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Best exercise bikes 2020: From upright bikes to folding exercise bikes

Best exercise bikes 2020: from upright bikes to folding exercise bikes
(Image credit: Getty)

Investing in one of the best exercise bikes for your needs and budget is a smart move if you want a low-impact cardio workout to help you lose or maintain weight, and boost your overall cardio health. Exercise bikes come in a variety of designs, including folding exercise bikes to save space in your home gym, plus upright bikes for interval training.

Just as you’ll find with the best treadmills and other fitness equipment for your home, the best exercise bikes have evolved over the years. Whereas once they were noisy and bulky, now they are robust, relatively quiet and feature-stacked. Some spin bikes are able to work your upper body (to an extent) too, as they come with dumbbells to use at certain points during a guided exercise. 

If you’re lacking space at home, try a folding exercise bike or slimline upright bike. Both are smaller than recumbent exercise bikes, though the latter are undeniably comfortable as you’re essentially sitting right back in the saddle. 

Trailblazing home fitness brands like NordicTrack, Schwinn and Nautilus lead the way when it comes to designing the best exercise bikes, serving up powerful machines to deliver a thorough cardio workout. It’s also not uncommon to find a quality exercise bike for under $500, as many of the features you’ll find on top-flight cycles are now trickling down to the cheap exercise bikes market.

Most fitness bike workouts are low-impact, making them a suitable choice for those recovering from injury, or anyone new to fitness. Plenty of the best exercise bikes now come with built-in workouts, so all you need to do is follow along with the exercises shown on the display. 

Finally, while the majority of exercise bikes featured below offer heart rate (HR) monitoring, we’d recommend teaming your new machine with one of the best fitness trackers for accurate HR tracking. These also let you know how many calories you’ve burned and when you’re in fat burning mode, giving you a clear picture of how effective your workouts are.


1. Nautilus U618: Best exercise bike overall

Best exercise bikes: Nautilus U618 Upright Bike

(Image credit: Nautilus)

Nautilus U618 Upright Bike

The best upright bike for a variety of workouts

Style: Upright | Warranty: Up to 15 years | Supported weight: 325 lbs | Workouts: 29

29 workout presets
Adjustable seat and handlebars
Wireless HR chest strap included
One year labor warranty

The Nautilus U618 Upright Exercise Bike is our pick as the best exercise bike overall. This isn't because it has the best video platform or the most modern setup, but because it's a solid bike that would make a perfect addition to any home gym. By that we mean it's very well made, with a very generous 15-year frame warranty, and it runs well, with a quiet and smooth resistance system that uses a heavyweight flywheel to do the job right. 

There are 29 built-in workouts, plus and heart rate strap support so that you can take advantage of zone training to help you melt fat and achieve your wellness goals more easily. Want to add in fancy virtual rides or binge watch your favorite show? Ridesocial is built-in for the former, while a dedicated media stand is waiting to house your tablet or smartphone

You also get dual drinks holders, a comfy seat, and multi-grip handlebars so that you can find your ideal riding position for your arms. Considering everything you get here, the Nautilus U618 Upright Bike is a well-priced machine from a big name in the industry, so you can expect reliable performance for the long-term too. 


2. Schwinn IC4: Best exercise bike for Peloton and Zwift fans

Best exercise bikes: Schwinn IC4

(Image credit: Schwinn)

Schwinn IC4 Exercise Bike

This fun upright bike will work you hard with 100 levels of resistance

Design: Upright | Modes: App limited only | Supported weight: 330lbs | Warranty: Up to 10 years

Peloton and Zwift supported
Quiet when in use
No cooling fan
No preset workouts

The Schwinn IC4 is one of the best exercise bikes bar none, and it's also a super-fun option for Peloton and Zwift training. This Schwinn exercise bike features a large display and 100 levels of smooth and quiet magnetic resistance that makes it ideal for exercising along with live fitness classes, taking virtual rides, or doing a zone training program. 

The spin-style Schwinn IC4 is solid, so you can go all-out without worry of the bike giving in – you are the only limit here. In fact, the bike comes with a 10-year frame warranty and supports riders of up to 330lbs. 

