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As the coronavirus pandemic forced people across the country to stay home, many invested in workout gear to create their own at-home gyms. Stationary bikes quickly became fixtures in people’s living rooms, bedrooms and even home offices. In fact, NPD Group, a global market research company, reported that the home fitness equipment business grew significantly throughout 2020, with cardio devices leading the way — home fitness equipment sales nearly doubled in summer 2020 when compared to 2019. To stay motivated, some of my clients set up their Peloton bikes next to the couch or facing their desk so it’s always in view. Other people turn to unconventional cycling machines to keep their body moving. For example, Shopping contributor Jonathan Bender prefers the FitDesk, an exercise bike with an attached desk.
While Peloton may be a well-known name in the world of at-home exercise bikes, it isn’t the only one on the market. Brands like NordicTrack and Schwinn have been making their mark on the at-home cycling industry in recent months, as well (NBC News’ parent company Comcast is an investor in Peloton). We’ve previously reported how to go about buying an exercise bike that fits your needs and budget. As at-home exercise is increasingly popular, we consulted personal trainers on the best exercise bikes they recommend to their clients — and why.
How to buy the best exercise bike for you
When it comes to deciding which exercise bike is best for you, it’s important to determine how you’ll exercise — as well as where and when. “Ultimately, the best choice is the one you’re more likely to use,” said Chicago-based certified personal trainer Eric Ridings. “Whether that means a realistic price point or the prestige of getting the same gadgets your friends have, it always comes down to the system that fits you best.”
Best exercise bikes of 2020
Ridings said that if he had to pick his top choice, it would be the NordicTrack Bike. “It’s a quality product at a good price, and the trainers and coaching involved are excellent,” he explained. The bike has a 22-inch touchscreen and offers studio sessions on demand. The brand's iFit trainers are able to actually control your bike’s resistance, incline and decline in the live interactive classes.
Los Angeles-based certified personal trainer Taylor Norris, CEO and Co-Founder of LIT Method (who recently launched his LIT Strength machine) recommends a standard Schwinn bike for those looking for at-home cycling bikes. Why? Norris said it’s significant to consider a that “the company has been in the industry for a long time and produces high-quality equipment.” Schwinn’s exercise bike is a low impact, cardio-kicking indoor cycling bike designed with the serious cyclist in mind. There’s a 40-pound flywheel that is powered by a smooth and silent belt drive. A highly customizable set of resistance levels will let you get specific with how to want to challenge yourself. You can adjust the seat horizontally and vertically, and the handlebars are padded to keep you more comfortable.
Evan Jay, a certified athletic trainer at Redefine Healthcare in New Jersey, also recommends a Schwinn bike. However, his recommendation has more features — and cost more — than the IC3 Schwinn. “At this price point, you can satisfy the greater majority of your amateur cyclists. This bike is sturdy and resistance can be adjusted to each rider's preference,” he said. “The resistance mechanism is magnetic so the bike doesn't wear down. This also allows for a more quiet workout, which may be important if you have roommates or neighbors in an apartment,” Jay said.
This bike can also be synced with other workout apps — like Peloton and Zwift. “The computer system is very simple, easy to operate and understand. The Bluetooth compatibility allows for linking with various apps and devices, so each rider can use their personal preference — there is also a rack to hold your cell phone, tablet or magazine.”
Tara Allen, RN and certified personal trainer based in New York, recommends the Peloton. “The Peloton is my favorite because it has all the important tech features of a stationary bike (such as power output), offers a smooth ride and also comes with a screen to connect with instructors and fellow riders in a live or previously recorded class,” Allen said. “That additional support, guidance and accountability has proven to be effective for many of my clients in between our sessions together.”
Another option with all the bells and whistles is made by Echelon, the brand’s most advanced exercise bike. It sports easy-to-adjust handlebars, two water bottle holders and a weight rack behind the seat. The bike is lightweight, quiet and comes with its own streaming workout classes that are live and on-demand.
The exercise bike allows you to connect with other apps to stream classes but it doesn’t have its own screen or app. However, there is a backlit LCD metric console to place your iPad on, or you can sync with your TV to stream workouts.
Finally, if you’re looking for the bare minimum in terms of a stationary exercise bike, check out this one by Paradigm. The bike is about half the weight of the others we’ve recommended, and you can fold it up for easy storage. Some of my private personal training clients don’t have the space for a bike — or need to double their dining room as their gym — so having a bike that can be easily put away or hidden to clear out space or have guests over for dinner is important. Always keep in mind how often, when and where you’ll be using a cycling bike (or any piece of workout equipment) before purchasing.