Best Exercise Bike of 2020 – Complete Reviews with Comparisons

Best Exercise Bike of 2018 - Complete Reviews with Comparisons
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Everyone wants to know what the best exercise bike is, but almost no one asks about the specific types and workout regimens.

The thing is that not all exercise bikes are equally good at achieving results, whether it’s weight loss, lower body strengthening, or cardio conditioning.

To know what type of bike suits you the most, you need to get to know the different designs, resistance types, drive systems, comfort features, and why not – tracking features.

To help you make a better decision when shopping for your next exercise bike, this article reviews five different exercise bikes, each equipped for specific workouts.

This is followed by an overall buyer’s guide so that you can expand your search for the perfect workout bike even further.

Comparison Chart

Marcy Recumbent Exercise Bike with Resistance ME-709

Exerpeutic Folding Magnetic Upright Bike with Pulse

Sunny Health & Fitness Pro Indoor Cycling Bike

Schwinn AD7 Airdyne Bike

ProForm 440 ES Exercise Bike

Best Exercise Bike Reviews

1. Marcy ME-709 Recumbent Exercise Bike

The ME-709 is a Marcy bestseller. This exercise bike is as basic as recumbent bikes come but it’s surprisingly effective in overall conditioning or rehab applications.

Product Highlights

Without having any levelers, the ME-709 may require a rubber mat and a flat surface to ensure maximum stability. Nevertheless, the wide stabilizers and durable frame come together to create a very balanced recumbent bike.

To adjust the seat, you will need to exert some force. The bike has a pop-pin knob adjustment system which is common among budget-friendly bikes. It may not be easy or quick to use but it does help reduce the footprint of the bike.

As long as you’re between 5’2” and 6’ tall, you should be able to get a full knee extension when exercising. You may also be able to cheat if you’re shorter by putting a cushion on the backrest to get you closer to the pedals. However, the seat itself isn’t too big for a recumbent bike.

You can choose to pedal at a resistance level between 1 and 8, which is pretty standard for low- to medium-priced recumbent bikes. To change the setting, you can turn a regular marked knob located on the front support pole.

The drive uses a belt and a flywheel without weights which makes the rotation smooth and quiet. The pedals are counterbalanced to further smoothen the rotation motion. The surface is textured so that you can work out with or without shoes on.

The security straps are made from the standard rigid plastic material, but they are quite short so you may need to remove them..

The console is very limited. It measures time, distance traveled, total distance, speed, and calories burned, but it’s not a heart rate monitor. There’s also something to be said about the accuracy of the calories counter.

What's to like about the Marcy ME-709 Recumbent Exercise Bike

Nothing makes this recumbent exercise bike shine more than the low price tag. It is a basic design and it has some kinks with its adjustable systems, but for anyone with a tight budget and limited space, this recumbent bike makes a lot of sense.

What's not to like about the Marcy ME-709 Recumbent Exercise Bike

Although the basic console may rub people the wrong way, the fact that changing the seat is a complicated process seems like the biggest downside of the Marcy ME-709. The multiple knobs, bolts, and specific placements leave little room for aftermarket customization.

PROS

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    Affordable
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    Quiet
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    Suitable for low- to medium-impact workouts
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    Small footprint

CONS

  • Complex chair adjustment system
  • Basic console
  • Lacks heart rate sensor

2. Exerpeutic Folding Upright Bike with Pulse

What’s better than buying a cheap exercise bike? Getting one that takes up almost no space, of course. This Exerpeutic model features a folding frame and decent resistance settings that have made it a very popular choice over the past years.

Product Highlights

Most folding exercise bikes are known for being lightweight and this 39-lb. Exerpeutic model is no exception. However, a lightweight bike needs to compensate in order to provide stability. This design only has 19” stabilizers which may not be wide enough for high-intensity workout sessions.

The tubular steel frame is powder coated and should last for a very long time. The frame is quite solid as is the folding mechanism. Despite its size, this bike comfortably supports users up to 300 lbs. even at high resistance levels but, you will need a flat floor because there are no levelers included.

