The Best Exercise Bikes

There’s a lot of diversity in stationary bikes, and each design produces a unique ride and confers different exercise benefits. We explored the two most popular styles — recumbent and spin — to find the best models on the market. The one that’s right for you depends on your body, preferences, and fitness goals. (If you already know which style you like, check out our reviews of the best spin bike and the best recumbent bike.)

The 5 Best Exercise Bikes

Best Basic Spin Bike
Bladez Echelon
Bladez
Simple and well-crafted, this competitively-priced spin bike gave us our best ride.
Pros
Compact and powerful
Robust engineering
Great price
Cons
No programming

Why we chose it

Compact and powerful

For a pure spin experience — just you and the machine — we love the Bladez Echelon. Quiet, consistent rotation and sensitive knob resistance helped us get in a quality ride every time. Whether you’re looking for a space saver exercise bike (a small exercise bike for apartment use) or a distraction-free workout (streamlined tech), this small and mighty bike delivers.

Robust engineering

While the straightforward display is hardly more than a stopwatch, the engineering of the bike itself is impressive. The flywheel rotates with a peppy, forward-urging motion that never feels bouncy, and in fact can reach some of the heartiest levels of resistance we experienced out of all the spin models. Despite the Echelon’s overall light body weight, there’s no shaking or sound as you pedal. We felt secure enough to freely amp up intensity and ride out of the saddle.

Great price

If there’s anything more impressive than the Bladez Echelon’s solid construction, it’s the attractive pricing. At $399, this exceptional bike costs less than half the price of other bikes that can’t compare in ride feel. It also excels in adjustability — the Echelon’s seat and handle had a wider customization range than any other bike we tested.

Points to consider

No programming

Like most spin bikes, the Echelon uses a battery-operated display that can’t control intensity and doesn’t offer workout programs. If you need workout programs and metrics to keep you motivated, check out the Diamondback. Some testers, however, found the simple consoles less distracting than higher-tech versions, making it easier to focus on the workout. The Echelon’s console may be bare bones but offers everything you actually need — performance stats like calories burned, time, distance, and RPMs.

Best Spin Bike Programming
Diamondback Fitness 510Ic Indoor Cycle
Diamondback
Effortlessly smooth and fully equipped, this spin bike is substantial both in heft and technology.
Pros
Exceptional tech
Smooth ride
Cons
Reduced adjustability range

Why we chose it

Exceptional tech

After fiddling with all manner of knobs and screws on other spin bikes, we were relieved to encounter the sophisticated, console-equipped DiamondBack 510Ic. If you appreciate the full-service programming and screen quality of gym equipment, you will feel more at home on this spin bike than any other we tested. The 510Ic centralizes resistance adjustments, programming, and performance stats in one slim display — about the size of a credit card reader. (Diamondback’s level-up, the 910Ic, is nearly identical in structure and tech, with slight tweaks to flywheel weight and programming depth that we didn’t find impactful enough to rationalize the $200 upcharge.)

Smooth ride

Our ride experience on the 510Ic was luxuriously smooth and steady. The heavier body of the Diamondback 510Ic means it sits solidly on the floor, holding you secure as you hit higher intensities or stand to pedal. And thanks to the variety of programming, we were confident we could find a workout for any fitness goal.

Points to consider

Reduced adjustability range

When it comes to adjustability, the DiamondBack doesn’t have quite the same extension range as the Bladez. That said, the seat can ratchet up higher, making it a better fit for users with extra long legs. We also appreciated the numbered and lettered adjustment levels on this bike — a Diamondback feature that was sorely missing on most other spin bikes. Rather than have to rediscover your perfect placement every time someone else goes for a ride, you can just remember that your seat sits at “G” and quickly slide it into place.

Best Recumbent Bike
ProForm 740 ES
ProForm
All the stand-out qualities of the other recumbents we tested, united in one superior, reasonably-priced machine.
Pros
Sleek and comfortable
Smart programming
Excellent adjustability
Cons
Heavy

Why we chose it

Sleek and comfortable

The ProForm 740 outperformed what we expected of a recumbent, improving on every standard feature and answering to every need. We loved the sleek, sculpted design, and appreciated how easy ProForm makes it to get comfortable — the seat cradles without confining, the pedal rotation remains effortless even as our effort increased. Of all the recumbents we tested, the ProForm struck this delicate set of balances best.

Smart programming

The technology of the ProForm 740 is both extensive and immediately usable. The console is a classic iFit creation (the fitness tech company created by ProForm and NordicTrack’s parent entity, ICON Fitness). Its high-quality, 7-inch touchscreen and bold icons depicting program categories makes for an intuitive interface that anyone will feel confident navigating.

