Best Cheap Exercise Bikes for Home Use

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Biking is a great, low-impact sport for people of any age. Use your stationary exercise bike at home, or hit the trails. For more healthy exercise ideas, check out: 20 Essential Exercises for Older Adults

There's a difference between saying you're going to workout and actually doing it. Get some tips on how to stay on track with your exercise routine here: 12 Ways to Work Out at Home and Stay Motivated

Before hopping on that bike, check out: 12 Fitness Tips You Should Know Before Even Breaking a Sweat

Our Picks

Schwinn 230 (MY16)
Schwinn 170
Sunny Health & Fitness SF-B1002
Marcy ME-709
Exerpeutic 250XL
Bladez Fitness Echelon GS
Marcy Club Revolution XJ-3220
Schwinn Airdyne AD6
ProForm Hybrid Trainer
Sunny Health & Fitness SF-B0418 Magnetic Mini

Schwinn 230 (MY16) Review

From $350 Best

Best Recumbent Exercise Bike

Pros:

  • 22 preprogrammed workouts.
  • 20 levels of computer-controlled magnetic resistance automatically adjust during workouts.
  • Large, dual LCD screen offers a wide variety of stats, tracks goal achievement, and stores up to 2 rider profiles.
  • Hand-grip heart-rate sensors.
  • Convenience features include slider seat adjustment, 3-speed fan, media shelf, water bottle holder, built-in speakers, USB port for charging and data export, and transport wheels.
  • Robust warranty: 10 years on the frame, 2 years mechanical, and 1 year electrical.

Cons:

  • No cushion on the seat or backrest, although the plastic is contoured and vented for coolness.
  • May not suit tall people; riders over 6 feet say they barely fit even with seat as far back as possible.

Takeaway: For consumers looking for an exercise bike loaded with workout programs and extra features, the Schwinn 230 recumbent bike does not disappoint. Users say the multiple levels of resistance lock in quickly and range from light to "downright brutal," as one reviewer put it on Amazon. All of the stats on those worked-up sweats transfer easily to SchwinnConnect and MyFitnessPal accounts. The weight capacity is 300 pounds.

Schwinn 170 Review

From $400 Best

Best Upright Exercise Bike

Pros:

  • 29 programmed workouts.
  • 22 levels of computer-controlled magnetic resistance automatically adjust during workouts.
  • Cushioned seat adjusts both horizontally and vertically; the angle of the handlebars can also be adjusted.
  • DualTrack console has two backlit LCD screens to display workout information and stores up to 4 rider profiles.
  • Convenience features include a 3-speed fan, a media shelf, a water bottle holder, built-in speakers, a USB port for charging, and transport wheels.
  • Bluetooth capability for wireless data transfer to multiple apps and connection to RideSocial for live riding with friends using virtual maps.
  • Can be paired with a chest strap for heart-rate monitoring.
  • 10-year frame, 2-year mechanical, and 1-year electrical warranty.

Cons:

  • A few reports of defective bikes; some riders note that the console positioning is slightly off and readings are not always accurate.
  • A handful of reviews complain that the seat is uncomfortable.

Takeaway: The Schwinn 170 is a loaded upright bike. Consumers rave about its 29 programs, sturdy build, and quiet ride. While there are a few complaints regarding quality issues, the many positive reviews and perks more than compensate, and the bike is solid enough to support riders up to 300 pounds. Experts at Top Fitness Magazine claim that this exercise bike "probably has the best features and warranty that you will find at this price."

Where to buy

Sunny Health & Fitness SF-B1002 Review

From $290 Best

Best Cheap Exercise Bike for Spinning

Pros:

  • Smooth pedaling thanks to a 49-pound flywheel; belt drive for a quiet ride.
  • At 116 pounds, with a heavy steel frame and 275-pound weight capacity, it's more stable than cheaper bikes; users say they feel confident riding out of the saddle.
  • Horizontal and vertical seat adjustment.
  • Very easy to put together, according to reviews.
  • Wheels for transport and built-in water bottle holder.

