Exercycles, Spin bikes and Recumbents (seated bikes with back support) have always been a popular way to get fit, whatever your goal may be.
The advantages of Exercise Bikes in general include;
- Low impact exercise, which is gentle on knees, hips, back and joints.
- Suitable for a large range of training needs.
- Low maintenance, keeping costs down.
- Relatively small in size
- Great value calorie burners
Here are some things to look out for when choosing an exercycle:
The frame of every indoor exercycle is important that it meets or exceeds manufacturing standards i.e.
standards. This ensures the quality of workmanship and materials produced in the factories are to industry specification. The size of the internal diameter and thickness of materials used in the construction of each exercycle can vary amongst manufacturers and models. This will determine the exercycles maximum user weight capacity and contribute to the feel and comfort of the overall riding experience.
Seat height adjustment in the frame is crucial to the proper biomechanical fit for the user. This is a common mistake for the unsuspecting customer and can lead to poor cycling form or technique, not to mention cycling comfort. It is advisable
to try an exercycle for correct fitment before purchasing.
Crank Length & Types
The 2 types of systems commonly seen on indoor exercycles are
either 1 Piece (left image) or 3 piece crank setups (right image). Generally you will find 1 piece crank setups in your low cost exercycles as they are inexpensive to produce, however are more prone to bearing wear and breakage than a 3 piece system. A 3 piece crank offers a stronger and more reliable setup, due to the better quality bearings and thicker castings of the crank arms. The cranks arms are also detachable and can be replaced easier if required. The common length of these crank arms range between 5 – 7” inches. For taller users or those requiring a greater range of motion, an exercycle with a 7”inch crank is advisable.
Flywheel and Braking Systems
Indoor exercycles rely on a cast or steel weighted flywheel to help simulate a smooth outdoor cycling experience. The weight, size and balance of the flywheel is important as increased inertia created by heavier/larger flywheels leads to a higher pedaling cadence
and a smoother motion when resistance is applied e.g. Spin Bikes use heavier flywheels (18-24kg
Pictured left) than magnetic cycles (6-14kg Pictured right)
Indoor exercycles use a braking system to apply resistance to the pedals. Most commonly used is a magnetic brake system which provides a low maintenance, near silent operation and is perfect for the home environment. This can be adjusted manually via an index adjustment dial or through the console using either a servo motor or electro-magnetic system. The Electro-magnetic Brake system is considered to be better as it utilises less moving components and greater flywheel weights. This provides a higher level of resistance and a more realistic outdoor riding experience.
A frictional brake pad system is commonly found on Indoor Spin Bikes. These frictional pads apply resistance to the weighted flywheel using a screw threaded adjustment dial. Although the brake pads require servicing and replacement over time, they provide a greater amount of resistance to the pedals and are perfect for out-of-saddle cycling if you prefer to simulate an outdoor hill climb. Some higher end models also have a silent, contact-less magnetic break system
Consoles & Programs
Exercycle consoles are a great source of feedback and provide motivation to continue achieving your fitness goals. These consoles will provide different features and functions depending on the level of exercycle you choose. A basic manual index adjusted cycle will provide necessary feedback on time, speed, distance, calories and heart rate
(Handlebar Pulse), whereas a programmable cycle
will also include a library of preset workouts that control resistance
change automatically to simulate hill climb or elevation changes.
High quality exercycle manufacturers, invest large amounts of money in research and development of their cycle computers. This includes University tested programmes that utilize Heart rate and Power output ( Watts ) information to provide the most accurate way of training.
New exciting innovations like iFit SD cards and iFit Live from Icon Health & Fitness have brought the latest technology into the fitness industry to enhance and accelerate the users progress towards achieving their goals through interactive user defined programming. If you need additional motivation to continue your way toward quick results, then a programmable bike is a must.
Chain vs Belt Drive
The chain and belts role is to provide a smooth direct transmission from the revolving pedals to the spinning flywheel inside the exercycle. Both rely on either a toothed sprocket (chain) or v-ribbed pulley to drive it. The gearing of these bikes is also determined by the diameter & size of these pulleys or number of teeth located on both sprockets.
Belt Drive transmission offers a smooth, near silent operation and requires no lubrication, so maintenance is down to a minimum. The belt and pulley systems are also normally lower in cost in comparison to a chain driven system and are often found in magnetic exercycles and some spin cycles. In spin cycles, occasional adjustment of the belt tension is required to minimize any slippage under high loads.
Chain Drive transmission offers a long lasting and reliable mechanism as they do not deteriorate with age, moisture and are unaffected by the sun or heat. They have negligible stretch and are able to hold heavy loads. The chain drive is however noisier than the belt drive system and requires lubrication to maintain its quiet operation. Chain drive systems are normally found on Spin Cycles and Air Fan (Resistance) exercycles.
If noise is an important factor in your decision you may prefer the smooth, quiet operation of a belt driven system.