There is nothing more rejuvenating than getting a good sweat in on a bike, especially in the comfort of your own home. With today’s constant demands on your time, it can be hard to get into the gym to complete your workout, which is why many people choose instead to purchase a few pieces of home equipment.
We looked into five different stationary bikes and broke them down by functionality, style, durability, brand, and price! There are many good reputable options on the market today, so you will just need to nail down your own personal preferences to parallel your goals.
A Quick Overview
Stationary bicycles for exercise have actually been around a long time. The first—a wood-framed contraption that nevertheless created the same basic motion and worked via flywheels—was invented and patented in 1796 by French visionary Francis Lowndes. I couldn’t find a fact on his profession other than inventor, but if he wasn’t an early orthopedist, he likely worked for or knew one closely. The “Gymnasticon” was initially designed to aid in the treatment of debilitating conditions like rheumatism and palsy. It’s worth a quick detour from this review to see the lithographs of it—just come back!
Ah, there you are.
Today’s stationary bikes come in a variety of styles: recumbent, upright, indoor cycle, and folding bikes in both upright and recumbent styles.
Recumbent bikes, whether stationary or built for travel, place the rider in a more laid-back position than an upright. This position distributes your weight over a greater area—your back and backside—so it’s a good choice for people with knee issues. And some people simply find it a more comfortable ride overall. Either design burns the same amount of calories when you use them.
How We Found The Best Bike By Class
We took several factors into consideration when stacking up the different bikes against one another: price, comfort, weight, resistance levels, and overall user experience.
Stationary bike prices range greatly. Even foldable bikes, the least expensive as an overall class, will range in price depending on how heavy the frame is—supporting anywhere from 200 to 400 pounds—and what sorts of bells and whistles you want. Then there are the nicest indoor cycling bikes, with full-blown entertainment systems that can have you feeling like you’re touring through the Swiss Alps or even provide you with a personal trainer for your entire ride. Each bike we top-rated was best in its class at a good mid-range price for what the user ultimately gets.
There is nothing worse than saddle sores after a long ride—and you can even get them on a stationary bike that only seems like its traveled thirty miles. We looked at frame setup—was it adjustable for taller and shorter people, legs, and backs?—and seat size. The smaller and harder the seat, the worse the effect on the rider at the end of the workout. Many stationary bikes today offer gel-cushioned, wide seats that give the rider the most comfortable ride.
If your stationary bike is going to remain stationary in a specific corner of your house indefinitely, weight isn’t as much a factor (except for getting it to that specific spot in the first place). But if there’s any chance you’re going to move it—or your space limitations mean you must move it on a regular basis—you’re not going to want the process to be a grueling workout in itself.
But a light frame doesn’t necessarily mean cheap quality. Materials and design can make frame strength a lot lighter while still being able to support a heavier rider—one 55-pound recumbent folding bike can support up to 400 pounds.
Just like a regular bike, there are resistance levels that will make a workout tougher. Each bike will come with a certain amount of resistance levels ranging anywhere from 8 all the way to mid 30’s. Any good stationary, indoor, foldable, or recumbent bike model will have some level of resistance built in.
The Best Upright Stationary Bike
It was a tie.
It was truly hard to pick one or the other, so we went with both. With strong frames, heavy-duty flywheels, and large cushioned seats, it’s hard to go wrong with either purchase. They also have impressive entertainment consoles, which will not leave the user bored on their ride or guessing how far they’ve gone. One simply has a few more perks, and a consequent price hike.
The NordicTrack GX 4.6 Pro scored well with its consumers for a variety of reasons. With 24 different digital resistance levels, a built-in workout fan, 7-inch color touchscreen console, Bluetooth capability with built-in speakers, a 19-pound flywheel, 325-pound weight limit, and 32 different workout apps, this bike is solid. It is a smooth and comfortable ride as well, with an oversized cushioned seat! This bike costs $999.
Another great option in the upright category is the Grand Tour Series by NordicTrack, and the Grand Tour Pro is one of the favored rides with its iFit capabilities. You can have a built-in personal trainer pushing you to your maximum with a 10-inch smart screen to look into. Two dumbbells are included, as some of the exercises require that you use them in a variety of ways. It has a 375-pound weight capacity, adjustable incline up to 10 percent (uphill or downhill), 35 built-in workout apps, a 16-pound flywheel, large cushioned seat, and 26 different resistance levels to play around with. This bike is $1,499.
The Best Recumbent Exercise Bike
A recumbent-style bike is a great idea if you’re looking for more comfort during your ride, though it does take up more space. There are many gym-grade bikes you can invest in, but they come with a hefty price tag.
Our pick finds a great middle ground. The Horizon Fitness Comfort R is gym-grade but comes in at just $719. It has 16 different resistance levels, a max user weight of 350 pounds, magnetic braking system, and heart rate monitoring on the hand grips or via a wireless chest strap. Extras include a large rack for tablet, book, or magazine; a water bottle holder, and built-in speakers that connect to an entertainment console for the ultimate user experience. The fully-adjustable seat with lumbar support is large and cushioned for comfort, and the overall feel of the bike is simple and easy for the user. The LCD console includes 10 pre-programmed workouts, and displays calories burned, distance covered, resistance level, rotations per minute (RPMs), speed, and time elapsed.
Note: the Comfort R does weigh in at just over a hundred pounds, so make sure you put it where you want it.
The Best Folding Stationary Bike
Folding bikes really popular for small spaces, so you can make room in your home for living. They are lighter and much more affordable than the heavier stationary bikes mentioned above.
Our pick for comfort, performance, and durability was the Exerpeutic Folding Magnetic Upright Bike with Pulse. This bike has a strong steel frame but weighs in at just 53 pounds. But that doesn’t mean this little bike can’t do the job!
The Exerpeutic has an 8-level magnetic tension system to allow the user to adjust their workout resistance harder or easier. It has a 300-pound max capacity, a precision-balanced flywheel and v-belt for a quiet ride, a comfortably large seat cushion that can be adjusted to fit heights from 5-foot-3 to 6-foot-1, and the bike folds to half its footprint for storage. The control system includes heart rate monitoring on the hand grips, and the a simple display to indicate distance traveled, calories burned, time, speed, and heart rate. This bike retails for $129.82 and has gotten stellar reviews from its customers. (There’s also a GOLD model at $164.93—that’s the 400-pound capacity one I mentioned earlier)
The Best Indoor Cycle Bike
What is the main difference between the upright cycle and the indoor cycle? The weighted flywheel and the transmission system on the indoor cycle emulate a road bike, which is why it is the choice for cyclists or athletes looking for an indoor ride. Many cyclists buy trainers and set their actual bikes up on it, but this is another alternative if you are just looking for a workout. The handlebars, pedals, and seat are more adjustable than in most upright cycles, allowing the best fit for the rider to take stress off the knees and ankles.
The best in class is the Keiser M3 Indoor Bike. At just 85 pounds you’d think this a lightweight, but what the M3 lacks in bulk it makes up for in performance. This bike is meant to provide a premium feel that will emulate a smooth road ride. It has a V-shape frame, stainless steel hardware, and a rear flywheel. Magnetic resistance helps the rider obtain different levels of challenge to their workout. Quiet and low-maintenance with commercial-grade pedals that are still user-friendly, it has a slim and sleek look, which appeals not only to gym owners but also to avid cyclists. The one drawback is I could not find a maximum weight capacity for this one, leading me to believe it’s on the low end—this seems to be geared toward athletic training as opposed to general exercise and weight loss. This bike costs $1,795, but they have sold thousands of this model, so it’s popularity.