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Exercise Bikes

Exercise bikes have long been considered one of the top choices for cardiovascular exercise among fitness enthusiasts but the level of control you have over the bike, the different styles available and the intensity they offer, without putting too much strain on your body, make it an ideal piece of equipment not just for enthusiasts but for users of all ages and fitness levels. They also have the advantage of not taking up as much space as other types of fitness machines, and last but by no means least, buying one doesn't have to break the bank.

What are the benefits of exercise bikes?

Weight loss

With the great range of different intensities an exercise bike can deliver, they are ideally suited to helping you lose weight. Whether you’re just starting out on a mission to get into shape, or want to burn some extra calories to shed those last few stubborn pounds, the impact free nature of the workout provided by bikes makes them an ideal choice. It also makes them a great option for heavier or older users who suffer from joint problems and want to lose weight.

Cardiovascular health

Regularly working out on an exercise bike benefits your cardiovascular health in multiple ways. It strengthens your heart and allows it to operate much more efficiently, while also improving the oxygen levels in the blood and removing fatty deposits. 

Strengthening your heart means that it doesn’t need to work as hard and is under considerably less strain. It also helps to lower blood pressure, improve blood flow, increase workout efficiency, and decrease the risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes. 

Cross-training with other sports

The ability to tailor your workouts on an exercise bike so specifically provides a great deal of potential when it comes to training for other sports. Exercise bikes allow you to increase your endurance, extend the amount of time you can go flat out, build muscle in your lower body and make a host of other improvements that will benefit you in a wide range of sports.

Types of exercise bikes

Upright Exercise Bikes

Upright exercise bikes closely resemble the design of a traditional road bike, with an upright seating position and handles that require you to lean forward. These tend to be the most space-efficient bikes as well as the most frequently produced, which also leads to this category of bikes having the greatest range of prices and models to choose from.

Recumbent Exercise Bikes

Usually considered to be the most comfortable type of exercise bike,  recumbent exercise bikes function in much the same way as an upright exercise bike, but feature a more laid-back seating position, with full back support and pedals out in front of you. Due to the seating position, they generally take up more room lengthways than their upright counterparts but provide a more glute and hamstring heavy workout. Recumbent models also provide a high level of comfort and support making them especially suitable for those who are recovering from an injury.

Indoor Cycles

Similar in seating position to an upright exercise bike, an indoor cycle (sometimes also known as a spin bike) utilises chains or belts in order to replicate the feel of outdoor cycling as closely as possible. These are ideal for users who participate in classes, interval training or outdoor races, as they allow more control simply by adjusting your riding speed and tend to feature far higher levels of resistance than that available on classic upright models. Many indoor cycles feature manual direct resistance allowing changes to the difficulty to be made extremely fast, making them ideal for HIIT sessions. 

Things to consider

Bike weight & weight limit

Exercise bikes can range from relatively light-weight to very heavy and also come with an upper user-weight limit. Make sure that the model you are looking at will support the weight of all the intended users. It’s best practice to choose a model that states a maximum user-weight at least 10% higher than the weight of the heaviest intended user.

Flywheel & resistance

A variety of different types of resistance are available in exercise bikes, such as manual, manual magnetic, electronically controlled magnetic, electro-magnetic, and more. While experienced users will know what they are looking for, if you’re out looking for your first bike you may be a little unsure what this all means. Most modern bikes will use magnetic resistance as this is the quietest technology. After that budget will dictate how advanced the system is. When it comes to flywheels, there’s a simple rule of thumb that generally holds true - the heavier the better. Anything from 6kg upwards would be considered a good target to aim for with some models boasting flywheels of up to 14kg. At the very least, make sure the bike you are looking at provides a great enough range of resistance for you to improve and progress to a degree you feel acceptable.

Console

Consoles are one of the most varied aspects across exercise bikes, ranging from providing the basics to offering high-end features like access to YouTube and interactive training programs. Make sure you get one that meets your requirements.

Heart Rate Measurement (HRM)

Heart rate measurement is a great thing to track while performing cardiovascular exercise. Many exercise bikes will have monitors built in to help you track this, but some will not. If it’s something that’s important to you, make sure your model comes with the correct technology. If you’re a casual user hand-grip pulse sensors will usually do the job just fine and these are to be found on most models, but if you need a more accurate reading for your training or safety we’d always recommend opting for a wireless heart rate chest belt, just make sure that the model you’re looking at has a built-in heart rate receiver if you intend on using one of these.

Folding or not?

Even a small exercise bike is not all that small a piece of equipment. If you are planning to store it when not in use, consider buying one that can be easily folded away when you’re done.

Extra features

With everything from cupholders to iPod docks, there are an incredible amount of extra features companies are including to try and convince you to choose their product. Have a look around before you settle on a product and see if there’s something that really makes a particular model speak to you.

Warranty

Exercise bikes come with a wide range of warranties from company to company. With even the cheaper options still being something of an investment, make sure you go for an option that makes you feel comfortable and confident in your purchase.

Your budget

With such a wide range of exercise bikes available across all different price brackets, there’ll be plenty to fall in love with in terms of features but the most important factor here should always be your spend compared with how often and hard the bike is going to be used. The more action your bike is going to see, the more you should be spending on it to ensure it stays reliable and meets your needs. We’d always recommend setting your budget in accordance with this. Opting for a £99 entry level model for your family of 5 that are all regular gym goers is likely going to quickly result in a broken or excessively worn out bike. By the same token spending £2000 on a model that one person will use once a week for 15 minutes at a time is akin to using a sledgehammer to crack a nut! Consider who will be using the bike and how often it will be used before setting your budget, to get the best value for money long term.

Exercise bike maintenance

Modern upright and recumbent bikes require little to no maintenance to stay in good working order. Simply keeping them clean should allow them to function well for years to come.

The same can largely be said of spin bikes as well. However, it is worth noting that models utilising a chain to produce their resistance can benefit from using special oil to keep them operating to the highest level and models that use brake pads will need the pads changing every so often.

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