Rear vs. Front Flywheel Indoor Cycles & Spin Bikes Comparison

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kathlene pierson spinning instructor and writer
By Katie Pierson

Spinning® Instructor & Personal Trainer

 Katie holds ten different fitness certifications, including Group Fitness, Spinning Elite, Rockstar Spinning, and Personal Training.

Spin bikes are known for their sleek design and spinning flywheels. The flywheel is one of the most critical components of these cycles and one of the most debated topics on whether a front or rear flywheel is best. With so many opinions on which placement is better can be confusing. Read on as we break down everything you need to know.

Front Flywheel PlacementRear Flywheel Placement
Friction or Magnetic Resistance OptionsMagnetic Resistance
Various Price PointsMore Expensive
Higher Chance of Sweat CorrosionLower Chance of Sweat Corrosion
Front vs Rear Flywheel Comparison Table
rear vs front flywheel indoor cycles and spun bike

Front Flywheel

When spin bikes first hit the market, they were initially designed with a front flywheel. Still today, this design is more readily available through a multitude of different manufacturers. Front flywheels weigh approximately 40 pounds. A weighted front flywheel offers an incredibly smooth ride as it helps to drive inertia and mimics an outdoor riding experience.

Pros

  • Affordability: Spin bikes with front flywheels offer potential riders a wider range of price points to purchase one of these great bikes. Our team at GirlBikeLove has found great bikes in this category, starting as low as $300 up to cycles closer to the $2,000 range.
  • Resistance Options: Another great pro about this flywheel placement is the versatility with manufacturers that include either friction or magnetic resistance options. Friction resistance includes cloth pads that apply pressure to the turning flywheel. In contrast, magnetic resistance uses magnets that move closer but do not touch the flywheel to increase resistance.

Cons

  • Potential Maintenance Issues: With front flywheels, there is a possibility for sweat corrosion due to the rider’s placement. Many models, however, offer great sweat guards to combat this potential issue.

Instructor Tip: Always make sure to wipe down the flywheel thoroughly and anywhere else sweat could drip on your bike after every ride to help decrease potential sweat corrosion.

Katie Pierson, Indoor Cycling Instructor

Rear Flywheel

A rear flywheel is a lightweight flywheel located behind the saddle of the cycle. This placement is a newer technology that offers an almost silent riding experience since they are designed with magnetic resistance. Many high-end models being produced today are designed with a rear flywheel. 

Pros

  • Decreased Maintenance: Since a rear flywheel is located out of the “sweat zone,” this drastically decreases the potential for sweat corrosion, leading to rust on the flywheel.
  • Top Name Brands: With rear flywheels being the newer technology in the spin bike market, top manufacturers are eager to have this type of model in their product catalog. These name brands are also pairing this design with their latest features, making them a force to be reckoned with in the spin bike market.

Cons

  • Price: These models are often more expensive than many front flywheel options.
  • Resistance Type Limitations: Magnetic resistance is the only type available due to the rear flywheel design.
indoor cycle woman

Front vs. Rear Flywheel Head-to-Head Comparison

Let’s break down how these two flywheel designs compare.

Riding Experience

One of the most significant differences between these two flywheel designs is the riding experience. Rear flywheels include magnetic resistance, which offers a different feeling than friction that can be available with front flywheel models. There is a delay between when resistance is added or taken off and when it actually is felt through the pedal stroke with magnetic resistance. 

In contrast, front flywheels that include friction resistance mimic the feeling of riding an outdoor bike as the resistance changes are more natural. Weighted front flywheels, using either resistance type, also require more exertion to start the pedal stroke, making them seem more similar to riding outdoors

Related: Magnetic vs Friction Resistance Indoor Cycles

Personally, if the cycles both have magnetic resistance, I find that the riding experience is very similar if the flywheel is located in either position. For example, I ride a Life Fitness C7 when teaching that includes a rear flywheel, and I own the Bowflex C6, which has a front flywheel. The riding experience for both models is almost identical once the pedals are turning. 

Price

Newer technology often comes with a heftier price tag, and rear flywheel cycles are no exception. For example, a budget rear flywheel bike might be found for around $600 compared to a budget front flywheel model that comes in about $300. 

Maintenance

Maintenance issues also tend to be less with a rear flywheel placement. Cycles with flywheels in this placement include magnetic resistance and a belt drive-train. Both of these features require little maintenance. Most cycling studios and fitness clubs opt for this type of cycle because of the lower maintenance needs of this design. In my experience, I am lucky if my students will wipe down the handlebars, saddle, and resistance knobs before heading on their way after class. Management understands that it is improbable that their members will take the time to wipe down the entire flywheel after each ride.

Flywheels in the front position often require slightly more TLC. In addition, since the flywheel is located in the “sweat zone,” these bikes are prone to sweat corrosion and drive-train issues that can occur if the bike is not cleaned correctly after each use. However, if you are willing to take the time to care for your bike correctly, potential sweat corrosion shouldn’t be something that deters you from purchasing this type of model.

It is important to note that some front flywheel models offer friction resistance. However, friction resistance bikes require more maintenance than magnetic ones since the pads eventually wear out.

Sweat Protection

Rear flywheels are naturally more protected from potential corrosion with the flywheel placement. Many newer front flywheels include safety measures to protect the flywheel from this type of corrosion through guards. If you are looking at a front flywheel cycle, make sure that this is a feature that is included because it will save on potential maintenance issues in the future.

Conclusion

There are excellent cycles in both the front and rear flywheel categories. However, deciding which type of resistance option you prefer should help determine which placement is better for you. We always recommend testing the cycles you are considering to see which option feels best for you. Happy riding!

Katie Pierson

Katie is the creator of MT Girl Fitness and has been a certified fitness professional for almost twenty years. She currently holds ten different fitness certifications, including Group Fitness, Spinning Elite, Rockstar Spinning, and Personal Training. Fitness is her passion, and she loves seeing her clients reach goals they never imagined.

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