An exercise bike is a piece of stationary workout equipment that provides a wealth of cardiovascular and other benefits.
Prior to the turn of the century, you would have been hard-pressed to find someone who had a stationary bike in their home. In all likelihood, you would have had to go to a health club to find one. But not anymore. Millions of people have discovered the multitude of benefits exercise bikes provide, and that includes an ever-growing number of seniors.
Whether you already have a home gym and are looking to add the finishing touch or you’re just looking for a way to do some cardio work in peace, an exercise bike will fit the bill. We’ve tested dozens of different models to compile the following list of the best exercise bikes of 2020.
1. pooboo Indoor Stationary Bike
Pooboo makes a lot of well-regarded stationary bikes. For our money, this is their overall best. Although it puts you into a forward-oriented position like a spin bike, it features a belt drive and doesn’t compel your feet to keep moving while you cool down.
What we like: We like the belt drive, the easy to read digital monitor and the array of vital info it displays. We also like that you can fine-tune the resistance. And the large saddle is very comfortable.
Flaws: The 24 pound flywheel is great for beginners but may be a bit light for experienced exercise bike aficionados. Also, the tablet holder may be a bit far away for some seniors.
2. Exerpeutic Folding Magnetic Upright Exercise Bike
A lot of folks don’t have vast open spaces in their home to dedicate to exercise equipment. For them, there’s the Exerpeutic Folding Magnetic Upright Exercise Bike. It’s light, affordable, compact, and really well-built.
What we like: We like how compact the bike is. The magnetic tension system is also effective and dependable. The LCD display, while modest, is nonetheless easy to read. The seat is also surprisingly comfortable.
Flaws: If you’re tall, it can start to feel a bit top-heavy, especially when you’re pushing things. Also, if you’re not thrilled with the seat, too bad. It can’t be changed for an aftermarket seat.
3. Pyhigh Belt Drive Stationary Bicycle
With a belt drive stationary bike like this, your legs aren’t forced to keep moving as you cool down. That’s just one of the features of the Pyhigh Belt Drive Stationary Bicycle. With its racing bike orientation and 35-pound flywheel, this is a stationary bike for those who appreciate an intense, effective cardio workout.
What we like: We like the rock-solid feel of the bike and how stable it is regardless of how hard you’re working it. The 35-pound flywheel is going to appeal to stationary bicycle vets who want to push themselves. And we like that the bike monitors time, speed, calories burned and distance with reasonable accuracy.
Flaws: The iPad holder is underwhelming. Also, the bike doesn’t lend itself to easy adjustment.
4. Schwinn 230 Recumbent Bike
When it comes to high-performance bikes, most people don’t think of Schwinn. But when it comes to high-performance stationary bikes, they probably should. The company makes some very high-quality exercise bikes, and their 230 Recumbent Bike is one of their best.
What we like: We like the 22 presets. We also appreciate that it provides 20 levels of resistance. It’s also nice that they acknowledge the 21st century with the USB charging port. And the dual-screen LCD display allows for tracking a plethora of performance metrics.
Flaws: The seat is almost comically uncomfortable. So plan on bringing some cushions. Also, it’s at the high end of the price spectrum.
5. Horizon IC 7.9 Indoor Cycle
The Horizon IC 7.9 might be higher on our list, but for their claim that you can ‘sync’ the machine to your favorite apps. In reality, there is no interaction between the bike and your apps. From a mechanical perspective, however, the bike is really solid, which is why it makes our list at all.
What we like: This is a heavy machine so you can be sure it’s going to sit still while you work. It’s also easy to find your adjustment sweet spot. The fact that the pedals will accommodate either sneakers or cycling shoes is also a plus.
Flaws: This is a heavy machine so you’re going to need help whenever you want to move it around. Many are going to have issues with the seat, which features a bizarre design and is not terribly comfortable.
6. Sunny Health & Fitness Indoor Exercise Stationary Bike
Sunny provides those on a budget a way to enjoy the convenience of a high-quality exercise bike. Their Indoor Exercise Stationary Bike is well-built, well-balanced, has a 22-pound flywheel that’s great for beginners, and is quite comfortable.
