Busy roads, rainy days, your own personal time constraints—all reasons why riding inside is sometimes the better, safer, or more convenient choice. If you’re looking to get a quick indoor workout—without the crowded studio, enthusiastic instructor, and blaring music that often accompanies a spin class—consider one of these affordable stationary bikes that allow you to boost your mood and fitness in the comfort of your own home. Before you start shopping, read on to know what to look for.
Proper Fit Matters, Even on a Stationary Bike
Just like with a regular bicycle, if you want the best experience on your indoor bike, it’s important to get the proper fit. In fact, Spinning global brand ambassador Josh Taylor recommends finding an indoor cycling bike that puts you in the same position as the bike you’re accustomed to riding outside. If your daily rider is a road bike, for example, look for an indoor cycling bike with a handlebar option that both incorporates a traditional bullhorn bar and mimics the hand-position options of drops and brake hoods. However, if you’re already used to taking studio classes, an indoor cycling bike with just the traditional bullhorn-style bar will work great, says Ben Sharp, power education specialist at Stages.
Resistance Types: Fan vs. Flywheel
When you’re riding an outdoor bike, you’re working mostly against inertia as you pedal. In order to recreate that sensation and effort on a stationary bike, manufacturers have to simulate that resistance in some way. Most choose to use a fan or a flywheel (a weighted disc that spins as you pedal).
Flywheels work by storing inertia as they spin, smoothing out the pedal stroke to eliminate that choppy up and down motion you’d otherwise experience. For most budget spin bikes, a heavier flywheel means a smoother ride, though some bikes opt for a superlight (8-pound) flywheel that maintains its inertia by spinning four times as fast instead. And since the pedals on spin bikes are fixed to the flywheel (no coasting), the smooth-moving mechanism helps keep your pedaling consistent. These bikes will usually have a knob or lever that allows you to adjust the resistance, making it harder or easier to pedal, independent of your cadence (how fast you’re spinning the pedals).
Fan-operated resistance bikes are a bit simpler: As you pedal, the fan blades are pushing against the air around the machine. Your cadence is directly related to the amount of effort required to push the pedals, meaning these bikes don’t allow you to spin at a fast cadence with low resistance, which can be nice for warming up or cooling down.
How We Selected
For the purpose of this review, we looked for bikes under $1,000 with adequate resistance to provide a quality workout and offer a wide range of adjustability to fit a variety of users. (If you’re more serious about your indoor workout and want a more life-like cycling experience, check out our tests of the Peloton, Wahoo Kickr Bike, and other high-end models.) We consulted experts, trusted sources, and consumer reviews on Amazon as well as company websites to determine the best ones based on our extensive testing of bikes and stationary bikes. We also relied on our previous knowledge of and experience riding similar products, as well as input from test editor and spin instructor Riley Missel, to select which qualities and builds were most important in a solid affordable stationary bike. Here are six we recommend.
Cyclace Exercise Bike
The Cyclace is a sturdy, stable indoor bike built with a steel frame on a wide base that the company claims can support riders up to 330 pounds. This recently released model features a longer seat post than the previous version, that adjusts to accommodate riders from as short as 5-foot-1 to as tall as 6-foot-5 (it also adjusts fore and aft to bring you closer to the handlebar). The 36-pound flywheel and belt drive system (as opposed to a chain) offers a smooth, quiet ride, and is adjustable via a knob below the handlebar. Speaking of the handlebar, it has many grips and is height-adjustable, allowing you find a position that’s comfortable so you can ride longer. A handlebar-mounted LCD monitor tracks your time, speed, distance, estimated calories burned, and odometer (lifetime miles ridden), and a media stand puts devices front and center for you to watch videos or listen to music as you ride.
Bowflex C6 Bike
This is one of our favorite stationary bikes because it has the most capability at a very reasonable price. The bike itself is high-quality and very adjustable, but what makes it stand out is the Bluetooth connectivity. With the C6, you can connect with apps like Peloton, Zwift, and Schwinn Trainer to join community rides and track progress. The monitor displays time ridden, speed, mileage, heart rate, and resistance level. It doesn’t display wattage or precise RPMs (instead showing them on a scale). However, you can see that data when connected to third-party training apps. The flywheel is smooth and heavy, and you can crank the resistance up very high—it has 100 incremental levels that adjust via a knob. For fans of running shoes, the C6 has toe cages. Or flip the pedals over and clip in with Shimano SPD cleats. Sneak in your workout any time of the day or night because this thing is silent. It comes with a heart rate monitor you wear on your forearm and a pair of three-pound dumbbells so you can get a light upper-body workout in, too.
Spinning L1 Spin Bike
If all these flashy indoor bikes have your head, well, spinning, and you find yourself longing for a basic bike, the Spinner L1 is a no-frills model built around the original indoor bike design that ignited the Spinning craze over 20 years ago. It also happens to be the cheapest on our list—for every Peloton, you can buy six L1s. A weighted, chain-driven flywheel simulates momentum, and saddle height and setback, as well as handlebar height, are easy to adjust. You can’t tweak the reach, but the bullhorn-style bar extends far enough forward to make up for that lack of adjustment. Resistance, which you fine-tune using a knob that pushes a leather pad against the flywheel, feels steady until you really crank it down, then it gets a little inconsistent. But for the other 99.8 percent of the time, this bike is great at what it does, providing a traditional, uncomplicated indoor workout.
Yosuda Indoor Cycling Bike
This budget-priced, belt-driven bike operates a 35-pound flywheel that provides a smooth and quiet ride. The resistance is adjustable via a knob regardless of pedaling speed. It also has an emergency brake that stops the flywheel immediately, if necessary. According to Yosuda, the seat height adjusts to fit riders with inseams from 25 to 35 inches, and allows riders to adjust the handlebar height, as well as the fore-aft alignment, of the padded saddle. Using the single-button monitor, you can scroll through your time, speed, distance, and calories burned as you exercise. Just below the monitor is a platform for a phone or tablet (though some reviewers noted that it was a bit on the flimsy side). The heavy-duty steel frame is designed to provide stability and durability, but is mobile if you tip it up onto the small wheels on the front edge for easy relocation.
Vigbody Stationary Bike
This Vigbody is another stable, supportive option. Like many of the bikes on this list, the 24-pound flywheel’s resistance is adjustable via a knob between the rider’s knees. And the seat moves up and down, as well as fore and aft. Feet that screw in and out of the base to different levels allow you to stabilize it on uneven flooring, and Vigbody claims the frame will support up to 330 pounds. It’s relatively easy to move—just tip it up on its front edge and two small wheels allow you to stash it in a closet or spare room. And the frame is powder-coated for rust and corrosion resistance, when you really work up a sweat.
Sunny Health & Fitness Indoor Exercise Bike
If you find data displayed right in your face to be annoying, consider a monitor-less model like this Sunny Health & Fitness Exercise Bike. This indoor bike, with a heavy steel frame that supports riders weighing up to 275 pounds, features a belt-driven 49-pound flywheel that has resistance that’s adjustable by a knob mounted on the top tube. The belt-drive system is quieter than a chain, requires less maintenance, and is more resistant to corrosion from sweat than a tradition chain. The nearly 20-pound difference in flywheel weight between this bike and the Yosuda above creates more inertia and is meant to increase real-world ride feel and a smoother pedal stroke. An emergency brake allows you to stop the pedals quickly, and pedal cages help keep your sneakers on the platforms for safety and efficient power output. The handlebar and seat adjust up and down, and you can position the seat more forward or back to your liking.
You Might Also Like