Cons:

  • No display console.
  • No media shelf (many users have attached their own phone and tablet holders).
  • Handlebars cannot be adjusted forward and backward.
  • Seat gets its fair share of complaints regarding comfort, despite its cushioning.
  • Short 90-day warranty; some complaints of the seat mount breaking and pedals coming off.

Takeaway: A no-frills favorite, the Sunny Health & Fitness SF-B1002 has earned praise from experts and hundreds of positive reviews from frugal consumers who love its sturdy build, smooth ride, and very budget-friendly price. The belt drive is a particularly welcome benefit for under $300. Although the handlebars may be a bit of a reach for some riders, users say they're well-designed and offer a good grip. Despite complaints that components may not be as sturdy as the frame, many satisfied owners, from novices to advanced cyclists, say this home spin bike more than measures up to the ones at the gym.

Marcy ME-709 Review

From $122 Good

Good Cheap Recumbent Exercise Bike

Pros:

  • Quiet and comfortable, according to user reviews, with 8 levels of preset magnetic resistance.
  • Easy to assemble.
  • LCD screen to monitor stats like time, distance, and calories burned.
  • Weighted, counterbalanced pedals with adjustable straps for more secure ride.
  • Small enough for riders with limited space; wheels for easier transport.
  • Bike stays grounded, even during fast peddling.

Cons:

  • Limited seat padding, according to reviews, so long rides may be uncomfortable.
  • Seat itself does not move forward or back; central rail is used to adjust the distance from the pedals.
  • No preset workout programs.
  • No heart-rate monitoring.

Takeaway: The Marcy ME-709 is a no-frills recumbent bike, but that's what many users like about it, according to online reviews. For the price, users say it's sturdy (the manufacturer claims it can hold up to 300 pounds, and heavier users suggest it can handle more) and they appreciate the overall quality. Even better, it's a cinch to set up. With support for the back and a reclined seating position, several seniors and some riders with injuries say the bike is perfect for their needs.

Exerpeutic 250XL Review

From $149 Good

Good Compact Exercise Bike

Pros:

  • A favorite with many users due to its small footprint and foldable design for easy storage; earns 5 stars from more than 3,500 reviewers -- nearly two-thirds of all reviewers -- on Amazon.
  • 8 levels of magnetic resistance.
  • High-resistance crank system allows for smooth, and challenging, pedaling.
  • LCD screen to monitor stats.
  • Hand-grip heart-rate sensors.
  • V-belt drive offers a quiet workout; many users say they're amazed at the low noise level.
  • Weighs just 39 pounds; wheels for easy portability.

Cons:

  • Not designed for intense workouts.
  • Some riders find the seat uncomfortable and too wide.
  • Pedals are too far forward for some users; others say the seat height doesn't adjust enough for shorter riders.
  • Some complaints of defective bikes and loud squeaking noises.
  • Short 1-year limited warranty for defects; 90 days on parts and workmanship.

Takeaway: The Exerpeutic 250XL strikes a great balance of sturdiness and stowability. This simple upright bike is easily folded, rolled, and tucked away, yet it has a 300-pound weight capacity. Considered a "starter" bike, it may disappoint more experienced riders, but by and large, average users with more tempered expectations have been really pleased with this bargain-priced buy, according to online reviews. Shorter people may want to try this one on for size before purchasing, however.

Where to buy

Bladez Fitness Echelon GS Review

From $400 Good

Good Exercise Bike for Spinning at Home

Pros:

  • Consumers appreciate the compact design.
  • Heavy, 40-pound flywheel for a smooth ride; belt drive keeps the noise level low.
  • Sturdy steel frame and aluminum pedals (with toe baskets).
  • Seat and handlebars adjust both vertically and horizontally.
  • Basic console displays calories, distance, speed, and time.
  • Wheels for transport and built-in water bottle holder.
  • Lifetime warranty on the frame; 1 year on the parts and computer.

Cons:

  • Resistance levels aren't marked, and some users say the increments are too steep.
  • Some complaints of an uncomfortable seat; many users recommend buying gel padding.
  • Nowhere to put a MP3 player or tablet.
  • A few users complain of defective products and poor customer service.

