The 9 best exercise bikes for home use in 2024

best exercise bikes
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The best exercise bikes have a ton of benefits, from helping you lose weight to providing a high-intensity cardio workout that is easy on the joints. Perfect for a fast-paced spin or gentler ride, there are a number of great machines available to get you working up a sweat.

However, picking an exercise bike that ticks all the boxes can be a challenge even at the best of times. Whether you are a professional athlete trying to improve your pace, or a beginner on the quest to get fitter, there is a mind-boggling array of machines to choose from.

The good news is, Live Science has done all the heavy lifting for you. Our team has tried and tested a wide range of exercise bikes, from the budget friendly ones to more premium models that feature smart screens and dumbbells for off-bike workouts. Our tester put all the bikes in this guide through a variety of workouts, from an interval session, endurance ride to an active recovery one. 

Some stationary bikes don’t need a power source to work, you can just start pedalling, while others like the Peloton bike, do need plugging in before you start your workout. Brands like Yosuda are affordable and easy to use, especially if you’re a beginner, while tech fans who like to monitor all their workout stats might prefer the Bowflex C7, which works with a host of apps including the Peloton one.

Many of the best exercise bikes have a choice of pedal, either cage or clip in or sometimes both, so make sure you know which type you prefer before you buy. And don’t miss our guides to the best treadmills and rowing machines. Read on to find out which of the best exercise bikes we rated, looking at price, design, comfort, smart features and value for money.

The best exercise bike overall

Peloton bike being tested by Sam Hopes, resident fitness writer at Live Science

(Image credit: Future)
Best exercise bike for most people

Specifications

Dimensions: 59” x 53” x 23”
Weight: 135lbs / 61kg
Max user weight: 297lbs (134kg)
Max height: 6’4”
Display?: 21.5” color touchscreen
Resistance levels: 100
Pedals: Look Delta-compatible cleats (clip in)
Workouts: Live and on-demand via Peloton app (subscription required)

Reasons to buy

+
Stunning build 
+
Large HD screen 
+
No complicated setup required 

Reasons to avoid

-
Most expensive option
-
Monthly subscription for classes
-
Cycling shoes needed

Stylish and feature-rich, the Peloton Bike is a bestseller for good reason. It’s not cheap, but what you get for your dollar is an extremely well-made machine with endless features to keep you motivated and on track with your health and fitness goals.

It comes in Peloton’s signature black and red colors, and has a small footprint making it a good choice for people short on space. It’s also ergonomic so it feels comfortable and smooth to ride. Just bear in mind that the pedals require specific Look Delta cleat-compatible shoes, which is an extra cost on top of the bike.

The original Peloton Bike has a crisp touchscreen with all of its features hidden within the monitor — this is deliberate so that the bike itself isn’t cluttered by lots of buttons. With daily live workouts and on-demand classes via the Peloton app, one of the big draws of this bike is that you will never get bored as there is so much virtual content. A subscription is, however, needed to access the app. If you branch out and buy another Peloton product like the Peloton Tread, you can use your existing app subscription to access running content too. Another big pull is the bike is quiet and intuitive to use. Overall, the Peloton Bike offers one of the most satisfying riding experiences out there.

User reviews

The Peloton Bike gets rave reviews on the company's site, with customers awarding it 4.8 out of five stars. People heap praise on the energetic instructors and the sense of community built in the online classes. A lot of customers have claimed that it has improved their relationship with exercise in general. There are a small handful of negative reviews too, with people claiming that the membership fees are too high and some customers reporting issues with pedals snapping.


Best budget exercise bike

Yosuda exercise bike being tested by Sam Hopes, resident fitness writer at Live Science

(Image credit: Future)
Best budget exercise bike

Specifications

Dimensions: 40.5” x 21.5” x 45”
Weight: 68.8lbs / 31.2kg
Max user weight: 270lbs (122kg)
Max height: 6’
Display?: Basic 1” x 2” LCD display
Resistance levels: Infinite
Workouts: None
Pedals: Standard toe cage

Reasons to buy

+
Smooth belt driven flywheel
+
Good value
+
Sturdy and smooth ride

Reasons to avoid

-
Basic display
-
No programmed workouts
-
Limited features

The Yosuda indoor cycling bike is a great value exercise bike for people on a budget who want a spinning style workout. It is well-made and sturdy, with a simple design that makes it intuitive to use, and has a friction resistance on the flywheel that is fairly quiet and smooth. It’s this slightly lower tech system that also makes the bike more affordable.

