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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.