Takeaway: Although consumer reviews for the Bladez Fitness Echelon GS indoor cycle are fairly scarce and slightly mixed, it impresses with its low-priced, high-quality build (it can support up to 275 pounds) and shows up on many fitness enthusiasts' lists of top exercise bikes. Based on comparative testing, Reviews.com rates it the "Best Basic Spin Bike," lauding its quiet, smooth ride and stability. While it may have some drawbacks, shoppers will be hard-pressed to find a similar exercise bike in this price range with similar features and performance -- certainly not with a comparable warranty.

Marcy Club Revolution XJ-3220 Review

From $259 Think Twice

Chain-Driven Spin Bike

Pros:

  • Heavy, 40-pound flywheel provides a smooth ride.
  • Sturdy and capable of supporting a maximum weight of 300 pounds.
  • Seat can adjust both vertically and horizontally; handlebars are also adjustable.
  • Many reviewers consider this a top-quality bike that's built to last.
  • Comes mostly assembled; wheels for transport.

Cons:

  • Users complain that the seat is extremely uncomfortable.
  • No computer; can't track workouts.
  • Nowhere to put an MP3 player, book, or tablet, though there is a water bottle holder.
  • Chain drive makes it noisier than a belt-drive bike.
  • Several reports of pedals breaking off.

Takeaway: Although there are relatively few negative reviews about overall quality, the slightly clunkier chain drive and lack of a performance monitor on this Marcy Club Revolution spin bike does not make it competitive with the best cheap indoor cycles. The incredibly hard seat also does little to encourage users to stay in the saddle and stick to exercise goals. Many owners suggest swapping it out.

Buying Guide

Choosing an Exercise Bike

Whether you're an athlete rehabilitating a sore knee, a newbie just beginning an exercise regimen, or a fitness enthusiast who wants a cardio workout but prefers the comfort of home to a crowded gym, an exercise bike may be just what you're looking for. Exercise bicycles, aka stationary bikes, offer a low-impact workout, can improve cardiovascular health, and can help you lose weight. They are far less costly than a gym membership, and the convenience factor increases the chances you'll actually use the bike. With so many on the market, many offering a slew of bells and whistles, the trick is finding the right exercise bike for you. We've examined a ton of reviews and looked at dozens of models to find indoor exercise bikes for $400 or less that offer sturdy designs, good electronic features, and a smooth, quiet ride.

Exercise Bike Brands

Familiar names in the exercise bike market include NordicTrack, Nautilus, ProForm, Precor, Sole Fitness, Life Fitness, Schwinn, and Diamondback. Many of these makers offer both commercial and home products at multiple points along the price spectrum. Some perhaps lesser-known brands that claim a following on the budget end of the price scale are Sunny Health & Fitness, Marcy, and Exerpeutic (a subsidiary of Paradigm Health & Wellness). For users willing to pay thousands for a high-end bike for their homes, Keiser and Peloton have amassed huge followings due to their reputations for quality and innovation.

Pricey vs. Cheap Exercise Bikes

Pricier exercise bikes are often more solidly built, look snazzier, and sport plenty of extras, from onboard heart rate monitors and built-in data/entertainment screens to computerized resistance control and thousands of customized workouts. But staying healthy and motivated doesn't have to mean spending a mint. It's equally possible to get a good workout with a cheap exercise bike -- and some experts actually recommend an exercise bike that's inexpensive, especially if you're a newbie and not sure whether this particular cardio routine will best suit you. The most important thing, they say, is to get up and get moving, and even with a cheap exercise bike, a console with a workout tracker that keeps tabs on your progress is pretty common. (And nowadays, there are many apps and fitness trackers that can monitor cycling workouts and tap support communities to keep you going.)

After searching through the many brands and models out there, we found several high-quality, low-cost exercise bikes that should help you reach your fitness goals. For our featured picks, we examined two types: recumbent bikes, which offer back support, and upright bikes, which mimic traditional bicycles.

Recumbent Exercise Bikes

A recumbent bike lets you sit back while pedaling with your legs out front and may provide a less strenuous cardio workout. They are often recommended for people who suffer from lower back pain or joint problems, seniors, and novices. For those who think a recumbent bike will best suit their fitness needs, we've found two that are extremely popular with both experts and consumers for their performance and value.

First on our list is the Schwinn 230 (starting around $350). Almost identical to the higher-end Schwinn 270, which costs about $100 more, this cheaper cousin still packs a lot of perks, including large dual LCD display, numerous workout programs, computer-controlled resistance levels, and grip heart rate sensors. A more basic option is the entry-level Marcy ME-709 (starting around $122). While you won't get fancy programs and built-in USB ports with this bargain-priced model, many users feel that the eight resistance levels, simple display, and compact, easily maneuverable frame are perfectly suited for low-profile use at home and even in front of a TV.

Upright Exercise Bikes

An upright bike looks more like an actual bicycle and offers more of a whole-body exercise. Our favorite is the Schwinn 170 (starting around $400), a features-packed and comfort-focused cycle that offers a large adjustable cushioned seat, forearm rests, and oversized pedals. Our runner-up, the Exerpeutic 250XL (starting around $149), is the little bike that could. Its sturdy frame allows it to carry a weight capacity of 300 pounds, even with its compact, foldable design.

Indoor Cycling Bikes

Indoor Cycles, or spin bikes, are a type of upright bicycle frequently used in gym exercise classes and a popular option among die-hard cyclists who use them for indoor training. There are slight differences between typical upright bikes and indoor cycles in terms of the basic mechanics and features offered, but the primary difference is that an indoor cycle more closely mimics the experience of riding a regular bike, allowing riders to have a similar posture and get a more intense workout by pedaling while out of the saddle.

As our top pick for indoor cycling, we've chosen the Sunny Health & Fitness SF-B1002 (starting around $290). Thanks to the belt-driven flywheel, a rare feature for a mid-range spin bike, workouts are sure to be a lot quieter. The Bladez Fitness Echelon GS (starting around $400) is another quality indoor cycle, with a sturdy frame and four-way adjustable handlebars. While some might be tempted by the less expensive yet fairly fierce-looking Marcy Club Revolution XJ-3220 (starting around $259), some of the brand's corner cutting seems to irk reviewers more than it does with Marcy's cheap recumbent model. This chain-driven bike offers a relatively quiet ride, and those who prefer an old-school feel that's closer to a conventional bicycle may be fine eschewing some of the smoothness associated with a belt drive. But for the price, this bike's limited features and incredibly uncomfortable seat put off many users.

Other Exercise Bike Types

Although we focused on more traditional exercise bikes for our top picks, consumers looking for an all-in-one workout that also pays attention to the upper body might consider a dual-action exercise bike. This type of bike has handlebars that move, engaging arms, shoulders, pectorals, and lats in addition to leg and abdominal muscles. Dual-action air bikes, also known as fan bikes, kick up the calorie-burning by using fans in their front wheels to create wind resistance. These bikes can range from dirt cheap to extremely expensive. Schwinn's Airdyne exercise bikes such as the Airdyne AD6 (starting around $500) are popular with home users. Another option for a 2-in-1 workout is an elliptical exercise bike. Models like the ProForm Hybrid Trainer (starting around $350) can be used as a recumbent exercise bike or shift to a standing position for a full-body elliptical workout.

For consumers who would like to exercise at the office, a desk exercise bike (not to be confused with an exercise bike with desk attached, though these exist) might be a good option. We found a mini exercise bike that can be used under a desk and is quiet enough not to disturb co-workers. The Sunny Health and Fitness SF-B0418 Magnetic Mini (starting around $85) offers a smooth pedaling experience, can be used for upper and/or lower body, and is especially popular with people who've recently had surgery and wish to begin a fitness program to help with their recovery.

Another option: You can always convert an outdoor bicycle you already own into a stationary bike with the purchase of a special stand. Exercise bike trainers are small, easy to set up, can be very cheap, and can be used on almost any bikes. (Mountain bikes require a special stand.) Prices on Amazon range from as low as $44 to upwards of $600.

Cheapism.com participates in affiliate marketing programs, which means we may earn a commission if you choose to purchase a product through a link on our site. This helps support our work and does not influence editorial content.

Features Comparison Buying Guide continues below table

(from $350.00)
Type Recumbent
Resistance Magnetic, 20 levels, electronic adjustment
Console Yes; 22 programs
Heart Rate Monitoring Hand grip sensors
Warranty 10 years frame, 2 years mechanical, 1 year electrical, 90 days labor
(from $400.00)
Type Upright
Resistance Magnetic, 25 levels, electronic adjustment
Console Yes; 29 programs
Heart Rate Monitoring Strap-enabled
Warranty 10 years frame, 2 years mechanical, 1 year electrical, 90 days labor
(from $290.00)
Type Indoor cycle/spin bike
Resistance Friction, variable
Console No
Heart Rate Monitoring None
Warranty 90 days
(from $122.00)
Type Recumbent
Resistance Magnetic, 8 levels
Console Yes
Heart Rate Monitoring None
Warranty 2 years frame
(from $149.00)
Type Foldable upright
Resistance Magnetic, 8 levels
Console Yes
Heart Rate Monitoring Hand grip sensors
Warranty 1 year frame, 90 days components (free 5-year extension)
(from $400.00)
Type Indoor cycle/spin bike
Resistance Friction, variable
Console Yes
Heart Rate Monitoring None
Warranty Lifetime frame, 1 year parts and computer
(from $259.00)
Type Indoor cycle/spin bike
Resistance Friction, variable
Console No
Heart Rate Monitoring None
Warranty 2 years frame
(from $350.00)
Type Recumbent/elliptical
Resistance Magnetic, 16 levels, electronic adjustment
Console Yes; 16 programs
Heart Rate Monitoring Hand grip sensors
Warranty 5 years frame, 90 days parts and labor
(from $85.00)
Type Desk bike
Resistance Magnetic, 8 levels
Console Yes
Heart Rate Monitoring None
Warranty 90 days
(from $500.00)
Type Fan bike
Resistance Air resistance
Console Yes
Heart Rate Monitoring Strap-enabled
Warranty 10 years frame, 2 years mechanical, 2 years electrical, 6 months labor
(from $350.00)
Type Recumbent
Resistance Magnetic, 20 levels, electronic adjustment
Console Yes; 22 programs
Heart Rate Monitoring Hand grip sensors
Warranty 10 years frame, 2 years mechanical, 1 year electrical, 90 days labor
(from $400.00)
Type Upright
Resistance Magnetic, 25 levels, electronic adjustment
Console Yes; 29 programs
Heart Rate Monitoring Strap-enabled
Warranty 10 years frame, 2 years mechanical, 1 year electrical, 90 days labor
(from $290.00)
Type Indoor cycle/spin bike
Resistance Friction, variable
Console No
Heart Rate Monitoring None
Warranty 90 days
(from $122.00)
Type Recumbent
Resistance Magnetic, 8 levels
Console Yes
Heart Rate Monitoring None
Warranty 2 years frame
(from $149.00)
Type Foldable upright
Resistance Magnetic, 8 levels
Console Yes
Heart Rate Monitoring Hand grip sensors
Warranty 1 year frame, 90 days components (free 5-year extension)
(from $400.00)
Type Indoor cycle/spin bike
Resistance Friction, variable
Console Yes
Heart Rate Monitoring None
Warranty Lifetime frame, 1 year parts and computer
(from $259.00)
Type Indoor cycle/spin bike
Resistance Friction, variable
Console No
Heart Rate Monitoring None
Warranty 2 years frame
(from $350.00)
Type Recumbent/elliptical
Resistance Magnetic, 16 levels, electronic adjustment
Console Yes; 16 programs
Heart Rate Monitoring Hand grip sensors
Warranty 5 years frame, 90 days parts and labor
(from $85.00)
Type Desk bike
Resistance Magnetic, 8 levels
Console Yes
Heart Rate Monitoring None
Warranty 90 days

Exercise Bike Reviews: What We Considered

Fitness and consumer product review sites such as Top Fitness Mag, Consumer Reports, TopTenReviews, BestReviews, and Reviews.com regularly test and review the top exercise bikes, but the most extensive feedback comes from consumers who buy and use the exercise equipment at home. Most exercise bike reviews and recommendations from consumers appear on the websites of large retailers such as Amazon and Walmart. Reviews most frequently address assembly, as well as ease of use and comfort. Most indicate that riders are satisfied with our top picks despite occasional operational and mechanical flaws.

Ergonomics

A comfortable and satisfying fit is paramount; without that, you're unlikely to be consistent with your workout. To ensure a good fit and allow for peak performance, a good cheap stationary bike should be height-adjustable. That is, you should be able to raise and lower the seat in order to pedal smoothly and comfortably. A seat that's too high will force you to overextend your knees and ankles; with a seat that's too low, your knees will hit the handlebars -- particularly if the seat cannot be adjusted horizontally. Ideally, the handlebars should be adjustable as well; vertical adjustment is common, but some handlebars can be adjusted in four directions, which is important for those with shorter arms.

Recumbent and upright bikes offer different benefits that consumers may want to keep in mind too. For instance, the back support on a recumbent bike reduces pressure on the hands and wrists. A low center of gravity allows these bikes to pick up speed more easily. Consumers who choose recumbents often do so because of common problems including pain or numbness in the rear end or crotch when riding upright bikes; wrist and hand problems such as pain, nerve trauma, or carpal tunnel syndrome; and neck, shoulder, and back pain. For some men, issues of impotence and/or prostate enlargement may be a consideration.

An upright bike provides a workout more consistent with outdoor riding, as it positions the rider similarly and targets more muscle groups. Recumbent bikes work primarily glutes, quads, hamstrings, and calf muscles. Spin bikes may prove the most uncomfortable for some users, due to the more hunched position. Spin workouts are probably not the best for those suffering from knee problems, due to the higher speed of repetitions and because they entail lots of pedaling while standing.

Seat Comfort

In our research, we found that feedback on the comfort of exercise bike seats is highly subjective. Many consumers report that a seat caused some pain initially, but it lessened after a few additional rides. This might be the case if you're an exercise bike newbie or have not ridden in a number of years. But even if a particular model overwhelmingly positive reviews regarding the seat, you personally may not find it comfortable.

Nevertheless, some common factors affect whether a specific bike seat will make for a more or less rocky ride. Often, the most comfortable seats are padded and oversize. A backrest (on recumbent bikes and some upright bikes) offers additional support and eases pressure on the rear end.

Spin bikes tend to have much narrower seats than other upright bikes, which some people find uncomfortable, but they can be used for workouts in a standing position, which means riders needn't be subjected to constant pressure on the nether regions. Regardless, a seat that doesn't quite suit needn't be a deal breaker. Many users say they've simply added gel covers to existing seats or replaced the worst offenders altogether.

Console

From beginners to experienced pros, most riders appreciate an LCD screen that tracks fitness stats. Some bikes also come with preset exercise programs that help orient workouts around specific fitness goals, such as fat-burning, cardio, or interval training. The best bikes can also pair (preferably wirelessly) with popular fitness apps, such as MyFitnessPal, GoogleFit, Apple Health, and MapMyRun/Ride for added workout options and advanced tracking capabilities. Some even provide users the option to bike through virtual landscapes and share rides with friends in real time.

Even on a cheap exercise bike with a bare-bones console, being able to visually monitor speed, time, distance, and calories burned provides incentive to keep moving. A heart rate monitor in the hand grips, or the ability to pair the bike with a telemetry strap, is a must-have feature for some workout buffs, and a few affordable exercise bikes fill the bill. Just don't believe all the stats that are displayed. We read more than a few reports from slightly irritated users who insist that the readouts, especially for metrics like calories burned, pulse rate, and heart rate, aren't particularly accurate. Moreover, like any electronic component, the console is susceptible to malfunctions -- and repairs can be pricey. If an impressive screen with readouts that truly reflect your progress is important to you, be prepared to pay up for a higher-end model.

Resistance

On an exercise bike, the intensity of the workout depends in large part on the resistance in the pedals. The higher the resistance, the more your heart and muscles are forced to work. Bikes with multiple resistance settings help riders decide how hard (or not) they want to work and kick up the resistance as their strength improves. Many cheap exercise bikes require manual adjustment, via a knob that is turned to make the ride tougher or easier. For riders who prefer interval workouts, changing the resistance level throughout the session to keep things interesting, it may be worth spending a bit more for electronic adjustment.

The type of resistance varies among exercise bikes. The best models most commonly offer magnetic resistance, which controls how freely the flywheel rotates with magnets that are moved closer and farther away. Other bikes rely on some form of contact with the wheel (brakes or felt pads) to create resistance via friction. On a fan bike, as mentioned above, resistance is generated by the air coming from the spinning wheel.

The size of a bike's flywheel also affects the level of resistance. Spin bikes, which strive to mimic the resistance riders would face in an uphill stretch, tend to have heavier flywheels than other types of exercise bikes.

Storage

The more compact a bike is, the easier it is to store. Upright bikes are smaller and lighter than recumbents and take up less floor space. A foldable model may be an ideal option for apartment dwellers or users with small homes, although the inconvenience of setting it up and taking it down may deter some people from sticking with their exercise routine. Most of the bikes we researched also include wheels to make them more portable, whether for better positioning in front of a TV or getting the bike out of the room or into a corner when not in use. Just keep in mind that transport may not be as easy in practice as in theory: The longer lines of recumbent bikes can make them more difficult to move around corners and through doorways, and you'll certainly be toting more than 50 pounds. Although spin bikes have a smaller footprint, they tend to be on the heavier side due to their weighted flywheels and additional stability requirements; one of the models we chose weighs a hefty 115 pounds. Mini cycles, prized for their portability, typically weigh about 20 pounds, or even less, and can be stored under a desk or tucked away in a closet.

Assembly

In general, most of our selections receive positive reviews regarding ease of assembly. Most should take less than an hour to put together (although they may require two sets of hands). With some, a majority of the work is done before customers open the box. Problems setting the proper tension on the belt and getting the pedals threaded correctly seem to be the most common complaints. Bikes with a lot of electronic components often present their own share of difficulty with setup, and we saw a few reports of buggy consoles and error messages appearing.

Noise

A well-designed cheap stationary bike -- particularly one with a belt drive and magnetic resistance -- provides quiet, smooth operation at all intensity levels and speeds. The noise from pedaling and spinning is somewhat subjective, but a good test is whether you can easily listen to music, carry on a conversation, or watch TV while riding. A majority of stationary bike reviews say this piece of home exercise equipment is fairly quiet. One notable exception: Air bikes are notoriously loud, with their cranking fans and the resulting wind (but you'll probably be working too hard to be watching a show at the same time anyway!).

Durability

Many consumers review products within the first few months of use, so it's hard to predict how well the top exercise bikes hold up to multiple users or years of wear and tear. Even if you're not spending a fortune on a commercial-grade machine, you don't want to end up with an expensive clothes rack after just a few months. We found at least some reports of breakage, odd noises, and related issues for most of the top stationary bikes we researched. On the whole, though, our picks seem sturdy and relatively durable as long as users don't push the maximum weight limit (usually 275 or 300 pounds).

Warranties vary widely on the exercise bikes we researched, from a short 90 days to a lifetime warranty on the frame for one model. Coverage also tends to differ according to the components, with mechanical and electrical systems carrying shorter warranties. In general, users say you get what you pay for, so be prepared to invest a bit more if you're looking for a machine that's going to stand the test of time. On the other hand, on more expensive bikes with fancier electrical components, there's a greater chance of failure.

