Stationary bikes have come a long way from the dusty, white, fan-spinning machine in your grandma’s basement. Today’s versions are more comfortable, more realistic-feeling, and provide lots of extras to engage the rider and enhance a workout. Whether you’re looking to move your spin class experience from the studio to your home or complete your cycling training indoors when the weather is crummy, most stationary bikes now offer online training and fitness apps, live-stream classes, virtual instructors, and overall immersive workout experiences to help you get the most out of your time on the bike.
Prices for stationary bikes vary, but there’s a wide range. The ones here go from $500 to $3,399. (If you’re on a budget, consider a cheap exercise bike.) Considering adding one of these stationary bikes to your cart? Keep reading for our picks and buying advice so you end up with the features you need, not paying for the ones you don’t.
The Expert: As a retired bike racer and spin instructor, I’ve spent many hours sweating over plenty of indoor bikes. In addition to discovering the qualities I prefer in an exercise bike, I’ve learned a few tricks for getting the most out of a bike in a particular price range. I’ve worked with riders across the spectrum of experience and ability as a tour guide and skills instructor, which has helped me to become more familiar with the factors and features of bikes that influence comfort and fun across all levels. And it’s ultimately guided me in recommending the stationary bikes included here.
Stationary bikes come in three main options: upright, recumbent, and dual-action. The bikes we recommend here are upright style, which puts you in a position that mimics how you’d sit on a typical bicycle. Recumbent exercise bikes allow you to sit in a slightly reclined position with the pedals out in front of your hips rather than directly below, which can be easier on the back and neck. Dual-action exercise bikes have handlebars that move in and out, allowing riders to incorporate their arms into the workout as they pedal.
Just like with a regular bicycle, if you want the best experience on your indoor bike, it’s important to get the proper fit. In fact, Spinning global brand ambassador Josh Taylor, who has held that role for more than 18 years, recommends finding an indoor cycling bike that puts you in the same position as the regular bike you’re accustomed to riding outside.
All of the bikes we tested have adjustable saddle heights and setbacks, as well as handlebar heights. Some indoor bikes allow you to adjust the handlebar reach as well. They also have graduated markings, making it easier to get back to your preferred position after someone else uses the bike. And don’t be afraid to change the saddle, which is typically a personal preference. Essentially, the more adjustability a stationary bike offers, the easier time you’ll have dialing it into the fit you need.
The two most common methods for regulating an indoor bike’s resistance are friction and magnets. Friction-based systems use leather or synthetic pads to apply pressure to the flywheel, and are simple and effective at adding precise resistance in a linear fashion, according to Taylor. These resistance systems don’t require outside power to operate. Magnetic resistance, which is quieter than friction systems, happens when magnets adjacent to the flywheel create an electric current which resists the rotation of the wheel. By increasing the current, which strengthens the magnetic force, you have greater resistance. With no contact between the flywheel and magnets, this type of bike may offer a smoother ride than a friction-based one.
A Bluetooth-equipped exercise bike will allow it to transmit your ride data directly to third-party training apps like Peloton or TrainerRoad to communicate your ride metrics in the moment. If it has ANT+ capability, that will allow you to connect any extra sensors you have—like a cadence tracker or heart rate monitor—and display that data on your monitor or tablet. It’s not totally necessary for an interactive experience.
Some bikes, like the Spinner A1, Echelon EX-15, and the NordicTrack Commercial SSi have a proprietary workout platform you can stream classes from on your own tablet or an integrated screen, as well as third-party apps. But others, like the Bowflex C6, don’t have their own training platform but still feature Bluetooth connectivity, and you’re meant to use them with third-party apps. If you want the ability to join virtual classes but aren’t sure of which you’ll like, or you have several that you enjoy, look for a bike with the connectivity and media compatibility that allows you to join the most platforms.
