With recent changes in the market, we gave our article on folding bikes a bit of attention. This included making some amendments to our top seven chart.
We therefore removed one older model and replaced it with a more relevant choice for 2021, the SlimCycle Folding Exercise Bike.
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If you still want a good cycle workout at home with a machine that won’t dominate your living area or bust the bank, you should turn your attention to folding exercise bikes.
While they have their limitations, these space-saving bikes offer good functionality and most of the features found on regular exercise bikes, albeit with one key difference – they can be collapsed into half their size for easy storage after your workout.
However, because folding exercise bikes are usually found in the budget region of the market, you should be extra careful when buying one. For every worthwhile model, you’ll find a handful that are not worth your time or money.
That’s where this article comes in. On this page we dive into the world of folding stationary bikes to give you all you need to know ahead of a purchase.
First, we take a look at seven of our favorite folding exercise bikes, highlighting their features, pros and cons. After this comes our buyer’s guide, offering you the lowdown on folding bikes – what’s good, what’s bad, and what you should look out for to make an informed decision.
Let’s get straight into the chart!
Folded Dimensions: 9” x 22” x 63”
Resistance: 8 levels (Magnetic)
Weight Capacity: 250lbs
Features: Steel X-frame, padded seat with backrest, Bluetooth LCD monitor, smartphone app, pulse grip heart rate monitor, media shelf, water bottle holder
Truth be told, many folding exercise bikes are very similar in their offering, although some brands shake things up a little by delivering a new element. In the case of the ShareVgo SXB1000, it’s a range of smart features to track your progress.
In particular, a Bluetooth LCD monitor and accompanying smartphone app – one that is surprisingly well-designed for an affordable package like this. This combines to record your cycling sessions, as well as allowing you to complete challenges and compare yourself with other users.
The SXB1000 itself is a standard X-frame folding bike, with compact dimensions and the ability to take users up to 250lbs. It features a padded seat with backrest, eight levels of magnetic resistance, a heart rate monitor, and a media shelf with water bottle holder.
Design: Upright / Recumbent
Folded Dimensions: 52” x 21.5” x 22”
Resistance: 8 levels (Magnetic)
Weight Capacity: 300lbs
Features: Steel frame, 2.5” memory foam seat, upper-body resistance bands, LCD screen, pulse-grip heart rate monitor, media shelf, 10 free on-demand virtual riding classes
You may have seen the SlimCycle on TV advertisements, accompanied by a lot of hype and enthusiastic salespeople. While some of the claims feel a bit OTT, the SlimCycle is actually a very worthwhile piece of gear, especially at such an economical price.
This bike folds to a small footprint (52” x 21.5” x 22”) for ease of storage, and opens up into both upright and recumbent positions, with a thick memory-foam seat and backrest for comfort.
When set up, you have the option of eight magnetic resistance levels as well as the so-called ‘upper-body sculpting system’ – built-in resistance bands that allow you to target some upper-body muscle groups. Plenty of workout variety then, which is enhanced by the inclusion of 10 virtual riding classes (which requires downloading of an app).
Folded Dimensions: 28” x 16” x 54”
Resistance: 8 levels (Magnetic)
Weight Capacity: 300lbs
Features: Steel frame, adjustable padded seat, padded backrest, LCD screen, workout feedback, built-in non-slip desk, storage tray, media shelf, massage rollers, resistance bands, transportation wheels
A lot of innovation has been crammed into the upgraded FitDesk 3.0! This is the ideal exercise bike for the home office, as the built-in non-slip desk (approx. 19” x 16”) allows you to comfortably use a laptop or tablet while you cycle.
This desk also features a storage tray – doubling as a media shelf – for extra convenience, as well as massage rollers for your arms and resistance bands for an added challenge.
However, underneath all these extra features, the 3.0 remains a very solid bike. It sports a steel frame offering support to users up to 300lbs, along with great adjustability in the seat and backrest. Meanwhile, eight levels of magnetic resistance offer enough of a challenge for light exercise as you work.
