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.
Table of Contents
- 1 Advantages of Indoor Upright Bikes
- 2 Key Features of Upright Bikes
- 3 Other Aspects To Consider
- 4 Some of the Best Brands in the Business
- 5 Our Best Recommendations by Price
- 6 Final Pick: The Best Upright Bike For Home Use
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.
Our Best Recommendations by Price
After all the clarifications made in the sections above, you should have a pretty good idea what upright exercise bikes can offer, what they cannot, and whether this is the type of exercising machine that you need. Thus, one more aspect remains to be clarified: price.
The most affordable upright exercise bikes begin at prices around $100. However, you can also find models that cost more than $2,000. We can actually put upright cycles in four distinct categories, according to their price:
- under $300 – basic models (with a few exceptions), with simple resistance and drive mechanism;
- between $300 and $500 – bikes with a more solid build, more options, and superior resistance;
- between $500 and $1,000 – light commercial exercise bikes with a weight capacity starting at 300 lbs, and a wide array of workouts;
- over $1,000 – commercial-grade bikes, the sturdiest models designed to withstand 24/7 wear in the premises of a gym club.
These being said, here are some of the best upright bikes for each one of the price intervals.
Price: Under $300
In terms of affordable and space-saving upright exercise bikes, the Exerpeutic 500 XLS definitely is one model that requires some praise. It’s a model released in 2016, but so far it continues to gather 5-star reviews from all users. Also, you can find an almost identical exercise bike to this one under the Fitness Reality brand name, this being the Fitness Reality U2500.
One of the main reasons this model benefits from a tremendously positive feedback from its users is the extremely wide, padded and comfortable seat. This is also the main feature that tells this model apart from most other upright bike models. On top of that, it features a folding design, making it an excellent choice for users who don’t have the luxury of space.
This upright cycle features a manual magnetic resistance system, but also comes with a fitness meter that serves as an excellent motivation factor, and also helps you keep an eye on your progress… Read Full Review.
This is one of the most affordable upright exercise bikes with a motorized magnetic resistance. It currently costs under $200 and benefits from an average customer rating of 4 stars, which is not bad at all. Although its frame construction is a fairly basic one, and the seat offers only 2-way adjustability (up, down), this exercise bike features an excellent console for this price range.
The Fitness Reality 210 features a console with a backlit LCD display. It can track distance, time, calories, watts, speed, and pulse, also having an odometer function. It has 3 computer goal workout settings for time, distance and calories burned. It has 21 pre-set programs, which cover a wide array of workouts, from light to intense. When using one of the pre-set workouts, the bike will automatically adjust its resistance… Read Full Review.
As its name suggests, the Schwinn MY16 130 was released in 2016, but like most other Schwinn exercise bikes it continues to benefit from a lot of positive feedback. It’s a bike close to the $300 price mark but does offer excellent value for this price.
To begin with, the Schwinn MY16 130 is equipped with an automatic magnetic resistance system, offering 20 levels of resistance. It features a very sturdy construction for a home use bike, being able to withstand riders up to 300 lbs. It doesn’t have the super wide seat as the Exerpeutic GOLD 500, but its seat does offer optimal comfort. The bike’s console not only that has 22 built-in workout programs, it also gives you the possibility to export your workout data to SchwinnConnect, or to various other online workout apps, such as MyFitnessPal, GoogleFit, AppleHealth, Endomondo or MapMyRun/Ride… Read Full Review.
Price: $300 – $500
The Schwinn M717 170, also referred to as Schwinn MY17 170, is a more inclusive version of the Schwinn 130 MY16. It was released at the beginning of 2017, so at this point is only a year old. However, the older (2013) version – Schwinn 170 – is still available at various retailers, and still is an excellent fitness machine.
The Schwinn M717 170 offers 29 workout applications and 25 levels of eddy current resistance. Its multifunction console also offers Bluetooth connectivity, so you can sync it with your smartphone, tablet, or laptop in order to stream your workout directly into your Schwinn Connect account, MyFitnessPal account, GoogleFit, AppleHealth, Endomondo etc.
The seat supplied with the Schwinn 170 MY 17 is quite comfortable, featuring superior cushioning, ergonomic contour, and 4-way adjustability. Also, an important comfort factor that even the commercial-grade models do not include, but this particular bike does, is reflected by the elbow rests incorporated in the handlebar… Read Full Review.
The AFG 7.3AU upright bike is an exercise bike with a construction pretty close to the light commercial models. It has a user weight capacity of 300 lbs and offers 4-way adjustability for the seat. It’s equipped with a motorized-magnetic resistance system with 20 distinctive tension levels, and a smooth and quiet belt drive.
The AFG 7.3AU exercise bike features a multi-function console with a large, backlit display. It integrates a sound system and a tablet holder, while its internal database has 23 workout programs divided into three main categories: climb, distance, and calories… Read Full Review.
If you’re looking for German quality in an upright bike, the KETTLER Advantage GIRO P is definitely one to put on your list. Although it’s a little under the features offered by the Scwhinn 170 MY17 and costs a bit more, it’s a top-quality exercise bike, and that’s why so far it continues to benefit from a lot of positive feedback.
One of the main pluses of this Kettler upright bike is its superior micro-adjustability; its seat is 4-way adjustable, while the angle of the handlebars can also be adjusted. The bike features a sturdy frame which can withstand users up to 285 lbs. It’s equipped with an eddy current resistance system that offers 16 distinctive tension levels. Its console, although it doesn’t have amenities such as a sound system or cooling fan, nor is online capable, it still offers 8 workout programs to keep you motivated… Read Full Review.
