The best exercise bikes offer a low-impact cycling solution to exercisers that crave a sweaty workout without the nuisance of niggling joints or the exacerbation of old injuries. Whether you prefer a budget-friendly stationary bike or the souped-up specs of the Peloton bike (opens in new tab), an exercise bike workout could (and should) have you feeling the burn.
Cycling has shown to aid weight loss (when combined with a calorie deficit (opens in new tab)), improve endurance, and boost the efficiency of your heart and lungs. There could even be strength gains up for grabs, too. One study published in Acta Physiologica Hungaria (opens in new tab) in 2015 found that high-intensity intermittent cycling could achieve better strength gains in young adults.
We know investing in an exercise bike might feel frivolous right now, so we hopped onto a range of models and tested out. Our comprehensive guide covers our favorite picks for all workout preferences, spaces, and budgets, to help you choose the right fit for you.
Looking for more kit recommendations? Find the best shoes for Peloton (opens in new tab), or read on for our full round-up.
Best exercise bikes
If you’ve ever had a passing interest in fitness, the likelihood is that you’ve heard the Peloton name more than once. Peloton is known for its high-end fitness equipment, and the Peloton Bike was one of the key products that kickstarted its empire. This exercise bike features a sturdy, robust frame with a sleek design that doesn’t look out of place in even the most stylish living rooms. Plus, the large HD touchscreen delivers an immersive experience, streaming an extensive variety of workouts into your home.
If you’re a fan of spin-style workouts, but you don’t have the time or inclination to travel to a spin studio, then the Peloton Bike combined with the Peloton All-Access Membership App delivers the perfect halfway house experience. You’ll have all the fun and excitement of a lively in-person class and, while not quite a replacement for exercising with other people, the leadership board helps to add a competitive, community-based aspect as well. During testing, we found that the classes were near addictive in quality – so it's a good way to get hooked on exercise.
However, for this premium experience, you do have to pay a fittingly premium price. The upfront cost for the Peloton Bike itself is already more expensive than most exercise bikes, but when you add in the monthly membership cost for the app ($39 / £39 / AU$59), this will potentially price many people out. What is the best place to wear a fitness tracker? (opens in new tab) The Peloton is certainly up there.
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.
- Read our full Peloton Bike review (opens in new tab)
Despite its low price, the Yosuda is a solid little machine that can withstand some vigorous workouts. You have to do a bit of heavy lifting and set-up with this model (it weighs 73lbs and took us 45 minutes to assemble) but once it’s built, you’ll have a nice bike that should last you for a long time.
When we tested it out, we were taken aback by how comfortable the seat was – we actually preferred it to most other models, including the Peloton. We were also impressed with how smooth the ride felt when you’re on it – and it’s whisper quiet too, so you won’t irritate your neighbours.
At this price you won’t find many flashy features. The bike can display your calories, distance, time and speed, but it won’t show your actual cadence. The dated looking console is also very small, so if you’re short-sighted you might have to squint to see the metrics.
There is a device holder, so if you’ve subscribed to a cycling platform you can watch your favorite classes on your phone or tablet. The pedals are a cage-design, so you can wear whatever trainers you like when you hop on. This does mean that you’re not experiencing the most efficient riding, as your up-strokes won’t be powering the pedals in the same way they do when you’re clipped in, but it does save you the expense of buying some new cleats.
Overall, a great option for this price; we had very few complaints.
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.
- Read our full Yosuda Indoor Stationary Cycling Bike review (opens in new tab)
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.
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.
- Read our full Bowflex C7 bike review (opens in new tab)
The Echelon Connect EX3 is a good-looking and cost-effective Peloton alternative, which offers a smooth riding experience and motivating workouts and challenges (via the Echelon app, for which a subscription is needed). The bike itself looks similar to something you’d find in a spin class, and it’s compact and well designed. It also has a max weight capacity of 136kg so is suitable for heavier users.
Unlike a Peloton it doesn’t have a built-in screen, but it has space for a tablet or phone where you can watch free online workouts or classes on the Echelon app - filtered by workout type, music, instructor and duration. Alternatively, you can use another third-party app to access virtual classes.
