Best exercise bikes of 2020: NordicTrack, Peloton, & others – Business Insider
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- An exercise bike is a great way to keep your heart healthy and muscles toned, and it could help you lose weight or maintain it where you want it.
- Having a stationary bike at home allows you to work out at any time you like without having to commute to the gym or worry about if it’s nice enough outside to ride your bike.
- Our top pick, the NordicTrack’s S22i Studio Cycle, is a high-quality at-home bike that offers a deep library of on-demand content like instructor-led courses and digital rides across the world, that you’ll love jumping on for a workout each day.
Exercise bicycles, also known as stationary bikes or spinning bikes, have a surprisingly long history that dates back to when Francis Lowndes invented a device approximating the function of an exercise bike in the late 1790s. His creation, the Gymnasticon, predated even the earliest riding bicycles by several decades. By the end of the 19th century, as bicycles took their modern form, stationary bikes used for exercise became a more common sight in homes and gymnasiums.
For much of the 20th century, exercise bikes and treadmills were essentially the only stationary devices suitable for cardiovascular exercise. In the 1990s, equipment such as the NordicTrack, the elliptical trainer, and stair machine gained in popularity. Exercise bikes almost seemed passe, used more for hanging laundry than for fitness in the home.
Then the spin class craze hit and exercise bikes surged into style once again. Led by familiar faces in NordicTrack and newcomers like Peloton, the current wave of exercise bikes have become an incredibly popular part of anyone’s at-home fitness setup.
How to shop for an exercise bike
It makes sense why exercise bikes are so popular. On those days when it’s too cold for a run or when there’s no time for a trip to the gym, a home exercise bike is a great way to get your heart rate up and your leg muscles pumping. When you utilize its various seated and standing positions, as well as the interval training approach of a spin class, you can even get what amounts to a total body workout.
Compared to larger cardio machines like an elliptical trainer or treadmill, many exercise bikes are relatively affordable and compact. Some even fold away to stash in a closet or under the bed.
When shopping for an exercise bike, you’ll want to keep in mind a few important features. First, consider the bike’s size. Whether you have a dedicated workout room or want to slide the bike into your living room/kitchen (i.e. you live in a studio apartment), size matters. Thankfully, most exercise bikes are much smaller than treadmills, so there likely won’t be as much of a logistics headache with these.
You’ll also want to decide whether you want a connected bike outfit with a suite of on-demand, streamable classes, or something a little more basic that’s just a seat, some handlebars, and a pair of pedals attached to a resistance wheel. Connected bikes do tend to run quite a bit more in terms of price, but offer a deep library of workout classes and fitness tracking.
Finally, don’t forget about budget. The connected bikes mentioned above often come with price tags in the thousands of dollars while the more basic, non-digital options may run you a few hundred (and still do well to deliver a worthy session of cardio exercise).
Our guide includes exercise bikes to fit every budget and every home. Some are small enough to tuck under a desk, while others require a few square feet of real estate. But all of the stationary cycles included will help you hit those cardio fitness and weight management goals.
Here are the best exercise bikes:
- Best exercise bike overall: NordicTrack’s S22i Studio Cycle
- Best high-intensity exercise bike: Peloton
- Best budget connected bike: Stryde Bike
- Best pedal exerciser: Vive Pedal Exerciser
- Best budget exercise bike: Marcy Recumbent Mag Cycle
- Best folding exercise bike: XTERRA FB150 Folding Exercise Bike
- Best exercise bike for comfort: Exerpeutic 5000 Magnetic Recumbent Bike
- Best smart exercise bike: Schwinn Classic Cruiser
Updated on 9/21/2020 by Rick Stella: Added section on how to shop for an exercise bike, included the Stryde bike as our pick of the best budget connected bike, checked the availability of each recommended bike, and updated the prices and links where necessary.
The best exercise bike overall
NordicTrack’s S22i Studio Cycle offers a high-quality ride experience and some of the best streamable workout content via its iFit program.
Exercise bikes outfit with a large color touchscreen that streams on-demand workouts is a growing trend in the at-home fitness industry. Though Peloton’s name tends to come up first in any conversation about them, the NordicTrack brand has been delivering a high-quality at-home cycling experience for far longer.
With its S22i Studio Cycle, NordicTrack continues that trend by offering a feature-heavy at-home bike with a deep offering of on-demand fitness content. There are the instructor-led courses but also a library of rides capable of digitally taking you around the world — think biking through Australia one minute then across Moab, Utah the next. This mode features Google Map integration, so it’s not just some randomly generated scenery but instead, the real thing.
The bike also features incline and decline control, and up to 24 different levels of resistance. Each class is designed to make use of these and they’ll automatically adjust as an instructor changes them during a routine.
If you’re not an all-bike-all-the-time kind of person, the iFit platform even offers cross-training routines like yoga or free weight workouts, adding to the bike’s versatility. You’ll have a hard time finding an at-home bike that offers more.