While most indoor cycling bikes are very similar in terms of general function, it’s the accessories that set them apart. The most basic models are as simple as it gets, just an ergometer with a weighted flywheel and a pad to set resistance. On the other end of the spectrum are bikes like the Peloton below, with elaborate software that allows you to join recorded and live classes.
If you live in a small apartment or where floor space is at a premium, it’s a good idea to measure the area you have available for an exercise bike. I included the dimensions of each model below—the length and width of the footprint, as well as the height.
To narrow down my selection, I read user reviews, researched the market, consulted pro riders and spin enthusiasts, spoke with product managers and engineers, and talked with other test editors. I used my own experience riding these bikes, and others similar to them, while also relying on the previous work done by the test editors of Bicycling, to make these recommendations. These are the best stationary bikes available now.
The Tacx Neo Bike tops the field in terms of connectivity and accessories, as well as its ability to handle some seriously intense workouts—up to 2,200 watts. If you’ve got a coach writing you daily training plan, you don’t need a super hyped instructor on your screen—you just need your metrics. The Neo bike’s console displays your speed, power output, heart rate, cadence, resistance level, and level of simulated incline so you can stay on top of your intervals. If you do like to incorporate apps into your training program, you can connect to a phone or tablet via Bluetooth.
This is one of the best stationary bikes because it has the most capability for its (very reasonable) price. The bike itself is high quality and very adjustable, but what makes it stand out is the Bluetooth connectivity. With the C6, you can connect to apps like Peloton, Zwift, and Schwinn Trainer to join community rides and track progress. The monitor displays time ridden, speed, mileage, heart rate, and resistance level. It doesn’t show wattage or precise RPMs, only displaying them on a scale. However, it does measure them—you can see that data when connected to third-party training apps. The flywheel is smooth and heavy, and you can crank the resistance up very high through 100 incremental levels via a knob. The C6 has toe cages so you can ride it in regular running shoes, or flip the pedals over and clip in with Shimano SPD cleats. Sneak in your workout any time of the day or night because this thing is silent. It comes with a heart rate monitor you wear on your forearm and a pair of 3-pound dumbbells so you can get a light upper-body workout in, too.
During high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts, you repeat short bursts of intense activity with short windows of recovery. In order to perform these with consistency, it’s better to have a bike that displays your resistance level, rather than having you blindly twist a knob to adjust it easier or harder. Plus, the VeloCore 16 IC has 100 resistance levels, so you can get extremely specific with your intensity levels. Another cool feature is what Bowflex calls Lean Mode, which, when engaged, allows you to rock the bike side to side when you are standing up and sprinting, creating a similar experience to what you would feel on a bike outdoors.
The Schwinn IC4 keeps your ride metrics right under your nose. Like with the Tacx Neo above, you have the option to see your data on the display—no subscription necessary—if it’s more your style to simply ride and jam to a playlist. But when you’re in the mood to be pumped up by a live class or Zwift race, the Bluetooth option lets you jump right into third-party apps. The bike comes with a free one-year subscription to Schwinn’s platform, Jrny.
If you’re planning to ride indoors to supplement your outdoor cycling fitness, getting a bike that’s as similar as possible to your standalone bike will help you engage and build the same muscles. In addition to being built the most like a road bike, the Atom has a few extra features that add to that real-bike feel. When you connect it with a virtual training platform like Zwift, the bike automatically reacts to elevation changes in the game by lifting or lowering the front end. It also has electronic shifters built into the handlebar that adjust the resistance, rather than requiring you hit a button or turn a knob.
If you’re spinning on a budget, the Echelon EX-15 might be the stationary bike for you. For $500, you get a high-quality bike with access to proprietary classes you can stream with membership ($399.99 billed annually). In addition to cycling sessions, an Echelon subscription offers rowing, running, HIIT, kickboxing, strength training, yoga, and pilates. The workouts to music by artists like Pitbull, Old Dominion, Lady Gaga, and Daddy Yankee. With this purchase from Amazon, you get a free 30-day membership so you can check it out before committing. It also has a pretty reputable customer service department, which is comforting for such a big purchase. The EX-15 bike itself is sized perfectly for smaller spaces, yet doesn't skimp on comforts like an extra-large cushioned seat and padded handlebars, and with its mechanical knob, allows you to vary resistance between 32 different levels.
