Magnetic Cycles are the most common form of indoor stationery bikes used in the home fitness-market. Just like spin cycles, magnetic exercycles come in different sizes and material thicknesses which determine how durable and stable the bike is. Those of us who enjoy exercising in the comfort of our own home watching TV or listening to music prefer the quietness of the magnetic brake mechanism.
The Magnetic system relies on a number of ferrous magnets that surround a rotating flywheel. These magnets can be adjusted either manually with a tension dial control or computer console to vary the distance away from the flywheel, regulating the amount of resistance applied. The magnetic resistance systems controlled by computer consoles will use either a servo unit or electromagnetic system to move the magnets or pass current through them. The strength of the voltage or magnets used will determine the intensity of the resistance. Just like spin cycles, magnetic cycles also have a rotating flywheel which is balanced and weighted. The weight of these flywheels also determines the level of smoothness and consistency of resistance in the pedaling motion.
The major benefit of this type of resistance system is that it is quiet and low maintenance as there are no frictional components that require replacement or lubrication such as chains or brake pads.
It also has the advantage that it can be computer controlled for the user who requires additional motivation or guidance. This allows for the use of workout programs that automatically adjust the magnets to simulate hill elevation or inclination over a desired time or pre-programmed profile. Innovations in online technology have enhanced the user experience with the inception of iFit Live. This technology operates through your local WiFi network enhancing your motivation with the ability to plot and view your own workouts using Google Maps and Street View.
The additional components that can be used in a magnetic bike can vary, depending on the cost or intended purpose. The use of single or 3 piece crank systems, larger axles and bearings, heavier flywheels, & advanced computer console technology help in providing the most comfortable and motivational ride. Most basic magnetic cycle models are NOT intended for out of saddle use, however with better magnetic brake designs being incorporated into modern exercycles this type of system is now being used in some new spin cycles like the Tour De France bike.
Since its inception into the fitness industry during the mid 1990’s, the indoor cycling program has paved the way for the evolution of the spin cycle. The original innovator of the indoor cycling phenomenon Johnny Goldberg, a competitive endurance cyclist teamed up with fellow cyclist John Baudhuin and set about redesigning the standard stationery bike to incorporate the ergonomics and geometry of a racing bike.
The Spin cycle was designed to withstand the demands of a person standing on the pedals whilst simulating the conditions and experience of racing on the road indoors. To do this the Spin cycle incorporates a large heavy rotating flywheel (18kg+) with an adjustable frictional resistance brake pad, that provides a smooth continuous level of resistance.
The user has the ability to control the amount of frictional pressure applied to the flywheel by adjusting the tension dial accordingly. This type of resistance system, although noisier than a magnetic system will generally be more suitable for a stronger, fitter or self motivated individual that demands a more intense workout.
To cater for the higher loads and levels of resistance placed on the frames of spin cycles, the materials and thickness of the steel are more substantial and frameworks are reinforced to increase their stability and durability. The spin cycle has a fixed transmission, which allows the pedals to be rotated either forward or backward, however they will not freewheel and the user will need to either use the emergency stop lever and/or gradually slow down until the pedals come to a stop if they wish to get off the bike or rest.
Much of the components that makes up the Spin cycles are much like outdoor units, although they do differ in quality and this is often reflected in the price of the bike. Commercial or high end spin cycles will incorporate bigger & heavier frameworks, bearings, axles, crank arms and more varied adjustment range for different heights and user preference (Refer Spin Cycle Components guide for more information). Many cyclists will use proper cycle shoes with cleats or pedal fittings to improve and enhance the cycle movement. Cycle shoes have a stiff base and do not flex like normal trainers enabling the user to generate more efficient power from the leg muscles. The added benefit of having fixed shoes, also allows the rider to push and pull with the legs to maximise leg power both in and out of the saddle.
Depending on your workout goals or motivational requirements, monitoring your workout progress can be difficult if the Spin bike you’re looking at does not have a cycle computer. Due to the origins of Spin cycling in group fitness classes, many spin cycles were not equipped with a computer console as they were instructor led and intensity was measured by feel. Heart Rate monitor watches that provide accurate feedback on workout intensity, calorie expenditure and target training zones have been a popular alternative when computer consoles aren’t fitted. Newly constructed and designed spin cycles for the home market will either have computer consoles or have the option to purchase and install one.
Overall the Spin cycle offers a durable and affordable option for the self motivated fitness enthusiast looking for variety in their training routine. Spin cycles are flexible to be used in areas where power may not easily accessible and only require minimal maintenance to get long service life.