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Indoor Cycles | Advice |  Indoor Cycle Buying Guide

Indoor Cycle Buying Guide

If you already know the type of bike you want but aren't sure about which one to pick then our Top Rated Cycles section is a great place to start as we've done all the hard work for you by selecting the best bikes at different price points.

What is Indoor Cycling?
First and foremost indoor cycling is a great way to get fit and to stay in shape. An indoor cycle enables you to enjoy cycling in the comfort of your own home or in a group environment at the gym. Indoor cycling isn't for the faint-hearted - it's a tough workout but you'll get fit quickly and build up a good level of stamina.

You get all of the fitness benefits and cardio exercise that you would on a normal outdoor cycle, but without getting wet, cold and without the danger of traffic.

An indoor cycle is designed to be static, with the pedals connected to the wheel (flywheel) so that when you pedal the flywheel turns giving the effect of normal cycling, but unlike normal road cycling you don't move. You can change the resistance of the flywheel to simulate climbing hills for example.

Most indoor cycles are fixed wheel meaning that the pedals will continues to move after you've stopped pedalling (because the flywheel is connected to the pedals). This is different than a road bike which will normally free wheel when you stop pedalling.

What is an Indoor Cycle?
Before we get into the detail of what to look for and how to choose the right bike for your needs, it's worth being clear about the definition of an indoor cycle. Of course an indoor cycle is a stationary bike that allows you to train indoors, but are all indoor cycles basically the same? The short answer is no. There are different types of indoor cycles that suit different needs:

  • Spinning Bike - This is a fixed wheel bike that can be used for general purpose exercise, high intensity training and following spinning routines. The bikes are designed to more closely replicate the feel of an outdoor bike. The main benefit of this type of bike is that you get a great workout in a relatively short space of time so it's ideal if you struggle fitting cycling into your busy schedule

  • Training Bike - This is a freewheel bike, again designed to closely replicate an outdoor cycle, that is ideal for long training rides. If you want to replicate outdoor training rides then this type of bike is ideal

  • Indoor Cycle - This is the term that's used to include both spinning bikes and training bikes. As our name suggests these are the bikes that we specialise in.

  • Upright Bike - This is what most people would recognise as an exercise bike. It's not so easy to recreate a normal riding position and you don't necessarily get the same level of workout as you do with an indoor cycle.

  • Recumbent Bike - Like an upright bike but with a different seating position. The seat will have a backrest and your legs are out front. These are ideal for anyone with balance issues

  • Exercise Bike -This is a generic term that describes all types of stationary bikes
Indoor Cycle Buying guide detail
The rest of our guide will focus on spinning bikes and training bikes (indoor cycles) and so we'll now focus on some of the terminology associated with these types of bikes.

  • Flywheel
    This is the wheel at the front of the bike that moves when you pedal and there are a number of factors to consider. The first is the size of the flywheel which is measure in kg. The higher the weight of the flywheel, the smoother the action will feel. Good quality domestic indoor cycles start at a flywheel weigth of about 18kg, with commercial bikes having a weight of 20kg or over. The other main thing to look out for with the flywheel is the quality of the bearing that allows the flywheel to spin. Bearing failure in lower quality indoor cycles is quite common, resulting in a lot of noise when the wheel spins. The other sign when bearings wear badly is excessive vibration when pedalling. The only real way of telling whether the bearings are up to the job is by buying a known brand, like the ones found on our website, because you'll know that the quality will have been proven on many thousands of bikes across the world.

  • Friction Braking
    There are two types of resistance and braking mechanisms on indoor cycles - Magnetic Brakes and Friction Brakes.

    A bike that uses friction resistance uses a friction pad that comes into contact with the flywheel. The harder the pad presses against the flywheel, the harder it is to pedal.

    The resistance level is controlled by a lever or knob on the frame of the bike that you can move when cycling - so if you feel like simulating a hill climb part way through your exercise programme you move the level or turn the knob (depending on the model) to move the friction pad closer to the flywheel which increases the resistance. Now you feel like you're cycling uphill! The reverse is true - reduce the resistance by moving the friction pad away from the flywheel and it's much easier to pedal.