Heart rate monitoring is an option, making this another good exercise bike for zone training. Not that getting out of your saddle will be so appealing, as the seat is very comfortable for an upright bike of this style. There are even weights included, along with holders that attach to the exercise bike, so you can get an upper body workout too.


3. NordicTrack S22i Studio Cycle: Best exercise bike for guided workouts

Best exercise bikes: NordicTrack S22i Studio Cycle

(Image credit: NordicTrack)

NordicTrack S22i Studio Cycle

The best exercise bike for gaining a large, HD touchscreen display

Design: Upright | Modes: 1,500 | Supported weight: 350lbs | Warranty: Up to 10 years

Clip-in pedals
HR monitoring
Installation costs extra

The NordicTrack S22i Studio Cycle is a premium home exercise bike experience with an absolute wealth of features and a dazzling 22-inch HD touchscreen. This means you can take live classes, via the iFit system, or take part in virtual rides, all with proper immersion. Of course you can connect your heart rate chest strap via Bluetooth to get more data and see it all via the app, also available on your phone. 

But there are plenty of workout options: 1,500 to be exact, all ready to go if you just want to hop on and get riding. Take a virtual ride with a former Olympian, or get your head down on a virtual slope of up to 22% to really push your stamina and cardio prowess. Either way, the smooth resistance of the NordicTrack S22i Studio Cycle makes it feel real. The price is steep too, but it's more than justified by everything this brilliant exercise bike has to offer.


4. Assault AirBike Classic: Best exercise bike for air resistance

Best exercise bikes: LifeCORE Assault AirBike Classic exercise bike

(Image credit: LifeCORE)

Assault AirBike Classic

Best air resistance ride

Design: Upright | Modes: Seven | Supported weight: 300lbs | Warranty: Up to five years

Powerful cooling fans
Infinite resistance
Works your upper body too
Shipping costs extra

The Assault AirBike Classic, as the name suggests, is an exercise bike that uses a large 25-inch, six blade fan to create air resistance for your ride. As such it has no upper limit making it the go-to choice for the military. As such this is built solid, to last and you get a decent five year warranty on a machine that also works your upper body.

This is for those that want to push their machine, and their bodies, to the limit. That said, the seat is comfortable and you can choose to use the handlebars or just your legs as you work. The display is basic and a Polar heart rate strap is the only brand compatible. But for the price this is a really impressive machine.


5. NordicTrack Commercial VR25: Best recumbent exercise bike

Best exercise bikes: NordicTrack Commercial VR25

(Image credit: NordicTrack)

NordicTrack Commercial VR25 Recumbent Bike

Best recumbent bike

Design: Recumbent | Modes: 35 | Supported weight: 350lbs | Warranty: Up to 10 years

10-year frame warranty
Silent magnetic flywheel drive
7-inch touchscreen
Screen isn't tiltable

The NordicTrack Commercial VR25 is the best recumbent exercise bike in this list as it offers back support with an airy mesh to keep you comfortable. There's also a wide and well cushioned seat that slides back and forward for comfy support with perfect positioning. You get a 7-inch touchscreen with 35 workouts ready to go and the bike works with both chest strap heart rate monitors and grip-bar based tracking.

The 10-year frame warranty is reassuring and the use of the iFit app means you get lots of workouts online including live coaching. Plus you can check your data on your phone and add more from there. Despite the price this is actually a good level for a recumbent bike, especially one from such a well known brand. 


6. Exerpeutic Folding Magnetic Upright: Best folding exercise bike

Best exercise bikes: Exerpeutic Folding Magnetic Upright Exercise Bike

(Image credit: Exerpeutic)

Exerpeutic Folding Magnetic Upright Exercise Bike

The best folding exercise bike for those who live in small homes

Folds down easily
Light enough to move around
Not suitable for stand-up riding

The Exerpeutic Folding Magnetic Upright Exercise Bike is the best for smaller spaces or those that need to store their bike away. This folds down easily to pack away and is light enough to move but solid enough for a decent riding experience. This isn't built for heavy stand-up rides, sure, but it'll work for harder seated rides without wobble or torsion. 

The magnetic resistance is smooth and relatively quiet with eight levels of resistance. The computer is basic but does offer data like speed, distance, pace, heart rate and more. Everything is well built, placed comfortably and easy to use. The seat is comfy and the price of this bike is reasonable for its performance level. 