What we like: The bike is relatively light and easy to set up. The handlebars are not easy to adjust, but they are nonetheless fully adjustable. The bike is also remarkably quiet for a chain drive.
Flaws: Two pretty significant flaws are the 22-pound flywheel that won’t do it for more seasoned ‘riders’ and the upper weight limit, which is a modest 220 pounds.
7. Marcy Recumbent Exercise Bike
Marcy is another manufacturer to consider if you’re on a budget but want to get in some cardio work at home. Regardless of your age, you’ll find a lot to like in this recumbent bike. You don’t need to have a degree in engineering to adjust this bike to your body. And you don’t need to be a venture capitalist to afford it.
What we like: We like that it’s relatively light and easy to move around. We like how stable it is even when pushing the limit. The handlebars are also wisely located and definitely help you obtain leverage.
Flaws: The upper resistance limit is pretty tame. And the LCD screen is small and far away. Also, the seat might be too hard for some people.
8. Xterra FB150 Folding Exercise Bike
Let’s say you want to get some cardio in at home, but you don’t have a lot of space, and your neighbors are noise-averse. What do you do? You get the Xterra FB150, that’s what. This compact but effective exercise bike is crafted from high-quality materials and is small enough for the closet.
What we like: We definitely like these compact bikes when they’re done well. And this one from Xterra is done very well. It’s easy to switch between resistance levels. And this puppy can be folded up and slipped into the closet when not in use.
Flaws: Gets a little jiggy if you’re tall and pushing it hard. It’s also pretty expensive for a fold-up bike.
9. Schwinn IC4 Bike
The IC4 is a spin bike with a hefty 40-pound flywheel. If you have a bit of experience cycling and you want a way to stay in shape during the long winter months, the IC4 is an excellent way to do so. You’re going to pay more for the IC4, but from the minute you mount it, you’ll know why.
What we like: We can’t get enough of the 100+ resistance levels. The LCD screen is also a cut above most others. And the USB charging port indicates the designers are living in the same century as the rest of us. Cycling veterans are going to love the 40-pound flywheel.
Flaws: Most seniors are probably going to find the seat a bit punishing. And at over 100 pounds, you’ll need help moving it around.
10. Harison Magnetic Upright Exercise Bike
The Harison Magnetic Upright Exercise Bike is easy to adjust and quite comfortable. It’s also versatile, effective, and built for larger adults with its 350 pound upward limit. What makes it a good choice for seniors is the upright design.
What we like: One of the most comfortable upright exercise bikes around. The LCD monitor is large enough you can read it while sitting back a bit. The 14 levels of magnetic tension are also a big plus.
Flaws: There’s no way to lean into your ride. Should you want to do so. And there’s no folding this up and slipping it in the closet.
Who Needs an Exercise Bike?
Exercise bikes will help just about anyone who wants to pursue better overall health. But they are particularly useful for seniors who often want nothing to do with the health club experience. An exercise bike provides a wealth of benefits and is typically well worth the investment if you can commit to using it regularly. Of course, you will need to have adequate space to set it up. But if you have that space, and you have the motivation, you’ll find a stationary bike can make a huge difference in your life regardless of your age or background.
How We Ranked
The exercise bike business has exploded in the past 20 years. In that time, these highly-effective workout machines have made the leap from the health club to the homestead. With their increased popularity has come a mind-numbing diversity of designs. So trying to keep everything straight and maintain a set of objective criteria that can be applied to assess them all is a challenge.
We sought to provide high-quality representatives of the three types of exercise bikes: spin bikes, recumbent bikes, and upright bikes. Within each category we looked first at comfort and ergonomics. Because if the exercise bike puts you in an awkward position that undermines your ability to project force effectively, then what good are bells and whistles?
After that, we put these machines under the microscope to assess their build quality. These machines are subjected to all kinds of stress and strain. If they weren’t up to being twisted and bent to and fro for long periods of time, then they didn’t make our list. We did not want to hear any squeaking or squealing from the bike during the test.
