Indoor Cycling Bikes: Buying Guide
There are actually three main categories of stationary bikes: indoor cycling, recumbent and upright. Each type has its own specifics, and targets differeny types of workouts. Out of all three, the first category of bikes are built to provide heavy-duty and high-intensity training, similar to outdoor, speed bikes.
Now, there’s a particular aspect regarding indoor cycling bikes. They’re also commonly referred to as “spinning bikes” or “spin bikes”, mainly because one of their key features is a big, weighted flywheel used in their drive system, typically not hidden by any casing completely, which is visibly spinning as the user pedals. These bikes are made for endurance, strength and interval workouts, are often used in a classroom setting, which is called “spinning class”.
The thing is, the term “Spinning®” or “Spin®” referring to stationary bikes was trademarked in 1994 by Mad Dogg Athletics. They were the first to call their indoor cycling bikes “spinning bikes”, term which became very popular. By now the term was pretty much generalized and used on a large scale, many users not having any idea that it has anything to do with this company. However, the Mad Dogg Athletics bikes, do have the word “Spinning®” written on them, being specified as spinning bikes. Therefore to avoid any confusion, we will refer to this type of stationary bike, designed for strength and endurance workouts, as “indoor cycle”, or “indoor cycling bike”.
Anyway, enough about this, you are here to learn as much as possible about indoor cycling bikes, in order to get the one that suits you best. So, to begin with, let’s see which are the main advantages of an indoor cycling bike, and whether or not this type of bike is the right one for you.
Advantages of Indoor Cycling Bikes
First of all, an indoor cycling bike offers you just about the same cycling setting as a regular speed bike, only it’s stationary. This being said, you can undergo your daily ride in the comfort of your home, while watching TV, your favorite internet streams, or browsing the web. You won’t be bothered by bad weather, you won’t be hit by bugs as you pedal at 40-50MPH, and there’s no risk of being hit by a car. In fact, the overall risks of injury are severely diminished while undergoing intensive training on this type of stationary exercise bicycle.
Along with the comfort-oriented and low-risk advantages, this type of exercise bike does indeed offer several fitness and health benefits. Just as treadmills, indoor cycling bikes are great exercising machines for burning calories. But as opposed to treadmills, they put less impact on your joints, as your legs do not have to support your whole weight as you pedal. Depending on bike, and exercising routine used, one can lose between 500-1000 calories per hour, while exercising on an indoor cycle.
But weight loss is far from being the only health benefit that these bikes can offer. They’re aslo great for aerobic exercising, consistently improving pulmonary and cardio capacity, and rendering a superior blood oxygenation. This prevents the occurance of various diseases and conditions, such as stroke, heart disease, arthritis, diabetes, reduces blood cholesterol levels, and keeps the electrical potential generated by leg muscle cells at optimal parameters, which is extremely important for overall health.
Evidently, a stationary bike of this type is great for keeping your cyclist shape during winter, when you can’t undergo your daily cycling sessions outside due to cold weather. They’re great machines for building stamina and endurance, and exercising on them is actually required by various sports, due to this particular matter. High-intensity cycling can be included in various exercising routines for muscle building or cutting. And finally, most stationary bikes of this sort offer a console more or less advanced, which gives you the possibility to track and record your progress, analyze your progress better, set goals and continuously improve.
Key Features of Indoor Cycling Bikes
All indoor cycling bikes share a similar and distinctive set of features. They all feature a heavy flywheel, a braking system, handlebars with mutliple grips, fronally oriented to promote the cycling posture, and a heavy frame reminding of mountain bikes. However, each and every feature has its own specifics, and before purchasing a stationary bike of this sort, it’s best to know as much as possible about these features.
When it comes to resistance, there are actually two largely used braking systems used in indoor cycling bikes: friction (or contact), and magnetic.
Friction brakes usually feature one or multiple brake pads, made of kevlar or with a wool-felt surface, pads that come in contact with the flywheel. As you adjust the tension or resistance, the brake pad puts more or less pressure on the flywheel, thus making it more difficult to pedal. There are two main advantages regarding direct-contact brakes: they’re cost-effective and the resistance typically can be tightened to the point where the user cannot pedal anymore. However, there are a few drawbacks as well. For example, the brake pads may generate squeaking noises, and in this case they require lubrication. The pads also wear out after a while and require replacement. Also, a direct-contact braking system doesn’t come with specified resistance levels, which may help you measure your process better. To adjust resistance in this case, you simple squeeze a knob until the bike supplies the resistance level that you require.