Design: Upright / Recumbent
Folded Dimensions: 19.7” x 9” x 54.7”
Resistance: 10 levels (Magnetic)
Weight Capacity: 350lbs
Features: Steel frame, adjustable padded seat, padded backrest, padded handles, LCD screen, workout feedback, pulse grip heart rate monitor, resistance bands, transportation wheels
Our top pick for this season is the folding X-Bike from Merax, which manages to top its peers in almost every department, while remaining incredibly affordable.
Firstly, it folds to one of the smallest floorspace dimensions around, at just 19.7” x 9”, for easy space saving and storage (especially when combined with the transportation wheels). When in use, the steel frame is very stable, with a solid 350lb weight capacity, and can be positioned as either an upright or recumbent bike.
Like others, this bike offers magnetic resistance, although is a tad more versatile with ten levels to choose from compared to the regular eight. It also comes with built-in resistance bands for training your arms, while the clear LCD screen offers good workout feedback. Hard to find negatives with this one!
Design: Upright / Recumbent
Folded Dimensions: 18.5” x 9.8” x 52.7”
Resistance: 8 levels (Magnetic)
Weight Capacity: 265lbs
Features: Steel frame, adjustable padded seat, padded backrest, padded handles, LCD screen, workout feedback, pulse grip heart rate monitor, media shelf, resistance bands, transportation wheels
Next on the list is this excellent multifunctional folding bike from MaxKare, which throws in a few extras to really boost its convenience and value.
Although this is an upright bike at heart, you can actually adjust the seat angle to convert it into a recumbent bike for a more relaxed ride, especially when paired with the padded backrest. The frame is sturdy and holds up to 265lbs, while folding to a very sleek 18.5” x 9.8”. Meanwhile, the magnetic resistance offers a smooth ride with eight levels from which to choose.
In addition to features such as the LCD screen and media shelf, you will also find a pair of built-in resistance bands, allowing you to work your arms at the same time as your legs. Hard to fault for the price!
Folded Dimensions: 20.5” x 20” x 50.5”
Resistance: 8 levels (Magnetic)
Weight Capacity: 225lbs
Features: 3.3lbs precision-balanced flywheel, steel frame, adjustable padded seat, padded backrest, two sets of handles, LCD screen, workout feedback, pulse grip heart rate monitor, accessory pocket, transportation wheels
One of the bestselling folding exercise bikes around is the FB350 from XTERRA Fitness, which shows that you don’t need to spend very much at all to walk away with an impressive unit.
It’s a solid bike that ticks all the boxes. This includes a heavy-duty steel frame that takes up to 225lb of user weight, along with a 3.3lb precision-balanced flywheel offering eight levels of magnetic resistance. This all folds up into a neat 20.5” x 20” package, taking up very little floorspace.
This bike features a few more luxury touches compared to the FB150 (see below), including an adjustable padded seat, backrest and side handlebars, along with padded handlebars at the front of the bike. There’s also a basic but functional LCD screen offering plenty of workout feedback.
Folded Dimensions: 22” x 20” x 55.5”
Resistance: 8 levels (Magnetic)
Weight Capacity: 300lbs
Features: Precision-balanced flywheel, V-belt drive, steel frame, adjustable padded seat, large LCD screen, workout feedback, pulse grip heart rate monitor, accessory pocket, transportation wheels
Another very highly-rated folding bike is this model from Exerpeutic, which may not boast much in the way of luxury, yet it gets the fundamentals right.
It features a steel frame capable of taking up to 300lbs of weight, which is very good for such an affordable unit. In addition to stability, you can expect quite a smooth ride with eight levels of magnetic resistance, delivered by the precision-balanced flywheel and V-belt drive.
The seat isn’t the most comfortable (a characteristic shared by the majority of budget exercise bikes) and there’s no back support either. However, the overall experience is good for the price. A bonus is that it comes with a large LCD screen, pulse-sensor heart rate monitors, and a convenient accessory pocket.
