How to Choose The Best Spin Bike (Buying Guide)
Indoor cycling is one of the most popular and effective forms of exercise today. It allows you to get all of the benefits of cycling at a local gym or cycling club without having to leave your home. The top brands of spin bikes can turn an otherwise annoying workout experience into one that you regularly look forward to. However, with the rise of cycling many companies have looked to release their own bikes.
That has led to people needing to do more research on these indoor bikes in order to get a more satisfactory experience on it. Well, we’ve decided to help with that aspect. We’ve come up with our own spin bike buying guide, allowing you to find what to look for when buying a spin bike all in one place. Just about every major aspect of these spin bikes is covered here, allowing you to have your own personal buying guide for indoor bikes. Now without further delay, let’s get right into our own indoor cycling bike buying guide!
12 Things to Keep in Mind when Buying a Spin Bike:
First on our buying guide for spin bikes is the drive system. One of the most important aspects that defines how a spin bike operates is the drive system. There are two primary types: chain drive systems and belt drive systems.
Chain drive systems are normally found on older spin bikes, as they are similar to those chains found on outdoor bikes. The flywheel is turned by a roller chain passing over a sprocket that is powered by turning the pedals. These drives are often vulnerable to decay which is why they’ve fallen out of style.
- They feel like a traditional outdoor bike
- They are more likely to break and are fairly noisy.
- There are also far fewer options with this type
Belt drive systems are the new thing in spin bikes. A tough rubber belt is used to transfer power to the flywheel. While this doesn’t feel the same as on traditional bikes, it is undoubtedly more durable, while also being quieter. At one time they were more expensive, but considering how common these types are now, that is no longer an issue.
- These drives are more durable, more universal and quieter than chain systems.
- There really aren’t any cons to this drive system unless you are desperate for the feeling of an outdoor bike’s chain. There’s a reason they are the new norm.
Another of the most important tips when buying a spin bike is to look at the resistance type. This can seriously affect how a bike performs over time. Up first is friction resistance types.
These bikes use pads that squeeze against the flywheel in order to provide resistance. Again, this provides a similar feeling to road bikes. It also tends to be cheaper than magnetic resistance. However, this does come with the major drawback of being nowhere near as durable as magnetic resistance types.
- You are more likely to get a cheaper spin bike with one of these resistance types.
- It also feels more similar to a road bike.
- It is much less durable than the magnetic type of resistance.
- For those who want a long-term method of exercise, this should be considered.
Magnetic resistance types, on the other hand, are the normal ones used by many of the mid and top tiers of bikes today. Instead of pads that rub up against the flywheel, these use magnets (shocker) to get closer/further away from the flywheel. This, in turn, provides the progressive resistance during workouts. That resistance is easier to adjust during the workout and is much more likely to last longer on account of no contact. These bikes do tend to be more expensive than friction types.
- Magnetic resistance provides more fluid resistance and more durability compared to friction.
- It is also much more universal on the modern spin bikes.
- Bikes with this system do tend to be more expensive than friction types.
- It also doesn’t allow 100% control over the maximum and minimum resistance (max/min is preset).
Weight of the Flywheel
Looking at where to find the best spin bike but can’t tell how the weight of the flywheel affects it? That’s why we’re here. A spin bike flywheel‘s job is to store a certain amount of kinetic (moving) energy in order to simulate the motion of pedals.
Heavier flywheels, according to the laws of physics, should store more energy and provide a better resistance. It’s an approach that many bikes do take, as they spin relatively slower. This does tend to have the side effect of putting more pressure on the knees.
- These store a good amount of energy and can have stable rides.
- They also tend to come with cheaper bikes.
- They do tend to put unnecessary strain on the knees, as well as not producing the max amount of energy possible.
On the other side are the lighter flywheels. These take the energy stored by the flywheel and use it more efficiently than heavier ones. Because they spin faster than the heavier flywheels, they can store up to quadruple the energy. They also do not have the side effect of being harder on the knees. Many of the top tier bikes use lighter flywheels, making them more expensive.
- These provide more energy and a more fluid resistance than the heavier flywheels.
- They also don’t take the same sort of toll on your knees.
- These flywheels don’t usually come with a double-pulley system and a high-gear ratio.
- And when they do come with a double pulley system and high gear-ratio (like Keiser M3i), they tend to come on the more expensive spin bikes.
Types of Bike Pedals
Where your feet will go is another key aspect you will want to look at when seeing how to find the best spin bikes. There are two main categories of pedals that come with these bikes: single-sided toe cage pedals and dual-sided SPD pedals with toe cages.
Starting with the single-sided toe cage pedals, these are (as you might expect) one sided pedals. There’s no special connection that can be made on the other side and are more akin to outdoor bikes. Without the toe cage, which helps keep your feet in place, you could easily hop on and off the bike. Even with the cages, you just have to slip out of them to do so. These are also commonly referred to as “flat” pedals.
- They are cheaper than dual-sided pedals
- They don’t offer the same sort of efficiency or control as other pedal types.
