The running joke about an exercise bike used to be that after a couple of weeks of pedalling, it would slowly turn into a very expensive clothes horse because they were always fairly basic machines. Then, along came a new wave of connected bikes, which offered up a more sophisticated, connected, in-saddle experience, complete with impossibly upbeat instructors.
And since the arrival of these two-wheeled wonders, many more bikes have joined the race – while there are still plenty of traditional machines out there for those of you who don’t want to be shouted at by Cody Rigsby on a regular basis.
We tested bikes across this range, judging everything we rode with the same criteria, looking for good adjustability, (so that all heights can achieve a good riding position), frame stability, a smooth ride and, of course, manoeuvrability as indoor cycles are heavy and unwieldy machines that can all too easily take over a room.
In testing, we paid particular attention to each bike’s resistance performance, because no matter how they provide it to the fly-wheel (manual, electronic, magnetic or fan) you want to be able to step things up and back down again gradually and smoothly to replicate that on-road feel. To this end, it was important that the resistance control on the bike was responsive and easy to use.
When it came to the connected bikes, we also made sure we scheduled plenty of live classes with the bike’s online instructors, as well as sampling a selection of any other available on-demand content, so we could assess the quality for beginners, intermediates and advanced cyclists.
How we tested the best exercise bikes
We staggered taking delivery of the bikes so that we could dedicate time in the saddle with each one. We resisted the luxury of any offers from manufacturers to have technicians set the bikes up and instead assembled each bike ourselves to see how easy they were to put together in a modest spare bedroom so that we could physically see how easily they would fit into a busy home.