Looking for the best exercise bikes that money can buy in time for the Christmas period? Now that the worst of lockdown is behind us and demand isn’t quite so high, it’s much easier to grab yourself a static cycling machine if you’d still prefer to workout at home.
And with erratic weather - from too hot or cold to too wet and windy - posing a problem when it comes to riding outside, an exercise bike can be all you need to get in shape without braving the elements outdoors.
However, buying an exercise bike is not a task to take lightly. It’s a significant investment, so you need to know you’re getting a decent machine before parting with your cash. That’s why we’ve rounded up the best exercise bikes to buy for a low impact, home cardio workout.
Our top pick is the JTX Clyclo-5, an affordable but well-built bike that's compatible with smartphone apps - and also one of our best exercise machines for weight loss picks. Weighing up its specifications and value for money, this is the best exercise bike for most people in my view. But there are plenty of options to choose from.
Other home cardio machine options
Shopping around for more than an exercise bike? Don't forget to check some of the most popular training items featured in our list of fitness gifts for Christmas.
How to choose the best exercise bike for you
Before you race out to buy an exercise bike, there are a few things worth considering. Everyone’s needs are different, and so the best exercise bike for you will depend on a multitude of things.
The most important is the degree of resistance the bike is offering. This will determine how well matched the bike is to your level of fitness, as well as your health goals. Basically, all you need to know is that the higher the resistance, the harder the workout will be, so a bike with limited resistance might not quite cut the mustard if you really want to go for it.
Also, look out for the type of resistance on offer; there are two. Friction-based machines usually feature a flywheel driven by a pair of pedals that together deliver friction in the form of a direct contact brake, adjusted via a resistance knob. Then, there’s the magnetic kind, which - unsurprisingly - slow the flywheel through magnetism. The latter are usually much quieter but at the same time, offer a lower maximum resistance so wouldn’t be best suited to those who like to push themselves.
When it comes to pricing, you can expect to pay anything between $250 - $2,500/£200 - £2,000 depending on the feature set. There are plenty on offer for less, but I wouldn’t advise entertaining the prospect of buying such a cheap bike as you’re likely to be disappointed. Anything around the $650/£500 mark should get you a little closer to a gym-quality machine and if you’ve got the budget for something around $1,200/£1,000 then you’re bound to be impressed with not only a premium quality but lots of techy features to boot.
The best exercise bikes you can buy right now
Available in a choice of standard mains powered or 'self powered' – i.e. your pedalling provides the necessary electricity, this upright bike ticks most of the boxes of more casual home riders. It's also both affordable and available for delivery quite soon, which is a plus in the current shopping climate.
As well as being usable like a traditional gym bike you can also connect to Kinomap, which will then plot a virtual course for you and adjust the bike’s resistance when you hit a hill. You can also add Bluetooth pedals (not included) and use it with more 'pro' apps such as Zwift, which seems very high end for this type of bike.
With a good range of resistance levels, this is a great bike for anyone short of serious, Lycra-clad biking types. It's not the most attractive thing in the world but it does the job. Excellent value.
On a tighter budget? You can’t go wrong with the JLL IC300 Indoor Cycling Bike. Something you should normally look out for when buying a cheap exercise bike is the flywheel. Unlike most technology, heavier is always better in this instance, as a more weighty flywheel will help give better stability and a smoother riding experience. The JLL IC300 has an 18kg flywheel, which is superb for a bike of this price.
It might not be the quietest out there, or the most comfortable, but this exercise bike has plenty of features making up for this. The direct chain allows for comfortable pedalling in both directions, and there's also bottle holders and small wheels so you can move it around more easily.
There's a bit of a lifestyle cult feel to peloton, what with all the merch and the way they market themselves as a kind of club. Don't be put off too much, however: their bike is really good. It's responsive, well built and can put up some truly fearsome resistance when you want to really test yourself.
Although you can use it as a standard exercise bike, the point of Peloton is to recreate spin classes in your home. So there’s 14 spinning classes streamed live every day, plus an extensive library of ones you can revisit. You view the in-class action via a huge 22-inch HD touchscreen mounted above the handlebars. Competitive types will also enjoy the real-time leaderboard comparing your effort to other riders across the world.
Yes, the bike is expensive and then you have to pay for the classes on top of that. However, given the very high-end nature of the spin classes Peloton brings to your home, it is probably less per month than attending in person, as well as being considerably more convenient and hygienic.
If you’re looking for an exercise bike that is less like a spin class and more like riding a real bike up a Tour de France mountain course, the best option, pound for pound, is the Wattbike Atom. There’s a reason why this brand is trusted by gyms and super-keen cyclists around the world.
The Wattbike boasts exceptional build quality and an array of smart features. Chief amongst these is seamless connectivity to virtual training apps like Zwift and TrainerRoad, which automatically control the resistance as you race through real life cycling trials. Another clever tool is the Pedal Effectiveness Score, which tells you how well your pedalling is balanced between your left and right legs.
Obviously, for many people this is way over the top, but those looking to really push themselves to the limits will love the Wattbike Atom. It's a very serious bit of kit.
If it’s luxury you need from an exercise bike and money is no object (you lucky thing) then this Antonio Citterio-designed machine made by Technogym should be right up your alley. Dripping in sophistication, it’s by far the most luxurious and stylish bike on the market. At just under 2 grand, it comes in a compact, high quality build that doesn’t feel far off the real thing thanks to some advanced biomechanics and a reduced distance between the pedals.
This work of art isn’t not just a pretty face, though. It boasts a sleek touchscreen display with a plethora of workout options (including online spin) as well as a built-in Unity software system which brings all your online addictions (social media, TV, Netflix) right to your fingertips.