The seat adjustment is quite basic; it can be lifted or lowered at an angle to accommodate users of different heights. The adjustment does require you to get off the bike first but it won’t take long. It features a pop-pin knob system. The downside comes in the form of few preset holes which don’t allow for much min/maxing.

The drive system functions really well given the low cost of the bike. It features a V-belt that connects the pedals and flywheel. Because of the V-belt design, there’s superior grip while exercising at higher resistance levels. There’s also no need for maintenance.

The pedals have a textured surface and are normal sized. This means that you’re probably better off working out without shoes unless you have standard athletic shoes. Spinning shoes don’t seem to fit very well. Because of the forward placement of the pedals, you’ll also have to lean forward a bit to maintain balance.

This may not be comfortable at different heights. However, the angle of the handlebars can be changed with an Allen wrench. As far as comfort is concerned, this bike is neither here nor there; the seat has some padding but still seems rather firm and narrow.

Because of the price point, you shouldn’t expect much of the console. It has a small LCD display and shows limited readings one at a time. You have to lean forward to cycle so you won’t need backlighting or glasses to see what’s on the screen. The heart rate sensors don’t always work very well.

What's to like about the Exerpeutic Folding Upright Bike with Pulse

In terms of storage, portability, and durability, Exerpeutic hit it out of the park with this budget-friendly exercise bike. It may only spit out basic readings and provide low- to medium-impact workouts, but it is very easy and convenient to use, especially in small homes.

What's not to like about the Exerpeutic Folding Upright Bike with Pulse

Connecting the sensor cables may be a lot more difficult than it initially seems. Be sure to follow the diagram correctly. Still, there are plenty of claims regarding faulty or nonexistent heart rate readings.

PROS

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    Affordable
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    Foldable frame
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    Adjustable handlebars
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    High weight capacity

CONS

  • Questionable heart rate sensor readings
  • The seat may feel too firm

3. Sunny Health & Fitness Pro Indoor Cycle

As a combination spin bike and indoor cycle, this SH&F exercise bike is one of the most popular on the market. It’s solid and affordable and puts riders through serious workouts.

Product Highlights

One of the biggest selling points is the fact that the bike is just as stable whether you’re on or off the seat. You can pedal at high speed without worrying about numbing your behind on an overly firm and uncomfortable seat.

The fact that the design is also simple makes things even better. There are very few joints or moving components to worry about, other than adjusting the tension and lubricating the chain from time to time.

The adjustability of the bike is not much to speak of; you can’t reposition the handlebars horizontally but you can make minimal adjustments to ensure you’re exercising with a correct back posture. The seat is adjustable in height but you need to get off the bike first. It uses a pin-lock mechanism.

The flywheel is rather heavy; it’s rated at 40 lbs., and due to the heavy-duty crank system you can put yourself through some serious pain and gain moments. The knob is not marked for different resistance levels as it’s continuous. It does indicate which way to turn to increase or lower the difficulty.

For safety, there’s a manual brake lever next to the tension knob, as you can go quite fast on this spin bike. It will slow down the flywheel and pedals for when you need to slow down.

Compared to belt-driven bikes, the chain-driven Sunny will last longer. However, it does get noisy so it may not be the best option if you live in an apartment. The pedals have toe cups instead of straps, but they’re nothing special; in fact, you may find them a bit small. The good news is that you can replace the pedals with any other 9/16 pedals.

As far as comfort is concerned, the manufacturers could’ve done better. The regular seat design is nice for high-speed workouts but it is far from comfortable. Since it’s a spin bike, you can also pedal standing up. It’s also a good thing that you can move the seat back and forward.

What's to like about the Sunny Health & Fitness Pro Indoor Cycle

The superior stability and the wide resistance range are what make this bike perform well outside its price range. You can pedal sitting down or standing up without losing balance even at the highest speed of resistance settings.

What's not to like about the Sunny Health & Fitness Pro Indoor Cycle

It’s not that basic consoles are to die for or necessary for that matter. Once you get a feel for different resistance levels, you’ll know what to do and how long to do it. Still, it’s disappointing that this bike doesn’t even come with one. But then, if you’re taking online spinning classes, it’s all about the instructor and not the console.

