Buying An Exercise Bike

Reebok B95 Momentum Upright Bike
If you’re thinking of buying an exercise bike, here are a few things to look out for to ensure you get a machine best suited to your needs and budget.

You can spend anything from £75 right up to  £6,000 when buying a bike so you can imagine there’s quite a difference in specification and features.

But even if spending under £100 it’s still a waste if you buy the wrong machine. If you’re not comfortable with it, if it fails to excite, or you get bored on a basic bike, you’re not going to use it! Your bike then becomes a bulky clothes hanger gathering dust in the corner.

And if you want to sell it on eBay don’t be surprised if you get only a fraction of what you paid for it because you’ll be up against many others who bought the wrong bike and never used it.

What To Look For When Buying An Exercise Bike

As with any purchase you’ll have an idea of how much you want to spend. Obviously this will determine what sort of bike you’ll buy and the more you spend the better bike you’ll get (mostly).

You then need to decide your main objective for buying a bike and consider whether it’s the right machine for the current shape you’re in.

Are cheap exercise bikes any good?

Types of Exercise Bike

You have a choice between three types of bike:-

upright bike – standard bike with conventional cycling position, takes up little space and delivers a good cardiovascular workout

recumbent bike – sit in a horizontal position, more comfortable, better than upright for unfit, overweight or those recovering from illness or injury. Takes up more room than upright

spinning bike – for faster fat-burning, higher intensity workouts and interval training

The upright bike takes up the least amount of room and is generally less expensive as there’s less complex machinery involved. Many consider the recumbent bike to be more comfortable as you can lean back in the seat and the horizontal position may be suitable for those recovering from injury or are over-weight. A recumbent bike is quite a easy way to do some light exercise at lower levels of resistance, it’s also easy on your back.

The more recent spinning bikes (or racers) are designed for high intensity work-outs and tend to cost more, although there are now more affordable spinners coming onto the market. These machines can be great for increasing fitness whilst burning fat.

Types of Resistance (braking systems)

To provide a varied and challenging workout, a bike needs to have the ability to change the resistance on the pedals. This can simulate going up hills or coasting along in 5th gear. There are three main ways to do this.

air – a fan builds up a flow of air and as you pedal faster it increases the resistance. The one disadvantage of this system is that you can only alter it by changing speed and therefore if you slow down so does the level of resistance.

mechanical – friction is increased usually with a band around the flywheel which can offer high resistance and a tough workout. However, this needs to be altered by manually turning a dial and the system can suffer from wear and tear with regular use.

magnetic – the most versatile braking system operated by pressing a button that alters the position of magnets to increase resistance. The main advantages are ease of use plus pre-set programmes can control the level and be used by heart rate control programmes to keep you in the fat-burning zone.
Pre-set Programmes

Most exercise bikes now come with pre-set programmes. These can take you through different types of sessions and will vary the resistance for set intervals to simulate hill climbing and interval training. More recently heart rate controlled programmes have become popular as they’re an effective way to increase fitness and ‘burn fat’. They work by varying the resistance level according to your heart rate (measured by polar chip or hand grips). If your rate drops below a certain level (based upon your age, weight and sex) the resistance increases, if it gets too high it lowers it.

Motivation is key to your success and the inclusion of a good selection of pre-sets on a bike help to vary your workouts and keep you coming back. So as a general rule the more programmes the better.

Power Supply

Some bikes require mains electricity whilst others use a combination of batteries and your pedal power for energy. This is a consideration if you’re going to be using it in the shed!

Weights And Measures

Each bike has a maximum user weight and if you exceed this and something goes wrong you could find the warranty useless. Also check the weight of the bike itself. If you’re going to be moving the bike in and out of the lounge you need to be sure you can shift it. Most bikes come with built-in wheels for easier movement but it can still be tricky.

Don’t forget to check the bike’s dimensions to see if it will fit through your doors and in the space you have set aside for it.

If you do a bit of research (that’s what we’re here for) and have a clear objective for using an exercise bike then you’ll get the most suitable machine to achieve your goals.

See our quick comparison list of exercise bikes we’ve tried.

To read what we think of them see our Exercise Bike Reviews