Indoor bicycling
May 15, 2020 7:25 AM   Subscribe

I would like to be able to bike in my house. I have a bike. I don't have a ton of money. I am somewhat fat. Do I get a cheap bike training stand or a cheap exercise bike and if so, which one? Needs to be delivered by mail.

I don't really care about metrics - as in life, I'd just like to be able to get on my bike and pedal. I don't need smart anything, I just need something durable enough to sustain use by a stout adult. I have a Jamis Coda Sport sized 17.

I've never bought anything like this before so I have absolutely no idea what to look for.
posted by Frowner to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (17 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I'd love to hear other people's answers as well. My gut tells me that a training stand would be better than a dedicated exercise bike, but I've never used one myself and don't know how effective or expensive they are.
posted by tobascodagama at 7:33 AM on May 15, 2020 [1 favorite]

I weigh about 210 lbs. and have used both the Marcy upright bike ($199) and the Schwinn 130 ($329). The Marcy felt pretty flimsy but actually got the job done fine--its only problem is that the max resistance is not very high. The Schwinn is a totally different (sturdy) experience and worth every penny if you can come up with the $$. Have fun!
posted by 8603 at 7:42 AM on May 15, 2020

The difference seems to be that the dedicated exercise bikes are a bit more upright and have more padded seats (my experience being limited to helping a few friends get theirs working better, including my across-the-street neighbor two weeks ago who found one for $10 on Craigslist).

The training stand will take a bit more room, your bike is longer than your average exercise bike.

My gut says to go for the training stand, just because I prefer the geometry of my various bicycles to the geometry of any dedicated exercise bike I've been on. I had one last time I spent a lot of time working from home, ended up giving it away to a friend, but used it while I had it.

Also: Look in Craigslist and similar, my across-the-street neighbor picked up an exercise bike for $10 plus a little of my time fixing up the broken bits, which I was happy to give 'cause that's the kind of neighborhood we are.
posted by straw at 7:47 AM on May 15, 2020 [4 favorites]

I have this recumbent exercise bike, and I'm super happy with it. I am also somewhat fat, and this seat is really comfortable, doesn't hurt my butt or my back. It can also fold up for storage.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 7:55 AM on May 15, 2020

As far as durable, it is quite sturdy. I've had mine for 5 years and it is still going strong. I've been as high as 250 during the time I've owned it. I don't ride it a ton because I am lazy, but it has been used somewhat regularly and still works like new.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 7:58 AM on May 15, 2020

You would probably be good with a simple resistance trainer. I had a Cycleops Fluid 2 for a while and it worked great. (I've since upgraded to a smart trainer that I rarely use.) In fact, if I still have it lying around I can send it to you. PM me.
posted by slogger at 7:58 AM on May 15, 2020 [1 favorite]

I have both a stationary bike and a training stand for my road bike. They serve somewhat different purposes (IMO).

If you are just looking to do cardio, a stationary bike will do the job well and will probably be more comfortable than a bike+trainer. They have bigger seats because they're designed to be ridden in an upright position for sustained amount of time, etc. You probably don't need to wear bike shorts on a stationary bike. If I just want to do some cardio as part of a workout, this is what I'll use. The resistance also goes higher (on mine) than I can get out of my cheap trainer.

If you are looking to train in order to ride your regular bike longer/faster/whatever, then get a training stand. It'll let you ride your real bike, with its actual geometry, actual saddle, clipless pedals/shoes (if you use them), and everything else. You adjust the resistance while riding by moving through the gears just like you would IRL. But depending on the setup of your bike, you'll probably want to wear padded bike shorts just like you would when riding outdoors for a longer ride. (Personally I find riding my bike on a trainer much less comfortable than riding it outdoors, because there's no opportunity to coast downhill and rearrange yourself. It's like riding on flat ground forever.) My cheapo trainer doesn't go up to very high resistance, though, so you can't stand on the pedals to practice hard climbs—I assume a better trainer would solve this.

