Indoor cycling has been around for many years—in fact, one of the first stationary bikes, the Gymnasticon, was invented in 1796. This form of exercise has had a rebirth in recent years with the advent of high-energy cycling studios, which combine aerobic enthusiasm and stationary bikes. For those looking to begin a new exercise routine, indoor cycling is an easy workout to take up. This type of cardio helps burn calories and maintain heart health while increasing strength, stamina, and confidence.
There are many exercise bikes on the market today that let riders bring the cycling-class experience into the comfort of their homes. The best of these exercise bikes offer users a comfortable ride and a variety of workouts that meet riders’ fitness needs and goals.
- BEST OVERALL: Schwinn Recumbent Bike Series 270
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Exerpeutic 400XL Folding Recumbent Bike
- UPGRADE PICK: Peloton Bike
- BEST RECUMBENT: Sunny Health & Fitness Magnetic Recumbent Bike
- BEST UPRIGHT: Yosuda Indoor Cycling Bike Stationary
- BEST FOLD-UP: Marcy Foldable Upright Exercise Bike
- BEST COMBINATION: Original As Seen On TV Slim Cycle Stationary Bike
- BEST AIR BIKE: Schwinn Airdyne Bike Series (AD6)
- BEST MINI BIKE: DeskCycle Under Desk Bike Pedal Exerciser
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Exercise Bike
There are a few considerations to keep in mind while shopping for the best exercise bike for your home gym, including the type and size of cycle you want, whether the bike has speed and resistance settings appropriate for your activity level, and whether you want smart technology features. It’s a good idea to look for models that also offer ample safety features.
Whether you’re seeking a vigorous workout, recovering from an injury, or something in between, there’s an exercise bike for every preference. These are the various types of cycles from which to choose:
- Upright: The most common type of exercise bike, these models have an upright body position similar to that of a standard bicycle. The seat position engages the user’s core for a fuller body workout. Upright bikes are appropriate for those who are just getting started, but with enough resistance they can also offer a challenging workout for more advanced athletes. They are generally the most affordable option for at-home cycling.
- Recumbent: For riders who are just getting started with cycling or simply want a lower-impact workout, a recumbent bike may be most suitable. These bikes have a reclined body and back support with the pedals in front to provide a comfortable and stable lower-body workout.
- Hybrid: A combination of an upright and recumbent bike, hybrid models allow the user to vary their position depending on what’s most comfortable and how challenging a workout they want.
- Cycling: Used in popular spin classes, cycling bikes have a variety of resistance settings and are great for vigorous workouts. They are powered by a flywheel mechanism, which is a weighted metal disc in place of a wheel, and offer a smoother ride than upright bikes. The seats on cycling bikes are usually in line with their handlebars, though styles vary.
- Self-powered: This type of exercise bike doesn’t require electricity; instead, it is completely powered by the user through a generator inside the machine. These bikes can be somewhat expensive due to the generator mechanism.
- Air: Popular in CrossFit workouts, air bikes use wind resistance created by a fan for power. The harder the rider pedals, the more resistance they encounter. Air bikes usually have two upright handles at chest level that the rider can push and pull to get an upper body workout while pedaling.
- Interactive: These smart bikes have screens that can access apps and other exercise programs; they are terrific options for those who want to feel as though they’re riding in a class or virtually biking through the mountains. These bikes tend to be more expensive than those without smart features.
- Watt bikes: Meant to mimic a road cycling experience, watt bikes have a dual braking system with both magnetic and air mechanisms, which simulates the feeling of switching gears. Watt bikes record power output in watts to measure heart rate, performance, and technique.
When shopping for an exercise bike for your home, it’s important to consider how much square footage you can dedicate to a stationary bike’s setup. The amount of space you need varies widely depending on the type of bike you select. Recumbent options generally take up the most floor space, while upright bikes offer a more compact setup. If space in your home is at a premium, look for a folding exercise cycle that can be stowed underneath a bed or in a closet when not in use. The most compact mini-bikes are seatless models that slide under a desk for cycling while working.
The weight of an exercise bike varies as well. Uprights are typically the lightest, ranging in weight from 35 to 40 pounds. Recumbent and air bikes are heavier, weighing in at 80 to 100 pounds. The weight of bikes with flywheels varies depending on the weight of the wheel—the flywheel alone can weigh 30 to 50 pounds. Many exercise bikes have wheels on their bases for easier transport.
For those seeking maximum comfort, a recumbent bike will usually fit the bill. These cycles’ seatbacks offer users upper body support, and they are often complemented by a cushioned seat. The most comfortable recumbent bikes also include lumbar support and seat-back ventilation for temperature control.
Exercise bikes of all kinds often have extras that make riding them a more comfortable experience. These perks include adjustable fans to cool the rider, padded or textured handgrips, and easy-to-access settings. Wide pedals may be more comfortable for some users, while foot straps offer additional stability while pedaling.
