The Ultimate Gym Cycle Buying Guide


Of all the gym equipment available in professional or home gyms, the exercise bike is probably the most seen and recognized. It’s easy to use (simply grab on and pedal!), has a smaller price tag and is a highly effective gym machine for a cardio workout. Here’s a more in-depth look into gym cycles so that you can make a more informed decision on your next buy.

 

How an Exercise Cycle Works

There are parts common to find in every exercise cycle, no matter what the type. Understanding the working of these parts will go a long way in helping you buy the right bike. A few of these components are already familiar to those that are cyclists. All exercise cycles have a wheel (usually placed where a road bicycle’s front wheel would be) that is attached to the pedals by a chain or belt. There is also resistance on the wheel in some form to mimic the friction of the road and the braking mechanisms. You can change this resistance like you would change gears, altering the amount of effort required to pedal.

Types of Cycles

To buy any cycling exercise equipment, there are quite a few criteria that the buyer must consider but first, knowing the type of cycle you want will help immensely. The types of exercise bikes are spin bikes, upright bikes, recumbent bikes and air bikes. There is no one type of exercise bike that is “wrong” for you, since each type of bike has enough variations that there’s one for every exerciser. Choosing the right type will depend on the specific type of workout that you require among other things.

Spin bikes

Reach Evolve Spinning Cycle for Home

  • Also called indoor cycling bikes, due to their close resemblance to road cycles.
  • Have a heavy steel flywheel with a direct contact resistance system placed where a road bike’s front wheel would be.
  • High intensity complete body workout with full range of motion.
  • Helps you work on your lower body and upper body and can strengthen your core too, depending on the type of workout.
  • A machine that gives the most variability to your workouts. Handle height can be adjusted, giving more flexibility to your workout routine.

Upright bikes

Reach B-400 Upright Magnetic Cycle

  • Called so because its higher handles and lower seat allow the user to sit upright.
  • Have a lighter flywheel compared to spin bikes.
  • Low impact workout that targets the abdominals and lower body with a full range of motion.
  • Belt driven or magnetic resistance.
  • Pedals are positioned under the body.
  • Space-saving foldable bikes are available in this category of bikes.



Recumbent bikes

Reach R-400 Magnetic Resistance Recumbent Bike

  • Called so because its back support and forward placed pedals allow the user to sit back and exercise.
  • Provide the most comfort along with their workouts.
  • Easier on the lower back and spine, due to reclined body posture.
  • Magnetic resistance.
  • Low impact lower body workout with average range of motion.
  • Especially useful for people with joint problems and those recovering from injuries or surgeries.

Air bikes

Reach AB-110 Air Bike with Moving Handles and Back Support

  • Called so because it has a fan-based wheel that is very light.
  • Air resistance (found in fan bikes) or belt driven resistance.
  • Exercises the entire body, thanks to the option of moving handles.
  • Complete body workout with variable intensity and a fair range of motion.

 

 

 

Workout Requirements

Now that you have a grasp on the basic features of the different types of bikes, it is important to figure out which is the best fit for your workout preferences and comfort levels.

For avid cyclists or those who prefer the feel of riding a bike out on the road, a spin bike should be the preferred option. A more comfortable alternative to this is the upright bike. However, for those with back issues and joint pains, the ordinary exercise bike might further exacerbate the problems. So, a recumbent bike would be advisable.

 

 

Low Impact

Upper Body

Lower Body

Core

Full Range of Motion*

Sprint Capabilities

Upright Bike

✔ ✔ ✔

✔ ✔ ✔

✔ ✔✔

✔✔

Recumbent Bike

✔ ✔ ✔

 

✔ ✔ ✔

 

Spin Bike

✔ ✔ ✔

✔ ✔ ✔

✔ ✔ ✔

✔ ✔ ✔

✔✔✔

Air Bike

✔ ✔

✔ ✔ ✔

✔ ✔ ✔

✔ ✔

✔✔

✔✔✔

*Range of motion: The maximum required extent of movement of a joint.

