Ranking the best exercise bikes of 2019

Exercise bikes are great for getting your cardio in, especially when the weather isn’t favorable for outdoor workouts. Keeping an exercise bike in your home or apartment makes it super easy to get a workout in during the wintertime, early in the morning, or late at night.

Exercise bikes are suitable for just about everybody, since they don’t put as much stress on your body as something like running, but still allow you to get a much better cardio workout than walking. Exercise bikes tend to take up less space than an elliptical machine, too, and they’re not nearly as loud as a treadmill.

If you’re going to get just one piece of cardio equipment, it should definitely be an exercise bike. Our researchers scoured the market for the best exercise bikes for home use, searching for options that work well for everything from basic cardio for weight loss to intense HIIT training for serious athletes. Read on to see our picks for the top exercise bikes.

The big picture

Exercise bikes make it easy to get a high quality cardio workout right at home. Our top pick for exercise bikes was the Sunny Health Pro Indoor Cycling Bike, thanks to its versatile settings, easily adjustable seat height and handlebar position, and excellent range of resistance. 

Rankings

1. Sunny Health Pro Indoor Cycling Bike

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Sunny Health Pro makes an exercise bike that’s as good as anything you’ll find in a high-end health club or spin class. The heavy flywheel allows for a wide range of resistances, and it’s just as well-suited for easy low-intensity exercise as it is for intense spin workouts. 

Why we like it: Adjusting resistance on the fly is super easy thanks to the conveniently placed resistance knob, and the seat height and handlebar position are both adjustable, making this exercise bike great for people of all sizes. 

Flaws: Since it’s so customizable, there are more moving parts you need to check for tightness every so often. It’s also only rated for a maximum user weight of 275 pounds, and the aggressive seating position can be an issue if you have mobility problems—if you are very heavy or don’t have decent upper body mobility, a different exercise bike might be a better option. 

2. Assault AirBike Classic

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The Assault AirBike Classic is a long-time favorite among serious athletes thanks to its ability to facilitate a hardcore full-body workout. Unlike a traditional exercise bike, the handles on this bike move against resistance as well as the pedals, burning more calories and pushing your body’s power output up. 

Why we like it: If you are planning on doing HIIT workouts on a bike, the Assault AirBike is far and away the best model on the market if you want maximal caloric expenditure. Since the resistance automatically ramps up with your effort, even super-fit athletes will be able to max out on the AirBike. The strong structure also supports users of up to 350 pounds. 

Flaws: If you’re a beginner, the Assault AirBike might be a little intimidating at first. It’s easy to get the hang of, but it’s not the best choice if you have mobility issues in your arms, shoulders, or your spine.

3. Yosuda Indoor Cycling Bike

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Yosuda makes a very solid upright exercise bike that’s a good middle ground between aggressive bikes for high intensity workouts and more laid-back models for low-intensity exercise. 

Why we like it: The seat height and handlebar height are both highly customizable, and the integrated iPad mount is a nice touch. 

Flaws: At a max user weight of only 270 pounds, this may not be the best option for bigger users. The flyweight is also not quite as heavy duty as other models, meaning the max resistance is somewhat lower on this bike. 

4. XTERRA Fitness Bike FB150

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If you want an upright exercise bike that is simple and barely takes up any space, XTERRA is the way to go. This exercise bike folds up when not in use, and has an easily accessible resistance knob.

Why we like it: For people who live in a small apartment or don’t have much space in their home to dedicate to fitness equipment, something with the tiny footprint of the XTERRA is a lifesaver. The FB150 even has heart rate monitoring via special hand grips, a feature that’s typically only found on higher-end models. 

Flaws: If you’re looking for bells and whistles, you’re unlikely to find them on the XTERRA. It also only offers eight levels of resistance, which might be too limited for your workout needs. 

5. Concept 2 BikeErg

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Concept is famous for their rowing ergometers; this bike extends their technology to the exercise bike world as well. Simple, sleek, and incredibly well-engineered, this exercise bike is a good choice for serious athletes. 

