Exercise Bike vs. Treadmill: A Detailed Comparison for Every Need

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By Robbie Ferri CPT

CPT & Indoor Cycling Instructor

When it comes to cardiovascular exercise, there are a lot of choices on the market to get your fitness fix. You can cycle, run, row, skip, and much more. Modern technology lets you do most of these at home or in a gym. 

As fitness experts, our readers often ask us some excellent questions about cardiovascular exercise machines and which ones are the best. One of the most popular questions is which is better, an exercise bike or a treadmill? In this article, we will discuss the following:

  • The Main Differences
  • Pros And Cons
  • In-Depth Comparison
  • Alternatives 

The Main Differences

Before getting into the in-depth comparisons, here are the main differences you will find between the two.

  • Running or Cycling?: Obviously, the first and most important difference between these two is the fact that on a treadmill you are running, and on the exercise bike, you will be cycling. These, although both forms of cardiovascular exercises are incredibly different. 
  • Impact: Running as a sport has a much higher impact compared to cycling. You will find it requires more recovery, and it’s tougher to do for longer periods of time. Running, if you try and push it too hard, you can find yourself getting injured easily. 
  • Intensity: When it comes to burning a lot of calories quickly, and the feeling the exercise gives you, running is much more intense. That intensity for some is exactly what they want, and others prefer less intense exercise like cycling, which can still burn calories and feel less aggressive.

Pros and Cons

A great way to explain these two machines is to break them down and tell you the good and the bad. Here’s what you need to know:

Exercise Bikes

c6 vs myx ii bodi saddle and back view


  • Low Impact: The first Pro, which is absolutely incredible, is that exercise bikes have very little impact on the body. This means you can exercise for longer periods of time, and you also need much less recovery.
  • Easy To Adjust The Intensity: When it comes to exercise bikes and cycling, it’s so easy to adjust the intensity. You can lower the resistance level, and your heart rate will drop easily. You can do the same using the cadence of the bike too. 
  • It can Be Done For A Long Time: Exercise bikes are very comfortable, and you can cycle for a long time without feeling too bullied by the exercise. This is a huge plus if you want to burn many calories in one session. Some riders sit on a bike for hours at a time, burning 500 calories or more an hour. 
  • Quiet: Exercise bikes are very quiet compared to other machines, such as treadmills. They are perfect if you live in a flat or an apartment and are ideal for not upsetting the neighbors. 
  • Cost: Then you have cost. Exercise bikes hugely range in price. They can be as cheap as $200 or as expensive as $2500 for an all singing all dancing machine. The cheaper models can give a great experience that isn’t always the same regarding treadmills.
  • Dynamic Workouts: Unlike many other forms of cardiovascular exercise, an indoor cycling workout on an exercise bike can be really dynamic. You have different positions, resistances, and cadences, and if you want to, you can even throw some arm exercises in there as some of the Peloton classes do.


  • No Upper Body Work: Exercise bikes don’t offer much work regarding upper body movement. Although you are putting a lot of work through the legs, if you are trying to build an upper body, you might need to get creative with some weights on the side, as companies like Peloton suggest.
  • It Can Get Boring: When it comes to cardiovascular exercises, it really comes down to what you enjoy, and for many, cycling isn’t the most entertaining way to get the heart rate up. In cycling’s defense, some people say the same about running and the elliptical. 




  • Load Bearing Form Of Exercise: Although running on a treadmill may be of a high impact compared to an exercise bike or elliptical, it doesn’t come without benefits. It is tougher on the joints but adapts the body to carry its weight much better, making daily tasks like long walks easier. 
  • Natural Form Of Exercise: Running and power walking on a treadmill are the most natural form of exercise you will find. It’s very easy to do, and the body is much more used to it than if you were to jump on a bike and start cycling. 
  • High Intensity: A treadmill does offer a much higher intensity compared to an exercise bike. This is a good thing if you are trying to burn a lot of calories quickly. Running is one of the best exercises when it comes to burning calories fast, and you can see 600+ calories an hour for some. 
  • Incline And Decline: A good treadmill has the ability to incline and decline, which can make a workout very fun. Using this, you can simulate hills and flats without having to leave the house. There are very few other cardiovascular machines that can do this. 
  • Transfers Easily To Outside: Another great advantage when it comes to a treadmill is that the skills you learn transfer to running outside so quickly. This isn’t the same with exercise bikes and other cardiovascular machines.


  • High Impact: Although it benefits from being a load-bearing exercise, running does mean it is much more impactful. It can sometimes put too much pressure on the joints, and this can cause you pain and injuries if you push it too hard too quickly. 
  • Uncomfortable: Running can feel quite uncomfortable, especially when you are new to it. The intensity is so high, and the impact on the joints can feel tough on longer runs. You find it’s an exercise you can struggle to do for long durations. 

Comparison Of Bikes And Treadmills

So we now know the pros and cons of a treadmill and an exercise bike. In real life, how do they actually compare? In this next section, we will put them up against each other over many different aspects such as bad knees, cost, and how good a cardiovascular exercise they are. We will do this by answering questions we are commonly asked to us by our readers.

Which Is The Best For A Cardiovascular Exercise?

Both a treadmill and an exercise bike offer an amazing cardiovascular workout. You will generally find that running is much higher intensity, and you can achieve much in a much shorter session than an exercise bike. It is a much more natural movement than cycling, and the motions you go through when running are great for daily life movements.

