Upright Bikes: Our Buying Guide
Upright bikes are some of the most popular exercising machines to this day. They’re present in every gym, and just about anyone who has crossed the threshold of a gym should be familiar with them. They’re the slimmest indoor bikes, and also the most affordable, as you can find models for less than $100.
Although upright bikes don’t offer extreme exercising possibilities as indoor cycling bikes, they do offer a wide range of health benefits. As a general idea, they’re made for light and medium exercising, providing the setting for an effective aerobic training, muscle toning focusing on the lower body, and of course, for losing weight. They also provide more comfort than indoor cycling bikes, and as the terminology suggests, they promote the upright riding position.
Now, in case you’re on the lookout for an exercise bike, there’s quite a lot to know about upright bikes, in order to determine if this particular type is the right choice for you. So, first of all, let’s have a look at exactly what an upright bike can do for you.
Advantages of Indoor Upright Bikes
To begin with, just about as any other exercising machine, an upright bike gives you the possibility to carry on with your exercising routine from the comfort of your home. They’re a great alternative to road bikes during winter time or simply for times when weather isn’t favorable for outdoor cycling. You won’t be bothered by bugs as you ride, you won’t get sunburns, and you will be able to also watch TV, watch your favorite online streams, or browse the web while you pedal. The risks of falling or sustaining an injury are minimal, and the chances of getting hit by a reckless driver are zero.
With regards to the fitness and health advantages, upright bikes have a lot to offer. Even though they aren’t aimed to high-intensity training such as spin bikes, they can still offer an excellent cardio workout, promoting the health of your cardiovascular system, and cutting down the blood cholesterol levels. Cycling sessions can be combined with other forms of exercising, to complement specific training programs. Evidently, a cycling session on any bike, revitalizes the electrical activity of some of the largest and most important muscles of the human body, the leg muscles, which has an immense positive effect on your overall health. On top of that, it helps with the toning of your legs and lower body. Due to the upright exercising posture promoted by these indoor bikes, you will experience a lot less stress on your upper back and shoulders, in comparison to riding a spin bike.
When it comes to weight loss, upright bikes aren’t the best choice. If you want to shed a serious amount of pounds, you will be better off with a treadmill, elliptical trainer, or an indoor cycling bike. But nonetheless, exercising daily on an upright bike for a minimum of 30 minutes, and controlling your diet, can still help you lose weight, or at least prevent you from gaining weight. One hour spent on an upright bike can help you burn up to 6-700 calories, depending on the resistance settings or programs that you use.
On top of all these benefits, most upright bikes offer more or less advanced progress tracking consoles, which help you monitor your time spent exercising, calories burned, speed, distance traveled, heart rate and other values. Some even offer the possibility to import your workout data on a USB stick and upload it online, to compare with others, to analyze on a superior level, and of course, to keep improving.
So, in conclusion here, if you want a machine to help you lose a consistent amount of weight, an upright bike isn’t for you. These bikes are meant for light and medium range exercising. A bike of this type, will help you keep your physical shape, tone leg and lower body muscles, get the daily cardio that you need, and exercise without putting a lot of strain on your upper body and joints. An upright bike is also great if you want to alternate cycling sessions with other types of exercises, in order to achieve a more complete workout.
Okay. Now that you have a better picture of what exactly this type of exercising machines can do for you, you should learn a thing or two about their features.
Key Features of Upright Bikes
In general, upright bikes are equipped with one of the two types of brake: eddy current or magnetic. There are models of course, which feature a contact brake system, but those aren’t many.
So, which type of magnetic brake is best? Electrically assisted or mechanical-magnetic? Each type has its pluses and minuses. Electrically assisted brake systems feature an electromagnet, a servomotor and typically a more advanced console system. The brake pad is normally fixed, and the adjustment of the resistance is done by changing the electromagnet’s pull onto the flywheel, which is done via the buttons on the bike’s console. Bikes with this type of eddy current brake evidently require to be connected to a power circuit. They typically come with an adapter.
There are two main downsides concerning eddy brake systems. One, you cannot benefit from the resistance levels if the bike is not plugged in. If this is the case, you will only be able to pedal at the lowest resistance setting. Two, if the motor breaks for some reason, it may be a bit costly to repair or replace. But unless you keep your bike in excessively humid conditions, spill a lot of water into the motor casing, or use a very faulty outlet, these can last a lifetime. However, it’s never a bad idea to look for a more consistent warranty package.
