We gave this article on the best exercise bikes under one grand a revisit, and got to work reshuffling our chart to bring it up to date.
Changes included the addition of the exceptional Bowflex C6, while we rearranged the order of other things to reflect popularity on the current market.
No matter your fitness level or your goals, an exercise bike is an outstanding way to get in your daily cardio from the comfort of your own home.
Stationary bikes are some of the most versatile pieces of home fitness equipment that you can find, no matter what style you go for – spin, upright or recumbent.
Table of Contents
The units on this list all fall within the sub-$1,000 price range – for exercise bikes, this is approaching the high end of the market. In fact, some of these are seen as the best exercise bikes on the market today, offering higher performance and extra features that will help riders of all skill levels.
We will start by breaking down the details of each model to help you get a better idea of the strengths and weaknesses of each. Then we’ll evaluate all of the features you need to look for as you search for a new fitness bike.
Don’t forget to check out our FAQ section where we answer a couple of common questions many first-time buyers may have about exercise bikes. Read on to find out all you need to know!
Height: 4ft 6” to 6ft 6”
Resistance: Magnetic (100 levels)
Features: Steel frame, dual link pedals with toe cages, backlit LCD console, Bluetooth connectivity, multiple app connectivity, pair of 3lb dumbbells, 330lb weight capacity
The Bowflex C6 is a relatively new offering in the spin bike market, but it’s one that has made a huge impact, boasting superior style, performance and features, along with a price tag that isn’t that difficult to swallow.
With an all-black steel frame capable of holding up to 330lbs, the C6 is built for serious riders. Bypassing traditional direct-contact resistance, this bike takes advantage of a smooth and quiet magnetic resistance with 100 micro-levels.
The C6 is fully adjustable in the seat, pedals and handlebars for a comfortable ride. The comfort and convenience are enhanced with features such as a good backlit LCD console, a pair of dumbbells (for upper body work), and easy Bluetooth connectivity with apps such as Peloton and Zwift.
Resistance: Unlimited (Air Resistance)
Features: 26-blade fan wheel, belt drive, moisture-repellent steel frame, adjustable seat, dual LCD screens, built-in HIIT programs, water bottle holder, 350lb weight capacity
Schwinn’s outstanding Airdyne Pro is our top pick, offering an exceptional 26-blade fan wheel design along with moving handlebars to engage your entire body during the workout. Its strong package of amenities and a slick design certainly don’t hurt its popularity either!
One major advantage of the fan wheel design is the unlimited resistance. Rather than functioning in set levels, the fan wheel increases or decreases naturally as you pedal. This setup provides plenty of challenge for even the most seasoned riders – and it is ideal for HIIT sessions.
Beyond the performance, this bike utilizes an attractive and useful LCD display for the central console. This displays your stats, from time and distance biked to speed and calories burned, keeping you on track throughout your session.
Resistance: 25 levels (Magnetic)
Features: Compact frame, three-piece crank system, four-way adjustable seat, multi-grip handlebars, weighted pedals, backlit console screen, Bluetooth connectivity
Unlike the spin bikes and recumbent models that we have already covered, the U618 is a true upright bike. This means that it runs off a flywheel with magnetic resistance, and allows the user to sit back a bit more while they ride. It’s therefore ideal for steady-state cardio as well as HIIT.
You will find 25 levels of magnetic resistance, spanning the gamut from easy to highly challenging. If you get bored, you can always select from one of the 29 built-in workout programs for a new challenge.
Amenities on this bike include a backlit LCD screen and handlebars with convenient control switches built in. This might not be the flashiest bike around, but it’s a strong no-frills model that gets the job done in simple, unfussy style.
Resistance: Adjustable (Direct-Contact)
Features: 48lb flywheel, sleek design, backlit LCD screen, adjustable seat, adjustable handlebars, pedals with toe cages, water bottle holder
The Sole Fitness SB700 offers a different experience from many of the other bikes on this list – with an athletic spin bike frame, this model is perfect for users seeking a stiffer challenge.
