Best exercise bike 2021
BEST BUYS Nick Harris-Fry12 Mar 2021
In a spin over which exercise bike to buy? This guide to the best budget, mid-range and high-end models will help you decide
Buying one of the best exercise bikes on the market is a great way to fit at home, whether you’re a keen cyclist looking to train on cold and wet days, or simply a beginner looking to get started. They’re generally cheaper and smaller than other home cardio machines (like treadmills and rowers), and provide scope for all kinds of cardiovascular workouts, from long steady rides to the short HIIT (high-intensity interval training) blasts popular in spinning classes.
Best of all, though, you don’t need to break the bank to get your hands on one of the machines in our best exercise bikes roundup, with some available for little more than £100. Having said that, you should definitely work out exactly what you’re looking for before making a purchase. Below you’ll find the best exercise bikes to suit every shopper, from casual riders to dedicated cycling enthusiasts.
UPDATE: Following the government’s advice to stay at home in light of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, many of the best exercise bikes on the market have entirely sold out. Our recommendations are still visible below, but in the meantime, we’ve decided to create a quick list of in-stock exercise bikes. If you notice that these have sold out, please feel free to contact us at @expertreviews on Twitter.
The best exercise bikes available right now
What kind of exercise bike do I want?
Indoor cycles are normally used in spin classes, as they’re perfect for intense, intervals sessions. If you prefer to ride your own bike, you can invest in what’s called a turbo trainer, which attaches to the back wheel of the bike so you can ride it while stationary.
A third type of exercise cycle to consider is a recumbent exercise bike, where the rider cycles in a laid-back reclining position – great for those who suffer from back pain.
How much do I need to spend?
If you’re looking for an upright bike, there are excellent options under £200, and even some solid picks under £100 for those on a tight budget. You can get a decent spinning cycle for less than £200 too, but here the prices go higher: for a gym-quality machine you’re looking at closer to £500.
What kind of resistance should I look for?
One of the most important features of an exercise bike is the degree of resistance it offers, as this is what determines the difficulty of your workout.
Most exercise bikes generate resistance using a flywheel that’s driven by the pedals; friction-resistance bikes apply brakes to slow this flywheel, which the user can adjust by turning a knob.
Magnetic-resistance exercise bikes slow the flywheel through the magic of magnetism. This is quieter than direct contact brakes, requires less maintenance, and allows you to set an exact level of resistance.
However, the maximum resistance is lower, which may frustrate seasoned cyclists – and some users prefer the instant response of twirling a direct-resistance knob, especially for HIIT sessions.
Another technique that’s sometimes used is air resistance, where a fan turns as you pedal. The harder you work, the greater the air resistance on the fan’s blades.
What other features should I look out for?
The size of the bike is important, both in terms of the space it might take up and whether it’s sturdy enough to take your weight and let you pedal comfortably. Most exercise bikes will have a digital display console giving the basic details of your ride; some offer more advanced stats like power and cadence. Other handy features can include a built-in fan and heart-rate monitoring handles.
The best exercise bikes to buy
1. JLL Home Exercise Bike JF100: The best budget exercise bike
This sturdy upright bike offers an impressively smooth and quiet ride at a bargain price. It also comes with a one-year warranty for peace of mind, which is always welcome when opting for a budget pick. Maxing out the resistance might not result in a tough enough ride to satisfy keen outdoor cyclists, but the JF100 ticks all the boxes for beginners keen on doing some cardio workouts at home without having to splash out more than £100.
Key specs – Size: 62 x 51 x 120cm (LWH);Resistance: Magnetic (10 levels); Max user weight: 100kg
2. JLL IC100 Pro Indoor Bike: The best exercise bike for £250 or less
While finding a good-quality upright bike in the budget bracket isn’t too hard, the same isn’t true for indoor cycles because, in general, a machine that can stand up to the high-intensity demands of spinning doesn’t come cheap. The IC100 is the exception to that rule, and while its 6kg flywheel doesn’t create as smooth a ride as the 20kg+ ones you’ll find on pricier indoor cycles, and it won’t offer as much resistance, it’s still a great option for beginner spinners in particular.
The resistance is magnetic, but it’s controlled by a dial in a similar manner to friction resistance bikes, so you can adjust it quickly during interval rides. Being magnetic also means it runs a little quieter. The lighter flywheel does also come with a benefit in that it’s easier to move the bike around, so you can wheel the bike out of the way after your session.
Key specs – Size: 101 x 71 x 133cm (LWH); Resistance: Magnetic; Max user weight: 110kg
3. Apex Bike: A cheaper alternative to Peloton
If forking out £1,750 upfront and £39.50 a month for Peloton (see below) sounds like far too much money to you, the Apex Bike is a slightly more palatable alternative. At £1,200 for the bike, followed by monthly payments of £30, it’s still not cheap, but we think it’s well worth the outlay if you’re looking for a slick, immersive spinning experience.