User Weight

Regardless of what type of bike you choose to buy, the first feature to look out for is the maximum user weight allowed by the product. The more weight the machine can bear, the sturdier it is. The general weight limit for most standard home equipment is 100 kgs. It is recommended that you look for a higher weight category if you’re 5 kilograms or fewer away from the prescribed limit. Additionally, note the weight of the bike itself. A heavier machine is a more stable machine.

Flywheel

The flywheel is a weighted metal disk which is usually located at the front of the bike. ​The flywheel weight determines the comfort and fluidity of cycling. The higher the weight is, the more fluid and comfortable cycling on the stationary bike will be. When changing speeds, a heavier wheel speeds up or slows down gradually, decreasing the strain on your joints. Another advantage is that a heavier wheel is capable of greater resistance. A handy tip to remember is that heavier flywheels are generally found on better models, since they require sturdier and heavier frames to support them.

Flywheel Weight

Upright Bike

Recumbent Bike

Spin Bike

For Beginners/Intermediate Users

 

3 to 8 kilograms

 

3 to 8 kilograms

 

13 to 20 kilograms

For Advanced Users/Athletes

7 to 10 kilograms

7 to 10 kilograms

20 to 28 kilograms

 

The air bike flywheel mechanism is a completely different system from those models with metal flywheels. The wheel is quite large and has thin blades. This makes the wheel very light and therefore the resistance is completely independent of the wheel weight. Instead, the resistance is created by the wheel’s blades cutting through the air. Here’s more info on how resistance is produced in any type of exercise bike.

Resistance Types

The resistance mechanism on an exercise bike allows you to adjust the pedal tension, which makes your workout less or more challenging. Some bikes have manually adjustable pedal tension -- you turn a knob on the bike frame to change the pedal resistance. Some have digitally adjustable pedal tension -- press a button on the console to change the pedal resistance. This can be done in several ways, either by direct contact through friction from pads rubbing against the wheel, magnetically or others.

There are four main types of resistance.

Belt Driven Resistance

Magnetic / Electromagnetic Resistance

Wool Felt (or rubber pad) Resistance

Air Resistance

A belt with felt lining runs around the wheel, tightening as you increase resistance.

A magnet on each side of the metal flywheel pulls closer to it as you increase the resistance level, increasing the effort required to pedal.

Wool felt (or rubber) pads touch upon the wheel, pressing closer as you increase resistance.

A large wheel with thin blades cuts through the air and as you cycle faster, the resistance increases.

Found in upright bikes and air bikes

Found in upright bikes and recumbent bikes.

Found in spin bikes.

Found in air bikes.

 

Since there is never any contact between the magnets and flywheel, the workouts are noiseless.

Machines with this resistance have very heavy flywheels. This is because they can efficiently and safely slow down the bike.

The range of resistance is unlimited, but the cycle can’t maintain a steady amount of resistance on its own.

 

Although all resistance mechanisms serve the same function, each has a different effect on how the cycle operates. Direct-contact bikes are sturdy and simple in their construction, and while there is not much that can go wrong there you still need to replace a few parts here and there after a while. Magnetic bikes are quiet and smooth and allow you to fine-tune the resistance any way you choose. Fan bikes offer a completely different take on the subject, yet they have some cool unique features. Whichever you choose, you can’t go wrong.

Seat

Most (if not all) seats on exercise bikes these days provide cushioned seats with ergonomic design to minimize discomfort for the user. However, there still are features that you can look for on seats for maximum comfort that might be available on some models. To know what seat would be the right fit for you, you can check the table below.

Choosing the Right Seat

 

Upright/Air Bike Seat

Recumbent Bike Seat

Spin Bike Seat

Normal seats with foam or gel padding are quite useful in maintaining maximum comfort while exercising.

This seat comes with a back support and is a great fit for those with back or knee issues.

Spin bike seats should always be narrow and slender, so your thighs don’t chafe on the seat edges.

The go-to option unless there is a medical condition involved.

Keep an eye out for armrests alongside the seat to provide additional support.

