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Nothing beats being able to ride your bike any time, regardless of the weather outside. What are the best bikes for indoor training?
An indoor training bike needs to be durable before anything else. It should also provide a smooth ride and offer as many features as possible. If it costs more than a little, it should offer advanced digital features.
My favorite bike is the SmartIT Indoor Training Bike because it allows you to create your own training programs and is exceptionally well made. The Wahoo Kickr Bike and the Wattbike Atom are also great choices. Many people like the popular Peloton and Echelon bikes.
Always do a bit of research first. Buying an indoor bike isn't like buying a toaster. You could waste more than a thousand dollars if you choose a poorly made bike with a weak warranty.
I sell as well as ride exercise bikes so I know a lot about the subject. Be careful what you buy, as there are some terrible deals out there. Don't trust a bike from a company that you can't easily find much information about.
The Best Bikes for Indoor Training On the Market Today
If you are considering an indoor exercise bike, now is the time to get it. Colder weather is on its way. You should spend the winter getting in great shape.
Wahoo Kickr Bike
Reasons to Buy
- Tilts upwards and downwards to simulate hills
- Realistic cycling experience
- Very adjustable
- Realistic gear shifters
- Excellent connectivity
- Very durable
- Arguably too expensive for its features
- No screen and doesn't come with a stand for a screen
The Wahoo Kickr bike is great if you want to make indoor training as realistic as possible. The Wahoo Kickr bike tilts upwards and downwards whenever you encounter a hill; it does not merely raise or lower the resistance. It can tilt up to 25 degrees uphill or up to 10 downhill.
The Wahoo Kickr bike also has excellent connectivity. As soon as you pedal a little harder, your sensors pick up the change in speed and send it to your app. This makes it great for cycling apps of all kinds, including those from Wahoo.
The Wahoo Kickr looks and feels just like a real bike. It is shaped more like a bike and less like a box with pedals and handlebars than most other bikes. Despite this design, the bike is still stable, because of two large plastic legs behind the bike.
The bike lets you change the gears in a way that mimics real gears. There are also buttons for steering (though many cycling apps don't use them) and a lever to simulate braking.
The Wahoo Kickr bike is also remarkably adjustable. There are many levers on the bike you can use to adjust it in many ways. The seat height, seat angle, reach, and bar height are all adjustable.
Adjustability is important because your bike needs to fit you properly. You don't want to end up with a bike that is uncomfortable for you to ride. If the bike is adjustable, you can get the fit exactly right.
No Screen and no Device Mounts
The Wahoo Kickr neither has a screen nor a mount for your tablet. Some prefer this (if you are using an app on your TV, nothing will block the view) but it is not the only or the best way to do things.
You will have to use something else for a stand, and the stand is not provided. You can use a tripod to hold a screen up or put your screen on top of something, but this is not ideal. The bike should have included a stand that can hold a tablet.
The Bike is Very Durable
You never feel like you have to be gentle with the Wahoo Kickr. You can pedal very hard and fast, pull on the bars, and never feel like you could damage the bike. You can use this bike roughly for a long time and never damage it.
The Wattbike Atom is also easy to clean. The light and durable aluminum frame is coated in ABS plastic, making it easy to clean with a spray bottle and a washcloth.
The Wattbike Atom is also adjustable enough to fit many different people. For example, the handlebar height can be anywhere from 52cm to 76cm - not many people would want to set it higher or lower. You can also set the seat anywhere from 49cm to 75cm.
You can also adjust the seat/handlebar fore/aft within a broad range. This adjustment can be done easily with a lever, you can also use hex keys if you want to be precise. If you aren't sure how to set your bike for someone of your height and size, Wattbike provides an online calculator.
Wattbike connects using ANT+, Bluetooth, and FE-C. It can connect to a laptop if the laptop uses Bluetooth 4.0 or higher. You won't have any trouble getting the Wattbike Atom to connect to any of the following devices:
- Mobile phones (either Android or iOS)
- Tablets (either Android or iOS)
- GPS devices
- Heart rate monitors
Note that it won't connect unless your devices use reasonably new technology. You need iOS 13 or Android Marshmellow 6.0 to get it to work.
