What is an exercise bike?
An exercise bike is a form of fitness equipment which is designed to imitate the feeling of cycling outdoors.
A popular addition to home and commercial gyms across the country, there are now more designs than ever to choose from. Finding the best bike for you will usually depend on your preferred style of cycling, range of workout programs, adjustability, and price.
This buying guide is designed to provide a quick summary of the features and exercise options for each type of exercise bike, together with our top 3 recommended designs in each category.
Key features to look for
Before we start taking a look at the different types of bike and a few of our recommendations, it’s useful to know exactly what it is that sets apart the different options.
While the price you are willing to spend will of course be a factor, we’ll also take a look at what you can expect from the adjustability options, build quality, display console design, workout programs, and additional extras.
Adjustability of the seat and handlebars
Unlike other cardio equipment such as elliptical trainers and treadmills, exercise bikes can actually provide a number of different adjustment options.
These are designed to let you setup the bike in a way that feels most comfortable and most effective for your body type and style of cycling.
The 4 most common areas for adjustment are the angle of the handlebars, height of the seat, distance of the seat from the handlebars, and height of the handlebars.
These are based mainly around the upright style of exercise bike. Adjustment options for recumbent bikes are usually limited to the height of the back support, and distance the seat is from the pedals.
Measuring the build quality
The truth is that build quality can be difficult to judge without seeing the bike setup in person. As this isn’t always practical, the next best thing to do is read through the reviews online from other people who have bought the same model.
Amazon is possibly the best place to start looking, where you are also able to pose questions to people already using the bike, allowing you to find the answers to anything you are unsure of before buying.
Display console design
This is one of the areas that can be most responsible for a sudden difference in price between bikes.
If you prefer to just jump on the bike and start your workout then this may not rank too highly on your list of priorities, but it’s worth remembering that there are even bikes that allow you to send emails and read an e-Book as you workout.
This is true with many top of the range bikes made by Tunturi, where large, full colour screens will also help keep you informed of all your important workout information.
Aside from these innovative features from Tunturi, the X-Dream bike by Trixter offers something quite unique in the form of cycling on a bike that will lean just like a road bike.
You can also cycle through a virtual world and choose from a variety of locations, each of which can be displayed on a large, full colour screen.
One of the biggest reasons for people giving up on fitness programs is a lack of variety in the workouts.
Whether you are lifting weights or cycling on an exercise bike, it’s beneficial to both your motivation and your results if you are able to keep your workouts feeling fresh and challenging.
This is where having a wide range of preset training programs can be so invaluable. While the Tunturi bikes are again a great option when it comes to the number of programs available, there are still bikes under £200 that offer up to 12 different programs.
As you start to narrow the list of options and make more comparisons between just a few designs, workout programs is often the feature that sets one bike apart from the rest.
Although the exact type of programs will vary between bikes, it’s worth thinking about if you prefer workouts that are heart rate controlled, interval training, steady resistance, hill climbs, or even where you can watch your progress around a virtual course.
If some of the higher spec exercise bikes are within your budget, then you now have the option to go beyond standard cycling workouts.
There are now a number of fitness product companies designing bikes that also offer features such as e-Book readers, email, internet browsing, virtual cycle courses, and workout tracking through various fitness apps.
The only downside is that bikes that offer these high end functions are usually towards the upper end of the price scale, available for anywhere from £1500 to £6000+.
Exercise bike terminology
A collection of terms you might hear mentioned when reading about exercise bikes.
- Console – The unit found at the front of the bike, usually containing the buttons and LCD screen
- Crank – The bar connecting the pedal to the frame
- Display – The screen built into the console
- Elevation – The estimated height you’ve reached on a hill-climbing programme
- Heart monitor – A sensor that takes your pulse, through either the handles of the bike or chest belt, then shows it on the display
- Magnetic resistance – Magnets that create drag against the flywheel as you pedal, providing varying workout intensities.
- Programmes – Planned workouts built into the console. Usually based on a specific fitness goal such as fat loss, cardio, and calorie burning.
- Recumbent – An exercise bike where you sit much lower down, with your legs out in front of you
- Self-presenting pedals – Specially weighted pedals that are always the right way up to accept your foot
- Speed – The speed you’d be moving at if you were putting in the same effort on a real bike
- Tension control – Usually a hand wheel attached to the frame that you can use to adjust the level of magnetic resistance.
- Upright – An exercise bike where your riding position is the same as on a normal bike
- Cadence – A term associated with spinning bikes. Relates to how easy it is to pedal at higher speeds.Larger flywheels will allow you to maintain a higher cadence (higher cycle speed for less effort), due to the inertia created by the weight of the heavy flywheel.
Types of exercise bikes
Before we start taking a look at some specific designs, it can be useful to go through what you can expect from each type of bike.
Studio style bikes
Expect to pay: Between £130 and £6000+
If you enjoy spinning workouts but don’t have time to get to the gym, a studio style bike might be your best option.
Although many of the most popular designs sell for around £200, the prices can range all the way up to over £6000 for a top of the range design.