Magnetic brake systems feature brake pads with magnets. By adjusting the resistance level, the brake pads come closer to the flywheel, and the magnetic field created applies pressure onto the flywheel, thus increasing resistance. In case the magnetic brake pad is electrically assisted, the pad is fixed, and by adjusting resistance you only adjust its pull. Regardless if the brake is electrically assisted or not, the brake pads do not come in contact with the flywheel, they don’t wear out, do not emit noises, and the adjustment resistance device or knob usually has levels specified on it. However, since magnetic brakes are a bit more sophisticated, the bikes with this type of resistance system tend to be a bit more costly.
When it comes to their drive mechanism, there are also two types of indoor cycling bikes: chain-driven and belt-driven. Both chain and belt bikes function by the same principle. But chain-
driven bikes tend to be noisier than the belt-driven ones, as the chain may click or emit a more prominent noise as you pedal. The sound shouldn’t be loud enough to become an issue though, and typically can be solved by lubricating the chain periodically. On the other hand, as opposed to a belt, a chain is more durable and stretch-free.
Belt-driven exercise bikes feature a belt making the connection between the pulley of the bike and the flywheel. A belt-driven mechanism requires less maintenance and it’s quieter. However, if the bike that you choose doesn’t have a heavy-duty belt, it may heat up and/or stretch, requiring replacement.
One of the main components in an indoor cycle’s drive mechanism is the flywheel. These exercise bikes tend to have bigger flywheels in diameter than recumbent and upright bikes. They’re also much heavier, sometimes up to 50 lbs (22.6 kg). Heavier and stronger users usually require heavier flywheels, for more resistance during acceleration. On the other hand, lighter and shorter users, may require a lighter flywheel, as a heavier one may result in too much strain per workout, especially when engaging in sprint sessions. Some flywheels are perimeter weighted, which enables them to generate a superior inertia, which diminishes the stairmaster effect during the pedal stroke, making the overall ride much smoother. Also, the weight of the flywheels adds to the overall weight of the bike, enhancing its stability.
Most indoor cycles feature solid, heavy frames, meant to support intense pedaling, without wobbling or moving. Designs differ from a model to another, and from a manufacturer to another. However, there are a few aspects that you should look for. It’s best that they feature a one-piece frame, as these are more solid. The bases should have levelers, to make sure they provide maximum stability even if the bike isn’t place on a level surface. Also, since most indoor cycling bikes are heavy, make sure they have transport wheels.
First of all, indoor cycling bikes are not made for comfort. If you’re looking for superior comfort in a stationary bike, it’s best to have a look at upright or recumbent bikes. Indoor cycling bikes are made for sweating and for heavy training. But nonetheless, they must provide an adequate posture for your training, and enough comfort so that your training sessions don’t turn into a nightmare. So, the main comfort factors are the seat, handlebars and various amenities.
Most indoor cycling bikes offer a simple seat, similar to the ones of speed bikes or mountain bikes. This is actually the appropriate seat layout for these bikes. These seats are not very large, and for heavier users or useres that are new to bikes, they may be uncomfortable, at least for the first 5-6 sessions.
An importat aspect of a bike’s seat is adjustability. The seat should be adjustable horizontally and vertically, in order to provide you with the best posture.
In terms of handlebars, when you’re looking for an indoor cycling bike, it’s best to choose one with a multi-grip handlebar. Needless to say, a handlebar with such design promotes a wide
array of holding positions. Not only it will most definitely offer the perfect grip for you, it also diversifies training porstures.
But just as for the seats, vertical and horizontal adjustability is quite important for the handlebars. Horizontal adjustability for example, can enable a bike to accommodate the tallest users.
Various companies offer at least one or two indoor cycling bike models featuring pulse sensors incorporated within the handlebars. A feature such as this may or may not increase the price significantly. It’s not a completely necessary feature, unless you really need to keep track of your heart rate. But even so, you can always use a chest strap and a specific device for it.