Why we like it: The Concept 2 BikeErg is compatible with wireless heart rate monitors, and can Bluetooth into apps like Zwift for custom workout feedback. Even at super high workout intensities, this exercise bike feels as smooth as butter. 

Flaws: If all you need is a bike for some low intensity calorie burning, the Concept 2 BikeErg is probably overkill. It’s better suited for people who want to bang out serious interval workouts, HIIT sessions, or time trials. 

6. Kinetic Road Machine Smart Bike Trainer

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If you have a bike you’re already very comfortable riding, why bother getting a different bike to ride indoors? The Kinetic Road Machine lets you use your usual bike indoors with only minor modifications. 

Why we like it: The Smart Bike Trainer uses wireless connectivity to sync to your smartphone, allowing compatibility with apps like Zwift and allowing real-time feedback on metrics like your power output. Its wireless connectivity also means it’s easy to pair with a wireless heart rate monitor. 

Flaws: Since the Kinetic Road Machine requires a full sized bike, it takes up a much bigger amount of floorspace than a basic exercise bike. If all you want to do is burn a few calories, a simpler model might be a better choice, though if you’re most comfortable on your own bike, it’s a great pick. 

7. Marcy Recumbent Exercise Bike

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Though recumbent bikes aren’t the right choice for everyone, within this category, Marcy makes one of the best models. This is a great pick for older adults or people with mobility issues, thanks to its “step-through” design: you don’t need to lift your legs up and over the frame of the bike. 

Why we like it: Marcy capitalizes on the best advantages of the recumbent exercise bike: its ease of use for people with mobility limitations. If you have arthritis, for example, exercise is known to be an effective way to reduce pain, but getting on and using a traditional exercise bike is difficult because of the mobility limitations that come along with arthritis. 

Flaws: Though getting on the bike is easy, you do have to lean pretty far forward to adjust the resistance. A handle-mounted dial would be better and easier to use. Like other recumbent bikes, this model is not as well-suited for intense workouts. 

8. Schwinn M717 170 Upright Exercise Bike

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Schwinn is a household name when it comes to bicycles, and their upright exercise bike sports several cutting edge features that make it stand out, while still remaining easy to use. 

Why we like it: The Bluetooth connectivity makes it simple to track your workout intensity, and you can select from several pre-programmed workouts or make your own custom workout. The seat position is less aggressive than spin-class style exercise bikes, which is helpful if you have mobility issues. 

Flaws: The electronic gadgets on this exercise bike all require external power, so it does need to be plugged in. It also takes up a reasonably large amount of floor space, so it’s not the best choice for a cramped apartment. 

9. Nautilus Recumbent Bike

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Nautilus is a huge name in fitness equipment, so it should be no surprise that they make a pretty decent recumbent bike. 

Why we like it: This model has a large customizable screen with several pre-programmed workouts, and is very easy to use even if you have mobility issues.

Flaws: Like other recumbent bikes, it’s hard to get an intense workout on the Nautilus Recumbent Bike. Aggressive spinners should opt for an upright bike instead. The media tray and USB charging are a little old-hat; it’d be nice to see more modern features like Bluetooth and ANT+ connectivity. 

10. Body Rider Exercise Bike

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If you are looking for an exercise bike that gives you a whole body workout, Body Rider makes a nice model with movable handles for increased caloric expenditure. 

Why we like it: If you’re in the market for an economy-style exercise bike that still gets you a whole-body workout, there aren’t many options on the market. Body Rider fills that niche with a bike that takes up only a small amount of floorspace. 

Flaws: Due to the small footprint of the Body Rider, it’s not quite as stable as some higher-end models. The seat is also not the most comfortable on the market, and some users find that the bolts on the moving parts tend to loosen over time. 

Who should buy an exercise bike?

Cardio should play a central role in your overall fitness routine. The World Health Organization recommends that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate or vigorous exercise every week, alongside two or more sessions of resistance training (e.g. weight lifting), for good health (1).

If you want further benefits, you should aim for double that amount: up to 300 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per week. Given how sedentary many peoples’ working lives become, hitting 150 minutes or more of cardio every week is difficult unless you plan for it explicitly in your routine. 

