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The Best Exercise Trainer Bikes For Every Budget

Indoor cycling is one of the best ways, minute-for-minute, to pack in an intense workout. Here are some of the best ways to get your legs spinning in the comfort of your own home.

Cycling is one of the best activities you can do for your health. It’s great cardio, so it’s good for your heart. It’s low impact, so it’s easy on your bones and joints. Plus, if you work at it enough, you get super sexy, ripped legs. What more could you want?

And when it comes to getting a good workout in a short amount of time, there’s no better way to do it than with structured indoor training. The workouts can be more intense than riding outside, so you can push harder for a shorter amount of time. It’s a win-win.

The Best for Serious Athletes: Peloton ($2,000)

If you’re serious about indoor spinning, it’s hard to beat the Peloton bike. This tech-heavy bike is one of the best indoor training machines you can get, even if you’re not already a cyclist. The bike itself has a fully adjustable saddle and versatile handlebar setup for multiple positions, as well as an accessible tension adjustment knob for on-the-fly tweaks as you ride.

But that’s not at all what makes the Peloton special—it’s the massive 22-inch HD touchscreen that’s front-and-center above the bars. This is where the magic really happens with Peloton’s dedicated streaming studio cycling classes. These structured workouts are designed to push you to (and past) your limits as an athlete. And with over a dozen live rides daily, should allow you to fit a workout into your schedule pretty easily.

Of course, all that tech comes at a price.

At $2,000, the bike is already expensive enough, but it’s also nearly useless without the dedicated Peloton training software, which will set you back another $40 a month. So not only will you shell out a couple grand to get started, but you’ll also have to commit to almost $500 a year just to use the thing.

It’s a tough pill to swallow, but if you know this is something you really enjoy, it’s worth the money. But that’s also why this is our pick for the serious athlete: it takes a high level of commitment and dedication to be comfortable dropping this much coin on a piece of exercise equipment.

The Most Versatile Option: A Real Bike and Trainer (Varying Costs)

If you’re looking to get the most versatile setup for your money, then you’ll want to look into getting a “real” bike and a trainer setup. This will allow you to ride indoors when you need to, and outdoors when you want to. It’s a great solution.

While the prices can vary greatly, you can expect to pay around $500 for an entry-level bike, then around $200 for an entry-level trainer. So for around $700, you can get a good starter setup. If you’re looking to buy a bit above the entry level, $1500 is a good budget for a bike, then around $600 for a trainer—all in, that’s just a bit more than the cost of a Peloton, but for a far more versatile setup.

It works like this: you pick the bike you’d want to ride outside—it can be a hybrid, road bike, or even a mountain bike (though these aren’t as practical indoors)—then pick a trainer that fits your needs. This is more challenging than you might think just because of the sheer number of choices out there. There’s no limit to the bike selection, and then you also have to choose a trainer on top of that.

So for that, we suggest taking a trip to your local bike shop. They’ll help you pick the right bike for your needs, as well as show you the different types of indoor trainers. To get you started, however, here’s a super quick and dirty look at both.

The Different Types of Bikes

Cannondale CAAD12 road bike

When it comes to picking a bike, there are three distinct styles (and several more granular sub-styles):

  • Road Bikes: When you think of a Tour de France riding sprinting towards the finish, this is the type of bike they’re on. Road bikes generally have the most aggressive (read: forward, leaning) position of the different types of bikes.
  • Mountain Bikes: Likely what you rode everywhere as a kid, these bikes are designed exclusively for off road and trail riding. They’re not fun on the road because of the weight and rolling resistance.
  • Hybrid Bikes: A “combination” of road and mountain. These have faster rolling tires similar to a road bike but a more upright position like a mountain bike. While versatile and great for beginner cyclists, you’ll soon learn they’re not really good at anything. Jack of all trades, master of none.

The first hurdle is to pick which type of bike suits your needs and experience level. Again, your local bike shop can help with this.

The Different Types of Trainers

CycleOps Magnus Smart Trainer

There are basically three different types of traditional trainers:

  • Fan-based: These use fans to generate resistance. They’re the cheapest, but also the loudest and least versatile.
  • Magnet-based: These use magnets for the resistance mechanism. They’re quieter than fan-based, and generally more useful. They’re also more expensive.
  • Fluid-based: These are going to be the highest-end trainers. They’re quieter than the others, and use a fluid roller for resistance. The fluid thickens as it gets warm, increasing resistance gradually. They have a more road-like feel than the others.

But there smart trainers. These use Bluetooth to connect your trainer with your phone, tablet, or computer. You can then use software to remotely control the resistance of the trainer, giving a more road-like feel than anything else indoors. There are two types of smart trainers:

  • Wheel-on: These world like most traditional trainers in that you mount the bike by the rear wheel and the trainer’s barrel presses up against the wheel to provide resistance.
  • Direct drive: These trainers remove the rear wheel from the equation, allowing you to attach your bike directly to the trainer. These are the best of the best, so they’re also the most expensive on the list.
A direct drive trainer.

Once you’ve figured out your perfect bike and trainer combination, you’ll have a great, usable, and highly versatile setup. At that point, there are a number of compatible training plans you can use, like Zwift and TrainerRoad, for example.

The Best on a Budget: Exerpeutic Folding Magnetic Bike ($125)

If you’re unsure of how much you’ll enjoy spinning on an indoor bike, it’s hard to justify coughing up several hundred dollars to try it out. For that, you’ll want to keep costs down and the Exerpeutic folding magnetic bike is the best option we’ve found.

This is a simple, out of the way bike that will make it easy to jump on and spin for 30 minutes while you watch Netflix. It features eight levels of magnetic tension for quiet and useful operation, as well as a built-in heart rate sensors in the handles. The onboard display shows the metrics you’d want from a basic setup like this: distance, speed, time, heart rate, and calories burned.

It features a very upright geometry, making it an excellent choice for anyone who isn’t looking for that forward-leaning “road bike” position. It also folds up for easy storage when you’re not using it—a great feature for those in a tight space who may not have room for a bike all the time.

The downside here is that this bike isn’t compatible with any sort of training software, so you’re left to just spin at your own discretion. If you’re okay with that, hit the link below to buy it.

The Best Recumbent Indoor Bike: Schwinn 270 ($550)

Upright bikes aren’t for everyone for a variety of reasons (health, comfort, etc.), so that’s where recumbent bikes come in. These bikes feature larger seats in a more reclined position, making them much more comfortable than a traditional bike. Unlike an upright bike, they also require no muscle interaction from your upper body, making them a fantastic option for people with back problems.

When it comes to the best recumbent indoor bikes, there’s one that stands above the rest: the Schwinn 270. This bike features built-in workouts available on its built-in display, a heart rate sensor, multiple user profiles, 25 levels of resistance, an onboard fan, and water bottle holder. It will also track and display your time, distance, and calories with the Bluetooth connectivity to optionally transfer this data to MyFitnessPal. The 270 also has support for RideSocial for virtual solo or group rides.

If you’re looking to save a little bit of coin, Schwinn also offers the 230 for around $100 less, though it doesn’t have as many bells and whistles as its bigger brother. You can find a comparison of the two here.

Image Credit: Basyn/Shutterstock.com


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