Upright exercise bikes are among the best low-impact training machines. You can work out on your own at home or in a cycling class at your local gym.
Some fancier models even allow you to connect with friends via social apps, as well as ride in AR and VR.
Depending on your goals and needs, you can go for a simple spinner, a standard upright bike, or a dual-purpose bike (if you want to incorporate the arms and upper body).
Stationary exercise bikes are easy to get into, regardless of the fitness level and cycling skill. Finally, with a stationary bike, you can exercise whenever you can spare a few minutes.
However, choosing the right exercise bike might be easier said than done, as there are many aspects to consider and a wide range of models to choose from.
Read on as we review some of the finest exercise bikes and take a look at what separates the best upright exercise bike from the rest.
Best Upright Exercise Bikes Reviews
1. Schwinn 170 Upright Bike
The Schwinn 170 Upright Bike offers a huge range of training programs, 25 levels of resistance, built-in speakers, and a fan to keep you cool during the workout. The 170 also scores high in ease of use, safety, and adjustability.
The 170 rocks a solid and sturdy steel frame. It features the classic “H” pattern equipped with levelers in the back and transport wheels in the front. The bike comes partially assembled and it takes approximately an hour to finish the assembly (necessary tools are included in the package). When fully assembled, it weighs 76 lbs.
The seat is among the most comfortable in the intermediate class. It features 4-way adjustment (up/down, back/forth) and is replaceable. The padding is thick and soft, guaranteeing a high level of comfort. The handlebars are also height and angle-adjustable, and they’re equipped with heart rate monitor sensors.
The console has two backlit LCD displays. The lower displays the basic data, such as heart rate, distance, RPM, speed, etc. The upper one, on the other hand, is there to navigate through the training programs. There are 29 pre-installed training programs, as well as several slots for custom-designed routines. The console allows you to transfer your training data to your smartphone via Bluetooth
What's to like about the Schwinn 170 Upright Bike
The Schwinn 170 offers an excellent ratio of price and quality as a premier representative of the intermediate class. Very low noise level, fantastic workout customization options, and outstanding ergonomics make this bike stand out from the crowd. The built-in speakers and fan make workouts on this bike even more enjoyable.
What's not to like about the Schwinn 170 Upright Bike
On the flipside, the padding on the elbow rests could be a tad thicker. Other than that, there are no major flaws and deal-breakers with the Schwinn 170.
2. Schwinn 130 Upright Bike
Sitting on the cusp of the lower-intermediate and intermediate classes, the Schwinn 130 Upright Bike offers the best of both worlds. It is a great option for people who want to get into cycling, as well as seasoned practitioners. The 130 offers a wide variety of training programs, magnetic resistance system, low-noise operation, built-in speakers, and 20 levels of resistance.
The frame is made of steel and sports the classic “H” shaped base. Levelers are installed in the back while transport wheels are in the front. The 130 has a stable, durable frame which can support up to 300lbs. When assembled, it weighs 59 lbs.
The seat is nicely padded and offers a decent level of comfort. It can only be vertically adjusted, similar to a standard road bike. The handlebars can be angle-adjusted and feature padding on the elbow rests. They also feature heart rate sensors.
The console comes with 22 pre-installed workout programs and 4 user profiles. The lower of the two displays shows the stats, while the upper displays the workout details. Unlike the Schwinn 170, you can’t create custom workouts on the 130’s console. Also, it doesn’t support mixed reality workouts. However, it does feature an MP3 input, a USB port and, a pair of speakers.
What's to like about the Schwinn 130 Upright Bike
The Schwinn 130 is a well-rounded exercise bike. Considering its price class, it is a pretty advanced model with excellent build quality. Silent and smooth operation and built-in extras (3-speed fan, speakers, USB port) are also among its strong points.
What's not to like about the Schwinn 130 Upright Bike
The fact that the seat is only vertically adjustable is probably the biggest flaw of this otherwise great bike. Also, the seat can become somewhat uncomfortable during prolonged training sessions.
3. Schwinn AD6 AirDyne
If you are looking for a total-body workout, you can take a look at Schwinn’s AD6 AirDyne. This intermediate-class air bike offers you the ability to include the arms and the upper body into your cycling routine. The robust construction, unlimited resistance, and high weight capacity make it suitable for vigorous and intensive workouts. It is equipped with a belt drive system, so you won’t have to worry about excess noise.
