Choose the Best Home Exercise Bike for Your Fitness Level, Budget, and Style
Most ‘best’ home exercise bike pages online have a bland list of 5 or 6 bikes – along with dry, boring blurb on the technical spec of each one.
How about we flip things around?
Finding the best exercise bike must include you. By thinking about your budget, fitness level (and age), the space you have available – along with your comfort level with apps and multiplayer options – you can find an exercise bike that will last for years.
There are 6 different types of indoor bike, offering a wide range of prices, features and technology.
Here are the 6 categories of home exercise bike:
- Upright: The standard models have a tall profile. You sit up with the flywheel providing a stable base for the bike.
- Recumbent: Here you pedal with your legs in front of you. The seats have a back rest, for comfort and stability.
- Studio Bikes: Expect sharp angles and a visible flywheel. Like the bikes you will find in group classes in commercial gyms, they let you stand up to sprint.
- Folding: With names including F-Bike and X-Bike. These budget models fold away between uses, ideal if you are short on space or on a tight budget.
- Mini Bikes: Floor standing units, which you can put under your desk or next to the sofa. Can also be used with your arms.
- Turbo Trainers: You can lift a regular push bike off of the floor, and use it indoors using one of these.
- Hybrid Bike / Elliptical Trainers: These machines are elliptical cross trainers with added pedals. They are popular – and are covered in detail on my best elliptical trainer pages.
Within each type you get options at a range of budgets. The cheapest Folding bikes go for £100+, a high tech, fully spec’d recumbent or commercial style studio can go up to £1000 or more. Compared with the price range for treadmills and rowing machines, you get a lot of exercise bike for your money.
Below the table you will see next are sections covering each type of bike. There are then personal factors and goals – which will influence which bike to choose. You will also find a list of the features that separate the good bikes from the great one below. Before we get there, the table below shows the best-selling examples in each category:
Table: Best Exercise Bikes in 2021: Popular Options in Each Category
Folding Best Seller - UltraSport F-Bike
Hugely popular model from UltraSport which folds away for easy storage. Console, pulse sensors and even an option for getting a backrest with the seat. Check the positive feedback for this category best-seller - now with welcome options / add-ons.
|Check Price! Read Review|
Budget Upright Bike - JLL JF100
A solid upright from the popular JLL. This bike gives you 10 resistance levels, a pulse rate monitor and LCD console for a budget price. This UK based fitness equipment maker have a great range of bikes for all budgets.
|Check Price! Read Review|
Sturdy Recumbent Bike - XS Sports B400R
No need to compromise comfort for calories with the B400R from XS Sport. This recumbent has a great spec, comfy seat and hugely positive feedback.
|Check Price! Read Review|
Nero Sports: Studio Bike with Bluetooth
Group rides from home with this Nero Sports bike. It connects to an app via Bluetooth - you will need to provide your own tablet / iPad. Great design and versatile spec.
|Check Price! Read Review|
Commerical Gym Level Home Bike - SX500
The dream bike for many people, the Sportstech SX500 has an amazing spec. With German engineering, stunning looks, electronic control for the resistance and KinoMap app compatibility, this is one hell of a bike!
|Check Price! Read Review|
Floor Standing Mini Bike from UltraSport
This box with pedals can sit under your desk or by the sofa. You'll get a decent workout, which you can track via the built in LCD display. Can also stand on a table for use with your arms!
|Check Price! Read Review|
Note: There is a write-up on each of these bikes at the bottom of this page.
Choosing the Best Exercise Bike for You: Personal Factors that Matter
Time to flip things around. Below are the key factors which go into choosing an exercise bike. They work together. Everyone has some parts which are more important than others. We all have a budget in mind too. Scan through them, then focus on the ones which catch your eye before you choose your home bike type:
- Budget: In an ideal world, we would all live the best possible spec. In reality, everyone has a price level they are comfortable with. Fortunately, you don’t need to go far up the price brackets to get a quality bike with a decent spec.
- Space: Will you be moving your exercise bike into place; or have a spot where it can stay? Options include bikes with mini transport wheels, folding bikes and bigger units which are best left in place.
- Fitness Level: If you are just getting started with fitness, older or maybe even recovering from injury, your needs will be different to regular gym users. Multiple options are available for older users, including safe recumbent bikes and mini-bike units.