Excellent adjustability

The ProForm won lots of points for adjustability. Simply lift up on the seat adjustment lever and the seat will easily move when you push it. Other bikes immediately started inching (or flying) down the shaft as soon as we moved the lever, which was a sometimes startling experience. We also enjoyed the innovation in the bike’s clever, tilting console. Twist the knob at the console base and it nods up and down, allowing you to tailor the positioning to your seated height. Since the majority of user interaction with the console takes place through the touchscreen, having it within easy reach and at a proper angle for clear sight is vital.

Points to consider

Heavy

Like most recumbent bikes, the ProForm is too heavy and bulky to be easily maneuvered. This model will serve you best if you can dedicate space to its permanent storage, rather than attempting to wheel it out of sight at the end of every workout. If storability is vital, look to a spin bike like the Echelon.

Best Recumbent Upgrade
NordicTrack VR25
NordicTrack
A more generously sized ProForm 740, we’d recommend it for tall users or anyone who requires more room between them and the console.
Pros
Expanded in every sense
Convenient amenities
Cons
Tall console height

Why we chose it

Expanded in every sense

NordicTrack and ProForm equipment are produced by the same manufacturer, so it’s no surprise that a lot of our favorite ProForm features show up on the NordicTrack. The two bikes are essentially equivalent, but the NordicTrack VR25 is bigger, more expensive, and ideal for anyone who wants a more luxurious bike or needs the extra leg room. This bike combines sophisticated technology (replete programming, beautifully clear touchscreen, intelligently organized performance stats) with ergonomic design. We noted how the seat feels both comfortable and secure: You can pedal with high intensity and stay supported and centered — no bouncing or sliding into a slump.

Convenient amenities

Most recumbents place water bottle holder and heart rate sensors near the console: Typically, the bottle holder fixes onto the console stem, while the heart rate sensors are inlaid in the handlebars that curve on either side of the display, forcing you to lean forward and reach if you want to grab your water or check your heart rate. The ProForm 740 allows you bring these amenities into reach by manipulating the placement of the console; NordicTrack VR25 solves the issue another way. It stores both holder and heart rate handles at hip-level, allowing you to hydrate and check exertion without breaking cadence or even shifting out of your seat.

Points to consider

Tall console height

The lack of a pivoting console is a point lost for NordicTrack. It isn’t suitable for users of any height. In overall feel, the NordicTrack is roomier than the ProForm, but that breathing room comes from the fact the console sits 5 inches higher and 5 inches farther forward. If you need or want that extra space, you will enjoy NordicTrack’s dimensions. But shorter users may find themselves squinting to see the touchscreen and straining to hit buttons.

Best Budget Recumbent
Nautilus 616
Nautilus
You’ll sacrifice some usability and comfort but save $400 compared to our top pick with this simple, functional bike.
Pros
Simple, efficient tech
Great quality for the price
Cons
Tricky adjustments
Idiosyncratic metrics

Why we chose it

Simple, efficient tech

The Nautilus R616 is a clean-cut machine. Smaller and more streamlined than our fully-loaded top picks, it still provides enough programming to answer most people’s wants. Rather than an of-the-minute, iFit-equipped console, Nautilus’s offers rows of actual buttons and a traditional blue LCD screen, with bar charts mapping progress. We found the whole setup user-friendly (though admittedly old-school) and were impressed with its satisfying range of preloaded workouts and detailed performance stats. Nautilus wisely locates the heart sensors themselves on the seat-side handles — allowing you to measure heart rate from a comfortable position.

Great quality for the price

The Nautilus R616 has its quirks, but also its pleasant qualities. During testing, we logged enjoyable miles thanks to smooth, substantial resistance created by the heavy flywheel. This ride feel, plus an easily portable body and an amazing five-year parts warranty, prove the quality of this bargain-priced pick.

Points to consider

Tricky adjustments

The ergonomics aren’t great — due in large part to the stiff seat back and not-so-cushiony cushion. The main issue: The seat adjustment has a steeper learning curve here than on the other models. When you open the lever, the seat rocks side to side and slides down the bar, making adjustments more taxing. We got the hang of it after a couple clumsy attempts.

Idiosyncratic metrics

Unlike ProForm and NordicTrack, the heart rate sensors don’t report in raw numbers (145 BPM, for example) but instead as a percentage. A flashing bar chart shows what percentage of your max heart rate you’re hitting (like 65%) and where that puts you on the spectrum from Warm-Up to Fat Burn to Aerobic to Anaerobic. This seemed more like a guesstimate than a useful statistic, but the truth is that the heart rate provided by any exercise equipment is a guesstimate. Even on the nicest, most luxurious machines we’ve tested, we’ve noted that our heart rate jumps from low to high when we know we haven’t yet exerted ourselves. That said, we still prefer a number if only to help track our fitness level over time.