There is no touchscreen or monitor and the computer display is very basic, but it shows all the core metrics you need, including time, speed, distance and calories. The Yosuda exercise bike doesn’t have any programmed classes either, but you can get around this by simply watching a free Youtube workout on your phone or tablet, or using another app like iFit or Peloton to access live or on-demand online classes.

One big perk is the way the handlebars angle in - this really helps when leaning forward in racing style rides, as it’s a more comfortable and natural position for the shoulders and arms. The bike has dual pedals - cage and clip in - so you don’t have to buy expensive cycling shoes to use the machine unless you want to.

User reviews

The Yosuda Indoor Stationary bike has 4.4 out of five stars on Amazon. There's a lot of praise for its comfy seat,  sturdy build and its quiet functionality. Most people have said that it's fairly straightforward to assemble too, with clear instructions that are easy to follow. However, some people have said that it does develop a squeak after several months of use.


Best for third-party apps

Bowflex C7 bike being tested at home

(Image credit: Harry Bullmore)
Best exercise bike for third-party apps

Specifications

Dimensions: 48.1" x 21.3" x 57.5"
Weight: 111lbs
Max user weight: 330 lbs.
Max height: 6'6
Display?: 7" touchscreen
Resistance levels: 100
Pedals: Dual sided: SPD cleats (clip in) / toe cage
Workouts: JRNY app (subscription required)

Reasons to buy

+
Smooth cycling action 
+
Supports JRNY, Zwift and Peloton apps
+
Compact for easy storage 

Reasons to avoid

-
Small 7” touchscreen 
-
Cross-training workouts pause automatically if you stop cycling
-
Seat can become uncomfortable 

The Bowflex C7 Bike is a top Peloton alternative. It’s cheaper than the chart-topping exercise bike, has a 40lb flywheel that offers a smooth, silent ride, and allows you to connect to the Peloton app for some workouts – as well as Zwift, Bowflex’s own JRNY platform and more.

These are welcome options to have, but if you’re keen to save on monthly membership fees you can enjoy 12 months free access to Bowflex’s JRNY app. This has an impressive array of interval workouts available, including virtual rides in scenic locations around the world, studio classes and interval sessions. These can be viewed via the vibrant, responsive 7in touchscreen, or you can complete off-bike classes like strength training, yoga and Pilates while streaming the app on your phone or tablet – a feature we loved when we tried it out. 

The screen is on the smaller side, and cross-training workouts that combine bike work with off-bike exercises or stretching faltered as the classes automatically paused when the pedals weren’t moving for a few seconds. But those were the only faults we found with this quality machine, which boasts all the markings of a premium product at a more modest price point. You can still get this model on clearance at a number of retailers.

User reviews

The Bowflex C7 Bike has a rating of 4.4 out of a possible five stars from more than 60 reviews on Best Buy. Users say they love being able to filter the classes available on the JRNY app based on their personal preferences. They also say they find the bike fun and easy to use, and praise it for being quiet too. There are some complaints about the fact there are no preset programs and you have to pay for the JRNY app membership to use it, and some owners suggest buying the more cushioned seat from Bowflex to stay comfortable on longer rides.  


Best Peloton alternative

Echeclon EX5-S in the home of our tester, Lily Canter

(Image credit: Lily Canter)
Best Peloton alternative

Specifications

Dimensions: 52"L x 20"W x 50"H
Weight: 123lb/ 56kg
Max user weight: 300lbs (136kg)
Max height: 6’8”
Display?: 21.5" screen
Resistance levels: 32
Pedals: Double sided: SPD compatible (clip in) / cage pedals
Workouts: Live and on-demand via Echelon Fit app (subscription required)

Reasons to buy

+
Great variety of workouts
+
Real time data
+
Affordable monthly membership

Reasons to avoid

-
Finding appropriate sessions can be tricky
-
Lack of consistent captioning
-
Scenic rides are uninspiring

For challenging cardio workouts the Echelon EX5s has great versatility with a wide range of classes suitable for beginners to advanced riders. We found the hill classes in particular were great for raising the heart rate and the enthusiastic instructors were great at encouraging you to push yourself, whilst also allowing you to work at your own pace. A breakdown of real time data on the screen and an email report after each session was also an excellent way to track your progress.

