Looking for your first or even new indoor bike can be a minefield.
There is so many to choose from on the market today and it can be hard to determine what is the best indoor bike for you and your own fitness needs.
But not to worry, I have put together this buying guide to choosing the indoor bike. It all comes down to a few points really but there is some things to look out for before you buy.
So we’ll get into it now and see if we can get the right bike for you.
I have put this first as this is what your buying decision is basically going to be based around.
There are hundreds of indoor bikes available and they differ in range right from $200 right up to $4,000!
So take a moment and have a look through your finances and have a budget as to what is affordable for you. Obviously the greater the budget you have, the more indoor bikes will be available and greater access to features.
This is another key factor when choosing the best indoor bike for you.
Measuring your height, especially from your hip to the floor will give you a good understanding of what indoor bike will best suit you. It’s the inseam length between the saddle and pedals that you really want to know.
Most indoor bikes however do have the capability of adjusting up and down. This goes for both the saddle and the handlebars.
Usually you may find it’s people who are shorter tend to have difficulty of finding a comfortable and effective position on the indoor bike.
For a person that comes in at a height just over 5ft, you want a bike generally that has inseam length of just over 2ft.
You can actually check out my post on some of the best indoor bikes for a short person.
Magnetic or Friction Resistance
All indoor bikes come with one of two forms of resistance: Magnetic or Friction resistance.
Magnetic resistance is simply a magnet that is positioned very close the flywheel. The greater the resistance you crank up – the closer the magnet moves towards the flywheel helping to slow it’s momentum and making it more difficult to push.
Friction-based resistance is generally a cotton or felt pad(s) on top or at just either side of the flywheel. Once again, once you crank up the resistance – the felt pads push against the flywheel helping to slow it’s momentum and it becomes more difficult to cycle, causing it’s resistance.
Now in terms of which is better is really your preference but it also comes down to budget.
Generally in more expensive indoor bikes you’ll get magnetic resistance.
Now, the 3 main differences between these resistances are:
Both are pretty quiet but in terms of being noise-free – you want magnetic resistance.
With magnetic resistance there is very little maintenance needed as there is no actual connection between the magnet and the flywheel.
However with friction resistance there will be wear and tear on the felt pads with continued use.
Both types of resistance do offer an incredible resistance once you crank up the intensity. The only problem with friction-based resistance is that overtime with consistent use you may start to notice that is takes that extra turn of the crank to apply the resistance you need.
This is because the felt or cotton pads begin to wear away. However you can purchase replacement felt pads that are easily installed on the bike.
The weight of the flywheel is another big factor to take into consideration.
The weight itself depends on how smooth or bumpy your cycling may be.
For example, an indoor bike with a low flywheel weight (generally anything under 15kg) can be slightly bumpy and inconsistent when pedalling.
For a person with an average height I would recommend an indoor bike with a flywheel weight anywhere between 18kg-20kgs (39lbs-44lbs).
There is heavier flywheels than this but this is where the price can start to be bumped up and can offer a smoother cycle but anything between 18kg-20kgs is ideal.
Now, if you are a person of a smaller size then you may prefer a lighter flywheel weight as it won’t be as hard to push at the start of your pedalling.
Belt or Chain Driven
To make the flywheel actually rotate by your pushing momentum of the pedals there are 2 ways to drive them, either by a chain or a belt.
Chain driven bikes are basically the exact same as an outdoor bike. It’s a standard chain that rolls over a sprocket that then connects to flywheel.
Belt driven indoor bikes use a belt, or more specifically a Poly-V belt. This is made of strong and incredibly durable Kevlar. This does away with the use of any sprocket and simply just rotates (like a conveyor belt) from the pedals to the flywheel.
With a belt driven bike, there is virtually no noise.
With a chain driven bike, you can hear the chain roll over the sprocket and can make clinking noises.
Once again, with a belt driven bike there is very little maintenance needed to the belt itself. It has no actual moving parts within it and is incredibly strong so very little chance of breaking or snapping.
With the chain driven bikes, it will require maintenance every now and again such as oiling to keep the individual pieces moving and working well.
At times the chain may fall off and will need fitted again – as I said just like an outdoor bike.
Basic or Additional Features
This is where you’re going to really start to notice the difference in price.
The more features and additional options an indoor bike has the greater the price.
Two of the main additional features a bike may have are:
Bluetooth or Ant+ Connectivity
If your indoor bike has Bluetooth or ANT+ connectivity capabilities then this really opens up your training to a whole new experience.
There are so many cycling apps that allow you to connect your indoor bike up to which allows you to see how you train in real-time and transmits all this information instantaneously right in front of you via your phone/tablet or computer.
You can connect up to apps such as:
By having Bluetooth or ANT+ you’re really going to benefit more from your cycling.
In saying that though, you don’t necessarily need these installed within the bike itself. There are other ways you can connect up to apps such as these by connecting a cadence and speed sensor or even a pair of power meter pedals.
Check out my list of Best Power Meter Pedals
Check out my list of Best Cadence Sensors
Having the capability to see your stats and cycling data in real time and how well you’re doing really does motivate you to get every drop of juice out of your workout.
Most standard indoor bikes have caged pedals that come along with it.
These are very good and great at holding your feet in position. Simply put your feet in the cages, tighten the straps and off you go.
Now, what you’ll notice is the more expensive indoor bikes have duel pedals.
This means on one side you’ll have the standard caged pedal but on the flipside, you’ll have clipless pedals or otherwise known as SPD pedals.
This is where you can click cycling shoes into with the use of cleats.
Choosing between caged or clipless pedals – I would go with clipless definitely!
Yes, there is more costs involved with the bike firstly, but then you need to buy the cycling shoes also.
However, these pedals guarantee that your feet are locked in without any slipping or sliding off. It also benefits your cadence and power as you cycle as it helps with the pull motion when bringing the pedal back around – they really activate your hamstrings!
Look At Other Reviews
Another key point too is to look at other reviews and what other people thought of the bike.
You’ll be able to get a good idea and weigh up your options to see if it’s the right bike for you.
People show real photos of the bike or even simply Youtube the bike and you’ll be able to see clear as day if it’s for you or not.
What I Recommend
There are a number of indoor bikes I love and way too many to list here but I have decided to choose a few and break them down into a couple of sections that will hopefully meet the needs of most people.
A Mix of Both
So there you have it.
A quick rundown on how to choose the best indoor bike for you.
As I said, the type of indoor bike will ultimately come down to your budget but have a look at the bikes I suggested and see what elements you need or even don’t need to help towards your fitness goals.
If you’re after something that will simply provide a good and powerful workout, then your budget can be lower.
If you’re looking for a bike with all the latest in features then you will need to increase your pricepoint.
But when looking for a bike in general, I always look to see if it’s well-made, durable and always pay attention to the reviews before purchasing.