Some of that saving is made possible by the fact the Apex comes with an iPad holder instead of a built-in display. If you prefer, you can cast the classes from your phone to your TV. Crucially, however, the Apex Bike delivers where it matters, offering plenty of resistance via a 4kg flywheel and, at the time of writing, 150 on-demand sessions that include everything from 15-minute warm-ups to hour-long leg burners. It’s also got 50/50 pedals as standard so you can use toe clips or SPD shoes.
It’s not totally without foibles – there’s currently no option to use the bike outside of Apex’s on-demand and live classes, for instance – but, overall, this indoor smart bike represents excellent value for those missing the buzz of regular indoor spinning classes because of the ongoing pandemic.
Key specs – Size: 129.5 x 60.5 x 98cm (LWH); Resistance: Magnetic; Max user weight: 140kg
4. Ultrasport F-bike Trainer: The best folding exercise bike
The key question with folding bikes is whether they are sturdy enough to ride at speed without fear of toppling over. At 14kg, the Ultrasport F-bike is reassuringly solid, and its folded dimensions of 131 x 43.5 x 45cm (LWH) mean it can be tucked away to save space when not in use. There are eight levels of resistance, although the higher levels aren’t as challenging as you’d find on a heavier, fixed bike.
Key specs – Size: 80.5 x 43.5 x 112cm (LWH); Resistance: Friction (8 levels); Max user weight: 100kg
5. JTX Fitness Mission Air Bike: Best exercise bike for an all-body workout
If you’ve never used an air cycle like the JTX Fitness Mission Air Bike before then it’s difficult to envisage just how hard a workout it can provide. The design effectively allows for infinite levels of resistance – the harder you drive the pedals and push its handles, the tougher it becomes. As such, should you go hell for leather, you may well find yourself gasping for air after a few minutes.
You can, of course, take it easier and enjoy a longer, more steady workout that targets your arms and legs and improves your cardio fitness, but the design of the Mission Air Bike is especially well suited to HIIT sessions, because you can get a savagely effective workout done in just 10 to 20 minutes if you push yourself hard during the intervals.
There are foot pegs on the front of the machine that don’t drive the fan, which you can use should you prefer to power the Air Bike using only your upper body – a handy feature for those who worry that an exercise bike will only work their legs. The console on the machine is powered by a couple of AA batteries and lets you set workout goals based on distance, time, heart rate and calories burned. Trust us when we say you’ll be impressed at how fast the latter rises.
6. JTX Cyclo-6: The best exercise bike under £600
Unless you’re looking for premium features like smart connectivity or cycling technique analysis, there’s really no need to look beyond the JTX Cyclo-6 for your home ride. It matches the performance of the commercial bikes you’ll find in the gym, with a 22kg flywheel and friction resistance, where you can twirl the knob to keep cranking up the difficulty of your ride. The large flywheel also makes for a very stable and smooth ride, and you can easily see your basic workout stats like time, distance and speed on the handlebar computer.
Key specs – Size: 124 x 54 x 122cm (LWH); Resistance: Friction; Max user weight: 160kg
7. V-fit G-RC: The best recumbent exercise bike under £300
A recumbent exercise bike is by far the most comfortable design. The laid-back position puts less stress on your lower back, knees and ankles, making it the best option for anyone who experiences pain after riding in a regular position. It’s also a lot easier to ride a recumbent bike hands-free, so you could read a book, check your email or even use weights while turning the pedals.
This recumbent exercise bike from V-fit is quiet and stable even when pedalling fast. It offers eight resistance settings and a clear screen that can be read easily from the relaxed riding position. That makes it perfect for long, comfortable sessions that won’t aggravate any niggling injuries you might have.
Key specs – Size: 135 x 64 x 100cm (LWH); Resistance: Magnetic (8 levels); Max user weight: 115kg
8. Domyos 500 Self-Powered Exercise Bike: Best cordless exercise bike
If you have an otherwise perfect spot in your house for an exercise bike but have been holding off buying one because it’s not right next to a plug socket, then this self-powered machine offers a neat solution. Certainly neater than having an extension cable running across your room, at any rate.
The Domyos 500 is powered by your pedalling, so can be placed anywhere that’s convenient for you – even outside if you want to cycle in the sunshine. It has a 6kg flywheel, 15 levels of resistance, and a heart rate monitor built into the handlebars.
To keep tabs of the improvement in your fitness you can link it up to the partner E-Connected app, where you can set a time, distance or calories burned goal for each week and track your workouts as you progress towards that goal.