We also considered the weight of the flywheel. Heavier flywheels produce a smoother riding experience when it comes to stationary bikes. But a beginner may want to consider keeping the weight somewhat modest. Say, 20 pounds or so.
And finally, we considered the bells and whistles. Is there a digital display? Is it easy to read? Are the various resistance levels easy to program? Are there more advanced features like heart rate monitoring and calories burnt? We weighed all of these things when making our choices for this list.
Exercise bikes are good for your heart. The heart is the most important muscle in the body. Yet many of us pay it scant attention. Or we bombard it with fatty foods and cigarette smoke and don’t bother to even give it a workout. Big mistake. The CDC estimates that more than 3/4 of all heart attacks and cases of heart disease are preventable (1). The best way to maintain heart health is to eat right and exercise. And stationary cycling is a great way for older folks to get the cardiovascular workout they need to stay healthy and physically vital.
Exercise bikes are convenient. Even the most health-conscious among us have those days when we just don’t want to be bothered going for a run or going to the health club. If you have an exercise bike, though, that’s not a problem. Just hop on the bike, fire up your favorite music, and get in an excellent all-around workout in a short time without ever stepping outside. If you have the luxury of having a private office, you can keep one there too. It’s a great way to sharpen your mind during the day while relieving stress and enjoying physical dividends both short and long term.
Exercise bikes help you lose weight. Any type of vigorous cardiovascular exercise is going to burn off fat. That includes riding a stationary bike. The exact amount a person will lose will depend on how hard they cycle, their BMI, and other factors. But most people can expect to burn anywhere from 200 to about 300 calories during the course of a vigorous, 30-minute outing on the exercise bike.
Exercise bikes make you stronger. About this there is no debate. Competitive bike riders are some of the most physically fit individuals you’ll ever find. Bike riding strengthens the legs, sure. But also strengthens both the back and the muscles of the core (2). There are numerous advantages to getting stronger as you age. And anyone who tells you that building muscle in your 50s, 60s and beyond is not possible needs to hop on the net and do some research (3)(4). The fact is cycling, along with weight training, can help prevent the loss of muscle mass as we age and build new, bigger muscles as well.
Exercise bikes can reduce the risk of diabetes. As we mentioned above, working out on the exercise bike is a great way to lose weight. But losing weight does more than just make you feel lighter on your feet. It also dramatically reduces your risk of developing type II diabetes. The number of people with type II diabetes has exploded in recent years (5), and that explosion can be directly linked to poor eating habits combined with sedentary lifestyles. Regular workouts on an exercise bike can help you lose weight and keep it off. And that reduces your chance of developing diabetes.
Exercise bikes help you think clearer. And there’s no great mystery as to why that is. Any type of cardiovascular activity is, by nature, going to get the blood pumping. And since blood carries oxygen to the brain, the more blood that’s pumping, the more oxygen your brain is getting. Your brain loves oxygen so working out on the stationary bikes leads to all-around better cognitive function (6). That includes enhanced memory, better focus, and better problem-solving abilities. A good workout on the bike can lift the fog from your brain. And that’s true whether you’re 17 or 77.
Exercise bikes help increase physical endurance. One of the first aspects of overall health to suffer as we age is physical endurance (7). There are a lot of reasons for this. Most have to do with the tendency to become sedentary as we age. While it may be understandable that people spend more time sitting as they get older it’s really bad for overall health (8). Having an exercise bike in the house can go a long way toward establishing or re-establishing precious physical endurance. As endurance increases, you will naturally gravitate toward a more physically active life and find you have more stamina when it comes to just about everything, including sex.
Exercise bikes boost energy levels too. Having increased stamina won’t do you much good if you don’t have the energy necessary to take advantage of it. Bike riding, even stationary bike riding, is a great way to reduce body fat, increase respiratory efficiency, and get more blood pumping to the muscles. The result is higher energy levels from the moment you wake up to the time you go to bed at night. Some people tie the increased energy levels to dopamine (9). But in most cases, it’s just a matter of being leaner and more physically capable.
