Best exercise bike 2019: home cardio workouts with lower impact

The finest static cycles for home cardio workouts and in some cases, more serious ride training

Best exercise bike
(Image credit: Wattbike)

So, you want to spin those hamstrings into a frenzy, but it's raining cats and dogs? That's cool: there is an answer and it comes in the form of the best exercise bikes – or you may prefer a turbo trainer if you're more hardcore. There's nothing like a long and arduous indoor cycling session for absolutely blitzing fat, building up Chris Hoy ham hock legs and constructing a superhuman heart.  

So whether you're looking to recreate a stage of the Tour de France or just spend 20 minutes in the fat-burn zone to help you lose weight faster, there's something in this collection of stationery speed machines for you.

What is the best exercise bike?

That'll be the Technogym Bike Personal, which is one of the most stylish and approachable exercise bikes around, and certainly less menacing than the Tour de France-spec Wattbike Atom, much as we love that. This ace piece of designer gym equipment is just as capable in some ways, although not as realistic-feeling, with a very smooth pedal stroke and plenty of connectivity to keep boredom away during those long workout sessions.

The interactive touchscreen is crisp and clear, its compact proportions make it perfect for bouji modern flats and its heart rate-based training modes are among the best ways to work up a sweat in your own personal spin class. 

How to buy the best exercise bike

The first thing to know about exercise bikes is that the cheaper ones are not all that much like riding a real bike. High end simulator options like the Wattbike and Proform are the exception not the rule. You may want to consider a smart (turbo) trainer if you require a more 'realistic' experience without spending several thousand pounds. 

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.

These things do command a decent amount of space at home. But even if you haven't a clue what cadence means, nor care for Lycra-clad jaunts at the weekend, one of these pedal-powered beauties could be the difference between you smashing your 2019 fitness goals or slowing sliding into couch potato land.

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

The best exercise bikes, in order

best exercise bike

(Image credit: Technogym)

1. Technogym Bike Personal

Sleek, stylish and packed with tech

Reasons to buy
+Gorgeous design+Compact proportions+Totally capable
Reasons to avoid
-Not as 'bike-like' as others

No way near as scary-looking as Wattbike's ultra serious Atom (below), this  Antonio Citterio-designed piece of functional art is supposed to look great in any living space, while packing the sort of fitness punch that has stood Technogym head and shoulders above competitors for some time.

Not only is it one of the most compact static bikes around (Just over 1m in length and 0.5m wide), its also features advanced biomechanics and reduced distance between the pedals, meaning it feels just like being on two wheels.

A sleek touchscreen display takes care of the myriad workout options and the built-in Unity software system ensures internet, social media, TV and Netflix are all a few swipes away. There's also the option to workout online.

But one of our favourite features is the CPR training mode, which adjusts intensity based on your pulse (read through handles or chest strap) so you don’t have to worry about settings. Simply spin into a frenzy and get shredded in no time at all.

best exercise bike: Wattbike Atom

2. Wattbike Atom

The best exercise bike, pound for pound

Reasons to buy
+Feels so realistic+Great virtual training buddy+Compatible with numerous sensors+Relatively affordable
Reasons to avoid
-…Though still not exactly cheap

Wattbike has long been the master of creating professional grade indoor cycling equipment that offers more feedback than a heavy metal concert in a wardrobe, but now it has turned its attention to the private home market.

The Atom condenses all of the sensors and technical nous of the standard, gym-dwelling Wattbike into one very stylish package, designed to take on the increasingly popular new breed of smart turbo trainers.

• Read our Wattbike Atom review

The Atom's lightweight steel construction makes it easy to move around, while the compact frame ensures it doesn't take up too much space at home.

It still feels more like a real, high-performance road bike than most of its rivals. It's got a thin, lightweight racing saddle, authentic drop bars with rubber gear cowling and 'out-front' time trial bar extensions. 

The realism doesn't stop there, because when plugged in and synched up to a smart device, it shows off its fancy, innovative Climb Mode, which automatically adjusts resistance when connected to virtual training software. So when you hit a hill during a Zwift session, the resistance ramps up to match.

Wattbike's own, detailed app measures 37 different riding metrics, which can be displayed on a smartphone or tablet (there's a neat holder for that) while training.

