With cycle gyms and bars popping up everywhere, it may seem everyone is caught up in the spin bike craze these days. But if you feel left out and are secretly asking yourself “what is a spin bike?” don’t worry, you’re not the only one. There are a lot of folks out there that have never used one and who have never even heard of one until recently. I’m hoping this article will shed some light on what spin bikes are and whether or not you should take the leap and try one yourself.
What Is A Spin Bike?
A spin bike, or indoor cycle, is a type of stationary exercise bike. Traditional upright bikes and recumbent exercise bikes are the other 2 categories stationary bikes can fall into. All have their advantages and disadvantages, but we are here to talk about spin bikes specifically.
Spin bikes are different because they are designed to more closely resemble an actual road bike. For people who are avid riders, you probably already know what a spin bike is because odds are you have used one in the past. Some of the features that are different on spin bikes include: the seat, the handlebars, and the flywheel.
Spin bikes have smaller seats that resemble the small seats of a road bike. For people who don’t ride much, I can guarantee you are going to think the seat isn’t very comfortable. Because, fact is, spin bike (and road bike) seats aren’t very comfortable. Just the way it is unfortunately. Luckily you can always upgrade your seat or put a seat cushion on it. As you ride more you will get more used to the seat as well.
Spin bikes don’t have a back rest either. Again, they are designed to resemble a road bike. Road bikes don’t have back rests either. These seats should be adjustable both vertically and horizontally to ensure a proper fit.
The handlebars on an indoor cycle are a little different too. They are usually adjustable (on nice spin bikes anyway) and they should offer several different grips. Again, the handlebars closely resemble the handlebars of a traditional road bike. The different positions come in handy depending on your posture while you ride.
Last, but certainly not least, is the flywheel. The flywheel is the big wheel in front of the spin bike that turns when you start pedaling. The biggest difference between a spin bike and an upright exercise bike is the flywheel. Spin bikes have much heavier flywheels and there seems to be good reason for it.
The flywheels are perimeter weighted- that is, the majority of the weight is located on the outer edge of the wheel. This makes it a little more difficult to get the flywheel started at the beginning. Think about starting a bike outside from a dead stop. Takes a little more energy to get the bike moving, but once you get started your momentum helps (on flat ground anyway).
The same idea is true for the weighted flywheel on a spin bike. Once you get the flywheel moving, the weight of it helps build up momentum and makes it a little easier to move. It also makes riding the spin bike more fluid and comfortable. It also takes more energy to stop that heavy flywheel from spinning when your workout is over. That’s why spin bikes include a manual brake to help slow that flywheel down so you don’t ruin your knees.
The general consensus is that heavier is better when it comes to flywheels. However, some high-end spin bikes like the Keiser M3i have decided to incorporate a light-weight flywheel because they prefer the feel of it. To each their opinion, but bikes with heavier flywheels tend to cost more.
Flywheel weights vary, but most spin bikes have flywheels between 20-50 lb. Keep in mind that the weight of the flywheel affects the bikes overall weight. If you know you will be moving your bike often, you may want to consider a bike with a lighter flywheel just for convenience.
Click here to see a video discussing some of the differences between spin bikes and upright exercise bikes.
Should I Consider A Spin Bike?
It really depends on a few things. Spin bikes offer a great workout but they aren’t for everyone. I mentioned briefly above that the seat on a spin bike isn’t very comfortable. This is very true. They also don’t have any back support. Imagine the large, comfortable seat of a recumbent exercise bike with it’s large, contoured back support. Now imagine the exact opposite of that- that’s a spin bike seat.
The seat is uncomfortable, but on a spin bike you aren’t expected to be sitting the whole time. The great benefit of a spin bike is that you can pump up the resistance and ride standing up. This is something you simply can’t do on a recumbent bike or traditional upright exercise bike.
Spin bikes can offer an intense cycling workout like no other. With the heavier flywheels and the ability to provide high resistances, these bikes can really work ya. This is why so many non-riders have been drawn to them recently. Spin classes offer a fun, interactive way to get a great cardio workout in. Music pumping, lights dimmed, and an instructor yelling motivational phrases at ya- what’s not to like??
But you really need to see if you are capable of comfortably riding a spin bike. If you have bad knees, hips, or shoulders it might not be doable. I should include wrists in that mix too because when you are standing up and riding those hills, there can be a significant amount of pressure going through your wrists as well.
If you have achy hips or a bad back I doubt these bikes are going to be comfortable for you. There are no back rests on these indoor cycles and you spend most of the time flexed over the handlebars or standing. These are positions that folks with achy joints don’t tend to like, especially for prolonged periods.
If this is the case, that’s ok. A spin bike might not be for you, but there are still other nice exercise bikes that can get the job done.
If you are thinking of adding a spin bike to your home gym, I would recommend trying one out at the local gym or cycle class first. If you don’t have access to a gym or cycle class, you might be able to find one at your local sporting goods store. I know the Dick’s Sporting Goods near me always has assembled pieces of fitness equipment for consumers to try before purchasing.
If you are confident that you will be able to comfortably tolerate the seat and you don’t have any problems with your joints, then a spin bike can be a great addition to your home. If you currently pay a gym membership fee just to spin, then purchasing your own makes great sense because you will be able to save yourself a lot of cash in the long run. Spin bikes are actually among the most affordable pieces of home fitness equipment.
Spin bikes are popular in homes because they don’t take up nearly as much room as a recumbent bike or treadmill and they can provide an intense cardio workout. That’s why I recently purchased one. I exercise in my attic, where space is limited (and getting more limited every day it seems, with my kids constantly expanding their toy collection). I also knew a treadmill would be way too loud for my morning workouts.
I bought a Diamondback 510Ic Indoor Cycle about 3 months ago. I’ve been happy really happy with my decision to get a spin bike. I am by no means a cyclist or regular rider. I had only used a spin bike a handful of times before, but I knew with my space restraints and the need for something quiet that a spin bike was the best choice. I could have gone with an upright bike, but I wanted something I knew I could pump up the intensity with if I wanted to.
I use mine 2-3x/wk on average and I can get a great workout in within 30 minutes. Sometimes I’ll warm up and cool down on my bike if I’m doing a lifting workout. Sometimes I’ll include it in my circuits as well. I admit the seat isn’t very comfortable. I purchased a cheap seat cushion and that has helped a lot. I’m also getting more used to it with time. Overall, I’m happy with my spin bike and am glad I added it to my gym.
If you are interested in taking a closer look at some spin bikes, check out my article on the best spin bikes for home use. It shows nice options in every price range.
After reading this I hope I have answered your questions regarding what a spin bike is. Just in case- a spin bike is specific variation of upright bike that is designed to mimic the feel of a road bike. It has a heavier flywheel and a seat and set of handlebars that mimic those found on a road bike. They are designed to give users an intense cardio workout.
Spin bikes are great if you are healthy and have no pain issues that would keep you from using comfortably. If you do have back or joint problems, you may want to consider a recumbent bike or upright exercise bike. Both are more comfortable to use and can offer great workouts.
I think it’s a good idea to try one out before you consider purchasing one. If that isn’t possible, can you tolerate riding a bicycle outside? If so, you should be able to handle a spin bike workout. I would suggest gradually building yourself up in regards to time and intensity because you will be sore the first couple of times you ride!
I hope this article was helpful. If you still have any questions, leave me a comment below and I’ll get right back to you.