Home Exercise Bike Buyer's Guide
Know that to expect before you go shopping. Don't think you can get a quality exercise bike for $100 bucks. It's not going to happen.
A good entry level bike will run a minimum of about $400. That will get you the basics but not much else. (Especially any warranty!)
Mid level exercise bikes will cost between $600-$900 dollars. For your extra cash outlay you should expect to get smooth silent operation, magnetic resistance, a more comfortable seat, built in workout programs, heart rate control and at least 2-4 years of a comprehensive warranty.
Top of the line exercise bikes are about $900 and up. When you make an investment this large you should get: push button resistance control, a hi tech led display console, longer warranty, pulse driven workouts, adjustable handlebars and tons of built-in workout programs.
Comfort and Adjustability
Insist on buying an exercise bike that has an easily adjustable seat and handlebars, and consider the seating options closely.
There are two main exercise bike seating choices;
Recumbent Exercise Bikes- The recumbent bikes have the advantage of placing your body (and butt) in a more comfortable position. You actually sit in a reclined position with your feet pedaling out in from of you (link with picture).
Upright Exercise Bikes - The more traditional seating option. You sit just like you were riding a mountain or road bike.
Most of you who aren't bike enthusiasts will be more comfortable on a recumbent bike. They're easier on your back and butt. The only disadvantage to recumbent bikes is it's harder to really crank on the workout intensity because you can't stand up and pedal like you can a an upright exercise bike.
Resistance and Operation
Magnetic resistance operation will vary by bike manufacturer. You'll either use a knob or pushbuttons to control the intensity of the magnetic resistance. Opt for pushbutton resistance if you can afford it.
Heart Rate Monitor
The whole point of riding an exercise bike is to get your heart rate up. If you don't have a heart rate monitor you're shooting yourself in the foot right from the get go.
Higher end bikes will come standard with pulse driven workouts. That means the exercise bike will adjust the workout intensity based on readings from the built in heart rate monitor. A great feature to have if you can afford it, but not essential.
Display Console and Built-in Workouts
The cheaper exercise bikes have a poor display (or no display) and no built-in workouts. This drawback can lead to quick boredom with lack of user feedback and motivation.
When you move into the $900 dollar range there are a lot more choices.Expect a minimum of 5 built-in workouts and a display console that gives you feedback information on heart rate, time, distance and calories burned. Some exercise bikes in this price range have iFit (click for details) and pulse driven workout programs. Most bikes also come with a nice led readout to help you track the progress of your workout.
The high end exercise bikes throw-in everything but the kitchen sink. More workouts, larger more detailed led display consoles and 10+ built in workouts at a minimum.