One of the keys to a comfortable ride on an exercise bike is establishing the proper riding position for one’s frame. Features such as adjustable handlebars and seats allow users to customize their riding setup for their build. Most cycle seats have plenty of range up and down so that users can adjust the seat to suit their height, and also allow for tilting the seat forward and backward. Some bikes will have just one or two tilt positions, while others may have as many as six.
To achieve the proper reach, most handlebars can be adjusted for height, while some will also allow for different positions. Multiposition handlebars, common to upright and spin bikes, allow the rider to pedal while sitting upright or in a more racer-like, forward-leaning stance. For comfort while pedaling, adjustable foot straps will provide proper cycling support.
Most exercise bikes allow users to customize their speed goals; a rider’s speed is measured in revolutions per minute (RPM) and is usually displayed on a digital screen along with the rider’s heart rate. It’s common for these machines to feature interval-training workout programs that challenge users to vary their riding speed throughout the workout.
The average rider will cycle at about 80 to 100 RPM, but beginners might start a bit slower and cycling enthusiasts, faster. The combination of speed setting and resistance level is what dictates how easy or difficult a cycling workout will be.
Resistance levels on exercise bikes are adjustable tension settings that increase or decrease the difficulty of the workout. These settings are usually adjusted by a knob or by programming digital settings. These are the types of resistance found on most exercise bikes:
- Direct contact: In this type of resistance, a brake pad or friction band makes direct contact with the flywheel to reduce the pedaling speed. This method offers a precise amount of tension, but the friction can wear down the pads, bands, flywheels, and other parts of the equipment over time. Direct-contact resistance can also be somewhat noisy and disturbs some riders’ workouts.
- Magnetic: Instead of direct contact, resistance is created using electromagnetic induction. The contact-free resistance makes these bikes very quiet to operate.
- Fan-based: This type of bike uses a large air fan to create wind resistance, resulting in varying degrees of tension that increase with the speed at which the user pedals.
Stationary bikes on the market today have plenty of bells and whistles, especially when it comes to smart technology. It’s common to find models with advanced digital displays that read the rider’s time, distance, speed, and calories burned. Some exercise bikes have screens that allow users to join fitness classes, cycle with friends, or ride through the French countryside; others also sync with smartphones, tablets, and laptops so the user can follow along with their favorite exercise apps or record fitness stats while riding.
Important safety features to look for are textured pedals with straps to keep feet from slipping while riding, an automatic emergency shut-off button, and a heart-rate monitor.
Our Top Picks
With those key shopping considerations in mind, this guide showcases well-built, high-performance exercise bikes. Whether you’re in the market for a recumbent cycle, an upright model, or a different type, there’s likely a bike among these top picks that suits your workout needs.
Schwinn’s recumbent Series 270 offers 29 different programs and 25 levels of resistance to keep riders’ exercise routine fresh. It allows for up to 12 rider profiles, too, so the whole family can track their fitness goals. The bike has a maximum user weight of 300 pounds, and a perimeter-weighted flywheel makes for a smooth workout. It’s plenty comfortable to ride, too, given its cushioned seat with lumbar support and wide pedals with foot straps. The ventilated upper seat and adjustable fan ensure a cool ride.
This cycle has a lot of cool features worth checking out: It’s Bluetooth compatible and syncs with the Schwinn Trainer app, RideSocial, and other popular fitness tracking tools For users who want an immersive workout experience, the Series 270 is also virtual-reality (VR) compatible. Other notable features include two LCD displays, a media shelf, in-console speakers with an MP3 input port, and USB charging. Schwinn’s recumbent bike sells at a higher price point than other models in the category, but its extensive features offer superb value.
Exerpeutic’s 400XL is a semi-recumbent folding bike with a large seat cushion and backrest. Its precision-balanced flywheel makes for a smooth and safe ride. It’s comfortable to ride, easy to mount and dismount, and has a weight capacity of 300 pounds. Those who are focused on improving heart health might appreciate the hand-pulse sensors on the bike’s handlebars, which can help riders reach their target heart-rate zones.
The 400XL’s eight-level magnetic tension control system allows users to adjust the resistance to suit their abilities: Riders can track distance, calories burned, time, speed, and pulse on the large LCD display. This affordable bike fits under adjustable desks for in-office workouts, and it folds up for easy storage.
Cyclists across America are getting in shape on the high-end Peloton exercise bike, which provides the experience of being in a studio class from the comfort of the user’s own home. A 22-inch high-definition touch screen monitor streams live classes in which the instructor can actually see riders in their homes, which leaves little room for slacking off. Workouts can be tracked on both the company’s app and on the bike itself; some workouts allow riders to compete with other Peloton users if they choose. Connect Wi-Fi or Bluetooth-enabled devices to sync with Peloton’s online tools and app, which streams thousands of classes—and they’re not all cycling. The downside is that users must pay a monthly fee for the app on top of the bike’s hefty price tag.
There’s a lot to like about the Peloton’s design and construction: It’s sleek and modern looking and has an adjustable seat and handlebars. The cycle’s high variable magnetic resistance and quiet belt drive provide a custom, smooth ride. Optional accessories (sold separately) include Peloton shoes (with cleats), weights, headphones, a heart-rate monitor, and a bike mat. The Peloton can accommodate users up to 297 pounds.