First things first, if you aren’t limited by space or budget, you should probably look at what we consider to be some of the best exercise bikes on the market instead. These bikes certainly offer better performance and features, and are well worth checking out. If you are a bit more restricted, then don’t worry – we have all the information you need right here!
Our chart above has highlighted seven of our favorite folding exercise bikes on the market – now it is time to get into the nitty gritty.
As you may have seen, these bikes have their uses, although they certainly have their limitations too. In this guide, we take a look at these limitations and show you how to choose a folding bike that best suits you, your living space and your fitness goals.
While each model is different in its own way, every folding exercise bike tends to follow a similar blueprint.
Firstly, you will usually find that folding bikes are classed as either upright bikes or recumbent bikes. You will very rarely – possibly never – find a spinning bike that folds.
For the uninitiated, upright bikes have a seat that is placed lower than the handlebars, with pedals just below the seat. This means you can ride an upright bike as you would a regular road bike.
On the other hand, recumbent bikes place you into a more reclined position, with the pedals in front of your body. This position spreads your bodyweight more evenly, which makes it better suited for people with lower body joint issues.
However, there is something to consider here. Due to the design of most folding bikes, the pedals almost always have to be placed further forward than they usually would on a regular non-folding upright bike. So, even if you are buying a folding upright bike, the design will more likely sit in between that of an upright and recumbent model.
Of course, the next thing to consider is how the bike folds. This will usually be the same kind of system, with each bike using an ‘X frame’. This means the bike folds out to create the shape of an ‘X’ – with the seat and flywheel forming one line, and the handles and rear support forming the other.
This design allows the bike to collapse into more of an ‘I’ shape, reducing the floor space (although slightly increasing in vertical height in its collapsed form). On the subject of floor space, it is time to discuss the dimensions…
This is an important issue, considering that you are probably buying a folding bike as you don’t have the space to dedicate to a regular exercise bike – at least not permanently.
For example, you may live in a shared house with someone who doesn’t want an exercise bike permanently set up in the living room. Or you may live in a studio apartment where space is at a premium. Or you may be using the bike in your office during your lunch break.
Whatever the reason, the good news is that some bikes fold down to take up barely any floor space at all – as little as around 19” x 10” in some cases, with the average folded size around 20” x 20”. This means you can comfortably store it in the corner of your room or, if you have one, inside a closet.
One thing you will have to look at is how big the bike is when in use. For example, the bike may well fold down to 18” x 18” when stored away, but do you have 32” x 18” of floor space for the bike when it is unfolded and ready for action? Of course, you must also add another few foot around the bike to allow you to comfortably get on and off.
Thankfully, it’s not hard to figure this out. Just make sure to check the dimensions on the marketing information or manufacturer’s website, to ensure it will fit your room.
As a side note, if you are struggling to accommodate even a folding exercise bike, you may want to look towards buying a good pedal exerciser instead. These slip under a desk or into a closet with no problem, while also being very affordable. Sure, they won’t give you the full Tour de France experience, but any movement is good!
Now you have settled on the design of your folding bike and know the dimensions will fit your workout space, you should turn your attention to the weight capacity. This means the amount of weight your bike can take before it either stops working completely or – more dramatically – collapses!
Unlike a higher-end exercise bike, folding bikes aren’t known for their strength. This shouldn’t worry you, as they will still be able to take the weight of most users, but they certainly don’t feel as strong as bigger bikes.
Of course, some will break the mold and come with an impressive 400lb capacity, but the general market of folding stationary bikes come with maximum weights ranging between around 220lbs to 300lbs.
Just be aware of your current weight (and the weight of anyone else using the bike), use common sense, and buy accordingly. In other words, if you weigh 260lbs, don’t go buying a bike with a capacity of 240lbs, or you’ll break it before you even have the chance to lose weight!
A major element of how your bike performs is down to the resistance system it offers. When discussing bikes in general, you have several options for resistance – magnetic, direct-contact and air resistance.
However, we are going to ignore bikes with both direct-contact and air resistance, as you will rarely (if ever) find these in use on folding models. Instead, we are looking pretty much exclusively at bikes using magnetic resistance.
