for home use
First of all it is important to mention that the term exercise bike is often mistaken for the word indoor cycle or spinning bike. A stationary bike is called exercise bike, also home trainer bike or ergometer bike. An indoor cycle has a sport seat with a hard saddle and a slight tilt to the front. It is primarily intended for sports training. An exercise bike has a large comfortable saddle with a high tilt. Some models have a low step through frame and are suitable for the elderly and can serve as a tool for rehabilitation and post-surgery exercise. If you are not a passionate cyclist, choose an exercise bike instead.
Exercise bikes are nowadays very popular for home use. Compared to other trainers, exercise bikes take up a lot less space. A disadvantage compared to the elliptical is workout of the lower part of the body only – the legs.
How to correctly choose an exercise bike? Before purchasing your trainer, you should answer these 12 questions.
1. Who is going to use the exercise bike?
It is important to decide if you are going to be the only user or maybe after some time your spouse or children will join you. It is good to know how many users your new exercise partner is going to have to deal with.Tip: When purchasing your exercise bike, you should carefully think through WHO is going to use it. You should take into consideration the number of users so that you exercise bike can actually handle it performance-wise. The more people are going to use it, the more „operating hours“ it has to manage.
2. How often do you plan on exercising on the exercise bike?An essential difference in the load of the exercise bike is in the amount of exercise hours – if you are going to exercise one hour or two hours daily or every other day… The question is, what regularity do you choose? In case there will be an additional person using it, the number of operating hours will increase rapidly.
How many operating hours can an exercise bike handle?
- With a basic type of trainer suitable for home exercise, it is approximately 6 hours a week
- For club use exercise bikes (pensions, hotels, schools, companies, etc.) it is 6 hours a day
- Professional exercise bikes have an unlimited number of operating hours
Recommendation: We recommend investing ONCE and in quality. Choose your exercise bike wisely, so that it can handle more exercise hours. You do not want to have to sell it shortly and look for a new one because the old one just was not sufficient. If you are not sure about your choice, you can go try it out at a gym or a specialized store. To exercise at home is really very comfortable and it definitely has its benefits. :-)
3. What is the height and weight of the user/s?
For better quality of exercise you should choose an exercise bike depending on the height and weight of the users. Take your time to carefully read the technical specifications of the product or even better – ask the professionals. They will advise you and help you find the best exercise bike according to your needs. A few additional pieces of information can be found in chapter 10 – weight bearing capacity.Not every exercise bike is suitable for users taller than 180 cm or 190 cm. Cheaper trainers have a shorter and slim construction and if you set the saddle to the highest position, the bike will be too small for you. A good seller always states for what heights are the exercise bikes suitable or can at least answer your questions about it.
Recommendation: If you are choosing an exercise bike for your entire family or a larger number of users, always stick to the weight of the heaviest user as well as the height of the tallest user.
4. What is your budget for the purchase of the exercise bike?
The price of an exercise bike depends on its specific technical parameters. Of course quality is directly related to the price as well. The price is influenced by its construction, the quality of used materials and individual components. The prices of high-quality exercise bikes start at about 300€. Such machines have a steady construction, good quality components, electronic load control and a lit display.Experts will be able to advise you to choose the right exercise bike that will convince you with its price as well.
Recommendation: It is sometimes possible to pick an optimal exercise bike for a lower price, however you should know which parameters to keep an eye on. Ask the professionals.
5. What are the basic parameters of an exercise bike?
We will describe individual technical parameters such as the following below:
- Weight of the fly-wheel
- Braking system
- Frame and ergonomics
- Weight bearing capacity
- Warranty and service
Let us examine every single parameter in detail. At first sight it may seem that all exercise bikes are the same and you can focus on the price only. That, however, is not true.
The parameters of cross trainers usually state the weight of the fly-wheel. The fly-wheel is a metal wheel that secures a fluent operation during exercise.
6. How does the weight of the fly-wheel influence the exercise bike?
Generally speaking – the heavier the fly-wheel, the smoother and more fluent the operation. And the heavier the fly-wheel, the higher the intensity of the exercise. The most basic exercise bikes have 4-5 kg (sometimes 6 kg) heavy fly-wheels. When you are planning to use your exercise bike on a long-term basis, which will increase your condition and strength, a 5 kg fly-wheel will be absolutely unsuitable for you, because even maximum resistance will be too low and the movement will be discontinuous. And you will have to buy a new bike. A high quality exercise bike that will offer you a fluent performance and sufficient resistance, should have an at least 8 kg heavy fly-wheel. An exercise bike with a lighter fly-wheel could be suitable only with an inductive braking system. In that case you can set a sufficiently high resistance even with a low-weight fly-wheel, since the braking system is different.
