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You may have heard exercise bikes can be a great workout tool. But what are some of the different types of exercise bikes you can use?
Exercise bikes, also stationary bikes, are made to resemble the movement of cycling but instead of moving on the road you can stay in place. In essence, these gym machines require you to push pedals in circles against resistance.
Among other benefits, using an exercise bike can improve cardiovascular health, help you lose weight, engage a few muscles at home or in the gym, watch your favorite tv show while working out, etc.
Any exercise bike can help you with things like this but there are different types, each with its own specific advantages and disadvantages.
Which one of these is the best exercise bike for you ultimately depends on things like your personal situation, budget, storage room, personal preference, training goals, etc.
1. Upright exercise bike
Upright exercise bikes are generally the most common type of exercise bike. Especially when it comes to exercise bikes to be used at home.
There are a few main characteristics that stand out. The first one is the relatively high position of the handles for your arms. Additionally, the pedals are placed right under your body.
Upright bikes often come with some form of screen to give you more info about your workouts. Even if it is just to tell you how long you have been working out.
In the more premium models, these screens also tend to give you estimations about your heart rate, workout programs, adjustable resistance with the push of a button, etc.
Keep in mind that upright bikes often require an electricity source.
When to choose this option
An upright bike is the more general type of exercise bike. If you want to be able to do different types of training or don’t have a very specific exercise goal or limitations, you can go for the upright bike.
One thing where upright bikes do stand out is that they are relatively compact when it comes to length and width. Additionally, there are upright bike models that are foldable.
This makes them a great cardio machine for small spaces both in terms of using and storing.
One downside of upright bikes is that the screen often takes up a big part of your field of view. This is not helpful if you want to watch your favorite tv show while working out.
Some people also find the seats of upright exercise bikes relatively uncomfortable.
2. Recumbent exercise bike
Recumbent exercise bikes look more unusual and less like a typical bicycle. This offers both some advantages and disadvantages.
There are quite a few things that are different about this type of exercise bike. First of all the seat comes with back padding. This is done to give support because you will lean back due to the more forward position of the pedals.
Besides that, the recumbent bike has two locations of handles instead of one. The first, more typical, one is right in front of you. The second one is right next to the seat so you don’t even have to lift your arms to reach them.
Because of the reclined position when seated you will not really lean on these handles that much. Even so, they will offer some important stability.
Next, the seat of a recumbent bike is relatively low compared to the other exercise bike types. The seat is also generally wider compared to the other options on the list.
Lastly, recumbent bikes also generally come with some type of screen, sometimes small, sometimes big. The details these screens display will vary from model to model. Usually the more expensive the more extensive the details.
When to choose this option
The range of motion for your legs is relatively small when using recumbent bikes compared to the other exercise bike types. This makes recumbent bikes generally less helpful for making your exercise bike workout sessions as intense as possible.
On the other hand, this more reclined position makes it so you don’t really have to lean hard on the handles. This can make exercise bike sessions more comfortable on your shoulders, elbows, and wrists. The limited range of motion tends to be more knee-friendly.
The dimensions of recumbent bikes are relatively big. Often this exercise bike type is also not foldable. That means you will need a decent amount of room for using and storing this piece of cardio exercise equipment.
Since the seat is lower to the ground it is easier to get onto. This can be helpful for older individuals or other people who have mobility challenges. A wider seat may also feel more comfortable.
In short, recumbent bikes can be a good exercise bike type choice for individuals who are dealing with shoulder, elbow, wrist, knee, and mobility issues. Keep in mind that you need a decent amount of room for this option.
If you want to do the most intensive high-intensity interval exercise bike workout plans, the recumbent bike is likely not the best choice for you.
3. Dual action exercise bike
Dual action exercise bikes are models that have moving handles for your arms. They often come in combination with an air bike but there are also types of recumbent and upright dual action bikes.
These handles that engage your upper body on top of your legs are the main distinctive feature of these bikes. Additionally, they tend to be the exercise bike type with the highest average weight.
