Exercise bikes can offer a great, low-impact cardio workout right from the comfort of your own home.
That said, finding the best exercise bikes can get tedious fast- what with so many options to research and compare, it can become a bit much.
Luckily, I’m here to help.
In this comprehensive guide, I’ll go over some of the best bikes the market has to offer. I’ll also share some of the key features you should consider when choosing your next exercise bike.
After all, you should always do your homework when considering a purchase of anything, especially exercise equipment.
There are thousands of exercise bikes on the market these days, but they can pretty much all be divided into 4 main categories based on style: recumbent, upright, indoor cycle, or air.
I want to start with a quick intro in what to look for in an exercise bike and discuss the big differences between these 4 main categories.
But if you’d rather skip ahead to the bikes, I understand – no hard feelings.
What To Look For When Buying An Exercise Bike
I think the first thing you need to consider when looking for an exercise bike is: “What type of bike do I want?”.
If you can answer this question first, your search will be much easier.
If you aren’t sure yet, that’s ok.
By the end of this article, I feel confident you will:
- Know what type of exercise bike will fit your needs
- Know what qualities to look for in that bike, and
- Have access to a comprehensive guide to help you make your final decision (i.e., this guide)
4 Types of Exercise Bikes
Recumbent bikes are positioned more horizontally than your typical upright bike.
That’s where the term “recumbent” comes in.
I like to think of these as the “reclined” bikes, another term that means the same thing as recumbent.
The reclined position offers benefits, especially when it comes to comfort. The seats on these bikes tend to be larger with larger backs, offering more support.
Having your body in a more horizontal position also reduces the compressive forces in your hips and knees. A great feature if you have achy joints or are dealing with arthritis.
This is why recumbent bikes are so popular in rehab settings.
On the other hand, you may not work quite as hard on one of these bikes as you might on a more traditional, upright bike.
Think about it, if more of your body is supported by the machine, the less your body is going to have to work.
For example, on an indoor cycle, there’s no back support so your trunk muscles are going to work a little harder to keep you balanced as you pedal.
I hope I’m not giving the impression that a recumbent bike isn’t capable of offering a great workout, because it most certainly is.
As long as the machine is capable of offering enough resistance, you can be sure you will be able to get that heart rate up.
These machines tend to have large display screens, displaying all types of varying workout stats depending on the model.
Keep in mind the size of your gym space at home – recumbent bikes have a larger foot print than the other 3 types.
If you know you are looking for a recumbent bike, you may want to check out my full guide on the best recumbent bikes available.
Upright bikes more closely resemble the feel of riding on a bicycle.
This might also be the type of bike most of us picture when we think about an exercise bike.
On a traditional stationary (or exercise) bike, the user sits right above the pedals in a more vertical position.
These bikes have significantly smaller seats, just like a real road bike. These small seats are not as comfortable as the larger ones provided by recumbent bikes.
If you have back or hip issues, a recumbent bike will probably be more comfortable than an upright bike.
Upright bikes also don’t have a back rest (typically). This is good in the sense that it will make your back and core muscles work a little harder (and burn more calories).
More pressure is put through your arms on an upright bike depending on your posture and hand position.
Upright bikes can offer great resistance and take up little floor space, making them excellent options for a home gym.
These bikes also have large display screens to see different stats and workout options, depending on the model.
If you know you’re looking for an upright bike, you may want to check out my full upright bike guide.
An indoor cycle, technically speaking, is a type of upright bike.
You are sitting upright on these as well, but they differ from traditional upright bikes in a few big ways.
Indoor cycles are designed to provide the rider the closest experience possible to riding an outdoor bike.
The seats are smaller, the handlebars are lower, and you may even have clipless pedals.
Indoor cycles are known for having heavy flywheels to give the rider the feel of riding outside.
The flywheel comes in a bunch of different weights, and it can be argued that having a heavier flywheel gives you a more constant resistance- kinda like riding a bike uphill.
More on flywheels coming up shortly…
These bikes are designed to give the rider a more high-intensity workout than traditional upright bikes or recumbent bikes.
They are made of strong materials that can withstand standing and high resistance rides.
These bikes also take up very little space, making them perfect for home gyms.
As the popularity of these models continues to explode, there are some really awesome deals out there on these bikes.
These bikes are perfect for folks who are serious about cycling, are looking to train indoors when they can’t ride outside, or who are simply looking for a great cardio workout from home.