Either way, get yourself a decent box fan and point it at yourself while you ride! It makes the whole experience much more pleasant.
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:24 AM on May 15, 2020 [2 favorites]

I have Krietler Alloy Rollers. They're excellent as they allow me to ride my own bike, which I had custom made so it fits me perfectly. However, as good as rollers are, they are very difficult to learn how to ride. It's basically like trying to learn how to ride a bike all over again. The up of that is that it improves your balance and concentration. The down is that if you're easily frustrated you'll give up and it'll be a waste.
posted by dobbs at 8:39 AM on May 15, 2020 [1 favorite]

I'm not fat but when I exercise bike I find it more comfortable to put a pillow on the seat, especially if I haven't been doing it for awhile. So if you do end up with an exercise bike and a sore butt keep this in mind.
posted by Jane the Brown at 9:18 AM on May 15, 2020

I sometimes use my sweetie’s recumbent road bike, which is on an un-fancy resistance stand. WAY in favor of recumbent or upright for the purpose when my day has been hunched over a deal/laptop/sewing machine. I’m not all that fond of the rollers; the bike feels a little tippy so I can’t just relax into it and push. Also the resistance is noticeably lower than errand biking in our hilly town.

So I’d be pretty interested in Serene Empress Dork‘s thingummy if I wanted to do a lot of this.
posted by clew at 9:23 AM on May 15, 2020

Yes. Definitely get a cheap exercise *recumbent* bike. I mean, which would you rather sit on? A stool (upright) or a lawn chair (recumbent)?
posted by aniola at 11:12 AM on May 15, 2020 [1 favorite]

I have used an old Tunturi stationary, which is pretty low-tech (resistance is created by tightening a band around a flywheel), and a couple of different trainers for regular bikes. Currently I've got a smart trainer that's controlled by smartphone apps. Some observations:

- Saddles are easy to change if you don't like the one you've got. Heavily padded saddles seem more comfortable to the uninitiated, but put pressure where you don't want it (that is, everywhere but your sit-bones) and can actually interfere with your pedaling motion.
- I sweat a lot on a stationary, and I wrecked one bike with corrosion from my sweat. Be prepared to do a thorough wipedown after every use. I've got a sacrificial beater bike on my current setup, with a sweat guard. I like not needing to mess around with mounting/dismounting the bike every time I want to do an erg ride—it's just ready to go.
- That old Tunturi was rock steady, and my current trainer is also very stable, but a lot of cheaper trainers aren't. As a rule of thumb, the heavier it is, the more stable it will be.
- Rollers are great for technique and do have a learning curve. Unless you get some kind of resistance add-on, they offer almost no resistance, so they're not great for building strength or cardiovascular capacity.
posted by adamrice at 1:18 PM on May 15, 2020 [1 favorite]

I'd go with a simple resistance trainer. You can probably get one secondhand (craigslist, FB marketplace) pretty cheap right now while everyone else is getting a Peleton. Since they're much simpler and not sized, much easier to buy online than a bike. I echo what's been said above about comfort; on the trainer you move around a lot less, so slight discomforts get magnified.

The trainer will put a LOT of wear on your back tire, quickly. For me, I tend to put my road bike on the trainer "for the season" (winter) with a dedicated tire. If I were putting the bike on & off the trainer a lot, I might look for a cheap back wheel for trainer use.
posted by Dashy at 1:26 PM on May 15, 2020 [2 favorites]

I have a fairly nice bike trainer and I am relatively spry. I HATE GETTING ON IT. I always feel like I'm trying to scale a fence and am half a second from tipping it over. I have practiced. I have gotten tips from a dozen cyclists. I just kinda hate it. I also have to make sure there's still air in the rear tire. I just don't like it much.

Compared to this, getting on a stationary bike is like sitting on a chair. Harmless.

All that said, I have an unloved bike trainer that my spouse never uses we could drop off sometime if you wanted it. I suppose being free is major selling point.
posted by advicepig at 3:00 PM on May 15, 2020 [2 favorites]

Get a trainer, but if you're a casual cyclist I recommend the kind that looks like a little triangular stand for your rear wheel, not the roller kind. There's a bit of a learning curve to rollers that I don't think is worthwhile for most people.

Also, if your tires are nice, you will want a specialized trainer tire for your rear wheel, because the trainer can really shred your nice road tires.

Also, get yourself a GIANT fan, like a 20" box fan minimum, right in front of your face. If you can stand there without glasses and not tear up, you need a bigger fan. Don't skimp on the fan.
posted by meaty shoe puppet at 6:19 PM on May 15, 2020 [2 favorites]

Rollers have a couple of advantages:
* Might be gotten cheap used
* Easy to store away

That said, it'll be tricky learning to ride them. You need to have sharp balance, because you can only steer while the rollers are spinning.

One trick to learning is placing them through an open doorway - then you can lean & check yourself against the door jambs.
posted by Rat Spatula at 8:39 AM on May 16, 2020

Recumbents are easier on the back, too.
posted by clew at 11:13 AM on May 16, 2020

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