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Indoor cycles, also known as Spin® bikes have become a staple piece of equipment in many home and commercial gyms. Over the last couple of decades, the market has diversified to supply a range of different indoor cycling bikes. In this article, we’re going to help you decide which indoor cycling bike is best for you.
What Is an Indoor Cycle or a Spin Bike?
Indoor cycles, or Spin® bikes, are designed to be a stationary version of a traditional road bike. Both the design and feel of the bike replicates the experience of being on a road bike. Instead of gears, indoor cycles contain a flywheel that mimics the resistance felt on a traditional road bike.
Indoor Cycle vs Upright & Recumbent: What Is the Difference?
Stationary bikes can be further divided into indoor cycles, upright, and recumbent bikes. While they all require a pedaling motion, their appearance and feel differ dramatically. Take a look at the table below to see the key differences between the three.
Seat is above the handlebars. Rider sits with a forward lean. Pedals are beneath the seat.
Seat is below the handlebars. Rider sits in an upright position. Pedals are beneath the seat.
Seat is below the handlebars. Rider sits with a backward lean. Pedals are in front of the seat.
Some models are compatible with apps, but others lack real-time data.
Typically display real-time data.
Typically display real-time data.
Firm and narrow.
Wide and comfortable.
Wide and comfortable.
Generally speaking, they are more expensive.
Generally speaking, they are cheaper.
Generally speaking, they are cheaper.
The 3 Most Important Things You Should Know Before Deciding
The differences within indoor cycles are typically characterized by their resistance, flywheel and drive system, and multimedia/connectivity. These differences are likely to be the deciding factor as to which indoor cycle you decide to invest in.
Indoor cycles contain a heavy flywheel used to generate resistance. Resistance is created by magnets, friction, or a combination of both. Magnetic resistance is adjusted by magnets moving closer or further from the flywheel. The closer the magnets get to the flywheel, the greater the resistance. Friction resistance is adjusted by strong cotton felt pads moving closer or further from the flywheel. Magnetic resistance is typically quieter, requires less maintenance, and doesn’t need to be replaced often. But, friction resistance is much more affordable.
Flywheel and Drive System
Indoor cycles contain a flywheel. Their flywheel can be perimeter-weighted or center-weighted. Perimeter-weighted flywheels are typically heavier but have less consistent flywheel weight distribution compared to center-weighted flywheels. Perimeter-weighted flywheels can provide more resistance, but put more stress on the knees.
Indoor cycles can contain a chain or belt drive. Chain drives are typically seen on classic outdoor cycles. They replicate real-life road biking but are subject to more wear and tear. This is due to the connected chain links. Since belt drives don’t have chain links, they’re less susceptible to damage. Belt drives are also typically quieter than chain drives.
Gone are the days when an indoor cycle had just a seat, handlebars, and some pedals. In today’s society technology is everything, even when we exercise. More advanced indoor cycles come with wireless multimedia technology that allows you to track your workouts and compete against others. These features can be a great asset to training and help with your motivation and adherence. However, these extra features also come with a hefty price tag.
Detailed Reviews of the Top 6 Picks (Budget, Mid, High-End)
Budget Models (Under $500)
Top Pick: Finer Form Indoor Exercise Bike
- Dimensions: 40.5” x 35” x 10”
- Weight: 35lbs
The Finer Form indoor cycling bike is a belt-driven bike with magnetic resistance. Made from high-grade reinforced steel with heavy-duty cranks, and a 35lb magnet drive system, this bike gives you a smooth, enjoyable ride from the comfort of your home. This Finer Form indoor cycling bike is an upgrade from previous models, now including a lower resistance setting to give you the feeling of free-riding during your recovery – similar to that of a road bike. Magnetic resistance ranges from 3-10.
The Finer Form indoor cycling bike comes with SPD compatible pedals to improve your pedaling efficiency and performance. Additionally, this bike includes a professional-grade seat to give you comfort and support during your ride. Despite the Finer Form indoor cycling bike being a budget bike, it does contain some technical data. Its LCD screen displays real-time data such as workout duration, speed, RPM, distance, heart rate, and calories. The Finer Form indoor cycling bike also includes a water bottle and tablet holder, and transportation wheels. The Finer Form indoor cycling bike is designed for riders looking for a simple exercise bike that doesn’t break the bank. Reviews agree this bike “had all the features I wanted at a price I could afford”.
