Last year was the year of the indoor cycling bike. With gyms and fitness studios closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, individuals had to come up with their own way to workout at home. Cycling is a great way to burn calories, build strength and improve cardiovascular health, all without putting a lot of stress on your joints. Spin bikes tend to take up less space in your home than treadmills and power racks for weightlifting, and are a fun, upbeat way to get your cardio in. So, naturally, companies like Peloton exploded in popularity and similar at-home cycling options have become the latest trend in at-home fitness.
If you’re considering getting an at-home spin bike for your home gym, you’ve come to the right place. We’re going to walk you through everything you need to know before making the purchase, including the pros and cons of luxury vs. basic spin bikes, the best spin bikes available, necessary accessories, cleaning and maintenance guidelines for spin bikes, and more. In this piece, we’re going to discuss:
- The two main categories of spin bikes, as well as pros and cons of each
- Our process for choosing the best exercise bikes available
- Indoor vs. outdoor spinning
- Exercise bike FAQs
- Our round-up of the best exercise bikes
- Cleaning and maintenance of your exercise bike
- Essential exercise bike accessories
At this moment in time, the Peloton bike is, in our opinion, the best spin bike around. Their equipment is top-notch, programming superb and they’ve got a great product they’re continuously innovating. However, their bikes will cost you upwards of $2,400 or more, and we know that’s not within most people’s’ budgets. We’ve centered this list on high-quality alternatives to the Peloton bike that are either similar in pricing and functionality so you can venture from the brand itself, or are cheaper alternatives you can stream their content to and use instead of the bike itself.
This is their most recent bike that includes a few upgrades from their initial model, including a more advanced subwoofer sound bar and the ability to turn the screen and do strength, yoga, HIIT and other workouts right beside the bike. The touchscreen offers 360 degree movement and all classes are streamed in crystal clear HD. The bike includes digitally-controlled resistance that follows along with instructors’ recommendations, and you can easily pair smartwatches with their app to view metrics on multiple devices.
Luxury vs. Basic Exercise Bikes
There are two general categories for at-home spin bikes — bikes that have a screen and bikes that don’t. Companies like Peloton, NordicTrack and ProForm come with giant screens that allow users to navigate between classes and stream in guided workouts that mimic an in-studio experience. These bikes also tend to come with the ability to track your RPM, resistance and other metrics alongside the class you’re taking, so you can mark your progress and compete against other riders on community leaderboards. These premium pieces of home exercise equipment can cost anywhere from $900 to $2,500.
There are plenty of affordable spin bikes that cost under $500; however, they tend to lack screens and come with fewer special features. However, that actually gives you more flexibility in terms of the content you can view while riding. With a standard spin bike you can mount your own smartphone or iPad on the front and stream any fitness class you want, making them a worthwhile Peloton budget hack. You won’t be able to track metrics in the same way, but you can still get a killer workout.
We’ve included models of both types of bikes below so you can decide which is best for your fitness routine and budget.
How We Chose the Best Exercise Bikes
There are a ton of great exercise bikes, and the top brands have many different models to choose from. Ultimately, rather than picking specific home spin bikes, we decided to rank the best brands. Some of our top choices come pretty close to recreating the Peloton experience. Of course, the very best home exercise bikes cost almost as much as the Peloton.
When ranking our favorite fitness bike brands, we considered criteria like:
- Customer Reviews
- Display Screens
- Brand Reliability
- Resistance Levels
- Special Features
Below, you’ll find our selections for the best alternatives to the Peloton, and best exercise bikes in general. In addition, we’ll share some of our favorite fitness apps, which let you recreate the spin class experience at home — for a lot less money.
Best Exercise Bikes for 2021
1. NordicTrack Cycling Bikes
NordicTrack is perhaps the closest to an actual Peloton as you can get — and they offer their signature spinning machine in two screen sizes — a 15″ and 22″. Their bikes, the Commercial S15i Studio Cycle and Commercial S22i Studio Cycle are truly an alternative, as the touchscreens stream their own iFit classes and don’t leave a lot of room for you to mount your own device and stream Peloton’s classes — but if that doesn’t both you keep reading.
