After researching the best exercise bikes on the market, we narrowed down the candidates and purchased a diverse selection of nine to test and compare side by side. We spent months riding and evaluating each model to examine their strengths, weaknesses, and comparative differences in performance. After thoroughly testing each bike, we rated them on a set of predetermined performance metrics including exercise quality, companion app/connectivity, comfort, user interface, features, and setup/assembly and portability.
To assess the exercise quality of the models in this test, we spent several weeks riding each model, regularly switching between them for direct comparisons. We examined not only the number of resistance settings but also the total range of resistance offered to determine suitability for varying fitness levels. We also considered the smoothness and quality of the resistance, along with each bike's stability. Additional features like adjustable incline/decline, the ability to lean, included extras, or automatic resistance changes were also taken into account. For connected bikes, the quality of and integration with companion apps are a cornerstone of their performance, so we made a thorough assessment of those as well. We did a range of workouts on each model, from easy recovery spins to high-intensity interval training, used the associated apps, and evaluated all of the features to determine the quality of workout each bike delivers.
=Companion App and Connectivity=
Most modern exercise bikes are associated with specific companion apps like Peloton, Echelon, iFit, JRNY, or OpenFit to name a few. Nearly every exercise bike can be used on its own without an app membership, but truthfully, most, especially higher-end models, rely pretty heavily on them to provide a quality exercise experience. We tested each bike with its associated app to examine their differences and get a feel for the various platforms. We bought memberships, familiarized ourselves with each app, played around with the features, and did hundreds of different classes and rides. We took note of the ease of use, number and variety of classes offered, types and styles of rides, quality of instructors, and integration with third-party apps or streaming services (if applicable). While we didn't take price into consideration, we did examine the cost of each membership, as that is something that most people will consider when choosing an exercise bike.
Connected exercise bikes rely on WiFi and Bluetooth to take advantage of their companion apps, so their connectivity is very important to their performance. Bikes with integrated touchscreens are becoming the norm, while others rely on tablets or similar devices to serve as the display. To examine this, we connected and disconnected from WiFi numerous times, and kept track of which models dropped or didn't drop connections during regular use. We also paired with a variety of Bluetooth accessories like tablets, headphones, earbuds, and heart rate monitors to get a feel for each model's ability to connect to a range of devices.
While comfort is subjective, we did our best to analyze this metric by having a number of people try each model. We used their feedback and impressions of touchpoints like the seat and handlebar when assessing comfort, and we also took each bike's range of fit adjustments into account. The quality and range of these adjustments determine a bike's user height range, but also the ability to fit comfortably and properly for on-the-bike performance. These fit adjustments include both vertical and horizontal adjustments to the seat and handlebars. Q-factor, the horizontal distance between the cranks where the pedals attach, may not matter much to some riders, but we feel it is another component of comfort. Most exercise bikes have Q-factors that range between 150mm to 203mm, with traditional road bikes coming in around 150mm. We measured each bike's Q-factor to see how they compare to a road bike and the other bikes we tested.
How the user interacts with an exercise bike varies somewhat among the models we tested. For most modern, high-end models, this typically involves a touchscreen along with a knob or buttons to change resistance. For the touchscreen-equipped models, we considered the screen's picture quality/resolution and touch sensitivity, along with other features like speakers, controls, and the ability to tilt or rotate the screen for viewing. During our test rides, we had the opportunity to change settings, choose workouts, pair and un-pair with Bluetooth accessories like headphones, all while scrutinizing the ease of use of each system. Over the course of months of testing, we also became very familiar with changing the resistance on each model while following along with various classes. For those models that do not feature integrated screens, we assessed the console and resistance controls, and when applicable, we paired with other devices like tablets to use various apps.
All of the bikes we tested come with various features intended to enhance the user experience. In this metric, we consider not just the number of features, but the quality and usefulness of those features and their impact on the rider. Some models cover just the basic necessities, while others come loaded with all the bells and whistles. Examples include, but are not limited to, heart rate monitors, dual-sided pedals, bottle holders, device shelves, dumbbells, speakers, fans, adjustable incline/decline, lean, or compatibility with third-party apps or streaming services.
Most of the models we tested arrived at our testing facility in their original packaging (a couple models included assembly, and those were assembled by the delivery crew). Like any regular consumer, we unboxed and assembled each model by ourselves while following the included instructions and using the tools/hardware supplied. We kept track of the time it took to assemble each model, as well as the relative difficulty of completing the process. This metric also takes into account the weight and size of each bike, and how much space it will take up in your workout space. We measured each model to compare its dimensions to the manufacturer's claims. While the size differences between bikes are fairly small, it may be important based on the amount of room you have available. We also considered how easy it is to move each model. Several of the bikes we tested weigh over 100-pounds and require a couple of people to get them up or down a flight of stairs, but they all feature integrated transport wheels for rolling them around on firm, flat surfaces.
At GearLab, we put in the time and effort to thoroughly test all of the products we review. We spent months testing and analyzing these exercise bikes to gain a thorough understanding of each model and how they compare to each other. We hope that our testing process and in-depth reviews help you find the right bike to suit your home exercise needs.