Your Guide to Exercise Bikes Your Guide to Exercise Bikes

You might squish around on the seat to see how cushy it is, and rotate the pedals a few times to see how easily they turn. And, of course, you’ll probably check the price tag. But there’s more involved with choosing and purchasing a good exercise bike.

Why Exercise Bikes Make Good Investments:

Exercise bikes are an excellent choice for your home gym. They provide a great cardiovascular and large muscle workout, burning an average of 550 calories per hour.

1.) They’re a smart choice if you tend to get easily bored during your exercise routines; you’re able to read or watch television while you work out, and that may entice you to stick with it for a longer period of time in order to get the maximum benefits.

2.) You won’t have to worry about inclement weather or risks such as crazy drivers or chasing dogs; you can ride for as long as you want in the comfort of your own home.

3.) It conditions your quadriceps, gluteals and hamstrings, and is perfect for providing a good leg warm-up if you’re going to be exercising them afterwards.

4.) Exercise bikes are safe for your body; there is virtually no impact, which means less stress on your joints, which in turn means less likelihood of injury.

5.) You’re also much less likely to fall off of – or slip while using – an exercise bike. Exercise bikes give you the benefits of a higher-impact cardio workout without the strain. In short, you can’t go wrong with an exercise bike!

Exercise Bike Styles:

The first issue is choosing the proper style. When shopping for a new exercise bike, you’ll encounter a few different ones: namely upright, recumbent, and mini exercise bikes.

So what’s the difference, you ask?

Upright exercise bikes are likely the type that first comes to mind. They’re the most traditional style of bike, having been around the longest. As the name suggests, there’s no recline; you sit straight up. (If you naturally tend to slouch, you may have trouble getting a deep breath while you exercise.) Posture-wise, upright bikes are the closest thing to riding a “real” bike, the kind you take on the road. If you’re training for a bike marathon, and you want the feeling of the real thing, an upright is the closest choice.

Recumbent exercise bikes, according to the majority of users, are the most comfortable. On a recumbent bike, you’re seated in a gently reclining position in a seat with a back rather than a regular backless “saddle” seat. If you spend a lot of time using a bike with a saddle-type seat (and you probably will; studies suggest that to reap the cardio benefits of an exercise bike, you should use it two to three times a week for longer than fifteen to twenty minutes), you may experience soreness or discomfort; that problem is eliminated with a recumbent bike. This type of bike is better for people with low back problems, as it offers back support. Also, if you’re the type who likes to read – or knit, or practice sign language, or pick your nose – while exercising, you might find that it’s easier and more comfortable to do on a recumbent bicycle. One disadvantage: you can’t stand up and pedal to pump up the cardio on a recumbent bike like you can on an upright.

Mini exercise bikes are, quite obviously, smaller and more portable versions of their larger cousins. Weighing fifteen pounds or less, and measuring just about a foot tall and only a little wider than that, mini bikes can be used while sitting on the couch, in your favorite chair, or even under your desk at the office. It’s just like someone took the most important part – the pedals – off of a “regular” exercise bike. An advantage to these bikes, besides their portability and versatility, is that they can also be placed on a table or desktop and used to exercise the arms. Most models offer a display screen, just like bigger exercise bikes, which tells you how many calories you’re burning, the amount of time you’ve been cycling, etc. And they usually have the option of increasing or decreasing the amount of resistance, so you can be sure you’re getting the most benefit from your workout.

Exercise Bike Cost

Another issue you’ll encounter when shopping for an exercise bike is the price. You may be tempted to choose the cheapest bike you come across, figuring it’ll do the trick. But as the old adage goes, you get what you pay for.

A low-priced exercise bike will be of the most basic – and perhaps poor – quality. The bottom line: you’re not going to get anything good for a hundred bucks or less.

Two hundred dollars may get you a decent exercise bike, but with only the bare-bones necessities; it won’t have any of the technological bells and whistles and may be louder or more awkward to operate, and not as comfortable as its higher-priced counterparts.

A mid-level bike will run between three and six hundred dollars and will provide you with features such as more comfortable seating, smoother and quieter operation, magnetic resistance, and a selection of built-in workout programs.

And a top-of-the line bike, costing six hundred dollars or more, should be like the Rolls Royce of exercise equipment: fancy LED display console, a wide and varied array of workout programs (many that adjust automatically in response to your heart rate), adjustable seat and handlebars, smooth and silent operation, push-button controls, and a long and comprehensive warranty. Though pricey, you may want to consider investing more if you plan to use the bike very frequently.

Exercise Bike Resistance

You should also consider the resistance method of any exercise bike you’re thinking about purchasing. There are several different methods by which resistance is created:

Air – the resistance is created by pedaling against the flow of air created by a fan blade. (This feature often has the perk of providing a nice breeze the harder you pedal.)
Direct tension – features a knob with which you can manually adjust the resistance.
Magnetic – this is a feature that the best-quality bikes will have. Normally controlled with the push of a button, magnetic frictionless resistance offers a wider variation in the intensity levels of a workout.

Which type you choose depends mostly on whether you would rather adjust the resistance yourself, by hand, or buy a machine that will do it either automatically or with the push of a button.

Exercise Bike Display Screens

The display options are another factor. How important is it to you to be constantly informed of details such as speed, distance, calories burned, and heart rate?

The most basic models will provide you with calories burned and speed (maybe), while the most advanced will tell you all of the above, plus include wattage, RPMs, minutes per mile, and a whole host of other information that you may or may not find useful in tailoring your workouts to your needs.

If you aren’t going to pay attention to them, it may not be worth the price you’ll pay for such perks.

Are you easily bored? Consider a display with pictures that simulate scenery you’re “passing” as you bike.

The choice of exercise bike ultimately comes down to which one will offer the features you want at a price you can afford. But by informing yourself before you buy, you’ll be less likely to waste money on features you don’t need, more likely to buy a bike you’ll use and enjoy, and able to make an investment in your health.

Looking for an exercise bike? Compare brands, types and prices with our Exercise Bikes Buyer's Guide.

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