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When you think of the word spin bike, the first thing that may come to mind is pulsating house music, a freakishly-positive spin instructor, and sweat flying everywhere. But the truth is, indoor cycling has increased in popularity over the past couple of years for those looking to improve cardiovascular fitness—whether at a studio or at home With the recent trend of “spinning” in spin classes, spin bars, and with online spin instructors, spin bikes have become a key exercise equipment for cyclists and fitness enthusiasts alike. So you may be wondering: are spin bikes worth it?
What is a spin bike?
Spin bikes are indoor exercise bikes which resemble the look and feel of a regular outdoor bicycle and allow you to enjoy the outdoor cycling experience in the comfort of your own home. They closely mimic the posture and ride of a road bike by which you’re leaning forward on the bike. Spin bikes offer an intense and engaging workout while minimizing the risks faced with biking outdoors.
Spins bikes primarily feature a bicycle seat, handlebars, and a flywheel within the front wheel. Some might also have a small screen or console attached to the handlebars. The seating position, pedals, and flywheel are also meant to provide the same feedback you would get on a regular bike. These features make spin bikes an appealing choice for those who enjoy cycling and want to replicate the feeling of riding a bike with their home fitness equipment.
What is spinning?
The term “spinning” is commonly used to refer to indoor cycling, a popular group fitness class which started in the ‘80s in the US. Today, the term refers to a studio cycling class with resistance-based intervals (usually with pumping music and dim lights).
What is the difference between a spin bike and an exercise bike?
If you’ve ever been to a commercial gym, you’ve probably seen rows of traditional exercise bikes. Spin bikes can also be found at your local gym, but they're more popular within fitness studios and spin classes. Both indoor bikes are great options if you’re looking to get some cardio. Stationary exercise bikes are upright and designed to give a comfortable riding experience for its users—usually best for beginners. Spin bikes, on the other hand, are built to closely resemble the look and feel of a regular outdoor bike, ridden in the same way professional cyclists ride outdoor race bikes. With a smaller seat and lower handlebars, it requires the rider to lean over the handlebars the same way a cyclist would.
Spin bikes are more commonly used for total-body high-intensity interval training (HIIT), while stationary exercise bikes are used for more controlled cardio and endurance training, mainly focusing on the legs.
Seating position and muscles worked
Stationary bikes and spin bikes are both exercise bikes. As a result, both target muscles in the lower body such as the calves, quads, hamstrings, and glutes. Spin bikes also engage the back, shoulder, and core muscles as the rider needs to be hunched over. If you choose to stand up on the pedals during a spin bike workout, it’ll become a full body exercise.
Spin bikes are better for outdoor cyclists who need to train indoors and the exercise can translate into better riding technique on an outdoor bike. The upright position of a stationary bike, on the other hand, isolates the leg muscles so the training is focused more on the legs. This won’t translate into improved technique in outdoor bike riding, though, as the seating position is different from that of an outdoor bicycle.
The key difference between spin bikes and stationary bikes is the flywheel. The flywheels on spin bikes tend to be bigger and heavier than the ones found on upright stationary bikes. Flywheels in exercise bikes are perimeter weighted which means the weight is found on the outer edge of the wheel. The heavier flywheels in spin bikes are harder to start as they require extra force. It requires the rider to engage more of the quads to push down on the pedals to get started, similar to riding an outdoor bike from a standstill.
When spin bikes do get moving, the momentum of the perimeter weight continues to move the flywheel. The flywheel is attached to the pedals with a single fixed gear, which means the pedals continue moving as the flywheel spins. This provides a more consistent and fluid feeling when riding a spin bike. In order to bring the flywheel to a halt, you must gradually decrease the speed of the pedals and slowly bring them to a stop. This also requires more force from the legs to slowly stop pedaling, as you can’t stop pedaling abruptly and coast on a spin bike. As long as the flywheel is moving, the pedals will move. If you need to come to a stop right away without using the pedals, there’s an emergency stop on the bike which stops the flywheel.
Spin bikes are often used for more intense workouts compared to stationary bikes. As noted earlier, spin bikes require the rider to hunch over or even stand up when pedaling. This engages the core muscles more than a stationary bike would and also works out the upper body. The heavier flywheel on spin bikes requires more leg force to start the bike and slow down, all contributing to a higher intensity workout.
While both stationary bikes and spin bikes allow you to ride slowly with low resistance while staying seated, spin bikes allow you to increase resistance and stand up while spinning to increase the intensity of your workout. Spin bikes feature increased variable resistance control, which can either be friction-based, similar to stationary bikes, or magnetic-based, which is quieter and requires less maintenance as there’s no physical contact with the belt. This is why spin classes are so popular as high-intensity cardio exercise. They take advantage of the tough resistance offered by spin bikes.