Pros: Deep well of content to support a high-quality at-home ride experience, can choose between trainer-led classes or free rides in places across the world
Cons: Expensive, iFit requires a monthly subscription fee
The best high-intensity exercise bike
Peloton’s name is synonymous with at-home stationary bikes, and for good reason — its high-quality bike offers a library of immersive and intense workouts led by motivating trainers.
You don’t even need to be a fitness fanatic to recognize the Peloton name when you see it — the company’s done an incredible job making its at-home exercise bike an absolute star ever since it burst on the scene years ago. The attention is deserved, too, as the Peloton bike offers users an interactive workout experience that replicates the feeling of a spin class from the comfort of their home.
Like NordicTrack’s S22i, the Peloton bike features a huge built-in screen that displays each of its workouts, as well as a rider’s progress and stats. The workouts themselves are high-energy, trainer-led courses that are either streamed via Peloton’s on-demand library or taken live.
Each Peloton class offers a bit of variety, too. Instead of just wailing away on the pedals for 30 minutes, there are classes for varying skill levels and themes, as well as those set to specific types of music. What they all have in common is delivering a sweat-heavy workout anyone can enjoy from the comfort of their home.
The bike itself is a compact stationary bike that doesn’t require a ton of room to setup and use. Its seat is adjustable to accommodate for a range of riders, and it runs quiet enough to not bother anyone else nearby.
Though it is expensive at $2,245 for its basic package, it’s well worth the investment.
Pros: Peloton’s bike is an incredibly interactive home cycling experience, the bike runs quietly, it offers a variety of on-demand and live classes, and its large touchscreen isn’t obnoxious
Cons: Expensive, recurring monthly charge for access to the video library
The best budget connected bike
The Stryde bike not only costs hundreds of dollars less than its connected bike kin like Peloton and NordicTrack, but it lets you stream workouts from other fitness apps, as well as services like Netflix and Hulu.
The industry of connected bikes is far from at a loss for variety, but a relative newcomer by the name of Stryde released one of our favorite reviewed bikes to date. With a design reminiscent of premium competitors like Peloton and NordicTrack, Stryde offers a few unique features that let it stand out on its own — including the fact it costs some hundreds of dollars cheaper at just $1,550.
First is its content strategy. Like almost any connected bike, Stryde comes with an 22-inch on-board touchscreen tablet that’s able to stream workouts via a companion smartphone application. After signing up for a $30 per month membership, you’re able to stream any of its hundreds of on-demand classes filmed at spin studios across the country. Though the production value may not be on par with what Peloton offers, the classes are still impressive and deliver tough workouts.
But the Stryde app and its workouts aren’t the only thing you’re able to access on the tablet — it also allows for complete internet access. This means you’re able to check your email, listen to music, and (perhaps most enticing) stream video services like Netflix or Hulu. Need to catch up on season 3 of Ozark? Do it while pedaling your way to your daily cardio. Put plainly, the tablet’s internet access is a game changer.
If you’re a fan of the more highly-produced content from Peloton or the globe-spanning workouts native to NordicTrack’s iFit, then Stryde may not be the best fit. However, with its ability to stream other workout apps and services like Netflix or Hulu, as well as the fact it comes with a wallet-friendly price (for connected fitness equipment, that is), it’s worth considering for anyone in the market for an at-home exercise bike.
Pros: Ergonomic design, comfortable seat, perfect size for small apartments, 22-inch touchscreen tablet can stream a variety of apps or streaming services, great value
Cons: Production quality of its classes can be lacking, Stryde app only offers on-bike workouts
Originally $1,750.00Save %
The best pedal exerciser
The VIVE Pedal Exerciser is small enough to tuck away under a desk or table, letting you pedal away and burn calories and tone your legs and core at any time.
No, the VIVE Pedal Exerciser is not a stationary bike, exactly. But the type of exercise it fosters and the benefits therein gained are quite similar to those achieved with a standard exercise bike, and this from a unit that costs a fraction of the price and stows away in any home, office, dorm room, or that can be loaded into the trunk of a car and brought along on the road.
At just 12.5-inches in height, the VIVE Pedal Cruiser slips under a desk or table with ease, allowing you to exercise while you work, watch TV, read, surf the web, or any of the other countless activities we do while seated in the course of our modern lives. An LCD screen set into the compact unit tracks metrics including RPMs, speed, distance, and approximate calories burned.
But perhaps the best thing about this unique pedal machine is that it doesn’t have to be used only as an under-desk leg exerciser; the VIVE Pedal Exerciser can also be set up on your desk or table for an arm workout. Just grab the pedals with your hands, set the right resistance level, and spin away to build arm muscles and burn calories as part of a complete body workout.
Pros: Compact and portable, works legs or arms, low cost, low impact exercise
Cons: Not as effective a workout as a standard stationary bike
The best budget exercise bike
The Marcy Recumbent Mag Cycle exercise bike costs less than half the price of many similar bikes without notable loss of quality.
