Best Magnetic Spin Bike & Indoor Cycle | A Guide from a Spin Instructor

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By Katie Pierson, Certified Spinning® Instructor & Personal Trainer.

The technology for indoor cycling bike design continues to expand. One of the best introductions into this market is the development of a magnetic resistance system. We have compiled a detailed list of the best magnetic spin bikes and outdoor cycles to help you make an informed decision on which model would be best for you. 

Benefits of Magnetic Resistance vs. Friction Resistance Cycles

Indoor cycles include either a magnetic resistance or friction resistance system. A magnetic resistance system uses magnets to change the resistance. The magnets, which straddle the bike’s metal flywheel, either move closer or farther away from the flywheel to alter rider exertion and resistance level. A friction resistance cycle includes fabric pads or leather straps that apply pressure to the spinning flywheel to adjust resistance. Below is a quick comparison of the benefits magnetic resistance models offer in contrast with friction models.

magnetic vs friction indoor bike

Our Top Magnetic Indoor Cycles 

Below we have created a list of our top magnetic resistance spin bikes & indoor cycles. Each cycle passed a rigorous comparison that examined its features, quality of construction, and consumer ratings.

Best Overall: Bowflex C6 & Schwinn IC4

Bowflex C6 Bike Bowflex C6 Bike
4.9

An excellent alternative option to Peloton or other streaming bikes. A quiet magnetic resistance bike, proficient enough to link with the many available streaming devices such as Peloton® and Zwift®.

Schwinn IC4 Bike Schwinn IC4 Bike
4.9

The Schwinn IC4 comes equipped with Bluetooth connectivity, allowing you to link to several apps such as Peloton® and Zwift®. The Schwinn really does offer excellent quality at a very affordable price.

Nautilus is the manufacturer of the Bowflex C6 and Schwinn IC4. They include the same specifications, such as a 40pound flywheel and a backlit LCD metric console. Both options offer 100 levels of magnetic resistance. Riders also have access to Bowflex’s JRNY App.

These models are not only affordably priced but are exceptionally built and crafted with commercial-grade materials. Their 40-pound flywheel and belt drive system offers a smooth and practically silent ride. Consumers rave about both the Bowflex C6 and Schwinn IC4, and one consumer stated, “I love my Bowflex C6 bike. As a cycling instructor, I am picky about the quality of my bikes. This bike delivers!” Both models ranked almost a perfect score with consumers. In addition to the purchase of these bikes, 3-pound weights and a Bluetooth© heart rate monitor are included. 

Both models integrate with the JRNY App offered through Bowflex using a tablet or phone. Users can enjoy tailored and adaptive workouts, on-demand classes, and virtual coaching. One of the unique features of the JRNY App is watching your favorite streaming services during your individualized workouts. The app is available for $19.99 per month. These bikes are also designed to work seamlessly with various streaming services such as Peloton, Zwift, FulGaz, and Sufferfest. A tablet rest is also included on the handlebars to make viewing the streaming services even more effortless. The backlit LCD metric console helps riders track their stats in real-time, including cadence, distance, calories, heart rate, and resistance level. The quality, features, and price of these cycles are the reason why we have selected the Bowflex C6 and Schwinn IC4 as our Best Overall magnetic resistance bike winners.

You can also read our detailed C6 review and IC4 review guides.

Runner-Up: Keiser M3i

Keiser M3i Indoor Cycle Keiser M3i Indoor Cycle
5.0

The App takes the cycle to another level, and with compatibility and connectivity, the bike offers all of the latest conveniences the digital age has to offer. 

The V-shaped frame accommodates riders up to 7′ tall and includes an 8-pound rear flywheel. It contains 24 levels of resistance and a Poly V-belt drive. 

The Keiser M3i offers an impressive bike design that includes a lightweight rear flywheel that spins eleven times faster than that of the pedal stroke. Therefore, the lightweight flywheel delivers a smooth ride typically reserved for flywheels weighing closer to thirty pounds. Riders described their riding experience as “smooth as silk” and “the best bike I have ever been on.” With reviews like these, it is no wonder this bike received a 4.8 out of 5 consumer rating. The belt drive system allows this bike to be whisper quiet while being ridden. One reviewer said, “Awesome quality. The bike is virtually silent – so my family hears nothing except heavy breathing.” 

