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If you’re in the market for an upright stationary bike, whether it be your next addition to a home gym and placed right next to your treadmill or weight bench, or your first piece of personal workout equipment, you should take a few minutes to educate yourself on the different kinds of bikes available and what to look for in a top-quality upright exercise bike. Do you know the differences between the upright, recumbent, spinner, and dual action stationary bikes? If not, feel free to skip to that section below and we’ll help you work out the basics.
Regular physical exercise is not only beneficial for weight loss, but has many other benefits including strengthening your immune system, enhancing mood, and reducing risk for development of many chronic diseases and negative health outcomes. A half hour on a stationary bicycle with a weight of 155 pounds and going at a moderate pace, you can expect to burn around 260 calories. The more you weigh, the longer you exercise for, and with a greater intensity, the more calories you should expect to burn. Riding a stationary bike is a great cardiovascular workout. Regular cardio exercise has been shown to lower high blood pressure, helps regular blood sugar levels, and may even prevent heart attacks.
In this complete guide for the best upright exercise bikes, we went ahead and did all the hard work for you. Rather than go from site to site searching for the information you need, we compiled a list of the best upright exercise bikes, wrote reviews and included all other additional information you need to know when shopping for your next purchase. We strive to make your buying experience simple and straightforward.
What is a Stationary Bicycle?
A stationary bicycle is a device that includes similar features that you would see on a regular bicycle, including a saddle, pedals, and handlebars – rather than it being used for transportation though, it is purely intended to be used for exercise and is considered a type of exercise equipment. Stationary bikes are often referred to simply as an exercise bicycle, exercise bike, or even an exercycle. Generally, no true-wheels are attached to the exercise bike, though it is possible to convert an ordinary bicycle into a stationary exercise bike with proper training and a few modifications. For our purpose though today, we will only discuss those stationary bikes that were exclusively designed for exercise by the manufacturer.
Some upright exercise bikes have their handlebars directly connected to the pedals – this allows for upper body movements allowing the arms and other muscle groups to be exercised along with the legs. Top-quality exercise bikes have many additional features that the consumer may benefit from. Most modern exercise bikes utilize technology that allows the user to adjust resistance in the pedals to increase intensity when needed. This is accomplished in various ways, including with the use of magnets, fans, or other friction mechanisms. Some exercise bikes allow the user to pedal backwards to target the antagonist muscles that are not normally used while pedaling forwards. Most modern exercise bikes are now equipped with some sort of ergometer, which can be used to measure different variables of work and is represented through cardiac stress, calories burned, and more.
Why Buy an Upright Bike?
If you’re looking for a high-end piece of fitness equipment that allows you to get a decent workout in regardless of weather conditions or time of day, a stationary bike is an excellent investment. Get bored biking outdoors? Not a problem. Set up your bike in front of the TV and watch your favorite show – or crank up the music and enjoy the air conditioning while you work out. Exercise bikes are not only found in gyms across the world, but are now common occurrences in family homes. Whether you’re an experienced biker or are just beginning, a stationary bike can help push you in the right direction and have you on your way to accomplishing your weight loss or other fitness goals. Sore joints is a common theme in many high-impact exercises – thankfully, a stationary bike allows you to reach your level cardiovascular health with very little if any impact. Those who are starting out over weight may benefit greatly in this respect. Even those of you who are already in very good shape, strenuous long-term forms of high impact exercise will still wear you down and could negatively affect the joints over time.
Many people have difficulty making their way to the gym, and so never end up working out as often as they planned. Some people prefer not to be a sweaty mess in front of tons of people in a public place. Those who face similar discomfort may greatly benefit from an upright exercise bike at the home. Not only do you get to avoid the gym contracts and other fitness club fees, but you’ll have your very own piece of workout equipment – no need to wait in lines or worry about cleanliness. Even those of you who eventually want to make their way to a local gym, it is much easier to do so when you already have a fitness routine. Having your own personal bike in the next room over leaves very little room for excuses. A stationary exercise bike is convenient and intuitive to use, even if you haven’t ridden a bicycle for years.
