Exercise Bike Or Turbo Trainer? [ What’s The Difference?! ]

Exercise Bike Or Turbo Trainer
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As we all know cycling is an amazing form of fitness that can really do wonders for your cardio!

But it’s that time of year now when the temperature drops, the roads are becoming icy and you’re looking to move your training indoors.

Well, one thing many people are wondering.

What’s better – an exercise bike or turbo trainer?

What’s the difference?

What benefits does each have?

What is ultimately better to help maintain your level of training?

Well, don’t fret!

We’re going to breakdown each aspect of the exercise bike Vs turbo trainer debate so you can decide what is better for you!

Exercise Bike or Turbo Trainer - What's The Difference?

Exercise Bike

  • Different bikes to suit different needs
  • Provide a full cardio workout
  • Provide workout information
  • Built-in pulse sensors monitor calories burned
  • Some can connect to apps via Bluetooth
  • Low maintenance
  • Can be lengthy in setting up
  • Some bikes can come with a big price tag
  • May require a large space
BH Fitness I Spada Spin Bike
Spin Bike
NordicTrack Commercial VR21 Recumbent Exercise Bike
Recumbent Bike

Exercise bikes come in a few varieties themselves – each with their own set of benefits.

Two as you can see above are the spin bike and the recumbent bike.

However, there is also the upright bike and air bike.

These have all be designed to the meet the needs of different fitness goals and for different types of people.

For example, someone in the recovery phase just after hip replacement surgery wouldn’t be recommended to use a spin bike, the recumbent bike would be more suited to them.

So they all come with their own specialised needs.

Space

This is going to be one of the main differences between an exercise bike and a turbo trainer.

Like I said, exercise bikes comes in different forms – one being bigger or smaller than the other but on average, you’ll need to have space of around 5ft x 4ft.

This is to make sure that bike fits in properly but also has space at either side for you to get on and get off the bike with ease.

So make sure to check your space firstly before you buy any exercise bike.

Price

Prices between exercise bikes vary quite a lot, it all comes to down:

  • What manufacturer made it
  • How sturdy the bike is
  • What type of display it has
  • Does it have any connectivity
  • The weight of the flywheel

And these are to only name a few!

To get a rough idea:

  • A Spin Bike can cost anywhere between £100 to £1,700
  • An Upright Bike can cost anywhere between £99 – £3,000
  • A Recumbent Bike can cost anywhere between £119 – £1,800
  • An Air Bike can cost anywhere between £110 – £1,000

Training Monitor

Any decent exercise bike comes with a training monitor.

At the very least, these should be able to monitor and track your

  • Time
  • Distance
  • Speed
  • Rough guide to how many calories have been burned.

However, the technology behind training monitors can differ massively!

This is where you notice the difference in price!

Some training monitors track the very basic workout metrics as seen above but there are some that offer an abundance of key information directly related to your workout.

Some of the more pricier exercise bikes can:

  • Connect to Bluetooth
  • Connect to Strava
  • Connect to your heart rate monitor
  • Offer different workout programs

All whilst being displayed on a very appealing crystal-clear LCD display.

Resistance

Resistance on an exercise bike is designed to replicate that of a real road or mountain bike.

Resistance is created by either friction, magnetic or air with a turn of a crank or push of a button that can be directly applied to a flywheel to help slow it down.

This then proportionally directs toward the pedals and makes it more difficult to push against with each cycle, whether it be chain driven or belt driven.

This allows you to really increase the intensity helping to deliver a more effective workout.

Turbo Trainer

PedalPro Turbo Trainer
  • Quick & easy to setup
  • Take up very little room
  • Can be very afffordable
  • Use your own bike - no need for further equipment
  • Offers a 'Real Road' cycling experience
  • Provides a full cardio workout
  • Some can connect up to Zwift Cycling
  • You need a bicycle
  • Can have wear & tear on your back wheel

Now, turbo trainers are essentially one piece of equipment that can really offer an incredible cycling experience indoors.

Turbo trainers work directly with your own road or mountain bike.

So, if you’re looking to buy a turbo trainer you need to make sure you have your own bike firstly!

They are specifically designed for you to bring your outdoor training inside (especially now in these cold winter months).

They attach to the back wheel of your bike with the wheel placed onto the middle of the rear roller of the turbo trainer.

Space

If you’re comparing space between a turbo trainer and an exercise bike – the turbo trainer wins all day long!

The measure on average of around 2ft x 2ft

Excellent for storing away if space really is an issue in your home.

The only time that you’ll need the extra space is when your actually on your bike cycling with the turbo trainer attached. 

Price

Prices for turbo trainers can vary depending on type you’re after.

There’s your standard manual turbo trainer where you attach your bike to and cycle just like you would with any outdoor bike.

Or there is a Smart Turbo Trainer that does exactly the same however it has a motor that can simulate resistance and also slopes whilst at the same time collate all of your cycling data such as Speed, Distance, RPM, Watt that can be used in conjunction with the likes of Zwift Cycling!

Wahoo Kickr

For a standard turbo trainer, you can pick one up for around £35.00 – £70.00.

A Smart Trainer can be picked up for around £180 – £1,000.

These are obviously a lot more pricier however if you’re serious about your cycling and want the absolute best out of it, then the smart trainer could be for you.

Resistance

For a turbo trainer there are a few forms of resistance applied to the actual bike.

Air Resistance

Like it says, air is going to be the main factor here in creating resistance. 

An air resistant turbo trainer is generated by a fan. The higher the gear, the harder it is to turn the fan.

This can be noisier compared to other options but definitely one of the most affordable!

Magnetic Resistance

With the use of magnets against the force of the back wheel, it helps create resistance. You can either get this directly on the unit itself or by means of a pull-cable that helps you to control your level of resistance.

This creates friction on the back wheel however and due to the nature of it, it can start to wear the tyre down.

Fluid Resistance

Fluid resistance is the next step up from magnetic.

Fluid resistance turbo trainers create resistance by the turn of an impeller inside a thick, gloopy, treacle-like solution.

The harder you pedal the harder it is to turn the impeller – which then creates your resistance.

Direct Drive Resistance

Direct Drive resistance is definitely one of the most ‘road realistic’ cycling options you can choose but at the same time one of the most priciest!

To set this up you need to remove your back wheel and attach the cassette to the turbo.

This can take some time setting up compared to the other resistance based turbos now.

Direct drive resistance syncs completely to the bike though and gives a proper, authentic cycle!

The Better Cycling Experience

It depends what you’re after really.

If you’re a real cycling enthusiast and love the real feel of a road or mountain bike and prefer using your own current bike, then a turbo trainer may be best for you.

If you’re just starting out but want a fat-shredding workout then an exercise bike may be better.

However, when it comes to the cycling experience.

I think the turbo trainer or a good spin bike (part of the exercise bike family) is what you need!

These offer that ‘real road’ cycling experience that allows you crank up the resistance – giving that ultimate cardio workout.

Some of the better, yet pricier, spin bikes and turbo trainers give you that extra edge.

Check out a few of the best spin bikes you can get your hands on! 

When it comes to turbo trainers and if your budget doesn’t stretch quite as far you can check out the PedalPro on Amazon.

If you feel that your money can stretch that bit further, then I recommend the Wahoo Kickr!

An awesome addition to your cycling gear that can really take your cycling to new levels!

If you have any questions please drop me a comment and I’ll be sure to get back to you!

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