- Shape and Size: Bigger users will find units designed for heavy people (look for the max body weight recommendations). There are also bikes which are better for taller users than others.
- Will this Bike be Shared? Some people will share bikes with their partner, or even with their entire family. Look for machines which are easy to adjust, or those which have user profiles for multiple people in their console.
- Your Fitness Goals: Where you are in your fitness journey now and where you want to end up in 3 months, 6 months, or a year from now. Choosing a better bike, which will work for you as your cardio fitness and endurance improve can save you needing to buy a new one in the future.
Choosing With Your Heart?
You might already know which kind of exercise bike appeals to you most. This is not something I’d dismiss easily.
If the ‘science’ (individual factors above) points to a recumbent bike, but you have your heart set on a studio bike… then my experience shows that the studio bike is the better pick.
To get the best from any home fitness equipment, you want a machine you enjoy. Something you feel good about using will get things off to a great start. That start can translate into hitting your fitness goals.
Price Levels: Exercise Bikes at Different Price Levels
You can pick up a basic ‘no brand’ home bike for less than £100. Before you jump in and grab a bargain, make sure you do some homework.
WARNING: ‘Disappearing’ No-Name Brands
Amazon and the other fitness equipment retailers are flooded with unknown brands. They follow a similar pattern each time. You see a brand, sometimes with a collection of seemingly random capital letters as the name. They are cheap, offering generic folding bikes or uprights. A couple of suspicious hugely positive reviews are quickly swamped by buyers complaining… awful products, zero customer service and so on.
Next thing you know, the product disappears… only to be replaced by a slightly different brand name the same day. And repeat.
You will find plenty of bargains among the best brands including the ever popular JLL, UltraSport and German Sportstech. When you get into the commercial gym space, you can choose from more expensive models from NordicTrack and Life Fitness.
Price Brackets of Exercise Bikes:
- £50 and Below: You will find mini bikes in this price range. These are floor-standing units with pedals, that you can use while sitting on your sofa.
- $125 and Below: Basic folding bikes with ‘A’ frames, along with the smaller / simpler upright models. The F-bikes from Ultrasport are a great example here.
- £250 and Below: You get to pick from great quality uprights, folding bikes with better technology and from a selection of recumbent bikes at this price point. Basic studio bikes also come into this category.
- £500 and Below: Some amazing bikes available at this price point. App compatibility, colour screens and electronic resistance. Studio good looks or comfortable recumbent bikes are available.
- £500 to $1000 and Up: You are now entering the commercial end of the market. There are some amazing bikes at this price point. Expect the latest tech, design, and features.
Categories: Examples and Specs for Each Type of Home Exercise Bike
This section expands on the main types of exercise bike listed at the top of this page. They are folding bikes, uprights, studio bikes, recumbent units, and mini bikes. Turbo trainers and elliptical / bike combinations are covered in detail elsewhere on Fitness Review.
Best Folding Exercise Bikes
You will find folding bikes from all the brands. The best-sellers in this category are the UltraSport F-Bike range. The big plus is that these bikes fold, so you can put them in a cupboard or in a corner between use. You pick them up, fold out the supports, and you are ready to peddle.
While not as solid / stable as the uprights (and especially recumbents), this format is popular for many good reasons.
Firstly, it is cheap – for a basic f-bike you won’t need to go far over £100. Better models are less than £200. The main benefit is the space saving aspect, along with the ability to move it around easily. These bikes have a console to track your speed, distance, time peddling and calories. Many also have a pulse sensor built in.
UltraSport make the best-seller in this category by a country mile.
They have a range of f-bikes, which include options for heavier users, ones with back rests and multiple colour combinations. Check out this amazon.co.uk product page for the full gallery showing you the options.
Best Upright Exercise Bikes
Before the newer fashion for studio bikes took hold, upright models were the most popular format. These bikes have a heavy base unit, with the pedals and flywheel. The saddle comes up on an angled pole, with the console and handlebars jutting straight up.
The advantage is a smaller, stable footprint. The weight of the flywheel anchors the bike into place. As you go through the price range, the size of the flywheel increases. Uprights have either belt or magnetic resistance. At the top end, the magnetic resistance is controlled via the console. Most upright exercise bikes have a dial to change how hard it is to pedal.
Basic uprights start from £150 or below. You will get a console, adjustable saddle, 8+ resistance levels and a solid build at that price point.