    Friction pads wear over time and will need to be replaced. However, friction resistance bikes are generally less expensive than their equivalent magnetic counterparts.

  • Magnetic Braking
    As the name suggests, a magnetic cycle uses magnets to control the level of resistance when pedalling. Quite simply, the closer the magnet to the flywheel the more difficult it is to pedal. When the magnet is at its closest position to the flywheel it's almost impossible to pedal at all!!

    The resistance level is controlled by a lever or knob on the frame of the bike that you can move when cycling - so if you feel like simulating a hill climb part way through your exercise programme you move the level or turn the knob (depending on the model) to move the magnet which increases the resistance. Now you feel like you're cycling uphill! The reverse is true - reduce the resistance by moving the magnet away from the flywheel and it's much easier to pedal.

    The main advantage of the magnetic resistance bikes is that there are no friction pads to wear out and therefore maintenance is reduced.

  • Belt Drive
    The flywheel needs to be connected to the crank and pedals - this is done by a belt or a chain. With entry level and mid range indoor cycles, it's best to go for belt driven and this is for three main reasons: they can be adjusted easily when necessary; they are quieter than chain driven bikes; and there's no maintenance required. At the higher end then more often than not it's the chain drive that are more popular. This is because chain bikes feel more like an outdoor cycle to ride because of the dynamics of the crank and the positioning of the pedals. Essentially, unless it's a premium brand then avoid chain drive bikes - you'll have fewer problems and a quieter ride.

  • Chain Drive
    Chain driven bikes work on exactly the same principal as a road bike - the chain connects the drive wheel/flywheel to the crank. You have to keep the chain lubricated which is about the only routine maintenance required. It's better to avoid cheap chain driven bikes because the quality is often poor. There's no real benefit to a chain drive bike and almost all good indoor cycles are now belt drive.

  • Pedals
    OK, so we know what pedals are! But did you know that there are 2 different types of pedals? The options that you have are 'Basket' pedals and 'Basket Pedals with Cycling Shoe Clips'. Basket pedals can be used with any type of training shoes. Your feet fit into the 'baskets' on the pedals and the baskets can be tightened to stop your feet from slipping of the pedal when cycling. Pedals that have Cycling Shoe Clips can be used with specialist cycling shoes, available from all good cycling stores. The cycling shoe clips into the pedal to stop your feet from slipping when you're cycling. This type of pedal is generally safer to use than basket only pedals because the risk of your feet slipping from the pedal is greatly reduced.

So, now that you have all of this information, how do you choose the bike that will suit you best. Here are our top 5 tips:
  1. Start with our Top Rated section. We've included these bikes in this section based on our own expertise and from customer feedback. They're top rated as they offer the best combination of quality and features at a specific price point

  2. Make sure that the bike has belt drive, a good strong frame and is adjustable to meet your height and reach

  3. Don't be swayed by non essentials. The bike may be great looking and the colour may match your room but is it going to give you the workout that you want? Is it going to feel nice to ride so that you'll want to ride it time and time again?

  4. Make sure that the bike has the accessories that you want. Do you want a water bottle holder, a console or SPD compatible pedals for example

  5. Does the bike have a warranty? If something goes wrong with the bike how will it be repaired? Hopefully your bike will give you years of trouble free cycling, and in most cases it probably will, but if you're unlucky enough to have a problem then ensure that the problem can be sorted out with the minimum of fuss

So there you have it - the Indoor Cycles buying guide. We hope that this has helped you to choose a great indoor cycle that will help to improve your fitness and wellbeing but you are of course more than welcome to get in touch with us if you would like further advice and guidance.

If you're thinking of buying an indoor cycle for use at home then our Indoor Cycle Buying Guide is an essential read. We'll explain what to look out for, what features are important and how to pick the model that best suits your needs.