With magnetic resistance, magnets act on a metal flywheel to increase or decrease the resistance. The closer the magnets are to the wheel, the greater the resistance. This system is popular on many upright bikes – especially folding models – as it is clean, quiet and effective.
One criticism is that magnetic resistance is not as natural as air or direct-contact resistance, and it is hard to argue against this. Acceleration is determined by preset levels. For example, level 2 may be very easy, while level 7 will be much more difficult.
However, what magnetic resistance lacks in natural acceleration and deceleration, it makes up for in consistency. For example, you can set your bike at a moderate resistance level (say, level 5) then stick there for the entire session.
Truth be told, there aren’t going to be many fluctuations in levels when it comes to budget folding bikes. The majority tend to offer around eight levels of resistance, with some offering around ten. This is certainly not as versatile as higher-end stationary bikes (which can offer up to around 25 levels), but it’s enough to allow you to change things up.
Another thing to be aware of when purchasing a folding bike is that the top level of resistance probably won’t be that difficult.
Sure, it will provide a decent challenge if you are using the highest level for an hour of cycling – especially if you are a beginner. However, it probably won’t be enough resistance to cater for advanced athletes particularly well.
This is largely down to the fact that the flywheel on folding exercise bikes are so small, simply down to the nature of the machine. Again, this won’t make too much of a difference if you are simply riding to burn a few calories, but if you want a real aerobic challenge and want to simulate hill climbs in your living room, a folding exercise bike probably won’t cut the mustard.
There’s a running theme with exercise bikes that fold – they offer most of the features that full-size bikes do, yet with less bells and whistles. The control module is another aspect that reinforces this fact.
In between the handlebars of your folding bike you will find an LCD screen, displaying data from the onboard computer. This data will usually include feedback on your workout, such as your session time, distance, current speed, calories burned and heart rate (more on this below).
Even on budget bikes like these, this will be fairly accurate data – apart from, perhaps, the calories burned. This metric is notoriously inaccurate on budget cardio machines and you would be better off wearing a good fitness tracker for cycling to give you a better idea of your calorie expenditure during your session.
Some LCD screens will be tiny and simple, while others will be larger and more detailed. If you value workout feedback like this, you may want to opt for a larger screen – especially if you are (or are buying for) a user with poor vision.
Also, consider whether you will be using the bike in a dark room or at night time, because the vast majority of folding bikes don’t offer screens with backlights. You will therefore need some sort of light to see what’s going on with your session (or look specifically for a bike with a backlight).
After buying a bike that suits your workout space, your bodyweight, and your fitness workout goals, you can take a look at some of the extra features you may find. These alone are probably not worth buying the bike for, yet can enhance the overall experience.
The seat is an important secondary feature. After all, without a seat, you would be in for a very painful ride!
As most folding bikes are budget models, this usually means the seats are nothing incredible. In fact, many will be quite hard and may cause discomfort when using them for longer sessions.
Unfortunately, there isn’t much you can do about this. If the seat does feel too hard or uncomfortable, you can usually purchase a gel cover that slips over the existing seat. Wherever you buy this cover from, just make sure it will fit the size and shape of your bike seat.
Heart Rate Monitor
Another thing you will come across on many folding exercise bikes is a heart rate monitor. This comes in the form of pulse pads (little metal strips) on the handlebars. Holding your hands on these strips for a certain amount of time will allow the bike to read your heart rate and deliver the data to the LCD screen (see above).
However, like the calories-burned metric, the heart rate monitoring on these bikes is temperamental at best, inaccurate at worst.
It is best to take these measurements as a rough indication of how hard you are working, as opposed to basing your workout on them. If you are keen to find accurate heart rate monitoring, you could wear a fitness tracker or – even better – a wireless heart rate chest strap monitor.
Quite uniquely, some folding exercises bikes feature resistance bands built into the frame. Simply pull them out and you have some instant resistance for your upper body, turning your bike session into a full-body workout.
