Even the most devout road warriors have days when the weather just isn’t cooperating enough for an outdoor workout. And, unfortunately, if you don’t have a stationary bike, you’re left scrambling for indoor exercise alternatives. Of course, a great exercise bike is (and should be) more than a plan B. Exercise bikes can help you stay consistent with your workouts and are a lower-impact form of cardio (compared to, say, running on a treadmill), as biking takes the load off of your hips, knees and ankles. But the best exercise bike for you depends on what you’re looking for.
Stationary bikes, which are most often used in a seated position, have a saddle and handlebars that mimic the feel of a traditional road bike. On the other hand, spin bikes are modeled after racing bicycles, with inclined handles that propel you forward into a leaning position that lets you lift your butt off the seat and pedal faster. Both types of bikes typically have built-in programs, so you can do interval or hill training with the push of a button. And, if you use a fitness app or streaming service, you can literally cycle through a variety of workouts, all from the same bike.
Whether you’re in the market for a stationary bike or spin bike, these are the best exercise bikes for every type of rider.
Best Exercise Bike Overall
A Spin-Style Model That Works With Regular Sneakers
Best Peloton Alternative
Comparable To The Cult-Favorite Bike, But A Fraction Of The Price
Best Exercise Bike With Screen
A Large Screen And Fitness App Offer An Immersive Experience
Best Budget Exercise Bike
Everything You Need At An Affordable Price Point
Best Air Bike
Air Resistance Offers A Challenge—And Doesn’t Require Electricity
Best Recumbent Exercise Bike
An Exercise Bike That Offers Extra Back And Mobility Support
Best Folding Exercise Bike
A Compact Option That Folds And Can Be Stashed Away
Frequently Asked Questions About Exercise Bikes
What Exercise Bikes Are Good For Home?
Keith Hodges, National Academy of Sports Medicine-certified personal trainer and performance coach, and founder of Mind In Muscle Coaching in Los Angeles, weighs in: “When purchasing a bike for in-home workouts, make sure the bike you purchase is the best for you,” he says. “Be sure to select a style that you like that is within your budget. Your bike should come with different resistance levels to change the intensity of your workouts along with an adjustable seat. Most bikes come with monitors and programmed workouts, should you choose to join a live workout or follow a program on-demand.” And if you want to track your progress, “It should be Bluetooth compatible to sync with your Fitbit, Apple Watch, Polar Strap, Garmin, Whoop or Oura Ring,” he adds.
Are Exercise Bikes Worth It?
If you get the right machine to fit your needs—and you actually, you know, use it—then yes, it’s worth the money. Exercise bikes come with a range of features and in a range of price points to match, so it’s important to keep your personal needs and budget in mind while you shop. If you plan to use your stationary bike here and there, a less-expensive, no-frills bike might be more your speed. But if this is going to be your primary exercise routine, it probably makes sense to splash out for a fancier bike.
Can You Lose Weight Using An Exercise Bike?
Absolutely, says Hodges. “Cycling is a form of exercise and to see a reduction in weight, you must be at a caloric deficit.” In other words: The calories burned from cycling can contribute to weight loss. “If your goal is to lose one pound per week, you should aim to burn an excess of 3,500 calories per week,” says Hodges. But for best results, “You’ll also have to consume less calories from food in addition to riding an exercise bike.”
How Long Should You Ride An Exercise Bike?
Hodges says it all boils down to your physical ability and time constraints: How many days a week can you commit to riding your exercise bike, and for how long? “For shorter time periods, I would suggest interval training to maximize caloric expenditure in a 10- to 20-minute time period,” he says. “For longer time periods, I would suggest 30 minutes to an hour. I would also aim for three to five days per week, if possible.”
As for newbies, “Beginners should aim to complete at least 150 minutes of exercise per week, which is a little over 20 minutes per day.”