The flywheel in this machine weighs a whopping 48lbs – one of the heaviest models around! The extra muscle helps power the drive system. Rather than using magnetic resistance, this bike is powered entirely with your legs and a friction braking system similar to a real bike.
Speaking of real bikes, the forward-leaning seat and multi-grip handlebars provide one of the best approximations of a real-world bike out of any on this list. The one downside is the weight – the SB700 clocks in at over 140lbs. Be warned, especially if you want to move it!
Resistance: 22 levels (Magnetic)
Features: Weighted flywheel, Silent Magnetic Resistance system, adjustable seat, adjustable handlebars, 10” color touch display, iFit membership included, built-in speakers, transportation wheels
The ProForm Smart Power 10.0 offers specs that go toe to toe with any other bike in this price range. But beyond the core performance, it’s the outstanding features and amenities that set this bike apart.
At its core, the Smart Power 10.0 offer 22 levels of magnetic resistance, with the bike using ProForm’s specialized ‘Silent Magnetic Resistance’ feature to keep the machine whisper quiet as you exercise.
The major feature on this model is the 10” color touchscreen in the center console. It also comes equipped with a one-year membership to iFit, which allows you to experience virtual bike workouts from around the world. The onboard pair of 2” speakers helps you enjoy music throughout your cardio session!
Resistance: 25 levels (Magnetic)
Features: 30lb flywheel, weighted pedals, adjustable LCD display, Bluetooth connectivity, 29 built-in programs, integrated handlebar controls, 325lb weight capacity
If you’re looking for a recumbent bike in this price range, it’s hard to beat the features of the Nautilus R618. This model has everything you need for a calorie-burning cardio session, without placing the same stress on your back that so many other models do.
The R618’s magnetic resistance system incorporates 25 different levels of challenge to suit users of all abilities. The flywheel weighs 30lbs, which is more than many other bikes in this class. It’s a heavy-duty machine that can grow with you as you progress!
Finally, an LCD screen keeps you updated, offering statistics about your workout. If you don’t want to break your stride to reach the screen, you’ll find that controls are integrated onto the handlebars as well.
Resistance: Adjustable (Magnetic)
Features: 44lb flywheel, rubber belt drive, adjustable seat, built-in transportation wheels, water bottle holder, multi-grip handlebars, 330lb weight capacity
Another solid indoor bike to make this chart, the Sunny Health & Fitness SF-B1714 offers top-notch spin bike performance at one of the lowest prices on our list. If a fancy console is a must-have, you’ll need to look elsewhere – otherwise, this bike is an outstanding bargain.
The SF-B1714 runs with a massive 44lb flywheel. This model is one of the largest from any machine on our list. The added weight is perfect for advanced bikers who need a bit of extra resistance for a truly challenging workout.
You can adjust the magnetic tension with a dial above the wheel. Unfortunately, there’s no console to speak of. This doesn’t affect the performance of the bike at all, but it may be a deal breaker for some prospective buyers.
If you are prepared to spend up to four figures on a new exercise bike, it’s important that you pick the right model!
While exercise bikes are some of the most versatile home cardio machines around, they also have a lot of different features that you’ll need to properly analyze before you pull the trigger.
To help you in your search, the following guide breaks down each of the most important features found on an exercise bike. If you’re having trouble separating two different models on the list, this is a great way to home in on your perfect choice.
Unlike other cardio machines, which tend to follow the same broad designs, exercise bikes come in a variety of setups. They generally fall into one of three designs: spin bikes, upright bikes, and recumbent bikes.
Depending on your fitness levels and goals, one design might be better for you. Therefore, evaluating the three main categories can be crucial to you finding the best one.
For example, spin and upright bikes are both fairly similar to real-world outdoor bikes, while recumbent bikes offer a completely different experience, geared towards a specific set of users. Let’s look at each three a little closer.
Spin bikes – also known as indoor bikes – are the most aggressive of the three designs, and the best suited for advanced users as a result.
