What is a Spin Bike? Everything to know About it
Spin bikes are one of the four types of exercise bikes. Spin bikes are designed with heavy flywheels and a frame structure similar to road bikes that put the rider in the same position as they were riding a bike on the road.
Although you can find any of the four types of exercise bikes including upright bikes, recumbent bikes, air bikes, and spin bikes in a fitness center. Spin bikes are the only type of exercise bike that you would find in an indoor studio cycling center.
Spin bikes are the closest indoor fitness equipment to road bikes and one of the key parts of any commercial or home gym. Considering their popularity, it’s possible that you have heard of spinning and spin bikes, and spin classes.
Spin bikes have been around since the 80s. Although their exact origins are somewhat unclear, we can trace their beginnings to a man named Jonathan “Jonny G” Goldberg. Now there is also an indoor bike named Jonny G.
Jonny was an endurance cyclist who suffered a serious accident that left him unable to train outdoors. In order to stay fit and continue competing, he invented the spin bike as a way to complement his outdoor training.
Today, spin bikes remain one of the most popular forms of cardio workout for both elite athletes and casual fitness enthusiasts alike.
Whether you’re looking to improve your performance in competition or simply maintain a healthy lifestyle, these versatile machines offer an unbeatable combination of aerobic and muscle-building benefits. So if you’re looking for a fun new way to get fit and stay motivated, look no further than the tried-and-true spin bike!
If you want to see a review of a spin bike, then maybe have a look at our top choice, a state of the art electronic magnetic resistance spin bike with incline and decline, plus a huge 22″ HD touch rotating screen – the Nordictrack S22i.
Why are they called spin bike?
The reasons they are called spin bike is their round large steel flywheel that constantly spins. Mad Dogg was the brand named these bikes “®spin bike” and ever since literally every cycling class studio that used one of these bikes has one way or another referred to these exercise bikes as ®spin bike.
When referred to indoor cycling and indoor cycles, ®Spinning and ®Spin bikes are trade marks of Mad Dogg brand. To make sure no one is illegally using these trade mark terms, now most brands referred to their spin bikes as “indoor bikes” and “indoor cycling bikes”.
So, you might hear us also referring to these exercise bikes as spin bikes, spinning bikes, indoor bike, indoor cycles, and indoor cyclin bikes. I hope it’s now less confusing!
Who can use a spinning exercise bike?
Spin bike is for those who don’t have medical conditions such as heart problems, breathing issues, back issues, or flexibility issues.
To be able to use a spin bike properly, you shouldn’t have any major medical problems. Particularly if you decide to buy a spin bike with a heavy flywheel.
Unlike the general believe that spin bikes are fore everyone I have to admit it is not for everyone. Spin bikes are not step-through like a recumbent bike or an upright bike.
They are more or less like road bikes which means you need to be able to mount them. So, you would have good balance to stand on one foot, climb the bike, and use the bike.
You would often also need to ride out of the saddle like you a road bike to minimize the saddle soreness. so, spin bikes are not the most comfortable type of exercise bike out there.
Differences between spin bikes and other exercise bikes
The main difference between a spin bike and a standard exercise bike is that spin bikes are designed to mimic the movement of real road cycling bikes while other exercise bikes have less similarity to road racing bikes, in terms of design and workout.
For example, upright exercise bikes are designed to mimic commuter bikes, not road racing bikes. Therefore, the way you sit on an upright bike is upright rather than leaning forward. Also, you can’t stand on its pedals and you should always exercise seated on the saddle of the bike.
The same thing goes for recumbent exercise bikes, they are designed to put you in a recumbent position where you are leaning backward with your back rested comfortably against a padded backrest. Again, you can’t stand on the pedals and you can only use a recumbent stationary bike seated leaned backward.
And of course, air-resistance bikes have become the hype in the last couple of years. They are completely diffident from spin bikes or other types of exercise bikes because they have handlebars that are similar to elliptical machines. In case you didn’t know, air bikes are the only type of exercise bike that offer full-body HIIT workouts. They are great for improving cardio vascular Crossfit and interval training but not ideal for endurance workouts.
Ultimately a spin bike is the only type of exercise bike that is designed to mimic the movement of a real road cycling bike. And they are the only type of exercise bike that comes with a heavy flywheel to mimic the road feel.
In fact, they sometimes also have some sort of physical or virtual front and rear gear derailleurs in addition to intense resistance for out off saddle workouts to mimic going uphills.
What is the difference between a spin bike and a road bike?
The main difference between spin bikes and road bikes is their flywheel and the fact that spin bikes can only be used indoors while road bikes can be used both indoors and outdoors. On top of that, high-end spin bikes like Peloton and Peloton alternatives come with up to 27 inches HD touchscreen that you wouldn’t find on a road bike.
But those are not the only differences between a spin bike and a road bike. 99% Of spin bikes don’t allow casting, don’t have gear derailleurs, and come with heavy flywheels which ultimately help burn more calories than you would on a standard road cycling bike but also have more impact on the joints.
In terms of similarity, a spin bike allows you to sit and stand on your pedals giving you the flexibility for a long sustained cycle or a sprint. As for cycling position and bike fits, spin bike and road bikes offer the same set of features. (read more about indoor cycling vs outdoor cycling here)
What is a spin class?
When a group of people gathers under one roof to do indoor cycling using spin bikes is referred to as a spin class or spinning class. A spin class normally has one instructor and anywhere from 5-100 trainees who train together.
You can find spin classes in fitness centers and sometimes dedicated studios for indoor cycling classes. The classes can be anywhere from 20 minutes to 50 minutes depending on the level of the riders and the type of spinning workout.