The AD6 AirDyne has a heavy-set steel frame that features the “H”-shaped base and supports up to 250 lbs. When fully assembled, the bike weighs 116 lbs. The frame’s equipped with levelers in the back and a set of transport wheels in the front.
This bike comes with a well-made and thickly padded seat which is comfortable enough for long training sessions. The seat is, however, only height-adjustable and is not replaceable. The handlebars are sturdy and well-made. They featured heart rate sensors in the grips and are height adjustable.
The console is a simple affair. It sports a large LCD display with all the vital stats (heart rate, RPM, speed, calories, distance, etc.). There are no pre-installed workouts or user profiles available. Also, the display is not backlit.
What's to like about the Schwinn AD6 AirDyne
The AD6 AirDyne is a robust, well-built air bike. It is great for high-intensity interval workouts, as well as combined total body routines. It offers smooth, low-noise operation and a simple and easy-to-use console.
What's not to like about the Schwinn AD6 AirDyne
On the other hand, the seat is only adjustable for height and can’t be replaced. Aside from that, the display has no backlighting, making it hard to read in low visibility conditions.
4. Nautilus U616 Upright Bike
The Nautilus U616 competes in the intermediate class and is one of the most versatile upright bikes on the market. It offers an exceptional console with 29 pre-installed programs, weighted flywheel tension system, 25 resistance levels (computer-controlled), Bluetooth connectivity, and exceptional ergonomics. It can also be synchronized with the RideSocial app, as well as be used with AR and VR systems.
The U616 comes with a strong and stable steel frame. The base is arranged in the standard “H” pattern, with levelers in back and front, and transport wheels in front. The bike is delivered partially assembled. When fully assembled, it weighs around 76 lbs.
When compared to other models in its class, the U616 has a reasonably comfortable seat. It is padded and contoured, and can be adjusted in all four directions. The handlebars feature padding on the elbow rests and heart rate sensors in the hand grips. They can be angle-adjusted for optimum performance.
The console has two displays. The lower (and smaller) display shows basic stats, while the upper is used to navigate through training programs. The console offers 29 pre-installed workout programs and the ability to create customized routines.
What's to like about the Nautilus U616 Upright Bike
The Nautilus U616 offers some serious customization options and connectivity. Above-average build quality, smooth and silent operation, and excellent adjustability are among its strongest suits. It is also AR-compatible.
What's not to like about the Nautilus U616 Upright Bike
On the flipside, the U616 is equipped with a set of unimpressive speakers. Also, the seat could use a bit more padding. Other than that, there are no major flaws and deal-breakers with this bike.
5. Sunny Health & Fitness SF-B901
Sometimes, simplicity is the best feature a piece of training equipment can have. Built to mimic road bikes, the Sunny Health & Fitness SF-B901 delivers a great performance, minimalistic design, and bare-bones construction.
The SF-B901 features a hefty steel frame with the standard “H” base. The frame’s equipped with levelers in front and back and transport wheels in front. Together with the 40-lb. flywheel, the fully assembled bike weighs around 100 lbs. The weight capacity is 275 lbs.
The seat on this affordable spinner is fully adjustable (up/down and fore/aft) and features leather padding. The handlebars are fully customizable and adjustable (height and angle). There are no heart rate sensors in the hand grips.
Due to its super-simple construction, this bike doesn’t come with a console. Instead, the level of resistance is manually adjusted via a knob located beneath the handlebars. The SF-B901 also features treaded pedals with adjustable foot straps.
What's to like about the Sunny Health & Fitness SF-B901
The Sunny SF-B91 is an affordable spin bike with simple construction and great price to performance ratio. It also features high weight capacity and a very robust frame.
What's not to like about the Sunny Health & Fitness SF-B901
Its bare-bones construction makes it unsuitable for exercisers who need a console to track their performance. Also, the chain drive system is on the noisy side.
Buying an upright exercise bike can be a complicated thing, as there are many options to choose from and many things to take into consideration. Upright bikes come in many shapes and sizes and at various price points. Some of the most important things to consider include the console display, available programs, heart rate monitors, installed resistance system, build quality, safety, among others. So, let’s see what separates the best upright bike from a good one.