Mechanical-magnetic brakes are simpler. They involve a mobile brake pad, connected through a cable to the tension knob. To adjust resistance, you simply turn the knob, which brings the magnetic pad closer or farther from the flywheel, thus increasing or decreasing resistance. The resistance knob on a bike with a magnetic brake has the resistance levels engraved on it. Bikes with a magnetic brake are often cheaper than the ones with eddy brake. But in general, offer fewer levels of resistance.
One of the main characteristics of upright bikes is the enclosed drive and brake system. Flywheel, pulley or belt aren’t visible, and they usually come already assembled, protected by a plastic casing, and connected to the main frame of the bike.
Most upright bikes are belt-driven, meaning that the flywheel is connected to the pulley of the bike via a heavy-duty belt. This implies low-maintenance to the drive system, and the pedaling is much quieter.
There are of course, bike models which feature a chain instead of a belt. These require the periodical greasing of the chain, in order to prevent it from squeaking or catching rust. But on the other hand, a chain transmission can last longer than a belt one, as a belt may stretch or crack, and eventually snap, requiring replacement.
The flywheels used in upright bikes are usually much lighter than the ones used in indoor cycling bikes. Their common weight is between 13-15 lbs. In most exercise bikes of this type, the flywheel is placed in front of the pulley. Some models feature a perimeter weighted flywheel, which renders superior inertia, generating a smoother pedaling. In most bikes, it’s possible to pedal backwards as well, at the same resistance you pedal forward.
Upright bikes usually have lighter frames, which makes them easier to assemble and transport. However, features as base stabilizers or transport wheels are always a great plus. Also, when looking for an exercise bike of any sort, it’s best to look for a one-piece frame, without any bolted joints if possible. A bike like this is usually more stable, and doesn’t require the periodic tightening of the joints.
A very distinctive aspect regarding upright bikes is the seat. This type of indoor bikes feature larger
seats, with better cushioning than the seats on indoor cycling bikes, as they’re designed for more comfort. Of course, cheaper models still feature a pretty generic seat, and if you’re on a budget and go for a cheaper bike, at least make sure that the seat has a standard connection mechanism, and it can be easily replaced with a more comfortable one. Also, when it comes to seats, most of them have adjustable height, but not all bikes have seats that can be adjusted horizontally. Even though a feature such as this may be reflected in price, it’s great to have, as it gives you the possibility to find just the perfect posture for you.
Most upright bikes feature a visibly taller handlebar post than the seat. This is also a trait specific to this type of bikes, as it directly promotes the upright position. Regarding the design of the main handlebar, it’s best to look for one with a multi-grip design. A handlebar that gives you the chance to hold it in multiple ways, increases the exercising spectrum. In terms of adjustability, most upright bikes come with a non-adjustable handlebar. There are however, models which offer vertical and horizontal adjustability on handlebars, but these features may be typically costly.
Most mid and top range upright bikes feature pulse sensors incorporated in the handlebars. This feature is great to have, especially if you must keep within a specific heart rate interval.
Almost every upright bike comes with at least a basic console. The most basic types of consoles are battery powered, and present in bikes with a magnetic resistance. They usually monitor time,
speed, calories, distance, and pulse, if the bike has any sensors for it.
On the other hand, the most advanced bikes offer consoles with a wide array of features. Along with the ones mentioned above, they also provide a more or less consistent set of programs, and the possibility to create your own program routine. They also have goal setting functions, track functions, and various alarms or messages to keep you motivated. Certain consoles feature USB ports that allow you to import your progress and upload it on various sites, such as MyFitnessPal. These sites offer a better overview on your workouts, and give you the chance to compare your results with others, or even compete in online challenges.
Advanced consoles also offer other features and amenities, for superior comfort. Among them you can have, sound system, cooling fan, accessory holders, tablet tray and others.
Other Aspects To Consider
Even though most upright exercise bikes have a rather small footprint, with an average of 22″ width and 40″ length, it’s still important to make sure that you have the required space to store and use the bike in your home. If you’re tight on space, there’s always the alternative of a foldable bike. However, be careful what foldable model you choose and how exactly is designed. That’s because many foldable bikes may be less comfortable than the regular ones.