On the downside finding an appropriate session could be a little tricky as the screen navigation is not the most intuitive and the class descriptions are a little vague.  Sometimes the instructors could be a bit difficult to understand and it was easy to miss an instruction- but through trial and error you could find the instructor that you like best. Although the bike is a hefty initial financial outlay the monthly membership is quite reasonable and you should never get bored thanks to the endless videos in the on demand library. There are limitations however as there are only a small handful of sessions longer than 45 minutes and many of the classes are not captioned. 

User reviews

Scoring 4.4 on Amazon across 2,246 reviews the Echelon EX5-s has great recommendations. Some 73% of buyers rate it as 5 star, whilst only seven percent give it a one star score. One Amazon reviewer said they absolutely adored the bike because it was "sturdy, didn't break the bank and was super high quality,". But a minority of reviewers complained about the seat being uncomfortable, the Bluetooth not working and the customer service being poor. 


Best budget exercise bike: runner-up

Sunny Health & Fintess SB1002 bike being tested in a home setting

(Image credit: Maddy Biddulph)
A good budget exercise bike that's whisper-quiet

Specifications

Dimensions: 46.5” x 18” x 46”
Weight: 102lbs / 46kg
Max user weight: 275lbs (124kg)
Max height: 5'11
Display?: No
Resistance levels: 100
Pedals: Standard cage pedals
Workouts: Via the Sunny Health & Fitness app (subscription required)

Reasons to buy

+
Doesn't require cycling shoes
+
Relatively quiet (60dB)
+
Good resistance range

Reasons to avoid

-
Limited app
-
Uncomfortable seat
-
Doesn’t track cadence

If you’re after a basic indoor cycling experience without breaking the bank, then the Sunny Health & Fitness Indoor Cycle Bike is a solid option. It’s pretty compact, and has the look and feel of a gym-style spin bike with a good resistance range on the flywheel. The resistance goes up to 100, which is more than enough for a challenging workout, and it moves smoothly between gears with minimal noise.

You’ll need to pay for a subscription to access the virtual content on the Sunny Health & Fitness app, but you can use the bike without it. It’s also budget-friendly, so if you’re not sure how much you’re going to use it, this might be a good option for you.

We love how quiet it is, which is a bonus for anyone living in shared accommodation or an apartment. A drawback is the seat can be a little uncomfortable, but after a few weeks of ‘breaking it in’, it’s easier to ride on. There’s no way of tracking cadence (the speed you’re pedaling) so it’s hard to monitor intensity, but if you want to test-run an indoor bike without spending too much, then the Sunny Health & Fitness Indoor Cycle Bike is a no-frills choice.

User reviews

Amazon users have given this bike 4.4 out of five stars. People praise its easy assembly and low price. Several people have pointed out that it doesn't come with any kind of speedometer, so it's difficult to monitor your output and effort level. 


Best for cycling purists

Wattbike Atom being tested in purpose-built testing centre

(Image credit: Harry Biddulph)
Best exercise bike for cycling purists

Specifications

Dimensions: 48” x 19” x 39”
Weight: 110lbs / 50kg
Max user weight: 297lbs (135kg)
Max height: 6’5”
Display?: No
Resistance levels: 22
Pedals: Standard toe cage
Workouts: Via Wattbike Hub app

Reasons to buy

+
Realistic riding experience 
+
Wattbike app is free to use 
+
Challenging workouts 

Reasons to avoid

-
No screen 
-
App lacks engaging graphics  
-
Less accessible for beginners 

This is a competitively priced and high quality machine for anyone looking for an all-rounder exercise bike. It’s well made, with a ton of features that will appeal to both data-hungry athletes and people new to indoor cycling. Make no mistake, this is a big machine, and you’ll need a lot of space to house it. Whilst it’s 11kg lighter than its predecessor the Wattbike Pro, at 44kg it’s still a bit of a beast so you’ll need to find a good location for it before setting it up.

The Wattbike offers a smooth and realistic ride, thanks to its new electromagnetic resistance and impressive range through 22 gears. It has auto-resistance that automatically adjusts to simulate different terrains and inclines, making for a more intense workout. As well as the Wattbike Hub app, it syncs nicely with other fitness apps including Zwift.

