Spin bikes are sexier than they used to be.
Remember when indoor bikes were paired right down and stripped back to basics? Pedals, handlebars, an uncomfortable saddle…If you were lucky, there was a drinks holder. Then sensors, calorie counters, heart-rate monitors started appearing on exercise bikes and now you have spin bikes with touch screens and speakers.
We’re now seeing a rise in Zwift compatible turbo-trainers, too, where riders can race and navigate virtual outdoor courses via phone, tablet, computer and television screens. And you don’t need an outdoor bike to use a smart-trainer, because the Energym bike is compatible with Zwift.
Do I need a spin bike with a screen?
We’re a screen-based society.
We work, socialise and relax by watching them, so it’s hardly surprising that more of us are now exercising with them, too, but if you’re about to start indoor cycling, do you really need a display? Because you wouldn’t expect a screen on a gym spin bike, right?
But the rise of at-home fitness means more people are putting indoor bikes into their homes.
The unique environmental factor of a live spin class — the instructor interacting with participants, the “pack” of cyclists, and the atmosphere — can now be recreated in the home with a bike and a compatible screen.
Most exercise bikes don’t come with one but premium branded spin bikes do.
Peloton, for example, sells its bikes with a screen so that riders can connect and compete against each other in live-stream classes. The screen becomes a rider’s “eyes” on the instructor, the leaderboard, friends and competitors. For Peloton, the screen is the USP of the bike.
There are two reasons why you might want a screen on a spin or exercise bike:
1. To access the software built into the bike — for example, to interact with instructors, other riders, to use third-party software like Zwift or to access leaderboards and biometric information.
2. As a distraction when exercising: a way of watching TV or movies when working out.
Before you buy a bike with a screen, you should know that you can’t use it to watch Netflix (or other streaming services). Whilst there are workarounds to this (and you can find these easily on Google), they’re not endorsed or permitted by the bike’s manufacturers.
Peloton, for example, explicitly states that you can’t watch third-party apps or software on their screens.
Although, people do.
Peloton alternatives in the UK and abroad offer different bikes at a range of different prices. Some bikes like NordicTrack include a screen, too, but similarly, these are not designed to be used as entertainment screens (although, again, there is a workaround).
You could always add a screen.
The built-in screen holder on the Energym bike allows riders to watch their own phones and screens. It makes the bike more affordable but it also allows the rider to choose the app subscription they want: Apple Fitness, Zwift, FitBit, etc.
Which is one way of future-proofing your bike against the collapse of an integrated software supplier.
If you already own an indoor bike or a turbo-trainer compatible with Zwift, you can also buy a tablet holder. Using a turbo-trainer with Zwift could mean buying a tablet holder or manoeuvring the bike closer to a television screen.
Pros of buying an indoor bike with a screen
All the software integrated into the bike and the display is easily accessible and navigable.
It’s easy to recreate a live in-class experience for users looking for a community.
There’s no need to buy a tablet or screen
It looks slicker, more attractive
One device can store multiple profiles making it suitable for use by the entire household.
Some premium bikes allow you to communicate with other riders through the screen adding a social element to at-home fitness.
Cons of buying an indoor bike with a screen?
You can’t access Netflix or third-party streaming software
Bypassing the screen to access Netflix etc can lead to glitches.
Anything that adapts the bike (changing hardware, etc.) will invalidate the warranty.
If the screen breaks, you’ll need to replace it like-for-like which may be more expensive than a high-spec display.
Do I need a spin bike with a screen?
You don’t need a spin bike with a screen.
You might want a bike with a screen, however.
There’s the difference. You can choose.
Buying a Peloton bike with a screen makes sense because the display fulfils the companies USP: community, competition, interactivity, immersion, etc. But only if that set-up appeals to you or you could end up with buyer's remorse.
But we all have screens now. You’ll find a huge range of stationary bikes (including spin bikes) that come without screens but which still have all the other bells and whistles. You can always buy a screen holder or put your bike in front of a television screen or monitor.