Runner-Up: DMASUN Indoor Cycling Bike
- Dimensions: 41.4” x 21.7” x 46.2”
- Weight: 95lbs
The DMASUN indoor cycling bike has a distinct wide and thick bottom tube that makes it stand out from the market. The DMASUN indoor cycling bike is 95lbs, 20lbs heavier than similar bikes. The thicker base provides a safe and stable ride for riders up to 330lbs. This bike also contains a 42lb flywheel to give you the feel of a traditional outdoor sport in your own home. DMASUN has also adopted magnetic resistance to provide a smooth and hassle-free ride.
The DMASUN indoor cycling bike comes with a larger than usual seat cushion to provide maximal comfort. The cushion has been updated to 10.9” x 8.1” x 2.6” to suit a range of riders. Comfort is one of the things that makes this bike really stand out. Reviews state “the seat is very robust and very cushiony, allowing me to ride on it for one hour at a time comfortably”. The DMASUN indoor cycling bike also provides real-time data such as exercise time, speed, distance, calories, and pulse to help you track your workouts. Like the Finer Form, the DMASUN also includes a water bottle, tablet holder, and transportation wheels.
Mid Price Models (Under $1000)
Top Pick: Schwinn IC4 / Bowflex C6
- Dimensions: 47.8” x 21.2” x 51.8”
- Weight: 106lbs
The Schwinn IC4 indoor cycling bike allows you to ride through virtual locations from your home. Compete in virtual races or take a gentle stroll through exotic locations and stunning trails. Bluetooth connectivity allows you to connect to popular apps such as Peloton, Zwift, and Explore the World. If you need a bit of guidance or motivation, these apps can help you out at a fraction of the price.
The Schwinn IC4 indoor cycling bike includes magnetic resistance with 100 micro-adjustable resistance levels. Increased sensitivity can help you take greater control over your training intensity. You’ll also get a Bluetooth heart rate armband to monitor your intensity over the ride. This can be really useful if you train using heart rate data. Additionally, the bike’s LCD screen will display time, distance, calories, RPM, and heart rate. For a full-body workout, the Schwinn IC4 indoor cycling bike also includes 3lb dumbbells you can use to train your upper body while cycling. Lastly, the Schwinn IC4 indoor cycling bike comes with two bottle holders to ensure you stay hydrated throughout your ride for those longer rides.
*The Schwinn IC4 and Bowflex C6 are virtually the same bike from their shared parent company, Nautilus.
Runner-Up: Sunny Health & Fitness Synergy Pro
- Dimensions: 49” x 22” x 46.5”
- Weight: 88.2lbs
The Sunny Health & Fitness Synergy indoor cycling bike includes a 40lb inertia-ready flywheel belt drive mechanism to provide a smooth, quiet and consistent ride. This bike’s onboard magnetic brakes also allow you to bring the wheel to an immediate stop. Additionally, its magnetic resistance provides quick, easy, and reliable resistance changes. Reviews state “the ride is smooth, sturdy, and it’s easy to increase resistance while riding”.
The Sunny Health & Fitness Synergy indoor cycling bike has been ergonomically designed for both comfort and performance. Its four-way adjustable seat puts your body in its optimal position for riding. In addition to its impressive specs, the Sunny Health & Fitness Synergy indoor cycling bike also includes some pretty special extra features. Its performance monitor allows you to track your average and max speed and cadence. This data can be used to assess and analyze your general fitness progress or cycling performance. In-built pulse sensors also provide heart rate data. Device and dumbbell holders allow you to work your full body while watching your favorite videos. What we really like about this bike is its caged/SPD compatible pedals. With compatible shoes, you are able to prevent foot slippage and thus increase the intensity, speed, and pedaling efficiency.
High End Models (Under $2000)
Top Pick: Keiser M3i Indoor Cycle
- Dimensions: 45” x 26” x 49”
- Weight: 85lbs
If you’re looking for an indoor cycle that does it all then the Keiser M3i is for you. The Keiser M3i indoor cycle features the industry’s first V-shape frame. Its unique V-shape frame mimics the frame of a road bike and allows you to set the bike up to fit your body size and shape. This bike accommodates riders from 4’10” – 7’ tall. Customers praise this “great piece of engineering”. The Keiser M3i indoor cycle features an 8lb flywheel, a significantly lighter flywheel than similar products on the market. Its Poly-V belt drive and eddy current magnetic resistance system remove the need for a heavy flywheel to provide a smooth and consistent ride. Interestingly, the Keiser M3i indoor cycle places its flywheel at the bike’s back to protect it from sweat and corrosion.
Alongside its sleek design, the Keiser M3i indoor cycle also comes with a wide array of added features. Its Keiser M Series app allows you to log and analyze every detail of your ride. The digital display also gives you ride feedback in real-time, including power, heart rate, cadence, and FTP. The versatile media tray stores your phone, tablet, or computer to display a range of compatible training apps or videos. The Keiser M3i indoor cycle also comes with a floor mat, Polar heart rate monitor, tool kit, M Series converter, gel set cover, dumbbell holder, and caged/SPD pedals.
