The best exercise bike for you might not be the best exercise bike for someone else.
1. Weight Capacity
One of, if not the most critical thing to check when purchasing the best exercise bike for you is weight capacity. If the exercise bike does not have a frame that is built to support your weight, then you will be at risk of damaging the bike or potentially injuring yourself if the bike fails to support your weight while riding. The good news is that most bikes will have the weight capacity clearly shown to make your bike selection regarding this feature quick and easy.
2. Adjustable Seat and Handlebars
The best exercise bikes will allow you to adjust the seat and handlebars both vertically and horizontally. If a bike lacks adjustability in one of these ways, you may potentially be losing out on optimal biomechanical positioning during your workouts. A bike that fits your body type properly will help you to avoid knee issues, poor spine position, and uncomfortable grip when riding, while also increasing the power and efficiency of your pedal stroke. Check out our article on adjusting your cycle bike for more detailed information. While it may be possible to purchase a bike that fits your body type that is not fully adjustable, a fully adjustable bike should guarantee a perfect fit for you and others.
3. Type and Levels of Resistance
The resistance you feel when riding an outdoor bike comes from the gear selection you make while riding or incline level. Pedaling in a high gear will provide you with the most resistance until you reach a high speed. Since gear shifting is not available on most exercise bikes, the high gear feeling comes from a change in the resistance placed on the flywheel. This resistance can come in a few different forms. Felt or leather pads are used on some bikes to apply contact pressure on the flywheel to create friction. This friction when increased or decreased adds or takes away tension on the flywheel making the exercise bike easier or harder to pedal. Magnetic resistance acts in the same way without contact on the flywheel. The resistance increases as the magnetics get closer to the flywheel. To change the amount of resistance applied with pads or magnet’s, a dial, lever, or control button is usually connected to the resistance system to allow users to select the appropriate resistance for their workout. Typically, the more levels for resistance available, the more fine tuned a workout can be for the user. The best exercise bikes will allow you to choose a low resistance to start but enable users to increase to very high resistance as the user improves in strength and endurance. Each resistance system will provide variety of resistance to create an effective workout.
4. Flywheel Weight
Flywheel weights that are heavier can be ideal for individuals that prefer the feel of an outdoor bicycle. Flywheel weights that are lighter are great for the rider that’s ready to jump into action. Remember, workout intensity is less about flywheel weight and more about applied resistance. Another thing to keep in mind is that if you purchase a bike that has a higher flywheel weight, is that you may end up paying a bit more because of the increased materials used to make the flywheel. They may also be more difficult to move since the bike will be heavier. Indoor cycle bikes with heavier flywheel weights can also provide a more stable riding experience for users who are able to produce higher amounts of power at a faster cadence. The best exercise bikes will have a flywheel that works with a resistance system to provide a large variety of resistance helping users increase their strength and endurance long term.
5. Workout Monitoring
It’s a huge accomplishment to start any exercise program. But learning how to boost exercise performance can improve the effectiveness of your workout, compared to just showing up and going through the motions. It can be particularly important to monitor specific variables in order to track your progress or determine if you are working out effectively. For this reason, the best exercise bikes to track workout performance will have a monitor to track workout variables. There are several other exercise variables that can be used to track performance—including watts, distance, gears, speed, calories burned, pulse rate, Intensity, time, and cadence.
6. Multi Grip Handlebars
If you have used exercise bikes, you might have notice that the handlebars can be in different shapes and sizes. You may have also noticed that the hand positions utilized during workouts can change. So, what is the purpose of these different hand positions? Does it even matter? The short answer is yes, it does matter. And the purpose is to ensure optimal performance and positioning based on your goals for each riding workout. Depending on the type of riding you do, the shape of your handlebars and your hand position can vary significantly. This can also cause a large shift in your body’s position on the bike while riding. There’s no getting around the fact your body needs time to adapt to a new position. The best exercise bikes will allow you to vary your grip to prevent possible pain and injury from riding for long periods in one position.
7. Heart Rate Monitoring
If you are looking for general health benefits of indoor bike riding, it would be wise to know what your heart rate is while riding. If you are looking to increase the strength of your cardiovascular system, you should perform 30 plus minutes of exercise at around 40 percent to 60 percent of your maximum heart rate. If you want to increase your riding strength and endurance, perform longer rides maintaining a heart rate between 70 percent and 85 percent. Finally, if you want to increase your maximum power output, train at heart rates higher than 85 percent, but only for short periods. The only way you will know if your heart rate is between these zones is to use a heart rate monitor. The best cycling bikes will come with integrated pulse sensors which will relay that info to a monitoring system so you can easily see your heart rate measurement in real time.
8. Device Holder
Personal devices have become a valuable supportive tool for many along their health and fitness journey. The best exercise bikes come with integrated device holders so you can enjoy your favorite media while you train. Device holders can come in a variety of different designs. Look for an exercise bike that has a device holder that is centrally located on the front of the handlebars. The central position will allow you to focus on the screen while you ride.
9. Q-Factor Measurement
Q-factor is the horizontal distance between the inside points of the crank arms on your bike. The “Q” in Q-factor relates to the waddling gait and wide stance of ducks. So why should we be concerned with the quack factor? Depending on your personal hip and leg anatomy, the right Q-factor measurement could reduce your riding efficiency and increase the potential for injury while riding. Manufactures use a standard Q-factor measurement range of about 150mm for road bikes and 170 mm for mountain bikes. It isn’t uncommon to find Q-factor measures that fall in-between or outside this range. Many exercise bikes, road bikes, recumbent bikes, or mountain bikes may have a slightly different Q-factor that might affect how comfortable you feel on the bike, no matter what other features it may have. So, when in doubt, the best exercise bikes will have smaller Q-factors. Unless, you are riding multiple times per week for more than 30 minutes each ride, you might not notice the effects of having a Q-factor that does not fit you. If you are considering riding competitively or are trying to increase your performance during fitness classes, it may be a good idea to look at finding your ideal riding Q-factor. The best way to determine what Q-factor is right for you is to try different bikes and find the one that feels the most comfortable. Once you find a bike that feels comfortable, measure the Q-factor and use that measurement as a guide for any bike you chose to ride. Riding in comfort will increase your desire to continue with your cycling program, leading to a more happy and consistent riding experience.
10. Bottle Holder
Proper hydration is one of the most critical variables to ensure optimal performance during longer workouts. For this reason, it is critical to have a hydrating beverage easily accessible while you perform your cycling workouts. Bottle holders may seem like a small accessory, but without it you will notice a difference in your training environment. Without a bottle holder you will be limited to where you can place your exercise bike. If you need a drink, you will need to set up your workout next to a surface that can hold your beverage, or have the bottle strapped to your body. No matter where the bottle holders are place on an exercise bike, they will usually be within arm's reach so you can receive hydration for sustained performance. For some, this is a deal breaker and will always come with the best exercise bikes.