Magnetic Vs Friction Resistance For Indoor Bike

Resistance plays a massive part when indoor cycling. Its aim is to resemble outdoor cycling in the sense that when cycling uphill, the harder it is therefore the more effort needs to be applied, or even when cycling downhill, it’s much easier so less effort is needed.

 Resistance on indoor cycling bikes comes in 2 forms – Magnetic and Friction based resistance.

To understand each one, we need to look at the mechanics behind each type before deciding which is the best one for your needs.

Magnetic Resistance

As the name suggests, magnets are at work here.

So, on a standard indoor cycling bike, the flywheel is situated at the front of it, just ahead of you between your legs. The flywheel itself is made of steel, not only is this great for the weight needed to offer a smooth cycle but by nature, it is a great magnetic conductor. There are two magnets located at both sides at the top of the flywheel that will help generate resistance.

Magnetic Resistance on spin bike

This works in 2 ways, either by a manual turn crank or an electronic console. So by the turn of a crank or push of a button, the magnets will push closer together to the flywheel helping to slow the flywheel down and create resistance.

Turn the crank in the opposite direction or push the button to turn down the resistance and the magnets will be pulled away from the flywheel – removing the resistance.

Ever hear the phrase opposites attract?

Well, not to start a physics 101 class here but bear with me. So every magnet has a north and south pole and it’s when these two opposites attract, they pull together with incredible force.

Put a conductor between these (a flywheel) and resistance will be created.

This is how the mechanics work behind a magnetic resistance indoor cycling bike.

One bike that offers incredible magnetic resistance is the Joroto X2 as seen in the video above.

This is a great indoor bike that is not only manufactured by one of the best brand names in fitness equipment but it is a belt-driven bike that features a 15kg flywheel and is incredibly silent!

You can also check out my list of the top 5 affordable magnetic indoor bikes!

If you’re interested in what I use for my indoor cycling, check out my recommended gear page.

My Recommended Gear

Friction Resistance

This is a form of resistance applied to the flywheel with strong cotton felt pads.

These are either located at the top of the flywheel that are compressed down on top of the flywheel creating friction, which will give resistance.

More commonly used is when the cotton felt pads are located at either side of the flywheel though.

Once the resistance crank has been turned up, these pull a wire and compress the cotton felt pads into the flywheel generating resistance.

The XS Sports bike is an incredible bike that uses friction-based resistance.

This is the first bike I purchased and it actually is a great bike and provides great resistance for your more challenging workouts.

XS Sports actually have an updated version of the bike now, the SB350!

It now has a more streamlined look!

Friction Resistance Spin Bike

Difference In Noise

With friction resistance, there needs to be something rubbing against one another to create that friction, in this case, cotton felt pads against the flywheel. 

This creates a very soft ‘whooshing’ noise, almost like a silent whistle but it is by no means noisy.

On an indoor cycling bike with magnetic resistance, there is nothing touching each other. They don’t need to due to the force of the magnets. It would be very difficult trying to pinpoint any noise coming from the magnets, that’s how silent they actually are.

Is There Much Maintenance?

With friction resistance, the cotton felt pads will be worn down over a certain time period with consistent use. If you were to look at the front of your indoor cycling bike you will see fibers over the front stand that have worn away.

If you feel that the resistance isn’t working as effectively as it should be, it may be time to replace the cotton felt pads.

Magnetic resistance however requires very little maintenance as once again, there is nothing necessarily touching each other. The magnets are completely independent of the flywheel.

Every now and again, batteries may need replacing from the display unit, and a wire or few bolts may need to be tightened but apart from that maintenance is very little.

In the rare circumstance that it does need repairing, follow this guide to fixing the problem.

Difference in Costs

Magnetic resistance indoor cycling bikes are more expensive compared to friction resistance bikes simply as they cost more to produce and have more ‘perceived benefits’ such as being quieter and having very low maintenance.

Friction resistance bikes are less costly to manufacture so tend to be a lot cheaper. You could get a friction resistance bike a couple of hundred pounds cheaper than a magnetic resistance indoor cycling bike.

Which Has a Better Resistance

Resistance can differ only but very slightly from these two different types of indoor cycling bikes however they are absolutely both excellent in adding and holding the resistance throughout any workout.

Friction resistance tends to be the better candidate for holding a higher resistance – this is simply due to the actual connection of the cotton felt pads against the flywheel.

The magnetic resistance is by no means the worst, it still holds a powerful and high resistance. It’s just as there is no actual connection against the flywheel, even at its highest resistance you may still be able to slightly push through.

On the friction resistance indoor cycling bike, with the resistance cranked up to the max – pushing the pedals to move the flywheel is virtually impossible.

With either type of indoor cycling bike, you’re never going to be training so hard that you need the resistance cranked to its highest level. You’ll have it turned up and down yes, but never to the point where it’s almost impossible to move.