Indoor cycling bikes usually don’t offer a wide range of comfort-oriented features. There are very few models equipped with advanced multifunctional consoles, speakers, fans and media connections. Typically, bottle holders, toe straps, and a pretty basic console sums just about all the comfort factors that you can find in a bike of this type.
Consoles are usually pretty basic when it comes to indoor cycling bikes, even for the most expensive bike models. They offer information regarding RPM, speed, total distance traveled and distance per session, time, calories, and a basic goal tracking system.
Other Aspects To Consider Before Buying
Although this type of exercise bikes usually have a rather small footprint, and don’t take too much space, it’s best to consider this aspect before getting one. Also, keep in mind that most exercise bikes are made for storage and use indoors. Keeping them outside, in a place with a lot of moisture or excessive cold may lead to damage in their components.
Most indoor cycling bikes are pretty heavy. Some of them can weigh up to 250 lbs. Therefore moving them may be an issue even if they have transport wheels. For example, if you have to transport your bike up a set of stairs, you might need someone to help you. Plus, due to this fact, they may cause damage to your flooring or carpet, even if they have stabilizers. That’s why it’s best to place your bike on a mat. This actually stands for just about any exercising machine.
Each exercise bike comes with a specified supported weight. Therefore, it’s wise to choose one with a limit that exceeds your own weight. Even if the frame, seat, crank and pedals are solid enough to support higher weights than the one specified, the bike may not be stable enough to be ridden by a user heavier than specified. Also, in case you weigh over 400 lbs, an exercise bike may not even be the best choice for losing weight. A treadmill or an elliptical may be a more appropriate choice.
Extensive warranty, for over a few years for frame and parts is usually an indicator that the bike you’re looking at is actually a high-quality one. It’s important to know that for wear parts, such as the brake pads, or pedals, most manufacturers offer only a 90-day warranty. But even with daily use, these parts can still last for more than a year, until require replacement.
You can find quality indoor cycling bikes for a price under $250. An increase in price is given by design and brand, magnetic resistance vs. contact resistance system, weight of the bike, console, lifetime warranty, and that’s about it. On the other hand, there are bikes of this type which can cost up to $4,000, due to their advanced consoles, with web connectivity and other advanced functions. The thing is, no matter what your budget is, you can still find an excellent indoor bike to fit your needs.
A Few Of The Top Brands
Sunny Health & Fitness
Sunny Health and Fitness offers quite several indoor cycling bikes of various sizes. All their models come for quite an acceptable price and excellent quality. Most feature direct-contact brake and chain-drive system. If you’re on a budget, bikes such as Sunny Sunny Pro SF-B901 may be just about the right choice for you.
The Sunny Pro SF-B901 is one of the most affordable and most rated products from this brand at the moment. It’s chain driven, with a perimeter weighted, 40 lbs flywheel, contact brake system, adjustable seat, and solid frame. It’s rated for users up to 275 lbs, and has a smaller footprint than other… Read Full Review.
Sole provides a complete line of award winning fitness gear. Needless to say among their offered products there are several indoor cycles. The SB900 and SB700 are two of their best rated bikes. Both are equipped with a fairly decent progress tracking console, and cover the full range of workouts possible on this type of exercise bikes.
The SOLE SB700 is currently the most rated intensity indoor bike from this company. It’s a bike with a very neat design, and a sturdy build. It features contact brakes but the brake pad is kevlar-made, not wool-felt, for superior durability. It’s a bike with adjustable handlebar vertically and horizontally, and a 48 lbs flywheel, to supply the resistance required by pro cyclists. The bike includes a nice warranty pack… Read Full Review.
Schwinn has actually started as a road bike designer and manufacturer, and they still provide some of the best speed, road and mountain bikes. But nowadays they have a fitness department, and also provide several exercise bikes, among other fitness equipment.
Schwinn IC2 is at the moment the only indoor cycling bike designed for home use available in their stock. Most other bikes made for spinning, are gym-grade, and typically highly priced. This model though, is pretty close to an gym-quality indoor cycle, that’s why it’s our first recommendation here, when it comes to Schwinn. Price and quality ratio is quite excellent for this bike. Although it comes with a lighter flywheel, of only 31 lbs, it’s still a perimeter weighted type, which offers superior inertia, and reduces the stair climbing effect when pedaling. It’s a chain-driven bike, featuring one break pad, felt-type, and a multi-grip handlebar… Read Full Review.