This recumbent bike from Sunny Health & Fitness has an edge over many other bikes in its category: Its handlebars move back and forth, which gives riders an upper-body workout and burns more calories during exercise. A step-through frame and padded seat with an easy-to-reach adjustment lever make for a comfortable ride, and the bike’s digital monitor displays the ride’s distance and time.
Users can customize their ride experience by selecting from among the bike’s eight resistance settings; they can also use the bike’s transport wheels to relocate the equipment if needed. This magnetic recumbent bike accommodates users up to 350 pounds.
Yosuda’s stationary bike has a belt-driven system that’s smooth, quiet, and won’t disturb family or neighbors in adjoining rooms. Whereas some cycles give riders the feeling that the equipment may tip over during a workout, this bike’s steel frame and 35-pound flywheel feel sturdy and stable. Indoor cyclists up to 270 pounds can personalize their rides by setting the two-way adjustable nonslip handlebar, four-way padded seat, and myriad resistance settings to their preferred positions. This bike has some nice safety features, too: Its aluminum alloy cage pedals and adjustable straps keep riders’ feet from slipping, and there’s a resistance bar that can stop the flywheel immediately if need be.
This upright Yosuda bike has an LCD monitor that displays time, speed, distance, and calories burned. It also has a handy water bottle holder, and a media shelf keeps devices within reach while exercising.
Even though Marcy’s upright exercise bike is foldable, its 14-gauge steel frame and rubberized feet make for a sturdy ride. An adjustable foam padded seat offers comfort while riding, and the LCD panel displays stats such as calories burned, speed, and time. The bike’s large pedals have textured grips and safety straps to secure riders’ feet during workouts.
This cycle has eight levels of manual resistance that riders of varying fitness levels control via a large tension knob. The X-frame design folds away easily, and transport wheels make it easy to scoot the equipment from its setup to its storage spot. The Marcy upright exercise bike has a maximum weight capacity of 250 pounds.
With the Slim Cycle Stationary Bike, riders can get an intense workout by cycling upright, or they can position themselves in the recumbent setting for lower-impact exercise. Users can customize their session by selecting from among the bike’s eight levels of resistance and strengthen their upper body while cycling by using the built-in resistance bands. The Slim Cycle has a thick memory-foam seat and a backrest for maximum comfort, and it can accommodate users who weigh up to 300 pounds.
It’s easy for riders to keep track of stats such as burned calories, distance, speed, heart rate, and mileage on the Slim Cycle’s digital display—and assembling the equipment is easy, too. When the workout is over, the bike’s compact fold-up design is easy to hide under the bed or tuck away in a closet.
Air bikes like the Schwinn Airdyne AD6 create resistance for the rider as the fan blades push against the air—the faster the rider cycles, the more resistance is created. This model is self-powered, so no electrical outlet is required, and it runs quietly on dual-stage torque belt drives. Users’ performance metrics are displayed on a battery-powered LCD screen, which also features the company’s RevMeter RPM gauge for interval training.
Foot straps on the Airdyne AD6’s self-balancing pedals offer the rider greater stability and control (those looking to focus on an upper body workout using the upright handles can swap the pedals for pegs). The Schwinn air bike supports a maximum user weight of 300 pounds, has transport wheels for easy moving, and includes an integrated water bottle holder.
Pedaling while working can enhance productivity and increase energy for adults and kids alike. The DeskCycle under-desk bike can help keep everyone moving, and can fit under desks as low as 27 inches. A patented magnetic resistance mechanism offers a quiet ride so users won’t bother office neighbors or family members. Customize the workout experience by selecting from among eight resistance settings, and check the LCD screen to monitor speed, time, distance, and calories burned. This mini bike weighs just 23 pounds.
FAQs About Exercise Bikes
Now that you know about the types of exercise bikes available and which features to look for, you may still be wondering if cycling at home is right for you. Get the answers to these and other commonly asked questions about stationary bikes.
Q. What should I look for when buying a stationary bike?
While shopping for an exercise bike, it’s important to look for a model that will suit your exercise goals, is comfortable to ride, and has adequate safety features. The bike should also fit in the space you have.
Q. Can you lose belly fat by riding a stationary bike?
In order to lose belly fat, you’ll need to reduce your overall body fat. If that’s your goal, riding an exercise bike can be helpful if combined with strength training and a healthy diet.
Q. Is riding a stationary bike bad for knees?
Riding an exercise bike provides a low-impact workout, so it shouldn’t be harmful to your knees. That said, riders can injure themselves if they do not adjust the bike properly or if they exert themselves beyond the speed and resistance that’s appropriate for their fitness level. Always talk to a health care provider before starting a new exercise routine.
Q. Is 30 minutes a day on an exercise bike enough?
Thirty minutes a day spent riding a stationary bike is a great way to contribute to a healthy lifestyle. Whether it’s enough depends on your personal fitness goals.