Exercise bikes provide you with an excellent form of cardiovascular exercise and helps build up your endurance and stamina, while also improving muscular flexibility and range of motion by targeting various leg muscles. Aerobic exercise stimulates the capillaries in the muscles, which leads to an increase in blood supply along with the oxygen and nutrients that go along with it. Better circulation leads to faster injury recovery and better overall health.
Your calves, quadriceps, hamstrings, hip flexors, and glutes will strengthen. Core strength will also increase, as you also tend to engage your abs, internal and external obliques, and other deep muscles including the transverse abdominals, multifidus, pelvic floor muscles, and your diaphragm. Muscles and ligaments that aren’t consistently trained through exercise may be at increased risk for random contraction and spasm – this may lead to stiffness and discomfort and can be avoided through proper conditioning. Riding a bike or training on a stationary exercise bike may reduce low back pain and muscle strains by conditioning the leg muscles and increasing flexibility in the hamstrings. Riding your stationary bike may also be effective for pain relief. Aerobic exercise, which includes cycling, increases the release of your natural pain blockers called endorphins. Endorphins have been linked to a reduction in pain perception, anxiety, stress, and depression.
Different Kinds of Stationary Exercise Bikes
Not all stationary exercise bikes are the same. In this section, we’ll briefly explain the similarities and differences of each, which should help determine the best bike for you. The upright stationary exercise bike is one of the most commonly used in home-gyms and allows you to position yourself most similarly to a regular bicycle that can be ridden outside. The seat generally has no support for the back, and is located high up, almost parallel to the handlebars. The handlebars are in front of the seat and the pedals are located directly underneath. The spinner stationary exercise bike is similar to the upright bike, but it is designed more closely to resemble a real road bike. One major mechanical difference is that spin bikes tend to have a weighted flywheel that is directly connected to the pedals (similar to fixed-gear bikes) – because of this, the pedals will continue to spin even if you stop pushing the pedals. The recumbent stationary exercise bike is more often found in gyms, but are beginning to become more popular at the home. With these exercise bikes, the seat is positioned lower and may be reclined. The seat may be wider and more designed for comfort and include various degrees of back support. Dual action stationary exercise bikes are also becoming increasingly popular for home-gyms. The main difference with these bikes is that the handlebars may have a direct mechanical connection to the pedals, allowing movement of the arms and can be used as a means of exercise for the upper body, similar to the elliptical. The best dual action bikes have two sets of handlebars and leave the user with options, one set that remains stationary and the other allows movement.
Before you jump to make a purchase, there are several things to consider. The best exercise bikes aren’t exactly the cheapest thing you could buy, so take a few moments to look over these questions and ideas. This purchase is not only a monetary investment that should be durable enough to last years of continued use, but an investment in your health and longevity.
How advanced are you in exercise? Do you already to a lot of outdoor biking or are you just now beginning? If you are an experienced cycler already, you might prefer a spinning bike over the others, as they will provide you with a similar level workout as you are used to when cycling outdoors. Spinning bikes are great for advanced cyclers. If you’re looking to switch things up and don’t necessarily want the same type of workout, then a top-notch upright exercise bike with all the bells and whistles may be a better fit.
Bike stability is equally important, especially if interval training is on your agenda. Explosive strenuous exercise or cycling at different rates of speed or degree of effort requires a special level of stability that can only be provided by the best. You shouldn’t feel as if your bike is wobbly or about to tip over at any point in your workout. The heavier the bike and the wider the frame, you’ll find the bike is sturdier. If you do find yourself set on buying a heavyset exercise bike, make sure there is some sort of wheel or rollers on the frame to help you move or transport the bike if needed.
Who will be using the stationary bike, and how often? Do you workout on a daily basis? If you’re just beginning, what are your goals and how frequently can you realistically see yourself on the exercise bike? It is also important to consider the exercise habits of other people in your household. The more people that use the bike, and the more frequently, the more important it is to find yourself a stationary exercise bike that can withstand constant use. You need a bike that is durable and requires minimal upkeep. If you have small children, ensure that your bike covers the chain and wheels to avoid accidental injury. Most high-end stationary bike manufacturers already consider this and package everything in a nice, safe and tidy bike frame.