PROS

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    Good for serious workouts
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    Great stability
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    Good value for the money
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    Durable frame
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    Fully adjustable seat

CONS

  • Doesn’t come with a console
  • Requires some maintenance
  • Can get noisy

4. Schwinn Airdyne AD6 Air Bike

Schwinn managed to make one of the most interesting fan-resistance exercise bikes. The Airdyne AD6 air bike is one of the top choices for anyone looking to get a serious burn going.

Product Highlights

The bike’s stability is no doubt superior to most others in this price range. Although it uses the same steel frame as most exercise bikes, it has a far more stable and heavier base. This is necessary in order to deal with the buildup of resistance from the fan.

What’s even better is that the frame comes with a 15-year factory warranty. The stabilizer bars are equipped with four levelers, which is good because not everyone has completely leveled floors.

One of the downsides of this bike is the lack of adjustability. Only the height of the seat can be adjusted by locking the pin in the desired preset position. Because the seat is lowered and raised at a slight angle, this allows users of different heights to have a proper distance from the handlebars. However, users under 5’3” seem to have difficulty with the lack of adjustments.

Another interesting feature is the dual action. The handlebars are not fixed so they rock back and forth at the same time as the pedals. If you want to rest on them, you can’t without getting a bit of a workout on your arms too.

However, since the bike is very stable you don’t have to lean forward and hold on to the handlebars for balance. This means that it’s easy to just stand straight and maintain a correct posture.

The way the resistance works is different on a fan bike. Without going into too many details, as it will all be covered in the guide, here’s what you should know. A fan or air bike features an exponential resistance system. The harder and faster you pedal, the more resistance you get because of how the air is being pushed by the fan.

In terms of comfort, the bike doesn’t have much to offer. The seat is pretty basic and so are the handlebars. The pedals come with adjustable security straps which is a good thing considering the exponential resistance buildup. One thing to note is that this single-stage belt-driven bike is also quite silent except for the noise of the fan.

What's to like about the Schwinn Airdyne AD6 Air Bike

The best thing about the Schwinn Airdyne AD6 is the potential to give users a very effective workout. Even the most diehard riders can get a good burn and solid lower body conditioning.

What's not to like about the Schwinn Airdyne AD6 Air Bike

The lack of adjustability and the moving handlebars make riding this type of bike a bit difficult for beginners. Combine that with the different resistance system and you may not like it if you’re just starting to work out.

PROS

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    15-year frame warranty
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    High impact workout
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    Easy assembly
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    Quiet
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    Dual-action workout

CONS

  • Basic console
  • Limited adjustability
  • May be too hard for some people

5. ProForm 440 ES Recumbent Exercise Bike

While not among the most popular designs on the market, the ProForm 440 ES is a hidden gem of a recumbent exercise bike with tons of digital features.

Product Highlights

Although it comes at a medium-to-high price point, the 440 ES also has a lot to offer. The base is reinforced and features levelers on both the front and rear stabilizers. The chair is easy to adjust as it features a lever mechanism.

The armrests are at seat height which makes getting on and off the bike very simple. The large contoured backrest offers full lumbar support. However, it is made of wired plastic so there’s no padding whatsoever. It does make up for that by offering ventilation to reduce heat buildup.

The bike is quiet even when used at high resistance settings and there are quite a few of them to choose from. The console is very advanced, and although it comes with a learning curve it does a good job of keeping you on track with your goals. There are 32 preset workout programs, including weight loss, recovery, intense cardio, and more.

The frame comes with a lifetime warranty which may just eclipse the fact that the bike has a weight capacity of 350 lbs. But we’ve hinted about the digital features. The console has two screens that show different readings. The displays are backlit. Above the console you have a tablet holder and a USB charging station.

What's to like about the ProForm 440 ES Recumbent Exercise Bike

It’s hard to put a finger on one feature that sets this bike apart from the rest. However, the workout fan does seem to offer a lot of utility and comfort. Because the backrest is also ventilated, the chances of overheating are almost zero which makes the 440 ES a godsend exercise bike during the summer.

What's not to like about the ProForm 440 ES Recumbent Exercise Bike

There are very few negatives worth mentioning about the ProForm 440 ES. Still, one might notice that the bike looks and performs more like a digital gem than a very serious workout bike. But in all fairness, this could be said about most recumbent exercise bikes, which are the only option for those with back problems.

