It is hard to check out a personal workout training course and not find at least a couple of people spinning on their spin bikes. They may appear hard at work and in all probability they are, for spinning is easily one of the most calorie burning exercises possible in an indoor environment. Thighs, calves, gluteals, back muscles and those of the feet – all are used extensively, so much so that many professional trekkers and cyclists prefer the benefits of using a spin bike to the ordinary stationary one or for that matter, any other equipment. However, given that gym memberships are costly and somewhat restrictive in terms of what you can achieve (not to mention that you may have to wait a lot to even get an available bike), it is always a good idea to invest in the best spin bike for one’s needs. The problem, however, is that what the market claims to be “best” is often not what is best for your body. One solution is to go through a number of the best reviews to understand what the bikes are really capable of, and then make an informed decision. However, while experienced workout enthusiasts can read and decide which features are useful, those new to the world of spin bikes need to understand the concept of a spin bike before they jump into the reviews.
A Brief Introduction To Spin Bikes
Spinning as a means of losing calories and building muscle mass came into the limelight in 1993 when Rolling Stone magazine named it the “hot” workout of the year. A year later, a company called Mad Dogg teamed up with reputed fitness product manufacturer Schwinn to come up with the first home-use spin cycle. Motivated by Mad Dogg founder and endurance cyclist Jimmy Goldberg’s attempt to recreate the efficiency of a real bike within the living room (or garage), these bikes proliferated rapidly, becoming one of the most popular choices for fitness enthusiasts by the early 2000s. Now since spin bikes and their cousins, the ordinary stationary bikes, were both given their modern shape by Goldberg and his Mad Doggcompany, it is often held that spinning is just a marketing term for indoor bikes made by the company. This is not so. Spin bikes are typically distinguished from the ordinary stationary bikes by their lack of mechanical sophistication and the presence of a weighted flywheel. Let us take a look at these two features
Lack of sophistication
While “lack” of something is generally taken as a negative point, it should be noted that in case of the best spinning bikes it actually means that the workout specifications are entirely in the hands of the user. Ordinary stationary bikes provide a number of auto-adjustment mechanisms for setting uniform gear resistance, paddle resistance, etc. However a spin bike requires the user to change these settings on his/her own and thus is ideal for those looking for a customized workout. However, it should be noted that necessary sophistications like console, etc have become an intrinsic part of the spin bike as innovation has progressed even though they were not a part of the original designs. Hence, if you wish to enjoy the benefits of a carefully monitored workout using such a cycle, it is can easily be arranged.
A weighted flywheel performs the same function it does in a rowing machine – provide a counterpoise to the user’s weight and thus act as a focus of the user’s efforts. This in turn helps the user burn more calories during the workout without having to try out any new and potentially risky moves. Further, the weighted flywheel provides much needed balance to the unit as compared to a stationary bike. Note: Some of the recent models of stationary bikes have begun incorporating a small flywheel, but there remains a vast difference between the flywheels thus used and those in the spin bikes. In addition to those, the spin bikes have a number of smaller differences. For instance, the seat of a spin bike is rarely padded, since it is assumed that the user would rise and sit down multiple times during the workout. Indeed, those learning how to use a spin bike would realize that there are entire workouts eg. Climbing a hill, which require them to remain in a “standing” position on the bike. On the other hand, the handles are often padded because the user is required to put a lot of pressure on them when he/she is working out. The paddles are reinforced so they can handle the user’s weight without suffering breakdown. Finally, the improvements in design, as will be made evident by our spinning bike reviews, have allowed the q-factor to come down significantly when compared to the stationary bikes. Q-factor is the distance between the two pedals when they are the same height, and basically measures the combined lengths of the axle and the frame that lie between the pedals. A lower q-factor improves the biomechanical efficiency of the unit, thus allowing for better functionality. These apart, as technology and user demands grow, many new features are being incorporated every year into the bikes and in the correct quality and quantity, are being considered as part of the key features of the best spin bike. However, the core features of a spin bike continue to be the ones outlined below, though their quality has, and will keep changing, over time.
