Best exercise bikes 2019: Cycle your way to fitness

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Whether you’re a keen cyclist looking to train during the colder months, or simply a beginner looking for an effective way to get fit at home, an exercise bike is an excellent device. It’s generally cheaper and smaller than other home cardio machines (like treadmills and rowers), and provides scope for all kinds of cardiovascular workouts, from long steady rides to the short HIIT (high-intensity interval training) blasts popular in spinning classes.

You don’t need to break the bank to get an excellent exercise bike, but you should definitely work out exactly what you’re looking for before making a purchase. Below you’ll find exercise bikes to suit every shopper, from casual riders to dedicated cycling enthusiasts.


How to buy the best exercise bike for you

What kind of exercise bike do I want?

There are two common kinds of exercise bike: upright cycles and indoor cycles (also known as spinning cycles). Upright bikes are generally the more comfortable choice; they’re often cheaper, and better suited to beginners looking to get in shape.

An indoor cycle more closely mimics the experience of riding a road bike than an upright bike, with a forward-leaning rider position which means you can stand on the pedals.

Indoor cycles are normally used in spin classes, as they’re perfect for intense, intervals sessions. If you prefer to ride your own bike, you can invest in what’s called a turbo trainer, which attaches to the back wheel of the bike so you can ride it while stationary.

A third type of exercise cycle to consider is a recumbent exercise bike, where the rider cycles in a laid-back reclining position – great for those who suffer from back pain.

How much do I need to spend?

If you’re looking for an upright bike, there are excellent options under £200, and even some solid picks under £100 for those on a tight budget. You can get a decent spinning cycle for less than £200 too, but here the prices go higher: for a gym-quality machine you’re looking at closer to £500.

What kind of resistance should I look for?

One of the most important features of an exercise bike is the degree of resistance it offers, as this is what determines the difficulty of your workout.

Most exercise bikes generate resistance using a flywheel that’s driven by the pedals; friction-resistance bikes apply brakes to slow this flywheel, which the user can adjust by turning a knob.

Magnetic-resistance exercise bikes slow the flywheel through the magic of magnetism. This is quieter than direct contact brakes, requires less maintenance, and allows you to set an exact level of resistance.

However, the maximum resistance is lower, which may frustrate seasoned cyclists – and some users prefer the instant response of twirling a direct-resistance knob, especially for HIIT sessions.

Another technique that’s sometimes used is air resistance, where a fan turns as you pedal. The harder you work, the greater the air resistance on the fan’s blades.

What other features should I look out for?

The size of the bike is important, both in terms of the space it might take up and whether it’s sturdy enough to take your weight and let you pedal comfortably. Most exercise bikes will have a digital display console giving the basic details of your ride; some offer more advanced stats like power and cadence. Other handy features can include a built-in fan and heart-rate monitoring handles.

The best exercise bikes to buy from £100 to £2,250

1. JLL Home Exercise Bike JF100: The best budget exercise bike

Price when reviewed: £100 | Buy now from Amazon

 

This sturdy upright bike offers an impressively smooth and quiet ride at a bargain price. It also comes with a one-year warranty for peace of mind, which is always welcome when opting for a budget pick. Maxing out the resistance might not result in a tough enough ride to satisfy keen outdoor cyclists, but the JF100 ticks all the boxes for beginners keen on doing some cardio workouts at home without having to splash out more than £100.

Key specs – Size: 62 x 51 x 120cm (LWH);Resistance: Magnetic (10 levels); Max user weight: 100kg

2. Ultrasport F-bike Trainer: The best folding exercise bike

Price when reviewed: £100 | Buy now from Amazon

 

The key question with folding bikes is whether they are sturdy enough to ride at speed without fear of toppling over. At 14kg, the Ultrasport F-bike is reassuringly solid, and its folded dimensions of 131 x 43.5 x 45cm (LWH) mean it can be tucked away to save space when not in use. There are eight levels of resistance, although the higher levels aren’t as challenging as you’d find on a heavier, fixed bike.