Their bikes come with LIVE resistance + incline controls, 22 different levels of digital resistance and a display that rotates and tilts so you can stream their other classes off the bike using the same machine. The bike comes with a pair of 3 lb dumbbells for upper body incorporation as well as two 2″ amplified speakers for great sound quality. The only notable differences between the two bikes below is the size of the touchscreen and the number of resistance levels — the 22Si has 24 instead of 22.
NordicTrack Commercial S15i Studio Cycle
Commercial S22i Studio Cycle
2. ProForm Indoor Exercise Bikes
ProForm is another fitness brand that makes an excellent exercise bike and Peloton alternative. They’re got three different bikes available to users that progress from a more basic model to a competitive spin bike that offers a lot of what Peloton’s bike does with about $1,000 slashes from the price. All of their at-home fitness equipment streams the iFit fitness library to it so you have access to hundreds of classes alongside your bike when you purchase.
The first bike we’ll highlight is the ProForm Carbon CX bike. This is their basic exercise bike that includes a mount for a tablet where you can stream iFit classes. This bike comes with automatic resistance control so you can easily follow along with trainers, and it also comes with hand weights so you can cross train alongside your cardio workouts. The bike comes with 16 levels of resistance to choose from and an ergonomic padded seat. The pedals on this bike also come with the option for toe cages if you’d rather keep your sneakers on and not worry about changing in and out of cleats. This is a great feature for beginners.
Their second notable bike is the ProForm Studio Bike Pro. This bike also comes with all the perks the Carbon CX bike does in terms of the iFit membership, along with a Silent Magnetic Resistance design so you can adjust your training intensity without disturbing others. This bike also comes with a 10″ touchscreen display that can rotate and tilt up and down so you can train alongside the machine just as easily as on it. It also has 22 levels of resistance included, so it’s a step up from the CX in intensity as well as design.
Lastly, they also have a Pro bike with a 22″ screen aptly named the Studio Bike Pro 22. This bike comes with a SmartSwivel, HD touchscreen display that’ll magnify the effects of the LIVE interactive training sessions and enable you to do so much more than cycle with this bike. You’ve got 24 levels of resistance with this bike as well as a SmartBeat heart rate monitor that can give you in-depth metrics alongside your workouts.
ProForm Carbon CX Exercise Bike
ProForm Studio Bike Pro
ProForm Studio Bike Pro 22
3. Schwinn Indoor Cycling Bikes
You remember Schwinn — they made our bikes when we were kids. Now, they’ve got their own cycling bikes, which just so happen to be some of the best Peloton alternatives for use at home. There are two models that are worth highlighting in their collection — the IC3 and IC4 bikes, each of which would be a solid addition to your home workout setup.
Both are high-quality cycling machines equipped with 40 lb flywheels with over 100 levels of resistance to choose between. They’re also both equipped with grip-able handlebars for stability and dual-link pedal and toe cages so you can clip or slip in however you wish. The handlebars on each bike also have multiple grip positions so you can shift and adjust throughout your workout, and both the seat and handlebars can be adjusted horizontally and vertically for comfort.
The main difference between the two is that the IC3 has a standard LCD console for tracking metrics while the IC4 has a full LCD screen for your metrics and a media rack that’s perfect for mounting an iPhone, iPad or other device. The IC4 bike is designed to work with Peloton, Zwift and other apps easily, or you can dial into the Explore the World app and ride around the world in virtual races.
Both bikes are solid alternatives to Peloton spin bikes, but if you want something as close to the real thing as possible I’d go with the IC4. It’s a world-class home exercise bike under $1,000.
Schwinn IC3 Indoor Cycling Bike
Schwinn IC4 Indoor Cycling Bike
4. Bowflex Spin Bikes
Bowflex is another solid option when it comes to Peloton alternatives. They’re a major player in the home fitness space in general, and their bikes have gotten great reviews for the smooth, quiet, challenging and satisfying rides they provide. They’ve got one basic model — the C6 that comes with a smooth belt with 100 levels of resistance, an adjustable seat, dual-link pedals, 3lb dumbbells and a tablet holder for easy streaming. The metrics tracking is solid, and the bike is compatible with the most popular fitness apps including Peloton, Swift and Explore the World.