Guide to exercise bikes

How to find the right exercise bike for you

Choose between spin and recumbent

The user experience on each bike style is different.

Spin bikes are best for those...

  • who already have some spinning experience under their belt
  • have a generally high level of fitness
  • prefer to self-direct their workouts

The exercise bikes used in high-intensity spin classes model their construction after speedy road bikes, and support the physically demanding way cyclists employ them. Spin bikes pitch the rider forward at a 45-degree angle, with curved handles that are on roughly the same plane as the seat. Resistance levels are typically controlled by a knob or lever, but the real intensity comes from how quickly you pedal. As you increase speed, the flywheel begins to store your excess effort, generating a powerful forward momentum. But reaching and maintaining that point of inertia requires a ton of force.

Recumbent bikes, with their easy-entry design, are best for those…

  • with back injuries
  • mobility issues
  • or who want extensive programming

With a low, long profile and a bucket seat, recumbent bikes allow the rider to lean against the backrest with legs outstretched at a shallow decline from the hips. While recumbent riding foregoes the core engagement demanded by upright bikes, these bikes do provide greater back support. You don’t have to carry your body weight on top of the pedals, which reduces joint load, while motorized resistance levels recreate the intensity of weight plus terrain. Control intensity and switch between programs using the consoles.

Watch out for “effective” flywheel weight

Many manufacturers declare the “effective” flywheel weight (what the resistance feels like with the magnetic ECB system at work) or nothing at all. We rummaged through owner’s manuals and clogged up customer service channels to nail down the correct numbers, but noted that when the flywheel weight was hard to find it usually led to a disappointing number. Takeaway: If the stats are hard to find, the machine probably isn’t great.

One manufacturer doesn’t excel at all equipment

Exercise equipment manufacturers sometimes excel in producing one style, but miss the mark on another. One example: The well-known bike brand Diamondback makes a superb (and expensive) spin bike, but a sub par (and still expensive) recumbent bike. The recumbent model we tried, Diamondback 910 Sr, was one of the most comfortable bikes we tested, but we were disappointed with its outdated console and vexing adjustments.

Adjust your ride to get a symmetrical, injury-free workout

We talked to physical therapist Dr. Mitch Owens about the ergonomics of cycling, and he had one top priority. “You just need total adjustability.”

Spin bike handlebars and seats should move up and down, fore and aft. Recumbent styles don’t boast the same four-way range, typically allowing for just leg length changes, but the best make that movement easy while also providing console adjustment. A good rule of thumb on any bike style: The knees should maintain some degree of bend at their fullest extension. For spinning, you want an ample 30 degree bend. On recumbents, straighten out to 10 - 15 degrees.

Exercise bike FAQ

What about air assault bikes?

If you’re looking for a cycling workout that recruits upper body, too, there’s also bike styles with moving handlebars. These include Hybrid or Cross Trainer Bikes (a mashup between an elliptical and an exercise bike) as well as Air or Fan Bikes, growing in popularity thanks to their use in CrossFit. These strenuous machines require you to generate your own resistance via air fan, a distant cousin to the weighted flywheel.

Fitness trainer and author of 25 Days, Drew Logan has plenty of praise for air bikes, explaining that “moving both arms and legs results in a higher heart rate and an expanded lung capacity because you’re asking your blood to pump into all the limbs.” This type of user-driven workout packs a punch in a small amount of time. “If you can go hard on an air assault bike for 10 minutes, you can ride for an hour on an upright bike. It’s a good measurement of your fitness level.”

Where can you buy a spin bike?

While you can buy any exercise equipment from the manufacturer (and comparing the price on their website to the numbers you find elsewhere is a smart shopping tactic), we typically go through Amazon. The discounts available through Amazon and its sellers typically outpace the MSRP of the manufacturer. Plus, it’s easier to track on that site how the price has varied over recent months so you can Add to Cart when the time is right.

The Best Exercise Bikes: Summed Up

Best for Flywheel Weight Max User Weight Warranty
Bladez Echelon Best Spin Bike 40 lbs. 275 lbs. 1 year parts

1 year labor
Diamondback 510lc Best Spin Bike Programming 32 lbs. 300 lbs. 3 years parts

1 year labor
ProForm 740ES Best Recumbent Bike 20 lbs. 350 lbs. 2 years parts

1 year labor
NordicTrack VR25 Best Recumbent Upgrade 25 lbs. 350 lbs. 2 years parts

1 year labor
Nautilus 616 Best Budget Recumbent 30 lbs. 300 lbs. 5 years parts

2 years labor

More exercise equipment reviews

We have pedaled and jogged, stretched and strode our way through multiple species of fitness equipment and accessories. We take the hard work out of finding the best in a ton of exercise categories so you can save your energy for the workout.