The 5 Key Types Of Exercise Bikes For Indoor Cycling Explained

Professional indoor cycling instructor Robbie Ferri walks you through the different types of indoor stationary bikes

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reviewed by Rory McAllister

Indoor cycling is an amazing way to stay in shape without going outside or having to head to the gym. Many people don’t know that there are many different types of exercise bikes to choose from, which can tailor the experience to you and your needs.

Numerous studies have proven the positive effects of cycling on our cardiovascular health and its role in reducing the risk of serious diseases such as obesity.1Oja, P., Titze, S., Bauman, A., de Geus, B., Krenn, P., Reger-Nash, B. and Kohlberger, T. (2011). Health benefits of cycling: a systematic review. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, [online] 21(4), pp.496–509. doi: It’s a low-impact cardio workout that targets the lower body in particular.

As an expert indoor cycling class instructor and personal trainer to cyclists, I have used a lot of different indoor bikes, and they each come with advantages and disadvantages.

Some are excellent for dynamic sessions, others can aid rehab and recovery, and some are just very comfortable to ride.

In this article, I am going to be telling you everything you need to know about different exercise bike types by discussing:

Understanding Exercise Bike Types

Treadmills, cross-trainers, and even step machines are built differently to accommodate various users and have two or three different types, but you have many more for exercise bikes, which gives you a lot of options for bike workouts.

There are many reasons why companies choose to make different styles of exercise bikes, and unfortunately, there are generally only so many do-it-all options. You have to choose a bike that suits you.

Exercise bikes are used not just to improve fitness and challenge yourself with new fitness goals but for rehabilitation, mobility improvement, and even to increase blood flow in people who might need to move a little more. 

The 5 Key Types Of Exercise Bikes

Now, for the exciting part, let’s talk about the different types of exercise bikes. Here’s everything you need to know!

1. Indoor Sports Bikes (Spinning Bikes)

My Peloton Bike in my garage, ready for a demo of how to move a Peloton Bike.
© Thomas Watson/BikeTips

Indoor sports bikes, commonly known as spinning bikes, are the most popular form of indoor cycles. They are used for spinning classing and replicate the feeling of riding a bike outdoors. 

Coming in anywhere from $150 to $3000, you have a huge amount of options for different brands and models.

Some are very basic and have little to no electronics, while the best exercise bikes have huge touchscreens on the front, heart rate monitors and other metrics trackers, Bluetooth connectivity, and motors to simulate inclines, such as the NordicTrack S27i.

Peloton Bikes are also an example of indoor sports bikes, which come with a wide range of features. Some models also include dumbbells to incorporate an upper-body workout.

They have a flywheel at the front or rear and use magnetic or friction systems to create resistance. The handlebars on the front are in the shape of bullhorns and often come with an aero position. They are made for high-intensity workouts with lots of sitting and standing.

Pros of Indoor Sports Bikes

  • Lots Of Different Options
  • Large Price Range
  • Very Similar To An Outdoor Bike
  • Great For A Dynamic Workout

Cons of Indoor Sports Bikes

  • Fairly Aggressive To Ride
  • Not The Most Comfortable
  • High-End Options Can Be Very Expensive

2. Upright Exercise Bikes

Upright exercise bike on a purple background.

Upright exercise bikes are designed for both low and high-intensity (HIIT) workouts.

What makes them unique compared to other exercise bike types they provide a very upright seating position. They don’t give the same road feel as a sports bike, but it’s very smooth pedaling on generally magnetic systems.

The upright bike position provides a very comfortable ride and paired with the wide comfort saddle. It’s the kind of bike you will be able to sit on for long periods. The handlebars are very high, and the bikes are adaptable to suit many users.

These bikes are generally not designed for riding standing up. They are mainly seen in gyms for short cardio sessions, warm-ups, or cold downs. They range from $150 to around $1500, and some interactive options are available, but they’re limited as far as types of stationary bikes go.

Pros of Upright Exercise Bikes

  • Very Comfortable To Ride
  • Well Priced With Lots Of Options
  • Typically, Don’t Take Up Much Space

Cons of Upright Exercise Bikes

  • Not Designed For Standing
  • Don’t Give A Realistic Feel
  • Limited Interactive Options

3. Recumbent Exercise Bikes

NordicTrack exercise bike on a blue background.
Credit: NordicTrack

Next, we have recumbent exercise bikes.

These are relatively rare exercise bikes and are normally only seen in gyms and rehabilitation centers. They are the most comfortable bikes to ride and support not just your behind but also your back. You don’t even need to hold handlebars.

