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How We Tested Budget Exercise Bikes

By Jeremy Benson ⋅ Senior Review Editor
Wednesday April 22, 2020

After researching the best affordable exercise bikes on the market, we purchased a diverse selection of six for side by side testing and comparison. Our testers spent many hours spinning away the miles in our workout rooms, living rooms, and home offices to get a feel for the exercise quality of each model. Our testing process focused not only on performance but also on important details like the ease of setup/assembly, portability, comfort, user interface, and features of each bike. This article will go into more detail about how we tested each metric.

We tested exercise quality by using each model for several workouts of varying intensities.
We tested exercise quality by using each model for several workouts of varying intensities.

Exercise Quality


In the affordable price range and with different styles of exercise bikes in our selection, the quality of workout varied significantly between the models we tested. Some were capable of a near gym-quality workout, while others provided light to moderate-intensity exercise. To assess the exercise quality of each stationary bike, we spent several hours test riding each model. By attempting to replicate the same high-intensity interval workout on each bike, our testers were able to determine what level and quality of exercise were possible on the different models. This workout routine was repeated on each model and provided a straightforward assessment of the performance differences and limitations between models and styles. The number of resistance settings, as well as the quality and range of the resistance, was also taken into account as well as exercise specific features like preprogrammed workouts.

We analyzed the comfort of each model during our repeated workouts.
We analyzed the comfort of each model during our repeated workouts.

Comfort


Comfort is admittedly the most subjective metric than the others we analyzed. We do feel, however, that it is an important element of a quality exercise bike. In order to assess comfort, we had multiple testers as well as their significant others, test each bike, and provide feedback about their impression of the relative comfort of each model. This metric focuses mostly on contact points like the seat and backrest, as well as the quality and range of the adjustments for proper fit and body position. These adjustments include seat height or position fore/aft, handlebars, and pedal straps.

The fancy Dual Track display

User Interface


The user interface refers to the display and controls used to interact with each machine. Each model in our test has a slightly different display unit and controls. To assess the user interface, we followed the instructions provided in the user manuals to set up and turn on each model, start and stop workouts, adjust resistance, scroll through menus/programs, etc. During numerous workouts, we became familiarized with their use and the nuances associated with each model. Each interface was rated based on the user-friendliness and intuitiveness of the controls, as well as the size and readability of the display and the information that it provides.


Features


When considering what exercise bike to buy, you may be looking for a simple and no-frills design, or you may be interested in additional bells and whistles. To assess each model, we took into account not only how many features it had, but also the quality and usefulness of each feature. These include but are not limited to tech features like preprogrammed workouts, user profiles, data storage, Bluetooth connectivity, USB chargers, and heart rate sensors. Other features like tablet/magazine holders, speakers, fans, desktops, and water bottle or cup holders were also taken into account.

To analyze the ease of setup  we assembled each model we tested.
To analyze the ease of setup, we assembled each model we tested.

Ease of Setup/Portability


Each exercise bike arrived at our testing facility in its original packaging. To assess the ease of setup/assembly of each model, we unboxed each bike and assembled it ourselves using only the manufacturer's instructions and the included hardware and tools. We kept track of how long it took to completely assemble each model and made notes about the quality of the included instructions and the relative difficulty of the task. Additionally, this metric assesses how much space each model takes up in your home workout space, as well as how easy it is to move around and store when not in use. Can you move it on your own, or is it a two person job? Can it be stored in a closet or under your desk, or will it be a permanent fixture in your home? Each model was weighed and measured and compared to the manufacturer's specifications. Products that could be folded for storage were also measured in their collapsed size.

All of the bikes we tested can be moved relatively easily  but they all have different sizes that take up more or less space in your home.
All of the bikes we tested can be moved relatively easily, but they all have different sizes that take up more or less space in your home.

Conclusion


At OutdoorGearLab, we don't just pretend to test the products we review; we put in the time and effort to thoroughly test each and every model. In this case, that involved putting in the hours while spinning away the miles during multiple workouts on each exercise bike. We hope that our comprehensive testing process and detailed reviews help you find the best model to suit your needs and budget.