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Exercise Bikes 101 - How to choose

Exercise Bikes 101: What You Need, What To Look For

Over 66 million people in the U.S. spent time riding a bicycle last year, and whether riding for transportation, health or fun, the benefits of riding a bike for adults and children are many and lifelong, including these:

  • Cycling is mainly an aerobic activity, so the heart, brain and blood vessels benefit.
  • Unlike running, cycling is easy on the joints, making it an ideal sport for older adults.
  • Muscles in the buttocks, thighs and calves benefit from pedaling.
  • When the muscles benefit, the bones connected to those muscles get stronger, too.

But it’s not always possible to ride outdoors, especially in foul weather, on short winter days or if your usual schedule lacks the time needed to suit up, inspect your bike and find a safe route before facing life’s daily demands. That’s when an indoor exercise bike becomes your best workout partner. But which type of bike suits you best? There are three models: the recumbent, upright and spin versions, and each has features that work for different riders with varying athletic and physical abilities:

The recumbent style exercise bike

The mechanics: A recumbent bike provides a workout while allowing the rider to sit in a comfortable position, with weight distributed between seat and back and pedals located in the front of the bike. The rider position is low to the ground, knees bent at about 90 degrees and arms down to the side.

Best suited for: While disabled, older and overweight individuals find the recumbent bike very comfortable, it’s also a good choice for anyone who experiences back pain while riding in an upright position for long periods of time.

What the bike doesn’t do: Recumbent bikes cannot effectively simulate a road workout, because the rider cannot lift themselves off the seat to increase speed or sprint uphill. Recumbent bikes tend to be the heaviest of the three models, and also the most expensive.

The upright style exercise bike

The mechanics: Also known as the classic stationary bike, this model places the rider’s body in a position more closely simulating that of an outdoor workout bike, and works the same muscle groups. While this ride places more stress on the joints than the recumbent bike, it’s still significantly less than other forms of aerobic exercise, such as running or jumping rope. The seat on an upright is smaller and the body position is slightly forward over the frame, rather than reclined on a wide seat and back pad, with knees bent at about 25 to 35 degrees.

Best suited for: More advanced or experienced riders who want a ride that simulates an outdoor ride, since the rider can raise up from the seat to increase speed for sprinting, which works the abdominal muscles. Upright bikes also engage the entire body, so the upper arms get a workout along with the lower body.

What the bike doesn’t do: For riders who fatigue or experience muscle soreness easily, the upright bike is not the advantageous choice; it offers less support. The bike weighs less and takes up less space, but can be less stable for heavier riders unless it is secured to a floor or solid frame, or comes with a floor leveler package.

The indoor spin bike

The mechanics: Spin bikes provide the workout that most accurately feels like a road workout, with the pedals connected directly to a heavy flywheel; on an upright or recumbent bike, the pedals are attached to a chain that connects to the flywheel. The spin bike provides greater resistance and mainly high intensity workouts only; there are usually no beginner options on a spin bike.

Best suited for: Experienced athletes who ride outdoors regularly or participate in spin classes and want to add additional workouts at home. The high intensity workouts burn more calories in a shorter time period than upright or recumbent bikes, so if weight loss is your goal, the spin bike is your go-to choice.

What the bike doesn’t do: A spin bike isn’t designed for sudden stops, so if you feel tired or dizzy, getting off quickly may pose a problem, because the heavy flywheel keeps moving even if your feet stop pedaling. And if you’re not in the best of shape, you may not be ready for the high intensity workout offered by a spin bike.

Price and other comparisons: exercise bikes vs. outdoor riding

Prices for the three types of exercise bikes vary from several hundred to several thousand dollars. All require some assembly, which most fitness equipment retail stores can provide with delivery. The advantage of any indoor bike is the easy maintenance: no concerns about road dirt, water, dents, dings and breakage due to falls and accidents. You don’t have to worry about thieves boosting your bike and traffic is not a threat. On any exercise bike you can remain productive; you can read, watch TV, work on your computer or tablet, or even chat on the phone while getting your daily workout done. And if you have children or teens in your home who don’t ride, an indoor bike is a great way to introduce them to the joys of safe riding; it’s as close to couch surfing as they can get yet still reap the benefits of exercise.

No matter what exercise bike you choose, Fitness Gallery carries the top brands at competitive prices, and we offer customized fittings for your individual needs, so you never find yourself riding a bike that’s not 100% satisfactory. We also deliver, install and repair everything we sell. From first visit to first ride, you’ll be glad you made us your first stop for an exercise bike or any other exercise equipment you need, including free weights, ellipticals, treadmills, free weight machines and benches. Contact us or stop in at one of our three locations and find out why elite athletes and casual weekend warriors alike come to us to meet and exceed their exercise expectations.