Unlike an upright or sports exercise bike, recumbent bikes have you in a reclined position, as if you were on a sofa with your feet in front of you pedaling. They come in around $400 to $1500, and one or two models offer interactive capabilities.

They are fantastic for people who might suffer from mobility problems and find typical bikes uncomfortable or have issues that limit them from being in a regular cycling position.

This is why they are incredibly popular in rehab centers and often favored by less mobile people in a gym.

Pros of Recumbent Exercise Bikes

  • Very Comfortable To Ride
  • Excellent For Limited Mobility
  • Not Too Expensive To Buy

Cons of Recumbent Exercise Bikes

  • Only One Position
  • Take Up A Lot Of Space
  • Limited Options As Few Companies Make Them

4. Folding Exercise Bikes

Folding exercise bike on a purple background.
Credit: Songmics

Then we have folding indoor bikes, which are unique, to say the least. They have an upright position like an upright exercise bike but can fold up into a small package for people who lack storage space

Although this might sound like the perfect solution, the ability to fold does take away from the riding experience.

They typically use magnetic resistance and have very small flywheels, giving them a much less natural feel compared to other types of bikes, and durability can also be a concern.

It’s not designed for standing, just seated riding.

Foldable indoor bikes are very cheap to buy, starting at around $100 and going to about $500. Beginners often start with a bike like this in their home gym and then build up to a normal exercise bike.

They are perfect if you are just looking for something to ride for 30 minutes a week and lack storage.

Pros of Folding Exercise Bikes

  • Comfortable Upright Riding Position
  • Takes up Very Little Storage Space
  • Cheap To Buy

Cons of Folding Exercise Bikes

  • Only One Position
  • Not A Fantastic Cycling Feel
  • No Standing Ability
  • Limited Adjustability

5. Air Bikes

Air bike on an orange background.

Air bikes, also known as attack bikes, are common in modern gyms, especially cross-fit gyms. They are a bike where you use your hands and legs to move, and the giant fan inside works against you to make the resistance to provide a full-body workout.

Unlike other indoor bikes, you don’t have a dial to change resistance levels. The faster you go, the harder it gets. Air bikes have an upright riding position and are designed for high-intensity workouts. An example of intervals is 30 seconds on and 30 seconds off for 10 minutes. 

They are incredibly noisy and not the kind of bikes that you are going to want to spend a long time on. They roughly cost between $200 and $1500, and there are only a handful of companies that make them.

However, they are a great option if you want to introduce upper body workouts to your indoor cycling training.

Pros of Air Bikes

  • Very High-Intensity Workout
  • You Can Use Legs And Arms
  • Good Value

Cons of Air Bikes

  • Noisy
  • No Adjustable Resistance
  • Quite Large

Other Options For Indoor Cycling

The 5 Key Types Of Exercise Bikes For Indoor Cycling Explained 1
My turbo trainer setup in my garage. © Robbie Ferri/BikeTips

Now, we have spoken about the main types of exercise bikes. What about other options for you to cycle indoors?

Turbo Trainers

Turbo trainers are where you take your bike, attach it to the trainer, and then it lets you cycle while staying in the same location.

Some are very basic and cost $40. Other interactive, automatic models can be $1200. It’s an ideal solution if you want to spend all year riding your outdoor bike.

Desk Bikes

Desk bikes are small machines that sit under your desk or table and give you the ability to pedal.

They were originally designed so people could get exercise at work. They are not going to give you a challenging workout and can be very gimmicky.

Elliptical Cycle

Elliptical cycles are where companies have combined an electrical trainer with a bike.

Surprisingly, these are fairly rare to see and not very popular. They have the handles of an elliptical and the seat and pedals of a bike. It’s a great all-body workout machine.

Which Is The Right Indoor Cycling Bike Type For You?

When it comes to picking the right indoor cycling bike for you, there are many options. Here’s what I recommend based on my experience with clients as an indoor cycling instructor:

If you’re looking for a bike that is going to give you that dynamic feel like riding an outdoor bike, then I would recommend a sports bike. They offer a good level of comfort, are great value for money, and you can easily work through low and high intensities. 

If you are looking for comfort and not dynamic standing, consider an upright exercise bike. This would be ideal for comfortable sessions and low and high-intensity workouts. 

If you want a bike that offers a unique experience, then consider an air bike or an elliptical cycle. They can work more muscles, and you still get all the benefits of riding a bike.

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Robbie has traveled the globe as an endurance athlete and bikepacker, breaking world records and competing in international ultra-cycling events such as the BikingMan series and the Transcontinental Race. He's also worked as an ambassador for some of the industry's leading names, including Shimano and Ritchey. If Robbie's not on a bike, he's either fixing them or out walking with his dog!

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