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Help me select an exercise bike
June 12, 2005 5:50 AM   Subscribe

What exercise bike should I purchase?

I've decided now's the time to start exercising seriously again. Joining a gym is out of the question, as I work two jobs and go to University but I could exercise at home, structuring the time as study breaks.

Does anyone have experience with home exercise bikes? I've read a few reviews and it seems that a Life Fitness 9500HRT Lifecycle would be suitable.

The price doesn't scare me as long as its well built and needs little (or preferably zero) maintenance. I'm open to alternatives; I've read good things about Schwinns, which cost much less.

Also, how much noise will one of these make? I'll be using it in a flat with folks living underneath me. Finally, for aerobic workouts and general destressing, am I better off purchasing a treadmill?
posted by Mutant to Health & Fitness (10 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
Considering your downstairs neighbors, a bike is better. What about a recumbent bike? IMO you get a better workout aside from the idea that it's a lower profile machine that (for me) is better to use while reading or whatnot. It's also less likely to transmit noise downward. A thick interlocking gym equipment pad is necessary to dampen the noise and protect your floor or carpet.
posted by nj_subgenius at 6:43 AM on June 12, 2005


I have a good quality bike hooked up to a Kurt Kinetic Road Machine indoor trainer. It's super boring but holy crap is it a good workout. MUCH more so than just riding the bike outside--I sweat more on it than any other device I've used including treadmills, cross trainers, and Lifecycle bikes I've ridden at the gym.

Benefits over exercise bikes and/or regular bikes:

-- you can take your bike off and use it as a bike
-- you don't have to wear a helmet
-- you can safely listen to headphones
-- no traffic
-- you get on, you exercise, you get off. (when I was initially just riding my bike outdoors for exercize I would have to go to the "spot" where I got the best workout (lots of hills), which added to the amount of time needed to get the workout.
-- no need to wear a shirt--saves you cleaning 7 shirts a week as they would get really sweaty.
-- you use your actual bike so if you're buying that new as well you can get a good road bike properly fit to your own body
-- if you hate it you can easily sell it on eBay and it's much easier to ship than a used exercise bike.

As for noise, mine's set up on a fold out mat/rug thing I got at the dollar store. I don't think it's so loud that neighbours will complain, however, I have no one under me so can't say for sure. The neighbours to my side have never said anything so I assume they don't even know it's happening. I wear headphones (listen to my iPod) when I ride it (another great thing about exercising indoors where there's no traffic) and I don't hear it at all.
posted by dobbs at 7:41 AM on June 12, 2005 [1 favorite]


Elliptical Cross Trainers

Elliptical cross trainer (elliptical exercise machine) offer a no impact workout that exercises numerous muscle groups. This is achieved through the dual action of cross trainer arms combined with the foot pedals. Motion studies have identified that human feet move through an elliptical pattern when walking, running or jogging. Elliptical exercise equipment at Fitness Peak imitates this motion and is the fastest growing category of cardiovascular equipment. Generally a smooth elliptical cross trainer is designed with a 3-1 ratio of lower body resistance to upper body resistance. This matches the body's normal ratio of muscle mass of upper to lower body. Over time, the user will fatigue equally with all four limbs, which is critical for longer fat burning workout programs.
posted by Blue Buddha at 8:52 AM on June 12, 2005


The Life Fitness machines are the type they use in fitness centers; they do seem to be very well constructed for constant use. However, they're very expensive.

The Schwinns are meant more for the consumer market -- I really don't think they're built for hours-a-day use like the ones in the clubs get -- but they're probably just about the best deal for the consumer market. For me, the difference in price is great enough that the Life Fitness isn't worth it.

The Schwinn may also be better in terms of noise. I recently purchased a Schwinn myself to replace another bike, and it's near silent -- while the Life Fitness is fairly quiet, the Schwinn really doesn't make any noise other than a faint clicking against my hardwood floor (if it were on carpet or a mat, I would imagine it would be silent) and the quiet whir of it changing the resistance. I think there's little chance of the Schwinn bothering the downstairs neighbors.

