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October 12th, 2007

Exercise bikes are very popular at the home and in the gym, but buying an exercise bike can be a daunting experience. With so many different brands to choose from it’s difficult to know which is the right one for you. However, if you follow a few guidelines then you should be able to narrow your choice and select a machine that will meet your needs.

Why do I want an exercise bike?
It may seem like an obvious question, but why do you want one? Answering this question will help you decide on the type of bike you need and the functions that you require.
Most people want an exercise bike to keep fit and lose weight. Providing you train at the right exercise intensity then there is no doubt that the exercise bike can help you achieve those goals.

Who is going to use it?
Once you’ve established that you want to buy an exercise bike then consider who is going to use it. If other people are going to use it then look for a bike that has an adjustable seat position (vertical and horizontal), handlebars and foot straps. You should also make sure that the resistance levels are appropriate for all users.

How will it be used?
Depending on how you’re going to use the bike will depend on the type you should buy. If you’re mostly going for a gentle workout then you could buy a cheaper machine with less solid construction. However, if you’re looking to do some serious cardio workouts then you’ll need to spend at the higher end of the market.

Which type of bike do I need?
There are basically two types of exercise bikes: Upright and Recumbent. Both provide similar levels of cardiovascular training and calorie burning.

The recumbent bike tends to have a larger seat area and is more comfortable to sit on. It has hand grips at the side and you pedal with your legs out in front of you rather than below. This can be a very relaxing way of exercising and is easier on your butt and back.

The Upright Bike is very similar to riding a regular bike. The seat is in an upright position, you pedal with your legs below you and you hold on to a handlebar in front.

Each bike has advantages and disadvantages relative to the other. The only way to determine which one is right for you is to try several models out to make sure it is comfortable and works the specific muscle groups you want to work the most.

How much do I want to spend?
The amount of money you have available to spend and how you’re going to use the bike will influence the type you should buy. As a rule of thumb, the more you have to spend the better the build quality, the more functions you get and aftercare service.

How much space have I got?
Exercise bikes occupy a reasonable amount of space. Therefore measure the amount of space you have available and compare this with the dimensions of the machine you are thinking of buying.

What resistance will I need?
Different exercise bikes have different means of creating resistance. The important thing is that you choose a machine that has a means of adjusting the resistance and that it will meet your future needs.

How do the bikes offer resistance.
There are basically 4 different ways in which an indoor exercise bike offers resistance. These are:

  • Magnetic: Lets you pedal quietly and without friction. You can increase resistance smoothly and easily. Popular in professional gyms, but expensive.
  • Air: A fan built into the wheel builds up an air flow for you to pedal against. The harder you pedal, the greater the air flow and resistance.
  • Direct Tension: You adjust resistance manually with dials.
  • Flywheel: Resistance is regulated by a heavy wheel and maintained by kinetic energy built up by your pedaling.

What maximum user weight should I get?
Most manufacturers specify the maximum user weight for their machines. As a guide, choose a machine that has a Max. User Weight of around 20kg (45lbs) more than the heaviest user. This will help to reduce the workload on the flywheel and brake system.

What are the programmes and how do they benefit me?
Good quality bikes will come with a number of different workout programmes. The number of programmes and type of programmes will vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. The most popular type of programmes are interval training, hill sessions and heart rate zone.

The programmes can benefit you by changing the intensity of your workout and giving you a varied and challenging session that will keep you motivated.

What is heart rate training?
Heart rate training programmes work by changing the intensity of your workout to keep your heart rate at a specific level. You will normally have to enter some personal details via the console, for example, age, weight, gender. The machine will calculate an estimated maximum heart rate and control the workload by altering the resistance.

Your heart rate is monitored by the machine via hand grip sensors on the bike or a chest strap that sends a signal to the console.

How much warranty can I expect?
Most manufacturers will cover parts and labour for the first two years. If you’re going to be using your bike a lot then look for a warranty cover that has a longer period.

Try before you buy.
It may not be possible to try a bike before you buy it, but you should at least go down to your local fitness store and have a look around. You can always ask your friends for their experiences of bikes and they may be able to give you some pointers.

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