Runner-Up: Myx Fitness Bike
- Dimensions: 54” x 21” x 47”
- Weight: 175lbs
The MYX indoor cycle allows you to do much more than ride a bike. Move the 21.5” interactive swivel touch screen tablet to enjoy floor workouts, weight lifting, recovery practices, and more with its on-demand workouts. MYX delivers a truly individualized experience by customizing MYX heart rate zones and personalizing workout sessions to fit your goals. Taking the guesswork out of training can help you reach your goals safely and with ease. Workouts are led by motivating and engaging trainers to help you crush your sessions. Users say, “it’s like having a personal trainer in my house”.
The MYX indoor cycle features mechanical frictional braking and a 41lb flywheel to provide a smooth and consistent ride. In addition to the bike, you’ll also receive a heart rate monitor, stabilizing mat, seven-piece weight set with 6, 9, 12lb dumbbells, and a 20lb kettlebell, oversized exercise mat, EVA foam roller, and resistance band.
What You Should Consider Before Buying a Bike for Indoor Cycling
Now we’ve looked at our indoor cycle top picks, let’s help you determine which one is best for you. We all have our criteria when it comes to making an investment. Here are the main things you should consider before buying your indoor cycle.
Adjusting the resistance on your indoor cycle allows you to work at different intensity levels. Training at different intensities helps you train towards your individual fitness goal. Playing with the resistance can also aid progression as you get fitter. The Schwinn IC4 indoor cycling bike includes magnetic resistance with 100 micro-adjustable resistance levels. Most bikes do not need this many levels, but the more levels, the more you have to play around with.
Additionally, you’ll have to consider how the bike creates resistance. Resistance is created by magnets, friction, or a combination of both. Magnetic resistance is typically quieter, requires less maintenance, and doesn’t need to be replaced often. But, friction resistance is much more affordable.
Flywheel weight is a popular topic of conversation when it comes to indoor cycles. The greatest question is whether a heavier or lighter flywheel is better? The answer depends on what you’re looking for. Heavier flywheels make pedaling controlled and less jerky. They produce more power at a steady rate, thus placing less pressure on the joints. But, heavier flywheels do require more energy to get moving and typically cost more. Conversely, lighter flywheels need less effort to get moving and are typically more cost-friendly. However, its light weight makes the movement less smooth and thus can aggravate the joints. Most indoor cycles are designed to suit heavy flywheels. But, advancements in engineering have shown indoor cycles can provide a smooth, stress-free ride with a light flywheel. Indoor cycles such as the Keiser M3i Indoor Cycle have proven this with their impressively designed bike.
Most indoor cycles operate with a chain or belt drive. Chain drives mimic that of a real-life road bike. Many road cyclists prefer this feel as it crosses over into their primary sport. But, chain drives are more susceptible to wear and tear due to their connected chain links. Therefore, chain-drive bikes often require more maintenance. Belt drives don’t have chain links, therefore, are less likely to need regular maintenance. Belt drives are often quieter than chain drives, perfect if noise is a concern.
Q-factor is defined as the distance between the pedal attachment points of each crank. Essentially, it measures your stance width when standing up. A narrower Q-factor allows for greater speed because less force is needed to rotate the cranks. Additionally, Q-factor is used for people with knee injuries and rehabilitation. Q-factors that are too wide or too narrow may cause additional knee problems.
Inseam refers to your individual leg length. Finding the optimal inseam can make your ride safer and more comfortable. Just like your clothes measurement, inseam is the distance between the highest point of your inner thigh and the heel of your foot. You’ll need your bike to accommodate your inseam measurement to provide maximal safety and efficiency. Most bikes accommodate the majority of the population. But, if you’re particularly small or tall, you may want to double-check before investing. The Keiser M3i Indoor Cycle accommodates riders from 4’10” – 7’ tall.
Many indoor cycles are compatible with specific cycling or workouts apps. If you want to get data specific with your cycling or follow non-cycling-specific workouts, connectivity is a must. While they’re great features, they often come at a cost. If data isn’t your thing and you just want something to get you moving a bit more, basic, cheaper models are generally just as good.
Indoor cycles are designed to mimic traditional road bikes. They provide real-life cycling feel from the comfort of your own home. Whether it’s time or convenience, we don’t always want to take the bike outside. This is where indoor cycles ride in. While everyone has different needs, you can be sure there’s an indoor cycle for you.