For our top 3 studio bikes, we’ve included the best selling and most popular designs from across these various price ranges.
Top 3 studio bike recommendations
1. We R Sports Aerobic Training Cycle
Often available for under £200, this is a bike that provides many of the features found on higher priced designs, but at slightly reduced scale.
The key points to keep in mind are the 125kg user weight limit and 13kg flywheel size, but there are still plenty of other great features.
One of these is the multi-functional digital monitor, which despite being a standard feature of upright bikes, are actually surprisingly hard to find on a studio bike.
Its growing popularity has now made it one of the most popular and highest rated exercise bikes on Amazon. Read more…
2. JTX Cyclo 6
Moving up in terms of price and features, the JTX Cyclo 6 is usually available for closer to £450.
There are a few important additions over the Aerobic Training Cycle, including the horizontal adjustment for the handlebars, and the heart rate sensors added either side of the console.
Compared to the Aerobic Training Cycle, the Cyclo 6 provides a maximum weight limit of 160kg and a larger flywheel size of 22kg.
JTX are one of the leading producers of fitness equipment in the UK, with their customer service regarded as one of the best in the industry. Read more…
3. Tunturi Platinum Sprinter
While studio bikes are available for over £6000, there are really very few bikes at this level. (Trixter X-Dream is a high quality design but not strictly a studio bike)
The Tunturi Platinum Sprinter actually matches up quite closely with the JTX Cyclo 6 in terms of weight capacity (150kg) and flywheel size (22kg), but with some additional grip options and a slimmer frame.
Despite its higher price, it’s the only one of our top 3 that doesn’t provide any form of workout tracking display. That being said, the display is often only used for measuring the time spent at different cycling intensities during spinning workouts.
The high build quality, large flywheel, impressive weight capacity and wide range of adjustment options are just a few of the reasons why the Sprinter has made it into our top 3. Read more…
Upright exercise bike
Expect to pay: Between £80 and £2000
Upright bikes are much better suited for general fitness programs, but can still provide some effective high intensity programs to keep your workouts interesting.
You only need to take a look at the hundreds of reviews and best selling list of exercise bikes to see how popular the upright design is.
This is partly due to the lower price and partly due to the foldable nature of many designs making them ideal for home gyms, even if you are short on space.
Our top 3 is a selection that have already proved useful for hundreds if not thousands of people looking to improve their fitness.
Top 3 upright bikes
1. Body Sculpture BC1700 Exercise Bike
Despite its simple design, the Body Sculpture BC1700 provides many of the basic features you need to enjoy effective cardio workouts from home.
The large, well padded seat keeps you comfortable while cycling, handlebars and seat offer a wide range of adjustments, and heart rate hand sensors have even been built into the handles.
The weight capacity of 100kg is impressive for this price point, often available for less than £90 on popular shopping sites such as Amazon. Read more…
2. York Active 110 Exercise Cycle
With a slightly higher instep than the BC1700, the York Active 110 does offer a higher weight limit at 120kg, but for a slightly higher price.
What sets it apart from the Body Sculpture bike is the wider range of seat adjustment positions, much larger display console and screen, and built-in fitness test option. Read more…
3. Ultrasport Exercise Bike F-Bike
The only one of our top 3 exercise bike designs to be foldable, the Ultrasport F-Bike features the popular ‘X-frame’ design, making it quick to fold away when not in use.
Although the slimmer profile folding frame does mean you have a 100kg weight limit instead of 120kg, the display console still offers 8 workout programs and an LCD screen to display important workout information. Read more…
Recumbent exercise bikes
Expect to pay: Between £135 and £2500
If you are looking for a way to exercise while recovering from injury, have low mobility, or are simply looking for a lower impact form of cardio, then a recumbent bike could be the best option.
Similar to the upright and studio style bikes, there can be a big difference in price between the different recumbent bike designs.
With many of their designs proving to be amongst the most popular on Amazon, it can be worth taking a look at the V-Fit range of recumbent bikes before getting too distracted with the features available on higher priced bikes.
Top 3 recumbent bikes
The only category where our top 3 is led by a bike towards the top of the price scale, we couldn’t help but put this bike at the top spot.
Combining high quality aesthetics with an ergonomic seat design and variety of quick to adjust seating positions, this is an excellent option to choose if your budget allows.
Aside from the 100+ exercise programs and impressive 150kg weight capacity, you also have a range of unique features built into its large, 10.2″ full colour LCD display.
These include a media player, e-book reader, smart phone docking station, and the ability to send and receive email. Read more…
2. V-fit G-RC Recumbent Magnetic Cycle
Despite often being available for less than one tenth the price of the Tunturi Pure R 10, the V0fit G-RC has still proved to have enough quality to make it one of the highest rated recumbents amongst shopping sites.
While you do lose all of the workout program options and any additional features like a media player, the basics for an effective cardio workout are still there.
Although the seat is adjustable in terms of its distance from the pedals, it can only be adjusted before starting your workout.
Heart rate hand sensors are still provided, built into the handles either side of the seat and transmitting to the 7-function exercise monitor.
