Article by Rachel Boardman
Ever since the Bradley Wiggins and Chris Hoy effect came into play the popularity of cycling skyrocketed. With the addition of the spin class bringing the possibility of cycling without having the worry of being knocked off your bike a whole new host of people have found a new way to workout.
However, for those of you who aren’t into cycling in a loud room surrounded by sweaty strangers or braving the ever-changing weather it is now easier than ever to get your cycling fix in the comfort of your own home. Indoor exercise bikes can be a great addition to your home gym, especially if your idea of a cardio workout from hell is running. Plus, you can even position it in front of your TV meaning you can exercise while watching your favourite shows!
Like any piece of equipment in your home gym its important to make sure it is right for you and there are a few things to consider before you buy your new exercise bike.
Upright or Recumbent exercise bike?
The biggest decision you have to make is whether you want a traditional upright bike or recumbent (sit down) bike. Each type has its own benefits and is ideal for different types of people.
Upright exercise bike
This kind of exercise bike is the one that you are probably most familiar with because it looks very similar to your outdoor bicycle. Upright bicycles can be split into two separate categories, exercise bikes and spin bikes. In general, they both take up less room than recumbent bikes and require you to step over the frame of the bike before sitting.
Recumbent exercise bike
Recumbent bikes are those bikes that you see in the gym that allow you to sit down with a back rest while cycling. They are great if you require a larger seat and/or back rest and are often recommended for the elderly, physically disabled or those going through rehabilitation post injury/surgery.
These exercise bikes engage more of the glute muscles than exercise bikes and have a more comfortable seating position than the upright bikes. The step through design often makes it easier to get onto and off the bike too.
What should I look for in an exercise bike?
Not all exercise bikes are made equal and so it is important to actually try out your bike before you buy it. Not only will you get a good feel for whether it is comfy and user friendly, but it will also give you an idea of its size which will make it easier to figure out if it will fit in your home.
Seat and Peddles
While seat sizes will vary from make and type of bike it should be cushioned. If you need a little more padding, then you can sometimes add gel covers. It is also important to note that some bikes do not let you adjust the seat forwards and backwards which can make the cycling experience uncomfortable if its not right for you. Another reason to make sure you try before you buy.
Some exercise bike offers clips which can be handy if you are a hardcore cyclist and already own the right cleats. However, most will come with normal pedals so you can cycle in your socks or slippers if you want to! Do make sure to try them out though as some pedals can be pretty skinny and its easier to change them before you buy the bike than after.
Which type of resistance is best?
The flywheel on an exercise bike provides a level of resistance and motion while pedalling. The heavier the flywheel the more inertia is required to make it spin but its also smoother. In general spin bikes have the heaviest flywheel.
The resistance can be produced in 3 different ways:
- Friction Resistance. This is the cheapest type available and usually uses a fabric belt or felt pad against the flywheel. The tension can then be manually increased. The downside to this kind of resistance is that it needs regular maintenance and the pads may need changing regularly.
- Magnetic Resistance. This is the most common and reliable resistance type. It works using a series of adjustable magnets that surround the flywheel. These are controlled either by a manual dial or a programmable computer console.
- Electro-Magnetic Resistance. A step up from magnetic resistance it is found in high-grade and commercial-grade exercise bikes. The flywheel is surrounded by a copper coil with which an electric current is passed through. It provides the highest amount of resistance and is ideal for a seriously hard work out.
Computer Console Features
While not all exercise bikes come with a computer console, they can be super handy for getting that bit extra out of your workout. Features that all computer consoles should have include exercise time, distance, speed, RPM (revolutions per minute) and heart rate.
More advanced models can even include a variety of different training programs to help you keep your training interesting.
There are so many exercise bikes available to purchase. I always recommend doing your own research. But here are a few which I particularly recommend.
Budget exercise bikes
These bikes are reasonably priced and they fold away too. So, when you’re not exercising, the bike doesn’t need to stay in the corner of the room getting in the way. These bikes come with an LCD computer console and has multiple levels of resistance.
Best quality exercise bikes
These bikes are more expensive, but are very sturdy and come with lots of extra features. Personally, I think it is always worth investing in a better quality bike. You will get more satisfying work out, which means you are more likely to use the bike more often.