Where will the exercise bike be used? If you have a dedicated room to place your stationary bike, this shouldn’t be an issue – but if you will be exercising in a common area, make sure the bike is quiet when in use. Some bikes are much louder than others. Noise can be especially noticeable with certain air resistance models and those that do not utilize any sound dampening technologies. Magnetic resistance tends to be the highest quality and rated as being best for noise levels.
Many features are available and so you should have a general idea for what is a must-have and what you can do without. In many cases, people underestimate or overestimate what they would need included on their exercise bike – this could lead to overspending or even regret that a little more wasn’t invested in their equipment. Some must-have features included adjustable resistance levels and saddle, and generously sized foot pedals that can be used for all foot sizes. Seat size should also be considered, though it is not as important because you can always find yourself an aftermarket gel seat cover to provide some additional comfort. Heart rate monitors, cooling fans, drink holders, book rests and LCD displays or TV monitors are just a few additional features that your exercise bike may be equipped with. Some of the more advanced products may even have pre-set workout programming options available for you to pick from. This is important if you get bored easily.
Does your bike come with a warranty? Most high-end manufacturers include a warranty with purchase. Be sure to take the time to research what the warranty entails as they do not all include equal coverage. Some bikes may include a lifetime warranty for normal wear and tear and any other parts. Others may have similar coverage but may be limited to only three or five years. The highest-rated brands strive to please their customers – a generous warranty for home-gym equipment is not unheard of.
Proper Use of Your Exercise Bike
First and foremost, read the instructions that come with your exercise equipment, even if you skim over the important parts. Some assembly may be required and so it is important you follow directions carefully. Any additional features that the stationary bike is equipped with will be explained in the directions and can help you avoid a lot of frustration when its time to use the bike.
Learn how to interact with your display and pick exercise routines, change seating positions, and adjust resistance levels before your first workout. Any included pre-programmed workout programs are great features and should be utilized. This can help spice up your routine and keep you motivated. These programs may simulate flat roads or cycling through slopes and hills. You may be asked to input your weight, age, or other factors that could help tailor your workout routine just for you. The heart rate monitor may also utilize such information to acquire a target heart rate and track calorie usage.
Proper adjustment of the seat is important – not only for comfort but to ensure you are getting the most out of your workout. Your seat should be far enough away from the pedals so that your legs are extended with a slight bend in the knees. There shouldn’t be too much knee bend and you also shouldn’t have to overextend your legs to touch the pedals. Once you have figured out your seating position, adjust your posture accordingly. Proper posture is necessary to prevent injury and ensure you are able to breath properly. Also, if your pedals continue to move through inertia, make sure you don’t try to hop off the bike until they slow down – this will prevent some painful bruising of the lower leg or ankle.
1. Schwinn 170 Review
While most people assume Schwinn is strictly an outdoor bicycle manufacturer, this brand is actually a reputable name in the stationary exercise bike industry. With a matte black finish and quality trimming, the Schwinn 170 looks modern and stylish. Some people are worried about buying their own exercise bike out of fear that it would not match any furniture – fear not, the Schwinn 170 looks sleek and is quite handsome. For the price, this exercise bike is equipped with many impressive features and boasts 29 workout programs – nice! Adjustments can be made to these programs to further customize your workout. For example, you can pre-determine how many calories you want to burn, the total distance you want to cycle, or the length of time to workout.
The contoured seat is comfortable and is equipped with some sort of gripping material to avoid sliding off. The pedals are moderately sized and have no problems fitting my size 12 feet. The handlebars can be adjusted to your preferred height and angle and the forearm rests are optional (simply remove them when not in use).
A USB port is available for easy saving of individual user profiles. This is a great addition if you want to keep track of your own fitness progress, or happen to have many people in the home using the bike. Four user profiles are supported. Resistance is accomplished with eddy magnetic currents, and can be adjusted up to 25 levels of pure intensity. For the more advanced cyclist, start off at the higher-end of resistance and see how strong you actually are. The high-speed inertia perimeter weighted flywheel is responsible for continuously smooth pedaling, resulting in a much better workout and more calories burned. All those calories burned usually leads to a sweaty session. The 3-speed cooling fan should take care of that!
