Thoughts of indoor cycling bikes (maybe you know them as Spin bikes) conjure up images of sweaty health club studios, enthusiastic instructors, and blaring music. Indoor cycling is seeing a bump in participation thanks to the popularity of programs like SoulCycle and Equinox. But that doesn’t mean you have to find a studio and commit to classes to get your fix—nor necessarily should you right now as that runs contrary to social distancing guidelines. There are plenty of indoor cycling bike options that don’t require you to leave your living room. Before you start shopping for the newest addition to your home gym, here are some things to consider.
See quick info below on the top performers from our testing, then scroll deeper for more in-depth reviews of these bikes and other great options, as well as buying tips and advice.
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 recommends finding an indoor cycling bike that puts you in the same position as the regular one you’re accustomed to riding outside. If your daily rig is a road bike, for example, look for an indoor bike with a handlebar option that both incorporates a traditional bullhorn bar and mimics the hand-position options of drops and brake hoods. However, if you’re already used to taking studio classes, one with just the traditional bullhorn-style bar will work great, says Ben Sharp, power education specialist at Stages.
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 saddles. Essentially, the more adjustability, the better the chance you’ll get the fit you need.
The two most common methods for regulating an indoor bike’s resistance are friction and magnets. Friction-based systems that utilize leather or synthetic pads to apply pressure to the flywheel 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 is quieter than friction systems, and Mark Swaby, president of Diamondback Fitness, claims it produces a smoother ride.
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, with elaborate software that allows the user to join recorded and live classes.
The convenience of joining classes from the comfort of your own home is undeniable, and Swaby believes it’s a trend that is here to stay. Some bikes, like the Spinner A1, have an optional tablet holder and ANT+ so you can join classes from third-party programs like Peloton, as well as the live classes offered by Spin. Others, like the Wattbike Atom, feature Bluetooth connectivity and are designed to be used exclusively on third-party virtual platforms. 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.
Why It May Be Harder to Find a Bike Right Now
Ever since terms like “shelter in place,” “stay at home,” and “social distancing” took root in our daily lexicon, we’ve had to find alternative forms of entertainment that don’t involve large crowds, group indoor activities, or risky situations (such as travel). More people have caught on to the idea that activities like hiking, running, and bike riding (both indoor and out) are safe, sanity-saving ways to stay active and healthy—and away from others. This has led to a surge in indoor bike sales and, thus, a depletion of stock. That’s a good thing, because it means more people have discovered bikes. But it’s also frustrating if your goal today is to place an online order for a shiny new exercise bike only to find out that you may have to wait weeks or even months to get it. If you see something on this list that catches your eye, and you hit the out-of-stock roadblock, patience (waiting until inventory is fulfilled again), perseverance (it may be available somewhere else online or even somewhere locally), or just being proactive (pre-order is available for many out-of-stock models) might be the way to go. We’ll keep our eye on inventory and update links as often as we can.
How We Tested
Every bike on this list has been thoroughly evaluated and vetted by our team of test editors. We research the market, survey user reviews, speak with product managers and engineers, and use our own experience riding these products to determine the best. Our team of expert testers spent weeks with each bike to tease out the best, and least desirable, qualities. We used them for solo workouts and rode on virtual platforms like Zwift in order to learn the ins and outs of each and how well they work for the intended user. These eight indoor cycling bikes stood out.
―MOST REALISTIC FEEL―
Wahoo Kickr Bike
Wahoo released the Kickr, its first indoor bike, last fall and immediately reset the standard for models designed for use on virtual platforms. It connects with most of the major online training apps (Zwift, The Sufferfest, TrainerRoad, Strava Summit, etc.) on your laptop or TV screen and provides unmatched real-feel feedback to the rider based on the terrain in the game. It has integrated sensors that measure your cadence and power output (with +/-1 percent accuracy up to 2,200 watts) and five adjustment points: standover height, saddle height, setback, reach, and stack height. Use the Wahoo Fitness app to guide you through setting up your position, where you can upload fit results from Guru, Retul, or Trek Fit and the app will translate those numbers into the adjustments you need for the bike. Or you can put your height, inseam, and riding style into the app and it will give you rough measurements as a starting point. The Kickr Bike also lets you set the style of drivetrain you prefer, whether SRAM, Shimano, or Campagnolo, as well as the gear ratios. Its heavy flywheel adds resistance, and an internal motor controls the flywheel to simulate momentum and coasting, as well as the sensations of braking and shifting. Make no mistake about it, this is a premium bike with all the bells and whistles, and it comes at a premium price.
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―BEST FOR LIVE CLASSES―
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, 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 you progress over time.
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NordicTrack Commercial S22i Studio Cycle
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 doing an unguided ride. The library of recorded workouts is very 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.
―BEST FOR HIIT WORKOUTS―
StagesBike SB20 Smart Bike
The StagesBike sets the standard for performance-focused indoor bikes, due in no small part to the brand’s experience as manufacturer of both commercial-grade indoor bikes and power meters. Like the Kickr Bike, this one also feels very similar to—and is easy to set a position that mimics—your outdoor bicycle. Not only are saddle height and setback, as well as handlebar stack and reach, fully adjustable down to the millimeter, but the bike is outfitted with a standard drop bar like you’d find on a road bike. Brake levers resemble those found on traditional bikes both in feel and appearance, with shifter buttons on the inside of the hoods that can be customized to your drivetrain (Shimano or Campagnolo) and gearing preference (1x, 2x, or custom) within the companion app. The cranks are fitted with a dual-sided power meter (Stages, of course) and drilled for four lengths: 165mm, 170mm, 172.5mm, and 175mm. The bike has multiple USB ports to power all of your devices, an optional tablet holder, and is compatible with most major third-party virtual platforms like Zwift, Trainerroad and The Sufferfest. Naturally the StagesBike can also be paired with the Stages Dash computer to run manual workouts. It doesn’t have a grade simulator like the Kickr Bike that tilts it up or down when riding virtual courses, nor is the shifting customizable to the extend that the Wahoo product allows. But what it lacks in virtual frills it makes up for in pragmatic functionality. And it’s $600 cheaper.
Spinner A1-Spin Bike
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 on 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.
―VIRTUAL PLATFORM STAR―
The Atom has a built-in power meter and electromagnetic resistance, plus simulated shifting to alter the resistance. It’s equipped with Bluetooth and ANT+ FE-C, and works with apps like Wattbike’s—which offers workout programs and fitness testing—and Zwift. A built-in holder on the aero bar secures a tablet or smartphone, and buttons on the hoods control workout functions like adjusting target watts. In Zwift, the right-hand hood’s buttons simulate gear shifts, but the firmware has been updated since we tested and now includes an 11-speed gear option. The Atom is great for at home—quiet and very stable. And we love the small footprint.
Bowflex C6 Bike
This is one of our favorite 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, or 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 three-pound dumbbells so you can get a light upper body workout in, too.
―BEST CHEAP INDOOR BIKE―
Sunny Health and Fitness Indoor Cycling Bike
If you find data displayed in your face to be annoying, consider a monitor-less model like this Sunny Health & Fitness. This stationary cycle is flywheel-driven. The steel frame keeps it planted as you crank out your toughest efforts, and the 49-pound flywheel has resistance that’s adjustable by a knob mounted on the top tube. That creates more inertia and is meant to increase real-world ride feel and a smoother pedal stroke. The belt drive system is quiet, and an emergency brake allows you to stop the pedals quickly. Pedal cages help keep your sneakers on the platforms for safety and efficient power output. The handlebar and seat adjust up and down, and you can position the seat more forward or back to your liking.
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