In general, displays have become standard equipment on indoor exercise bikes, upright bikes included. The size and complexity of the console can vary drastically from model to model.
For example, your typical budget-class bike has a simple console with a small display which shows only the basic data. On the other hand, professional-class bikes generally have consoles with pre-installed training programs, selectable resistance levels, and advanced metrics. Some models even have speakers, Bluetooth connection, phone/tablet holders, and other fancy features. Let’s take a closer look.
Budget-friendly exercise bikes often feature small consoles with simple displays. These usually show distance, time rounds per minute, and such. Some models, if they have installed sensors in the handlebars, might display heart rate. Budget consoles usually have no installed exercise programs or other advanced features.
The positive side to this approach is its simplicity and focus on the essentials. It is good for exercisers who don’t want to mess around with electronics too much in favor of creating their own training routines. On the other hand, exercisers who want predesigned training routines, advanced metrics, and other features might find this approach lacking.
As you move up the price ladder, the consoles get bigger displays and become more complex. In the middle class, you will find all of the basics from the budget class plus some fancy features such as installed training programs and more advanced metrics. It is not unusual for models in this class to feature tablet and smartphone holders.
On the upside, advanced consoles display a variety of information which can be useful for tracking your progress. Aside from that, pre-installed programs can be beneficial for exercisers struggling with motivation and consistency. On the downside, advanced consoles can be complicated to use and, consequentially, hard to get the best out of.
In the upper echelons, complex displays with advanced metrics and pre-installed programs are a given. Some of the more expensive models are also equipped with Bluetooth connection. This allows you to completely bypass the installed console and use your smartphone or tablet to monitor your training and performance. Built-in speakers, USB chargers, and other extra features can also be seen on expensive models.
The upside to this approach is that you can easily download and install a training app on your smartphone or tablet and completely customize your training experience. On the other hand, the tech might be overwhelming if you just want a simple and easy-to-use bike.
Consoles on upright bikes can roughly be divided into two categories – not programmable and programmable. The former variant is commonly found on entry-level models and the simpler intermediate ones.
Upright bikes with complex consoles usually feature installed training programs in addition to basic monitoring (pulse, speed, distance, RPM, calories, etc.). These can include various high-intensity interval training programs (also known as HIIT and Tabatha), cardio programs, weight-loss routines, fitness challenges, and more. Some will even allow users to create their own regimens.
It is not unusual for consoles on upright bikes to also feature separate profiles for multiple users and the ability to track progress. If the multiple profile feature is present, it will usually support two to four profiles, though some models can support even more. Bikes with multiple profiles are a good solution for gyms and homes with multiple users.
Performance tracking is another neat feature of advanced consoles. It can help you monitor and tailor your training routines over an extended period of time. The data collected throughout the training can either be stored on the console itself or uploaded to a dedicated mobile app.
Some of the most advanced bikes allow you to synchronize your program with friends and exercise together. To do this, you will all need to have the same dedicated app which can display the programs and tracks. This will allow you to compete with your friends and compare your progress to theirs.
Some high-tech models even allow you to exercise in augmented and virtual reality. To do that, you will need an app such as RideSocial and a VR/AR headset. Once you download the app, you can synchronize it with your bike and select a route for your training. When you start cycling, your progress will be displayed in the video. Also, you can use a virtual reality phone holder for a full 360° experience.
Heart Rate Monitor
Heart rate is one of the most common stats exercise bikes track, along with speed, distance, RPM, and others. It is tremendously important, especially for heart rate-oriented training programs, and thus included in even the most basic consoles there are. In general, there are three major ways exercise bikes measure heart rate – sensors installed on handlebars, wireless chest straps, and optical monitors (typically worn on the wrist).
Models equipped with handlebar sensors measure your heart rate in short intervals and update the console display frequently. Some models update it every second or every other second. The downside to this approach is that it can be somewhat inaccurate, mostly due to the short measuring intervals.
One alternative is the chest belt/strap. The belt is wirelessly connected to the console and works via electric pulses. To determine your pulse, the chest strap reads the electrical signals of your body when your heart contracts and translate it into beats per minute. This is the most accurate method of the three.
Optical monitors are another popular type of heart monitors and are typically worn on the wrist. They use light signals to determine the BPM. They tend to be less accurate than the chest straps, as rapid arm movement (on air bikes, for example) can create a lot of data noise. Their in-ear counterparts are more reliable.