- They don’t give the rider the option to wear proper indoor cycling shoes.
Meanwhile, the dual-sided SPD pedals are what you will want if you have shoes that have cleats on them. These allow for a higher degree of control and pedalling efficiency during the workout. These are commonly used by those who want a more intense workout or have a spin bike that allows them to simulate mountain riding. However, not all bikes offer SPD-compatibility, so it might require buying separate pedals.
- These allow for a higher degree of pedalling efficiency and control.
- They also secure the feet and offer more power when simulating mountain bike rides.
- There is no con with dual-sided indoor cycling bike pedals.
Up next on our indoor bike buying guide is the Q-Factor of the bike. The question that many have at this point is “What is a Q-Factor?” Fortunately, we’ve got the answer. The Q-Factor of the bike is the distance between the outside of one crank arm to the outside of the opposite crank.
Starting with wider Q-Factors, these tend to be on cheaper bikes. However, depending on the hip and leg anatomy, this might actually feel more comfortable for certain people.
- These tend to come on cheaper spin bikes.
- They can also be more comfortable depending on the build of the person riding the bike.
- For the majority of the cycling community, the wider the Q-Factor, the less efficient and less enjoyable the workout is.
- Can cause damage for users with smaller gap between knees.
On the other hand, there are narrow Q-Factors. Obviously, these cranks are closer together. Generally, the indoor cycling community considers the narrower Q-Factors to be superior in regards to comfort and cycling efficiency. However, there are occasions where the Q-Factor is too narrow and your performance would suffer because of it.
- These tend to be on high quality bikes and allow for a higher ceiling of cycling efficiency and comfort.
- Some take this too far and make it too narrow and cause leg-rub against seat and seat tube (like NEO Tacx bike).
- If you too much gap between your knees/thighs, narrow q-factor can actually hurt your lower body joints.
Nobody wants to be uncomfortable when they are working out. The adjustability and setup of the spin bike can make a big difference on how comfortable people of different heights and sizes can be while they exercise on these machines. You might have to look at reviews for this, as the adjustability isn’t always one of the highlight features with these spin bikes.
Horizontal adjustment only
Bikes with horizontal adjustment only, either in the seat or handlebars, are limited in their capacity to serve all different sorts of people. They can help make the bike more compact, but they cannot do much of anything about those who might be too tall for the bike. Also, usually budget indoor bikes with only horizontal adjustment come with steel seat and handlebars posts which is not as lightweight as aluminium.
- It offers a decent level of adjustability, normally in the handlebars or seat.
- Also, indoor bikes with only horizontal adjustment are often cheaper.
- It doesn’t offer a solid level of adjustability for those of different heights.
- If they are made of steel, they can be heavy and also rust after a while.
Horizontal & vertical adjustment
Then there are the bikes that have their seats and handlebars adjustable both vertically and horizontally. These allow for a much greater variety of people to use the spin bike comfortably. It’s always good to have more options, even if it isn’t always needed to make the bike comfortable. This adjustability can be especially useful (especially if posts are lightweight aluminium) if there are multiple bike users in the same household.
- Bikes with vertical and horizontal adjustment capabilities offer a much wider array of options to its riders.
- This is always a plus, as it also means that those who share a bike can comfortably adjust it to suit their needs.
There really isn’t any downside to a bike having more adjustment capabilities.
Weight and Height Capacity
Now we come to the weight and height capacity. Similar to the adjustability, these aspects affect how comfortable the cyclist is while they exercise.
Less weight and height capacity
Many of the top-tier machines can accommodate just about everyone, while some of the lower-tier bikes have a pretty low range of suitable riders. It should be noted that the capacity is more of a guideline than an absolute law. It’s not like a bike with a weight capacity of 220 lbs will break if someone gets on at 225. Bikes with low weight capacity and limited height are generally viewed as lesser. The height capacity can often be determined by the dimensions and the aforementioned adjustability.
- There really isn’t a better reason to have a bike that doesn’t have a wider range of weight and height capacity.
- Maybe if you find a cheaper deal and it fits you?
- These bikes simply don’t provide as good an option as those that do have a wider range.
More weight and high capacity
Meanwhile those bikes that have a high weight capacity with long range of height accommodation are much better. Sorry for everyone who was hoping there might be a contest here (we’re not sure how many there might be, but you never know!). Bikes with a higher weight capacity and wider range of height options are simply better than those with a narrower range. One of the best examples of this is the Keiser M3i, which has a height capacity of 4’10”-7’ and has a weight capacity of 350 lbs.
- Bikes with a wider weight and height capacity allow more cyclists to experience their ride. That’s always a good thing.
- There’s no downside to having more options.
Spin Bike Monitors
Keeping track of your statistics during the workout can be one of the most rewarding parts of using these spin bikes. Nowadays many spin bikes come with monitors (also called consoles) in order to help with this endeavour. Yet some spin bike monitors are better than others.