If you know you’re looking for an indoor cycle, you may want to check out my full indoor cycle guide.
Technically speaking, biking purists may not consider these true bikes because they do include upper body handles.
But who are we kidding, they’re still exercise bikes, so I feel they should be included in this discussion.
Air bikes are unique because the resistance you feel is created by spinning fans fighting against air. The flywheel has small fans attached to it- as you pedal, this wheel spins.
The harder you pedal, the more resistance you are going to feel from these fans pushing through the air.
This is similar to rowing a boat- the fast you try to pull the oar, the more resistance you’re going to feel from the water.
The great thing about this system is that it can offer unlimited resistance.
This is why so many Crossfit athletes and folks doing HIIT workouts have turned to air bikes- this unlimited resistance can give you one heck of a workout.
These bikes work great for interval training because you can let loose and pedal as hard as you want and the bike will just give you more and more resistance.
You also get to work your arms at the same time, turning it into a full body workout.
Air bikes are great for burning a ton of calories and can help you get in the best shape of your lives. That said, they aren’t for everyone.
While you can ride an air bike casually, it would be kind of a waste.
These machines are designed for high intensity, interval style training and are best utilized when used in this manner.
For more information on these bikes, check out my complete air bike guide.
A Few More Considerations
If you have an idea of what type of bike you are looking for, you are off to a good start. Here are a few more things you should consider before purchasing:
- Features- what features are you looking for? A lot of the more expensive bikes offer a bunch of features you may not need. For example, a casual rider probably doesn’t need to worry about finding a stationary bike with 40 different levels of resistance- you would probably be fine with 15. Same idea with display screens, bluetooth, heart rate monitors, etc.
- Price- always an important one. This one is pretty self explanatory, but make sure you find a model in your given price range. Don’t worry, you can find a great bike regardless of your price range.
- Weight limit- always a good idea to check the max weight capacity of any cardio equipment you are purchasing. The nicer, sturdier models have high max user weight limits. You want to make sure whatever you decide to purchase will fit you comfortably.
- Floor Space- another no brainer, but make sure you know where your bike is going and have an idea of how much floor space you will be able to devote to your machine. Always check the dimensions of the equipment. Luckily, the upright and spin bikes don’t take up much space. The recumbent bikes take up significantly more.
- Warranty- I’m not sure why I wanted so long to mention warranty because it’s always one of the first things I look at when checking out a new bike. When in doubt, go with the bike with the longer warranty. Bike warranties usually include a frame, parts, and labor guarantee.
- To stream or not to stream- that is the question. We’re seeing more and more streaming devices these days, so you should think about whether or not you want a bike that can give you access to live and/or on-demand workouts. The benefit is that you basically get access to unlimited, instructor-led workouts. The downside of course, is the monthly fee.
Sole LCR Exercise Bike
I’ve been a Sole fan since I first tried out one of their treadmills at our local Dick’s Sporting Goods. And the more I research their products, the more I like them.
That’s because they put function over everything. They design and built their products for peak performance rather than showy features that don’t give you a better workout.
Their LCR bike is a prime example.
This recumbent is graded for light commercial use (that’s where the “LCR” comes from by the way), meaning it could easily function in a small apartment complex or fire station gym.
But it would make a perfect addition to any home gymer who’s looking for optimal performance. This bike comes with a 30 lb flywheel, which is pretty unheard of for a recumbent bike.
It also comes with 40 levels of magnetic resistance, bluetooth capabilities, and an oversized, comfortable seat.
Its bulky frame can handle users who weight up to 350 lb, making it a smart choice for larger users who are looking for a safe and comfortable way to exercise.
To make the LCR even better, Sole backs it with an incredible warranty (lifetime frame, 5 year parts, 2 year labor).
Overall, if you’re looking for a high-end recumbent bike that will have the feel of a club quality machine, the Sole LCR is a smart choice. See full review.
The Assault Bike Classic
Honestly, all 3 of the top air bikes in the world are pretty evenly matched. There’s no wrong answer when trying to choose between them.
But the Assault Bike is easy to move around and well-priced, so I might as well start with this one.
It’s also been tried and tested by CrossFit athletes for years now and it continues to hold up to the stress of being used by the most fit people on the planet.
I think this bike is very well-priced too, considering how high-end it is.
This bike comes with a fully-adjustable seat, a 300 lb weight capacity, and a solid warranty (5 year frame, 2 year parts).