It doesn’t have a built-in monitor and lacks a USB port to charge your smartphone or tablet, which is a bit frustrating considering this is likely to be your main way of following online workouts. It’s also not compatible with Apple Watch or Fitbit, which is a shame for the high price, but overall this is a well-made and feature-rich exercise bike that delivers on design and functionality.

User reviews

On average, the Wattbike Atom scores 4.3 stars out of five from more than 1,100 reviews on Trustpilot, with almost 70% of owners awarding the machine full marks. One indoor cycling aficionado says the bike is “perfect” with a solid base that remains stable when pushing the pace. Buyers were also full of praise for the purchasing process, with one saying they experienced excellent customer service and the unit was delivered and installed within 36 hours of ordering it. However, a small number of customers commented on the unforgiving race saddle and whirring noise of the flywheel. 


Best budget spin style bike

Mobi Turbo Exercise Bike being tested in a home setting

(Image credit: Maddy Biddulph)
A budget-friendly spin-style bike

Specifications

Dimensions: 41” x 9” x 33”
Weight: 112lbs / 51kg
Max user weight: 330lbs (150kg)
Max height: 6’
Display?: Small LCD dial
Resistance levels: 32
Workouts: Limited content on the free Mobi Fitness app
Pedals: Standard toe cage

Reasons to buy

+
Budget-friendly 
+
Very quiet (45dB)
+
Compatible with Zwift and Kinomap

Reasons to avoid

-
No bottle holder
-
Limited workouts
-
Basic app 

Good value and streamline, the Mobi Turbo Exercise Bike is a great starter machine for spinning fans on a budget. It is fast to assemble and compact with a small footprint, so it’s suitable for people short on space.

Despite it’s low price it has an efficient auto-resistance feature, automatically adjusting the intensity during workouts to simulate real terrains. This helps to create a more realistic riding experience, and also keeps you from ‘coasting’ or not pushing yourself during a class. However, you can also adjust the resistance via the dial or on the free app if you prefer.

Instead of a touchscreen, the Mobi Turbo exercise bike has a LCD control screen. It’s lacking a water bottle holder, which is frustrating, and the app has very limited workouts - although more content is promised soon. If you have a Peloton or iFit membership you could use these to follow workouts on the bike instead.

This is a no-frills, spinning style bike for people who don’t need a ton of features or virtual classes to keep them motivated. It’s not the prettiest of machines and it’s lacking in functionality, but it has an ergonomic design and a big padded seat that makes riding more comfortable.

User reviews

The Mobi Turbo Exercise Bike has a rating of 4.6 out of a possible five stars on Amazon, having received more than 20 customer reviews. One buyer says both they and their partner are able to ride it comfortably, despite being quite different heights (5ft3” and 6ft). Another says it offers a “smooth, quiet ride”, with further positive feedback on its neat, compact design. It only has a single one star rating, with the reviewer saying the bike makes a clicking noise at high speeds.  


Best for resistance

Schwinn IC4 being tested by Live Science contributor Maddy Bidulph

(Image credit: Maddy Bidulph)
A sturdy spin bike with great resistance

Specifications

Dimensions: ‎54.6” x 30.7” x 51.8”
Weight: 112lbs / 51kg
Max user weight: 330lbs (150kg)
Max height: 6'6
Display?: Electronic
Resistance levels: 100
Workouts: JRNY, Zwift, Explore the World and Peloton compatible
Pedals: Standard toe cage

Reasons to buy

+
More affordable than Peloton 
+
Height inclusive
+
Compatible with Peloton and Zwift apps

Reasons to avoid

-
Flywheel can squeak 
-
Can be difficult to adjust
-
Calorie tracking inaccurate 

The Schwinn IC4 exercise bike is extremely popular and frequently sold out on online retailers. It offers compatibility with the best cycling apps, such as Zwift and Peloton, without the high equipment costs associated with these brands. 

The mounted monitor allows you to track time, distance, calories, RPMs & heart rate, although some users have reported that these stats can be inaccurate. You can easily clip in your water bottle and a tablet for a comfortable ride, and the race-style seat is height adjustable. The dual link SPD foot pedals also come standard with toe cages or clips for whichever cycling shoes you want to use.