Exercise bikes are low impact. Exercise bikes are a great way to get your cardio work in without having to pound the pavement. Running is tough on the ankles, knees, and hip joints, after all. Each time the foot slams into the ground, it sends shockwaves up the leg. Each one of these takes its toll on the joints, and over time that damage can be considerable. For older folks the dangers posed by running are even more acute. Recently there have also been questions about whether running can actually cause cellular damage (10). By contrast, exercise bikes are a shock-free, low-impact way for a person to get their cardio.
Exercise bikes help you reduce stress. That’s because vigorous exercise like cycling (even stationary cycling) releases endorphins (11) in the brain. In a nutshell, endorphins are a type of peptide that activates the pleasure center of the brain. People who run regularly experience this all the time. They call it ‘runner’s high’ (12). But the same effect can be achieved by riding a stationary bike as long as the cycling is appropriately vigorous. Endorphins don’t just give you a natural buzz, they also help reduce stress levels. That, in turn, helps you sleep better and think clearer and can have a positive knock-on effect throughout your life.
Exercise bikes let you work out in peace. Older folks in particular tend to be put off, or at least not attracted to, the health club atmosphere. That is one reason many of them fall into a state of physical disrepair. Exercise bikes provide the perfect way for a person with no interest in the gym to get an all-around, low-impact workout. There’s no need to deal with sweat puddles left by others on the machinery. No need to endure unwelcome attention. No need to put up with blaring music of often extremely questionable taste. You get on the bike when you want, work at your own pace, and get the exercise that will keep you healthy and happy.
Q: What’s a ‘spin’ bike?
A: While the idea of the stationary indoor bike goes back centuries (13) spin bikes have only been around since the 80s. Competitive cyclists, triathletes and the like often use this type of bike for training. Especially during winter months when riding outdoors can be not only cold, but dangerous. However, world-class athletes aren’t the only ones enamored of spin bikes. They’re a big favorite in health clubs as well. That’s because spin bikes typically give a better all-around workout. And because the pedals and flywheel move in lockstep, the rider keeps moving at a slower and slower pace while cooling down. In other words, there is no abrupt stop at the end of the workout.
Q: What’s an ‘upright bike’?
A: Upright bikes, on the other hand, force you to sit upright in the saddle. That saddle is also larger and more comfortable than you’ll get on a spin bike. That allows you to maintain a stable, comfortable aspect while putting the focus on working your leg muscles. Unlike spin bikes, most upright bikes allow you to stop pedaling whenever you wish. In other words, when you stop pedaling, the flywheel keeps spinning independently, rather than forcing your feet around with it.
Q: Are exercise bikes good for losing weight?
A: Exercise bikes are a great way to lose weight. But, just like a regular bike or an aerobics class, you’ll need to exert yourself to burn off the fat. That means sweating, elevated heart rate, faster, deeper breathing, and the whole enchilada. A leisurely turn of the flywheel won’t earn you any benefits.
Q: What’s a ‘recumbent bike’?
A: A recumbent bike is one that allows you to sit back while you pedal as if you were in your favorite Barcalounger. This type of bike is great for developing leg strength as it targets the glutes, the quads, the calves, and the hip muscles. To a lesser extent, you should also see some benefit by way of stronger abs. It is widely thought that a person exerting themselves on a recumbent bike will burn as many calories as if they were on a regular bike. The big benefit being it’s not as hard on the back.
Q: Is adjustability important?
A: When it comes to exercise bikes, the greater the adjustability the better. The seat should slide forward and backward and should also adjust vertically. Handlebars should also be fully adjustable. The goal is to adjust the seat until your legs have only a slight bend at the knee when fully extended. (That is the case for recumbent bikes as well. A bit of bend at the knee.) The handlebars should be comfortably in range. You should not have to reach out to an unnatural degree to obtain a nice firm hold. Nor should they be too close.
Q: What’s better: treadmill or exercise bike?
