What's the Correct Amount of Money To Spend On a Indoor Bike?

What's the Correct Amount of Money To Spend On a Indoor Bike?

With so many indoor bikes on the market, it can be hard to narrow down the right one for you. Here’s what to consider to help make the correct choice.

 

By Amy Schlinger

If you’re like many looking to take your cycling indoors either because you’re an avid outdoor rider and the weather is getting cold, or your favorite indoor cycling studio is temporarily closed, it’s time to take your cycling game into your living room. But with so many indoor bike options on the market, which is the right choice for you?

“At the end of the day, buying any piece of exercise equipment boils down to how much are you willing to spend,” says Andrew Kalley, USA triathlon level II coach, master personal trainer in Venice, Florida. “Then, based on your budget, you have to look at what brands and models include features that you want?”

Indoor Cycling on a stationary bike

Indoor Stationary Bikes

When it comes to indoor stationary bikes, there are two options—standard or interactive. Bikes can range in price, anywhere from $300 to $3000 dollars. “If someone is looking just to spin their legs, break a sweat and listen to tunes, and doesn't care about seeing metrics like power, RPM's, heart rate or calories burned, then a basic stationary bike works well,” says Kalley. “Any bike that you can adjust the resistance will do.” Most indoor bikes do have a display with some basic metrics, like time, RPMs, and/or resistance level all for the same price range, which is a nice bonus. Bikes like these are typically under $500 and are made by brands like Sunny Health and Fitness, Echelon, Nautilus, Max Kare, and Cyclace.

If you’re looking to spend a little more money on a bike, then there’s are other options to consider like an interactive bike. This is a bike that has a display with metrics, and some offer trainer-led classes, on-demand workouts, or even outdoor riding stimulated classes. “There are bikes like the ProForm Carbon that’s $600, and then on the opposite end of the spectrum you have the Peloton bike at $2400, but it offers a ton of content and exercise class options beyond just biking, however, you are limited to Peloton content only,” says Kalley.” You can get a similar experience for $1,000 less with Echelon, NordicTrack, ProForm and a few others, which all offer trainer-led classes in modalities beyond cycling like yoga, strength, meditation, and core.” There’s also the new bike from cult indoor cycling class brand SoulCycle for $2,500, which allows you to take both SoulCycle and Equinox gym trainer-led classes using the Variis app.

 

Sufferfest app

 

If you’re looking for a bike that allows you to use any cycling app, like Peloton, Zwift, Trainer Road, Rouvy, Sufferfest, Taxc, and a handful of others, there are options around $900 from brands like Schwinn and Bowflex, explains Kalley. “This is a big plus for more serious riders that might want more road cycling specific workouts based on power,” he says. “The apps mentioned here would appeal to most triathletes and competitive cyclists. If you are working with or planning to work with a coach, Zwift, Trainer Road, and Sufferfest allow coaches to upload structured workouts right to your account. It's a really nice feature from a coach/athlete perspective.”

So which bike should you choose? “The cheaper bikes are great for anyone looking to get started on their fitness journey, or anyone rehabbing, that does not plan on spending a tremendous amount of time on the bike,” says Colleen Conlon, CPT-PTA GLOBAL, 200YYT, cycling pro instructor and group fitness instructor at Equinox in New York City. “The fancier, more expensive options are great for people who know they want to spend consistent time on their bike, but they cannot financially invest in the even higher priced bikes or aren't invested in the bikes with branded content like the SoulCycle bike or Peloton bike. But if you’re already a huge fan of SoulCycle or Peloton, go for it!” However, keep in mind you can still download both the Variis or Peloton apps and receive the classes and motivation from them on any bike of your choice.

Pro Forum Indoor cycling bike

Indoor Bike Features

While there are certain features that are optional or add ons, other features are needed with any bike purchase. “With a first bike, be sure to get something sturdy that can hold the weight of the person who plans to ride,” suggests Conlon.

Sizing is important on all bikes. You want to be sure that you can adjust both the seat and handlebar height, and seat and handlebar position fore-aft (forward and backward). However, there are lots of indoor bikes on the market that don't allow you to adjust the fore-aft position on the handle bars. “Depending on the bike this may or may not be an issue,” says Kalley. “Anyone that is really tall or short should inquire about the minimum and maximum height ranges of a particular bike before purchasing.”

In terms of clipless pedals, while they aren’t necessary, if you’re going to make the purchase of an indoor bike, spending about $90-$125 to get indoor cycling shoes can make a word of a difference if you’re really looking to get a lot of use out of your indoor bike. They can make for more comfortable and efficient rides. “Most bikes include a double-sided pedal with both toe cages and clip in options,” says Kalley. “Some even include the shoes.”

Some good indoor cycling shoe options:

Try the Shimano IC1; $90

Try the Shimano IC3; $115

Try the Shimano IC5; $125

 

Indoor Bike Trainer

 Indoor Bike Trainers

If you’re an avid outdoor cyclist looking to take things indoors for the winter or for any other reason, and you want to use your current bike, an indoor bike trainer is a good option. There are two types of trainers—wheel on trainers, and direct drive trainers (where the rear wheel comes off). And there are of course pros and cons to both. “

Wheel-on trainers pros include:

  • easy to take your bike on and off
  • less expensive, usually ranging between $300 to $700
  • connects to third party apps like Zwift, Trainer Road, Rouvy, Sufferfest, and more

Wheel-on trainer cons:

  • can be very noisy, and they quickly wear out your rear tire—sometimes it can even flat mid-workout
  • typically less accurate
  • at higher power outputs and steeper climbs, the wheel may slip
  • they can put stress on the rear bracket

Direct drive trainer pros:

  • quieter
  • more accurate
  • smoother feel
  • better power transfer
  • doesn’t wear out the rear tire
  • connects to third party apps like Zwift, Trainer Road, Rouvy, Sufferfest, and more

Direct drive trainer cons:

  • you have to take your rear wheel off which is an issue for some people
  • more expensive, usually ranging between $900- $1,800

With an indoor bike trainer, Kalley explains that it really comes down to budget. “Direct drive is ideal, but it might not suit everyone's wallet,” he says. “A rider can still achieve all the same goals with a wheel on trainer.  I rode a wheel-on trainer for years before switching to direct drive.”

 

Stages stationary bike

Choose a Bike Based On Your Goals

In the end, your choice depends mainly on your goal, and what you want to get out of the bike. “If you are someone who is just looking to move for the sake of health, you don't need anything fancy, but you might want to buy a seat cushion and bike shorts as you get started,” says Conlon. “If you plan on riding to the rhythm of music and have a SoulCycle-like experience without the price tag of the SoulCycle bike, just get a bike where you can clip in, because you will be riding at very high RPMs and you don't want to risk a pedal hitting your ankle if you come undone. If you plan to ride and track metrics on your own or in addition to following virtual classes that will track data, you want something that can display RPMs, WATTS, and speed. If you need to ride in silence, investing in a bike with a flywheel and belt vs a chain if worth the money. And if you want to use your outdoor bike inside, consider investing in a trainer that fits into your budget and cycling needs.”