Some users complained that the bike can be noisy, but overall it receives 4.4 out of five stars on Amazon for noise level, so it may just make noise when something goes wrong. The 100 levels of magnetic resistance make it easy to knock the resistance up and give yourself a challenging workout, before turning it back down for a cooldown. It does need to be plugged in, which can be a little restrictive as you’ll need to have the space to connect it.

User reviews

On Amazon, this bike has 73% five star reviews, with an overall rating of 4.6 out of 5. One user loved that the Schwinn IC4 exercise bike can be used with the Peloton app without the cost of a Peloton bike. “And there you essentially have the Peloton bike for $1,500.00 less," they wrote. "My wife and I stream the Peloton rides to our Apple TV. It's awesome." 


Best for time-efficient workouts

Carol Bike 2.0 being tested by Live Science contributor Harry Bullmore

(Image credit: Future)
Best for time-efficient workouts

Specifications

Dimensions: 46'' x 22''
Weight: 120lbs
Max user weight: 330lbs/150kg
Max height: 6'7
Display: 11' touchscreen
Resistance levels: A-powered magnetic resistance adjusts to performance
Pedals: Dual-sided cage and SPD click pedals
Workouts: Six, including three varieties of TEHIT

Reasons to buy

+
Offers effective workouts in less than 10 minutes
+
Wealth of metrics provided post-workout
+
Sleek, sturdy frame

Reasons to avoid

-
Workout graphics are data-driven 
-
Science is limited around REHIT USP.

The Carol Bike 2.0 is the ultimate machine for time-saving training. Using its revolutionary reduced exertion high-intensity interval training (REHIT) method, the futuristic bike promises many of the same health benefits of a 45-minute run in less than 10 minutes.

It uses slow-paced rides interspersed with two all-out sprint intervals lasting no longer than 20 seconds to spike your heart rate, while AI-powered magnetic resistance ensures you're expending the necessary effort to garner the impressive health benefits on offer; namely calorie burn and boosted cardiorespiratory fitness. What's more, these sessions take a maximum of nine minutes in total and left us feeling far fresher than our usual tipple of intense hour-long workouts. 

Don't expect the engaging, motivational approach of Peloton and its rivals — the Carol Bike's 11 inch touchscreen displays data-led graphics and graphs rather than brightly lit studios, offering a wide range of metrics so you can track your performance. But if it's efficiency you're after to help you squeeze effective workouts into your hectic schedule, we think this no-nonsense approach could be exactly what you're looking for. 

The bike itself is sleek and sturdy, providing a stable base for the Carol's signature sprints. The heavy flywheel makes for a smooth pedaling action, and the black and silver finish has a futuristic finesse that would sit well in a modern city apartment. 

User reviews

The Carol Bike 2.0 scores an average of 4.7 stars out of five from 191 reviews on Trustpilot. Users describe it as "something out of the future", praising the "efficient workouts" which they found were easier to fit into their schedule than the longer sessions offered by other bikes. There are a couple of complaints about the lack of workouts, with one buyer saying they found the six available became boring after a while, but the vast majority of customers (85%) awarded it five stars. 


How we test exercise bikes at Live Science

We subjected all bikes to a rigorous review process, working through the gears to make sure they were able to deliver a lung-busting workout. This is to ensure that we can give an accurate and helpful review, regardless of the type of exercise you'll be putting your new bike through. If it falls short anywhere over our testing period, we will note this so you can make an informed choice.

Our testing team completed a range of workouts, including an active recovery session, an intense interval workout, and a longer endurance piece, before scoring each exercise bike on five factors:

  • Set up and usability
  • Design and display
  • Features
  • Performance
  • Value for money

Results were used to calculate a final score out of five and inform a detailed verdict designed to summarize each exercise bike’s strengths and weaknesses, helping you pick the best product for you.

Exercise bike vs other kinds of exercise

We spoke to physiotherapist and bike fit expert Sam Birch to find out why cycling is so popular. He told us that cycling is a brilliant way for those recovering from lower-limb injuries to still achieve a cardio workout, without the impact. 

Cycling is considered more of a lower body workout, but your upper body provides stabilization, and you can still improve your cardio and ramp up calorie burn. 


Exercise bike vs treadmill 

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So why jump on one of the best treadmills instead of a bike? 

Treadmills are arguably more versatile, though many bikes are now souped up with similar specs. Both allow you to focus on aerobic exercise (like jogging or gentle cycling, using oxygen) and anaerobic exercise (like sprinting or high-intensity spin, without using oxygen). Both also come packed with benefits like improved cardio fitness, stronger muscles, and healthier bones though they target your muscles differently. 