This bike includes a Bluetooth® wireless signal for open API for tablets and smartphones. The Keiser M3i is compatible with various cycling apps, including Sufferfest, Fulgaz, Zwift, and mPaceline. Keiser also offers the M Series App for free to its M3i Bike, M5i Strider Elliptical, or M3i Total Body Trainer. This app allows Keiser M3i users to track their progress during a cycling workout on any Keiser M3i Bike, not just the one they have at home, and see the information in real-time. The data provided by the M Series App includes heart rate and power, cadence, and FTP zones. The Keiser M3i is a quality cycle but might not fit all budgets. 

Best Budget – Under $500: Joroto X2

JOROTO X2 Magnetic Bike JOROTO X2 Magnetic Bike
4.7

The Joroto X2 is a belt-driven cycling bike that is affordable and well made. Users talk about its great construction quality and the silent operation.

This AV-type frame includes a 35-pound flywheel and a six-magnet magnetic resistance system. 

The Joroto X2 is a belt-driven cycling bike that is affordable and well made. Despite the affordable price tag, this bike also includes tremendous value. With reviews such as “this bike is absolutely fantastic” and “great bike at an amazing price with awesome customer service” it is no surprise it received a 4.5 out of 5 consumer rating.

One feature that is unique compared to other commercial-grade spin bikes is the wider soft seat. Most bikes of this type include a narrower competition saddle and are often found to be less comfortable. The four-way adjustable handlebars and seat placement allows riders of various heights and torso lengths to find a comfortable riding position. The digital monitor will enable cyclists to track their progress in real-time by displaying cadence, time, distance, and calories burned. This option does not include Bluetooth© connectivity.

Honorable Mention: Sunny Health & Fitness SF-B1805

Sunny Health Magnetic Bike SF-B1805 Sunny Health Magnetic Bike SF-B1805
4.7

Priced usually under $600, this model offers users an experience often reserved for higher-priced options. This quiet belt-driven model includes a heavier front flywheel weighing in at 44 pounds.

The SF-B1805 offers a 4-way adjustable saddle and handlebars. It includes a 44-pound flywheel and is belt-driven.

The micro-adjustable resistance provides a quiet and smooth ride upon the Sunny Health & Fitness Bike 1805 earning an honorable mention for our list. This quiet belt-driven model includes a heavier front flywheel weighing in at 44 pounds. This weight will provide a smooth ride and is still lower than the suggested max, a 50-pound flywheel. It also includes toe-cage pedals for those riders that do not have or want clip cycling shoes.

Priced at only $599.99, this model offers users an experience often reserved for higher-priced options. Adjustable floor stabilizers help to keep this cycle in place and decrease swaying on vigorous climbs out of the saddle. Reviewers commented on the sturdiness of this model with comments such as, “I never feel any sort of wobbling, even when standing” and “sturdy and quiet.” It earned a 4.6 out of 5 consumer rating. This includes a tablet mount but does not have Bluetooth© connectivity. Many users were able to purchase a streaming service of their choice due to the savings of buying such an affordable bike model. 

Honorable Mention: Sunny Health & Fitness Synergy

Sunny Health Synergy Magnetic Bike Sunny Health Synergy Magnetic Bike
4.6

This belt-driven bike includes a 30-pound flywheel and performance monitor. It offers pulse-sensing handlebars.

This belt-driven bike includes a 30-pound flywheel and performance monitor. It offers pulse sensing handlebars.

The Sunny Health & Fitness Synergy model earned honorable mention due to its high quality at a lower price point. The 30-pound flywheel helps to maintain momentum and allows for resistance to be effortlessly added. One review stated, “The ride is smooth, sturdy, and it’s easy to increase resistance while riding.” This model received a 4.5 out of 5 consumer rating. 

The height range for this bike is a little narrower than other options. Some users between the heights of 5″ and 5’4″ mentioned that they wished the handlebars could be brought a little closer to the saddle. A feature that is not common with traditional indoor cycling bikes are the pulse sensing handlebars. This handlebar feature is most often seen on recumbent models. Your pulse rate is then projected to the monitor and other statistics, including cadence, distance, duration, and calories burned. For those purchasers with a more conservative budget, The Sunny Health & Fitness Synergy bike is an excellent option.