PROS

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    Advanced console
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    Tablet holder
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    Quiet
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    Backlighting
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    Reinforced base

CONS

  • Expensive
  • Low to medium impact workouts

BUYER'S GUIDE

Display Readouts

There used to be a time when upright exercise bikes had the most advanced display monitors. These days however, any exercise bike can come with a complex user interface and advanced monitoring, as long as you’re willing to pay good money.

Heart rate, speed, cadence, and distance traveled are the most common readings. Other displays may also show the resistance level, force generated, elapsed time, remaining time, calories burned, etc. The really advanced displays may also have comparisons between sessions, workout programs, and heart recovery rate or overall fitness monitoring.

Unless you’re at an advanced level and require access to all that data, there’s no reason to go overboard in this regard.

Resistance Levels

There are usually 8 resistance levels in most exercise bikes. Some have less and some have more, and some are continuous. The number of resistance levels doesn’t tell you anything about the range of resistance.

Recumbent exercise bikes will offer less resistance at the highest level than some upright exercise bikes set at medium resistance. There are also some differences between different types of resistance systems, as magnetic resistance doesn’t seem to be as intense as direct-contact and brake-based resistance systems.

Whichever way you decide to go, all exercise bikes allow you to adjust the resistance level via a knob or lever.

Resistance Systems

There are different types of resistance systems used to generate the tension or resistance. Without such a system, a stationary exercise bike wouldn’t have much intensity. When you ride a bike on the road, the resistance comes from the friction between tires and ground, plus gravity if you’re going uphill.

We have omitted the flywheel itself (the weight of the flywheel simulates road bike conditions) to make three major types. They are as follows:

Magnetic resistance

Magnetic resistance or magnetic brake system has been the most popular design for a couple of years now. The system was inspired by the Japanese ‘bullet trains’ which are considered an important engineering success.

The flywheel has magnets attached. An electrical current is introduced to increase or reduce the resistance. This interaction is also called electromagnetic induction.

The system components aren’t subjected to the same wear and tear as a direct-contact brake system. The breaking is smooth because there’s no direct friction. This also causes the bike to be extremely silent.

Direct-contact resistance

This is the classic stationary bike resistance system. It uses friction to generate resistance as a brake is applied to the flywheel to reduce the speed of the rotations. The flywheel may also be weighted or vary in size.

The brakes are either brake pads, similar to those found on regular bikes, or brake bands also known as friction bands. They are featured on the edge of the flywheel to provide even harder workouts.

In terms of resistance, nothing really comes close, but such mechanical drive systems have plenty of downsides. They increase the overall weight of the bikes and need replacement components after a while. They’re also louder due to the direct-contact action.

Fan resistance

Fan-resistance exercise bikes or air bikes don’t feature a flywheel. They use a big resistance fan which is connected to the pedals through a pulley and belt system. The faster you pedal, the more resistance you get.

As you pedal, the fan begins to turn and the air impinges on the fan blades. It sounds easy but it takes a while to get used to and master these bikes for the best workout results.

Seat

Most exercise bike seats aren’t all that comfortable. Many of them are quite firm which doesn’t make them good for long workout sessions. They also don’t offer the benefits of suspension like in regular bikes, which means that even less stress is relieved from the body.

There are quite a few designs however, which try to deal with several issues in the best way possible. Upright exercise bikes may have a small backrest which should provide some lumbar support. However, since most upright bikes require the rider to lean slightly forward, the backrests are not worth paying extra for.

Recumbent exercise bikes have a very different seat arrangement. The seat resembles an armchair with a full backrest and armrests placed at seat height. Recumbents bikes are very popular among those with back problems.

The posture changes a lot between different types of exercise bikes but a lot of the comfort comes from having enough padding in the seat. Almost all exercise bikes also come with height adjustability but very few allow the user to change the angle of the seat.

Maximum User Weight

Recumbent exercise bikes tend to have the highest weight capacity, which is why they’re great for those struggling with obesity. Some bikes may reach a max user weight limit of 500 lbs.