While many different types of exercise are suitable for getting in your cardio, and exercise bike offers a few benefits that make it a very good choice. First of all, exercise bikes are suitable for everyone from obese people trying to get started on a weight loss program to elite athletes doing intense workouts.

Unlike running, which can put a lot of stress on your legs, an exercise bike is not likely to lead to overuse injury. And unlike walking, which tops out in terms of its cardiovascular demand, you can get all the way up to your maximum heart rate on an exercise bike. 

Whether you are a serious athlete or just trying to increase your weekly amount of exercise, and exercise bike is a great purchase. It doesn’t take up much floor space, and some models are even foldable so they can be stored while not in use.

Other cardio equipment options, like an elliptical machine, rowing machine, or treadmill, definitely have their uses, but an exercise bike is definitely the most versatile and is definitely the best default pick for a cardio machine for your home gym. 

How we ranked

When formulating our rankings of the best exercise bikes on the market, we took into consideration the versatility of the exercise bike, comfort and ease of use, its warranty and reputation for reliability, and its compatibility with other devices like heart rate monitors. 

When we looked at versatility, we specifically wanted exercise bikes that are adjustable for a wide range of body sizes. This means a large range of seat heights to accommodate short and tall users, and ideally adjustable handlebars as well—torso length varies from person to person almost as much as leg length does.

Versatility also meant the ability to adjust resistance, but we found that this wasn’t an issue: there are no respectable exercise bikes out there anymore that don’t let you select different levels of resistance.

We did eliminate any bikes that allowed only a narrow range of resistances, or that didn’t go high enough on the high end. With high intensity interval training (HIIT) becoming more popular, older exercise bikes designed only for sub-max workouts sometimes can’t hit the resistance levels a real athlete will need in a workout. 

For comfort, first and foremost was the fit of the seat. If you’re going to be on the bike for an hour or more, a comfortable seat makes a real difference. Handlebar comfort was an additional goal, as poorly designed handles can lead to calluses, back pain, or neck pain.

We also took into consideration how easy it was to alter the seat height and handlebar settings: if you share your exercise bike with your partner, you might have to adjust the bike before every workout.

The ease with which you can adjust the resistance is an additional consideration that’s important if you’ll be doing interval style training, since you’ll be changing the difficulty often. We factored all of these into an overall comfort score for each bike.

We also examined whether the exercise bike in question was a traditional upright bike or a recumbent bike. recumbent bikes can be more comfortable, especially for people who are older, are overweight or obese, or have restricted range of motion in their spine or their arms.

However, it is more difficult to get an intense workout in on a recumbent bike, so traditional bikes won out in most cases. We did include a few of the best recumbent exercise bikes in our rankings for people who prefer the recumbent format though. 

In terms of reliability, we examined the warranty terms: for an exercise bike, you want something with at least two years of coverage, and more if possible. We also searched through user reviews to identify products that had reliability or quality control problems and eliminated these from consideration. 

Lastly, we looked for other perks offered by each product, like its ability to link up with a compatible heart rate monitor. We factored versatility, comfort, and reliability in along with any extra perks to come up with our final ratings, and ranked the remaining exercise bikes in order. We were left with the best exercise bikes on the market right now.

Benefits

It’s easier to get an intense workout in on an upright exercise bike compared to a recumbent exercise bike. If you go to a gym or health club, you’ll likely see both traditional upright exercise bikes as well as recumbent bikes. This might get you wondering which is better.

The answer shouldn’t surprise you—it depends. Older adults often find recumbent bikes more comfortable because they don’t require quite as much range of motion in your spine and your hip.

Ditto for people who are overweight or obese. However, research shows that the recumbent bike is not as effective at eliciting high heart rates compared to a traditional upright exercise bike. A study published in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise compared the cardiovascular responses to a ramped exercise protocol on an upright versus a recumbent bike (2).

The researchers found that the volunteers hit significantly higher maximum heart rates on the upright bike, and also had greater oxygen intake. This suggests that your body position on the bike affects the amount of work you can do, and as a result, the quality of your workout.