How Magnetic Resistance Works

For magnetic resistance to occur, a few things need to happen, and as you can guess, this process includes magnets. A standard design contains two powerful magnets located parallel to one another with the flywheel between them.

The metal flywheel, which works as a conductor in this instance, spins through the two magnets’ magnetic fields and the force surrounding them. This magnetic field causes a drag on the metal flywheel, which creates an eddy current. An eddy current gets its name from the swirling motion of an eddy in a stream. The energy current flows in a closed-loop circuit that runs perpendicular to the magnetic field. When the resistance knob turns to either increase or decrease resistance, the magnets move closer or farther away from the flywheel. The closer the magnets get to the flywheel, the greater the magnetic field, therefore higher resistance is felt on the bike.

Magnetic Resistance Exercise Bike Common Problems & Issues

  • Belt: Although this type of model requires less maintenance, belt problems do arise. One of the most common complaints is that the belt on a magnetic resistance bike may begin to stretch as it starts to wear out. A stretched belt will initiate slipping and often requires replacement by a technician as it is more challenging to replace than a standard chain drive.
  • Magnets: If a rider cannot achieve the desired resistance when turning the resistance knob, this indicates a potential issue with the magnets. The magnets on a magnetic resistance bike move with the help of a cable. Over time, the cable can loosen and requires tightening for proper magnet placement with the flywheel.

Magnetic vs. Air Resistance for Indoor Cycles

As discussed above, unlike magnetic resistance bikes, air resistance cycles include using a fan to create resistance. As the rider increases the speed, the resistance level also increases. The fan blades encounter more air pressure at higher speeds as they attempt to turn faster.

Magnetic
Air Resistance
Quietest

Requires Less Maintenance

Lower Initial Cost

Offers Pre-Set Resistance Levels

Types of Pedals for a Spin Bike or Indoor Cycle

Various pedals are compatible with indoor cycling bikes, including toe cages, LOOK Delta, and SPD pedals.

  • Toe cages allow riders to quickly secure their regular sneaker onto the pedal using a single strap and bracket. This option is usually standard with a combination pedal that includes either the LOOK Delta or SPD option on the other side. This pedal option doesn’t require an additional shoe purchase but allows for more side-to-side motion of the knee, increasing the possibility of injury. They also lack the ability for the rider to pull up as productively in the back portion of the pedal stroke, therefore not engaging the hamstrings to their full potential.
  • The LOOK Delta pedal is less common than an SPD and includes a broader surface area. The wider surface area allows for a more stable pedal stroke, especially when climbing out of the saddle. In addition, this type of pedal requires a compatible LOOK Delta cleat. This pedal type is most commonly associated with outdoor bikes. 
  • SPD pedals are found in most fitness studies and are an industry standard for commercial-grade spin bikes for home use. SPD stands for Shimano Pedaling Dynamics. Shimano, Inc is one of the world’s largest cycling manufactures. These pedals are narrower than the LOOK Delta but provide the same opportunity for riders to establish a 360-degree pedal stroke compared to the feeling of mashing up and down as associated with toe-cages.

Clipless pedals such as the LOOK Delta and SPD will provide better form and a more productive workout allowing for a full pedal stroke and actively engaging the hamstrings in the upstroke while pedaling. 

Related: Indoor vs Outdoor Shoes for Indoor Cycling

Indoor Cycling Benefits

According to a study by the University of Glasgow, the benefits of indoor cycling for women and men are extensive, including cutting the risk of certain cancers and heart disease by half. Not only does cycling combine the best of strength and cardiovascular training, but it is also non-impact, making it easier on joints. It is ideal for those people that have knee and back issues. For example, I have a meniscus tear in my knee and had to give up running, but I can still teach the toughest of interval classes and not have any pain or issues after class. Indoor cycling is absolutely a full-body workout. With the correct riding form, your hamstrings, glutes, and quadriceps have no other choice than to engage and maximize your results. Your core and upper body are also engaged when riding in or out of the saddle.