Indoor exercise cycles and upright spin bikes don’t come even close. Very few of them top out at 400 lbs. while most of them are within the 250- to 350-lb. range. Depending on the materials, build quality, and frame design, the weight capacity will vary.

Types of Stationary Exercise Bikes

Exercise bikes come in various shapes, sizes, and models. You can find one for any budget and for any level of physical conditioning. But knowing what you need and what each one can offer is the only way to make a fully informed decision.

Upright stationary bikes

Probably the most popular exercise bike model for many years now, upright stationary bikes offer a nice combination of comfort and medium to high impact training. The handlebars are almost parallel to the seat and they require just a slight forward slant.

The pedals may be placed under the seat or under the handlebars, depending on what type of drive system is featured. Magnetic flywheels are associated with front-placed pedals while the classic weighted flywheel system has the pedals under the seat.

Upright stationary bikes are pretty convenient since they have a small footprint compared to other models. They’re also suitable for beginners and advanced fitness enthusiasts alike. While they may lack a bit in terms of stability, the lower cost makes up for that.

Indoor exercise cycles

You should recognize these bikes from spin classes and cycling training.

Indoor exercise cycles may seem similar to upright stationary bikes but the mechanics are quite different. The pedals are usually positioned under the seat and not slightly in front. The handlebars tend to be parallel with the seat which promotes a forward leaning position.

Simulating the riding conditions of an outdoor bike is a top priority in terms of posture and tension. In fact, apart from the suspension, there aren’t that many important differences.

In terms of resistance, indoor exercise cycles usually use the classic weighted flywheel system. A knob or lever is used to switch between different settings. As far as simulations are concerned, some of these bikes can give you an uphill experience.

Due to the stability of these bikes, users can also pedal standing up to achieve more speed and get a more intense cardio workout. The downside is that they can cause quite a lot of neck and back stress if you use them for long. And if you want premium durability you can expect to cough up extra bucks.

Recumbent exercise bikes

Recumbent exercise bikes look a lot more like chairs with pedals than exercise bikes. The seat has a tall backrest attached which can be adjusted to different angles. Some of these bikes allow users to push back the backrest to an almost horizontal position. They also feature armrests instead of handlebars.

In terms of user-friendliness, it doesn’t get any better. They don’t have a learning curve nor do they require good physical conditioning prior to using them for the first time. However, the workout intensity is lacking even when compared to some under desk cycles.

Recumbent bikes still work the lower body and offer decent cardio. The level of comfort and high weight capacity make them suitable for those with weight and back problems. The construction almost eliminates sway which makes them some of the most stable indoor exercise bikes.

Under-desk exercise bikes

Under-desk cycles or pedal exercisers are somewhat similar to recumbent exercise bikes except they’re designed to go under the desk at work or at the home office. They’re light, compact, and very quiet for the use of a magnetic resistance system.

While they don’t offer too much in terms of conditioning or muscle building, they do provide decent cardio and get the blood pumping. They’re not usually a go-to choice for weight loss but they do put an end to fidgeting at the workplace.

Dual-action exercise bikes

Dual-action exercise bikes are designed to give the user the full package. The construction features a combination of recumbent or upright bike and conventional stationary bike. The handlebars move forward and backward when resistance is applied, similarly to how the pedals work.

Because they allow hand movement, dual-action bikes are great for upper body workouts. You can condition your arms, chest, and shoulders while training the lower body. Switching between different grips will benefit different muscle groups more than others.

Depending on which type of dual-action bike design you’re using, you can also train your core to some extent. An upright design helps but not a recumbent design which takes away the strain and pressure from the entire back.

The one big downside of these bikes is that they’re usually quite expensive. Especially when you want an advanced LCD screen and a quiet drive system.

Folding exercise bikes

These exercise bikes look similar to standard upright stationary models, but they come with a folding frame; they’re easier to store and travel with. Usually they’re lighter and have a lower weight limit but the stability is decent nonetheless.

However, they’re not great for high-intensity workouts. Pedaling as fast as you can is not an option because folding bikes are susceptible to sway. The low weight limit of the frame also prevents users from moving too much.