There are, however, lots and lots of exercise bikes that are far worse than either Schwinn or Life Fitness. Many don't have enough resistance for serious bikers, and many brands other than Schwinn or LF won't last a year of regular use. I know from experience and warranty replacement.

Like nj_subg, I also recommend getting a recumbent. You'll get just as good a workout, and they're far more comfortable (I find that with exercise, you need there to be as few excuses as possible not to do it, and with a normal exercise bike, back pain or seat discomfort can be two excuses. Not so on the recumbent.) Also, I prefer the recumbent over both treadmills and standard bikes because it's far easier to watch TV or movies while biking, which really makes the time go by a lot faster.

Good luck!
posted by eschatfische at 8:52 AM on June 12, 2005


another vote for an indoor trainer - I use one of these and it's excellent - shop around: I picked mine up for $99.

all the advantages that dobbs notes, and you can remove the super boring factor by cycling in front of the TV. Hell, you could even subscribe to the Outdoor Life Network which'll be covering The Tour de France over July and cycle watching cycling....
posted by forallmankind at 9:49 AM on June 12, 2005


Bike + trainer. Wind, fluid, or magnetic resistance trainer. Bikes are pretty useful, too, and not just as exercise equipment. Some of us actually use them for transportation.
posted by fixedgear at 11:51 AM on June 12, 2005


I have a life fitness 9500 HR recumbent. Expensive, but imo, worth it. Quiet, bulletproof, very comfortable.

If I would be ordering one today, i would not get the HR option. It works fine, just really is more information than I need.

The recumbent is much more comfortable and thus lets you exercise for far longer periods without complaint, but imo does not give quite the workout the upright does. You end up having to raise the resistance to get your HR up. But for me, the comfort level is worth it. Very easy to read or watch tv while riding.
posted by vronsky at 12:09 PM on June 12, 2005


Recumbents don't get your heart rate up enough.

Ellipticals are really nice. And if I was gonna get an exercise bike I would check out a Spinning bike (the kind they use in Spin classes.) They are adjustable and much more like a real bike when ridden.
posted by konolia at 1:25 PM on June 12, 2005


I have a LifeCycle recumbent bike. It's a very good brand; you're paying $2,000 or so for a slightly lighter version of what goes into commercial gyms, so it is built to last (and to get a lot of use). I strongly prefer the recumbent version (which is more expensive) to the upright version, and urge you to use both at a gym, for at least 30 minutes each, if you don't have experience with both types. (A day pass should cost no more than $20, and is often free if you say you're considering joining; well worth the investment.)

My wife uses a Precor elliptical trainer, around $2,500 to buy, and I admit that it is definitely easier (and more pleasant) to get a more intensive workout on that. But the most important thing for exercising, absolutely, is picking something that you're willing to do again and again. In my case, I can read while on the bike, but not on an elliptical, and that makes all the difference. (My wife watches movies, mostly, while exercising.)

As always, I recommend Consumer Reports. Their January 2005 issue covers ellipticals (summary: anything less than $1100 isn't worth it; New Balance and Schwinn have models at around $1100 that are reasonably good; better than those two will cost you twice as much) and treadmills. I couldn't find any evaluation of exercise bikes.

The deciding factor for me, in picking a recumbent bike, was that I like the LifeCycle random program, which increases or decreases the intensity every 10 seconds. No other bike on the market (this was several years ago) had the equivalent (most changed intensity every 30 seconds, if they had a random program at all).

Bottom line: don't buy an expensive piece of equipment (it's definitely worth paying another $100 or so for delivery and installation, by the way) if you haven't (a) tested it (and not just for 30 seconds), and (b) thought through whether you are likely to use it several times per week, as opposed to the 80 to 90 percent of (admittedly cheaper) equipment that actually just gathers dust in homes.
posted by WestCoaster at 5:07 PM on June 12, 2005


Recumbents don't get your heart rate up enough.

This is completely untrue, and bad advice. konolia, have you ever used a recumbent? One with a heart rate monitor?
posted by eschatfische at 11:17 PM on June 12, 2005


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