JLL have a best-seller in this category. This popular UK based brand have a wide range of bikes, from basic through to high-end. Their JF100 is a simple upright, with excellent feedback from buyers. You can see the full spec and picture gallery over on this dedicated amazon.co.uk product page – check it out now!
Best Studio Exercise Bikes
Group classes in gyms started the indoor bike craze. You can now buy a studio exercise bike for home use without needing to pay commercial gym prices. These bikes have a different look to the other options, with sporty style – and usually an open flywheel at the front.
They are designed to work sitting down – or standing up for sprints. Having a wide range of resistance is important, as your workout can be varied by switching between hill climbs and flat stretches.
While it is possible to get studio bikes for £200 or under, you will get significantly more options from trusted brands at the £350 and under price point. Having a decent console with app integration can take your sessions to a new level.
For the money, the Sportstech SX500 has an amazing spec. It will connect with apps like KinoMap for group rides in idyllic settings – or for coaching. This brand is well known for the German Engineering – and also have the kind of no-nonsense customer services that other makers could learn a lot from. Seriously good feedback from owners of this model. Check out this dedicated amazon.co.uk product page for the details and gallery.
If you have the budget, an amazing alternative that would be at home in any commercial gym is the Commercial S22i from NordicTrack.
Best Recumbent Exercise Bikes
When people find out that it is possible to sit back in comfort and still get a full cardio workout, their interest is piqued. Recumbent home exercise bikes do exactly that. You get a seat with a back-rest and peddle with your legs in front of you.
This option has a low profile, which helps keep the unit stable. The downside is that they do not fold away – ideally you will find a spot and leave them in place.
Prices start at around £150 for a basic model. Just like with the uprights, you will get a lot more bike for a little more money if you spend £250 or more. Some brands are designed with older people (and those taking the first steps to fitness) in mind. Others (for example the Exerpeutic 900XL) are specially made for heavier users.
A best-seller in this category comes from Sunny Health and Fitness. This recumbent won’t break the bank and comes with a ton of positive feedback. It is safe, comfortable and has enough tech to track your progress. A lot of older users, and those returning to fitness have left glowing reviews of this unit. You can check them out (along with the gallery) over on this dedicated amazon.co.uk product page.
Best Mini Exercise Bikes
I’m not even entirely sure that ‘bike’ would be the right word for these popular machines. You get a small unit, which had pedals on either side. It can be put in the floor, next to your armchair or under your desk. They also work with your arms doing the peddling. Put one on the table for a different kind of workout. With the latest work from home trend, these units have become super-popular.
Another excellent example of exercising in comfort, mini bikes are popular among older people and those not looking for intensive cardio. They will get you moving, which for many people is a great first step to an active life.
The original and best machine in the mini bike category is the Magnetrainer. This is expensive compared to the alternatives, though has amazing feedback and app integration. A more common choice won’t break the bank, the UltraSport Mini bike gets the job done – and includes a console – at a super reasonable price point.
Check out this dedicated amazon.co.uk product page for the full spec and pictures of the UltraSport Mini Bike in use.
What Makes Basic Exercise Bikes and More Expensive Bikes Different?
This section shows some of the practical and mechanical factors which make all the difference when it comes to the quality of an indoor bike.
#1 – Resistance Type:
Cheaper exercise bikes have belt drive resistance. As you move up in price this becomes magnetic. You will need to control how hard it is to peddle manually, via a dial. As you get to the £400+ models, the resistance is changed electronically. Magnets are used, with programmes changing the intensity for you.
#2 – Size of the Flywheel:
Bigger is smoother when it comes to the size of your flywheel. Smoother, quieter, and more predictable resistance improves as your wheel gets bigger. You will see some top end indoor bikes with 10kg+ wheels.
#3 – Console / Apps:
Basic consoles appear on even the super-budget units. Every bike has an LCD monitor which shows speed, distance and so on. Calories burned and heart rate (via handlebar sensors) are also common. As you move up you get colour monitors. App integration is the latest thing. You can connect your own tablet to better exercise bikes. You use KinoMap, Google Maps or other apps. This gives you access to maps (with views!), coaching and group training / rides. My pick is iFit, which works with NordicTrack and Proform models.
