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Over the last two years, we've seen significant reader interest in all things indoor exercise bikes, and it's with good reason. In December, Apple launched Fitness+, an app offering various on-demand fitness classes, focused on spinning, treadmills and rowing, among others. The monthly Apple service costs $10 per month compared to Peloton's $13 monthly digital app membership. In July, Peloton also launched a new video-game mode, Lanebreak, on its bikes, where users try to steer their bikes around virtual obstacles.
As the colder weather approaches, exercise bikes can satisfy your workout fix when the outdoor elements are harsh. And now that Peloton has slashed the price of its Bike by about 20 percent, it might be a good time to invest. However, Peloton isn’t the only brand out there — in fact, there are plenty of others who are just as good (and many are more affordable, even with the recent price drop).
(Relatively) budget-friendly stationary bikes for at-home cycling
If you’re on the hunt for your own at-home bike, we put together a list of exercise bike options worth considering. If you’re on the fence, consider that several manufacturers offer 30-day return policies. We also shared a few alternatives to stationary bikes to consider adding to your at-home gym — some of which are entire gyms onto themselves.
Be sure to prioritize what your basic needs are — many of them might be met by relatively affordable options. Maybe you want to easily adjust the bike’s resistance, move its handlebars or just need something quiet for nighttime sweats. And don’t overlook spinning accessories like a padded, adjustable seat and easy-to-grip support handles.
“It might seem like these are added luxuries, but an uncomfortable bike has the potential to affect your performance and form while you bike,” Caleb Backe, a certified personal trainer, told NBC News. “In the long run, this could lead to unnecessary muscle strain and sustained injury.”
Before you decide which bike is the right fit for your needs, here are a few things to consider:
- A basic indoor bike will easily run you a few hundred dollars or more.
- Smart bikes might require monthly subscriptions, especially when it comes to on-demand training and cycling classes.
- Design features can make a difference when it comes to comfort and performance, and they subsequently affect the price tag.
An uncomfortable bike has the potential to affect your performance and form while you bike.
Caleb Backe, certified personal trainer
This relatively budget-friendly option offers an adjustable resistance knob — and doesn't require a membership fee. With that, it lacks some of the bells and whistles we'll see below. Whether you require those is a personal preference, of course: There's no screen. And the chain drive may make it slightly noisy, although you have the option to upgrade to the belt drive option instead.
An adjustable seat and ergonomic handlebars — with integrated heart monitors — and wheels for portability make for a feature-heavy and relatively affordable at-home fitness solution from a leading brand like Schwinn. The LCD screen comes with 29 included exercise routines — no trainers here for smart workout but the bike can react with resistance to your heart rate, allowing for up to four different user profiles.
Hop on Yosuda’s stationary bike while your carefully curated playlist is blasting through your Bluetooth portable speakers. This model features an adjustable non-slip handlebar, four-way padded seat and adjustable resistance levels for customization. The LCD monitor shows your speed, distance, calories burned, odometer and, of course, time spent on your new machine. If you want to spin while watching your favorite show or listen to a virtual meeting (with your camera off, of course), rest your iPad on the dedicated holder.
Cyclace’s released an upgraded version of their stationary bike earlier this year. The new model offers extended seating adjustment for anyone between 5-foot-1-inch to 6-foot-5-inches tall and weighs up to 330 pounds. Riders of all levels can keep track of their fitness journey on the LCD monitor, which displays your speed, distance, calories burned and odometer. You can also rest your unlocked smartphone on the holder if you prefer. Plus, the brand offers a 12-month parts warranty, just in case.
Schwinn's take on the stationary bike is equipped with pedals that allow for different types of footwear — you can wear regular sneakers or utilize higher-end clip-in shoes. It's the product of a renowned cycling brand, which might matter to some. And it comes equipped with padded handlebars. Like the more affordable option above, there's no built-in screen, although there’s a spot for your own tablet if you wanted to rely on its offerings.
Echelon’s Connect Sport indoor cycling exercise bike runs just under $500 (while on sale) and sports 32 levels of resistance for varied intensity. There’s also slip-resistant handlebars, which are helpful when you work up a sweat, along with cushioned seats for a comfier at-home workout. Avoid getting bored during your spinning session by participating in live classes or more than 500 on-demand videos on the Echelon Fit app.
The high-end of low-end bikes, this Sunny Health & Fitness exercise bike equips adjustable handlebars, manually adjustable resistance and an adjustable seat. Its pedals are caged and wheels on its front legs will make it slightly easier to maneuver for the perfect spot in your home.
Spend less than $200 on this top-rated indoor exercise bike from Exerpeutic that supports riders up to 300 pounds. It comes with adjustable foot straps, an LCD monitor displaying your metrics, eight magnetic tension levels and hand pulse sensors to keep tabs on your heart rate. According to the brand, their exercise bike also folds up to half the assembled size, making it convenient for those living in small spaces and for easy storage.
If you follow Instagram models or celebrity personal trainers, then perhaps you've seen the Assault Bike while scrolling through your social media feeds. It's a heavy-duty bike designed with athletes and those who train (or would like to train) like them in mind. The bike's resistance automatically adjusts based on the rider's output, meaning the harder you pedal, the more resistance you're challenged with and vice versa. It also comes equipped with built-in programs along with a monitor that displays your mph, calories, time and watts.