Of course, using resistance bands such as these aren’t really going to help you build muscle or strength – they are no comparison to a set of dumbbells or even bodyweight movements such as pushups. However, these bands do allow you to move your upper body while you cycle.
Frankly, there are no disadvantages here – using them may help you may feel looser and more athletic, while burning a few extra calories along the way. Still, don’t buy a folding exercise bike just for these bands – you can find a good set of resistance bands for very little money elsewhere on the market.
No, we aren’t talking flywheels here – we are referring to transportation wheels, which are small wheels fitted to one side of the bike’s base.
Having these wheels on the bike may not seem like anything glamorous, although they allow you to easily move the bike in and out of storage. Considering that you are likely to be buying a folding bike to save space, having this maneuverability is very important.
Luckily, most folding stationary bikes do offer transportation wheels – although double-check that this is the case before you buy.
Finally, we take a look at a feature seen on a small handful of folding exercise bikes – a built-in desk. This is clearly not going to be a worthwhile feature for many users, although for some it will be essential.
Just as you can find treadmills with standing desks incorporated into their design, having a desk built onto the frame of your bike can be a useful feature for some people. For example, you may want to be able to carry out your daily work while you burn some calories, or you may just want to binge on some NetFlix boxsets on your laptop while you work out.
These desks usually have the added benefit of having a built-in storage compartment and potentially a cup holder or a media shelf. Of course, these desks are useful, but they will increase the cost of the bike somewhat. Therefore, they are only worthwhile if you will actually make use of it. Otherwise, save your money!
As we have established on this page, folding exercise bikes certainly have their limitations. However, they are actually pretty good machines – providing you shop smartly.
The main benefit of these bikes is that they are foldable. This means that when you have completed your workout, you can jump off the bike, pull a lever or pin, then collapse the bike to half its size.
Naturally, the bike will still take up room, but it will be a lot less intrusive than a full-size exercise bike. It will also be easier to move around and store in the corner or in a closet when not in use.
Aside from the fact that these bikes fold, they still offer similar benefits to a full-size non-folding bike. You have a frame, seat, pedals and flywheel, which allow you to have a low-impact bike workout that will help you burn calories and build your aerobic fitness.
The other benefit is that these bikes are usually pretty cheap to buy. On average you will spend between $100 and $200, with folding bikes rarely reaching more than around $300.
As for the limitations we mentioned, you will find that the overall stability of a folding bike is a little lower than a higher-end non-folding unit. Due to their design, they usually won’t be able to take as much weight either.
Also, as they tend to have smaller flywheels, the resistance will generally be lower, meaning advanced athletes may struggle to get in a workout that can match their intensity. You will also be limited with the style of resistance – folding bikes almost exclusively use magnetic resistance.
Finally, due to the lower prices, the extra features tend to be more rudimentary. Gadgets like LCD screens and heart rate monitors all feel quite basic, while seats are usually a little uncomfortable.
Still, for their purpose, folding exercise bikes aren’t a gimmick. They do their job of providing a decent low-impact bike workout, then fold away neatly post-workout. For a few hundred bucks, that’s all you can really ask for!
So, you have decided to make the jump into the world of folding exercise bikes? Good for you – you don’t need to compromise on a good at-home bike workout just because you are struggling for space.
Of course, now you want to know which folding bike is the best. It’s a good question, but it’s one you have to answer for yourself based on a few factors.
Firstly, it is important to decide on the style. Do you need an upright bike or a recumbent bike? As the names suggest, upright bikes place you in a more upright (and athletic) position, whereas recumbent bikes have a more reclined profile, and are a little easier to use for people with joint issues.
You should also look at the weight capacity of the bike and only buy it if it will support your weight. If possible, buy a bike that caters for around 100lbs more than your weight for extra peace of mind, although this may not always be feasible.
Finally, be sure to factor in any features that are important to you. Do you want a bike that offers more choice when it comes to resistance levels? Do you need a larger LCD screen? Is built-in heart rate monitoring essential?
These questions are important to ask. When you have the answers, you will be able to narrow down your shortlist to a few choices – one of those will be the best bike for you!