Key specs – Size: 80.5 x 43.5 x 112cm (LWH); Resistance: Friction (8 levels); Max user weight: 100kg

3. York Active 110 Exercise Cycle: The best upright exercise bike under £200

Price when reviewed: £158 | Buy now from Amazon

 

If your preference is an upright bike over a spinning cycle there’s no real reason to look beyond the excellent York Active 110. It has eight resistance levels, four preset workouts to follow and a fitness test to try. It’s comfortable too, with a nice wide seat and a clear LCD screen.

In addition, there are pulse sensors built into the handlebars which are quick to take a reading mid-workout. Pricier upright bikes offer more preset workouts and levels of resistance, but the durable York Active 110 will satisfy the vast majority of home users.

Key specs – Size: 111 x 53 x 123cm (LWH); Resistance: Magnetic (8 levels);Max user weight: 120kg

4. JLL IC300 Indoor Cycling Bike: The best indoor cycle under £200

Price when reviewed: £190 | Buy now from Amazon

 

If you’re choosing a spinning bike over an upright bike, it’s important to look out for the size of the flywheel – the heavier it is the better, in terms of a natural-feeling, smooth ride. The JLL IC300 has an 18kg flywheel, which is excellent at the sub-£200 price point, with the resistance controlled by a knob so you can crank it up quickly.

The JLL IC300 isn’t the quietest bike, and the direct-contact braking system will require some maintenance. It’s also not especially comfortable, but then spinning bikes rarely are compared to upright cycles. If you’re looking to try your hand at spinning studio-style HIIT workouts at home, it’s the best option available for under £200.

Key specs – Size: 127 x 51 x 110cm (LWH); Resistance: Friction; Max user weight: 130kg

5. V-fit G-RC: The best recumbent exercise bike under £250

Price when reviewed: £249 | Buy now from Amazon

 

A recumbent exercise bike is by far the most comfortable design. The laid-back position puts less stress on your lower back, knees and ankles, making it the best option for anyone who experiences pain after riding in a regular position. It’s also a lot easier to ride a recumbent bike hands-free, so you could read a book, check your email or even use weights while turning the pedals.

This recumbent exercise bike from V-fit is quiet and stable even when pedalling fast. It offers eight resistance settings and a clear screen that can be read easily from the relaxed riding position. That makes it perfect for long, comfortable sessions that won’t aggravate any niggling injuries you might have.

Key specs – Size: 135 x 64 x 100cm (LWH); Resistance: Magnetic (8 levels); Max user weight: 115kg

6. Domyos 500 Self-Powered Exercise Bike: Best cordless exercise bike

Price when reviewed: £250 | Buy now from Decathlon

 

If you have an otherwise perfect spot in your house for an exercise bike but have been holding off buying one because it’s not right next to a plug socket, then this self-powered machine offers a neat solution. Certainly neater than having an extension cable running across your room, at any rate.

The Domyos 500 is powered by your pedalling, so can be placed anywhere that’s convenient for you – even outside if you want to cycle in the sunshine. It has a 6kg flywheel, 15 levels of resistance, and a heart rate monitor built into the handlebars.

To keep tabs of the improvement in your fitness you can link it up to the partner E-Connected app, where you can set a time, distance or calories burned goal for each week and track your workouts as you progress towards that goal.

Key specs – Size: 94 x 58 x 121cm (LWH); Max user weight: 130kg

Buy now from Decathlon


7. NordicTrack VR21 Recumbent Bike: The best recumbent exercise bike

Price when reviewed: £599 | Buy now from John Lewis

 

There aren’t a lot of recumbent bikes to pick between at the upper end of the market, but the NordicTrack VR21 should satisfy anyone set on sitting back for their indoor cycle workouts. It has 25 levels of magnetic resistance and 32 preset workouts to try. And for those worried about keeping their cool during those workouts there’s the clever AutoBreeze fan, which blows stronger the harder you work.

If you’re prepared to also stump up for an iFit subscription and a tablet, the VR21 will link to the iFit app and let you ride anywhere in the world using Google Maps. With that said, as the NordicTrack VR21 has a tablet holder, and you’re in a relaxed sitting position while cycling, it’s the perfect place to catch up on all those Netflix shows you haven’t got round to watching.