Besides these things, there are a relatively high number of differences between what dual action exercise bike models you get.
When to choose this option
Exercise bikes will generally not help you build that much muscle, even with the extra handles for your arms. That being said, dual action exercise bikes do engage your upper body muscles more compared to other types.
Even if it is just to warm up your shoulders, elbows, and wrists for other exercises this benefit can be helpful.
And while they are not ideal for this goal, resistance training beginners may be able to build at least some muscle mass with this option.
Besides that, what dual action exercise bikes are good for depends a lot in combination with what exercise bike they come.
For example, recumbent dual action exercise bikes may be a good choice for individuals with mobility issues etc.
4. Spin bike
Spin bikes, also called indoor cycling bikes, are exercise bikes that are rising in popularity. One of the main distinctive features is the flywheel that keeps spinning for some time even if you stop pedaling.
Besides that, the seat of spin bikes is generally relatively high compared to the handles. This leads to a more bent-over position compared to the other exercise bike types.
Spin bikes also have feet straps to make your exercise bike workouts even more engaging for your legs. Additionally, spin bikes often come with handles at different angles. This can feel more comfortable to you.
While spin bikes are relatively compact, they are generally not foldable. Keep in mind that you will need some room to use and store this piece of fitness equipment.
Different from the other exercise bikes, spin bikes often come with either no or relatively minimal screens. You can get fewer details but in turn, you may be able to focus better on your workout.
When to choose this option
Due to the bent-over position spin bikes tend to be more suited for high-intensity workouts. They really allow you to give it your all and even stand up to get the last pushes out of your legs.
Compared to the other exercise bike types, spin bikes tend to have the highest weight limits.
Make sure you keep your back somewhat straight when using these machines. Spending long times with your back bent over can be uncomfortable both in the moment and long term.
A downside of this bent-over position is that it can be uncomfortable for your neck to look up a lot. This is not ideal if you want to watch tv while working out.
Some people also like to get a lot of details about their workout through a screen. Spin bikes tend to be rather lacking in this area.
Spin bikes tend to have a lower price ceiling. You can get really effective models for a reasonable price.
Lastly, the flywheel is mostly a case of personal preference. Some people like the more realistic feel it gives. Others don’t like that they have to pedal right up to speed again after taking a break of a few seconds.
5. Air bike
The main specifics of the next exercise bike type is the way it offers resistance. Air bikes have a big fan that makes it so the air offers resistance as you pedal on your exercise bike.
Often these air bikes also come with moving handles which offer some of the same advantages and disadvantages as dual action bikes.
The positions of the handles in relation to the seat also make it so you sit relatively upright. Besides that, air bikes often come with a very minimalistic or no screen at all.
When to choose this option
An air bike allows you to sit upright without any big screens in your field of view. This can be nice if you want to enjoy the scenery or watch your favorite screen.
One downside of the fan is that it can be slightly louder compared to some of the other air bike alternatives. For family or neighbors, this is generally not ideal. That being said, somewhat thick walls can be enough to block the sound.
Whether you should choose an air bike is mostly a case of personal preference, sound, and whether or not you want to use your arms during your exercise bike sessions.
Types of exercise bike resistance
Another detail to pay attention to when choosing an exercise bike is what type of resistance they use. For some types like the air bike you don’t get a choice, for others like the upright bike, this can vary. The main types of exercise bike resistance include:
- Friction/brakes: In these exercise bikes you literally have adjustable brakes pushing against the “wheels”. This type of resistance tends to be less smooth and may have to be replaced or tightened over time.
- Magnetic: Magnetic exercise bikes have magnets pulling against the wheel to offer resistance. These tend to feel more smooth and are generally the most silent option.
- Fan/air: Air bikes have a big fan that turns as you pedal. This makes it so the air offers resistance and the fan creates air flow. These tend to be slightly more noisy but some people really like the feel and the air flow.
Similar to the different exercise bikes, the type of resistance that is the best for you depends on a wide variety of factors. If you are not sure which one would suit you best you can visit a gym with multiple models to try them out.