You can distinguish these bikes thanks to a couple of distinctive features. First and foremost, spin bikes elevate the handlebars to roughly the same level as the seat.
This positioning forces the user to lean their body forward while they ride, which engages the upper body and core muscles in a way that most other bikes don’t. Spin bikes also accommodate users who stand as they ride, with reinforced frames and pedals to take the extra stress.
Spin bikes also feature some of the largest and heaviest flywheels of any exercise bikes on the market. This helps them generate greater resistance and provide more of a challenge for seasoned bikers than other models without the same power.
Upright bikes resemble spin bikes, but with a slightly lower seat and, usually, a slightly smaller flywheel.
These can be used for higher-intensity work, although their design and typical features make them ideal for longer sessions of steady-state cardio.
If you’re looking for a more relaxed workout at home, but still want the real feel of an outdoor bike, an upright model is the way to go.
Finally, recumbent bikes put the user in a reclined position, removing any stress from the knees. This proves more comfortable for beginners, older riders, and users with joint issues in particular.
The main difference lies in the laid-back design, as well as the lack of upper body engagement – unfortunately, recumbent bikes don’t recruit upper-body muscles as well as the other options.
However, even though the positioning and motion of a recumbent bike is slightly different, these models still target the same lower body muscles as spin and upright bikes – and you can still get a great workout on one.
Once you’ve settled on the best design for your new exercise bike, the other major factor is the resistance it offers.
Almost all of the bikes in this price range utilize either magnetic resistance or direct-contact resistance, but you can also find machines with a fan wheel design. Comparing these may help you settle on your final choice.
Direct-contact resistance is exactly what it sounds like – a physical brake pad makes direct contact with the flywheel to cause friction. This is a cheaper system, but one many users prefer due to the authentic resistance on offer.
Then we have magnetic resistance. These systems are known for being some of the smoothest and quietest around. On higher-end models like these, magnetic systems are practically silent and provide a ride with a natural feeling.
Most of the bikes on our list – whether direct-contact or magnetic – offer double-digit levels of resistance to help you progress, no matter your current state of fitness.
Fan wheel systems, on the other hand, do away with levels entirely. They run with giant fan blades which catch the air as you pedal and generate increased resistance the faster you go.
They are usually much noisier than magnetic systems, but they do respond dynamically to your effort, no matter how hard you work. Trust us – there is no need to worry about running out of resistance levels with these machines!
While all three options have great advantages, you’ll also need to look at the drawbacks to get a more accurate picture of their strengths and weaknesses.
For example, direct-contact systems tend to be noisy – sometimes dirty – and require occasional changing of the brake pads.
Magnetic systems are more expensive, plus rely on set levels. This means you’ll need to manually adjust the friction any time you want to increase or decrease the overall resistance. You may also run out of resistance levels if you are particularly advanced.
Fan wheels, meanwhile, may be a bit harder to get started and don’t allow you to take it easy like magnetic resistance – it’s a lot harder to create a programmed ride when the fan wheel pushes you at every turn!
While the size of the flywheel and the resistance type may determine the amount of challenge on offer from your exercise bike, the drive system is a key component to making your bike run smoothly. Most bikes use one of two systems – chain drives or belt drives.
Chain drives accurately mimic outdoor bikes, which have actual chains running over the gears. These drives are great if you’re used to biking outdoors and want to keep the experience as similar as possible when you switch to stationary exercise.
The chains do require some regular maintenance – you will need to lubricate them every six to eight weeks. However, with proper care, they are durable enough to last years.
Belt drives are the other major system. These are far more common in the higher end of the market, although are still often found on exercise bikes costing under $500.
While not quite as ‘realistic’ as chain drives, belt drives offer a nearly silent ride. They are also known for being incredibly smooth and consistent as you pedal. The belts are usually made from rubber and don’t need any maintenance, but they do wear out over time and must be replaced every 12 to 18 months.
Many budget exercise bikes feature tiny LCD console screens (if they have screens at all). As we reach the high end of the market, the console options get much more interesting.