Key specs – Size: 132cm x 56cm x 150cm (LWH); Resistance: Magnetic (25 levels); Max user weight: 125kg

Buy now from John Lewis


8. NordicTrack GX 7.0 Indoor Studio Bike: The best exercise bike under £500

Price when reviewed: £499 | Buy now from Amazon

 

The GX 7.0 is a commercial standard bike for under £500, making it a great value option for those hooked on spinning classes who want to take the experience home with them.

Key to its success is the hefty 20kg flywheel, which allows you to really crank up the resistance, which is done easily and quickly using the knob on the frame of the bike. While the bike isn’t able to link to other devices directly, the simple style of resistance makes it easy to follow along with spinning session apps and videos, which are easy to find if you’d like to have some guidance for your workouts.

The dual pedals allow you to slip regular shoes into the cage or use SPD cleats and clip in if you prefer. The display isn’t the largest, but it shows all your key stats clearly, and the padded seat and handlebars make the GX 7.0 comfortable to use for long sessions.

Key specs – Size: 135 x 53 x 124cm (LWH); Resistance: Friction; Max user weight: 115kg

9. Wattbike Atom: The best smart exercise bike

Price when reviewed: £1,599 | Buy now from Wattbike

 

Indoor cycling once had a – frankly deserved – a reputation for being tortuously boring, but with virtual training apps like Zwift and TrainerRoad now available to all, the days of staring blankly at the wall while pedalling are long behind us. There are plenty of smart turbo trainers that can connect to apps like Zwift, but the Wattbike Atom is the standout option for those who want a smart exercise bike.

It links seamlessly with Zwift and TrainerRoad so the resistance is controlled by the app, meaning you’ll feel your ride getting tougher as you head up a climb in the virtual world your avatar is riding in. Through the Wattbike app, you can also tackle famous climbs such as Mont Ventoux or Alpe d’Huez, and the realistic ride feel of the Atom means that if you then head out to tackle those fearsome gradients in the real world, you’ll be well-prepared. Other features in the Wattbike app include the ability to see how well your pedalling is balanced between your left and right legs, and you’ll also be given a Pedal Effectiveness Score to indicate how efficient you are.

Key specs – Size: 100 x 50 x 150cm (LWH); Resistance: Magnetic; Max user weight: 135kg

Buy now from Wattbike


10. Wattbike: The very best exercise bike there is – if you’re willing to pay for it

Price when reviewed: £2,250 | Buy now from Wattbike

 

The Wattbike looks hugely expensive next to the other bikes on this list – but it represents a correspondingly huge jump in quality. This elite-standard trainer measures over 37 different cycling metrics, from basic power, heart rate and cadence info to sophisticated insight into your pedalling efficiency and left-right leg balance. This in-depth data can be monitored live during your ride on the Wattbike console, so you can easily train to improve your pedalling technique.

There are two models of Wattbike to pick between – the Pro and the Trainer, with the former offering higher levels of resistance, making it better suited to more powerful cyclists. Clearly, it’s aimed at serious cyclists, but if you’re looking for a realistic ride experience that will improve your physical fitness and pedalling technique, it can’t be bettered.

Key specs – Size: 125 x 66 x 130cm (LWH); Resistance: Air and Magnetic (0-2000W Trainer, 0-3760W Pro); Max user weight: 150kg

Buy now from Wattbike


11. Peloton: The best exercise bike for spinning classes

Price when reviewed: £1,990 | Buy now from Peloton

 

The killer feature of this exercise bike is the massive library of spinning classes it offers, with 14 streamed live every day and a back catalogue of thousands more available at any time. All of these classes are beamed to the huge 22in HD touchscreen on the front of the bike, so you can take part as if you’re in the studio yourself.

During the live classes, a real-time leaderboard shows how your effort compares to riders all over the world, providing ample motivation to up your intensity, especially as the people you competing with might even be famous – David Beckham, Leo DiCaprio, and Hugh Jackman are all apparently fans of the Peloton bike.

You have to pay a subscription for the classes after purchasing the bike, and that costs £39.50 a month for unlimited access to the class catalogue. Compared to the cost of regular spinning sessions in boutique gyms, however, that’s a snip, and you have the added convenience of doing the classes whenever you like.

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