Exercise Bikes

Monday, 26 February 2007 | Tags: ,

An excellent form of cardiovascular exercise, cycling can be done on the road, or in your home with the help of a stationary bike. We learn more about buying an exercise bike, and take a few for a test ride.

The Basics

  • There are two styles of bikes available:

    • Uprights are similar to a traditional bike where you sit straight up and the pedals are directly below you. They primarily work your quadricep (front thigh) muscles.

    • Recumbent bikes are more horizontal with you reclining on a seat with a backrest while your legs pedal out in front of you nearly at chest level. They work a variety of muscle groups, including glutials, hamstrings, and quads. They’re also usually more expensive, and take up more floor space than uprights.

  • The main features to look for on an exercise bike include:

    • Resistance: this is the friction setting that mimics the difficulty of the road and terrain. More friction = harder workout. The resistance is provided by one of three different design types:

      • Fly wheel, similar to a regular bicycle’s pedal motion, uses a heavy wheel with a strap which is tightened to provided more resistance. Almost feels like you’re driving with brakes on. Can be noisy, but they’re usually cheapest.

      • Air uses large fan blades extending from the wheel to create resistance. Can be loud, but also cools your room!

      • Magnetic (frictionless) are the latest and greatest. Found on higher quality (more expensive) bikes, this system allow for more variation in your workout, and operates the quietest.

  • Other important features to check out:

    • Seat: should be comfortable with enough padding that your bum bones won’t become sore after extended period of time. Height adjustment is also very important.

    • Handle bars: look for height adjustable bars that have nicely padded handles. Even better if the bars can be adjusted forward or back.

    • Pedal action: smooth and quiet. Toe clips are handy so your feet don’t slip when you’re doing a tough “hill”. Should be wide enough to fit the whole width of your foot and allow you to pedal without awkwardness or bumping anything.

    • Accessories: helpful things are water bottle holder or reading racks. Be careful not to be sold on useless bells and whistles.

    • Feedback: many digital models provide data like speed, distance, and workout time. Make sure it is easy to read and adjust.

    • Programmables: more expensive models come with pre-programmed courses and all sorts of extras. Make sure you think you’ll really use them before shelling out the extra dollars.

    • Size: often overlooked, you want to make sure your bike is the right size for you. Also, make sure it will fit through doorways if needed.

  • Take each bike for a “road test” (at least 15 minutes. Watch for:

    • Noise levels

    • Smoothness at all resistance levels

    • Stability, especially when pedalling vigorously

    • Comfort and size: does it suit your body?

    • Controls are easy to see and use

Other Considerations

  • If you have small children, look for a covered wheel to avoid any finger mis-haps. Enclosed wheels also cut down on noise.

  • The heavier the front wheel, the more stable the bike. But make sure you can still move it easily.

  • Pay attention to the maximum weight for the bike to ensure you buy something suitable for your body type.

  • A 2-3 year warranty on moving parts is desirable. Some frames are guaranteed for life.


We visited a local YMCA to test out a variety of the exercise bikes they had available.

Our test products:
  • Schwinn (upright): $488
  • Schwinn Indoor Cycle Pro (upright, racing style): $948
  • Nautalus (recumbent, programmable, monitors): $1200
  • Johnson (recumbent, programmable, monitors, 16 resistance levels): $1788
  • Life Fitness Lifecycle (recumbent, 10 programs, 20 resistance levels): $2688

(Note: prices listed above are approximate and in Canadian dollars)

Ride Test

  • The Schwinns were both comfortable. The less expensive Schwinn was very simple and basic.

  • The Johnson had great programming option.

  • The Nautalus was a comfortable ride.

  • Everyone loved the Life Fitness Lifecycle, except for the huge price tag.


Given price, many testers, including Kristina decided they’d get the most value from the Nautalus. Anna opted for the Schwinn Indoor Pro as she prefers uprights to recumbents.


top of page | | back to posts |
  • Subscribe to the A&K Newsletter