Recommendation: When purchasing an exercise bike within your budget, choose one with the heaviest possible fly-wheel.
7. What kind of braking system is ideal for you?
There are 2 kinds of braking system for exercise bikes on the market.Magnetic braking system, used in most exercise bikes today. The base of this system is a metal fly-wheel with a magnet on one side. As you are changing the resistance intensity, the magnet gets closer to or further from the fly-wheel. With this type of braking system there is no mechanical resistance and therefore such cross trainers are characterized by silent operation and a long lifespan. Be careful when setting the braking power regulation.
Induction braking system, is the most flawless braking system. It is typical for its silent operation, higher level of resistance intensity (braking power is usually given in watts) and it has the longest lifespan of them all. The braking resistance of the fly-wheel is equipped with electrical induction. Ususally, these exercise bikes have more than 30 resistance levels.
Magnetic braking system Inductive braking system
An ergometer, an exercise bike with performance given in watts and equipped with pulse programs, is usually fitted with an inductive braking system. Because of this you can adjust the resistance by smaller units. Usually resistance is intensified in 5-watt steps and instead of a classic braking system with about 15 levels of resistance, this type has around 30-40 levels. That is the reason such exercise bikes are labelled ergometers.
There are two types of resistance – manually operated and electronically operated cross trainers.
Manually operated cross trainers usually offer 1-8 levels of resistance. The principle is simple. The resistance is regulated with a mechanical twist knob that moves the magnet closer to or further away from the fly-wheel. Electronically operated cross trainers have a magnet operated by a servomotor and you can regulate the resistance via the computer. Another advantage is a larger number of resistance levels, better adjustment for every user and software equipment.
Manually operated exercise bikes regulate the resistance with a mechanical twist knob in most cases made up of a steel cable. This knob moves the magnet closer to or further away from the fly-wheel. Manually operated cross trainers usually offer 8 levels of resistance.
Electronically operated exercise bikes - the movement of the magnet around the fly-wheel is secured by a servomotor. The regulation of the intensity takes place via the computer that you can operate by means of the display. Its advantage except for high reliability are a larger number of resistance levels, finer adjustment and software equipment. Individual programs pre-set by the manufacturer or the ones that the user can create, definitely contribute to the attractiveness of the exercise bike. You can create various track profiles and imitate running in real surroundings with uphill or downhill terrain.
Recommendation: Choose an electronically operated exercise bike. Such bikes have a larger number of resistance levels and better comfort during exercise.
8. Frame and ergonomics of the exercise bike
The frame type has great influence on the price of the exercise bike. Cheap exercise bikes have a slim construction, high step through frames and a very bad ergonomics. We will demonstrate this on the following picture for better understanding:
- The bike has narrow stabilizers and is not very well balanced. Therefore it is necessary to sit carefully and it is absolutely unsuitable for taller and heavier people.
- A height-adjustable saddle. It lacks horizontal shift and therefore does not fit everyone.
- High step through edge. When getting on the bike you have to lift your leg very high and step over the cover of the fly-wheel. If you are in good condition and shape, you can do this without any issues. However, such a construction is unsuitable for the elderly or people who are recuperating from a knee surgery.
- Simplistic and unsteady frame with low weight capacity.
This picture shows an exercise bike with a perfect construction:
- Broad stabilizers for good balance during exercise.
- Vertically and horizontally adjustable saddle for the right setting.
- Low step through edge. It is much easier to get on an exercise bike with this type of construction and it is also very easy to get off it especially for elderly or handicapped people.
- Robust frame with high weight capacity.
9. What type of computer can an exercise bike have?Nowadays, the computer or console of the cross trainer is basic equipment of every model. On manually operated exercise bikes, the computer shows basic training figures such as time, speed, amount of burned calories and heart rate. On manually or mechanically operated cross trainers that do not require electronic connection, the computer is supplied with batteries. Those can last a fairly long time.
A small unlit display with figures is a basic facility.
Recommendation: Always supply the computer with good quality alkaline batteries, as they have a long lifespan and even after a longer period of inactivity they will not destroy the electronics. Being able to see the amount of burned calories can motivate you even more. Look carefully, if the model you chose offers this indicator on the computer.Electronically operated exercise bikes have computer-controlled resistance. Better exercise bikes are equipped with better computers. Computers can have lit displays for better visibility, they can be of different sizes, various numbers of programs and additional equipment, such as built-in fans for refreshment, built-in speakers, an MP3-player connector or compatibility with tablets and phones.