#4 – Adjustability:
Everyone wants to work out in comfort. Having a padded saddle (not too soft!) us just the starting point. The best bikes adjust easily, so you can find your sweet spot without needing to reach for the peddles or find yourself cramped up. This is really important for shared bikes. You will need to switch over quickly without needing to take the bike apart every time.
#5 – Size / Build Quality / Stability:
At the smaller price points, it is easy to get stuck with a rattletrap. Bad designs, narrow bases and uneven bars underneath can all make bikes annoying to use. As you climb price levels, you will find bigger, more solid bikes. While a rubber mat can help, I recommend checking for words like ‘wobbles’ in the feedback for any unit.
#6 – Assembly:
Some buyers look at assembly as an entertaining challenge. For others, the word assembly alone sounds daunting. Most bikes come in sections. While putting them together is relatively easy, there are differences between the brands for this. If you see ‘2-person assembly’ recommended, then you certainly will need help. Expert assembly is available to buy with most bikes. Compared to the overall price, this is expensive.
#7 – Warranty / After Sales Service:
I already warned on those ‘no brand’ units that disappear as soon as they get any negative feedback. There is more to it, with even known brands having major differences in the quality of their after-sales service. Brands like Sportstech and JLL are best in class, for others, you should certainly dig a little deeper. While you are protected by the Amazon return policy, there is no need to buy a bike without a 12-month (minimum) warranty.
Home Exercise Bike FAQ:
How Many Calories will Working Out on an Exercise Bike Burn?
Several factors to consider here. The range is 200 to 400 calories per half hour session. Your speed is the key element, along with the amount of resistance you are using. Other factors include your size, and whether you are standing or seated (to use the studio bike example).
I’m Over 6-Foot, Are Indoor Bikes Right for Me?
Some cheaper units are not suitable for the tallest riders. As you climb the price levels, you will be able to adjust your bike to fit better. Some brands market to taller riders. For example, the Ancheer Studio bikes state that they are suitable for riders up to 6 foot 4. If you have any doubts, comments / feedback will highlight any issues.
Will My Exercise Bike Require Assembly?
How much assembly each bike requires will vary. The shape of these machines mean they won’t come ‘ready to ride’. Expect to put the handlebars on, and maybe fit the seat to its pole at a minimum. Simple F-bike setups need the least assembly. The bigger recumbents will need to be assembled. Bikes are certainly easier than treadmills and ellipticals to assemble. My recommendation is to take ‘2 people needed’ in any marketing descriptions at face value and get a friend.
What is the Difference Between an Exercise Bike and a Studio Bike?
Studio bikes have a sporty look, and open flywheel / mechanics. They are a sub-category of exercise bike, which started off in group classes in commercial gyms. Older style indoor bikes are now called ‘uprights’. They have a base unit with pedals and a flywheel, with saddle and handlebar poles sticking out from this. Studio bikes are for intense cardio, sprints, and climbs – regular bikes are more for consistent peddling while you burn those calories.
How Much does an Exercise Bike Cost?
Home exercise bikes are cheaper than many other fitness machines. The cheapest are around the £100 mark. That said, you get a significantly better bike if you look around the £250 range of bikes. Not only will you get better build quality at this price point; the technology improves dramatically too.
It is possible to spend £1000+ on a commercial bike. For home use, you will get an amazing bike for around half of this amount.
Are Exercise Bikes Suitable for Older People?
Bikes that have been designed with older users in mind include recumbent models, and mini bikes. Recumbent bikes have a comfortable seat with backrest. You pedal in front of you. They are lower and more stable than the upright or studio bikes. Mini-Bikes are floor-based units, which are pedals each side of a block. These can be used while you sit on the sofa – or placed under a desk. Brands which specialise in exercise bikes for older people include Sunny Fitness and Exerpeutic.
Details of the Exercise Bikes in the Top Table
With so much information to share on the ins and outs of choosing a bike, I moved these write-ups on the best-sellers in each category to the bottom of the page to keep things tidy. Each bike listed here has an even more detailed individual review.
#1 – UltraSport F-Bike
Folding bikes from UltraSport have outsold just about every other brand by a massive margin. The secret? Simple, solid, reliable and (best of all) cheap bikes which get the job done, then fold away to put in a cupboard when you have finished working out.
There are now multiple models. Some are bigger, some have backrests on the seat and others are designed to have desk attachments. With 10,000’s of units sold, hugely positive feedback from buyers and a price point that will not break the bank – I’m not going to bet against UltraSport on the F-Bike range any time soon.