Other than the key differences mentioned above, spin bikes and stationary bikes are fairly similar and both are used for indoor cycling. There are some other small differences in their features, however. Stationary bikes generally have a console on the handlebars which tracks workout stats like heart rate, calories burned, and distance traveled. Most spin bikes usually focus more on intensity and may not show these stats. Stationary bikes often feature standard bike pedals while spin bikes usually have caged bike pedals to help keep the feet secure when riders are pedaling hard during intense spinning sessions.
Both stationary bikes and spin bikes may also offer other fringe features such as a bottle holder, a phone or tablet holder, and a foldable design for easy storage. The Ascend SE spin bike offers essential features including a heartbeat sensor, tablet holder, a comfortable seat, and wheels on the bottom frame to help you move the bike around your home.
Spin Bike vs Recumbent Bikes
If spin bikes are meant to mimic the outdoor cycling experience and are used for high-intensity interval training, recumbent bikes are quite the opposite. Recumbent exercise bikes are more accessible, comfortable and easier to use. They’re primarily used for beginner cardio training, which focuses solely on the legs.
Seating Position and Muscles Used
Recumbent bikes feature a large reclined seat and have a back rest as well for spinal support. The reclined seating position and comfortable seat is a great option for beginner cyclists as well as seniors, cardiac patients who need some light cardio, and anyone with mobility issues.
Because of this seating position, recumbent bikes allow riders to lay back and pedal for a long time without engaging the core or upper body, allowing for sustained cardiovascular exercise. Spin bikes don’t offer the same level of comfort as recumbent bikes. For those interested in a spin bike but looking for more comfortable seating, a padded seat cover or padded cycling underwear are great options to increase the comfort of a spin bike.
Benefits of a Spin Bike
Spin bikes are excellent exercise equipment to have in your house or home gym to reap the benefits of an intense outdoor bike ride within the comfort of your own home. Spin bikes mimic the riding experience of an outdoor bike while offering more safety as you don’t need to worry about weather conditions, road conditions, vehicles and pedestrians, or the time of day.
Spinning also provides all the great health benefits of indoor and outdoor cycling. Cardio exercises like cycling help improve oxygen and blood circulation throughout the body and strengthens the heart and lungs. Increased aerobic exercise has a number of positive effects on the body such as improved brain function, decreased blood pressure, improved sleep, better energy levels and mood, and lower stress. Cycling also helps strengthen the legs and lower body muscles such as the calves, hamstrings, glutes, and quads, especially with higher resistance training. Indoor cycling is also easier on the joints compared to running and other cardio exercises due to its low impact.
Spin bikes specifically offer greater intensity and versatility compared to other indoor cycling equipment, and this higher intensity training is super effective for weight loss and fat burning. In fact, high-intensity exercise on a spin bike can burn 400-600 calories in a 60-minute spinning session. Over time, regular exercise on a spin bike can strengthen your core, decrease the risk of injury, and reduce lower back pain. Spinning has become one of the most popular group exercises in recent years and it’s easy to see why. If you’re looking to get a high energy and high intensity workout without having to join a group class, a spin bike is the next best thing. Put on some loud music, find a spin instructor video online, and get ready to start sweating!
Frequently Asked Questions (F.A.Q.)
What is the point of a spin bike?
Spin bikes are indoor bicycles designed to emulate the seating position and posture of an outdoor bicycle, giving riders an intense cardio workout. A spin bike requires the rider to lean forward more than they would on other exercise bikes while grabbing the handlebars. Riders can even stand on a spin bike for a more intense, full body exercise similar to professional cyclists on an outdoor racing bicycle.
Is a spin bike worth it?
Yes, spin bikes are a great investment as they’re a higher intensity workout than regular indoor bikes. A spin bike allows cyclists to train indoors during harsh weather conditions while also providing a great cardiovascular exercise for high intensity interval training.
Is a spin bike good for weight loss?
Yes, a spin bike can be good for weight loss if regularly used for high intensity interval training and supported with a calorie-deficit diet plan. Because of their design, spin bikes require more effort to ride, which allows riders to burn more calories during a spinning session compared to other methods of indoor cycling.
The Final Verdict
A spin bike offers the benefits of an outdoor bicycle within the comfort of your own home. It provides greater versatility compared to other indoor cycling equipment and offers more intense cardiovascular exercise. The exercise bike offers greater intensity, helps with weight loss, allows cyclists to train indoors, and can be used to engage the full body while riding. A spin bike is an excellent investment for those who enjoy bike riding and are looking for a high-intensity cardio workout to do at home.
Reach your fitness goals by combining strength training and cardio. Shop our collection of spin bikes.