Every “gadget” has its advantages, however it increases the price of the trainer.Recommendation: When selecting your exercise bike, make sure that the computer has everything you need, motivates and makes the training more pleasant.
10. Weight bearing capacity and construction of the exercise bike
The weight bearing capacity is a parameter that helps you easily estimate the quality and sturdiness of the construction. The basic models have a max capacity of 100 kg. The larger the exercise bike, the sturdier the construction. The maximum weight capacity gradually increases to 120 kg, 130 kg and to 150 kg. Large and robust trainers offer the capacity of up to 180 kg of weight.When choosing an exercise bike for the entire family or for a larger number of users, it is necessary to know the weight of the heaviest user and the reserve is also important. If your weight is 90 kg, do not choose an exercise bike with maximum weight capacity of 100 kg, even though you can still squeeze into the limit. The bigger the reserve, the lesser the strain on the construction and automatically the longer the lifespan of the trainer.
The overall construction of the exercise bike influences the quality of the seat and exercise. Unfortunately, nowadays you can find exercise bikes for 60€. Such a cheap bike has a small construction, an uncomfortable seat, a low-weight fly-wheel (which results in low resistance and discontinuous movement) and a very low quality centring. Try to avoid exercise bikes in the price range up to 150€. These bikes are absolutely ergonomically and practically unsatisfactory.Unfortunately, there are sellers on the market with little to no experience, who label such exercise bikes as “professional trainers”. They just want to give the impression of a good quality exercise bike, which is not true. There are no professional exercise bikes under 1000€.
Recommendation: Choose an exercise bike with at least 20% reserve in weight capacity. It will save the components and prolong the lifespan of your trainer.
11. What exercise bike brand to choose??
There are many manufacturers of exercise bikes on the market. We recommend verified global brands that have been offering their products for years and there are even some that have been producing in the field of fitness for more than 100 years. Some of the globally most famous brands are: SPIRIT FITNESS (USA), XTERRA (USA), SOLE FITNESS (USA), LIFE FITNESS (USA), Hammer (Germany), FINNLO (Germany), FINNLO MAXIMUM (Germany), ENDURANCE FITNESS (USA), KETTLER (Germany), BH FITNESS (Spain), TUNTURI (Finland), LIFESPAN (USA), CYBEX (USA) NORDIC TRACK (USA).American exercise bike brands belong to the elite mainly because of the huge domestic market and demand since the 1950s. For all these years they have been collecting experience and nowadays the American fitness market is the largest in the world.
Recommendation: If you are looking for a high-quality exercise bike for regular exercise, we recommend the best exercise bikes from SPIRIT FITNESS.
12. What warranty and service can an exercise bike have?
When choosing your trainer, do not forget one important thing – the length of warranty on an exercise bike. The legal warranty in our country is 24 months. Some manufacturers provide extended warranty on the entire trainer or warranties of different lengths on individual parts.For example the German brand FINNLO provides a 3-year-warranty on the entire exercise bike, the American brand SPIRIT FITNESS provides lifelong warranty on the frame, etc.
A very important information for you is whether or not the seller provides “service directly at the customer’s home”. Not all sellers offer this service. In case of a technical difficulty you will see how important and practical it is.Every exercise bike is just a machine after all and can break, no matter how good the quality is. In case such a problem occurs, you do not have to pack the exercise bike and send it back to the seller. Imagine you have a 40 kg heavy trainer and you would have to disassemble it, put it in a box (that you have thrown out in the meantime, because who keeps gigantic empty boxes anyway, right?) and then somehow send it back to the seller.
If you actually manage to disassemble your exercise bike and fit it in a box, there is still a problem with the transport. Courier companies will gladly be forthcoming to you, however if you are not a contracting partner (which you surely are not), the transport of your exercise bike may cost you a few dozen euros.Recommendation: We recommend checking the warranty length and looking for sellers that provide on the spot service and assembly.
We are very pleased to be able to share our long-standing experience in the field of fitness, where we have been working since 2008. We hope that the aforementioned information will be put to good use and will help you choose the ideal partner in achieving your goals and dreams. Whether it is your dream body, great condition or solving your health problems.
Our company is a direct importer of several brands as well as an exclusive distributor for the Czech and Slovak Republic.