Whether the increase in maximum power output on an upright bike is important for you depends on your goals. Do you find an upright bike difficult to use? If so, you’re probably not going to get as long of a workout in if you use an upright bike, so a recumbent exercise bike is probably a better fit.

On the other hand, if you want to do HIIT workouts or hit the highest heart rate zones during your workouts, opt for an upright exercise bike. 

Ramping up the intensity on an upright bike will work your hips more, but the same isn’t true for a recumbent bike. Another major difference between upright exercise bikes and recumbent exercise bikes is how they recruit your muscles as you pedal harder.

A study published in the journal Clinical Biomechanics used motion capture data to study how increasing power output on the recumbent bike affected power production in your legs (3).

The researchers demonstrated that ramping up the resistance on a recumbent bike increases power output at your ankle and your knee, but not at your hip. This has some important implications for exercise bike selection, as opting for a recumbent versus an upright bike will affect which muscles get strengthened and toned if you do intense workouts. Again, these differences are less important for low intensity cardio, but for hard workouts, an upright bike is the way to go. 

Exercise bikes are perfectly suited for high intensity interval training workouts for weight loss. A lot of new research has found that high intensity interval training is an excellent way to improve cardiovascular fitness and create weight loss, but sometimes it can feel like you need to be fit already to get a HIIT workout in, especially if it’s a sprinting or hill running based routine.

For people who are overweight or obese, these activities are way too demanding on their body, and they’re likely to get injured before they get fit. Exercise bikes fix this problem. Since most of your body weight is supported by the seat, you don’t face the same amount of pounding that you get from running, but unlike walking, you’re able to hit your max heart rate. And unlike swimming, you don’t need to have particularly good technique to get a good workout in.

Physiological research confirms that high intensity intervals can be equally effective, and more time-efficient, than traditional moderate intensity exercise for weight loss.

This was the conclusion of a 2017 study published in the journal Obesity Reviews by researchers at the University of New South Wales in Australia (4). The study involved pooling the results of many different randomized controlled trials that compared HIIT workouts to standard moderate intensity exercise protocols for weight loss.

The results showed that HIIT was equally effective as moderate intensity training, and when you factored into account the amount of time spent exercising, HIIT gives you more benefit per unit time—it’s the most time efficient way to lose weight. An exercise bike and a HIIT routine is a perfect combo for weight loss. 

FAQ

Q: Can you lose belly fat by riding a stationary exercise bike? 

A: Yes, exercise bikes recruit a wide range of muscles, so they’re great for weight loss. While you can’t do targeted fat loss (with an exercise bike or with any other machine), exercise bikes are a great way for overall fat loss.

They pair well with high intensity interval training: by doing a HIIT workout, you can burn a lot of fat in a short amount of time, without the injury risks you might have in HIIT routines that involve calisthenics or sprinting. 

Q: What kind of exercise bike is best for home use? 

A: For most people, an upright exercise bike with rigid handlebars and an adjustable seat height is the best option for home use. recumbent bikes make it somewhat more difficult to hit an intense workout, but can be a good alternative if you have back problems or mobility issues that prevent you from being able to use an upright exercise bike comfortably.

Serious athletes looking for the best whole-body workout can benefit from an exercise bike with integrated moving handles, like the Assault AirBike, but getting used to an exercise bike like this can take some adjustment. Unless you fit into these special categories, it’s very hard to go wrong with a standard upright exercise bike, as long as you can adjust it to fit your body size. 

Q: Are exercise bikes any good? 

A: Yes, exercise bikes are arguably the single best piece of cardio equipment for your home. Treadmills are loud and take up a lot of space, and both walking and running have disadvantages: walking can’t get your heart rate up as effectively, and running carries the risk of overuse injury.

Elliptical machines are even bigger than treadmills, and ditto for rowing machines. An exercise bike is compact, affordable, and well-suited for both low intensity and high intensity workouts. 

Q: Is an exercise bike better than a treadmill? 

A: An exercise bike is certainly more versatile than a treadmill: on a treadmill, you can walk or run, and if you want an intense workout, you pretty much have to run (or walk uphill, if your treadmill supports steep inclines).