Let’s be clear here: the Marcy Recumbent Mag Cycle is a pretty basic stationary bike. The onboard “computer” tracks time, speed, distance, and approximates likely calories burned, but it’s not going to offer you customizable workout programs as you get with many more advanced, expensive exercise bikes. But what this low-cost bike will do is help you burn calories, lose weight, and tone your muscles, which is all those other bikes do anyway, just with fancier features.
The Marcy Recumbent Mag Cycles offers eight different intensities of magnetic resistance, so it suits people of varying fitness levels. Using these eight settings, you can create your own workout program by switching up the difficulty during the session. While in operation, the Marcy Recumbent bike is quiet and stable, suitable for use while you watch TV or with kids sleeping in the room next door.
While this is a more basic option than many exercise bikes, its low cost makes it a great choice for those on a budget or who aren’t sure they’ll use it much and thus hesitant to make a large investment.
Pros: Great low price, easy to mount and dismount, quiet operation
Cons: Computer is basic and limited
The best folding exercise bike
The XTERRA FB150 Folding Exercise Bike provides a fine cardio workout when it’s set up for use, then folds away into a compact package.
Ironically, the best thing about the XTERRA FB150 Folding Exercise Bike is how little you’ll see of it most of the time. When folded up, this bike occupies just 17-inches by 18-inches of floor space, so it can be stuffed in a closet, tucked behind a door, or even laid flat and slid beneath a bed that sits well above the ground.
Not only can you stash this folding stationary bike just about anywhere, but you can use it almost anywhere, too. Even when deployed for use, the bike measures only 18-inches wide and 32-inches in length, so it will fit even in a smaller room.
The XTERRA FB150 Folding Exercise Bike has an adjustable padded seat so it can accommodate riders of varied height, and its curved, multi-grip handlebars allow you to grasp on wherever is most comfortable. When you take hold of the pulse grips set at the sides of the handlebars, you can keep track of your heart rate, helping you achieve ideal cardio intensity.
The bike’s small onboard computer also tracks time, speed, distance, and calories burned. A simple dial adjusts the resistance difficulty, which is spread across eight settings.
Pros: Compact bike folds away for storage, low price tag, easy assembly
Cons: Too small for many users
The best exercise bike for comfort
From its padded armrests and seat cushion to an ergonomic backrest and customizable workouts, the Exerpeutic 5000 Magnetic Recumbent Bike proves you can burn calories in comfort.
Who said a fat-blasting cardio workout session had to be unpleasant? No one who’s ever eased themselves into the plush seat of the Exerpeutic 5000 Magnetic Recumbent Bike, certainly.
This superlative home exercise stationary bike has a generously padded seat that cradles your core while promoting airflow, a mesh backrest that offers plenty of support while keeping you cool, and padded armrests to keep your elbows and forearms comfortable as you churn away at the bike’s magnetic tension system.
The Exerpeutic 5000 offers 24 different levels of tension, so whether you’re just starting to exercise for the first time in years or you’re looking for a way to stay fit between century rides, this bike will offer just the right level of challenge for you.
It also comes with 12 workout programs, so you can tailor your exercise sessions to suit your fitness goals and your personal preferences. While you’re using the bike, an onboard computer will track metrics including distance, RPMs, your heart rate, and even the watts of power generated.
And while this is a larger bike that will take up some room in the home, it’s lightweight enough to be rolled into the corner (or the garage) after each use.
Pros: Comfortable seat design, multiple fitness programs, large weight capacity
Cons: Poor manual makes initial setup frustrating
The best smart exercise bike
Besides the fact that the Schwinn Classic Cruiser fitness bike is Bluetooth ready and works with popular cycling apps, this retro-styled bike simply looks great.
I have a Schwinn Classic Cruiser stationary bike, and I love it. Everyone who sees this bright red vintage-style bike perched there in a corner of my basement remarks on its great looks, and having used the bike plenty, I can tell you that this thing not only looks great, but it works great, too. Once you get past the unique looks, in fact, you get to the actual stuff that matters here.
The Schwinn Classic Cruiser stationary bike offers seven levels of resistance that are controlled by a lever set atop the right handlebar. On the left handlebar sits a manual timer, the kind you twist to set and that clicks along then dings when the time is up.
But when the bike is plugged in and connected to your tablet via Bluetooth, you’ll quickly realize that it’s vintage only in styling. The bike works with multiple popular fitness and cycling apps, including a proprietary Schwinn Classic Cruiser App and the celebrated Ride Social app.
With an iPad or other tablet set into the bike’s attached media shelf, you can connect with riders around the globe and/or take a virtual ride through lands including the Australian Outback, the plateaus of Tibet, or numerous major metro areas.
Using an app, you can also enjoy myriad pre-programmed workouts that will maximize the enjoyment of and benefits derived from using this handsome exercise bike.
Pros: Charming retro style, works with multiple apps, sturdy and durable
Cons: Rather expensive option
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