How we evaluated the best exercise bikes

Once we identified our favorite exercise bikes, we created a detailed comparison table. To provide accurate information, we scoured websites and product guides and reached out to multiple customer service representatives. We also watched product videos and read consumer reviews.

We rated equipment based on five categories: price; fitness features and design; comfort and convenience; console; and warranty and support. While less expensive exercise bikes received higher scores in the price category, we also considered that more expensive products typically have more features and are more durable than lower-end products.

Keeping this in mind, we gave exercise bikes higher marks for adjustable seats, handlebars and consoles. Bikes also scored points based on the number of workout presets and resistance levels they provide and whether they have comfort and convenience features such as cooling fans, speakers, water bottle holders and internet connectivity.

Although we noted each bike’s type, we didn’t recommend one style as being better than the other. Each type has advantages and disadvantages, and the style that works best for you will depend on your needs and personal preferences.

Choosing the best folding exercise bike for you

Finding the right exercise bike can be tricky. As you’re doing your research, it’s important to consider the type of machine you’d like, your budget and the features you want. There are many options available, and it’s a good idea to become familiar with them before you start shopping.  

“Exercise bikes are great because they are low impact and easy to use at home,” said Nephi Gold, a licensed occupational therapist at Intermountain Orthopedics & Sports Medicine, “but there are a lot of different varieties.”

Whatever type of exercise bike you choose, Gold suggests you insist on an adjustable seat, adjustable resistance, and something that's easy to get on and off. “Especially,” he says, “if you’ve had a total knee replacement or if your balance is bad.”

Along with helping to boost your cardiovascular health and fitness, Gold believes that exercise bikes are excellent warm-up tools for rehabilitating most lower body injuries.

What are the different types of exercise bikes?

There are three types of exercise bikes – upright, recumbent and spin. Upright bikes have backless seats and look and operate much like commuter bikes. Uprights are generally the smallest, lightest and most affordable exercise bikes available. They are best for people who don’t have mobility or balance problems, and they work the same muscles you’d use riding a traditional bicycle.

Recumbent bikes provide users with a chair for extra back support. The pedals are placed in front of the rider, and you can often adjust how far the seat leans backs. Of the three types of exercise bikes, Gold especially likes recumbents because they benefit people who have had total knee replacements, sprains or fractures. Recumbent bikes are easier to mount than uprights, and their chairs are more comfortable than traditional bike seats. Seniors usually like recumbent bikes best. Recumbents are similarly recommended over upright bikes for obese users and people with neurological conditions.

Spin bikes – also known as indoor cycles – are designed more for serious cyclists than for home fitness enthusiasts. We chose not to include them in this review because they are generally more expensive and less comfortable than recumbent and upright exercise bikes. Also, you must often buy special cycling shoes to use them, and many spin bikes require you to purchase additional equipment if you want to track your workouts. One very popular spin bike is the Peloton bike. This high-end indoor cycle is marketed as “a private indoor cycling studio in your home,” and it costs nearly $2,000. After the first year, it also requires a $39 monthly membership to access online fitness classes. We didn't review the Peleton because we focused on more affordable exercise cycles within the $140 to $800 price range. 

How much do the best exercise bikes cost?

The price of home exercise bikes ranges widely from under $50 to nearly $5,000. Based on our research, you should plan to spend around $500 if you want a high-quality, durable machine – but more affordable options suit many households just fine. To give you a good selection, we reviewed bikes with MSRPs ranging between $140 and $800.

The price you’ll pay for your bike depends largely on its features. Less expensive exercise bikes usually have minimal programming options and limited technology. Midrange bikes such as the ones we reviewed are often more solidly built and have more functionality. High-end bikes generally boast the best features and longest warranties.

Common price tiers in the exercise bike market are $300 or less for low-end bikes, $300 to $500 for mid-range products and $500 to $1,000 for high-end home use. Exercise bikes priced above $1,000 are generally designed for commercial use.

Best exercise bikes: what features should they have?

Industry experts agree that there are several must-have features to consider before purchasing an exercise bike. Gold named his top three, and there are a handful more. “Look for an adjustable seat and ease of getting on and off,” Gold said. “It’s also nice to be able to control the resistance, to make it easier or hard.”

