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10 best exercise bikes for smashing your fitness goals at home

Put the pedal to the metal with an indoor cycle that really goes the distance

Jon Axworthy
Thursday 19 August 2021 12:16
<p>We looked for stability, space-saving capabilities, comfort and a realistic cycling experience  </p>

We looked for stability, space-saving capabilities, comfort and a realistic cycling experience

There’s a wide range of benefits to having an exercise bike at home, whether it’s one of the new breed of connected smart bikes with their catalogue of online and live classes, or just an old school cycle that will consistently challenge you.

We tested a range of bikes suited to very different budgets and fitness aspirations, but with each one we were first looking to see how big the footprint was once the bike had been put together – after all, you don’t want an entire room re-purposed just because the bike takes up so much space.

We also had an eye on how stable the bike was, especially when you’re in the more vigorous stages of a workout, and how comfortable the riding position was, including seat and handlebars that retain lots of grip even when you’re drenched with sweat.

Of course, an indoor cycle workout is all about resistance, and no matter how they provide this to the fly-wheel (manual, electronic, magnetic or fan) you want to be able to step things up gradually and smoothly to replicate how gradients feel in the real world. To this end, you need the resistance dial on the bike to be responsive and easy to use when you’re working hard, while you also need the bike to stay nice and grounded.

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To get a complete workout you need a good span of resistance too, so that you can spin rapidly at the lowest setting, and have to work really hard to move the pedals on the highest.

How we tested

We tested the bikes on a range of online and offline workouts lasting from 15 to 45 minutes, at varying intensities, and these were the machines that came out ahead in a very crowded field.

The best exercise bikes for 2021 are:

  • Best overall – Apex Rides apex bike: £1,200 + £29.99 per month, Apexrides.com
  • Best for content – Peloton plus: £2,295 + £39 per month, Onepeloton.co.uk
  • Best for road racers – Wattbike atom (next gen): £1,999, Wattbike.com
  • Best for smaller spaces – Reebok Z-power exercise bike: £349, Johnlewis.com
  • Best value for money – NordicTrack GX 8.0 indoor cycle: £699, Bestgymequipment.co.uk
  • Best for comfort – Echelon EX-5s: £1,599 + £39.99 per month, Echelonfit.uk
  • Best for progressive fitness – Schwinn 800IC: £949, Fitness-superstore.co.uk
  • Best for showing off – Water Rower NOHrD indoor bike: £2,969, Waterrower.co.uk
  • Best folding exercise bike – Pro Fitness FEB1000: £139.99, Argos.co.uk
  • Best for power pedallers – TechnoGym bike: £1,990, Technogym.com

Apex Rides apex bike

Best: Overall

Rating: 9/10

  • Streaming subscription? Yes, £29.99 per month

This UK-built bike launched mid-pandemic when everyone was going crazy for home exercise equipment, particularly indoor cycles. It’s a sleek and stylish machine with a fairly modest footprint that won’t totally take over the room it stands in.

It’s a smart bike, but the reason there’s such a difference in price from other, well-known brands in the indoor cycle space is that the Apex doesn’t have a built-in display. Instead, it has a stand for your iOS device – there is no Android connectivity with the Apex at the moment, which will be a factor for some.

So, you can connect to the content via an iPhone or iPad, or for an even more immersive experience you can set up in front of a widescreen and cast the classes to an Apple TV, if you have one.

We found the on-screen metrics were easy to read and understand. The Apex has a comfortable saddle and “aero” handlebars, and resistance comes from a flywheel controlled via a sensitive, but not too sensitive, dial that’s easy to use. The bike was nice and stable too, even when we were really going for it.

Apart from the price, the other thing that might really appeal to indoor riders is that the online and live class instructors are all UK-based, and the content comes from London spin studio Boom cycle.

Although they still cater for high-energy spin classes, there’s a little less hype when it comes to your morning sweat session when compared to service like Peloton.

Peloton plus

Best: For content

Rating: 9/10

  • Streaming service? Yes, £39 per month

With a 4ft x 2ft footprint, the Peloton bike plus is no different from its predecessor (from £1,750, Onepeloton.co.uk), but what has gone up in size is the HD touchscreen, so you can feel more involved in whatever class you’ve decided on. Peloton has also boosted the surround sound with a quality soundbar so you can be screamed at (sorry, motivated by) the instructors with ear munching volume and clarity.

You still control resistance from the magnetic flywheel via an easily accessed and sensitive knob, but we really like the fact that the resistance on the new bike can automatically track the instructor’s resistance throughout an on-demand workout, which is becoming a must-have feature for connected cycles, we think.

What it comes down to is whether these features warrant the £545 price bump for the basics package. Of course, you also have to factor in the £39 a month that you’ll need to find for the streaming service, which is still the industry standard.

Wattbike atom (next gen)

Best: For road racers

Rating: 7/10

  • Streaming subscription? No

The next iteration of the atom is comfortable to ride, with well-gripped aero bars with an incorporated tablet so you can follow various third party apps that the Wattbike relies on to be connected.

The atom’s resistance comes from an electromagnetic drivetrain, which is favoured by plenty of hardcore cyclists because it accurately mirrors the feel of being out there eating up the miles dressed head to toe in lycra, rather than being in a stationary spin class. The atom is comfortable to ride, unmovable even when you’re really going for it, and works with the Wattbike app, Swift and Sufferfest, which is where you’ll get an indication of which gear you’re in (otherwise it’s based on an educated guess).