Key specs – Size: 94 x 58 x 121cm (LWH); Max user weight: 130kg
9. NordicTrack VR21 Recumbent Bike: The best recumbent exercise bike
There aren’t a lot of recumbent bikes to pick between at the upper end of the market, but the NordicTrack VR21 should satisfy anyone set on sitting back for their indoor cycle workouts. It has 25 levels of magnetic resistance and 32 preset workouts to try. And for those worried about keeping their cool during those workouts there’s the clever AutoBreeze fan, which blows stronger the harder you work.
If you’re prepared to also stump up for an iFit subscription and a tablet, the VR21 will link to the iFit app and let you ride anywhere in the world using Google Maps. With that said, as the NordicTrack VR21 has a tablet holder, and you’re in a relaxed sitting position while cycling, it’s the perfect place to catch up on all those Netflix shows you haven’t got round to watching.
Key specs – Size: 132cm x 56cm x 150cm (LWH); Resistance: Magnetic (25 levels); Max user weight: 125kg
10. Wattbike Atom: The best smart exercise bike
Indoor cycling once had a – frankly deserved – reputation for being tortuously boring, but with virtual training apps like Zwift and TrainerRoad now available to all, the days of staring blankly at the wall while pedalling are long behind us. There are plenty of smart turbo trainers that can connect to apps like Zwift, but the Wattbike Atom is the standout option for those who want a smart exercise bike.
It links seamlessly with Zwift and TrainerRoad so the resistance is controlled by the app, meaning you’ll feel your ride getting tougher as you head up a climb in the virtual world your avatar is riding in. Through the Wattbike app you can also tackle famous climbs such as Mont Ventoux or Alpe d’Huez, and the realistic ride feel of the Atom means that if you then head out to tackle those fearsome gradients in the real world, you’ll be well-prepared. Other features in the Wattbike app include the ability to see how well your pedalling is balanced between your left and right legs, and you’ll also be given a Pedal Effectiveness Score to indicate how efficient you are.
Key specs – Size: 100 x 50 x 150cm (LWH); Resistance: Magnetic; Max user weight: 135kg
11. Wattbike: The best bike for advanced stats
The Wattbike looks hugely expensive next to the other bikes on this list – but it represents a correspondingly huge jump in quality. This elite-standard trainer measures over 37 different cycling metrics, from basic power, heart rate and cadence info to sophisticated insight into your pedalling efficiency and left-right leg balance. This in-depth data can be monitored live during your ride on the Wattbike console, so you can easily train to improve your pedalling technique.
There are two models of Wattbike to pick between – the Pro and the Trainer, with the former offering higher levels of resistance, making it better suited to more powerful cyclists. Clearly, it’s aimed at serious cyclists, but if you’re looking for a realistic ride experience that will improve your physical fitness and pedalling technique, it can’t be bettered.
Key specs – Size: 125 x 66 x 130cm (LWH); Resistance: Air and Magnetic (0-2000W Trainer, 0-3760W Pro); Max user weight: 150kg
12. Peloton: The best exercise bike for spinning classes
The killer feature of this exercise bike is the massive library of spinning classes it offers, with 14 streamed live every day and a back catalogue of thousands more available at any time. All of these classes are beamed to the huge 22in HD touchscreen on the front of the bike, so you can take part as if you’re in the studio yourself.
During the live classes, a real-time leaderboard shows how your effort compares to riders all over the world, providing ample motivation to up your intensity, especially as the people you competing with might even be famous – David Beckham, Leo DiCaprio, and Hugh Jackman are all apparently fans of the Peloton bike.
You have to pay a subscription for the classes after purchasing the bike, and that costs £39.50 a month for unlimited access to the class catalogue. Compared to the cost of regular spinning sessions in boutique gyms, however, that’s a snip, and you have the added convenience of doing the classes whenever you like.
Key specs – Size: 150 x 58 x 134cm (LWH); Resistance: Magnetic; Max user weight: 135kg
13. Wahoo KICKR Bike: The most realistic indoor ride
Everything about this bike is designed to replicate the feel of riding outdoors so you can use your indoor workouts to prepare for life on the road. This starts with the bike set-up – you can extend or shorten various parts of the frame, seat and handlebars to ensure the KICKR Bike has the same proportions as your outdoor bike, with the partner app helping you to do this through a fit wizard. You can also choose the same gear ratios on the KICKR Bike as you have on your bike.
The ride feel is also incredibly realistic, with satisfying and smooth clunks as you change gears, and the flywheel runs very quietly as well. When you link the KICKR Bike up to Zwift it responds quickly to changes in gradient and not only increases or decreases the resistance but also tilts back and forth so you’re riding at the right angle. The KICKR Bike is also accurate to +/-1% when it comes to power readings, and calibrates this automatically.
Key specs – Size: 121 x 76 x 95-119cm (LWH); Resistance: Electromagnetic; Max user weight: 113kg