Emergency Stop

Every good indoor cycling bike should come with an emergency stop. It’s just a necessity that if you feel you’re pedalling uncontrollably or start to feel niggles or pains – you can hit the emergency stop and the flywheel will come to an automatic halt.

It’s basically the same process as what I described above. Instead of the resistance being incrementally added on over time, the entire resistance is thrown on an instant.

On a friction-resistance bike, the cotton felt pads automatically engage with the flywheel pushing hard against it with so much pressure that the flywheel stops.

The magnets on the magnetic resistance bike come into very close proximity very sharply once the emergency stop has been pushed and the flywheel loses all its momentum and stops in a split second.

I have to say that both types of resistance indoor cycling bikes outperform themselves here so you’ll be sure to stay safe when cycling.

Emergency Stop for Friction Resistance Bike


So just to recap on a few key points:

  • If you’re after a ‘quieter’ indoor cycling bike, the magnetic resistance bike is what you want
  • There is little maintenance involved with the magnetic resistance bike and over time you may need replacement pads for the friction resistance bike due to wear and tear.
  • The friction-resistance indoor cycling bike is going to be a lot more affordable compared to the magnetic-resistance bike so if money is the issue you may want to consider the friction-resistance bike.

Whatever bike you choose, both are going to give you exactly what it says on the tin – an effective fat-shredding workout.

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

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  1. Hello,

    Thanks for the information between magnetic and friction. Wondering if you can give some advice between sole SB700 and SB900. I prefer the 700 due to slimmer profile but the sb900 magnetic is tempting although it is over my budget.

    Thank You

    1. Hi Emmanuel,

      I’m glad you liked it!

      Yeah, the Sole SB700 & SB900 are two great bikes!

      Very similar in both design and functionality

      As you mentioned the SB700 has a slimmer design to it whilst the SB900 has a more bulkier frame to it.

      This doesn’t necessarily mean it can handle greater weight – both can actually hold up to 135ks or 297lbs.

      In terms of cycling – all features are more or less identical

      Where the differences lay between the two of them is that the SB900 now includes SPD Pedals and an eddy current magnetic brake resistance.

      This allows the bike to be that bit more quieter along with a greater resistance placed upon the flywheel.

      Two awesome bikes though!

      I hope this helps

  2. Hi Ronan,

    I have been researching before buying a spin bike and started to learn about the magnetic vs friction resistance and belt vs chain. Glad I found your place! I am now between two options and hard to decide between Joroto x2 or dmasun, both on amazon:

    what would you suggest? is it really worthy to go with the Joroto for the magnetic resistance? I have never tried a magnetic resistance bike and considering these two are both with belt, not sure if the noise level for the most affordable one(dmasun).

    Thank you!!

    1. Hi Anny,

      Looks like two great spin bikes there!

      As you’ve stated there that both of these bikes have a belt drive rather than chain -which is great at keeping sound to a minimum.

      Your right, the Joroto has magnetic resistance whereas the DMASUN has a friction based resistance.

      These are basically felt pads located just above the flywheel that are forced onto it when resistance is increased.

      In terms of keeping noise to a minimum – I would recommend the Joroto with the magnetic resistance here!

      It’ll be very quiet to cycle and actually has a decent flywheel weight also at 35lbs (15kgs).

      You’ll be able to get a smooth ride out of this!

  3. Hi, I’ve been looking at spin bikes recently and he noticed on several brands and models that the magnetic flywheels tend to be lighter than the friction flywheels. In one sales rep my wife spoke to she was recommended to purchase a magnetic bike with a 14kg wheel over a friction bike with an 18kg wheel. Virtually identical models otherwise. And another shop, who thought we were looking for a lower-use bike recommended a 7kg magnetic bike over a 14kg friction. Again these bikes were most similar in features otherwise. I’ve read in many places that the weight of the flywheel is very important to get a true representation of riding a bike, so is there anything that makes the weight of the flywheel in a magnetic bike less impactful on the riding feel? Thank you in advance.

    1. Hi Greg,

      There is truth to this

      You see with a magnetic spin bike there is no physical contact made between the magnets and the flywheel whereas there is felt pads that rub against the flywheel on a friction based bike.

      Now, with a magnetic resistance bike the magnetic force can be very powerful meaning less weight is needed of the actual flywheel to cause resistance (to slow down the flywheel)

      On a friction based bike, the felt pad(s) will slow down the flywheel by using the friction as resistance however the energy you exert can often be greater than the friction needed to slow down the flywheel.
      This is where the weight of the flywheel also plays a part in adding that extra resistance.

      Flywheel weight is very important on an indoor bike.

      The reason why is because it will either provide a smooth ‘real-road bike’ feel or an inconsistent, slighty bumpy, wobbly ride.