I do have a separate page which covers these bikes in a lot of detail. See my detailed UltraSport F-Bike page for more.
Better still, you can check out the options and see the latest feedback from buyers for yourself over on this dedicated amazon.co.uk product page – check it out now!
#2 – JLL JF100 Upright Bikes
For a solid upright, with fantastic feedback from owners and some great high-tech touches, the JF100 fits the bill. This is part of the impressive JLL range. This UK based company are known for their top quality after sales service and full 12-month warranty.
This bike is flexible for riders of different heights and has a 2-way flywheel (you can peddle backwards!). You get a heart-rate monitor built into the handlebars, which allows you to check your pulse while you cycle. The console keeps track of your calories, speed, how far you have ‘travelled’ and the session time.
For a reasonable price, you get a bike which is flexible enough for the whole family – and will stand the test of time.
See my detailed review of the JLL JF100 Upright Exercise bike here – or even better, check out the close-up pictures and the latest feedback for yourself over on this dedicated amazon.co.uk product page.
#3 – Nero Sports Bluetooth Studio Bike
This popular studio bike has a sharp design, with black and bright yellow giving it a futuristic feel. It is the technology that really makes this unit stand out. It has its own console, though to get the best from it, you should connect your tablet or iPad. This lets you use apps and maps to make your ride more fun. You can connect with other riders, see routes through beautiful scenery or get coaching while you work out.
It is not quite a Peloton – though considering the huge price difference, it gets most of the job done.
Nero Sports Bikes have 12kg flywheels, a fully adjustable seat and bars, heart rate monitor and a 5-year warranty. This brand also makes treadmills, which are also hugely popular.
Note that the iPad shown in the picture is not included – you will need to use your own (or an Android tablet).
See my detailed review of the Nero Sports Bluetooth Studio Bike here.
Even better, check out the amazing looks via the gallery, which includes detailed close-ups, over on this dedicated amazon.co.uk product page.
#4 – XS Sports Recumbent Bike
There is no need to sit perched on top of an upright to get the benefits of indoor biking. The XS sports recumbent gives you a safe, comfortable ride. This unit has a lower profile. That keeps it safe and stable. You sit back in a seat, which has a backrest. Pedalling happens in front of you – and is every bit as beneficial as the downward motion of studio bikes or uprights.
Recumbents are popular among people returning to fitness. This XS Sports model is at the lower end of the sit back bikes price range, though has a spec and positive feedback that compares well with better models.
You get a 4kg flywheel (forward and back motions), 8 resistance levels and a console which keeps track of those all-important numbers. A pulse sensor and calorie count come as standard.
Older people and those returning to fitness loved this unit – though anybody that would like to work out in comfort should buy one. Just because you are sitting back, does not take anything away from the cardio benefits!
#5 – UltraSport Mini Bike
These bikes might look like a box with pedals – though there is much more to them than that. The idea is to make exercise portable and simple. You can carry this to where it is needed (by the sofa, under the table and so on), then get peddling. It gives you movement, burns calories and gets the blood flowing. Compared to uprights, this is not a vigorous workout. What the UltraSport mini bike does well is to get you moving.
You can also put it on a table – and rotate the pedals with your arms. This has been used by people recovering from injury (note – ask a pro / medical professional before undertaking any form of exercise if this is you).
For the price, this ‘bike’ will get you moving. The sheer amount of feedback will show you that they are hugely popular. There are upper-range models, though for the price, this unit from UltraSport gets the job done.
Check out my detailed review of the UltraSport Mini Bike for more.
Alternatively, see the feedback and gallery for yourself now over on this dedicated amazon.co.uk product page.
Wrapping Up: Best Exercise Bike for Home Use
If you made it this far, you will already know more about the exercise bike options that 95% of people.
You’ll know what you get for different budgets, the types of bike available and how the technology makes a big difference as you move through the price levels.
My guess is that you already know whether you would be best suited to a studio, upright or a recumbent bike.
Choosing a bike which you will enjoy using is a bigger factor than most people realise. You will use any bike for the first couple of weeks. Choosing something that really appeals will keep you going – and get you the full benefits.
Whichever home exercise bike you buy, remember to leave feedback / comments for others. It is the opinion of exactly those people who went through some research before buying that is most valuable to future users.
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