Remember that, as an air bike, there are no resistance settings or weighted flywheels- all of the resistance is generated by the fans rotating as you pedal.
Want more resistance? Simply pedal harder.
The Assault Bike comes with a small, simple console, that does have a few built-in workouts included.
Overall, if you’re looking for a great air bike, the Assault AirBike is the gold standard. See full review.
The Peloton Bike
I had to update this list after getting my hands on a Peloton.
The commercials are everywhere on tv, but in case you haven’t seen them, the Peloton bike is a high-end indoor cycle that pairs with online workouts being taught by professional trainers in cities like New York City and London.
Although a lot of the emphasis on the Peloton (and rightly so) is on the huge HD monitor, the bike itself is commercial grade.
It’s packing a heavy-duty steel frame, clip-in pedals, fully adjustable seat, and comfortable, multi-grip handlebars.
It also utilizes a smooth magnetic resistance system and belt drive to provide an almost silent workout experience.
I should probably mention that I own a Peloton and have fallen in love with it.
The bike is amazing, but it is the online workouts that put this bike in a league of its own.
For the mandatory $39/month membership payment, you get unlimited access to at least 14 live courses a day and an online library with upwards of 10,000 workouts.
The instructors are great and they offer a wide range of different spinning classes, as well as stretching and light strengthening workouts, for folks of all fitness levels.
The biggest (and really only downside) is the asking price.
This is a luxury indoor cycle system with ongoing monthly membership dues after the initial cost.
If you’re thinking about getting one, make sure you are motivated to use it for the long haul- don’t worry, the instructors will help in that department. See full review.
Sole LCB Upright Bike
I hate to be predictable, but I did warn you I’m a sucker for Sole products. The LCB is basically the upright version of the LCR I discussed earlier.
As you might expect from a Sole product, the LCB comes loaded with high-end specs.
First and foremost, this bike is packing a 30 lb flywheel.
Not only is this is heavy enough to give a lot of spin bikes flywheel envy, but it’s more than capable of proving a smooth and intense workout.
You’ll also appreciate the fully adjustable seat that ensures all users can find the proper fit.
The frame is rock-solid and is graded to handle users up to 350 lb.
The solid frame provide a sturdy base during your workouts, so you won’t have to worry about any unwanted shaking or wobbling.
Other highlights include a 10″ LCD screen, wireless heart rate monitoring, USB charging port, and bluetooth capabilities.
Sole also backs the LCB with a generous warranty: lifetime frame, 3 year parts, 1 year labor.
Overall, if you’re looking for a high-end stationary bike that will feel like something you’d use at your local gym, the Sole LCB is a perfect choice. See full review.
Spirit Fitness XBR95
I’m not sure if Spirit Fitness has that much brand recognition or not yet – if not they certainly should because they’re one of the best brands around.
In fact, Spirit reminds me a lot of Sole- they too seem to emphasize performance over everything else.
And their XBR95 is no joke when it comes to performance.
Like the Sole LCR the XBR95 also comes with a 30 lb flywheel and 40 levels of magnetic resistance to work with.
This is plenty of muscle to ensure even the most gifted users can get as challenging a workout as they’re looking for.
The frame is heavy-duty and can hold users weighing up to 350 lb, which is impressive.
What’s also impressive, is that this bike is self-powered, meaning you don’t have to worry about plugging it in.
As you pedal, you generate all the power needed to run the bike.
This means you can put this bike anywhere, without having to worry about being near an outlet.
Spirit even backs this bike with a better warranty than the Sole bike above (lifetime frame and brake, 10 year parts, and 1 year labor).
The only downside here is the lack of bluetooth capabilities, but otherwise this is almost the perfect recumbent bike. See full review.
Schwinn AD7 Airdyne Bike
I’m pretty sure Schwinn was the first brand to come out with an air bike. This isn’t too surprising considering their extensive history with both road and exercise bikes.
And they’re still on top of their game when it comes to these fantastic exercise machines.
The AD7 is their highest-end air bike to date. As such, it comes with plenty to be proud of. For starters, we’re talking a heavy-duty frame with a 350 lb weight capacity.
There’s also the fully-adjustable seat and the large, easy-to-read console with built-in workouts and wireless heart rate monitor compatibility.
One thing that does set the AD7 apart from a lot of the competition is the generous warranty Schwinn provides- 10 year frame, 2 year parts, 6 month labor.