You’ll find plenty of LCD options here as well, though these versions tend to be larger and can display a much wider variety of statistics about your workout. You’ll also encounter a couple of full-color touchscreens.
Strictly speaking, a console isn’t necessary for your workout – in fact, one of the models on our list doesn’t even include a console at all!
However, if you want to progress over time and track your statistics, a solid center console is a worthwhile addition. An LCD screen that tracks statistics will get the job done and won’t cost you too much.
If you are willing to splurge a bit, you can also purchase a bike that can connect to systems such as iFit. This will only work if your model has a touchscreen built in, but it can track your improvement online and help you compare workouts with your friends and other cyclists. It’s certainly a feature worth checking out.
However, in addition to all these screens, you will still find physical buttons that are designed to control the other functions on the machine, such as resistance or secondary features.
As long as these controls are easily accessible and don’t intrude on your workout, it doesn’t really matter exactly how they’re laid out on the console.
Exercise bikes are far more complicated in their designs than some other home cardio machines. This means that, even after considering all of the main features, there are still plenty of additional factors you’ll need to pay attention to!
The good news is that, if you are stuck between two different models, these extra features could make the difference in your final decision.
First off, handlebars are one important aspect that many first-time buyers overlook. Before you purchase a bike, make sure that the grips feel comfortable to you.
Do you need to reach too far to grab onto the bars while pedaling, or do they preserve your natural biking posture? If the handlebar grips don’t fit your style, they may make biking much more difficult for you, or even lead to strains or injuries.
You should also consider whether or not you want to purchase a bike with moving handlebars. These designs are found most often on bikes with large fan wheels. They are a great way to engage your arms, chest and back into your workout. However, depending on your arm length they might not be comfortable enough to use.
Because they move forwards and backwards, they also require you to sit upright rather than lean forward. If you want to preserve the realistic real-world biking experience, a spin bike will be the better choice for you.
While we have already touched on center consoles (see above), there are a couple of other tech-focused features that may make your biking experience much more entertaining.
For example, some of the models on this list offer Bluetooth connectivity, which allows you to sync your workout statistics to your devices to easily track your progress. The Bluetooth functionality also pairs well with onboard speakers – together, you can use them to blast some music to power through your ride.
Finally, you should make sure that you can handle your bike without any trouble. After all, some machines can weigh over 150lbs! Transportation wheels, for example, are a must-have if you plan on moving a heavy bike around. Look for a machine with built-in wheels to save yourself a lot of hassle in the long run.
If you’re looking for an effective home cardio workout, it’s only natural that you’d consider every type of machine around. But how do you decide between a bike, a treadmill or an elliptical?
Considering all of the similarities and differences between these machine might help you make a more informed purchase.
While all three machines can get your blood pumping, each one stresses slightly different muscles. Treadmills, for example, mimic a natural running stride and target your quads, calves, and hamstrings. If used properly, the best treadmills can burn the most calories out of any home cardio machine.
They are great if you need to squeeze your workouts into a busy schedule! However, they don’t recruit any upper-body muscles, and – if you are not careful – they can damage your joints. The repeated impacts against the running belt may build up over time, affecting your knees and ankles.
Meanwhile, ellipticals combine the low-impact, closed-circuit motion of an exercise bike with the running stride of a treadmill. They are much easier on your joints, but they don’t provide quite the same burn as treadmills.
One major plus of ellipticals is the handlebar setup. Because the handles move, you can incorporate your arms into your workout to pull and push the poles back and forth with each stride. Check out our article on the best ellipticals for a more in-depth look.
Finally, exercise bikes offer a seated form of cardio exercise that is low in impact but still high in intensity.
Upright and spin bikes, which are the closest to real-world outdoor bikes, will work your quads and calves particularly well, while recumbent bikes provide a more relaxed feel, with less strain on the knees.
Spin bikes also force you to lean over the handlebars while pedaling, which engages your core and keeps your abdominal and arm muscles tight throughout your session.
While performance might be the first aspect many riders consider as they look for a bike, comfort is just as important.