Maximum user weight weight
Almost every exercising machine comes with a listed supported weight. Now, it goes without saying that it’s not the best idea to purchase a bike listed for 220 lbs. maximum user weight, while you weigh 300 lbs. Not only that it will probably brake when you mount it, but this may also result in an accident. As a general idea, if you’re a heavier person, and you’re looking to lose weight, an upright bike may not even be the best choice. In this case, an elliptical trainer or treadmill may be more useful to you.
All bikes have to have some sort of warranty. If they don’t, it’s a sign they might lack in quality. Top quality bikes come with at least a few years of warranty for the frame, and at least one year for parts and for electronics. Also, if you’re buying a more expensive model, it’s never a bad idea to pay extra for some extended warranty, in case there are any packages available.
Upright bikes can range in price from $100 and up to over $8,000. The most expensive ones aren’t just bikes, they come with full entertainment systems, such as virtual tracks, internet connection, LCD displays for games etc. On the other hand, an upright bike between $150-$200 can fulfill its purpose excellently, delivering all the main and most important features and training possibilities an upright bike should offer. In general, the athletic possibilities that an upright bike can offer do not increase in number too much with the price. The most expensive bikes simply offer more amenities, focusing on ultimate comfort and entertainment.
Some of the Best Brands in the Business
Sunny Health & Fitness
Sunny Health & Fitness is a premier distributor and importer of high-quality health and fitness products. The company is relatively new, having been in business for only 15 years. Most products sold under this brand name are sourced directly through their wide network of manufacturers, and their pricing is much more competitive than the average distributors in the industry.
There are several folding, entry-level upright bikes under the brand name of Sunny Health & Fitness, but there’s also a model pretty close to a light-commercial one, the Sunny ASUNA 4200. This exercise bike offers 4-way adjustability for the seat, an eddy current resistance system with 16 levels, and a console with 5 workout programs. However, as opposed to light commercial bikes, this one only has a weight capacity of 265 lbs… Read Full Review.
Fitness Reality has ended its partnership with IRONMAN Fitness in 2017, and therefore, all their products sold under the IRONMAN name have been re-branded as Fitness Reality. They basically offer the same specs and features, and when it comes to upright bikes, currently there are three models available from this brand.
One of the highest rated models is the Fitness Reality 210. This is actually one of the most affordable upright bikes with a motorized resistance system. It currently costs less than $200. It offers 24 tension levels and a console with 21 workout programs which is quite impressive for a bike in this price range. Its weight capacity is 275 lbs… Read Full Review.
Nautilus is one of the top developers, manufacturers, and marketers for various sports equipment brands, such as Universal, Nautilus, Bowflex or Schwinn Fitness. They have received several awards for their equipment but mostly for their Road to Wellness Program. Currently, Nautilus is recognized as one of the U.S. companies with the healthiest employees. At the moment, they offer two of the upright bikes with the best quality/price ratio on the market, the Nautilus U616 and U614.
The Nautilus U614 Upright Bike is the most affordable model from this company. It’s an eddy current bike, featuring a highly professional design, with adjustable handlebars, 20 levels of resistance, 22 programs, and quite an array of other amenities. This bike also comes with a consistent warranty package… Read Full Review.
Schwinn Fitness is currently owned by Nautilus Inc. but has quite some history in developing and manufacturing bicycles of all sorts. Although they specialize in outdoor, road, speed and mountain bikes, they do offer quite several models of indoor exercise bikes. Among their upright models, the most rated are the Schwinn 170 and Schwinn 130.
The Schwinn 170 Upright Bike, is quite similar in terms of capabilities and features with the Nautilus U614. However, it features a different design, and 25 levels of eddy brake resistance, and also 29 workout preset programs. Its slightly lighter than the Nautilus models, by roughly 5 lbs… Read Full Review.
If you’re on a budget and you’re looking for an upright bike, Marcy Fitness should have it for you. They offer several basic upright exercise bikes, at a great price/quality ratio. One of the models that benefit from a wide array of positive reviews from users all over the world, is the Marcy ME708.
The Marcy ME708 is one of the best, light upright bikes, with simple magnetic resistance. It’s also one of the models with the smallest footprint, with a 31.5″ L x 18″ W, therefore if you lack the available space for a larger model, this model may be just the right model for you… Read Full Review.