Before jumping into a discussion on indoor bike trainers, let me lead with this: There are three kinds of indoor bike trainers -- direct-drive, flywheel and roller trainers -- and they all do different things. If you decide you want to purchase an indoor bike trainer, you'll need to familiarize yourself with the different types before you do. But for this comparison, I'll lay out the general concepts and pros and cons of an indoor bike training setup versus a stationary bike.
On a basic level, indoor bike trainers allow you to ride your actual bicycle indoors. They have a motor and either attach to your bike's rear tire or, in the case of direct-drive trainers, completely take its place. Indoor bike trainers provide resistance either through a flywheel mechanism or through the bike's cassette, like when you're riding outside.
Indoor bike trainers don't usually have their own digital console, but there are smart options that allow you to connect to your TV or a tablet and third-party software that takes you through preprogrammed workouts or realistic terrains. They're often used by outdoor cyclists or competitive cyclists who are looking for a way to take their ride inside, since they attach to your current bicycle and allow for some similarities in training.
When it comes to indoor bike trainers, there are two costs to consider: the cost of the trainer itself and the cost of the bicycle you need to ride it. Basic trainers cost around $200, while a top-of-the-line direct-drive smart trainer can go up to $1,400. While you don't need a fancy bicycle to pair with it, you do need to make sure your bike is compatible. If the one you have isn't, you'll need to shell out another $350 to $1,000, on average, for the bicycle.
A stationary bike resembles a bicycle without any road-ready tires. A saddle, pedals and handlebars are attached to a solid, stationary base that keeps the bike in place while you pedal. In most cases, the seat is adjustable and moves up and down to allow riders of different sizes to find a comfortable position. Depending on the bike, you can ride in an upright position or a recumbent, or reclining, position. They create resistance through air, straps, mechanical resistance or friction (direct contact).
Many stationary bikes also have digital consoles that have preprogrammed workouts and/or computerized programs that you can use to help you meet your goals. These digital consoles also monitor speed, exercise duration, heart rate and calories burned.
Stationary bikes are typically used in general health and fitness programs and tend to be good for anyone who is hoping to simply improve their cardiovascular fitness level, build muscle strength and see better results from their weight loss efforts.
Spin bikes, like the cult-favorite Peloton, fall under the category of stationary bikes, although there are some differences that set them apart. The biggest difference is the weight of the flywheel and how it operates. Spin bikes typically have a heavier flywheel than regular stationary bikes and it's connected directly to the pedals with a chain, similar to how a regular bicycle is designed. This creates inertia to keep the pedals moving, even when you stop pedaling, also creating variable resistance that's more similar to an outdoor ride that you'd get with other types of stationary bikes.
Because the flywheel is heavier and takes more effort to spin, it also tends to burn slightly more calories. And if you stand on the bike -- a pedaling position that's common in spin workouts -- you'll engage more muscles than staying seated and this will increase calorie burn too.
Another notable difference is that many standard spin bikes don't have a console. This means you won't have the option to program your workouts or follow preprogrammed routines. You also lose the ability to track your stats -- like calorie burn and heart rate -- directly on the machine. However, if you opt for a Peloton or one of its less costly alternatives, this goes out the window since they do come with a console.
Spin bikes also have a lower handlebar position than regular stationary bikes, so when you're on them, your body position more closely resembles what it's like to ride an actual bicycle. Because of this, they're generally more suited than regular stationary bikes for cyclists looking to train indoors. However, spin bikes and spin classes are widely popular for getting in a really good cardio workout too, so anyone can benefit from owning one.
When it comes to the actual workout, you really can't go wrong with either. Both indoor bike trainers and stationary bikes can provide high-quality aerobic exercise, as long as you're willing to put in the work. If your main goal is to improve your cardiovascular health and/or burn calories, the choice is yours.
However, if you're more interested in improving bike balance and posture, boosting your cycling stamina and working on your technique and pedal stroke, an indoor bike trainer is probably the way to go.