The good news is that these bikes come in a variety of sizes for every budget. They also feature at least 6 tension levels so that you can get a decent burn going.

Notable Mentions

Over the years, many more variations of the previously mentioned exercise bikes have surfaced. Interactive exercise bikes are similar to exercise cycles but they offer a high-end multimedia experience. Desk cycles come with their own workbench and are intended to replace the conventional office desk.

Exercise Bike FAQs

How to choose an exercise bike

Unless you’re trying to master a fan resistance exercise bike, there’s not much of a learning curve to worry about. Switching between different types of exercise bikes requires some getting used to only insofar as the different postures that you have to maintain.

The concept of pedaling doesn’t change. It’s just important to remember to also use a full range of motion with your feet. Point your toes downwards when you push the pedal and towards the body when retracting the leg.

If you’re using a dual-action exercise bike, consult the manual for instructions. Some of them allow you to pedal and work the handlebars at the same time while others don’t. Check to see which types of exercises are recommended.

How to use an exercise bike

Unless you’re trying to master a fan resistance exercise bike, there’s not much of a learning curve to worry about. Switching between different types of exercise bikes requires some getting used to only insofar as the different postures that you have to maintain.

The concept of pedaling doesn’t change. It’s just important to remember to also use a full range of motion with your feet. Point your toes downwards when you push the pedal and towards the body when retracting the leg.

If you’re using a dual-action exercise bike, consult the manual for instructions. Some of them allow you to pedal and work the handlebars at the same time while others don’t. Check to see which types of exercises are recommended.

Can you lose weight on an exercise bike?

Losing weight with the help of an exercise bike is not impossible, but it is a difficult and lengthy process. Exercise bikes work mostly on your lower body. Some dual-action bikes also put your upper body to work but it’s nowhere near as much as a rowing machine or good old-fashioned bench presses.

Because indoor exercise bikes target very few muscle groups at a time, it takes a long time to burn many calories. Obviously, the faster you pedal at high resistance the more calories you burn away. But most bikes are too uncomfortable to allow you to maintain high intensity workouts, at least compared to regular outdoor bikes.

However, combined with strict dieting, exercise bikes can be quite effective in the long run. The biggest downside is that targeted weight loss is not really an option with these bikes. And losing belly fat just by riding an exercise bike, regardless of the design, requires a heavy commitment and lots of patience.

What is an exercise bike good for?

Exercise bikes are used for a variety of reasons.

Weight loss

Any workout equipment that promotes cardio routines helps with overall weight loss. However, due to the limited number of muscle groups involved, using an exercise bike for targeted weight loss such as losing belly fat is not favored.

Cardio conditioning

Due to the low to medium impact of most exercise bikes, they seem to offer a lot more to people that prefer cardio conditioning over anything else.

Lower body strengthening

High resistance exercise bikes can withstand very intense workout routines. Although they’re not enough for muscle building, they can strengthen the quads and the calves efficiently.

Increasing body heat

Under-desk exercise bikes are low impact and low intensity. However, due to the constant motion, they improve blood circulation which leads to increasing the body’s temperature. They’re effective in large offices with air conditioning or in server rooms.

Are exercise bikes effective?

Some exercise bikes are more effective than others. In terms of cardio benefits, weight loss, and lower body conditioning, traditional indoor exercise cycles give the best results. However, overweight people or elderly folks may be limited to a recumbent exercise bike due to the extra level of comfort.

Your ability to stick to a routine or workout regimen is also important. For exercise bikes to be effective in weight loss applications, certain requirements must be met by the user – proper diet, pedaling at a certain heart rate, resting in between sets, etc.

At the end of the day, exercise bikes, even the cheaper ones, are as effective as the rider that uses them.

​FINAL VERDICT

Choosing the best exercise bike will never be easy if you don’t know exactly what you need. However, if it’s all about the exercising, there’s probably no better choice than the Sunny Health & Fitness Pro Indoor Cycle. Although a fan resistance bike will give it a run for its money, the Pro Indoor Cycle does a better job of simulating outside conditions.

It promotes better posture despite its limited adjustability and it has the potential for high-impact workouts. The lack of a console shouldn’t really matter for a true workout enthusiast who already knows what to do.

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