LifeSpan TR3000it being tested by Live Science writer Harry Bullmore

(Image credit: Future)

Running is a full-body workout, engaging your upper and lower body to achieve forward propulsion. A study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that even small regular increments of running can reduce the risk of developing chronic cardiovascular diseases.

The downside for keen runners is the impact on joints, even if you run on shock-absorbing tread belts. Learning how to run properly and how running shoes should fit are two ways to tackle it, but exercise bikes mitigate the risks of joint injuries.

Exercise bikes and treadmills are on an even keel for price, size, and workout experience, and exercise bikes are far more sophisticated than they used to be. Immersive color screens, live and on-demand classes and a vast range of workout options are available on both, so really it comes down to personal preference and whether you want to focus on full-body training.


Recumbent exercise bikes vs upright bikes

If you’ve been to the gym and mistaken an exercise bike for a go-kart, you’ve seen a recumbent bike. Recumbent bikes sit close to the floor in a reclined position and house front pedals, whereas upright bikes look like spin bikes.

Recumbent bikes didn’t make it into our round-up this time, but that doesn’t mean they’re not useful. These models are an ergonomic solution because the front pedal position helps to redistribute your weight which places less pressure on your knees and tailbone, and they also have a backrest.

Spine Health found that rough terrain and poor posture increase pressure on your lower back and could cause injury, so a reclined recumbent bike could help if you’re recovering from injury or new to exercise.

However, this positioning could result in a lack of core, glute, and upper body engagement, as sitting upright requires more core and upper body engagement for stabilization.

Birch says that the type of exercise bike you choose is up to you. “Personally, I find upright bikes better replicate an actual cycling position,” he tells us. “There’s also better leg muscle recruitment which allows maximal power output when pedaling.” He also believes that recumbent exercise bikes are more supportive, but they offer an unnatural cycling experience, and it’s harder to put power through the pedals.

Two people on recumbent exercise bikes in gym

(Image credit: Getty)

Are recumbent exercise bikes effective?  

The reduced drag is said to produce faster speeds which technically makes them more aerodynamic. However, a study published in Frontiers in Sport and Active Living found power output higher in upright bikes, and Birch agrees.  

Exercise bike vs rowing machine 

Which machine wins between rowing vs cycling? Well, neither are as high-impact as running, so you could feel prepped to exercise for longer. Both also work the aerobic and anaerobic systems (if you decide to include HIIT), meaning cardio gains and improvements in power, strength, and endurance are up for grabs, too (as mentioned above).

The main difference is the muscles worked. Rowing targets roughly 86% of muscles in the body, offering a more full-body strength workout than cycling. It depends somewhat on how you train though, as outdoor cyclists who tackle tricky terrain will likely use more of their core than indoor cyclists. 

Woman on rowing machine

(Image credit: Getty)

Rowing machine benefits are plentiful, including stronger bones and muscles, but calorie burn is more unclear and depends on personal parameters like weight, speed, and distance. One calorie calculator based on the compendium of physical activities values (a value system used globally to quantify energy cost) averaged calorie burn somewhere between 500-700 per hour rowing at 100 watts and 400-800 calories per hour cycling.

However, Harvard Medical School estimated calorie burn for a 155lb person after 30 minutes of moderate cycling and rowing to be the same, but rowing took victory during high-intensity training. In short? Both offer similar benefits, but although cycling is more accessible, rowing provides more of a full-body resistance workout.  


Exercise bike vs air bikes 

Different types of exercise bikes offer different experiences.

An exercise bike that has crept into gyms, workout classes, and social media videos worldwide is the air dyne, also referred to as an air bike or assault bike. The name says it all. 

Man in gym on air bike

(Image credit: Getty)

Air bikes are still low-impact and seated, but they house moving handles (similar to a cross trainer) that work alongside the pedals and require your arms to push and pull to drive movement. 

The aim is to add resistance and increase muscular engagement using a fan on the front wheel. Typically, they’re used (and feared) as a metabolic conditioning tool, helping to ramp up calorie burn, build strength, and improve endurance by engaging your full body to ‘overcome’ resistance on the handles and pedal. 

