The most important features
All exercise bikes will improve your fitness, but there’s a huge range of features to add to your enjoyment. Use this list of features to decide what’s best for your lifestyle.
The display is an LCD digital readout giving you useful information - your cycling speed, total distance travelled, time and so on. The console controls, usually surrounding the display, let you switch the display to the numbers you’re most interested in and enter or change the programme.
Some of the numbers on an exercise bike’s display are confusing. Here’s your key
|WHAT THE DISPLAY SAYS||WHAT IT MEANS|
|Speed||The speed you’d be moving at if you were putting in the same effort on a real bike.|
|Time||The time since your workout started, or your time per lap, or your target time – most machines give you a choice.|
|Calories||Estimated amount of calories you’ve burnt off since starting.|
|Distance||Total distance travelled or distance left to go on a programme.|
|Pulse/heartrate||Your current heartrate, measured through hand grips, a chest strap, or earlobe clip.|
|Motivation||Encouraging messages displayed to keep you going strong.|
|Elevation||Estimated ‘height’ you’ve reached on a hill-climbing programme, simulated by greater resistance to your pedalling.|
|Cadence||The number of times a minute you’re spinning the pedals. This measure is very important for cyclists – a steady 80rpm is a good target to aim for.|
A few bikes fold up for easy storage. Really useful if space is limited - but they tend to lack the range of features on non-folding machines.
Some exercise bikes can sense your heart rate through the handlebars. This is useful for checking you’re within the most effective training zone of 70-80% of your maximum heart rate.
Adjustable seats and handlebars
A good riding position is really important, so look for adjustable seat height and position, and adjustable handlebars if your arms are a bit shorter or longer than average.
WHAT’S THE BEST RIDING POSITION?
When you’re sitting on the bike with a pedal at its lowest point, your leg should point almost straight down with a slight bend at the knee. The handlebars should be within easy reach without having to strain forward. Ideally, while pedalling at speed you should feel your weight is evenly distributed between saddle, pedals, and bars.
When you put your feet on the pedals, the ‘ball’ of your foot (front and inner) should be over the middle of the pedal (where it connects to the crank.)
When pedalling, try to pedal in smooth circles rather than ‘pushing’ when your foot’s ahead then letting the other foot take over. This is the best way to tone your muscles without injury, and also the best way to ride a real bike fast!
Also, try to keep your body movements smooth, without swaying from side to side or exerting your shoulders. This is the most energy-efficient way to tone up, and also the safest.
Max user body weight
Exercise bikes all have a maximum weight for safety. If you’re over 100kg (17st) and unfit, seek a doctor’s opinion before starting regular exercise.
Programmes give you a planned workout based on total distance you want to reach or total time you want to work out for. Different programmes may include varying speeds or hills to stop you getting bored! Example programmes include: Alpine Pass, Time Trial, and Hill Climb.
All exercise bikes are different, so check you know which features to look for. With that done, let's choose your machine.