The AD7 is usually priced a little higher than the Assault AirBike, but will still cost ya under $1000.
Overall, if you’re a fan of Schwinn products, the AD7 is guaranteed to please- it’s one of their nicest products. See full review.
Keiser M3i Indoor Cycle
Ok, I really couldn’t write a “best of” exercise bikes article without at least mentioning the Keiser M3i.
This indoor cycle is amazing and easily one of the highest rated cycles of all time.
The first thing you will notice about this bike is how elegant the look is.
You may also notice that the flywheel is in the rear of this cycle (something a whole lot of other brands have started doing to imitate the M3i).
However, there is wisdom in this- as you sweat away during your workouts, you don’t have to worry about sweat running down the flywheel and rusting the mechanisms.
This bike also uses a magnetic resistance technology for super quiet workouts and minimal wear and tear.
The M3i also has a display monitor, but more impressively it is also bluetooth compatible.
Additional features you may enjoy include:
- Fully adjustable seat to ensure perfect fit
- 4 way handlebar
- Lightweight frame- makes moving bike very easy
- Water bottle holder
- Backlit digital display on monitor
All of the previous spin bikes have boasted heavy flywheels, the M3i has an 8 lb flywheel.
This is opposite of what most bikes are going for, but Keiser believes that lighter flywheels actually provide a smoother ride. I told ya, differing opinions.
It all has to do with how fast this light flywheel spins during use (turns out you can achieve the same feel with a light flywheel if you get if rotating faster)
Overall, this is a beautiful, state of the art spin bike. I like to think of this as the Maserati of the exercise bike world. The only con is, of course, the price.
It comes with a hefty price tag.
There are so many nice bikes with significantly lower price tags, it may be hard to justify this purchase. But, if you have the money and are looking for the best, look no farther. See full review.
Nautilus U618 Upright Bike
If the Sole LCB is a little out of your price range, the Nautilus U618 is a good choice.
At about half the price, the U618 has a lot to offer for the price range (but it’s not the commercial grade machine the LCB is).
This bike comes loaded with workout programs- 29 to be exact.
If having a library of workouts to choose from sounds good, you might want to check this one out.
It also comes with 25 levels of magnetic resistance, giving you a lot of control over your workout intensity.
The flywheel on this model is only around 10 lb, which seems tiny when compared to the massive one above.
But this is actually pretty average for upright bikes in this price range.
The lighter flywheel can still provide a solid workout with smooth action, but it won’t feel as smooth as the bikes you’ve used before in the gym.
Other highlights include a fully adjustable seat, weighted pedals, bluetooth, and an included wireless chest strap for heart rate monitoring.
Nautilus also backs the U618 with a nice warranty: 15 year frame, 3 year parts, and 1 year labor.
If you’re looking for an affordable stationary bike that’s still well built and loaded with features, this is a smart choice. For the price, there isn’t a better option (although the Schwinn 170 is close). See full review.
Diamondback is another one of those fitness brands that I don’t think is getting the respect it deserves.
It’s one of those brands that doesn’t have the name recognition as some of the other big fitness brands, but their products are far superior.
I actually own a Diamondback 510Ic (spin bike) and it works great (although I have to admit I don’t use it much sense we got a Peloton).
Regardless, Diamondback is a great brand that produces well-built machines that last.
The 910Sr is their mid-range recumbent model and it has a lot to offer for the price (just under $1000).
With this bike, you get a 32 lb flywheel, 32 levels of magnetic resistance, and 32 built-in workouts to choose from.
You also get a bike that’s tough enough to handle folks weighing up to 325 lb and that can comfortably fit folks who are up to 6’6″ tall.
The only real downside to going with Diamondback is the warranty- they only back their frames with a 5 year guarantee.
I’m not sure why their frame warranties are so short, these things are built rock-solid, but when compared to the other recumbents mentioned above, this one definitely gets dinged with the shorter guarantee.
Overall though, the Diamondback 910Sr is a great buy. See full review.
The Rogue Echo Bike
Rogue is a well-known brand in the power lifting world.
Their power racks and rigs are some of the best and most popular around, and for good reason- their incredibly well-built.
That said, they don’t produce many cardio machines. The Echo Bike might actually be the only piece of cardio equipment they make.
Like everything else Rogue puts their name on though, the Echo Bike is heavy-duty from head to toe.
