6 best exercise bikes and turbo trainers 2017

Get spinning like Bradley Wiggins in a blender with the finest static cycles for home cardio workouts and serious ride training

TODO alt text

Want to spin those hamstrings into a frenzy? Whether you're looking to recreate a stage of the Tour de France or just spend 20 minutes in the fat-burn zone, there's something in this collection of stationery speed machines for you.

Even those who don't know their sportive from their elbow will be aware that time on the bike is essential to improving cycling stamina and fitness.

But even if you haven't a clue what cadence means, nor care for Lycra-clad jaunts at the weekend, there's no escaping the fact that cycling is one of the best forms of cardiovascular training known to humanity.

What is the best exercise bike?

In fact, Watt is the best exercise bike. The Wattbike Trainer stands head and shoulders above other products, in my opinion.

Using a combination of air and magnetic brake, it can handle a staggering 3,760W of resistance, which is enough to cope with professional athlete power.

New app and smartphone compatibility only adds to the Wattbike's already impressive arsenal of features, cementing it as the choice of the pros.

How to buy the best exercise bike

Most modern exercise bikes use a brake-based system that sees a heavy metal flywheel turned by the pedals and chain, rather than a rear wheel. Resistance is added in cheaper models by braking this flywheel as you would on a moving vehicle.

However, in recent years bikes have arrived that use powerful magnets to act as a brake. This does away with the need to apply physical force to the flywheel, preventing wear and tear. It also offers a more natural, realistic feel

Up till recently, it doesn't yet come cheap, but don't worry if you don't have a budget the size of a Tour de France team's drugs bill. There are bikes out there that start from as little as £199 and do the job; just don't expect them to deliver an ultra-realistic riding experience.

Other than price, the main decision you will need to make is riding position, be it recumbent (basically laying down) or varying levels of upright.

The former is great for anyone with back problems, who perhaps doesn't want to be hunched over like Bradley Wiggins attacking a time trial, while the latter does its best to replicate a real outdoor cycling experience. 

Depending on where the handles sit in relation to the saddle, this could mean a racing type posture or a more fully upright, Boris Bike kind of affair.

With the best exercise bikes – plus one turbo trainer – from under £200 to over £2,000 you're sure to find the right one for you here…

The best exercise bikes, in order

1. Wattbike Trainer

Best pro-grade exercise bike

Reasons to buy
+Professional-grade training tool+Compatible with all accessories
Reasons to avoid
-Overkill for the casual rider
Today's best deals

The Wattbike Trainer is the professionals' choice. That's because it's a precise training tool that's arguably the closest you can get to real road riding without leaving the comfort of your living room.

Firstly, the machine is set up to resemble a real, lightweight race bike. So it comes with a razor thin saddle, strap-in pedals (that can be easily swapped for road cleats), drop handlebars and 'out-front' time-trial style grips.

All of the above can be adjusted and fettled to suit the individual rider and once comfortable, the clever combination of dual air and magnetic braking means every revolution of the crank feels mighty realistic.

Wattbike plays nice with any apps and wearable technology that is ANT+, Bluetooth, FE-C and Wi-Fi compatible, meaning it's easy to sync your heart rate monitor, it works with those smart pedals and allows you to sift through the reams of data at the end of each workout.

Even without add-ons, the Wattbike produces plenty of stats. Its power readouts, which work between 0-3760W, are some of the most accurate on the market.

Patented Polar View technology also regales the rider with information on each individual pedal stroke, so ultra-keen cyclists can improve pedalling efficiency and power output.

Two-wheeled geekery aside, this thing makes a top notch exercise bike for even the casual user, with simple resistance adjustment at the front of the machine, plenty of adjustability to suit all body shapes and an easy-to-use interface that can be as detailed or as simple as the user requires.

All of this doesn't come cheap though, and many will be thinking that they could go out and buy a rather seductive carbon-framed racer for similar money. But try riding that around your living room in the middle of winter…

Please note that Wattbike makes two variants of its bike: the Trainer and trainer Pro. The only difference between them is that the Pro has higher resistance and is, as its name suggests, aimed at more elite athletes.

