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23 October 2020

Exercise bike buying guide

Cycle your way to a healthier you with our expert tips on buying and using an exercise bike at home.
Man on exercise bike
Tom Morgan

Exercise bikes can help you shed pounds and increase leg strength without having to leave your living room. But make sure you know what features to look out for when buying one.

Below, we explain the benefits of using an exercise bike at home, explore average costs and highlight popular models.

How to buy the best exercise bike for home use

When shopping for the perfect exercise bike for home use, consider price, features and space.

You'll need to settle on a budget. A bigger budget generally equals a more feature-packed exercise bike, but this might not be essential if you're just starting out on your fitness journey. Even if you're trying to save money, you can still find an exercise bike with varying levels of resistance to put you through your paces.

Floor space is crucial in determining which exercise bike you end up with. Trying to squeeze a large exercise bike into a small room will risk it becoming more of a hindrance than a help, especially if it's a shared space.

If you're particularly tall or short, check the seat and handle can be adjusted to suit your height. And check the maximum user weight; some models, particularly cheaper ones, have a comparatively low maximum weight limit. 

Our expert advice guide focuses on the best exercise bikes for home use. While you might not get the same features you would on a bulkier machine at the gym, you can still stay fit and burn calories with our list of alternatives.

Exercise bike benefits

Buying an exercise bike obviously means you won't need to worry about cycling on busy roads and uneven paths, but there are plenty of other advantages.

  • Improve your cardio fitness – this has benefits for your heart, lungs and other parts of the body. Rowing machines and treadmills are popular alternatives.
  • Strengthen your legs – benefit from an aerobic workout without putting strain on your knees.
  • Slower speeds are good for low-impact workouts – adjustable resistance means you can vary how much effort you put into even slow pedaling.
  • Foldable designs available – good news if you want to save space.

How much does an exercise bike cost?

How deep you'll be digging into your wallet will vary depending on the features you're shopping for.

Cheap exercise bikes

You can buy an exercise bike for as little as £60, but don't expect many features. Most cheap exercise bikes, such as the Opti Manual Exercise Bike (from Argos), are powered manually rather than electronically (see Popular types of exercise bike for the differences).

A cheap exercise bike could be a good option if you're a fitness newbie looking to test the waters with a basic model. 

Mid-range exercise bikes

If you're already a fan of stationary cycling in the gym, or are confident you'll make regular use of an exercise bike, consider investing a few hundred pounds on something such as the Reebok GB40s One Electronic Exercise Bike (available from Argos). 

Spending this much will get you an electronically-powered bike with more resistance levels and a range of features, such as calorie and pulse tracking. 

High-end exercise bikes

If money is no object, premium exercise bikes can cost more than £1,000. Many pricier exercise bikes can pair up with your smartphone via Bluetooth to provide detailed workout tracking.

Then there's the Peloton exercise bike, which costs close to £2,000. It comes with a large colour display and lets you join real-time fitness classes with other fitness fanatics.

How much space do you need for an exercise bike?

This will depend entirely on the type of exercise bike you're using and whether or not it's foldable.

An upright exercise bike doesn't require much floor space, as you're sat vertically or stood up on the pedals most of the time you're working out. These usually measure around a metre in length and are roughly 0.5m wide. Aim for 0.5m of free space around all sides of the bike so you don't knock into anything. Check information on the manufacturer's website if you're unsure.

On the other hand, a recumbent exercise bike will have you in a reclined position, so you'll need to factor in more space when it comes to buying. These usually measure around 1.6m - 2m in length.

Where to buy an exercise bike

When buying an exercise bike for home use, make sure you're handing your money over to a reputable seller.

Check the retailer's returns policy and pay attention to customer feedback and reviews. For more details on shopping online safely and arranging refunds for faulty equipment, see our advice on shopping online.

Popular retailers that stock a wide variety of exercise bikes include:

  • Argos – offers a mixture of manual and electronic bikes. Prices start at less than £100 for basic models and go up to around £1,300.
  • Amazon – hundreds of exercise bikes from brands including Ultrasport and Sportstech. Make sure you're buying from a reputable seller.
  • Fitness Superstore – fitness specialist that sells a range of electronically powered bikes, starting from a few hundred pounds.
  • John Lewis – stocks both upright and recumbent bikes. Prices start around £300 and go up to several thousand pounds for very high-end models.

Key exercise bike features

When trying to decide between a couple of different exercise bikes, pay attention to the following key features:

A foldable design

A folding exercise bike will appeal if you like the idea of using your bike in the living room, then moving it out of the way when you're finished.

Even if you're on a budget, you won't have much trouble finding a folding exercise bike. They're good for beginners and don't take up much space.

Non-slip feet

Being safe while you cycle is obviously very important. Make sure you're buying an exercise bike that has a secure base. Non-slip feet will prevent your exercise bike moving around even if you're pedaling at high speeds.

Pulse monitor

You can keep track of how hard you're working your body by using an exercise bike with a heart rate monitor.

Many exercise bikes work a pulse sensor into the handlebars. Grip them firmly, wait a couple of seconds and then glance at the console for your reading.

If your exercise bike doesn't come with a pulse monitor, you can try wearing a top-rated fitness tracker with a built-in heart rate monitor. See our Which? Best Buy fitness trackers page.

Magnetic vs brake-based resistance

Not every exercise bike uses the same system to generate different levels of resistance.

There are two main types of resistance system on exercise bikes – brake-based (also known as friction-based) or magnetic. A brake-based system uses a flywheel (covered by protective casing) to store rotational energy. If you pedal fast and stop pedaling right away, the flywheel will rotate for a short while.

With bikes that use magnetic resistance systems, changing the 'difficulty' mode affects the position of the magnets inside the flywheel. When the magnets are closer to the flywheel there is more force slowing the wheel down, and therefore more resistance.