They also made two more advanced, Peloton-adjacent bikes, known as VeloCore, that have large HD touchscreens you can use to stream in adaptive workouts, entertainment, the same compatible fitness apps and more. The touchscreen is available in a 16″ and 22″ size, and both are in an adjustable console. The touchscreen bikes also come with the Bowflex workout experience called JRNY, which comes with coaching, streamed classes and other features all accessible via the touchscreen. The VeloCore bikes also come with a leaning feature where you can lean, rock, sway and more like you would on a real bike on a real road — and the class will react. This extends the workout beyond your lower body and incorporates your core, arms and back as well.
Again, this situation is similar to Schwinn — the basic bike works in that you can stream Peloton classes to your phone and use the C6 bike to complete them. If you want a more integrated experience that’s closer to what an actual Peloton feels like — the VeloCore bikes in either the 16″ or 22″ sizes are the way to go. However, the Bowflex bikes are also more expensive than Schwinn models, and if you have the budget, it’s hard to beat the Peloton itself.
Bowflex C6 Bike
Bowflex VeloCore Bike — 16″
Bowflex VeloCore Bike — 22″
Bowflex Cardio Machine Mat
If you’re buying a Bowflex bike this is a perfect mat to go with it. It’s a pro-quality mat designed to fit underneath the bikes, add stability and keep your area clean throughout your workout. It’ll catch all the sweats and swears you can muster, and will reduce wear and tear on your hardwood floor, tile or carpet.
5. PYHIGH Indoor Cycling Bikes
BEST BUDGET SPIN BIKE
This cycling bike from PYHIGH is quite similar to a Peloton bike in terms of the bidirectional flywheel and anti-loosing grade belt, and it’s one of the best Peloton alternatives we’ve found. PYHIGH spin bikes have proven to be extremely popular among SPY readers in 2020, and it’s a great option if you’re looking for the best Peloton alternatives under $500.
It has reinforced pedals that move easily as well as a phone/iPad holder for streaming your favorite virtual class or TV show. The anti-loosing belt provides for a smoother and quieter ride than other bikes and has a knob in the center for adding or removing resistance. The non-slip handlebars will give you a good grip while you climb out of the saddle and the seat is wide and comfortable so when you’re peddling in the saddle you won’t experience discomfort. The seat has 4-way adjustability and the handlebars have 2-way adjustability. All knobs for adjustment will hold in place once you’ve made your selection and the whole bike has transport wheels that make moving it simple.
The PYHIGH S2 Spin Bike offers 35 pounds of resistance and a simple LCD screen for monitoring your time, speed, distance and calories burned. The more expensive PYHIGH S7 Spin Bike offers 48 pounds of resistance and offers heart-rate monitoring in addition to time, speed and distance. Both are great choices if you’re looking for affordable Peloton alternatives.
6. Echelon Exercise Bikes
Echelon is another popular Peloton alternative that boasts four different cycling bikes to choose from, all with varying degrees of similarity to the OG at-home luxury fitness bike. They range in price from just over $600 to just under $1,700 and there are plenty of reasons to choose each bike, so we’ll walk you through the differences so you can make an informed decision about which one is for you.
Echelon EX1 Exercise Bike
CURRENTLY SOLD OUT – LIMITED EDITION
We’ll start with the most affordable Peloton alternative from Echelon, the Connect EX-1 LE bike. This one is similar to the basic Schwinn and Bowflex bikes above as it’s got everything you need to stream in classes from your phone and follow along. It’s got a console adjustable up to 180-degrees, SPD-compatible pedals with toe cages, a comfortable seat, dumbbell holders for the back of the bike and ergonomic handlebars for a smooth ride. This bike is currently sold out and was originally marketed as limited edition. We’re guessing they’ll restock it soon, so we’re going to leave the link to it in here for now.
Echelon EX-3 Exercise Bike
The next level up, the Connect EX-3 bike has an adjustable seat up to 6″, a resistance knob with 32 levels to choose from and a redone motor for precision magnetic resistance.
Echelon EX5 Smart Connect Bike
The next bike is the Connect EX-5 that comes with competition-grade handlebars, the same competition-style seat with 6″ of adjustable levels, a smart device mount that flips 180-degrees and the indexing resistance knob for a precise choice between 32 available levels. All of their bikes have 32 levels of available resistance, far fewer levels than other Peloton alternatives and the Peloton bike itself. I’m not sure how this would affect the ride, but if one has access to a key that explains which levels of resistance coordinate to one another I reckon you’d be able to make it work, albeit with a bit more work involved.