Price: Over $500 – $1,000
Not surprisingly, another one of our recommendations is also a Schwinn, simply because there are only top-quality fitness machines under this brand name. However, this exercise bike features an air resistance system. It’s still technically an upright bike, though, as it doesn’t have the backrest seat as a recumbent one, and it’s not exactly made for spinning workouts.
The Airdyne Pro is one of the most inclusive air bikes from Schwinn. It features a 4-way adjustable seat and multi-grips for its mobile arms. The saddle integrates a generous layer of cushioning, being designed for superior comfort. The bike’s resistance system is powered by a large 26-blade fan. It doesn’t have any adjustment system, but as any other air resistance fitness machine, it delivers a dynamic response. In other words, the harder you pedal, the more resistance you’ll get. The console included with this exercise bike has a double display… Read Full Review.
The second recommendation for our $500-$1,000 price interval is also an air resistance exercise bike. The LifeCore Assault bike is actually one of the top air bikes available at the moment. It benefits from almost a clean 5-star rating on most retailer and fitness sites.
As its name suggests, this is a heavy-duty exercise bike. The seat offers 4-way adjustability, up, down, and front to back. Its angle can also be adjusted. The bike can accommodate users between 5’0″ and 6’6″ cm, and up to 300 lbs. Just as the Schwinn Airdyne model, it doesn’t have any magnetic brake for overall resistance adjustment; the resistance is given exclusively by the fan and the pedaling speed of the user. The console supplied with this bike keeps track of time, distance, calories, speed, watts, RPM, and heart rate. The handlebars don’t have any pulse sensors but the console unit is compatible with various non-coded HR transmitters such as the Polar T31 Non-Coded or Polar T34… Read Full Review.
3G Cardio offers several models of fitness machines that so far benefit from an excellent feedback from most users. The 3G Cardio Elite UB upright exercise bike is one of them. It’s is a light-commercial bike, it has quite an impressive weight capacity of 350 lbs and comes with two types of warranties, for home use (which is great) and for gym-use (which is also not bad).
The 3G Cardio Elite UB comes with a comfortable, cushioned and contoured seat, which has a horizontal slider. It can accommodate users up to 6’5″ with no problem, promoting a complete leg extension. Its resistance system is an eddy current type, offering 16 distinctive levels, while the console has 16 pre-set workout programs and 4 user profiles. The console unit also integrates a tablet holder but does not have a sound system as the more affordable Schwinn or Nautilus models… Read Full Review.
Price: Over $1,000
As its name suggests, this bike is indeed a commercial quality model. It’s pretty similar to the Sole B94 model, only this one features a self-powering system. In other words, the energy required for the power-up of the console, and for the resistance mechanism is produced while you pedal. It also has a greater user weight capacity of 350 lbs.
The newer version for 2017 is also Bluetooth enabled. This means that it allows you to directly stream your workout data into the online SOLE Fitness App for a better progress tracking. Despite the fact that this bike is pretty much built like a tank, it doesn’t offer a wide array of workout apps, just the same 10 as the B94. However, it has 40 levels of resistance, and since the console has two custom workout programs, you have plenty of options to create and customize your own workouts… Read Full Review.
Although the Light Fitness C1 upright cycle trainer has the sturdiness and compactness of a commercial grade bike, it lacks the horizontal seat adjustability feature. However, it still is an excellent trainer that can accommodate users up to 6’5″, has a weight capacity of 300 lbs, a large handlebar with multiple grip possibilities.
The newer Life Fitness C1 (C1TC-XX00-0105) comes with the Track Connect console features a custom-etched LCD VA Glass display, with soft-touch controls. The display shows most important workout metrics including distance, time, speed, resistance level, calories burned, the profile matrix of the current workout program, and heart rate. Evidently, the unit is Bluetooth enabled, so you can sync it with your tablet or smartphone in order to directly access your free LFConnect account. LFConnect gives you the possibility to create custom workouts, save them in your workout library and track your progress. It’s also compatible with various other fitness apps, such as Nike+, Garmin, and MyFitnessPal through Wahoo’s RunFit… Read Full Review.
Star Trac is a brand name that also includes several gym-grade indoor cycling bikes and recumbent bikes. The E-UB is the upright bike model. It’s not exactly one of the most affordable trainers of this type, as it costs more than $2,500. But it is a commercial grade bike, with an extremely sturdy construction.
Just like the SOLE LCB, it’s a self-powered exercise bike so it eliminates the need of a power source as the energy required to power up the resistance system and the console is created as you pedal. The bike’s console offers 10 pre-set workout programs to keep you motivated. It tracks distance, speed, time, RPM, METS, calories, calories/hr, WATTS, and heart rate… Read Full Review.
Final Pick: The Best Upright Bike For Home Use
The Schwinn 170 M717 was one of the best upright bikes of the year 2017 and continues to maintain the same super-positive feedback from users in 2018. This exercise bike offers an exceptional price-value ratio. It costs less than $400 but offers superior sturdiness and an impressive range of features. Therefore, it remains our top selection for the year 2018.
Micro-adjustability is also great in this bike. The seat is 4-way adjustable, while the handlebars’ angle can also be adjusted. The handlebar has elbow rests, a feature that most trainers in this price range don’t have. The Q factor is quite narrow, reminding of the Q factor in race or road bikes. This results in much less stress in the knees during pedaling.
With 25 levels of eddy current resistance and 29 workout programs, this bike can sure supply the training setting any user needs. Also, within the 29 training apps, 4 of them are custom, giving you the possibility to create your own training routine. Its console is Bluetooth enabled, so you can sync it with your smartphone, tablet, or laptop in order to stream your workout directly into your Schwinn Connect account, MyFitnessPal account, GoogleFit, AppleHealth, Endomondo etc. Some of the most advanced commercial grade ones actually don’t offer features such as this… Read Full Review.