Exercise bikes that use a brake-based design are usually cheaper than magnetic resistance bikes. Magnetic exercise bikes require less maintenance and make less noise.

Popular types of exercise bike

Manual exercise bike vs electric exercise bike

A manual exercise bike is powered by your movements alone, while an electric exercise bike plugs into the wall and offers digital monitoring of your workout.

Manual exercise bikes tend to have a dial you twist to change resistance levels. It's a common feature found on cheaper exercise bikes, but it isn't as convenient as an electric switch and might break the flow of your workout.

Upright exercise bike

Hop on an upright exercise bike and you can either sit up straight or lean forward as you challenge your leg muscles. Most use electromagnetic induction to create the resistance you'll be battling against. Pre-set workout modes can simulate the feel of a hilly bike ride.

One key benefit of an upright exercise bike is that most are foldable. They usually cost less than recumbent exercise bikes too.

It's important to note that upright exercise bikes have a higher centre of gravity, so you may find that some – especially cheaper, less solidly built models – feel slightly unstable at very high speeds.

Spin bike

The rise in the popularity of 'spin classes' means you can now grab your own spin bike for home use. These use flywheels heavier than those found on most upright bikes.

Your stance will be similar to if you were riding a normal road bike. It's easier to lean forward on a spin bike than on an upright exercise bike.

The Peloton bike (available direct from Peloton) takes the concept of 'spinning' from home to the next level, by integrating a screen so you can join live online classes. 

Recumbent exercise bike

On an upright bike, your feet will be planted beneath you. On a recumbent bike, your feet will be ahead of you while you're sat in a reclined seating position.

Having a back rest makes a recumbent bike quite comfortable to sit on. This cycling position can also help reduce the risk of back soreness on longer workouts, so a recumbent bike could be a good option for those with back problems. 

Mini exercise bike

These have a seat and pedals, but no neck or handlebars, so they're small enough to fit under a table. They're best used for gentle toning and to keep stiff joints mobile.

Five popular models of exercise bike

We don't currently test exercise bikes but Argos, Ultrasport, Roger Black, Reebok and Peleton are some of the most searched-for brands for exercise bikes at the time of writing. Below is a selection of different types and styles from those picks

1. Opti Manual Exercise Bike

  • Price: £59.99
  • Available from: Argos
  • Type: Manual
  • Foldable? No
  • Size: Height 99cm, Length 81cm, Width 50.5cm

A basic exercise bike suited to buyers on a budget. The Opti Manual Exercise Bike uses a manual resistance system, with a mini display between the handlebars reporting back on exercise time, speed, distance covered and calories burned.

Both the seat and handlebars on this affordable bike can be adjusted to suit your height.

2. Ultrasport F-Bike

  • Price: £109.99
  • Available from: Amazon
  • Type: Manual
  • Foldable? Yes
  • Unfolded size (approximate) – Height 112cm, Length 80.5cm, Width 43.5cm

This indoor exercise bike from Ultrasport has a collapsible design that almost halves its length when folded, so you can more easily store it in a cupboard when you're done cycling.

The Ultrasport F-Bike has eight resistance levels to test you, and anti-slip pedals that help you pedal as fast as you like without losing your footing. The battery-powered display measures calories burned, time, distance and speed. If you grasp the handlebars, you'll get an up-to-date pulse reading.

3. Roger Black Gold Folding Magnetic Exercise Bike

  • Price: £109.99
  • Available from: Argos
  • Type: Manual
  • Foldable? Yes
  • Size: Height 118cm, Length 85cm, Width 41cm

This is one of the cheaper exercise bikes stocked by Argos. It's a good fit if you're looking for something inexpensive with a space-saving, foldable design.

The Roger Black exercise bike has eight levels of tension for you to power through during your workout. A quick release knob on the seat means you can easily adjust the height and improve your posture. 

Other features include non-slip peddles, wheeled feet, a hand grip pulse sensor and a console that measure time, distance, speed and calories burned.

4. Reebok GB40s One Electronic Exercise Bike

  • Price: £299
  • Available from: Argos
  • Type: Electronic
  • Foldable? No
  • Size: Height 132cm, Length 102.3cm, Width 48cm

You get more features from this exercise bike than you do from the budget alternatives we've listed above. For starters, the Reebok GB40s One Electronic Exercise Bike runs off an electronic resistance system.

There are an impressive 32 levels of resistance to choose from. You can track your progress on the 5-inch LCD console, which has information on speed, time, distance, calories, pulse, watts and RPM. The seat and handlebars are both fully adjustable.

5. The Peloton bike

  • Price: £1,750
  • Available from: Peloton
  • Type: Electronic
  • Foldable? No
  • Size: Height 152cm, Length 122cm, Width 61cm

This premium exercise bike has been turning heads recently, in part thanks to its TV ad campaign, and may catch your eye if you're willing to spend big. Arriving with a 22-inch HD display, you can use it to join live weekly classes where instructors will guide you through your workout in real time on-screen.

Peloton offers a range of live fitness classes, with the list including a low-impact Beginner session, a strength-building Climb course and a musical Live DJ class. The bike has an adjustable seat, handlebar and screen, along with a 'near-silent' belt drive.

It takes up more room than some upright exercise bikes, so check the dimensions of the space you have for a bike before investing.

Tips for using your exercise bike

Once you've bought the perfect exercise bike for home use, try these top tips to get the most enjoyment and maximum results from your workout.

For more exercise tips and fitness guides, take a look at the NHS exercise advice.

How we selected prices and retailers

Retailers and gym equipment chosen based on popular UK search terms and availability. Prices correct as of October 2020 and obtained from manufacturer's own website where possible; otherwise, obtained from third-party retailers listed on Google Shopping.