High tech monitors
High-tech monitors are those that you find at the top of the spin bike pyramid. Their monitors are backlit, so that you can easily read it in any sort of lighting or condition. They will display a wide variety of statistics about the workout, with the baseline normally being ones such as distance, cadence/revolutions per minute (RPM), speed, watts/power and calories burnt. Many monitors also have an optional heart rate monitor if there is a chest strap attached. Another piece that’s a relatively recent addition to the standard of high-tech monitors is that of Bluetooth and ANT+ compatibility. Everyone has a phone and everyone wants to be entertained while they ride. These wireless connections allow for a fun ride while keeping track of those stats.
- These top quality monitors will give all the statistics you could ever want while also providing entertainment through Bluetooth capabilities.
- The fact that they are backlit will also allow you to see it in any situation.
- These better monitors will most likely come with a nice pricey bike.
Low tech monitors
On the other end of the spectrum are the relatively low-tech monitors. These usually come on budget spin bikes and offer little more than the basic set of statistic tracking. The screens often aren’t backlit, making it hard to see in certain lighting conditions. Bluetooth is very rare as well, though appreciated when it does make an appearance.
- These monitors still produce the statistics that you would want to see on the higher quality ones while being on cheaper bikes.
- These better monitors will most likely come with a nice pricey bike.
Spin Bike Accessories
One of the more overlooked aspects of what to consider when searching for a spin bike are the accessories that come with it. Admittedly, this is because these aren’t as integral to the core experience of cycling as other bits, but they should still be considered.
Some of the most common accessories are tablet and phone holders in and around the handlebars. Similar to the more advanced monitors, these are here to deliver entertainment while you ride. Bottle holders are one of the more sought after accessories. These allow for longer rides and the cyclist to remain hydrated while they do so. These accessories are normal on the higher tier bikes and can commonly be found around the mid-tier ones.
- Accessories can really improve a bike ride.
- Look out for water bottle holders, tablet holders and phone holders on the mid and higher tier spin bikes.
- Bikes with these accessories might cost a bit more than those without.
Meanwhile, budget bikes are much more likely to have few or none of these features. The most common one on budget bikes is probably the water bottle holder due to its usefulness, while phone and tablet holders are almost nonexistent.
- Bikes without these accessories do tend to cost less than those with them.
- Spin bikes without these don’t have the same sort of convenience that those with them do.
Warranties make sure that you don’t have to spend all sorts of money the month after getting a new bike, especially if you are buying commercial spin bikes. If it breaks down two weeks into using it, but the warranty expired after 7 days, then you’re left with a broken bike and a lot of anger.
That’s why you want to look for long warranties that don’t only include the frame, but also other parts. If there are electronic components, mechanical ones and so on, see how long it lasts on there. Long labour warranties are also a bonus. Normally you want to go with those that have a website and even a US based customer support.
- The longer the warranty and more parts it covers, the less likely you’ll have to buy a new bike sooner.
- This is never a downside.
- Sometimes these longer warranties come with increased cost.
On the other hand, short warranties are more common with cheaper bikes. These often come without labor warranties, a customer support line or even a website. The most usual way to even get in touch with these sellers. These shorter warranties normally come with budget spin bikes.
- The bike is normally cheaper.
- You’re risking the bike breaking down a lot quicker, or at least not being able to get a new one for free if it does.
Spin Bike Technology
Last, but certainly, not least is the amount of smart technology that comes with the spin bikes. Most spin bikes including very expensive ones come without smart systems while there are some new smart indoor bikes that don’t cost much but still come with smart systems.
With smart technology
Many modern spin bikes can offer the ability to connect to apps and are capable of automatically simulating the terrain you might ride outside (uphill/downhill, road/dirt paths, and so on). This technology can really improve your ride to the point where it feels like something out of a neo-futuristic movie. A great example of this futuristic feel is the Tacx Neo Smart Bike, which has a virtual flywheel. This technology is becoming more common, though as of right now, these bikes can be quite expensive.
- Bikes with this technology can take indoor cycling to a whole new level.
- They will allow you to connect to apps, simulate terrain and all other sorts of cool features.
- As of right now, these bikes can be massively expensive and therefore not available to the vast majority of cyclists.
Without smart technology
On the other hand, there are bikes that do not have such smart technology. They might be able to connect to third-party apps like Zwift, but won’t be able to simulate the terrain. While these bikes won’t be able to offer the same sort of awesome features that are available on some of the most advanced spin bikes, they do tend to be cheaper. Like, much cheaper.
- These bikes are cheaper and can sometimes have a feature like connecting to third-party apps.
- Often these bikes don’t require power plug to work.
- They don’t offer the same sort of terrain simulation or other nifty tools that some of the top bikes have at their disposal.
That wraps up our list of tips to make an informed decision when buying a spin bike. Whether you are a newcomer to the world of cycling or an experienced veteran who has seen it all before, hopefully, this list has been able to point out how you can seek out the best parts of spin bikes. Of course, it is ultimately up to you on which bike you feel most comfortable with. Just keep in mind some of these points, as they can make all the difference in your workout. Now get out there and get cycling!