The Top Spin Bikes in the Market in 2015
Having had the benefit of quick glance at the specifications of the top products and how they compare to other top contenders, let us study each of the products in detail
1. Sunny Health & Fitness SF-B901
Made using high quality steel, this premium product from Sunny Health comes with a 40lbs flywheel that is capable of allowing the user to maintain adequate balance and also burn calories at a rapid rate. Further, such benefits extend across a wide range of body mass, allowing even users with 275lbs body weight to partake of the advantages offered. Further bolstering the ability of the spin bike to handle the massive user weight are durable crank and chain drive systems. Coupled with a q-factor of 7-1/8”, these ensure that the user derives the maximum calorie loss and muscle gain from the unit without exerting himself/herself to an undue extent. The low q-factor also makes the question of how to maintain a spin bike a simple one. Moving to the question of customizability that is to be expected in all the best spinning bikes, we find the manufacturer providing modifiable resistance as well as the ability to change the parameters of the seat and handlebars. With the latter being well-padded and comfortable to use, these make the unit a pleasure to use at all times.
2. Sunny Health & Fitness SF-B1002
The second – and larger – of the spin bike reviews of Sunny Health & Fitness’ products, this offering comes with a bigger steel frame and an enhanced flywheel weighing 49lbs. These together ensure that users having body weight of up to 275lbs can make use of the unit without worrying about instability or breakdown of any machine parts. Like the product mentioned above, this unit also has a heavy duty crank system but it replaces the chain drive system for the belt drive. The belt drive is generally held to be more durable and is often used in higher-end products like the SF-B1002 to provide users with a smoother cycling experience. Coupled with a low q-factor, these ensure a well-rounded workout regardless of body weight. Finally, the unit comes with the adjustable resistance and modifiable seat and handlebars with the handlebars being well-padded for sufficient comfort. With transport wheels being provided for moving the unit quickly from one place to another, the product proves to be as easy to move as it is to use.
3. Schwinn IC2 Indoor Cycling Bike
Made of high quality large steel tubing, this Schwinn contender comes with a 31 pound flywheel having a high inertia rating for riding comfort and stability. Further, the BioDyne structure has rear frame levellers and stabilizers to improve the stability quotient of the unit. It is no surprise therefore that the product can handle user weights of up to 250lbs with ease. The pedals on the other hand are padded and reinforced for additional comfort and durability, while the q-factor has been specifically designed such that the device matches the outdoor cycling experience to the maximum extent while providing all the benefits of a spin bike. Furthermore, the unit comes with infinite resistance levels moderated by a direct drive system that is capable of mimicking the biking experience across undulating hills. Such resistance, further, is made long-lasting by the presence of a long-life wool felt pad. Improving the modifiability quotient further, the unit offers adjustable handlebars with fore/aft modification mechanisms. The seat, which is unusually well padded for a spinning bike, is also customizable. Finally, the unit comes with a responsive BioConnect LED display system that can show vital metrics accurately and in large font for easy viewing.
4. Sole Fitness SB700 Exercise Bike
One of the few spinning cycles that come with 2mm oval steel tubing, this Sole Fitness gadget comes with a 48lbs chrome plate flywheel and a Kevlar breaking design. Together, they combine to provide users weighing as much as 300lbs all the benefits of using a spin cycle. Like all good spinning bikes, furthermore, this unit comes with heavy-duty pedals along with a belt drive mechanism that is ideal for frequent, heavy usage. Further, toe straps have been provided to prevent slippage of the feet during heavy workouts. Further, resistance levels are highly adjustable courtesy of a turn knob adjustment mechanism, while the seat and handlebars not only offer the fore/aft adjustment, they also allow users to change the height to suit their preferences. Lastly, the unit comes with a sufficiently large blue LCD display that can record RPM, speed, distance and even heart rate. Heart rate is measured using a special chest strap, making this unit one of the rare products to support this function.