In terms of the gears, the atom uses electronic shifters to go up and down the drivetrain and the changes were absolutely seamless without a hint of judder.

Reebok Z-power exercise bike

Best: For smaller spaces

Rating: 6/10

  • Streaming subscription? No

If you’re not after a totally immersive fitness experience, but you are after a pedal powered workout, the Z-power bike offers 32 levels of electronically controlled resistance through a flywheel that offers a smooth and quiet ride. The handles of the bike are nicely angled and offer good grip, while there was an easy to adjust, gel-padded seat that was comfortable to use throughout our training session.

The on-board computer provides target workouts, there’s an easy access cage for your water bottle and the whole bike is slim, takes up very little space and is easy to move around.

NordicTrack GX 8.0 indoor cycle

Best: Value for money

Rating: 7/10

  • Streaming subscription? No

Here’s a bike that eschews smart bike connectivity to lower the price, focus on recreating the feel of a gym class at home instead. However, it would be a bit harsh to call this a “dumb” bike, as a big flywheel allows for some quad-shredding resistance levels, and adjustments are easy using the well-positioned shifter on the frame. With a nice, crisp display and a comfortable riding position, the bike is surprisingly portable, considering it has a 22kg flywheel on board.

Echelon EX-5s

Best: For comfort

Rating: 8/10

  • Streaming subscription? Yes, £39.99 per month

The newest offering from Echelon is a very accomplished smart bike that’s an absolute dream to ride in terms of its adjustability and ergonomics. There are multiple handle positions on the bars which are really comfortable, and the nice saddle makes this one of the most rideable bikes on test.

The tilting 21.5in HD screen displays all your metrics very clearly, whether you’re enjoying the well-curated online content or the outdoor scenic rides, which provide a welcome distraction as you pedal your way through coastal or country roads, keeping an eye on output, distance, speed, calories etc.

It’s a shame that you can’t see yourself covering more distance the faster you ride the bike, as the speed of the video is set, but that’s a very minor niggle. Whether it’s live-streamed spin classes or on-demand you’re after the amount of content on offer is impressive.

The flywheel runs super silent and operates on magnetic resistance, and there are 32 levels – plenty to get your heart pumping or to make for an easy warm down.

The EX-5s was very stable even when riding heavily side-to-side, and there was minimal screen wobble during a workout or class, which can be a little distracting.

Schwinn 800IC

Best: For progressive fitness

Rating: 9/10

  • Streaming subscription? No

With a nice, compact footprint and stable base the 800IC is still one of the best indoor cycles we’ve tested. This is because of its supremely responsive resistance which comes from a magnetic flywheel, adjusted from a knob that’s easy to change during your workout with just a quick twist. With over 100 levels of resistance to choose from you’ll have no problem finding a level that works for you, and will continue to challenge you as you get fitter.

The dipped handlebars are ergonomic and comfortable to grip, with a saddle that takes the pressure off in all the right places. There is a small digital display to feed back your usual metrics (time, calories, speed etc), but the bike really comes into its own when you Bluetooth it to an external app like Zwift, Explore the World or even the Peloton app, and use the media cradle with your own tablet.

In 2021, the 800IC is also compatible with the JRNY app for both iOS and Android.

Water Rower NOHrD indoor bike

Best: For showing off

Rating: 7/10

  • Streaming subscription? No

This bike looks so good that you probably shouldn’t confine it to the bedroom. It’s just as much an exercise in design as it is indoor cycling engineering, but if you have just won the lottery then the bike will also deliver a complete fitness experience too. The bike is supremely comfortable to ride, either upright or in a racing position, with a whisper-quiet flywheel and magnetic resistance that offers infinite resistance.

Connectivity comes from Bluetooth sensors that connect you to a proprietary app (available for free on iOS and Android) that provides an excellent source of original training plans. It’s not the most compact of bikes, but if you’re shelling out this amount of money, you’ll probably want to show it off anyway.

Pro Fitness FEB1000

Best: Folding exercise bike

Rating: 6/10

  • Streaming subscription? No

This collapsible bike is surprisingly stable to ride and, of course, is perfect for those who want to get fit at home, but are short on space. Comfortable in the saddle with good supportive handlebars, the FEB1000 also features an impressively smooth flywheel that offers the user 8 levels of resistance.

TechnoGym bike

Best: For power pedallers

Rating: 7/10

This bike can be connected to the 1Rebel fitness studio in London or Revolution in Milan to offer up live and on-demand classes, streamed directly to the bike. It features a very intuitive, easy-to-use, 22in HD touchscreen and you can see your progress on a leaderboard of connected cyclists.

The handlebars were comfortable and there were lots of options for hand placement to find a comfortable riding position. As well as this, the seat was very easy to adjust mid-workout and the bike didn’t take over the room.

The verdict: Exercise bikes

If you really want to commit to regular spin workouts at home, the Apex Rides apex bike is a motivating machine with an impressive amount of content that’s regularly updated. Of course, there’s no point having great content without a quality bike to follow along on, but the Apex delivers on comfort, rideability and value for money as well.

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IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.

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