The price tag might seem a bit steep, but it's much less than the original Wattbike, and comparable to top-end turbo trainers.

best exercise bike: Bodymax B2 Indoor Studio Cycle

3. Bodymax B2 Indoor Studio Cycle

Best exercise bike under £300

Reasons to buy
+Great for spinning, with a smoooooth flywheel+Good value for money
Reasons to avoid
-No heart rate monitor-Skinny frame

Just like the spin bikes you have likely encountered in a fitness studio, the Bodymax B2 harnesses the power of a heavy 13kg flyweight and a brake shoe to crank up the resistance.

This mechanism makes it brilliant for tackling punishing High Intensity Interval Training regimes or hosting your very own spin class at home, as the resistance is piled on quickly and easily, while the torque output (and therefore effort) of the individual goes way beyond a standard chain-driven bike.

It's arguably not the most realistic form of indoor cycling around but the overall package represents excellent value of money, with a neat LCD monitor included that gives speed, RPM, distance, time, calorie and pulse readouts when a compatible heart rate monitor is worn.

best exercise bike

(Image credit: Schwinn)

4. Schwinn Airdyne AD8

Best for insane, full-body/ cardio workouts

Reasons to buy
+Provides an all-over workout+Heavy duty+Unlimited resistance
Reasons to avoid
-It's not really cycling, is it?

Okay, so this isn't your typical exercise bike but what it lacks in conventional styling, it more than makes up for with a punishing workout that targets multiple muscle groups.

The professional quality Schwinn unit uses belt drive fan resistance, which essentially means the harder you work, the more it cranks up the resistance level to fight back and make the workout even harder.

Plenty of professional athletes can be seen using a similar contraption to warm up before hitting the sports field, simply because it works a great selection of muscle groups.

We're not saying this will make you a professional athlete, but it will assist you in nailing those daily HIIT targets.

best exercise bike: Wattbike Trainer

5. Wattbike Trainer

An even more pro-grade bike from Wattbike

Reasons to buy
+Professional-grade training tool+Compatible with all accessories
Reasons to avoid
-Overkill for the casual rider

The Wattbike Trainer is the Atom's big bro', and many 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.

best exercise bike: Proform Tour De France TdF Pro 5.0 Studio

6. Proform Tour De France TdF Pro 5.0 Studio

Slightly more affordable Wattbike rival

Reasons to buy
+True cycling simulator+Makes indoor training engaging
Reasons to avoid
-Still by no means cheap

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

best exercise bike

(Image credit: TechFit)

7. TechFit R400

Best recumbent exercise bike

Reasons to buy
+Comfortable cruiser+Good value+Great for injure recovery
Reasons to avoid
-Takes up a lot of space-Lacks realism

Designed with the more relaxed rider in mind, this recumbent machine features an adjustable, lumbar-supporting seat, 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 the 7kg steel flywheel and magnetic resistance levels can be cranked up to punishing levels.There's a small monitor that gives read-outs on cadence and resistance levels, while pulse sensors can be found in the grab handles.

It's a bit of a bulky old thing, but much easier on the back than some of the more realistic riding experiences on this list. 

best exercise bike: Technogym Bike Forma

8. Technogym Bike Forma

Nearest thing to a classic gym bike, at home

Reasons to buy
+Robust and hardy+Great built-in monitoring
Reasons to avoid
-Highly priced-Very heavy

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. 

best exercise bike

(Image credit: NordicTrack)

9. NordicTrack GX 8.0 Indoor Studio Bike

A spin-tastic alternative to a WattBike

Reasons to buy
+Monster flywheel+Spin class ready+Dual pedals
Reasons to avoid
-Basic monitor-Not ANT+ compatible

Just like the bikes you'll find in the spin studio at your local gym, this monster uses a 22kg flywheel with a brake, meaning users can adjust the resistance from free-spinning loveliness to "agggghhhh my hamstrings" madness at the twist of a dial.

The welded steel frame and general construction feel great on this unit, which is only really let down by its lack of connectivity. Although there is an optional chest strap heart rate monitor, which seems like a must-buy for anyone serious about their cardio sessions.