Other essential features are a heavy flywheel, large pedals with straps or clips, and a console with multiple workout presets and detailed readouts such as speed, time, heart rate, calories and distance. It’s also beneficial to look for comfort features. Exercise bikes with fans, sound systems, water bottle holders and device racks are more comfortable and convenient to use than bikes with more limited options.

Air resistance exercise bikes 

Air resistance bikes - or assault bikes as they’re known in the CrossFit universe - offer a more comprehensive cardio workout because you move your upper body in conjunction with the traditional lower body cycling motion. An air resistance exercise bike helps you avoid ligament and joint pain and is a great alternative for a full-body workout like you get with an elliptical trainer. Here are our favorite cost-effective air resistance bikes.

Assault Fitness AirBike 

If you’ve taken a CrossFit class or visited a big-box gym, you’ve most likely seen the Assault AirBike. The durable design uses a sealed cartridge with 20 ball bearings that offer a smooth workout compared to other air resistance bikes. The LCD console is simple and displays your total distance traveled in miles, how many calories you are burning and your total exercise time. There are seven built-in training sessions, or you can customize a workout based on calories, distance, time or heart rate. The six-way adjustable seat makes it easy to position yourself directly over the pedals to avoid awkward or painful movements.   

Schwinn Airdyne AD6 

The Schwinn Airdyne is more compact and less expensive than the Assault AirBike. It has an LCD display with similar features to the AirBike, including distance, time, RPM and calorie tracking. The self-balancing pedals have foot straps to keep your feet securely attached during intense workouts, and this air resistance bike has footpegs so you can focus solely on your upper body if you choose. The single-stage belt drive isn’t as smooth as the ball bearing system on the Assault Airbike, but the smaller fan is much quieter. There are transport wheels on the front of the bike that make moving the AD6 around a living room as easy as possible.

Online spin classes for use with exercise bikes

The best exercise bikes have as many as 30 built-in workouts, but if you get bored of those, online spin classes can help you mix it up. These classes require a smartphone or tablet and a Wi-Fi connection, but the variety of workouts and real-time feedback from the instructors help to motivate you and maximize your workouts.

Peloton You don’t need a Peloton bike to take advantage of the Peloton online classes. The Peloton digital app for Android and iOS devices gives you access to more than 4,000 on-demand classes and up to 14 daily live group workouts. You choose from a variety of class styles, instructors and music, and compete in real time with everyone taking the class. Peloton offers a 14-day free trial that includes unlimited access to all of the classes, and memberships cost about $20 per month.

CycleCast CycleCast doesn’t offer as many on-demand and live classes as Peloton, but a membership is half the price. Classes last between 20 and 60 minutes, and are led by one of six experienced instructors. The app is easy to use and walks you step by step through the process of choosing an instructor, class length and music preference. The app is available for iOS and Android devices and automatically tracks your workouts and syncs with popular fitness apps, like Apple Health and Google Fit. Memberships cost $10 per month or $90 per year.

The best exercise bike accessories 

The exercise bikes we reviewed come with a few standard accessories; however, there are upgrade options that improve performance, comfort and ensure the equipment doesn’t harm the flooring beneath it. Here are some recommendations for simple upgrades that are compatible with every exercise bike we evaluated.

Wellgo WPD-E003 Spin Bike Pedals

All the bikes we reviewed include straps to keep your feet securely attached to the pedals. Clipless pedals, like the Wellgo WPD-E003, improve performance and burn more calories because you pull up on the pedal in addition to the normal downward stroke. To take advantage of the clipless function, you need cycling shoes with SPD cleats. These start at around $40. We recommend these pedals for beginners because, like the typical exercise bike pedal, they also have an adjustable strap that allows you to spin with any normal sneaker. The 9/16 inch thread size is compatible with all the indoor bikes we reviewed and most outdoor road bikes.

Protective Floor Mat

The exercise bikes we reviewed are heavy enough to stay in place during intense workouts, but a heavy duty floor mat is a helpful addition to any exercise room. This protective mat keeps the bike from sliding around and also prevents the heavy equipment from damaging the flooring under the bike. The flexible rubber design also reduces noisy vibrations if your exercise room is on an upper floor. The Supermats equipment mat is made without harmful chemicals and is safe for children and pets.