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Guide to Buying an Indoor Exercise Bike


Indoor cycling classes are increasingly popular as a way for people to get in shape and stay there. They are fun and energizing, and offer a variety of options to keep you from getting bored. Nikki, a reader who works and also has small kids at home recently wrote and said that she's had trouble finding time to get to class and that she was thinking about getting a stationary exercise bike for use at home. She asked what features she should look in one of these indoor trainers, and what should be the most important parts of her decision.

We posed this question to Kim Hellyar, our resident certified Spinning® expert instructor, physical trainer and owner of the My Workout with Kim for her suggestions.

Here are Kim's general tips for any home bike purchase:

1. Make Sure You Get a Model with a Nice Heavy Flywheel

side view of a woman exercising on an exercise bicycle in her living room
George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images
Make sure that the bike you are considering has at least a 40 lb. flywheel. The flywheel is what rotates when you pedal and continues spinning, replicating the forward momentum you have on a regular bike. A bike with a nice heavy flywheel spins more smoothly for a longer period of time and makes the bike feel more solid. One with a lighter flywheel will seem like a cheap ride. "Think of the flywheel as what gives you the feel of actually riding on the road," says Kim. "A light flywheel will feel like you are riding in far too low of a gear, and your pedaling will be out of control and jerky. A heavier flywheel feels like riding in the perfect gear and allows that smooth pedal stroke and the even rhythm of the push/pull on the pedals."
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2. Make Sure Handlebars Have a Fore and Aft Setting

Tsunami Elite Indoor Fitness Spin Bike

Kim says that for females, it is important for the bike you select to have a adjustable handle bar settings. Fore and aft, simply means that you can move your handle bar position not only up and down but also front and back to get that perfect fit. "Not all bikes have them," Kim points out, "and since women generally have shorter torsos than men, it allows adjustments that make for a better bike fit."

Related article: Handlebar Fit - Adjustments on a Regular Bike for best fit to you.

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3. Choose a Belt-Drive Model instead of a Chain Drive.

On stationary bikes, the pedals are connected to the flywheel with either a belt or chain. When you turn the pedals, it causes rotation of the flywheel. When looking at bikes, keep in mind that belt driven bikes are a much better choice. They are more durable, require less maintenance and are quieter in operation.
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4. Make Sure You Can Adjust the Seat (or Change it out Completely)

Bike Seat
It doesn't matter if it's a regular bicycle, a real high-end indoor trainer or a more general exercise bike -- an uncomfortable seat will make for a miserable riding experience. Make sure that you can not only adjust the seat as necesary but that you can also change out the seat completely as needed. On some bikes this is not an option, and the basic seat that comes with it is flat-out awful. Avoid these if you can. On other bikes you can change out the seat, but only with other seats from the same manufacturer.

5. Get a Mat to Go Underneath the Bike.

Stationary bikes can still give you a scorching workout, so much so that cyclists will even use stationary bikes to do interval training to help develop their strength on their normal bike. Because of the intensity of the indoor cycling workout, you'll want to get a mat to go underneath the bike. In addition to providing needed cushioning, a bike mat will protect your carpets from sweat and any grease or fine dust that may come from moving parts, though that's not usually going to be a big problem. Also, this protects your bike too, keeping dust and lint from your carpet out of the mechanisms. Finally, because the bike's weight (and yours too) rests on a couple of distinct points, this prevents more concentrated wear and tear on your carpet in the location of your bike.


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6. Consider Options: Bike Computer and Waterbottle Holder

Spin bike water bottle handlebar computer
Think about if it is important to you that your new bike have features such as a water bottle holder and computer. The reasons for the water bottle holder are obvious, but the need for a computer may or may not be so important, especially with the features avaialble on a person's smart phone. Bike computers typically track things like heart rate, RPM, calories burned, time goals, distance, etc. These can be mounted on the handlebars as in the image shown, which is of the Sole SB700 Indoor Exercise Bike.

Kim still likes the dedicated computer on her indoor stationary bike vs. trying to track it on a smart phone, she says. "Personally, anytime I can ditch my phone, it's gone!"

Related article: Heart Rate Training and Indoor Cyling - a Powerful Combination

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