Although this may not be well suited for more challenging workouts, it’s ideal for lighter cardio and anyone looking for a form of low impact exercise at home.
3. JTX Cyclo-5R Recumbent Exercise Bike
Providing all the features you would expect from a high quality bike by JTX, with a large 9kg flywheel, 16 workout programs and 16 levels of magnetic resistance.
The seat is specially contoured with extra padding to better support you during your workout, while the large display console features an attractive display screen and large, easy to reach buttons.
2-in-1 Exercise bike combinations
Expect to pay: Between £80 and £250
A variation on the standard upright exercise bike, there are a few well known companies who now offer this 2-in-1 style piece of fitness equipment.
Combining all the functions of an upright bike with the features of a cross trainer or recumbent bike, these can be a good way of making the most of the space you have at home.
Although they often don’t provide the same variety of workout programs as the standard upright bikes, they will usually be lower priced than buying the two machines separately.
Top 3 recommendations
The reason this has made it to the top of our recommendations is the fact that the design is well suited to a wide range of user heights and fitness abilities.
Whereas exercise bike and cross trainer combinations often provided a limited stride length of 11″ to 12″, the Cyclo-2 provides a number of different adjustment options to better suit your body type.
With 16 resistance levels and 8 workout programs built into the display console, this is a 2-in-1 cardio machine that doesn’t sacrifice on quality and features. Read more…
2. York Active 120 2-in-1 Cycle Cross Trainer
Just ahead of the popular V-fit MCCT1 is this design by York Fitness.
Aside from the 12 workout options available, what really sets this machine apart is the display console.
The large 5.75″ LCD screen displays all your most important workout information clearly, with quick reference icons for workout programs that you would expect to find on a bike twice the price.
Two forms of fitness test are also provided. Read more…
3. V-fit MCCT1 Magnetic 2-In-1 Cycle Elliptical Trainer
A high quality design, 8 resistance levels and fully adjustable saddle are a few of the reasons why this is currently one of the most popular combination exercise bikes on Amazon.
With an 11″ stride length compared to the 12″ stride of the York Active 120, this is a cycle elliptical trainer that is best suited to anyone between 5ft and 5ft 4 ins. Read more…
The only reason for elliptical stride length being best suited to a particular height range is the associated natural running stride length.
Expect to pay: Between £10 and £140
Despite not being strictly an exercise bike, pedal exercisers are still worth a mention.
Although it’s relatively easy to find designs priced all the way up to over £140, if you want to buy one of the current best selling designs, you shouldn’t have to pay much more than £40.
Top 3 recommendations
Featuring a 2kg flywheel and strong steel frame, the Ultrasport Mini Bike can be used for both upper and lower body workouts.
To prevent any unwanted movement in the bike while you exercise, special pads have been added to the base. This makes it easier to use whether you are resting it on the floor or table.
There’s even a small display screen for keeping track of your distance, time, number of revolutions, and calories burned.
Over 100 highly rated reviews also make this the top pedal exerciser on many online shopping sites. Read more…
2. 66fit Arm and Leg Folding Pedal Exerciser
Often available for around the same price and with an equally impressive collection of customer reviews is this pedal exerciser by 66fit.
Although this design lacks a display screen for keeping you updated with workout stats, a pair of quick-lock pins help allow you to fold it away when not in use.
The resistance can be adjusted using a simple hand wheel on top of the frame, with non-slip rubber feet again helping to prevent any unwanted movement during your workout. Read more…
3. Body Sculpture BC9031 Mini Bike
With a similar design to the Ultrasport Mini Bike, the Body Sculpture BC9031 Mini Bike provides a wide range of resistance levels for challenging workouts.
An LCD display keeps your speed, time, distance, calories burned, and rotations per minute within easy view at all times.
Airdyne exercise bikes
Expect to pay: Between £170 and £400
Gaining in popularity in the US but yet to really find popularity in commercial gyms in the UK, Airdyne bikes have some similarities with cross trainers.
Foot pegs are usually positioned on either side of a large fan which creates the resistance. You are then able to rest your feet on these pegs and use the large handles to isolate upper body training.
Summarising the different styles and price ranges
The following is a quick summary of the situation that each exercise bike is best suited to:
- Studio bikes – Ideal for higher intensity sprint and interval workouts
- Upright bikes – No shortage of choices available. Foldable frames to maximise on space with many of the lower priced designs.
- Recumbent bikes – The best option for low impact cardio and if you are recovering from an injury but want to build up your strength and fitness.
- 2-in-1 Combination bikes – Making the most of budget and space. Cross trainer combinations aren’t a good idea for taller users.
- Airdyne bikes – Primarily found across gyms in the U.S., this type of exercise bike is perfect if you want to isolate upper and lower body in your workouts, with unlimited resistance levels
- Pedal exercisers – The lowest impact form of cardio. The best option if you suffer from low mobility or are unable to use any of the designs previously mentioned.
To make it easier to find an exercise bike based on your budget, we currently have over 40 in-depth articles looking at some of the most popular designs available: