Here are some things to consider when looking for an indoor bike.
For long term use, choose a sturdy frame and a 2-piece crankshaft. The crankshaft attaches to the pedal arms and drives the chain or belt. With a one-piece crank, the pedal arms and crank are made as one unit. With use over time, the bearings wear out and the entire piece must be replaced. Two-piece crankshafts typically last longer.
The generator-style uses a computer interface to communicate the desired load to a motor driven bike chain or belt. These bikes are usually free standing, provide smooth rides and cost $1,100 and up.
The electromagnetic-style provides a smooth transition from one degree of intensity to another. Bikes using this type of resistance form require an outlet and are also expensive ($1,100 and up). The electromagnetic and the generator are top of the line.
Bikes with an eddy current braking system are available in plug-in or freestanding styles. Prices start at $500. Although these machines provide a smooth ride, they can become uncalibrated with long time use, which means even though you set the resistance knob in same place every time, you may not necessarily be working against the same resistance.
Bikes equipped with friction-style resistance are the least expensive ($200-350 and up) and use a flywheel and belt. As you tighten the control knob, the belt tightens on the flywheel, making it more resistant. One of the biggest disadvantages to this type of machine is that the belt will need to be replaced over time. When choosing this type of bike make sure the flywheel weighs more than 30 pounds. The heavier the flywheel, the smoother pedaling will be.
Decide whether you want an upright, semi-recumbent or recumbent bike.
Upright: In this style you sit upright on the seat, with the legs positioned below your trunk. In this position, the workout is more challenging for your heart than the other two styles. Keeping size-friendliness in mind, you may need to add a gel pad cover to the manufacturer’s seat for extra comfort. Start with small bouts on your bike to help your bottom become used to the seat.
Semi-recumbent: This type has the seat positioned closer to the floor, which allows your legs to work at a level slightly below the heart. This style of bike is easier to get on and off and has full size seats, which provides great back and backside. Depending on your body type, you may need to adjust the seat. For those of us with more in our midsections, it may be challenging to get your feet on the pedals without slapping your self in the tummy.
Full recumbent: This style positions the seat closest to the floor with your legs directly in front. The seat is full and it provides full support for your back. I do not recommend this style for most women of size, as it’s is difficult to get into and out of.
Consumer Common Sense
Most bikes adjust to fit people up to 6′4″ tall. I live for the day when they adjust to fit people who weigh more than 200 pounds. Again, as with the treadmills, look for any weight specifications and ask yourself these questions:
- Is it comfortable?
- Can you replace the small seat on an upright with a larger one?
- Does seat stay in place?
- Does it have a warranty?
Test the bike. When testing, make sure to adjust the seat so your legs are in the proper pedaling position. Ask any questions you may have and remember: When in doubt, don’t buy!