Normally, with a regular gym subscription, you can access spin classes in that gym. However, some gyms require an additional fee if you want to attend an indoor cycling class.
What makes a spin class unique and better than cycling at home on your own is the motivation that you would get from the spinning instructor and from the music and atmosphere. A good studio cycling instructor will always keep the class exciting and wouldn’t let you feel bored.
What is a virtual spin class?
Virtual spin class or online spin class is when a group of cycling coaches decides to stream their classes online rather than in person in their studio.
There are many big companies like Peloton, Echelon, iFit, and Studio Sweat on-Demand that have both in-person indoor cycling classes and online indoor cycling classes.
No all, but some of these companies like Peloton offer both online live spin classes and on-demand (pre-recorded) spin classes that you can access with a paid membership.
The main difference between online live spin classes and on-demand spin classes is that live is happening right now while on-demand is pre-recorded so you can access it whenever you have the time. Live classes are more fan as you can interact with the instructor and other riders but the downside is that live spin classes may not fit your daily schedules.
Just like a paid gym membership, you need to have paid membership with the indoor cycling applications that you would like to watch their online spin classes. Some of these fitness brands charge more for their online spinning classes while others charge less.
Peloton and Echelon are among the most expensive online workout providers but they also have larger libraries of workouts that include rowing exercises, elliptical workouts, treadmill classes, Yoga, Crossfit, and online spin bike classes.
Key Points About Spin Bikes
So now that we’ve answered the question of what is a spin bike and what is a spinning class. Let’s look at the key points of the spin bike and see if it’s the right exercise bike for you.
It’s very similar to an outdoor bike. Perfect for people who want to improve their outdoor cycling performance when they don’t have time or the weather is rough and they can’t go for a ride outdoors.
If you enjoy intense 30-50 minutes workouts like those that peloton offers, then a spin bike could be the right type of stationary bike for you.
Spinning exercise is perfect for anyone who wants to lose weight and improve fitness in a shorter period of time. (you can read more on how to lose weight quicker with a spin bike)
A good 50-minute indoor cycling session can burn up to 700 calories and help get rid of body fat and get slim much quicker than traditional exercise bikes.
The truth that you probably haven’t been told about spin bike is that they are not the best fitness equipment to build upper body muscles.
When cycling indoors, most of the effort goes to your leg muscles. Although you burn body fat from head to the toe, you are not going to build muscles on your arms or back.
In fact, most online spin classes have a mix off and on the bike workouts. That means after you are done spinning on the bike, you will get off the bike and work with weights to build your upper body muscles.
Spinning is great for heart but it’s a high intensity workout, at least that’s what the bike is built for. So, if you think your heart can handle this type of exercise get yourself one of the best magnetic spin bikes that are available on the market.
But if you have any type of heart problem or breathing issues, I would suggest you to consider using an upright exercise bike until you get ready for spinning workout. Upright exercise stationary bikes have less-impact and they are more comfortable to use.
Unfortunately, most spin bikes don’t come with an accurate pulse heart rate monitor which you would usually see on treadmills and elliptical machines. Plus, lack of a console on many indoor cycling bikes makes tracking metrics like heart rate difficult.
But that’ not a deal breaker. Thanks today’s technology, you can use a watch HRM, an arm-band HRM, or a chest strap HRM (Heart Rate Monitor) to accurately track your heart rate and calories.
Indoor cycling on a spin bike can be slightly uncomfortable especially if you are new to cycling or you enjoy long cycling sessions. So, getting the right indoor cycling clothing is a big help! That said, if you do end up with spin bike saddle sore or you want to avoid spin bike saddle sore, make sure to follow the instructions in the previous link.
Risk of Injury Using a Spin Bike
Compared to road cycling, the chance of injury on a spin bike is considerably low. Spin bike exercise is very easy on the joints especially compared to running. So, you don’t have to worry about hurting your knee, sore ankles or those painful shin splints runners get. Plus, there are things you can do to avoid injuries during indoor cycling workouts.
That said, spin bikes that come with heavy flywheel have a little more impact on the knees and overall lower body joints compared to those that come with lighter flywheels such as Keiser M3i bike.
If you are recovering from an accident, injury, or surgery, I wouldn’t recommend using a spin bike at all. As I said earlier, you would need to lean forward on a spin bike handlebars.
The truth is, on a spin bike, you can’t sit in a comfortable upright position like you would do with tradition exercise bikes. Plus, mounting and dismounting a spin bike is not that easy if you have back or flexibility issues.
Like any sport and physical activity, I suggest you to listen to your doctor. Or try a spin bike somewhere in a gym or studio and see how your body reacts. And remember not to push yourself way past your limits, that is when you start to hurt yourself.
If you want to do indoor cycling without having to use your road bike or you simply like the benefits of indoor cycling workout, then a spin bike is what you to have for indoor cardio workouts. They offer solid workout and deliver results quicker, especially if you eat the right food for your spinning workouts.
For those who want more relaxed workouts, other stationary exercise bikes such as upright and recumbent machines are more suitable. Although you would burn fewer calories, they are more comfortable and easier to use.
Spending $3000 on a spin bike like Tacx Neo just to find out spinning is not for you is a bad decision. So, if have never used a spin bike or a road cycling bike, try a spin bike and see if you actually like it.
If you start to get bored on your spin bike, don’t be disappointed. It’s very common to get bored when cycling indoors on your own, especially when you don’t have the right motivation/content.
Subscription to one of the online indoor cycling applications and riding with the groups is always more fan and motivational than spinning indoors on your own.