Lastly, the Connect EX-5s has a 22″ HD touchscreen that also has the capability to flip 180° if needed. This bike also comes with 17 seat adjustment settings vertically and horizontal movement so you can reach your preferred seat position. All of their bikes come with “FitPass” — their version of Peloton that has trainer-led cycling, yoga, stretching, pilates, kickboxing and other workout sessions. This bike also comes with dumbbell holders located behind the seat.
7. Cyclace Stationary Exercise Bike
The Cyclace Stationary Bike also features a device mount, making it easy to customize your workouts and follow along to your favorite exercise videos. The included LCD tracks time, speed, distance, and calories burned so that you can adjust your workouts according to your stats and track your progress over time. The bike is fully adjustable, meaning you can adjust the seat, handlebars, and resistance to meet your personal needs. It also has an ergonomically designed seat and handlebars for superior comfort and features a flywheel- and belt-driven system for a quiet workout.
8. JOROTO Belt Drive Cycling Bike
This is one of the sturdiest spin bikes around — so if you’re intimidated by cycling and stability is what you’re looking for, it’s a great choice. It has an AV frame with a 35lb flywheel and a 50mm thickened frame tube that reinforces the strength of the machine. It has a 280 pound weight max making it perfect for all riders of all skill levels. There are four adjustment knobs built into the bike for keeping it stable in the front and back, and the belt drive with magnetic resistance operates largely silently. This makes riding quietly possible (except for singing along to classes, of course). The whole bike, including the extra wide seat and handlebars, is adjustable, and it comes with an emergency brake and handlebar-adjust tube bump for safety purposes. This bike is also very easy to move around in your space, as it’s got two transportation wheels built into the front.
9. pooboo Indoor Cycling Stationary Bike
This stationary bike features a multi-grip, two-way adjustable handlebar and four-way adjustable seat that make this bike easily customizable for optimal comfort. With adjustable resistance, non-slip cage pedals, and a belt-driven design, you’ll enjoy a smooth and efficient workout on this Peloton alternative cycling bike. Plus, the included emergency-stop knob allows you to stop quickly if needed, meaning you can safely and comfortably push your workouts to the next level. The attached LCD monitor tracks pulse, speed, time, distance and calories, and there is an additional mount to hold your iPad or smartphone if need be. Of course, the name is likely to elicit giggles from any teenagers in the house, but this indoor exercise bike is still a more than worthy alternative to Peloton.
In addition to the belt-drive stationary bike pictured below, pooboo also has a recumbent exercise bike with magnetic resistance. The recumbent bike offers eight levels of magnetic resistance and may offer better support for those with back problems or mobility issues.
10. MaxKare Magnetic Indoor Cycling Bike
This cycling bike from MaxKare has a magnetic tension control system that provides resistance to your ride to help build endurance and strength. The ergonomic design ensures smoother and quieter rides so there’s no concern about disturbing others. Both the seat and handlebar are adjustable and the large padded seat will make your ride more comfortable. The durable triangle frame can support up to 264 lbs and the LCD monitor on the bike displays your speed, distance, time and calories burned. There’s also a tablet/ phone holder to stream app and virtual classes from. It also has transportation wheels that make it ultra-easy to move.
11. Sunny Health and Fitness Indoor Cycling Bike
This cycling bike from Sunny Health and Fitness is designed to mimic road biking closely indoors and give you a great workout. It has a 40-pound flywheel and an advanced digital monitor that goes in-depth with metrics so you know your speed, distance, calories, RPM, pulse and more throughout your cycling session. The dual felt pad resistance gives you the sensation of being outside on the road and the micro-tension controller puts the level of resistance in your hands so you can easily adjust throughout your workout. The bike has a device and water bottle holder, and at less than $400 it’s an affordable alternative to the Peloton bike.
Favorite Spinning and Cycling Apps
CycleCast Indoor Cycling App
Need some classes to get you started? Consider the CycleCast app. With access to over 900 cycle workouts on demand, you have a variety of 20- to 60-minute classes to choose from that are led by experienced professional instructors. In addition to energetic and motivating classes, the app lets you sync your workouts, calories burned, and heart rate with Apple Health or Google Fit, making it easy to track your progress.