Take a look at our top seven chart above for some inspiration, but don’t forget to browse all the other folding bikes out there on the market.
Make no mistake about it, riding an exercise bike is an excellent way to shift a few pounds – whether that’s working out on a top of the line bike or a budget folding unit, like those we highlight in this article.
Like treadmills, ellipticals and rowing machines, exercise bikes are a tried-and-tested way to burn calories at home. As we all know, burning calories is key to losing fat.
However, before you rush out and buy one, there are a few considerations to make.
Firstly, no amount of exercise bike workouts – or any other exercise for that matter – is going to make an impact to your waistline if your diet is not in order. You can burn a few hundred calories in an hour-long exercise bike session, sure – but if you follow that up with a calorific meal (a couple of slices of pizza, for example), your hard work will have been for very little.
To lose fat, you need to be in a consistent calorie deficit. Everyone is different and if you want to know your ideal deficit to lose fat, we do the calculations for you with our free TDEE calculator. While exercise is a good route to this deficit, nothing beats a sensible diet.
Secondly, you need to be aware that you cannot spot-reduce fat. In other words, you can’t target your belly fat. The body works in mysterious ways and only it decides from where you lose fat. The only guaranteed way to lose fat from your belly is to reduce your entire bodyfat percentage.
The good news is that this isn’t as difficult as it may seem. Anybody can do it.
Yes, it does take discipline and a bit of time, especially if you are very overweight. However, if you stick to a strict calorie deficit for a few weeks, while incorporating a little cardio (walking, biking) and resistance training (bodyweight exercises, weightlifting), you will be surprised at how much fat will vanish from your belly, as well as the rest of your body!
Whether you are struggling with ongoing knee issues or are nursing a new injury, you may be looking for a cardio activity that doesn’t stress this joint. While high-impact activities such as running and jumping may be out of the question for now, walking and biking are both considered suitable – but which is better?
Ultimately, the best kind of exercise is one you enjoy the most, as it means you will do it more often. So, if you hate biking, but love walking, chances are that you have already made your decision!
Thankfully, both walking and biking have their advantages for people with knee issues.
As a non-weightbearing exercise, cycling on a stationary bike makes a good case for being ‘the best’ for people with knee problems. This closed-chain movement means very little force is placed on the knee during exercise, so you could cycle for extended periods at moderate intensities and not aggravate knee issues.
Cycling is also better for knee complaints if you are overweight, as carrying extra weight is a major cause of knee pain in the first place.
If you are choosing to bike with knee pain, make sure you take some time to set the bike up properly, so that you aren’t inadvertently causing extra damage by putting your knees in a bad position. There are plenty of free online video guides to setting up your exercise bike to fit you perfectly – be sure to look some up.
If your knees are particularly painful, then consider a recumbent exercise bike. The design of a recumbent bike distributes bodyweight more evenly across the bike, thus reducing knee strain even more than an upright bike.
While cycling has its pluses, don’t completely disregard walking. Walking can actually help reduce inflammation and stiffness in people who suffer from osteoarthritis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Walking is also accessible to everybody as it requires no external equipment, with the added bonus of being an excuse to enjoy some fresh air (unless you choose to walk on a walking treadmill instead!).
If you are walking, be sure to choose the right shoes and take it easy to start – no need to walk a marathon on your first session! Aim to walk on softer surfaces if you can, with grass and dirt trails proving more forgiving on the joints than asphalt or concrete.
Regardless of whether you choose cycling, walking, or both, if you have knee issues, make sure to consult a doctor or physical therapist before embarking on any new exercise plan.
This article should have given you plenty of inspiration ahead of purchasing a folding exercise bike. In our top seven chart, we awarded the Merax X-Bike as our favorite, as it beat other bikes in areas like resistance choice, weight capacity, and smallest folded floorspace.
However, it is worth considering the other bikes we highlight, before using the information in our buyer’s guide to browse the entire market. You may find something more suited to your workout space and fitness goals.
Wherever you are working out, we hope you find what you are looking for in your new folding exercise bike!