2. Wahoo KICKR SNAP

Turbo trainer turns your bike into an exercise bike

Reasons to buy
+Excellent resistance+Comparatively easy to set up+Wide app and hardware compatibility
Reasons to avoid
-Well, you do need to bolt your own bike to it
Today's best deals

Well, despite what I just said, you actually can ride your carbon-framed road bike around the front room in winter… if you have a turbo trainer such as this one.

The KICKR is particularly good because it feature electromagnetic resistance, works with ANT+, FE-C and Bluetooth accessories and also has compatibility with a wide range of training apps, so you can set it up in front of a TV or tablet on a stand and take on simulated courses from the likes of Zwift and Trainer Road.

Unlike some turbo trainers, the KICKR SNAP doesn't require you to remove your rear wheel to use it, making it that little bit more convenient for those of you who only own one bike.

Resistance may not be up there with more pro-grade trainers – the Wattbike puts up over 3,700W of resistance, where this musters 'only' 1100W. Even so,  believe me: when you hit a virtual incline, you'll feel it. 

3. Proform Tour De France TdF Pro 5.0 Studio

Best exercise bike under £2,000

Reasons to buy
+True cycling simulator+Makes indoor training engaging
Reasons to avoid
-Still by no means cheap
Today's best deals

Offering one of the most realistic riding experiences around, this cycling simulator from Proform is almost insanely detailed.

Not only is it laid out like a traditional racing bike – slimline saddle, drop handlebars and dual water bottle cages – it can also replicate the rush of a steep incline or decline with an automatic grade simulator of up to 20 per cent in either direction.

The patented Silent Magnetic Resistance drive system is one of the quietest around, especially when compared to noisy air trainers, while the pedal motion is smooth and realistic.

The 10-inch touchscreen console delivers detailed statistics, as well as hosting numerous fitness apps, while HD training videos can be called up for those who want to feel like they are battling the Alpe d'Huez while the kids watch CBeebies in the other room.

4. NordicTrack R65

Best exercise bike under £500

Reasons to buy
+Comfortable cruiser+Good value
Reasons to avoid
-Takes up a lot of space-Lacks realism
Today's best deals

Designed with the more relaxed rider in mind, this recumbent machine from NordicTrack features a built-in cooling fan, easy-to-reach bottle holders and a comfortable cycling position that takes the strain away from the lower back.

Don't think it won't encourage a sweaty session though, because there are 25 digital resistance levels and 32 workout programmes to choose from, as well as a five-inch LCD display that hosts plenty of information, including heart rate monitoring via dual grips.

There are even some handy wheels at the front of the unit, making it easier to wheel in and out of storage, while built-in speakers means pumping the soundtrack from Rocky just got a whole lot easier.

5. ProForm 245 ZLX

Best exercise bike under £300

Reasons to buy
+Cheap+Simple and easy to use+Quiet ride
Reasons to avoid
-Basic monitoring-Not much like cycling
Today's best deals

 It may be one of the most basic bikes here but for those looking for a good cardiovascular workout without breaking the bank, this bargain from Proform does everything you could ask for and a bit more.

Though far cheaper, this uses the same kind of Silent Magnetic Resistance as the same brand's aforementioned Tour de France ultra-bike, giving a much quieter workout than older spinners.

The 16 levels of resistance on offer should be enough to challenge even the toughest glutes, and an Intermix Acoustics 2.0 Sound System (!) provides tunes

A small workout fan tries to cool your face during particularly intense sessions, but probably not to the extent that it's worth having.

Keen cyclists will find the upright seating and bar position odd but for shorter fitness sessions, it's plenty comfortable enough, and very cheap for the quality of the bike. 

6. Technogym Bike Forma

Nearest thing to a classic gym bike

Reasons to buy
+Robust and hardy+Great built-in monitoring
Reasons to avoid
-Highly priced-Very heavy
Today's best deals

If you prefer the exercise bikes in your local gym to the more modern, stripped down spin bike, then you're going to love the Forma. It's as close to a gym bike as one can get for the home.

That means a smooth, adjustable seat that's easy to move with one hand, automatic data tracking via the on-board computer and ergonomically designed handlebars that replicate standard, city and racing bikes.

Technogym's operating system is extremely intuitive and simple to use. Fire up a bespoke app, scan the QR code on a machine and data from previous workouts, favourite settings and training programmes are transferred between devices.