You don’t need to own a Peloton bike or treadmill in order to enjoy the multitude of classes Peloton offers. Their app is available at $15/month and includes access to all of their cycling, running, strength, yoga, meditation and stretch classes. They have live classes you can tune into as well as access to all of their classes organized into libraries by instructor, time, type of class, etc. You can stream the classes via the app on any device including Roku and Apple TV. If you’re not ready to take the plunge with the full Peloton bike and/or tread experience, this is a great alternative.
iFit At-Home Fitness App
iFit is the fitness library that’s streamed onto NordicTrack and ProForm fitness equipment, so naturally we had to include them and their extensive library of programs here. They’ve got a super wide range of content on their platform including running, walking, rowing, cycling, strength training, HIIT and more. Every new member gets a free 30-day trial to try out their classes before you commit, and you get access to their whole library with membership at any time. They’ve got studio classes and global workouts all led by expert trainers as well as personal training opportunities with over 100 different trainers via the app. They’ve got classes for those with and without equipment, and you get real-time stats throughout your workout on their platform.
Essential Spin Bike Accessories
We’ve written about a bunch of spin bike accessories on Spy before including the best spin shoes for your indoor cycling workout and towels designed for exercise bikes. We recommend consulting those pieces for in-depth coverage on what the must-have accessories are after you’ve splurged and purchased yourself a bike that leads everywhere and nowhere. For now, here are a few we can’t help but promote alongside our favorite exercise bikes.
1. AfterShokz Bone Conduction Headphones
These headphones are great for spinning because they’re sweat-resistant and sit on top of your ears rather than in them, so you can still hear your surroundings. The sound quality via the bone conduction is still top-notch and the flexible frame ensures a comfortable fit even during longer training sessions. They’re easy to pair with spin bikes like the Peloton, and work for six hours on a single charge.
2. Drip Accessories Spin Towel
One thing that’s true no matter what exercise bike you get? You’re guaranteed to SWEAT. This towel wraps around the handlebars of your spin bike for comprehensive coverage that’ll keep sweat and moisture out of your flywheel. It also comes with a towel you can attach to the handlebars and use to dry off during breaks in your workout. Trust us, you need a towel and this is a great one to get.
3. Zacro Gel Bike Seat Cover
One major complaint from people who don’t cycle is how uncomfortable the seat is. Thankfully, there are remedies for behind discomfort, one of which is this seat cover. Give your bum some cushion during long rides and protect the longevity of your seat with this seat cover. It’s made of a comfortable gel material and is super easy to install, just make sure the dimensions fit the seat of the bike you’ve got.
4. Battery Operated Personal Fan
Whether you want to experience the soft, cooling breeze you would be feeling if you were outside or just need to cool off on the heavy intervals this personal fan will do the trick. It’s battery-operated so you can position it anywhere on the bike and it’s got 360-degree angles and three different speeds so you can tailor it to your liking. The flexible tripod legs can easily wrap around the handlebars and the battery lasts anywhere from 2.5-10 hours on a single charge depending on the speed you set it at.
5. Top Form Design Universal Tray
If you’re a multitasker, this tray is perfect for mounting on your spin bike so you can work, take calls, play games or just watch a movie while you ride. It creates a flat surface for any and all gadgets, as well as a work surface, and the nine different mounting points mean it can fit a variety of different exercise bikes. This brand also has products specifically for the Peloton bike.
How to Clean and Care For Your Spin Bike
Like any expensive piece of equipment, you’ll want to be diligent in caring for and cleaning your home exercise bike. There are a few easy steps you can take every month to ensure your exercise bike lasts as long as possible and functions safely and efficiently.
Wipe Down After Each Use
You’ll want to wipe down your exercise bike after each use, and spray with a light cleanser on the frame, seat and handlebars to keep them clean. Excessive sweat can leave behind salt and other residue, so you’ll want to make sure you clean all this off so it doesn’t erode the bike’s materials over time. If your bike has a screen, you’ll want to wipe this down too with cleaner or wipes made for electronics. You also never want to use abrasive cleaners on a bike or oil-based cleansers as they could erode the paint.
Tighten Seat, Pedals and Cleats
Every month or so, you’ll want to tighten your seat’s connection, your pedals’ connections and your cleats. There should be instructions for this in your bike’s manual near the warranty, and if not there are plenty of guides online that can walk you through this. You’ll most likely need a screwdriver for the cleats and pedals, the seat should come with a tightening mechanism built into the bike.