A: In most cases the answer would be “It depends on what you’re after health-wise”. But a treadmill (14) means running in place. And even though you’re on a tread that has a bit of give to it, it’s still harder on your hips, knees, and ankles than any exercise bike. There is also the ever-present danger that the ‘runner’ will lose their footing and come crashing down onto the moving tread. Not good. Especially for older adults who can live just fine without broken bones, thank you. So without even getting into detail about the merits of the treadmill, we’d have to say that for the vast majority of older folks, the exercise bike is the smarter, better, safer choice.
Q: Should I get a chain drive or belt drive?
A: Both chain drive and belt drive exercise bikes have their upside and downside. For example, the chain will last longer. Then again it is noisier than a belt. With a belt drive the flywheel spins free of the pedals if you release pressure, which gives a more bike-like experience. But, as we mentioned, the belt does not last as long as a chain. So it is really a matter of personal preference.
Q: How much do exercise bikes cost?
A: The cost of exercise bikes ranges from under $100 to several thousand. However, as their popularity has increased, more and more companies have entered the market. And that competition has had the effect of driving prices down. As such, for home use you’d be hard pressed to justify spending more than about $500 these days. There are actually quite a few high-quality, very effective exercise bikes on the market now in the $200 – $300 price range. Keep in mind too that, as with most things, how much you ultimately pay will be determined in no small part by the feature set: more features, higher cost.
Q: Do I need to use a floor mat to hold the bike in place?
A: Most of the bikes on our list are pretty heavy and should not need any help staying in place, even if you’re leaning into your workout. However, if you are having an issue with keeping your exercise bike in place on a slippery floor, putting a heavy-duty floor mat under it is always a good idea. They’re pretty inexpensive. And if you have lovely hardwood floors, they’ll ensure the exercise bike doesn’t scratch them or otherwise mark them up.
Q: How often should I ride an exercise bike?
A: The CDC recommends that seniors should engage in at least 150 minutes of relatively vigorous exercise per week (15). That amounts to 30 minutes a day, five days a week, with a couple of days off. An exercise bike is the ideal way for an older individual to get this much-needed exercise. It’s low-impact, can be done in the home and will provide a wealth of benefits as we saw above. If, for whatever reason, you are unable to perform 150 minutes of exercise per week, or 30 minutes at a time, you should do the maximum your body will safely allow. That might be a total of 100 minutes per week. Or you may split the 30-minute exercise session into two 15 minute sessions.
Q: Are exercise bikes bad for your knees?
A: There are a lot of conflicting stories about this in the press, so it can be difficult to determine what’s what. The consensus seems to be that cycling itself won’t hurt your knees, no matter how hard you apply yourself. What will hurt your knees is using poor form (16) while cycling or not adjusting the bike to conform to your body before you start cycling. It’s the same with running. A failure to properly warm up can also create achy knees. So it’s a good idea to stretch before getting on the bike and then start slowly and build. Rather than going whole-hog right out of the gate. It’s also worth noting that evidence suggests cycling is good for those who suffer arthritis of the knees (17). Again, however, make sure you warm up first and ease into the workout.
Q: How much maintenance do exercise bikes need?
A: A lot of folks are wary about purchasing exercise equipment because they think it will need lots of expensive maintenance, like a house. But the fact is, exercise bikes require little in the way of maintenance. You may have to oil a chain-drive machine occasionally. And you will want to make sure you keep your bike clean and hygienic. Even if you do have to replace a belt one day, it is a simple process and there are lots of how-to videos on the internet that can take you through it.
Exercise bikes are a great way for anyone, but especially seniors, to get the exercise they need to maintain a healthy heart and enjoy other benefits. Exercise bikes today are precision-crafted pieces of equipment that have undergone decades of refinement. They’ll help put the finishing touches on your home gym, or work just fine as standalone equipment.
The exercise bikes we listed above have all proven their immense worth. Any one of them is bound to serve you well for many years to come and can form the backbone of your physical fitness routine. Keep in mind that if you’re an older rider, you may want to stick with either a true upright bike or a recumbent stationary bike. Simple because both are easier on your back and neck than spinner bikes are.
For cpoe.org’s #1 recommended exercise bike, click here.