It sounds like a stupid question. Most people are familiar with exercise bikes. Or they at least understand the basic principles: that it's a piece of exercise equipment common both in homes and in gyms. The resemblance between an indoor bike and a road bike is also clear (as are its differences, it's fixed in place for one thing). Static bikes are one of the least intimidating pieces of gym equipment available to use or buy precisely because we recognise them. Wherever we are on our fitness journey, many of us know how to ride a bike. But what does an exercise bike do exactly? What are the different types and why are stationary bikes still so popular?
What are the different types of exercise bike?
There are three main types of stationary bike: indoor cycling, upright exercise, and recumbent.
Indoor Cycling Bikes
Indoor cycling bikes are common in indoor cycling classes. You may have seen these advertised at your gym or studio. These bikes have handlebars that are almost level with the saddle and lower than traditional upright bikes. This forces riders to lean forward as they would on a road bike. Indoor cycling bikes allow riders to stand up to simulate hill climbs, too. Instructor-led classes on indoor cycling bikes are common but the at-home market has grown, too. These bikes give a more intense workout than other static bikes thanks to a heavier flywheel that requires more effort to rotate. The flywheel connects to the pedals with a chain helping to create variable resistance and offering a more authentic road biking experience.
At-home indoor cycling bikes are also becoming more popular because they're smarter. Bikes can offer a wealth of biometric and performance data. Riders can connect with others from around the world allowing competition and camaraderie in online environments or in live and pre-recorded classes. Bikes like the RE:GEN also let you generate clean electricity.
Upright Exercise Bikes
Upright bikes are the more traditional bike. Riders' knees sit closer to the bike's higher handlebars. There's no need to lean forward, either. Some upright bikes are very basic. Others are designed to fold down easily. You can also find models with more advanced data points to help in training. Dual-action upright bikes are where the handlebars move forwards and backwards as the rider pedals for an upper as well as a lower-body workout.
Recumbent bikes allow users to pedal from a reclined seat just above the ground. Riders pedal with their legs out in front of them rather than under them.
What does an exercise bike do?
We've written about the benefits of a stationary bike before, but let's recap the key points.
- Exercise bikes provide a low-impact but high-intensity form of cardiovascular exercise. This means that whilst they're very effective at raising heart rate, they're much easier on the joints than running.
- Indoor bikes are suitable for anyone. They're used both by elite athletes and complete beginners.
- Exercise bikes can also aid in weight loss. Harvard University reports that the average person burns between 210 and 260 calories during a thirty-minute workout. We've mentioned before that whilst that's fewer calories than thirty minutes of running, most people can cycle longer than they can run - so the disadvantage of an indoor bike is offset by the fact that it's easier to use for longer. And when a rider is ready to make things harder, smart bikes make that easy. Bikes like the RE:GEN control resistance digitally, so your fitness won't outgrow your equipment.
- Cycling is also great for heart health. It reduces a person's risk of developing heart disease which kills more men and women in the US than any other disease or illness. One study suggests that people who cycle regularly suffer 15% fewer heart attacks.
- Research also suggests that cycling regularly can undo some of the damage done by heart disease in middle-aged people. That's incredible. It's important to remember that the heart is a muscle and that cycling can strengthen that as much as it can glutes or hamstrings.
- You can even create your own clean power from an indoor bike. Energym launched the RE:GEN on IndieGoGo in June 2021. It's an electricity-generating smart indoor bike that turns human power into usable electricity. Riders work out and then power their electronic devices.
- Physiotherapists use exercise bikes to treat clients and patients because they're low-impact and provide a safe place for people to exercise whilst recovering from illness or injury.
- And it's that need for safer cycling environments that also brings many road cyclists indoors during the winter months. Some have specific indoor bikes. Others will use a turbo trainer. Attached to the rear of the bike, a turbo trainer creates stability and resistance and allows cyclists to train indoors on their own bike. Obviously training indoors when you're used to being outside can get boring. That's why riders are now connecting their trainers to online training and racing platforms like Zwift which simulate outdoor environments.The emergence of Zwift and the rise in popularity of indoor trainers (especially during COVID) speaks to the technological development of the humble exercise bike. Bikes are getting smarter and more feature-driven.If you've pre-ordered a RE:GEN, then there's no need for a separate trainer as the bike is Zwift compatible.
Exercise bikes provide a low-impact workout that's easy to ramp up to high-intensities as riders progress on their fitness journey. Suitable for absolute beginners, elites, and everyone in between, including those in recovery, the exercise bike is both versatile and efficient when it comes to indoor training. The bikes come in all shapes and sizes from the stripped-down budget options to dual action bikes that fold down into small cupboards, to the souped-up smart bikes that include a personal power meter and electricity-generating flywheel.
The RE:GEN is live on IndiGoGo right now. Visit our campaign page to find out more, hear from our CEO and pre-order your bike today.