Benefits remain similar to regular cycling, but you’re more likely to find this kit in HIIT classes and functional training, usually paired with free weights and bodyweight cardio like burpees. 

The front wheel offers up to 10 resistance levels for all abilities, similar to a spin bike, but resistance is set on the wheel itself. 

A study published in the International Journal of Exercise Science incorporated 1-minute assault bike rounds into a high-intensity functional training class and included an upper and lower body ergometer. Compared with leg pedaling alone, the upper-body ergometer provided additional muscle mass, stress to the cardiovascular system, and increased heart rate. This could also explain the higher metabolic costs. 


Exercise bike vs elliptical 

Both are low-impact, but ellipticals (also called cross trainers) engage the upper and lower body together for a full-body workout. Using an elliptical feels more like running though, so while it could be a safe alternative for runners, it’s unlikely that cyclists would favor them.

Woman using elliptical trainer in home

(Image credit: Getty)

Elliptical machines house oversized foot pedals and large handles for your hands, which allows you to mimic a running stride. As with running, your upper and lower body work together, but the added resistance increases intensity. You can still achieve a HIIT workout using these machines, similar to cycling, and the benefits are also similar. 

According to one study published in the National Institutes of Health, ellipticals encouraged greater engagement in the quadriceps and quadriceps-hamstrings coactivation than walking and stationary cycling. 

Exercise bikes are handier for saving space (especially folding designs), particularly if you live in a city apartment, but considering Harvard Medical School reckons a 155lb person could ramp up around 324 calories in 30 minutes – it could be worth making room.


Our Expert

Sam Birch
Sam Birch

Currently a Specialist Musculoskeletal Physiotherapist at Pure Sports Medicine, Birch has a keen interest in post-surgical rehabilitation, cycling injuries and sports rehabilitation. 


FAQs

What should I look for in an exercise bike?

The best exercise bikes have a mix of clever design, awesome features and motivating classes.

A bigger budget generally equals a feature-rich exercise bike, but if you’re new to fitness this may not be a priority for you. In fact you can save money by opting for a bike that doesn’t come with a screen, and just use your smartphone or tablet to stream virtual classes.

The size of the exercise bike is worth considering, so think about floor space before making a big investment, especially if you live in shared accommodation. If you’re particularly tall or short, check if you can adjust the seat and handlebar height. Cheaper exercise bikes also tend to have a lower weight limit, so it may be worth taking note of the max weight if you think this will be a concern.

Noise levels are also worth considering – read the best exercise bike reviews to see how loud they are.

If you are someone that likes a group class setting, you’ll probably want to choose an exercise bike that works with an app to stream online classes, like Peloton or iFit (subscription needed). Remember that you can still use these apps with your phone or tablet on cheaper exercise bikes - you just won’t be able to sync your metrics.

Finally consider the pedal type – toe cage ones work with normal sneakers, whereas clip in ones require special cycling shoes. Many exercise bikes have dual pedals, which are interchangeable.

So are you ready to take the next step towards achieving your fitness goals? Once you’ve chosen your perfect machine, make sure you read our handy guide on how to get the most out of your exercise bike.

Is an exercise bike as good as cycling?

Birch tells us that exercise bikes offer consistent resistance over a set period, whereas outdoor cycling could mean contending with stop signals, traffic, or cruisey downhill routes. 

However, while this is beneficial for specific training methods or monitoring your power output during HIIT bike workouts, it can feel boring. Birch says that getting fresh air and cycling with friends might be a more pleasurable experience. 

Regardless, both methods can improve your cardio and get those glutes firing up, and most of the intensity of outdoor training can be matched on more advanced indoor spin bikes. 

The Journal of Exercise Rehabilitation studied a spinning group and a standard cycling group to see what (if any) differences there are. Somewhat surprisingly, the spinning group results were greater for improved body composition and fitness, although both groups saw positive changes across all health parameters. 

Although variables like weight, distance, and intensity will affect your results, spin classes might encourage the adherence and motivation lacking for some solo cyclists. Instructors may also have you pushing harder on those pedals when your head is telling you a firm ‘no.’ 

That isn’t to say outdoor cycling doesn’t offer its own set of unique perks. A study into the effects of outdoor cycling on people suffering from mental illness found that factors like community and fresh air could empower people and promote long-term physical activity – as published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 

What is the most comfortable exercise bike?