Lubricate Your Brakes and Flywheel As Needed
The only other major maintenance step you should do as needed is lubricating the flywheel and brake pads. If you’re hearing a cranking sound coming from the brake pads apply a small amount of oil onto a towel and press it onto the wheel where the brake pads meet it and slowly rotate. The brake pads will absorb the oil and it’ll make for a smoother braking system throughout your rides.
Mr. Siga Microfiber Cleaning Cloth
These microfiber cloths are non-abrasive and perfect for wiping down your bike after each workout. They’re gentle but absorbent, which is exactly what you want after you’ve sweat all over your bike’s frame.
Vapor Fresh Cleaning Spray
This cleaning and deodorizing spray is gentle enough to use on exercise bikes without eroding the paint or damaging the frame, and contains powerful 100% natural ingredients that clean effectively. It’s non-irritating, non-toxic and can be used safely on all exercise equipment.
Wipex Natural Gym & Fitness Equipment Wipes
These wipes from Wipex are very similar to the spray above, just in wipe form. They’re also made with natural ingredients including vinegar and lavender essential oil, and contain no potentially irritating toxic fumes. They’re great for yoga mats, weights and, yes, exercise bikes. Each container has 75 of them, and they’re great for giving your bike a quick wipe down after each ride.
Indoor Spinning vs. Outdoor Biking
Perhaps you’re already a road biker and want an indoor exercise bike you can use during days of torrential downpour. Perhaps you’re a current spinner who’s looking to upgrade and is teetering on the edge of just getting a road bike so you can jump headfirst into the “real thing.” The truth is, indoor spinning and biking outdoors are both great forms of exercise, and they do align with each other in terms of the muscle groups you’re using and the training you get. There are, however, some key differences worth highlighting about the level of difficulty and exertion you’ll get from the average training session via both modalities.
Indoor exercise bikes are built differently than bikes made for riding outdoors, with the biggest difference being the inclusion of a flywheel. Flywheels are 30-40 pound wheels inside exercise bikes that provide resistance as the user pedals, in order to replace the friction on the road you’d be pedaling against if you were outside. This wheel is what keeps the pedals moving once you start spinning, and what makes your hamstrings work harder to slow down the pedals each time they come around.
According to the American Council on Exercise, a typical indoor cycling class takes you to and keeps you at 75-95 percent of your maximum heart rate. The environment of the heated studio combined with the pumping music and motivation from the instructor and fellow participants easily usher you towards this amount of exertion, which makes for a great cardio workout. It can be harder to mimic this exactly on roads without a lot of self-discipline. However, you do tend to use your glutes, quads, hamstrings, shins and calves more biking outside, so the strength component of your workout is stronger.
However, if only due to the sheer convenience of being able to hop on and off your exercise bike in a matter of minutes you end up using it more, it becomes the superior workout.
Frequently Asked Questions About Exercise Bikes
An exercise bike, sometimes referred to as a "spin bike" is a stationary bike you can use to get a cycling workout at home. They're typically made with a similar structure to your average road bike only the wheels are lifted off the ground and they feature four points of contact to keep you steady. You adjust resistance, or the difficulty to pedal, with a knob and they include a heavy flywheel inside that controls resistance so you can ride in and out of the saddle with ease.
The main difference between a road bike or mountain bike and a spin bike for indoors is the addition of that flywheel. Outdoor bikes don't need a flywheel because the ground you're moving on provides plenty of resistance. Indoor bikes are also built stationary, so you can't use them to travel anywhere.
Most of them require spin shoes or cleats of some sort which you can buy easily online. Spin shoes come in two different pedaling systems — Delta or SPD. You can find which system they are on the box or in the product description, and you can find which system you need in your spin bike's manual. Make sure they match! However, there are some spin shoes that work for both systems.
The number of calories you burn during a standard training session on an exercise bike will vary depending on your height, weight, fitness level and how intense your ride is. According to some experts, you burn between 400-600 calories in one session — but again, that's an average and many bodies are going to fall outside that range on either end. If spinning is part of your strategy towards a certain weight loss goal, please consult your physician before embarking on any new workout regimen.