Additional Products We Considered

Schwinn Airdyne AD6 Review

From $500

Bonus: Dual-Action Exercise Bike

Pros:

  • Fan allows for unlimited resistance.
  • Exercises both upper and lower body at once, or separately.
  • Pairs with Polar chest straps for heart-rate monitoring.
  • Console displays stats such as time, distance, RPM, calories burned, power, and pulse.
  • Generously sized seat with extra padding for comfort.
  • Compact design and transport wheels for easy storage.
  • 10-year frame, 2-year mechanical, and 2-year electrical warranty.

Cons:

  • LCD screen is not backlit, making it difficult to read, according to some reviews.
  • Riders have complained of trouble tightening the seat, which adjusts only up and down, not horizontally.
  • In a few instances, parts were broken or missing upon arrival.
  • Reports of parts breaking after only a couple of weeks.

Takeaway: The signature feature of the dual action Schwinn Airdyne AD6 is the fan: The harder you pedal, and the faster you work those arms, the more resistance is generated. It can deliver a killer workout for users looking to build up their fitness. Just keep in mind that the noise level will build up as well. While it's not the cheapest Airdyne exercise bike Schwinn offers, the mid-range AD6 provides a nice ratio of features to price.

ProForm Hybrid Trainer Review

From $350

Bonus: 2-in-1 Elliptical Cross Trainer & Exercise Bike

Pros:

  • 16 programmed workouts.
  • Hand-grip heart-rate monitoring.
  • Adjustable console displays speed, time, distance, calories burned, power, and heart rate.
  • 16 levels of digital magnetic resistance.
  • Convenience features include slider seat adjustment, a tablet holder above the console, a water bottle holder, built-in speakers, and transport wheels.
  • iPod-compatible and Bluetooth iFit-enabled.
  • Padded seat adjusts both vertically and horizontally.
  • Supports riders up to 350 pounds.
  • 5-year warranty on the frame; 90 days for parts and labor.

Cons:

  • Large footprint: nearly 6 feet long and just over 2 feet wide.
  • Given the size and weight (estimated at more than 130 pounds), some users say this bike is not easy to move.
  • Seat back is not adjustable.
  • Challenging to put together; many users recommend professional assembly.
  • Reports of damaged or defective bikes and squeaky or unstable operation.

Takeaway: Consumers looking for a full-body, low-impact exercise regimen at home will be tempted by the ProForm Hybrid Trainer, a recumbent bike and elliptical machine in one. With 16 preprogrammed workouts, this elliptical exercise bike offers plenty of options to get the heart rate up and burn calories. Users who subscribe to iFit have access to an even wider array of workouts and fitness tracking. One caveat: Given the plethora of parts, both mechanical and electrical, there's a lot that can go wrong. But at such a low price, many consumers have been up for the risk -- and pleased with their purchases. (Costco members can pick up this bike for even less (est. price $330).

Sunny Health & Fitness SF-B0418 Magnetic Mini Review

From $85

Bonus: Exercise Bike for Under Desk

Pros:

  • Small and compact; weighs only 21 pounds.
  • Sturdy and smooth pedaling experience.
  • Quiet; ideal for office spaces.
  • Can be used with both feet and hands, for an upper body workout.
  • 8 levels of adjustable resistance.
  • Small LCD screen displays calories, distance, speed, odometer, and time.
  • Convenient carrying handle.

Cons:

  • Shorter pedal motion than a traditional bike.
  • Higher than average pedal positioning (to accommodate arm exercises) could be a challenge underneath some desks.
  • Some complaints that it tends to slide during use, particularly at higher tension levels.
  • Short 90-day warranty.

Takeaway: For those looking to infuse some exercise into a sedentary lifestyle or recover after an injury, the Sunny Health & Fitness Magnetic Mini makes a convenient companion, with its light weight, incredibly quiet operation, and a top-mounted handle for easy portability. Our pick for the best mini exercise bike supports up to 220 pounds and has most of the same features for nearly half the price of the popular DeskCycle model (starting around $159). It can be used at home or in an office and does double duty by accommodating arm workouts.