Some bike seats have deep centre cut-outs for effective air circulation and dispersal of heat.

The seat should be adjustable vertically. You can even go for the four-way adjustable seat for more variation in workouts.

For more convenience, you can look for models that have a lever which allows you to adjust the seat while staying seated.

The seat should be adjustable vertically and horizontally to experience more variation in workouts while

 

As a rule, the seat should be set up so that your legs are at the same level or higher than your hips.

 

 

No matter how well-padded or ergonomically designed your seat is, it will only matter if you can use it effectively by positioning it to your preferences, which brings us to seat adjustability.

Any exercise bike should have adjustable seats for several reasons. If there are multiple users, changing the seat position is usually required to get the most out of it.

The seat should be adjusted keeping the following tips in mind: As a rule of thumb, your knees should be vertically aligned with your feet, otherwise you’re are going to strain your joints fast. Your legs should never extend fully while you are pedalling. Your knees should always be slightly bent during the workout, roughly around 10 to 15 degrees. This way, you are least likely to risk straining or overextending your joints.

Handles

Changing the position of handles can allow you to do several different types of workouts that target different muscle groups. There are multiple types of handles and each adjusts in a different way, also impacting the ways you can work out.

Vertically Adjustable

Vertically & Horizontally Adjustable

Movable

360-degree

The handle height can be adjusted.

The handles can be pulled forward and backward. It can also be raised and lowered.

The handles are connected to the pedals and move while you exercise, giving your upper body a workout as well.

The handles can be rotated at practically any angle.

Found in spin bikes.

Found in spin bikes.

Found in air bikes.

Found in upright bikes.

Mainly useful in assuming a single comfortable workout position.

A more flexible style, it allows users of variable sizes to perform several different workouts.

These handles move in tandem with your pedalling speed, allowing you to exercise your whole body in a consistent rhythm.

Allow the greatest flexibility in posture for exercising your core and lower body.

 

It also allows more flexibility in posture. Ex: You can hunch over the handlebars once you lower them, thus concentrating your workout on the core as well.

 

It allows you to decide to exactly what degree you want to concentrate on different muscle groups.

 

Other Features

There are additional handy features that make exercising easier.

Display: The basic setup of displays shows the measurement of speed (in RPM), distance (in km), calories burnt and time exercised. In upper end models of upright bikes, you’ll also find pre-set programs for workouts. By choosing any one program, the resistance oscillates up and down on its own without you having to adjust it constantly. An additional feature available is that of a tablet holder. You can set your device down on the support and use with minimal disruption in your workout.

Heart rate monitoring: Depending on whether there’s a pulse reader on the handles or console of the bike, the display shows heart rate too. For getting trim in the most effective manner, you can use this feature to target a certain heart rate and have a consistent calorie burn.

Wheels for portability: A feature that is practically a necessity in heavier machines, these wheels are set on of the base of the cycle so that it is easier to shift from one area to another, decreasing the risk of possible injury by lifting the machine.

Pedals: Among the last few things to consider are the pedals in exercise bikes. The main differences in pedals lie in the way they keep your foot attached on them. A simple strap on a pedal will be found more commonly in recumbent bikes, air bikes and other models that work well on low intensity. A cage mesh on a pedal is more suitable for spin bikes, keeping the foot strapped in during more intense workouts.

Base: The final feature to look out is an extra that you may not find in most models. A stable base in bikes is very important. It lessens the chance of injuries and does not dilute the quality of your workouts. A small number of bikes have an anti-shake resistibility ensured by dials on each end of both their bases which allows the user to change the height on each corner of the bike. It’s certainly a helpful tool but keep in mind that it is designed to make small changes. So, it is still recommended that the user find as even a surface to place the bike on as possible.

 

Conclusion

This guide will certainly help in choosing the right home fitness machine for you. There are countless features that can make your workouts a much better experience. Each type of bike is suited for someone. However, the fact remains that the most important thing is always putting your own safety & comfort first and to stick with dedication to a plan when working out. The benefits will follow inevitably.


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