Elevated stationary bikes for at-home cycling
Lindsay Goldman, the director of membership for USA Cycling, a nonprofit group focused on cycling as a sport, advises serious riders to prepare for a hefty price tag if they’re looking for quality equipment. “Generally, the more money that you spend on cycling equipment and gear, the better it will be,” Goldman said. Adding that it's important to get fresh air and take in nature once you've "had enough indoor training." "You have to have both — good quality training, but also time where your soul connects and gets fresh air. Balance is critical," he said.
As you saw in the options above, more basic stationary bikes don't have to hit $1,000 — and allow for a similar physical experience as more expensive brands. It's when you introduce screens, monitors and trackers — as well as features allowing for social connectedness — that prices climb significantly.
The NordicTrack stationary bike includes a one-year membership to its iFit service, an interactive personal training program. Its 14-inch HD touchscreen allow for 360-degree rotation and streams iFit content directly. It also shows up with two three-pound dumbbells for cross training exercises and its seat and handlebars are fully adjustable.
The latest EX5S Bike model comes with a 21.5-inch HD touchscreen that flips 180 degrees for live streaming workouts. It's equipped with adjustable handlebars and has been outfitted with a new motor for more precise resistance levels. If incline and decline cycling are important to you, note the Echelon won't let you adjust either.
The Keiser allows you to adjust its handlebars and the seat to accommodate your specific preference and the pre-tensioned resistance belt is designed to stay durable. It's also Bluetooth-enabled so you can stream directly from it or connect your smart devices to it. As you're setting the bike up yourself, note that it might be difficult to assemble. It doesn't offer a screen but you can use the tablet holder to follow virtual classes with your own smart device.
The new Bowflex VeloCore, which you can also grab with a 22-inch console, allow for both a leaning mode by which is what it sounds like: You can lean to the side while exercising to better simulate real-world bike riding (or dancing). You can also set the bike to stationary mode, keeping you straightforward throughout. Aside from tapping into various workout plans and classes, from virtual coaching to trainer-led rides, you can also use the display to access apps for streaming media, from Netflix to Hulu. The bike is also designed to keep track of various metrics, including intervals, calories burned, cadence, heart rate and more.
The more affordable C6 Bike from Bowflex comes equipped with a screen — or a backlit LCD for tracking metrics — magnetic resistance that allows you up to 100 levels of resistance (with miniscule differences between each one, but still notable) and pedals built with toe cages. The bike also arrives with two 3-pound dumbbells and a Bluetooth-enabled heart rate monitor.
The MYX fitness bike is equipped with a touchscreen tablet and shows up with a Polar OH1 Heart Rate Monitor. The $29-per-month membership will get you on-demand coaching and you can otherwise access pre-built workouts with hundreds of options. The brand promises to add new workout routines to its library each week and the bike will help you keep track of what you've done and how you're doing. You can see MYX coach profiles to get an idea of who'll be around to help you reach your fitness goals, to boot. The upgraded MYX Plus arrives with some additional accessories, like a foam roller and exercise mat.
Exercise bike alternatives
You can still cycle without a bike — in a sense — with these top-rated workout essentials. Here are other indoor exercise bike alternatives worth considering adding to your home gym in 2021.
The Cubii under-desk elliptical is exactly what it sounds like: It allows you to cycle while you work or are sitting with other tasks. Bluetooth tech connects with your smartphone to track your stats and track your steps and calories burned. Designed to be especially quiet, it should be less distracting to fellow remote workers than other options. A more affordable option, the Cubii Jr. cuts out the smart connection and replaces it with a small display to track stats instead.
A rowing machine is considered a low-impact cardio machine that’s gentle on your joints and builds endurance. NBC News Better previously spoke with fitness experts on the most effective cardio machines and Caley Crawford, director of education for Row House, called the rowing machine “an all-encompassing machine” and “the most effective machine in the gym” because rowing helps build stamina without hurting your joints. Hydrow’s model includes a 22-inch touchscreen display that shows a calming river, speakers and an ergonomic seat. According to Hydrow, their patented drag mechanism allows each pull to feel as if you’re rowing in a body of water rather than using a machine. If you live in a small space, store your machine in an upright position using the Hydrow Upright Storage Kit. As a bonus, Hydrow is throwing in a complementary Polar OH1 Optical Heart Rate Monitor for keeping track of your vitals.
If you’re the type of person who needs to switch up their workout to avoid getting bored (or burned out), opt for Mirror, a smart workout device offering on-demand access to boxing, kettlebell, barre, yoga, meditation and other fitness classes. The Bluetooth-enabled gadget also allows you to work out virtually with personal trainers and track your heart rate, and it offers playlists to help you power through your exercise when you sign up through the app. You can also order a wall mount if you rather your piece of workout equipment isn’t resting on the floor. Each Mirror purchase includes a one-year warranty, white glove service and a 30-day risk-free trial so you can be sure the device fits into your lifestyle before fully committing.