The Wattbike Feels Great but is Loud
The Wattbike Atom feels great (more similar to riding an outdoor bike than most other indoor bikes) but is a bit loud, especially for its price. It is not a great bike if you need a quiet ride.
The bike uses electromagnets to create resistance, as a lot of other indoor bikes do. However, it also uses a chain drive, which makes the bike feel better to ride but makes it relatively loud.
Not everyone will love the feel of this bike. Some people want an indoor bike to be ultra-smooth and most high-end bikes are. However, I prefer the more 'realistic' feel of the Wattbike.
The Wattbike Offers Training Content
The Wattbike has official training content which is particularly good for newer riders. It will walk you through the first few weeks of training and get you up to speed as a beginner. After the first few weeks, you can either do more advanced Wattbike content or move on to other cycling apps.
SmartIT Indoor Training Bike
Reasons to Buy
- Exceptionally well-made and durable
- You can build your own workout programs
- Particularly accurate power meter
- The power meter can be removed and attached to an outdoor bike in the summer
- Fits riders from 5'5 to 6'7
If you have a lot of money to spend and want a high-end bike, the SmartIT NEO Bike Smart might be a great choice. The SmartIT is particularly durable, feels great to ride, and has an unusually accurate power meter. The SmartIT has no real disadvantages other than its price and has great connectivity for whatever cycling apps you use.
The SmartIT bike is much better than the earlier IndoorTrainer Electronic from the same company. The SmartIT is a truly high-end bike for people who want quality and don't care nearly as much about what it costs. The SmartIT is exceptionally durable and can withstand people who ride at sprint speeds for years.
The Bike is Heavy and Stays in Place
While the bike is heavy, it also stays in place for as long as you want. Since the frame weighs 65kg, you can sprint as fast as you can and it won't move an inch. Moving the bike to a different part of the house can be difficult, but the heavy frame is an advantage for most people.
The SmartIT also gives you more information about your pedaling than nearly any other bike on the market. If you install a torque box it will measure your left/right balance.
The company also has its own app, which you can use to build interval workouts. The bike stands out for letting you modify or build training programs.
Reasons to Buy
- Mid-priced doesn't cost a fortune
- Comes with its own screen
- Excellent live classes
- Large online community
- The bike isn't worth it without the live classes, which require a monthly fee
- Not great if you want to use your own screen
Pelotons are one of the best-known options if you want a smart bike with advanced digital features. While Pelotons are not truly cheap, they are somewhere in the middle price-wise. Most of the bikes I recommend for indoor training are more expensive than the Peloton.
Pelotons Are Known for Their Digital Features
The first thing that makes Pelotons great is their live classes. The company does everything it can to make the live classes as excellent as possible. The live classes are available anywhere and available 24/7.
You can also choose between more than one live class. If you find a class too easy/hard, or you don't like your instructor, you can choose a different class. The live classes keep your motivation up and help you stay in great shape even if you aren't exercising outdoors during the winter.
Can Anyone Take the Peloton Live Classes?
The best Peloton content is only for those with Peloton bikes. There is the Peloton subscription, which is only for Peloton bike owners, and the Peloton app, which is more limited and for everyone.
What really makes the Peloton worth it is how many options for live classes you have. The classes are all different - different difficulty levels, different music, and different teaching styles. You can try a few classes and choose the one with the best instructor and the best classmates.
Peloton classes are for all fitness levels. If you want to do easy, light exercise, Peloton offers classes for that. If you are currently out of shape but want to become very fit, Peloton offers classes for determined beginners.
Peloton is a Real Alternative to Live Classes
Peloton can replicate the excitement and motivation of live classes while being much more convenient. You can take classes with live instructors from your home.
In the long run, Peloton is also cheaper than taking live classes. Peloton offers leaderboards, so you can see how you are performing compared to other people in your class.
