Exercise Bike Buying Guide
Exercise bikes have been around longer than most types of home
fitness equipment and there is now a huge range of brands, models
and styles available on the market. It is of course important that
you choose one that is suited to your particular needs, so to help
you along we have outlined some of the things to consider and features
to look for when buying your bike.
Exercise bikes can be a relatively inexpensive piece of fitness
equipment with prices starting at around £50. As with most
exercise machines though, you do tend to get what you pay for so
a more expensive model is likely to last longer, be sturdier, more
comfortable and have useful added features. For a very high spec,
top of the range exercise cycle packed with features and programmes
you can pay anything up to £2000.
Type of exercise bike
It wasn’t long ago that the vast majority of stationary
bikes looked very similar and seemed to do pretty much exactly
the same thing. Nowadays the variety seems almost endless. There
are two main types of stationary bikes – upright and recumbent.
The traditional upright type is most similar to regular outdoor
cycles with the user seated upright with the pedals below. The
more modern recumbent type typically has a much larger seat with
back support. The seat is positioned lower to the ground than with
upright bikes and the pedals are in front of the user. There are
also models that fall somewhere in between the two main types in
terms of seat and pedal positioning and these are typically referred
to as semi-recumbent.
Which style of exercise bike to choose is
very much a case of personal preference. The seat on a recumbent
bike supports the lower back and will therefore be more comfortable
than an upright bike for those with back problems. Recumbents can
also be a better choice for those with knee problems or anyone
suffering from high blood pressure, as they tend to lessen strain
on knees and keep the user’s blood pressure lower than with
an upright bike. On the other hand, if you have none of the above
problems and you want to ensure you get the most out of each workout,
an upright model might be the right option, as some do believe
that these encourage a more intense workout.
of the upright type is that they are more compact which is great
if you are short on space. Some upright models come with handles
that are designed to offer rowing type upper body workouts as well.
These are often called triple action bikes as you can use either
the pedalling or “rowing” action on its own or the
two simultaneously. If you go for a recumbent model you could use
weights for upper body workouts while pedalling, as you don’t
have to use your arms and hands to hold on to any handlebars.
bikes come with a few different styles of frame – look for
an open framed bike with nothing in the way between the saddle
and handlebars if you think you would have any problems stepping
over a crossbar or other type of obstruction. On the same note,
it tends to be easier to get on and off semi-recumbent bikes compared
to recumbent models if you have any mobility problems. A final
type of exercise cycle is the ergometer. These are a bit more high-tech
than standard exercise bikes and are able to provide a more accurate
assessment of the intensity and results of you workouts.
Resistance and flywheel
By far the most common form of resistance used for exercise cycles
is magnetic, which tends to be quite quiet. The smoothness
and noise levels will improve as you move up the price ranges.
expensive models might have electromagnets, which allows for
virtually silent pedalling action. Resistance is altered by
bringing the magnets closer or further away from the flywheel.
either done manually, by adjusting knobs or levers, or electronically
by simply pressing a button. Electronic adjustment is obviously
the more convenient option as it will never interrupt your
workout, but you do have to pay a bit more for a bike of this
for one with manual resistance adjustment.
You will also need
to check out the range of resistance before deciding which exercise
to buy. The resistance range is determined by the size of
the flywheel and the type, size and number of magnets. If you want
a machine that can offer you a hard workout, you will need
to choose a bike with a large flywheel and good resistance
Electromagnetic resistance cycles also tend to offer a wide
Control panel and programmes
Almost all stationary bikes will offer some sort of electronic
feedback display of speed, time and distance. Many models also
show additional information such as calories burned and heart rate.
The display and control panel will generally be more and more sophisticated
the higher up you go in price. Many models also offer various preset
or customisable workout programmes, which can be great for adding
some variety to your workouts and also making your exercise more
efficient. Look for a bike with a wide range of programmes if you
are the kind of person who needs that little bit of extra help
to keep the motivation up – it might cost you a little bit
more but you may well end up getting more use out of the machine
as well. Certain manufacturers offer models that can be hooked
up to a video, CD player or the Internet for use with additional
Quite a few models come with a pulse sensor
of some kind and some of these will also offer heart rate controlled
training programmes which will automatically adjust the resistance
to keep you in your ideal heart rate zone. As well as being a
safer form of exercise, heart rate controlled training has been
to assist in weight loss and improving performance. On exercise
cycles pulse sensors are often built into the handlebars, although
with some models there will be a chest strap included for monitoring
your heart rate and these do tend to give the most accurate reading.
Please note that heart rate monitors may not be suitable for
people with pacemakers.
As with all exercise machines, you should check out the warranties
offered on any stationary bike you are considering. This is
especially important if you are planning on spending quite
a lot to invest
in a high-spec model. High quality, durable equipment will
generally be backed by generous warranties. Most exercise bikes,
exception of some very basic models, will have at least a one
year parts and labour warranty with mid- and higher-end manufacturers
offering two or even three years. Many high quality manufacturers
will offer a lifetime warranty of the frame and some models
will even come with a lifetime warranty on magnetic braking
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