Looking to jump on a bike but not sure which one to go for? You may have noticed two different types of bikes at your gym- an exercise bike (also referred to as an upright or stationary bike) and a spin bike. Although both bikes offer the same main function... cycling, they differ in design, features and achievable fitness results.
Cycling is one of the best exercises to include in your daily life, bikes help with weight less, toning muscle and basic cardio. Whether you are looking for a killer workout or just wanting to keep up with cardio a exercise bike or spin bike will help you achieve those goals.
NATURE OF WORKOUT
If you are looking to complete a full body workout where you will exert lots of energy, similar to the style of cycling you would see in a spin studio, then a spin bike is your go to. Spin bikes are perfect for intensive workouts as you can easily adjust your resistance and stand up as you push harder. Spin bikes help to lose weight and build muscle, as you stand and cycle you will target your calves, while also working out your shoulders, arms, back, and core.
For a more leisurely workout, exercise bikes are a fantastic option, they improve cardiovascular fitness, build muscle and help with weight loss. Riders who like to cycle at their own pace and undertake moderately intensive workouts tend to opt for the upright bike. Stationary bikes pose minimal risk to injury as riders are seated which may be optimal for those recovering from injury or with exercise restrictions.
Spin bikes are designed to replicate the structure and feel of racing on a road bike. With an adjustable seat height and handlebar inclination, you can adjust the bike to your personal comfort level. Spin bike pedals are typically stronger to support riding while standing and also feature enclosed straps to keep feet secure during vigorous cycling sessions.
Stationary bikes are structured with the seat sitting lower and closer to the arm handles, so you can cycle in an upright position. Similar to the spin bike, exercise bikes have adjustable seat height and pedal straps, however they are typically a slip-on single strap. Some exercise bikes are designed with a foldable mechanism which may appeal to those looking for an exercise bike to use at home.
Image: SP-870 Spin Bike
Spin bikes closely mimic the natural position and posture of riding a bike. With the handles and seat at roughly the same level, the rider must lean forward to hold onto the handlebars. For intensive workouts or spin classes the further back seat position allows riders to easily stand up and cycle.
Exercise bikes allow users to sit upright whilst they ride, causing less strain on the lower back, shoulders and neck. Upright bikes also feature a larger seat which tends to be more comfortable and encourages users to cycle for longer.
The heavier flywheel fitted on spin bikes requires you to exert more energy to get the bike moving, but inertia keeps the flywheel spinning after you stop pedalling. Spin bikes also feature variable resistance control, making it perfect for interval workouts when you are constantly changing your resistance and pace. The resistance control on a spin bike will either be magnetic, meaning the bike uses magnets to change the resistance or mechanical, which uses contact pads moving closer to create increased resistance.
Exercise bikes feature a lighter flywheel offering riders a consistent resistance whilst cycling. As exercise bikes don’t tend to carry momentum, once you stop pedalling the flywheel of the bike will come to a quick stop. Most exercise bikes come with set resistance levels and pre-set programs that will adjust the resistance for you.
The LCD design on spin bikes is relatively simple to use, features minimal program options and has manual resistance. The spin bike LCD display will offer riders with basic workout data including, speed, distance, time and calories. However, a spin bike doesn’t offer in depth data that you would find on an exercise bike like program charts and body fat calculator.
Exercise bikes come with more technological options to help you track and customise your workout. Similar to a spin bike, the display screen will track statistics like your heart rate, distance, calories and time. Advanced exercise bikes are great for riders looking for customisable workouts, they come with programs offering a range of different workouts including HIIT training and uphill training. These bikes are great for beginners, but they do come with a heavier price tag.
Image: EXER-11 Folding Bike
- Low intensity workout
- Good workout for your core and lower body
- Customisable workout
- Comfortable seat and rider positioning
- Easy to use
- Seated option only- unable to hop onto pedals for hill climbs
- Limited resistance will restrict the intensity of the workout
- May not suit high fitness level / athletes
- Simulates outdoor push bike riding
- Intensive interval workouts
- Versatile ride, from seated sprints to hill climbs and standing sprints
- High to unlimited resistance with no limits on intensity
- Allows for further progression, from beginner to athlete levels
- Greater stress on lower back
- Less comfortable seats
- May be hard for beginner with no in-built programs
- Not as technologically advanced, such as Music Playback
Deciding between a spin bike or stationery can be a tricky decision especially when consumers are spoilt for choice. Ultimately, what will work best for you will depend on your fitness goals. If you are looking for a casual and easy to use bike that will be more forgiving on your joints, then go for an exercise bike. Otherwise, if you are looking to complete intensive bike workouts with high resistance, then consider a spin bike.