When it comes down to it, both an indoor bike trainer and a stationary exercise bike will give you a great workout and help you improve your fitness level. Ultimately, the best choice for you depends on what you're hoping to get out of your workout.
If you're looking for an easy way to get in a cardio workout and burn some calories and you have the space to dedicate to a fairly large piece of exercise equipment, a stationary bike can provide all of that and more.
If you're a cyclist who wants to take your training inside when the weather gets bad, or you're limited on space, an indoor bike trainer may be a better option for you. If you're not really sure what you want, spin bikes offer a way to combine the best of both worlds.
To compare stationary bikes and treadmills to determine which is a better piece of exercise equipment, we compare the workout difficulty or intensity, the versatility of the exercise machines, the muscles worked on a stationary bike vs. a treadmill, the calories burned and fat loss potential, the injury risk, the enjoyment, and the practicality for purchasing.
Exercise bikes for home use have become popular in recent years thanks to updated tech and integrated content. Once upon a time, exercise bikes were boring, utilitarian, and mostly enjoyed by cycling enthusiasts during the off-season. Currently, there is an exercise bike for every home and user with various tech options, subscription content, and improved geometry.
There are several different types of exercise bikes riders can choose from. Different bikes will appeal to different riders depending on your height, the type of riding you enjoy, and any mobility issues.
This is a traditional exercise bike that will look familiar to most riders. A spin bike often resembles a regular bike, with a narrow seat, front-mounted flywheel, and multi-position handlebars. We recommend this style of bike if you enjoy regular spin classes at the gym. Spin bikes may require the rider to lift a leg up and over the bike. Riders sit upright with the hips directly over the pedals. For some riders, this can be a slightly hard bike to get up on, so be aware that some knee and hip flexion is required to get on this bike and ride correctly. Spin bikes are popular because they resemble a regular bike and feel very similar to riding outdoors. These bikes have also become popularized through spin classes taught at specialty and big box gyms. Spin bikes tend to have heavy, weighted flywheels, a narrow, racing-style saddle, and adjustable resistance. These bikes are excellent for weight loss due to the high-calorie burn that is possible in a single class. However, they can be difficult to get on and off and elevate the rider enough that those with balance or vertigo issues should probably not opt for a spin bike.
If you plan to buy a bike with a screen, be aware that all content is streamed, not downloaded. This means that each class or program will be streamed each time you watch it. The best way to determine if your internet signal is strong enough is to take an iPad or tablet into the room you plan to use your bike and stream a video via NetFlix or another service. If you are able to stream it easily without any buffering or other delays, then your signal is probably strong enough. If not, you can use an extender or other way to enhance the signal in that particular room. Using a bike in a garage or basement may limit your internet connection.
Exercise bikes can be found in all kinds of price ranges. Typically, bikes with attached touchscreens are a bit more expensive than those without. Another factor in price to consider is that if the exercise bike comes with a monthly subscription, this will be a cost on top of the price for the bike itself.
Exercise bikes in this price range usually come with higher end features like the included touchscreen, but sometimes they come with even more features. The MYX II Plus is just over $1500 and includes the bike with the touchscreen and also extra equipment to make it more like a complete home gym. The new S22i Studio Cycle exercise bike from NordicTrack also fits in this price point and has a unique inclining feature.
The content or lack of content on an exercise bike can really impact whether you use it or not. Both come with benefits, but it really comes down to your personal preference, which kind of display works best for you, and encourages you to ride often.
Touchscreen exercise bikes often come with a specific app preloaded in the console. Apps provide integrated functionality like automated speed and incline controls and responsive heart rate training. A few of our favorites include:
Found on Nordictrack and ProForm machines. Offers indoor and outdoor biking routes, trail rides, gravel rides, etc. Routes are filmed all over the world, everywhere from Tanzania to Zion national park.
A virtual reality app you can subscribe to and compete in bike races with other runners. This is not specific to any exercise bike, but a few exercise bikes will sync with Zwift including Sole and Horizon. 781b155fdc