5. Keiser M3 Plus Indoor Cycle Stationary Indoor Trainer Exercise Bike 2015
Meant for professionals and those looking for a truly high end unit to use in their homes, this Keiser product comes with an inertia-weighted flywheel that rests behind the seat instead of ahead, thus marking a break from what we notice in the general run of spin bike reviews. This unique design allows the product to provide a true racing cycle experience once the user becomes habituated to the slightly different metrics. Coupled with quality steel construction, this allows the unit to support user weights of up to 300 pounds without difficulty. Further, the unit comes with well-padded and sufficiently balanced pedals that are the hallmark of the best spin bike. Further, the belt drive allows the unit to produce a smooth motion regardless of the speed at which the user is going. Magnetic resistance, however, is the forte of this device and tends to justify the cost of the unit more than anything else. Providing an extremely smooth and easily adjustable resistance, this mechanism combines with the excellent LCD display to give users the benefits of a professional-grade training and workout appraisal mechanism.
Tips for choosing the Best Spin Bikes
Now that we have gone through the spin bike reviews in detail, it is time to take a look at the criteria which we – and you – can use to decide which spin bike is the best suited to your needs
- Weight of the flywheel – The flywheel, as we discussed above, directly impacts the ability of the spin bike to provide stability and obtain sufficient calorie burn without wearing out the body. A flywheel should weigh at least 30lbs to be able to provide sufficient benefits. Products meant for professionals should have a flywheel with 40-45lbs. Further, chrome-plating is a useful addition because it helps improve the overall quality of the flywheel by improving stability and making the flywheel more resistant to corrosion.
- Q-factor – As defined above while discussing our spin bike reviews, q-factor is the distance between the two pedals and provides biomechanical benefits to the user. While the q-factor varies with the size of the size of the machine and its weight capacity (discussed below), it should be noted that the q-factor should never be more than 10 inches, or less than five.
- Maximum user weight – The best spin bikes often tend to support user weights in excess of 250lbs, but this should be verified when the product arrives (by using weights or getting someone of adequate weight to try out the machine). While it is likely that there would not be a lot of variation in one’s weight if one is constantly working out and is in good physical shape, health problems and other issues can lead to a rapid rise in user weight, and this should be factored in at the time of purchase.
- Modifiability of the seat and handlebars – Spinning bikes tend to be the epitome of customizability and the extent of such customizability should be verified at the time of purchase. Most vital to such verification should be study of the different dimensions in which the seat and handlebars can be moved. While even the basic models support fore and aft movements, premium models must have height adjustment as well.
- Drive System – Divided into chain drive and belt drive, the drive system decides how fast and how smoothly the flywheel will work with the pedals and other components. While lower end and lighter models would have chain drive units, a belt drive is always commendable if the weight capacity and price of the unit are higher than the basic bracket. While it cannot be said with certainty that the belt drive system enjoys much better functionality, it is true that it can handle higher weights better.
- Additional Features – Along with these, one should look out for accurate consoles in the best spin bikes in price ranges above $600-700. Further, the availability of a heart rate monitor is useful, though this is not an absolute necessity. Water bottle holders are also a plus.
- Price – Consider products with prices of $500 and below only if you are seeking a basic model, whereas $600-1000 is often considered the ideal range for those seeking to train professionally. Higher priced models bring greater durability, more features and better options for replicating the outdoor spin bike workout at home.
With the growth of the popularity of the ideal spin bikes, the market is being flooded with products of all qualities, and this makes choosing the ideal bike a tough job. However, as we have seen, the number of features to be expected of a great bike are not many. While individual preferences would of course play a vital part in the final decision, it is hoped that the list of spin bike reviews provided above would give the average user sufficient options to choose from, such that he/she can skip the rigmarole of endless store visits and online product analyses, make an informed and wise purchase nevertheless and then get down to what he/she loves the most – cycling!