Fitness Equipment Reviews

Choosing the Best Spin Cycle for You

Of all the things you can do on an exercise bike, spin cycling is by far the most hardcore. A spin cycle is designed to most closely replicate the type of work you would subject your body to on an outdoor racing bike. Spin cycling isn’t as comfortable as working out on an upright or recumbent bike, so why would you do it?
In this article, we’ll discover why investing in a spin cycle is one of the best things you can do to max out your home-based cardio and fat loss program. We will also spell out exactly what you need to look for when choosing your spin bike and we’ll take a look at the best bikes of 2021 across all price points.

Spin Bike Points of Difference

On a spin bike, you are put in a low body profile which replicates the way you would sit on a road bike. That is because the height of the seat and handlebars will be at about the same level. You will also notice that spin bikes provide you with a greater range of handgrip options than an upright or recumbent bike. When you do a spin class, the instructor will refer to these as positions 1, 2, and 3, with each position working your muscles differently.
The pedals on a spin bike will have toe straps that allow you to securely anchor your feet. The more expensive bikes will also allow you to fit SPD cleats. The secure footing means that you can pull up as well as pushing down on the pedals.
The flywheel on a spin cycle will be open front and either driven by a chain or a belt. The resistance increases either when you tighten a pad on the spinning wheel by way of a knob below the handlebars to bring magnets closer or farther away from the flywheel.

What to Look for When Buying a Spin Bike

Q Factor
The Q Factor is the width of the distance between the two pedals paths. The lower the Q Factor, the more closely it replicates an outdoor cycle. Ergonomically it puts you in the best position. The ideal Q Factor is between 155 and 175 millimeters.
Spin bikes will generally have a heavier flywheel than upright or recumbent bikes. The range of flywheels will be generally between 14 (31 pounds) and 20 kg (44 lbs) in weight. A heavier flywheel is a good thing because it gives you a smoother pedaling experience that is closer to what you would get on a road bike. As the flywheel gets heavier, the harder it becomes to start pedaling and the harder it will be to slow it down. With a good-sized flywheel, you won’t be able to coast on the bike because the flywheel moves the pedals.
Drive Mechanism
The drive mechanism is what connects the flywheel to the pedals. On a spin bike, it will be either a chain or a belt drive. Chain drives are very similar to the chain that you are used to seeing on an outdoor bicycle. Just like your old bike that you had as a kid, it requires regular maintenance by way of lubrication and tightening. Its advantage is that, so long as it is maintained, it will last a very long time. A belt drive is made of durable rubber and, while it doesn’t require the same maintenance, it will have to be replaced every year or two, depending on how frequently you use the spin bike.
Seat & Handlebars
Ideally, you will want a seat that allows for fore and aft as well as up and down movement. This will allow you to adjust for pedal distance and for how far your torso is away from the handlebars. However, bikes under $200 are likely to only provide up and down adjustments.
You should also look for handlebars that are adjustable both up and down and horizontally. This will ensure that you aren’t over-reaching to achieve a natural position and putting undue pressure on your spine.
The seat on a spin bike is very similar to what you would find on an outdoor bike. As a result, it is less comfortable and smaller than that on either an upright or a recumbent bike. You’ll notice, consequently, that it’s not as comfortable. For that reason, you will want a seat that is removable so that you have the option of fitting it with a larger, more cushioned alternative.
Handlebar Positions
Ideally, you will want a spin bike that allows you to customize your positioning rather than having to fit in with set heights. Handlebars should be adjustable both horizontally and vertically.
Resistance Type
Spin bikes are either friction or magnetic resistance-based. The friction type, which puts pressure on the flywheel, is similar to what you find on an outdoor bike. Both resistance types are adjusted by the turning of a knob. With magnetic resistance, the knob controls the distance between the flywheel and a couple of magnets. Because the magnets never actually touch the flywheel, the resistance change is very smooth. This is also a very quiet process and it does not cause the mechanism to wear out.
In contrast, friction resistance uses a pad that makes contact with the flywheel. This is not as seamless and will lead to the pads wearing out over time. It is also noisier than the magnetic resistance system.
Water Bottle
You are going to be sweating a lot of water out of your body during a 45-minute spin session so your water bottle must be easily locatable.
Drive Mechanism
If you have the choice between a belt or chain drive between the crank and the pedals, you should opt for a belt. It will provide you with a quieter cycle operation.
Make sure that the bike has a secure way, such as durable straps, to keep your feet in place so that you can apply pressure both up and down. Even better are spin bikes that come with toe clips or cleats. The pedals on spin bikes are interchangeable, so they can be easily changed out because they use the same threading as on upright or outdoor bikes.
The pedals on spin bikes are usually fitted with a three-piece crankshaft. This makes them stronger, which is important because you will probably spend some time standing up on them.
Transport Wheels
Spin bikes are considerably heavier than upright or recumbent bikes, mainly due to the heavier flywheel. Transportation wheels will make it a whole lot easier to maneuver the spin bike around your gym or lounge room.
Your Goals
Before beginning to check the spin bike market, think about your training goals with the bike. How often will you be using it? If it’s every day, you will be better off with a slightly more expensive bike that provides a chain drive and a flywheel in the 35+ pound range. Will you be doing 45-minute long spin class type sessions or shorter HIIT type training on the bike? For longer sessions, you’ll want as heavy a flywheel as your budget can afford, along with toe clips on the pedals and 4-way adjustment on the seat and handles to keep you comfortable over the entire course of your workout. You will also want a magnetic resistance mechanism to give a smooth, jerk-free work, especially if you intend to do shorter, burst-type training.

The Best of the Spin Bike Market

Best Premium Spin Cycle – Keiser M31i
  • V-Shaped frame
  • Rear flywheel design
  • Smooth magnetic resistance
  • Self-tensioning, zero maintenance Poly V-Drive belt
Best Medium Priced Spin Bike – French Fitness MIC4
  • 4-way seat adjustment
  • Belt drive
  • Smooth, magnetic resistance
  • Self-powering console
Best Budget Priced Spin Bike – Sunny Pro II Magnetic Indoor Cycling Bike
  • 40 lb flywheel
  • Magnetic resistance
  • Max user weight 275 lb
  • Performance monitor

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