Cycling on an exercise bike is generally a much less intense form of exercise than running. You can sit on a bike for much longer than being on a treadmill and adjust the intensity much easier. Overall they are both excellent ways to get a cardiovascular workout in. 

Which Is Best For Weight Loss?

When it comes to losing weight, the key is to get yourself in a calorie deficit. This is when you are burning more calories than you are consuming. Both a treadmill and an exercise bike are excellent ways to burn extra calories to put you in that deficit. 

If you are short on time, the treadmill is the best option as you can burn calories very quickly this way, but it will require more recovery. If you have more time, you might consider the exercise bike instead, as your sessions will last longer but can burn more calories in the long run with less recovery.

Which Is Best For Burning Belly Fat?

We get asked a lot about the best way to burn belly fat, and unfortunately, when losing weight, you can’t pick where the fat comes off. The body will choose this, and generally, it will be overall. 

If you want to ensure you start burning belly fat, you’ll want to get in a calorie deficit and just let it come off as and when. If you want to tone the stomach, consider some core exercises to give you more definition.

Which Is Best For Toning Glutes And Legs?

When it comes to toning your glutes and legs, then both the treadmill and the exercise bikes will give you the calorie burn to be in a deficit and also work the legs to build up the muscles.

The treadmill focuses heavily on the legs overall and will significantly impact the rear of the legs, especially the calves, and hamstrings, while the exercise bike will focus a lot on the front of the legs at the quads and glutes on the rear. 

Which Is Best For Bad Knees?

It’s not rare when exercising a lot to get bad knees, and you will want to be careful of trying to train through this. Generally, people find that you can get bad knees for a few reasons. It could come from impact, overuse, or improper use.

The exercise bike is much better for bad knees providing the saddle height is set up properly for the user. Running is too high impact, and it causes the muscles in the legs to tighten up and does add a lot of pressure to the knees themselves. 

Related: Knee Pain After Indoor Cycling or Spinning Class: Is It Normal & What to Do

Which Is Best For Working The Core?

Having a strong core is very important when it comes to staying fit, and any good personal trainer will tell you the importance of a strong core. It’s important to ensure no matter what sport you do. You take time to work on the core. There are a huge amount of benefits to it, such as better posture and balance.

Realistically the best one for your core is going to be running. The core has to be much more engaged, and you will find it gets a lot more work than sitting on an exercise bike. I recommend clients to do core work alongside cycling indoors or outdoors. 

Which Is Best For Beginners?

If you are new to cardiovascular activities and are looking for a machine at home, it can be challenging to know what to buy. As far as a machine for beginners, they both will work well and more than anything its personal preference.

We feel the exercise bike is much easier to get used to compared to running. It’s much less aggressive, and you can build up the sessions through resistance and duration much easier than the treadmill. 

What’s More Convenient?

When we speak about convenience, we mean the size and space it will take up at your home. In general, treadmills are big, and if you go for a high-end model such as a Peloton Tread, you will need a lot of space. Not only that, but you will also need to keep it in one single place, and it can’t be moved to be stored. 

An exercise bike out of the two is much more convenient. It takes much less space, and also, you have the option to move it around much easier as it has portable wheels on the front. An exercise bike is better if you are tight on space. 

What is Quieter?

If you enjoy working out at home like us, you always have to consider your neighbors. Living in a flat or apartment, both machines are likely to make some noise, and it’s vital that you minimize the noise for a better experience. 

Out of both these machines, the quietest is going to be the exercise bike. Treadmills, especially cheaper models, are incredibly noisy. The belt spinning around and the impact of your foot hitting it is not an ideal way to keep the noise down. An exercise bike is much more stable and has fewer moving parts. Your neighbors will thank you for investing in an exercise bike

What Is More Cost Effective?

When it comes to buying an exercise bike or a treadmill, they can hugely range in price. Although you can buy both budget options and high-end options, the cost will be a factor for most. 

If you are on a small budget, we recommend an exercise bike as budget treadmills generally don’t give an excellent experience when budget exercise bikes can. If you have a higher budget, then either a treadmill or exercise bike can give you an excellent experience. 


Although exercise bikes and treadmills are both excellent, you can buy many other types of equipment for your home that you might enjoy. Here are our top two recommendations:

Elliptical Trainer

An elliptical trainer is a machine you can use to exercise in the gym at home. It combines both, using your legs, arms, and core to pull and push back and forth. They are an incredible machine, and as far as low-impact full-body workouts go, there’s very little that can beat it. 

The drawback to an elliptical trainer is that they are very big and take up a lot of space. On top of that, they can be quite boring as you only really have one motion. We highly recommend them, especially for people who lack mobility.

Rowing Machine

The next piece of equipment you should consider is a rowing machine. They take up very little space, work a lot of the muscles in the body, and you can burn a serious amount of calories very quickly on one. On top of all that, they are incredible value for money and easy to use. 

Although this all sounds ideal, rowing machines are not the most comfortable thing to do, and the skills and power you gain on a rowing machine doesn’t transfer so well to day-to-day activities as well as a treadmill or an exercise bike might. 

A Final Note

Exercise Bike vs Treadmill

Exercise bikes and treadmills are both ways to get your fitness fix. When it comes to picking the best for you, it is a personal preference. They are both going to give you an excellent experience, and you will have a lot of fun. Although many people like to go to the gym, there’s really something special about having your own equipment at home. 

Robbie Ferri CPT

Robbie from “Riding with Robbie” is a Personal Trainer living in in Norfolk, UK. He has bikepacked all over the World, and also raced ultra distance at a top-level. He has worked closely with industry leaders such as Shimano.

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