Depending on the situation, the precision of a heart rate monitor can matter more or less. Generally, during training it is more important to know the heart rate zone than the exact beats per minute. The same goes for resting heart rate. On the other hand, if you’re trying to measure recovery rate, precision is important as recovery rate is a strong indicator of your general fitness level and health.
When choosing a heart rate monitor, you should also consider its connectivity. There are two options – ANT+ and Bluetooth. The former variant has been around longer and you’d need an adapter to connect the wireless monitor to a smartphone. On the other hand, Bluetooth devices have better connectivity and the number of bikes supporting Bluetooth is on the rise.
When it comes to comfort, handlebar sensors are the top option. They are the least invasive and you don’t have to wear them on your body or in your ears. Wrist-worn optical monitors are the next best option in this regard, while chest straps are the least comfortable option. They can come off if you don’t secure them properly. Tied too tightly, they can be very uncomfortable.
Resistance is one of the key features of an exercise bike, as it largely determines the cycling experience. There are four major ways exercise bikes generate resistance. The types include direct contact, magnetic resistance, brakes, and fans. Each of the systems has its advantages and drawbacks, as well as additional considerations. Let’s take a quick look into each of them.
Direct-contact resistance system
The first type on the menu is direct-contact resistance. This type is also known as friction resistance, as it relies on friction between the flywheel and the resistance pads to generate resistance. As for the resistance levels, on some models you can adjust them with buttons and gears while on the others you can do it via the console.
The upsides of this system include its relative affordability and enough resistance to challenge the most advanced cyclists. On the other end, bikes with direct resistance can get quite noisy and disrupt your concentration. They can be demanding maintenance-wise and might need to be serviced and repaired more frequently.
Magnetic resistance system
Some exercise bikes come with magnetic resistance system. This is the most technologically advanced variant. A bike with this system has a flywheel made of ferromagnetic materials (fully or partially) which spins between two electromagnets. The power of the electromagnets can vary, thus varying the resistance of the flywheel. This is a frictionless system.
On the plus side, this system can easily be controlled via the console. It requires less maintenance and is pretty silent. On the other hand, if the electronic components fail, it can get quite costly to repair them. Additionally, bikes with magnetic resistance offer very limited customization. It is worth noting that tampering with the system might void the warranty.
Brake-based resistance system
Further down the line, there are exercise bikes with brake-based resistance systems. These systems use dosed braking to increase or decrease the resistance level. There are several types of brakes – drum brakes, coaster brakes, disk brakes (these can be either hydraulic or cable-operated), fixed gear brakes, and caliper brakes.
One of the strongest points of the brake system is that it’s affordable and reliable. It’s been around for quite a while and is still very popular. On the other hand, it can get noisy due to constant friction. Also, constant friction means constant wear, which in turn means you will have to service and repair your bike regularly.
Fan resistance system
Finally, there are bikes with a fan resistance system. The fans are usually located in the front and the resistance they give directly depends on how fast you cycle. They come in various sizes and are far lighter than the flywheels. There are two main drive systems on air bikes – chain and belt.
Some of the pros include relatively low maintenance costs and somewhat quiet operation (belt-driven models). The negatives include relatively high prices and inability to reduce resistance at high speeds. Also, increased air circulation and fan noise might break your concentration.
When buying an exercise bike, the quality should be of paramount importance. This goes both for the overall construction and individual parts. The bike should be made of sturdy materials and have good build quality. Some of the most important parts to examine include the frame, seat, pedals, console, and drive system.
The frame is one of the key components of an exercise bike. It supports the entire weight of the bike and the rider. The “H” shaped base is the most one, though some models use the “X” shaped base. Many models, even in the budget class, have levelers and transport wheels. The usual setup includes levelers in the back and wheels in the front, though some models may have levelers in the front, as well.
The rider’s comfort is also an important thing to consider. That’s where the quality of the seat comes in. As with most other features, the price tag largely dictates how adjustable the seat is and how much padding it comes with. There are two major types – 2-way (up/down) and 4-way (up/down, back/forth) adjustable seats. Some bikes come with detachable seats.