After all, if you feel uncomfortable riding your exercise bike, you probably won’t use it very often! With that in mind, let’s examine which types of exercise bikes are the most comfortable.
If comfort is your top priority, you should consider a recumbent bike. With their reclined seats, padded backrests and low handlebars, recumbent bikes make it easy to sit back and relax while you pedal. In terms of comfort, they are difficult for any other fitness machine to beat.
Upright bikes are structured more like traditional outdoor bikes, though they often use wider seats with more padding and place the seat well below the handlebars. This keeps your posture upright rather than leaning forward, as spin bikes force you to do.
While the exact comfort level of each bike will depend on the particular model, in general terms upright bikes will be more comfortable than spin bikes, which force you to sit in a much more demanding forward-leaning position. However, neither will be as comfortable as their recumbent cousins.
Like all cardio machines, exercise bikes can be a great way to lose weight. If you want to get in shape and shed a few pounds in the comfort of your own home, a bike may be one of the best ways to do it.
While some exercise bike workouts aren’t quite as intense as others, an hour-long ride can still burn hundreds of calories. The low-impact nature of a bike also makes it far more accommodating for beginners and seniors to use.
Riders who aren’t experienced with bikes or cardio machines in general may want to look at a recumbent bike, which provides a more relaxed way to start, but is challenging enough to cater for years of growth.
To use an exercise bike to lose weight, you will need to burn calories consistently. An hour-long ride each day is a great starting routine to get into the groove and build up strength.
Once you begin to progress, you can also increase the resistance – this will burn more calories with every pedal and help you achieve more progress in a shorter amount of time.
If you are already an avid biker but want an indoor bike for weight-loss purposes, a spin bike may be better for you. While the high seat and forward stance may not be comfortable for new users, they provide the highest levels of resistance and recruit the most muscles out of any of the major three resistance bike designs.
Regardless of the bike style you go for – or the intensity you use – following up your session with a large pizza and a few Cokes isn’t going to help you lose weight. Exercise may be a great way to burn calories, but a good diet is the most important thing when it comes to losing fat.
One of the major advantages of stationary exercise bikes is their durability. Unlike outdoor bikes, treadmills, or even ellipticals, stationary bikes can often run for years without needing much maintenance.
This can be a major plus, particularly if you don’t want to spend extra time and money on fixing your bike after you’ve already bought it!
Whether or not your particular model needs monthly maintenance depends on the drive system. Chain-drive bikes must be lubricated every six to eight weeks, or else they may begin to rust and break down. Thankfully, this isn’t a demanding task – it only takes a couple of minutes with a can of WD-40 or another lubricant.
Belt-drive bikes, as we mentioned above, don’t need to be lubricated at all. The only thing you’ll need to do regularly is replace the belt every year or so (depending on how often you use the bike).
Even if your bike is a belt-drive model, it may still be a good idea to regularly lubricate a couple of the parts that take the heaviest wear and tear during your workout.
The bike’s flywheel, for example, might benefit from a bit of lubricant every few weeks. The brake system may also need some adjustments, though stationary bikes are often built with incredibly durable brake pads that don’t need any maintenance to function.
However, if you end up with a direct-contact resistance system, then you will need to change the brake pads when they wear down – again, this will depend on how often you use the bike.
Finally, if your bike has a touchscreen with online connectivity, you may be asked to download software updates periodically. While these might impact your access to the console, they shouldn’t prevent you from exercising altogether.
Always consult the user manual for your particular bike as models vary and some may need more attention than others.
The Schwinn Airdyne AD7 emerged as our top pick after we considered all of the options on the market. Having said that, this is just our opinion and you may prefer a different brand, style or feature set.
Ultimately, the exercise bike market is one of the most diverse in any fitness category. If you’re looking to purchase a bike for your home, make sure to evaluate all of the options on our list and think about how each one might work for you.
Then go off and browse the market yourself – you may find something that works better for you and your fitness goals. Whatever you end up with, best of luck in finding a bike to help you achieve your fitness goals.