The backlit LCD screen is actually made of two separate displays. One column shows you your progress and the goals you have set, the other displays various statistics related to your current workout session (RPM, distance, time, intensity, pulse, etc.). For those who love music while you cycle, take advantage of the acoustic chamber speakers built into the console. The quality of sound they produce is top-notch and volume reaches high levels when needed.
The Schwinn 170 is dependable, sturdy, and comfortable, with 29 available workout programs, USB connectivity, an easy-to-read LCD display of all the important workout statistics, acoustic chamber speakers, and a 3-speed cooling fan – all at a great price. What more could you ask for in an upright exercise bike?
2. Nautis 618 Upright Bike Review
If you’re looking for a high-quality workout machine backed by an established, reputable brand, the Sole Fitness B94 may be just for you. The B94 is considered a mid-range exercise bike, but happens to deliver a high-range experience. The Sole Fitness B94 can handle up those weighing up to 300-pounds without problems. The stationary bike itself weighs roughly 124-pounds which is sturdy enough to avoid tipping or wobbling, but light enough to be considered relatively portable and easy to move from room to room if needed.
Overall, aesthetics and function are some of the best we’ve seen on an exercise bike at this price range. Built-in heart rate monitors are available and can be displayed on the easy-to-read console. A chest strap is included, but you can also just use the sensors built into the handlebars. You’re probably planning to spend a lot of time on this bike – to keep things interesting; there are 8 pre-programmed workouts with another 2 slots for your own custom program to choose from. These can mimic hill climbs and other variations in intensity. The display itself is 9-inches and shows you things like heart rate, distance, time, and RPM. Ergonomically placed around the screen are the various buttons needed to control your workout and resistance levels. Another perk to the Sole Fitness B94 is the fan built into the console, which happens to keep you cool and wick sweat away throughout your workout. An iPhone/mp3 player dock is also located on the console, where you can play your music directly through the built-in speakers. The speakers reach a high volume and easily drown out the sounds of your workout equipment and heavy breathing.
The gel seat is comfortable and the height can be adjusted according to your size. Forwards and backwards movement is also available, which drastically cuts down on how much you need to hunch and promotes proper posture during your workout. The handlebars can also be adjusted horizontally and vertically. If you’re worried about the best fitting bike for you, be sure to take advantage of the Sole Fitness B94’s full range of adjustable parts.
3. Nautilus U616 Review
The U616 is probably one of the best upright bike models in the Nautilus lineup, and is equipped with many of the same bells and whistles that you’d find on the more expensive exercise bikes, including a cooling fan, acoustic speakers, media tray, water bottle holder, USB and audio ports, and transports wheels to name a few. The Nautilus U616 has a wide range of resistance levels (25) and preset workout programs (29) to keep things interesting.
The two-window backlit display is easy to read and displays all the important relevant statistics when in use (13 different readouts). The contact heart rate monitor is located on the handles, and a telemetry chest strap monitor can also be utilized. The option to set up 4 different user IDs is available and a great addition for a stationary bike for home-use. The Nautilus U616 is also equipped with Bluetooth connectivity, allowing easy monitoring and exporting of your progress to various fitness apps, including Nautilus Connect, Nautilus Trainer, and MyFitnessPal. The audio port is easy to access and the built-in acoustic speakers produce quality sounding music for when you’re working out. The cooling fan is quiet and the media tray is great for placing a book or your favorite magazine.
The high-speed high-inertia weighted flywheel and drive system ensure a smooth, fluid workout that keeps the muscles pumped and is easy on the joints. The handlebars can be adjusted depending on your preferred angle, and the seat can be raised or lowered, and adjusted forwards or backwards as desired. The seat itself is wider than your usual bicycle saddle, and its padding is contoured. The bike can handle users weighing up to 300-pounds and it does so comfortably. Other entry-level bikes are available with some qualities comparable to the Nautilus U616, but if you want the aesthetically pleasing display, the large number of resistance levels and workout programs, the wide and comfortable seat, quality pedals, and modern Bluetooth functionality, you’ll have to go for the moderately priced Nautilus U616.