When choosing an exercise bike, you should also consider the quality of the pedals. They have to be robust, sturdy, and made of quality materials. Usually, the pedals feature straps to hold the feet tightly in place throughout the training. Some bikes have weighted pedals to aid the cyclers and reduce pressure on the joints. It is recommended to choose a bike with wide and comfortable pedals.
The best upright exercise bike should also have a quality console. Regardless of the built-in features and complexity, a console has to offer reliable info and an easy-to-read display. The console should be made of resilient plastic and have well-positioned buttons. Also, it should be intuitive and easy to use.
The quality of the drive/resistance system is a key feature of an upright exercise bike. The system, regardless of its type (brake, fan, magnetic, direct contact), must be made of high-quality materials. Problems in this area can really drive up the maintenance/repair costs and even render the bike unusable. Make sure to choose a bike with a quality resistance system and good warranty.
Safety must not be overlooked, regardless of the exercise type and environment. The same applies to exercising on an upright bike. When buying one, you should go for a model which scores high in this segment. Some of the most important things to pay attention to include the overall robustness, stability, inclusion of levelers, pedal construction, and drive/resistance system isolation.
Though generally lighter and smaller than air bikes, upright bikes have to be robust enough to support you through the most rigorous training routines. They have to have sturdy, well-built frames. The handlebars have to offer enough support to the arms and the upper body as well. These parts are usually made of steel and account for a large percentage of a bike’s overall weight.
In addition to being tough and robust, upright bikes also have to be stable. The frame should be sufficiently long and wide to ensure the bike does not tip over during exercising. You should look for a model with durable plastic-threaded feet at the corners of the frame for the ultimate stability.
Exercising on an uneven floor can be hazardous, to say the least. Therefore, the inclusion of levelers at the base of the frame tremendously boosts a bike’s safety. Usually, bikes only have levelers installed in the back, though some models have them in the front as well. They are among the most common safety features and are usually combined with transportation wheels in the front.
A proper exercise bike should also have its drive/resistance system well isolated to protect the rider. Upright bikes usually feature plastic covers around the drive mechanism. In addition, air bikes have a metal cage around the front fan. The flywheel is covered in an enclosure and isolated by the frame, whether they are located in the back or the front.
Apart from comfort, the pedals also play a role in a bike’s overall safety. Ideally, they should be large and have threaded surface for increased grip. Aside from that, you should also check whether the pedal straps are adjustable or not. They also have to be made of sturdy materials in order to support vigorous training routines.
How many calories do you burn on a stationary bike?
As with every other type of workout, the exact number of calories burned on a stationary bike depends on many things. First, you should consider the type of training and its duration. Next, you should consider its intensity. After that, you should take your weight and age into account.
Some average figures (according to the Livehealthy blog) for a moderately-paced 30-minute workout are from around 250 (155-lb. person) to around 325 (205-lb. person). At a full-out pace, the 155-lb. exerciser would burn around 370 calories, while the 205-lb. exerciser would burn around 490 calories.
A 2013 study published in the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine (by Talisa Emberts et al.) found that an average 20-minute Tabatha (HIIT) training burns between 240 and 360 calories.
How long should you ride a stationary bike to lose weight?
The answer to this question depends on a variety of factors. First and foremost, you should consider the type and intensity of the training. Also, you should account for its duration, as a relaxed 15-minute ride won’t burn the same number of calories as a 30-minute HIIT workout.
Typical cycling programs generally run for 30 to 60 minutes. High intensity interval training programs tend to be on the shorter end of the scale due to its rigor and high demand. Also, bear in mind that you will have to be consistent and work out several times a week (3-6) in order to see results.
How to use a stationary bike?
A stationary bike can be used in many ways. There are numerous cardio, HIIT, weight loss, and total body workouts out there. The last type is reserved for dual-purpose bikes. However, a stationary bike is most commonly used for weight loss workouts. Let’s take a look at how a stationary bike can be used for weight loss.
The first type is steady state (steady pace) riding. This is the best choice if you’re a beginner and are just getting into cycling. If you’re just starting out, adjust the tempo and duration to your health and fitness level and gradually work up from there. Generally, you should aim to reach a point where you can do five to six 30-minute sessions a week where your pace will be between 50 and 70 percent of your heart rate maximum. Here’s how to calculate that.
