Exercise Bike Types Explained

Exercise Bike Types Explained

Getting in thirty minutes of cardio every single day could improve your quality of life, and even extend it.

When you have an exercise bike in your home, you don’t have to worry about not being able to jog on rainy days, or not being able to get to the gym because you don’t have enough time. You just sit down, and pedal.

Depending on how you enjoy working out, you might have a better time with different exercise bike types than the standard belt-driven ones they have at the gym.

We’re going to go over just about every single type of exercise bike, and break down what you should be looking for before you purchase a new one.

Different Exercise Bike Types


fit man on stationary bike

Stationary bikes are designed to keep you seated the entire time, and keep your back straight.

They’re fairly small, and while they’re a great way to work in some cardio, they’re not as beneficial as most other bike types (otherwise there would have been nothing to improve upon).

The good thing is that most stationary bikes are cheaper than their counterparts, but if you’re looking for a dynamic range of motion to build more muscles than just your calves, you would fare better looking at other bike types.


young fit man on upright bike

Consider these to be just like stationary bikes, but with a very small seat that doesn’t provide much support, and a smaller frame.

Most upright bikes will have a V-shaped support system towards the front, underneath the handles, to provide more stability while you rock it from side to side.

Upright exercise bikes are kind of old news when you compare them to recumbent bikes and spin bikes, but they get the job done.

You’ll mostly be stuck in one position where you’ll primarily engage leg muscles, and of course, get in that cardio workout.

This doesn’t engage as many muscle groups as many other exercise bike types.


peloton spinning bike type

Sometimes just referred to as spin bikes, these upright, stationary bikes use a different triangular-frame design to engage more muscle groups than just your quads.

You also engage your shoulders, back, biceps, lower abdominal muscles, glutes, hamstrings, and more. It’s a full-body workout that starts out as a cardio workout.

Spin bikes are pretty easy to use, but that’s not to say that they provide a lesser quality workout.

These exist to provide a medium to high-intensity workout with a decreased risk of injury compared to other bike types.

With spin bikes, you’re supposed to stand up for most of it to really engage in those high intensity workouts.

If you sit down throughout them, that’s okay too, it’s just not going to provide the same level of intensity.

Because you’re positioned upright, it’s a lot easier to stay motivated compared to recumbent bikes.

If you’ve ever heard of spin classes, that’s where you would use a spin bike.

These combine a large room full of spinners, an instructor or class leader that keeps the energy in the room alive, and plenty of high BPM music to maintain that motivation and keep you going.

Spin bikes are often revered as the best type of exercise bike available.

Hydraulic Bike

bike with hydraulic resistance

As you might imagine, these use actual hydraulics.

These bikes come with a single or dual-piston design, which uses hydraulic fluid to oil the pistons when they move in and out of the chamber.

You can apply resistance levels to these bikes, but they generally don’t offer more than a dozen settings.

Because of the equipment used in these bikes, they tend to be fairly expensive, but they are pretty reliable.

Because they’re built with an entirely enclosed system, it’s not something you can just pop open and repair if you ever needed to.

Hydraulic bikes should always be repaired by their manufacturers.

Thankfully, they endure such a small amount of stress that you probably won’t need to send it in to your manufacturer for any reason.

The resistance levels that hydraulic bikes offer can be pretty intense, which is why they’re a popular choice among serious hardcore cardio athletes.

If you want an exercise bike that isn’t going to give you much trouble, hydraulics are a safe bet.

They’re very heavy, though, so moving them around your home gym will be a chore.

Air Bikes

young fit couple on airbike

Air bikes literally use air as a resistance method. It’s not just a gimmicky name. You have to push hard to get more resistance, and that’s the whole point.

Air bike resistance is solely dependent on your input, and while this might sound terrible to some people, it’s what makes it such a good workout.

Instead of having a traditional weighted flywheel, you have a big fan that uses the pressure from the air you create to continually provide resistance. If you let up, the resistance goes with you.

Think of it like a “Test Your Strength” game at the carnival. The harder you go, the higher it goes.

Because air bikes don’t have electrical cables to power magnets, or hydraulics that use fluid, you don’t have to worry about machine failure nearly as often.

If you do encounter an issue with the fan, it’s pretty easy to see the issues.

Despite nor relying on as many components as other bike types, air bikes are actually pretty expensive.

The fan and air resistance isn’t the easiest thing in the world ro manufacture, so they have to make up for it.

Apart from that, there is the unique selling point (which is similar to air rowing machines as well) that you control a potentially infinite number of resistance levels, which offers more than traditional magnetic bikes.


young sporty woman on recumbent bike

Recumbent bikes take a different approach. They’re able to be used while sitting down; unlike a spin bike, you don’t have to sit up and lean forward.

You lean back in the seat, and position your hands on the two handles that stick out right by your sides.

From here, you’re going to keep your hands on the bars so that the heart rate monitor can try to read your pulse.

These aren’t the most accurate things in the world, but it’s always good to monitor this.

Your pedals are located sticking directly out of the flywheel on the other side of the bike, with a screen mounted in front of you.

Recumbent bikes often have a high weight capacity, because they’re designed to be the first stationary bike you use when you’re trying to shed pounds.

Because of the seat and low impact to your knees, you’re able to work up a sweat without putting your body in a high impact workout.

Most recumbent bikes can be adjusted with the sliding rail in the center.

Because they’re designed for lower impact workouts, it would defeat the purpose if they were so scrunched up that your knees were uncomfortable.

As a final note, recumbents usually have a lower weighted flywheel, and a cheaper price tag as a result.


portable bike for easy storage

Portable bikes aren’t exactly the kind that you just pick up and move around, but they do have some portable qualities.

You have to remember that most decent exercise bikes are going to be somewhere around 50 lbs to 70 lbs (usually on the higher end), so if the original design even points towards an easier way to maneuver them around, then you’re in business.

Portable exercise bikes may have a disconnect latch in the middle, allowing you to separate the frame into two separate pieces.

This comes in handy if you’re storing them in a basement or closet. It gives better door frame clearance, for one, and it reduces the carry weight on each piece.

Some exercise bikes will also have wheels built into the axel feet (the horizontal stands that connect to your vertical bike base like a capital I), so you can tilt the bike on one end and wheel it to a new spot.

These features we’ve talked about can be found on spin bikes and standard stationary bikes, but you’re unlikely to see them on recumbent bikes due to the odd shape/design.

It’s All About Your Fitness Style

Recumbents are better for some people, while upright spin bikes will entice you to put in that extra bit of effort.

Either way, adding cardio to your daily routine is a serious game-changer. It can make a world of difference.

Be careful about what resistant types you choose, and whether or not portability matters to you.

Take everything into account, and understand that you might have to settle on some features, because no manufacturer has put every good thing in the world into a single exercise bike.

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