Birch recommends the Wattbike because of its realistic bike geometry, saying it’s easy to adjust and replicates a regular bike setup without the cramped feeling of upright bikes (like Peloton and Echelon). “Their lack of adjustability makes people feel they're stretching for the handlebars,” he says. And there isn’t much you can do to combat this. 

Personally, we loved the affordable Yosuda Indoor Stationary Cycling Bike, which has the comfiest seat we’ve tested – something you’ll come to cherish if you’re buying your first bike, trust us. We found the Peloton bike too solid and kept adjusting mid-workout to find a comfier position (we didn’t find one).

If you’re recovering from injury, new to exercise or have long-term lower back or knee issues, a recumbent bike could provide far more support, although you’d need the space to house it. 

Keen to follow Birch and try the Wattbike? Our Wattbike Atom review can advise you on what to expect. All in all, it depends on your preferences, fitness goals, and home living situation.

Is an exercise bike good for losing weight?

If you’re questioning – Are exercise bikes good for weight loss? We asked Birch his thoughts. 

He tells us that exercise (in general) contributes toward weight loss, but a weight loss journey consists of a whole lot more, including your diet. And poor diet can’t be out-cycled. 

Instead, Birch advises a calorie deficit alongside your training if you’re aiming to lose weight.

Cycling does burn calories, but this shouldn’t pull focus from its ability to boost your cardio fitness and overall health. That said, exercise bikes still make it into our best exercise machines to lose weight guide. 

Wondering how to ramp up calorie burn? A study published in the International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism measured excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) in 12 men engaging in interval training and continuous cycling. EPOC refers to the increase in oxygen consumption after high-intensity exercise, resulting in a temporary rise in metabolism and calorie burn as we return to homeostasis – ‘normal.’

Results were similar when the total workload was similar, but the heart rate was higher during interval training. While pedaling against resistance, muscles are forced to work harder, increasing heart rate, respiration, and calorie burn. 

Meanwhile, a study published in the Journal of Exercise Rehabilitation studied 24 female middle school students for 16 weeks cycling for one hour a day, three times a week, and compared spinning groups with regular cycling. Results showed improvements for both, with significant changes in the spinning group – especially in body fat percentage and body mass. 

Controlling speed and resistance can help you tap into aerobic, anaerobic, and strength training systems. Of course, a myriad of factors like diet, hormones, and lifestyle play a part, too. 

So, do exercise bikes burn belly fat? While aerobic training can optimize fat burn (read the best time to workout to find out why), unfortunately, you can’t ‘spot reduce’ fat. 

What are the benefits of riding a stationary bike every day?

The Journal of the American Heart Association found cycling to lower the risk of chronic cardiovascular disease and Spine Health encourages cycling as a gentle way to achieve high-intensity exercise. We’ve already mentioned most of the benefits, but discovering how to get the most out of your exercise bike can help you hit your goals more efficiently. 

Your glutes, quads, hamstrings, and core benefit most from cycling (alongside your heart and lungs), but physiotherapist Birch says consistency is the key. He recommends daily cycling if you want to improve because this progressively loads and trains those muscle groups. “You will notice increased leg strength and improved cardio fitness, too,” he says. 

However, Birch recommends adding variation to keep it interesting. After all, variety is the spice of life. 

Although you might be concerned about which muscles are used in cycling, a well-crafted program includes weight training and increasing your daily movement (NEAT). 

Which is better: Peloton vs Echelon?

We recommend checking out our Peloton vs Echelon guide for the full lowdown as comparisons continue to rage.

In short, they’re very similar bike models. In our opinion, it comes down to cost (just). And If you’re on a budget, you may prefer to look elsewhere. 

Both models look very similar and pack live and on-demand workouts into a comprehensive library, so you’re unlikely to get bored either way. Echelon has dual pedals, but both work primarily with Delta cleats – although there are ways around this, like changing out your pedals. 

Peloton bikes are treated almost like a fashion label, with all their bikes, shoes, and accessories matching their iconic black and red aesthetic. Echelon offers more models, but Peloton are considered ‘hard to match’ for variety and the overall immersive spin experience. 

If you’re more of a numbers person, Peloton offers 100 levels of resistance compared to Echelon’s 32, and the instructor can control the Peloton bike + without you lifting a finger. Both have the usual mod cons like Bluetooth, compatible apps, and heart rate monitor compatibility, but Peloton + supports