When you first look at this bike, you’ll notice how thick and robust the frame is.
This is no coincidence, because the Echo Bike is roughly 30 lb heavier than the AirBike above.
This allows this bike to hold users weighing up to 350 lbs safely.
This bike comes with a small console that allows you to see all your workout metrics- nothing too fancy here, but it does come with a few workout programs to get ya started.
The Echo uses a belt drive too, which helps cut down on the noise a little during use (although these are air bikes we’re talking about here, so there’s gonna be some wind noise).
I’d like to see a longer warranty on this bike (only 2 year frame/parts), but if you can find a way to break this thing, you deserve some type of reward.
Overall, a beast of a bike that can handle anything you can throw at it. See full review.
Schwinn IC4 Indoor Cycle
When it comes to affordable indoor cycles, it’s gonna be reallllly hard to find a more impressive specimen than Schwinn’s IC4.
With a price tag under $1k, the IC4 is a lot more approachable than the higher-end streaming bikes, but it’s got performance specs that speak for themselves.
This cycle is packing a 40 lb flywheel, 100 levels of magnetic resistance, and bluetooth compatibility with popular streaming apps (like Peloton’s).
It also comes with a 330 lb weight limit, a fully adjustable seat, fully adjustable handlebars, and a solid warranty.
The IC4 also comes with dual-compatible pedals, so you can use SPD cleats or sneakers for your rides.
The console on this cycle is pretty simple, but it still allows you to track all your basic metrics during workouts (and without having to connect with a tablet like Echelon’s affordable cycles).
Overall, if you’re looking for an affordable indoor cycle that works with or without streaming apps, the IC4 is a wonderful option. See full review.
Schwinn 170 Upright Bike
The Schwinn 170 is almost identical to the Nautilus U618, although there are a few subtle differences that ultimately lead to me ranking the U618 a little higher in this list.
Interestingly, Schwinn and Nautilus are owned by the same parent company, ICON Fitness.
The biggest differences are found in the warranty, weight capacity, and price.
If you like the U618 but would like a more affordable option, the Schwinn 170 is a good alternative.
Like all Schwinn products, the 170 is well built and well designed. It has a sleek look and the specs to provide even the serious riders a great workout.
This bike comes with 25 levels of eddy current resistance.
Combine this with the high inertia perimeter weighted flywheel and you get a very smooth, quiet ride.
I think you will appreciate the 10 quick resistance keys if you like to do interval training- with the touch of a button you can rapidly increase or decrease the level of resistance.
The Schwinn 170 offers 29 (yes, 29) different workout programs. This is a combination of profile workouts, customs, heart rate guided, and fitness tests.
That’s a huge number of different programs for a bike in the moderate price range.
With this much variety, you should never have the problem of getting bored with your workouts.
This bike offers a comfortable seat with fore and aft adjustments to ensure you are riding comfortably with a perfect fit every time.
Some additional features you will enjoy that the cheaper bikes don’t offer include:
- Dual LCD display screens for monitoring stats during workouts
- Telemetry heart rate compatible
- USB charging port- great for charging your phone while you exercise
- Decent speaker system
- 3-speed fan
- Integrated levelers to keep the bike stable and sturdy throughout your rides
Overall, this is a great stationary bike that will offer a comfortable, reliable ride. This bike will be great for you if you are looking for a few more features to enjoy while you exercise.
You will love how smooth the bike rides and how much control you have over the resistance. See full review.
Alrighty, that about does it – I hope you found this guide at least a little bit helpful.
As you can see, there are a lot of really nice exercise bikes out there.
And luckily, most of them are fairly affordable.
Regardless of what style of bike you are looking for, you should be able to find a nice product that will meet all of your needs without breaking the bank.
Like most things in life, you usually get what you pay for.
When it comes to exercise bikes, higher price tags usually mean heavier duty components and higher-end features.
But I hope this list illustrates that there are quality options in every price range.
In summary, you should figure out which style of bike you are looking for first.
Once you know what type of bike (recumbent, upright, etc) you are looking for, think about the specs and features that are most important to you.
Then it’s all about finding the bike in your price range that checks off the most preferences on your list.
If you can methodically think about this stuff, it will make your search a lot easier.
I always think it’s a good idea to prioritize the essential specs first (like warranty, weight capacity, etc) and consider features of convenience second.
Well, that about does it.
Like always, if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to leave a comment and I’ll get back to you soon.