Take everything you love about spin class, make it more convenient, and subtract any sort of self-consciousness: That’s the Peloton bike. With it, and an accompanying subscription ($44 per month), you can join a live-streaming class led by one of Peloton’s 15 high-energy instructors that will inspire you to put in the effort. Follow their cues, and you will most definitely get a good workout, whether you choose a 30- or 90-minute ride. You also have access to over 5,000 recorded classes. These vary in difficulty, music choice, and style (think tabata, intervals, hill climb, or easy ride), so you can select from the library based on how you’re feeling. The software displays your resistance, cadence, and wattage to keep you in sync with the instructor, as well as mileage and ride achievements so you can track your progress over time. Aside from all the great content, the Peloton bike is well-built, sturdy, and its sleek, compact design won't overwhelm the area you in which you place it (like the corner of your bedroom). The bike has an attached (sweatproof!) 21.5-inch screen, grippy handlebars, and near-silent, fluid flywheel.
NordicTrack combines the simplicity of a traditional indoor bike with modern connectivity, giving you the option to join live studio-style classes led by professional instructors or select from a library of recorded workouts through its iFit app (free with purchase of the bike). Recorded guided workouts follow professional instructors as they ride courses that exist in the real world and lead you through the workout. As terrain changes, the bike moves up and down to simulate the incline or decline. Manual controls on the handlebar let you override the automatic settings within a guided workout as well as let you make adjustments when on an unguided ride. The library of recorded workouts is extensive, and despite getting lost at times within the iFit app, our tester commented that this was the simplest stationary bike she’d ever ridden, both in terms of setup and ease of use.
The A1 is a simple, no-frills indoor bike—no computer consoles or electric controls. The heavy-duty steel frame resembles those on Spinner’s commercial-grade bikes, and the base offers more stability than bikes in the lighter and cheaper L series. You also get a more durable crank system and a heavier flywheel, which eliminate the inconsistent resistance you can feel near the top end of lighter wheels. The saddle height adjustment uses preset stops, but the setback has a wedge system that allows you to place the saddle in the precise spot you prefer. The traditional bullhorn bar is comfortable for a wide range of reaches, and the height adjustment accommodates both short and tall riders.
BI: What’s the difference between a stationary bike and an exercise bike?
RM: While the terms are sometimes used interchangeably, an exercise bike refers to a cardio machine that you sit on and pedal. A stationary bike is designed to replicate an outdoor riding experience a bit more closely in relation to body position and muscle recruitment and is often used by riders training for outdoor cycling or in spin classes.
BI: What is the benefit of a recumbent bike? Would I want one in addition to an upright? Does it work different muscles?
RM: A recumbent bike puts the rider in a more upright or reclined position while pedaling. If the typical, slightly bent-over bike position tends to make your neck, lower back, or wrists ache, a recumbent bike can offer some relief while still offering a similar workout. Because of the more relaxed position, these bikes don’t require riders to use their core muscles.
BI: What is the biggest mistake people make when buying a stationary bike?
RM: Not considering what will motivate them to ride it. If you’re metrics-driven, it’s a smart idea to invest in a bike that has data screens or Bluetooth connectivity so you can keep an eye on your mileage, speed, cadence, and other data. If you only want to ride if someone else is instructing you in the workout, find a bike that works with a membership to apps that offer live classes. And even if it’s the nicest bike on the market, make sure you don’t buy one that’s too big for the space you want to set it up in—if it only fits in your crummy, creepy basement, you know you’ll never go down there to ride it. So be honest with yourself and your needs.2022-04-14T18:49:30Z dg43tfdfdgfd