Reasons to Buy
- Live classes
- Several different models offered
- Offers other fitness classes besides cycling classes
- Ride with your friends and compete on leaderboards
- Cheaper bikes are a bit basic
- Some customers report being charged extra
If you want a cheap alternative to the Peloton, the Echelon is probably your best bet. Echelon sells several different bikes, some better and others cheaper.
The more expensive bikes, which are still relatively cheap, have their own screens. With the cheaper models, all content will play on your own tablet.
Echelon bikes are for a wide range of heights and weights. Anyone from four foot five to six foot eight and under 300 pounds can use an Echelon bike. Make sure you set your bike to the right height, or you could hurt your back and knees.
Echelon Gives You Live Classes
Offering live classes while being cheaper than Pelotons and much cheaper than higher-end bikes makes the Echelon a great product. You can connect to the Echelon fit app, which offers cycling and other content.
You can take live classes, take classes on-demand, and take classes with your friends. You can compete with your friends and classmates and show your times on a leaderboard.
Some models of Echelons cost less than $850, though these are fairly limited compared to Pelotons. You also have to pay $199 to have your bike delivered, so they are not as cheap as they might seem.
Echelon Offers a Broad Range of Fitness Content
Echelon bikes also let you take non-cycling fitness classes. You can do strength training, yoga, boxing, cardio, and much more through the Echelon app. You can use your own phone/tablet to take these classes.
Possible Issues With Being Charged Extra
More than a few people report problems with being charged more than they agreed to by Echelon. The company offers good customer support that will fix these issues, but the company seems to make mistakes sometimes.
Why Get An Indoor Bike?
Sometimes, the weather is not good for cycling outside. If it snows in the winter in your area, you might have to stop cycling for months. It might also be pouring rain, or so hot and humid you don't want to be outside.
With an indoor bike, you can do a cycling workout anytime. Indoor bikes also let you control the workout's difficulty more precisely than you can on a trail. You can set the resistance as high or as low as you want.
Indoor Bikes and Digital Features
Indoor bikes also have great digital features. There are live classes with classmates and instructors who will motivate you. Some bikes also integrate with google maps, so you can pick any route in the world and cycle it.
You can use a WiFi/Bluetooth connection to send information to these apps. There are virtual races where the faster you pedal, the faster your virtual racer goes. There are even virtual cycling worlds to explore, with a mix of real and fictional locations.
Another advantage of indoor bikes is that they are safer. I love going out and riding outdoors in the summer anyway, but cyclists do get hurt or killed sometimes.
Not Everyone Has Room for An Exercise Bike
Not everyone has room for an exercise bike in their home. Exercise bikes are large and heavy. They need to have heavy bases so that they do not move around or tip when you ride them hard and fast.
When you aren't using your exercise bike, you might not have anywhere good to store it. It won't fit in a cupboard, and it won't always fit in a closet either. Plan to permanently make space for your exercise bike.
Indoor Bikes vs. Trainers
Trainers are an alternative to indoor exercise bikes. A trainer lets you use your outdoor bike as an indoor exercise bike by holding one of your wheels up.
Like indoor bikes, trainers generate resistance, so it is a challenge to move the pedals and a great workout. You can adjust the resistance to make the workout harder with trainers and not just indoor bikes.
You can also get information about your speed, distance, cadence, and more when using a trainer. You can attach sensors to your regular bike that will measure and display this information.
Are Trainers Better?
Trainers are better if you are trying to save money, trying to save space (trainers fold up and can be stored), and already have an outdoor bike. Trainers are not good if you want advanced digital features.
If you don't have an outdoor bike or don't have a good one, get an indoor bike. Don't buy a trainer and buy an outdoor bike to use indoors.
Rollers Are Another Option
Some people also ride their outdoor bikes on rollers to use them inside. When riding on rollers, you have to ride straight or you will fall off, which makes rollers somewhat unsafe. You also have to keep your balance on rollers, though this is pretty easy.
Some say that rollers simulate the experience of riding outside better than anything else. However, I do not like rollers and prefer indoor bikes. Getting an indoor bike is the best way to keep cycling during the winter months.