Whilst spin bikes and exercise bikes aren’t the same, they are part of the same family of stationary bikes.
With more than a passing resemblance to road bikes, both have pedals, handlebars and saddles but unlike a road bike, they’re used indoors and will remain in place no matter how hard you pedal them.
Stationary bikes have been popular both in homes and gyms for decades but it’s only relatively recently that in-home spinning bikes have become more advanced, more brandable (and more expensive). Spin bikes have been a popular feature in gyms for some time but with the jump to at-home fitness, they’re also fortunately placed to exploit the rise in live-stream classes.
But when it comes down to spin bikes vs exercise bikes which is better and why?
Spin bikes vs exercise bikes: what’s the difference?
Spin bike handlebars should be roughly level with your hipbone with the elbows slightly bent, the spine neutral and with a micro bend in the knee when the leg is fully extended. Posture is important on a spin bike to prevent injury and lower back pain.
Spin bikes are better suited for shorter and more intense workout sessions.
Exercise bikes have higher handlebars than spin bikes and you’ll be sitting more upright on the saddle.
Spin bikes have reinforced pedals, too. During classes, you’ll often see people standing up during classes to get a deeper workout in and to recreate hill climbs. Whilst spinning is not a core workout, it does require core strength and engagement of the abs especially when standing intervals in class.
Spin bikes will also have a strap on the pedal to keep the foot secure when the rider is standing and when they’re riding intensively.
Spin bikes often have heavier flywheels. A heavier flywheel means it takes more momentum to get things started and to keep moving — much like an outdoor bike. Heavier flywheels give a more realistic and smoother ride with tension controlled by turning a knob.
There tends to be more adjustability on a spin bike, too. Posture is important and so you can alter the seat and the handlebars to prevent injury or poor form.
Spin bikes tend to be more expensive than other static bikes but are built to be durable. Indoor cycling classes use spin bikes giving not only a tough workout but also a community experience of exercise; riders can also generate electricity from a workout.
Spin bikes don’t always have the embedded tracking data of exercise bikes: heart rate monitors, calorie burn, etc. Although, we’re beginning to see a new generation of spin bikes that have touch-screens, LCD screens to stream classes and speaker systems.
What is better a spin bike or exercise bike – advantages and disadvantages
Spin bike: pros and cons
Do You Have Peloton Regret?Spin bikes work well for shorter, more intense workouts. They give a good cardiovascular workout and complement winter training for road cyclists unable to ride outside due to poor weather.
Their heavier flywheels make for a smoother and more realistic ride
Higher intensity workouts on a spin bike can help torch calories especially when you’re competing against other people either in classes or via online communities.
Gym spin classes offer a community feeling that’s more palatable to some riders than exercising alone.
It can help tone up muscles, too.
Surprisingly, spinning can be relatively low-impact and can be suitable for people easing their way back into exercise or for anyone looking to go easy on their joints.
Spin bikes can be more expensive than exercise bikes and this has led some users to regret the decision to buy premium options. Peloton regret has been well documented on social media and across forums and communities. Of course, there are more affordable Peloton alternatives available, too.
It can be tough on the lower back especially if you haven’t set your bike up correctly or if your posture isn’t correct.
Spin bikes can be uncomfortable for beginners.
Spin classes can be full-on for beginners and it can be easy to overdo it during those first few classes. Static bikes on a gym floor allow individual riders to set their own pace.
You’ll be engaging your core during a workout, but spinning isn’t going to build you abs and you’ll need to add core exercises to your routine if you want that six-pack.
Exercise bike: pros and cons
They’re generally cheaper than a spin bike and if you’re just looking for a basic bike set-up, they’re widely available and highly affordable.
You can buy folding exercise bikes which take up less space in the home.
Depending on the bike you have, it can be easier to monitor your data: heart rate and calorie burn, etc.
They’re a low-intensity exercise, low impact and beginner-friendly.
The saddle is more comfortable.
Posture is less important and there’s less pressure on the upper back.
Exercise bikes can be monotonous if you’re exercising alone
They’re a less realistic cycling experience
They’re not always as easy to adjust
Often, they don’t provide the same intense workout as a spin class.
You can’t stand up on an exercise bike
Cheaper models may not be as well made or as comfortable.
Turbo-trainers and spin bikes
Road cyclists should also consider turbo trainers.
Halfords describes it as ‘providing a platform that allows the back wheels to be turned without the bike going anywhere’. You’re turning your road bike into a static bike whilst retaining the ability to control resistance.
Turbo trainers, paired with systems like Zwift, offer an immersive ride where you can compete against others.
The biggest advantage to using a turbo trainer is that you already have the bike and, presumably, are already used to riding it. It also means you can alternate between biking on the road and biking outdoors, meaning there’s no need to buy a separate bike, allowing you to train more easily.
Are spin bikes worth it?
Yes and no.
There’s no clear right or wrong answer because choosing between spin bikes, exercise bikes, and any other type of gym equipment depends on you: your circumstances, fitness goals and budget.
If you’re looking for a way to ride during the winter, to have a convenient at-home exercise practice, to train for endurance at higher intensities or to compete against others either in classes or online, then a spin bike is worth it.
Right now, Peloton sells the most popular indoor cycling bike in the world but Peloton’s competitors may offer a more suitable and affordable option. It’s important to know the features you want on a bike because you don’t have to pay for all the bells-and-whistles if you’re not going to need them.
You could also take some spin classes before committing to buying an at-home bike.
Why are spin bikes so expensive?
Some spin bikes are expensive but others are less so. The price depends on several factors: build quality, the bike’s tech and features, as well as brand reputation. You can buy bikes that are designed for pro-road cyclists like the Watt Atom Bike as well as clean energy-generating spin bikes.
It pays to do your research and to understand what it is you’re looking for. For some people, it may be as simple as a specific flyweight whilst others may want an energy-generating spin bike.
Can you do a spin class on a normal exercise bike?
Doing a spin class on a normal exercise bike isn’t going to give you the same workout. You won’t be able to stand up during the intervals, but, if you’re exercising at home, static and spin bikes share enough characteristics for you to get a good workout in on either. You can always turn the music up, set the resistance to high, and pedal as hard and as fast as you can to recreate the experience. It won’t be the same but it’ll still be a good workout.
Should I get a spin bike or exercise bike?
It depends on what type of workout you want and what your budget is. It may also depend on the space you have in your house or apartment and whether you want access to live classes. For general cardio, an exercise bike will be good enough. For a more intense and powerful (but still relatively low-impact) exercise, try a spin bike. Of course, you don’t have to invest in an at-home bike. Most gyms will have a provision of spin bikes in their inventories and many, too, will offer classes.
For some, it’s the community effort of riding together that really makes spinning such an excellent form of exercise. Unless you’re plumping for a more premium brand of an at-home bike, you may struggle to recreate the atmosphere of working out at home.