While listening to your favorite songs, enjoying an instructor-led class, or experiencing a virtual scenic ride, your pedals continue to spin, increasing your athletic performance. Indoor cycling is an incredible tool for building muscular strength and endurance. What is muscular endurance? Muscular endurance is the duration that your muscles can sustain an exercise or activity before needing to recover. This type of training also provides the release of endorphins within the body. Endorphins can diminish pain and also give a euphoric sensation. This endorphin release is most well-known as Runner’s High but can be achieved on the bike in as little as thirty minutes. 

What to Look for When Buying a Magnetic Indoor Cycle

magnetic spin & indoor cycle featured

It can be challenging to know what you should be looking for when purchasing any exercise equipment. Indoor cycling bikes offer an array of differences beyond the type of resistance system. We have created a resource below to help identify what to keep in mind when purchasing an indoor magnetic resistance cycle.

Drive System

A drive system includes the section of the cycle that connects the flywheel and the pedals. The drive systems associated with indoor cycling bikes are either a belt or a chain drive system. A chain drive system is standard in older cycling bikes. These systems mimic the feeling of riding an actual outdoor bike but require a little more maintenance than the other option. Seasoned outdoor riders often prefer this type of system to that of a belt drive. A belt drive continues to increase its presence in the indoor cycling market. Belt drive systems offer a ride that is not only smooth but is also extremely quiet. 

Flywheel: Front or Rear?

A flywheel is a metal wheel located at the front or the rear of the cycle. This component rotates as the pedals continue to turn. A heavier flywheel is associated with a smoother ride. Aim for a front flywheel that weighs more than 25 pounds and no more than 50 pounds. A heavier flywheel does take additional initial effort to put it into motion. Still, momentum is readily retained, and resistance is seamlessly added with this type of flywheel. Heavier flywheels are located at the front of the cycle.

Having a front flywheel does increase the possibility of higher maintenance costs since this placement increases the chance for sweat erosion. Lighter quality flywheels that offer a smooth ride are beginning to emerge into the market. If the flywheel rotates faster than that of the pedal stroke, a smooth ride can be achieved. Lighter flywheels can be found at either the front or the back of the cycle. Cycles with the flywheel located at the rear of the bike are found to experience less sweat erosion.

Indoor Cycling Apps & Connections

Many added features are enhancing the riding experience at home. Those bikes that include Bluetooth connectivity make it simple for the cycle to connect to your smartphone or tablet. A variety of applications are creating the class riding experience fun at home. Applications such as Zwift ($15/month), Peloton ($13/month), Variis ($40/month), and Sufferfest ($15/month) are providing a unique riding experience that includes motivating instructors and challenging rides. It is important to note that if you take an online class telling you what resistance you should be riding at, you need to understand that the resistance level is not the same across bikes.

For example, even though the Bowflex C6 and Schwinn IC4 have 100 resistance levels just like a Peloton bike, a level 5 on the Bowflex and Schwinn is a 25 on a Peloton. Just make sure to check online resistance conversion charts if using an app specifically designed for a particular bike. Your bike’s ability to have Bluetooth© connectivity or an app system included with the purchase is a great benefit. Still, you should not disregard bikes that do not offer these features because, after all, the type of ride that you receive is the most important. 

FAQ

Are magnetic spin bikes better?

Magnetic spin bikes are not necessarily better. It comes down to which features matter most to the owner. For example, they are slightly quieter than friction resistance bikes and require marginally less bike maintenance. However, when care is needed, it often requires outside assistance. In addition, magnetic spin bikes do not mimic outdoor cycles as there is a lag between when the resistance knob is turned, and the new resistance level is felt.

Is the Peloton bike magnetic?

Yes, the Peloton is magnetic and offers 100 levels of resistance.

Are magnetic spin bikes quieter?

Yes, they are usually quieter than other resistance systems because they include a belt-drive system. Also, the magnetic resistance components do not come into contact with one another as with friction resistance systems and therefore do not produce a rubbing noise.

Bottom Line

A commercial-grade magnetic resistance bike is a wonderful addition to your home gym. They are exceptionally crafted and provide a nearly silent ride making it possible to enjoy a workout whenever the urge hits you. 

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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.