The classic stationary exercise bike is not ideal when compared to a real bike. For one, it doesn't feel right; the seat is too wide to pedal smoothly and the pedals are often feel strange. Recumbent exercise bikes are perhaps even worse. While outdoor recumbents can be interesting and aerodynamic, indoors, you are simply in a reclined position that makes it harder to generate power, which in turn means it's harder to keep your heart rate elevated and get a great workout.
Instead of a recumbent or an upright model, try a spin bike. These are great because the large flywheel provides the similar feel of an outdoor bike. Don't be fooled by simple looking models. You don't need all those fancy screens like on a LifeCycle bike--your polar heart rate monitor will work just fine.
Mini exercise bikes only have the pedals and resistance parts. There is no seat or handlebars. Mini bikes are best for exercising and not for training. Mini bikes are placed on the floor and the person sits in a chair. However, they tend to move around a lot when you begin to pedal. The only benefits of these bikes are that they are cheaper and take up very little space.
What to Consider When Shopping Around
No matter which type of exercise bike you choose, there are certain features and benefits you should look for so you can find the bike that best suits your needs and your comfort.
* Be realistic with your needs. Think of how often you plan on using the bike and what features you will actually need and use. Don't waste your money on fancy features if you have to use for them. Bigger and better isn't always what's best.
* Some standard features that any bike should have are varying resistance levels, a monitor that watches your speed, distance, time, and calories burned, book rest, and bottle holder. Everything else is just a bonus.
* A heart rate monitor is a good feature, but you can also buy one separately if your bike does not have one.
* If you do go with an upright or recumbent bike, make sure it adjusts easily and feels comfortable.
* The heavier the bike, the more stable it is. However, you don't want to break your back trying to move it around your home. Also, make sure it's not too big for the space it's going in.
* Try to get at least a one year warranty, because sometimes, stuff breaks.
If you already have a bike, consider getting a bike trainer from companies such as CycleOps. These devices can be fairly inexpensive and let you ride indoors on your existing bicycle.
One spec to investigate as you look at these is the weight of the trainer's flywheel. The heavier the flywheel, the more road-like the ride will be. However, if you plan to travel to races, etc. with the trainer, you might want a light flywheel.
* High end (expensive!) versions include Computrainer and Velodyne. Velodyne is great!
* CycleOps, Kurt Kinetic, and Minoura also make some excellent bike trainers.
If you buy a trainer, you will most likely need a riser block stand for your bike's front wheel. These are often sold separately so be careful.