      Heavier flywheels will give you a smoother ride as the weight firstly makes the bike more grounded but most importantly it will create enough inertia that the RPM provides a smooth cycle.

      On a standard spin bike – I would recommend a flywheel weight between 18kgs-20kgs. You can afford to drop the weight slightly with a magnetic resistance bike though.

      It’ll be more difficult to spin a the start but once it’s off – it will give a good cycle!

      Hope this helps

  4. Hey @Ronan,
    Hey, such a great article you had posted. I think that would help me a lot to choose the best magnetic spin bike. Thanks for sharing this post. It really works well for me. Keep posting like this. Good wishes…

  5. I have a used older model friction resistance x bike (so no manual). Instead of the pads it has a tension belt around the fly wheel. My issue with it is that I find that the resistance actually increases as I ride with out me cranking up the resistance knob. Is this a common issue and is there anything I can do to prevent this from happening? It would be nice to spin the knob to a certain resistance and have the bike remain at that resistance.

    1. Hi Nicole,

      It seems that the bike may have a technical issue with the tension belt.

      It may be that the locking mechanism that loosens or tightens the belt my have become loose and it actually tightens the belt itself as you spin.

      Have a look at this video – it may offer some help:

  6. which will you buy between these two and why? please forget about the amount I can afford both. am just a first-time stationary bike user and also being advised by my chiropractor to be using instead of working too long.

    1. Hi Ola,

      Well, I can see that both bikes have magnetic resistance which I always believe to be a plus.
      The 2nd bike you listed doesn’t seem to show flywheel weight but I can see the other has a flywheel weight of 18lbs.
      This can be on the lighter end of what I usually recommend.
      If you can find out the flywheel weight of the 2nd bike and if it comes in heaver – I would purchase that one!

    1. Hi Olasunkanmi,

      I would go with the 2nd option – seems like a more sturdy bike however it doesn’t detail the flywheel weight which is hard to judge.

      It also seems the other bike is currently out of stock.

      The 2nd option seems more durable and has a belt drive system which is great at reducing noise and keeping maintenance at a low



    1. Hi Raymond,

      I must say that between these 3 bikes I would suggest the DMASUN.

      DMASUN design great spin bikes and this particular model has an 18kg flywheel weight. That’s really going to offer a very smooth and consistant cycle.

      This bike however is friction based but it will still provide great resistance!

  7. Hi Ronan, I just bought the Schwinn IC3 which is felt pad resistance. Honestly, for some reason I thought the IC3 was magnetic resistance. Should I return it and get the IC4? I haven’t try a magnetic bike, but I have a feeling that I am not going to like the felt pad overtime. I need your help.

    Thank you

    1. Hi Ivan,

      In my opinion I think magnetic is better than friction based resistance.

      It’s quieter and there is less maintenance involved with it.

      However, the felt pads on friction based bikes still do offer an incredible resistance and perform really well when slowing the momentum of the flywheel.

      The only thing you’ll notice is the felt pad fibres being grinded off but this can’t be helped unfortunately.

  8. Hi Ronan,

    Are there any magnetic bikes you could recommend that work with a budget? But also won’t fall apart in a few months due to poor construction. Under $400-$500 is ideal. Other qualification is that it’s an adjustable bike that would be appropriate for 5’0″ height. Thanks!

    1. Hi Kendi,

      I done some research and looked around for you.

      Magnetic bikes tend to be more costly due to the demand for them along with how they can be superior over friction resistance bikes.

      I have found a great magnetic bike coming in around $250 though- it’s the Vigbody

      Looks like a great sturdy bike that should provide a good cycle.

      The flywheel is a little on the light side at 24lbs but it will still provide an awesome workout

      Hope this helps!

  9. Hi. Great article. Made me realise that either resistance form would suit my needs. I’m stuck between two bikes. The JLL IC300 pro (magnetic resistance) and the JTX cyclo 3 (friction resistance). Which would you recommend on build quality? I would like magnetic resistance but it’s not a deal breaker. I would rather have a better built bike. Your thoughts would be much appreciated.

    1. Hi Mark,

      2 great bikes there!

      In terms of build quality – I don’t think you can go wrong with JTX – they create and design really well-made bikes that are strong and durable.

      Not to say that JLL don’t however I personally prefer JTX.

      They both have 2 great flywheel weights too at 20kgs!

      It’ll give a smooth and consistent cycle

  10. Hi,
    I bought a recument excise bike with 25 lbs flywheel SMR.
    When I rest with a slight back pedal it’s not smooth like other bikes..
    Is this normal?
    Thank you

    1. Hi Rob
      Is your seat too far back where you feel you’re stretching your legs slightly?
      Without a proper bend in your knees this could feel like an irregular and bumpy cycle.

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