Thursday, 20 April 2017

Exercise Bike Buying Tips

Exercise Bikes, factors to consider when buying an exercise bike
There are several different types of exercise bikes to choose from including upright, recumbent, air/fan, spin or indoor cycle bikes.  Which bike you choose will depend on what you’re looking to get out of your exercise regime, how serious you are about exercising, what features you’re looking for and how much you’re willing to spend.

Upright exercise bikes are the most common type of exercise bike that most people are familiar with.  Recumbent exercise bikes offer a more laid back feel with a larger seat and backrest for support and sit lower to the ground so are easier to mount and dismount.  Air or fan exercise bikes have the addition of moving handlebars to work the upper body and utilize air resistance which works on the premise that the faster or harder you pedal the more intense the resistance will become.   Spin or indoor cycle bikes are designed like a road racing bike for more serious athletes.

See my article “Different Types of Exercise Bikes Explained” for more in-depth detail on all the above mentioned types of exercise bikes.
Once you have decided on what type of exercise bike you want, there are several other factors you need to take into consideration, including the following:

Build Quality

It stands to reason that the more you pay for an exercise bike, the better quality it will be for longer lasting durability (although not always the case!).

Consider factors such as what materials is the bike made of and how is it constructed.  For example, aluminum is lighter-weight than steel.  Does it have a lot of plastic parts that may be prone to cracking?  How are parts welded together?  Does it incorporate sealed balled bearings to add strength and durability to the frame and pivot points?

Also consider what kind of stabilizers and/or floor levellers the bike has.  This is important for safety to ensure the bike doesn’t tip or wobble while in use.

Light or Heavy Usage

Think about the usage you’re likely to get out of the exercise bike.  Are you looking for just some light simple exercise or a more intensive workout?  It’s pointless paying more for an all-singing all-dancing exercise bike when you’re not going to get much use out of it.

If you’re looking for light exercise then a cheaper exercise bike may well be all you need, but if you’re looking for a more intensive workout then you need to pay more for a bike that will stand up to heavier use.

User Weight Capacity

Check the user weight capacity of an exercise bike before buying it.  Cheaper bikes tend to have a lower user weight capacity than more expensive ones.  Generally speaking, the higher the user weight capacity is on a bike, the more solidly-constructed it will be.

For long-lasting durability, it is better to opt for an exercise bike with a higher user weight capacity than you need, especially if you’re close to the weight-limit of a bike because otherwise you will be putting the bike under undue strain.

Example of a 4-way adjustable seat on an exercise bike, adjusts up down fore aft
4-way adjustable seat

It’s important to look at how adjustable the exercise bike is to accommodate your size/height so that you can comfortably reach the pedals.  Cheaper exercise bikes tend to just allow the seat to be adjusted up or down while more expensive bikes will allow the seat to be adjusted both up/down and fore/aft as well as having adjustable handlebars (height and/or angle).


One of the biggest reasons people give up on exercise bikes is because of discomfort felt while cycling and this is typically to do with the bike’s saddle.  As stated above, first make sure that the saddle is adjustable to the right height for you otherwise you’re going to be uncomfortable from the start!

Next you need to look at the saddle’s size and firmness, as they can vary greatly.  This can come down to personal preference so you need to think about whether a small or larger saddle would suit you better.  Again, the firmness of the saddle can come down to personal preference, but it’s worth knowing that a hard saddle is one of the biggest complaints of discomfort when it comes to exercise bikes!

Many exercise bikes come with a padded saddle but if you’re still unhappy you could purchase a padded cover or gel cover for added comfort.  Believe me, it really will make a difference and you will be able to work out for longer when you’re more comfortable.

Alternatively, check whether the exercise bike offers an easy seat exchange system so you could easily swap out the saddle for one of your own choice.


The Q-Factor on a bike is the distance between the pedals.  Generally speaking, the narrower the distance between the pedals on an exercise bike, the closer to a real road racing bike it is.  Most manufacturers don't give this information on their exercise bikes, but the information is more likely to be given on spin bikes or indoor cycles.

Drive & Resistance

Check whether the exercise bike is chain or belt driven.  Many exercise bikes produced nowadays are belt driven, offering smoother quieter operation but some people prefer a chain driven bike as they say it gives a more authentic feel to their cycling (particularly with spin bikes).  Bear in mind that chain-driven exercise bikes will require more maintenance (like oiling) than belt-driven bikes.

Most exercise bikes nowadays utilize magnetic resistance which typically offers smoother and quieter operation.  Some descriptions refer to ECB resistance which stands for Electronic Controlled Braking.

Different exercise bikes will offer varying amounts of resistance levels so you can change the intensity of your workout.  The cheaper bikes tend to offer a few basic resistance levels while the higher-end bikes will offer a greater variety of resistance levels with the ability to change it with the simple touch of a button either on the handlebars or on the bike’s console.


A cheaper basic exercise bike may not offer any programs but the higher-end exercise bikes (except spin bikes which don’t generally have any programs) tend to offer a wide variety of programs to keep your workouts interesting and challenging.  It’s worth checking the types of programs a bike offers which could include challenges like rolling hills, intervals, calorie-burn, heart-rate programs and more.

Console Display

If the exercise bike comes with a console display, check that it is clear and easy to read.  Most consoles have an LCD display that shows workout stats such as time, speed, distance, calories, heart-rate.  Some consoles have a plain black/grey/white display whereas others will have a blue backlit display which is easier on the eyes.

Console with Black/grey display on an exercise bike
Black/grey display
Console with Blue backlit display on an exercise bike
Blue backlit display

Heart-rate sensors

If you want to keep track of and stay within your target heart rate zone, check that the exercise bike offers the ability to track your heart-rate.  Many exercise bikes have built-in grip pulse sensors in the handlebars but some bikes also offer the ability to connect with a wireless heart-rate chest strap.


As previously mentioned, it’s important that an exercise bike has stabilizers and floor levellers to ensure the bike is stable and not likely to tip or wobble.  Another safety feature to look out for is foot straps on the pedals to prevent your feet from slipping as you cycle. 

Also check that the bike has no exposed moving parts that young children or pets could get caught in.

Additional Features

Generally speaking, the more you pay for an exercise bike, the more additional features you are likely to get which may include things like iFit technology, Bluetooth connectivity, USB charger, media shelf, sound system with MP3 input, cooling fan and more!

Manual or Electric

Consider whether you want a manual or electric powered exercise bike.  Manual exercise bikes are self powered and if they come with a workout console, the console is battery powered.  Electric powered exercise bikes need to be plugged into a wall socket so you need to think carefully about where you're going to place it in your home.  Consoles that come with an electric-powered exercise bike are powered by being plugged into a wall socket so don't need batteries.


Check the warranty that is offered with an exercise bike.  Typically, a higher-end bike will come with a better warranty than a cheaper bike (but that’s not always the case!) and warranties can vary greatly between different manufacturers.  It is normal for manufacturers to offer a different warranty on different parts of the bike, i.e. the frame is typically covered by a longer warranty than the parts and electronics.

N.B.  It’s advisable to consult your doctor or health care professional before undertaking any new exercise regime.

*Prices/discounts indicated correct at time of writing/publishing and may be subject to change anytime.  E&OE.

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