The Echelon Connect EX3 is fully integrated and connects with Bluetooth so you can track your stats in real-time. You can also connect it to Facebook to share your workout or compete with friends and family. The magnetic resistance dial, while quiet and smooth, is a little under-sensitive, but nothing that should get in your way. This is an impressive indoor cycling machine that is intuitive to use and a solid investment for both beginners and seasoned riders.
The bike has netted 4.3 out of five stars on Best Buy, with users praising its compact design and whisper quiet technology. However, some users have said that they think the app is overpriced, with several people reporting connectivity issues. Others have noted that the bike seat is quite uncomfortable and requires extra padding.
- Read our full Echelon connect EX3 review (opens in new tab)
We’ve put a couple of budget options in this list, as stock availability means that often one model is available when the other one isn’t. This bike comes in as our second favorite, costing less than $400. It’s as good as the Yosuda in most aspects, but it doesn’t have any kind of metrics display. It also doesn’t come with any kind of device holder, so you can’t follow any classes.
It is a little more stylish than the Yosuda model – check out that bold red wheel – and it has a slightly heavier 49lb flywheel. If you’re someone who actually prefers to exercise without constantly monitoring your metrics, then this could be a good option for you.
It’s surprisingly quiet, only measuring 60 decibels when we were pounding away, which is about equivalent to a normal conversation. It also transitions really smoothly across its resistance range. Because it’s such a basic bike, you don’t need to even plug it in – it’s entirely manual. This means that you don’t need to watch out for trailing wires and you also don’t have to worry about excessive electricity bills.
We still rate it as an excellent budget buy that’s perfect for beginners, just don’t expect a lot of fancy features if you’re purchasing this model.
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.
- Read our full Sunny Health and Fitness Bike SF-B1002 review (opens in new tab)
Any exercise bike favored by New Zealand’s widely-feared rugby team is unlikely to be designed for the faint of heart, and that’s exactly what we found with the Wattbike Atom. The interval-style workouts on offer are no joke, with the All Blacks-inspired session we tried leaving us counting the seconds until we could catch our breath.
The lack of a touchscreen or display of any kind may seem strange given the machine’s considerable cost – it retails at just shy of £2,000 in the UK and is set to hit the US soon. However, this bike isn’t designed for beginners. Instead, it’s geared towards seasoned cyclists and athletes looking to make serious performance progress. For this reason, it’s fitted with 22 gears rather than the usual resistance settings, and these are located on backward-facing handlebars to mimic a road bike.
The Wattbike Atom also shuns the bright lights and live workouts of the Peloton in favor of streamlined interval sessions. These are delivered via the Wattbike Hub app which, unlike the Peloton and Bowflex platforms, is available free of charge. Workouts are displayed as minimalistic bar graphs rather than follow-along classes, so there’s nothing to distract you from your goal – hitting a target RPM for a prescribed amount of time.
Newcomers to indoor cycling might find this approach less accessible than the dynamic on-demand classes offered by competitors, but if you’re looking to boost your endurance and cycling performance, this direct approach will get results.
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.
- Read our full Wattbike Atom review (opens in new tab)
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.
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.
- Read our full Mobi Turbo Exercise Bike review (opens in new tab)
How we test exercise bikes
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.
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
- 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
To weigh up the pros and cons of exercise bikes vs other types of exercise, we spoke with Sam Birch, a physiotherapist and bike fit expert from Pure Sports Medicine. We also combed through the latest research to see if stationary bikes can help you burn more calories and build muscle – here's what we found.
Currently a Specialist Musculoskeletal Physiotherapist at Pure Sports Medicine (opens in new tab), Birch has a keen interest in post-surgical rehabilitation, cycling injuries and sports rehabilitation.
Exercise bike vs treadmill
Birch says the principal benefit of cycling (over the treadmill) is that it's non-impact. “It's a great alternative for someone recovering from a lower-limb injury who cannot tolerate impact but still wants to get a good cardiovascular workout,” he explains.
Cycling is predominantly a lower body workout, with the upper body providing stabilization to support and drive movement. However, it still provides an effective aerobic workout that can improve the efficiency of your heart and lungs, endurance levels, and calorie burn. One study published by the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports (opens in new tab) assessed the reliability of 16 cycling-specific studies and found most to be of moderate to high quality in favor of ‘strong’ fitness benefits and improved cardiovascular health.
The treadmill can be used for aerobic and anaerobic training (like sprinting, when the body doesn’t use oxygen to produce energy) and can provide benefits similar to cycling. However, running (opens in new tab)engages your upper and lower body, working together during forwarding propulsion. A study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology (opens in new tab) found that even 5-10 minutes per day could reduce the risks of cardiovascular disease.
The problem for runners is the impact on joints, which rules it out for many people. Some impact could be mitigated by learning how to run properly (opens in new tab) and using a treadmill rather than road running (many treadmills use shock-absorption belts and cushioning). If you want to get your heart racing without taxing your knees, an exercise bike is a safer bet.
Price, setup, and workout experience puts exercise bikes and treadmills on a level pegging. Both come equipped with immersive screens, extensive workout libraries, virtual instructors, and challenging HIIT workouts, so it comes down to whether you prefer cycling or running to sate your exercise appetite.
Recumbent exercise bike vs upright bikes
The main difference is that recumbent bikes sit closer to the floor with the pedals at the front, in a reclined position. Upright bikes look more typical of a spin-style bike, like Peloton, Echelon (opens in new tab), and more.
We haven’t included recumbent bikes in our round-up, but they’re an excellent ergonomic solution for anyone needing extra support. The front pedal position redistributes your weight, placing less pressure on your knees and tailbone, and the backrest adds another layer of comfort. According to Spine Health (opens in new tab), cycling posture and rough, jarring terrain puts more pressure on your lower back and might lead to injury. For some people, recumbent bike positioning eases this discomfort.
If you’re injured, recovering from surgery, or new to exercise, the recumbent bike is a brilliant bridge to cycling. The trade-off could be a lack of core, glute, and upper body engagement because of the extra comfort. Sitting upright requires more core engagement to keep you stable, which isn’t necessary for a reclined position.
“The best type of exercise bike is a personal preference,” says Birch. “I find conventional upright bikes a better emulator of an actual cycling position, with better leg muscle recruitment allowing maximal power output through the pedals. Recumbent exercise bikes can be more supportive for your torso and back, but I find the cycling action feels unnatural, and it’s difficult to put any meaningful power through the pedals,” he says.
So, are recumbent exercise bikes effective (opens in new tab)? Yes, but although they’ve historically been considered more aerodynamic and capable of producing faster speed due to the reduced drag, some evidence – like this study published in Frontiers in Sport and Active Living (opens in new tab) – found power output higher in upright bikes.
Exercise bike vs rowing machine
If you’re wondering which cardio machine is the best for achieving your fitness goals, rowing vs cycling (opens in new tab) is an all too familiar debate. Both are low-impact, low-loading options to jump on to, decreasing your risk of injury and allowing you to power on for longer. Rowing and cycling also tap into your aerobic and anaerobic systems depending on intensity, which could improve cardio, endurance, power, body composition, and strength (as previously mentioned).
There are many rowing machine benefits (opens in new tab), including those detailed in a small study published in Annals of Rehabilitation Medicine (opens in new tab). The study found improvements in physical fitness, back strength, and body composition in visually impaired people with scoliosis after 6-weeks of indoor rowing to improve their health.
With regards to blitzing calories and targeting muscle groups, subtle differences distinguish the two. According to a calorie calculator (opens in new tab) based on the Compendium of Physical Activities values (opens in new tab), the average person burns 500-700 calories per hour rowing at 100 watts, whereas the average person will burn 400-800 calories per hour cycling (depending on weight, distance, speed, and terrain). However, the Harvard Medical School (opens in new tab) estimated that calorie burn for a 155lb person after 30 minutes of moderate cycling and rowing would be the same (252 calories), with rowing taking victory only during vigorous intensity.
Although calories remain unclear, muscles worked (opens in new tab) during rowing hit a whopping 86% to deliver a full-body attack, whereas cycling mainly hones the lower body. Of course, this depends on how often you’re out of the saddle and the terrain you train in, and outdoor cyclists (like mountain bikers) could require more from their core compared to gym-based cyclists.
In terms of the great outdoors, cycling is perhaps more accessible to the everyday exerciser and could provide more versatility. Yet, both offer similar benefits at a similar cost – with rowing just taking the lead for full-body strength gains.
Exercise bike vs air bikes
There are many different types of exercise bikes (opens in new tab). Air bikes, also known as assault bikes, are one of the most feared pieces of equipment amongst exercisers – and for a good reason. These brutal bits of kit ramp up the intensity of low-impact cycling, sending users into serious sweat mode, torching calories, and building strength and endurance.
Moving handles replace stationary ones, working in tandem with your cadence to allow you to push and pull as you cycle. With arms and legs simultaneously engaged, you’re not just targeting your legs but your chest, shoulders, arms, core, and back, too.
Air bikes offer the same benefits as cycling but are also considered an efficient metabolic conditioning tool used in high-intensity functional training. Multiple resistance levels and a large fan on the front wheel increase muscular engagement for a full-body workout. Overcoming resistance builds stronger muscles, and the intensity required to use air bikes can be paired with a weight session to deliver a compact conditioning masterclass, as found in this study published in the International Journal of Exercise Science (opens in new tab).
Exercise bike vs elliptical
Exercise bikes and ellipticals pride themselves on being low-impact and joint-friendly exercise alternatives. However, ellipticals – also known as cross trainers – mimic a similar motion to running and engage the upper and lower body, making them a more effective full-body workout.
Elliptical machines have handles you can hold and large flat pedals to stand on, which keep you connected as you move; this requires your upper and lower body to work together to achieve motion. These machines also use a challenging amount of resistance to increase the intensity of your workout, allowing you to either glide along effortlessly or work up a sweat using HIIT workouts. Both offer similar benefits, but the main difference is that ellipticals require more from your upper body.
Your lower body could benefit, too. A study published in the National Institutes of Health (opens in new tab) demonstrated that ellipticals resulted in greater engagement in the quadriceps and quadriceps/hamstrings coactivation than overground walking, treadmill walking, and stationary cycling. And according to Harvard Medical School, a 155lb/ 70.3kg person could blitz 324 calories in just half an hour.
The main objection to elliptical training is space. Folding exercise bikes are perfect if you’re squeezing workout equipment into your city apartment, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find a folding elliptical anytime soon.
Is an exercise bike as good as cycling?
“Exercise bikes can sometimes be viewed as better than cycling because of the constant resistance pressure applied to the pedals (no downhills to coast and no stop-start at traffic lights),” Birch tells Live Science. “This is great if you're training for specific power output and want to hold a constant resistance for a set time limit. Although, some may find indoor cycling mundane and resent missing out on getting fresh air and sun with friends.”
Whether you prefer HIIT bike workouts (opens in new tab)or getting out into the wild, all cycling methods are great cardio. Spin classes provide variety and intensity, but you can match (and sometimes beat) this intensity outdoors, depending on your terrain (hill sprints, anyone?) One study in the Journal of Exercise Rehabilitation (opens in new tab) found improvements in body composition, fitness, and blood variables in both a spinning exercise group and a general bicycle group. However, these changes were remarkably greater in the spinning group.
Regardless, there isn’t a significant difference in calorie burn, as this depends on variables like weight, intensity, and the length of exercise time. Instructor-led spin classes could increase motivation and adherence by encouraging you to crank up resistance during classes, though.
A big plus for getting outdoors is the effect nature can have on mindfulness, as found in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. (opens in new tab) Either way, your glutes and core are guaranteed a burn.
What is the most comfortable exercise bike?
“I personally prefer the Wattbike,” says Birch. “It’s the most realistic for bike geometry and is highly adjustable to replicate your actual bike setup. I find some conventional upright bikes too cramped.”
As a professional bike fitter, Birch often encounters people struggling with Peloton and Echelon bike setups. “Unfortunately, their lack of adjustability means some people feel they're stretching way too far for the handlebars, with little way to resolve this,” he concludes.
However, how comfortable you feel on a bike is subjective. One of the most comfortable (and cheapest) bikes we tested is the Yosuda Indoor Stationary Cycling Bike (opens in new tab), which has a super springy plushly-padded seat to cushion cyclists. Recumbent bikes are also worth consideration, as their reclined position and backrest provide far more support than traditional upright bikes.
Read our Wattbike Atom review (opens in new tab) to see what we thought during testing.
Is an exercise bike good for losing weight?
Are exercise bikes good for weight loss? (opens in new tab) Birch believes that while all exercise contributes to losing weight, it’s not the "whole picture" of a successful weight loss journey. “You cannot out-exercise a bad diet, so cycling for 30 minutes per day isn’t going to outweigh poor nutritional choices,” he says. “The aims of the exercise bike are more geared to training your cardiovascular system and getting fitter – calories burned are just a result of this training,” he adds. Birch recommends focusing on a calorie deficit if your primary goal is weight loss.
However, cycling can help you lose weight alongside a calorie deficit, which is why we included exercise bikes in our round-up of the best exercise machines to lose weight (opens in new tab). Because your body overcomes resistance when pedaling the bike, your muscles must work harder, which increases heart rate, respiration, and calorie burn. A study published in Medicine and Science in Sport and Exercise (opens in new tab) found significant post-exercise energy burn in young men for 14 hours after a 45-minute vigorous cycling session.
Another study published in the Journal of Education and Training Studies (opens in new tab)found significant positive changes in body composition for women who participated in a six-week spinning training plan. By controlling your speed and resistance, you can tap into aerobic and strength training, which can help increase calorie burn and cardio fitness. However, how often you train, the intensity of your sessions, and the calories you consume will determine weight loss, alongside factors such as sleep, hormones, and lifestyle.
So do exercise bikes burn belly fat? (opens in new tab) Aerobic exercise helps to burn fat by optimizing certain muscle fibers and energy systems (alongside diet), but a myriad of factors like lifestyle and hormones can affect fat distribution, and you can’t ‘spot reduce’ fat.
What are the benefits of riding a stationary bike every day?
If you’ve asked the question – which muscles are used in cycling (opens in new tab)? Then you won’t be surprised to know that cycling recruits many muscle groups like your quads, glutes, hamstrings, and core muscles. But learning how to get the most out of your exercise bike (opens in new tab) is the key to maximizing the regular benefits of exercise bikes.
“Consistency is key when it comes to any exercise, but it very much depends on your goals,” Birch explains. “If you want to become a better cyclist, daily exposure to cycling will make that happen by progressively loading and training those muscles, and you will notice increased leg strength and improved cardiovascular fitness.”
Birch encourages variation with all exercises to involve the whole body and to keep your mind engaged. Indoor cycling primarily focuses on cardio and lower body training, but a well-balanced exercise program should include some resistance training (lifting weights) for a full-body workout.
Research suggests cycling could provide even more benefits than those we’ve mentioned. A study published by the Journal of the American Heart Association (opens in new tab) found that cycling could lower the risk of obesity and hypertension and prevent cardiovascular disease. And according to Spine Health (opens in new tab), it’s a gentle way of achieving a vigorous workout.
Which is better: Peloton vs Echelon?
In the battle of Peloton vs Echelon (opens in new tab), the deciding factor is cost. But neither of these models could be considered a cheap exercise bike. Both bikes offer up an extensive library of workouts on a platter, look aesthetically similar, are compatible with Look Delta cleats (although Echelon has dual pedals to expand your options), and use magnetic resistance dials. However, there are some differences to be aware of before you hand over hard-earned cash on one of these models.
Firstly, Echelon has more bike models to choose from, but Peloton’s bikes are considered the most immersive and sophisticated – although you’re partly paying for the name itself. Both feature a vast array of daily live sessions and on-demand classes, all displayed on a large swivel screen, but Peloton edges it for variety and versatility. Echelon does offer more boxing and Pilates-specific workouts, though.
Essentially Peloton offers what Echelon does – but on steroids. For the 32 levels of resistance provided on an Echelon bike (plenty, in our opinion), Peloton cranks it up to 100 fluid levels that the instructor can remotely control on the Peloton bike + model. Both the bikes use Bluetooth and can pair with compatible apps like Strava and heart rate monitors. However, Peloton provides more options for pairing, and the + model supports Apple GymKit (opens in new tab) integration, too.
Both these models will deliver an epic experience, but Echelon could save you a wedge of money in the process.