Running is great exercise but carries a high risk of overuse injury. Exercise bikes allow you to get everything from a leisurely low-intensity workout to an intense interval session at your maximum heart rate, and since they don’t involve any pounding on your legs, they carry a lower risk of injury. 

Q: Is a recumbent bike better than a regular exercise bike? 

A: If you are trying to get an intense workout in, a regular upright exercise bike is a better choice than a recumbent bike. That’s because of research that shows that you can’t reach as high of an aerobic intensity on a recumbent bike compared to an exercise bike.

However, recumbent bikes are unbeatable if you have back, spine, or arm mobility issues that get aggravated on a regular exercise bike. People who are overweight or obese also may find a recumbent bike more comfortable, because they spread out your weight over a larger surface. Some upright bikes can be very uncomfortable for heavier users because the bike’s seat has a very small surface area. 

Q: How do you make your exercise bike seat more comfortable? 

A: If your exercise bike seat is causing discomfort, you can try swapping it out for an aftermarket seat—it might take a little handiwork, but swapping out the seat usually is not too difficult. Another option is using a seat cover that sits on top of your original seat. Finally, you can also try getting special cycling shorts that have a padded area where the seat sits. 

Q: Can you make an exercise bike out of a bicycle? 

A: The easiest way to use your standard (outdoor) bicycle as an exercise bike is to get a trainer. Unless you really know what you are doing, you should stick with a standard bike trainer stand that keeps your rear wheel locked into place and spins it on a resistive bearing.

Our research team liked the Kinetic Road Machine Smart Trainer, which lets you connect the trainer to your smartphone via Bluetooth. Unless you really know what you are doing, you should stick with a standard bike trainer that keeps your rear wheel locked into place and spins it on a resistive bearing—while you can get “rollers” which allow both wheels to spin freely, like a treadmill for a bike, these are notoriously difficult to use and first-time users almost inevitably fall over. 

Q: What muscles does an exercise bike tone? 

A: Exercise bikes focus mostly on your lower body, but an upright bike will also tone muscles in your chest, arms, and back, which help support your weight while you pedal.

The biggest muscular demand, though, comes from the muscles that contribute directly to the downward stroke of pedaling. That would be your calves, quads, and glute muscles, though the hip flexors and hamstrings also get a decent workout on the “recovery” from the down-stroke of the pedal. 

Q: How many calories do you burn on an exercise bike? 

A: Caloric expenditure on an exercise bike depends to a great degree on the intensity of the cycling you are doing. At a light effort, such as a leisurely pedaling rate, an average-sized person might burn around 300-400 calories per hour (5).

At a more vigorous effort in intense cycling, an average-sized person might burn 800 calories per hour. The specifics depend on your body size as well, with heavier people burning more calories per hour at a given metabolic intensity. 

Q: How much does an exercise bike cost? 

A: Exercise bikes can cost as little as $110 for a basic model all the way up to $500 or more for sophisticated, high-end models. Some types of bike trainers specifically for cyclists can be even more expensive if they offer metrics like power output and smart programming of workouts. 

Q: What does an exercise bike do for your body? 

A: An exercise bike is a great way to get a cardiovascular workout. People who get at least 150 minutes of cardio every week tend to live longer and have lower rates of diseases ranging from heart disease to cancer to depression. Since it’s not always easy to fit cardio into your routine, having an exercise bike at home makes it simple to take care of your physical health, even if you are busy. 

Recap

An exercise bike is a fantastic addition to your home gym. Exercise bikes are the best option for cardio equipment thanks to their ability to cater to a wide range of needs and a wide range of fitness levels.

Whether you are a hardcore athlete training for top performance or a casual user who just wants to lose some weight, you can get a great workout on an exercise bike. For most people, the best option is an upright exercise bike, as these make it easy to get a good workout in.

Recumbent bikes are a good alternative for older adults, people who find standard exercise bikes uncomfortable, and people with mobility issues in their spine, neck, or shoulders. From intense HIIT workouts to low-key pedaling to get your heart rate up a little, an exercise bike is a great way to improve your cardiovascular fitness. 

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