Hill climb is another popular workout type for losing weight. Here, you want to start slow and steady, and gradually build up the resistance. You can start increasing the intensity in five-minute intervals. The higher the resistance setting, the harder you’ll have to work to maintain pace and, consequently, the more calories you’ll burn.
High-intensity interval training is there for more experienced practitioners. A study published in 2011 found that HIIT workouts are better at burning fat than those done at a steady pace. An HIIT workout consists of intermittent intervals of high intensity and low intensity cycling. A typical workout looks like this:
- 5-10 minute warmup at a slow pace
- 60-120s high intensity interval
- 60-120s low intensity interval
- 10-15 minutes of interchanging high intensity and low intensity intervals
- Finish the session with several minutes at a relaxed pace
What is a stationary bike good for?
Stationary bikes are primarily made for indoor training. They can be used by exercisers of all levels of fitness and offer a huge variety of training options. Some models can even work the arms and the upper body. Here are some of the things a stationary bike is good for.
- Stationary bikes offer low impact workout, which means they are far easier on your joints than treadmills and good old outdoor jogging. They are great for senior exercisers and people recovering from injuries
- Stationary bikes are good for people of all ages, sizes, and fitness levels. They are easy to get into and equally beneficial to beginners and pros. Also, you don’t have to worry about the weather, time of day, or traffic
- They are also good for both solo and group exercises. You can use them on your own at home or join a cycling class at your local gym. If you’re exercising at home, you can connect with your cycling buddies via mobile apps
- You can use your stationary bike for a wide variety of training programs and fitness goals. Some of the most prominent include cardio training, high-intensity interval/Tabatha programs, and weight loss programs. Also, some professional athletes use stationary bikes as part of their strength and conditioning routines
- The health benefits of exercising on a stationary bike are numerous. It is a good choice if you want to burn excess calories, boost your stamina, build muscle, boost your immune system, increase mobility, improve heart health, and generally raise your level of fitness
- Another neat feature of stationary bikes is that they can help you monitor your performance during the workout. Some advanced models even have installed training programs and can help you track your performance
What is a stationary bike?
A stationary bike is an exercise bike made for indoor cycling training. It usually consists of a metal frame, a drive/tension system with pedals, an adjustable seat (2-way and 4-way adjustable seats are the most common variants), handlebars, and a console (used for tracking statistics and exercise programs). The handlebars can be either fixed or movable, depending on the intended use.
There are four main types of stationary bikes – classic indoor cycles, recumbent bikes, upright bikes, and air bikes (also called fan bikes and assault bikes). Each type has its own strengths and weaknesses, purpose, and construction characteristics.
Indoor cycles are the most akin to road bikes. You ride them pretty much the same way you would ride the classic road bike, leaning forward and resting on the handlebars. Their intended use is to recreate the outdoor experience as faithfully as possible. Their major downside is that they do not offer any options for arms and upper body workouts.
On a recumbent bike, instead of leaning forward, you lean back into the seat. The pedals are located in front of you, instead of beneath you. They are among the largest and heaviest indoor bikes, as well as the most popular. Also, due to their construction, recumbent bikes have the largest and the most comfortable seats. Recumbent bikes are great for exercisers recovering from injuries.
Upright bikes come with regular bicycle seats and are intended for riding in an upright position. They can feature various types of drive/tension systems. Also, upright bikes can be single or dual-purpose. Single-purpose bikes have fixed handlebars, while the dual purpose models have movable handlebars. Upright bikes are versatile and can be used for a wide range of workout routines.
Air bikes are recognizable by a huge fan installed in the front. The fan generates the resistance and can be either chain- or belt-driven. Generally, the fan will produce more resistance as you pedal faster. Air bikes also often feature movable handlebars for upper body workout. Popular in CrossFit circles, air bikes are great for high-intensity interval training.
It is time to pronounce the best upright exercise bike. The winner of the upright bikes roundup for 2018 is the Schwinn 170 Upright Bike. The Bluetooth connectivity, AR/VR compatibility, and excellent build quality make this bike stand head and shoulders above the rest. The smooth and silent operation, excellent adjustability, and ability to create custom training programs are also among the Schwinn 170’s strongest points.
The title of budget division champion goes to the Sunny Health & Fitness SF-B901. This is a simple and straightforward bike, made for exercisers who want to get as close to the road bike experience as possible.