Best exercise bikes 2022: Smart bikes for the ultimate indoor cycling setup

One of the best exercise bikes, the Stages SB20 Smart Bike, stands on a wooden floor
(Image credit: Stages Cycling)

There is a wide range of options available when it comes to riding your bike indoors. The exercise bike category is a little bit different as there are two - maybe even three - different marketplaces that are currently all within this category.

At Cyclingnews we regularly cover 'smart bikes' which employ the technology developed in the best smart trainers and use it in standalone devices. These devices use ANT+ and Bluetooth technology to connect to your smart device, whether that be a laptop, smartphone or tablet, which you can then use to run indoor cycling apps on. These apps have control of the smart bike resistance to provide structured workout sessions which are realistic and engaging. The best smart bikes have a high level of realism with some even tilting back and forth to mimic gradient.

Then there are connected versions of the more typical exercise bikes, like the ones from Peloton and Echelon. These bikes take the classic spin-class bike with a fixed, heavy flywheel and manually adjustable resistance and then integrate Bluetooth and WiFi to connect your exercise bike to live group classes with real-life instructors and other cyclists from all over the world, all without leaving home. 

Lastly, there is the original exercise bike pretty much exactly the same as the one you will find in many gyms. These units rarely offer connectivity to third-party apps but will have a digital screen displaying metrics like speed, distance, time etc. These exercise bikes come in a variety of shapes and sizes from ones that mimic a regular riding position to recumbent-style bikes where you sit behind the pedals.

Each of the above styles of exercise bikes has its place in the industry and each can cater to a variety of riders' needs and requirements. 

We are dedicated cyclists here at Cyclingnews with years of experience riding indoors and out. We have put the hours in and tested a range of smart and exercise bikes to find out which are best for accuracy, engagement, enjoyment, durability and more. 

Best exercise bikes available today

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Best budget exercise bikes

A side-on view of the Domyos Basic 100 exercise bike

(Image credit: Domyos)

Domyos Basic 100

A good ratio of price and features on offer

Specifications

Connectivity: None
Type: Basic exercise bike (fixed flywheel)
Resistance: Manual, mechanical
Adjustable crank length: No
Virtual shifting: No
USB charging port: No
Flywheel: 12kg

Reasons to buy

+
Low cost
+
Reasonably heavy flywheel
+
Clear digital display with useful metrics

Reasons to avoid

-
100kg maximum user weight is quite limiting
-
Extra screen holder is an additional purchase
-
Cannot connect to apps or offer electronic resistance

The 'Basic Exercise Bike 100' from Domyos is a very simple design, but while the overall number of features is low, each one is a welcome inclusion that adds to the experience without unnecessarily adding to the overall cost. 

Up front, there is a multi-position handlebar that offers no fewer than 10 different positions. There's a small LCD display at the centre, and that offers the basic ride metrics like speed and time. There are a couple of small caveats: at higher resistances, the resistance pad can start to smell hot; and its stability can falter during all-out sprint efforts, but those aside, if you're after a simple exercise bike without the big expense, the Domyos 100 is a good place to look. 

Pro Fitness FEB2000 folding exercise bike

(Image credit: Pro Fitness)

Pro Fitness FEB2000

Best for the space-conscious beginner

Specifications

Connectivity: None
Type: Basic exercise bike
Resistance: Manual, mechanical
Adjustable crank length: No
Virtual shifting: No
USB charging port: No
Flywheel: 3kg

Reasons to buy

+
Included heart rate sensor
+
Lightweight at 16kg
+
Foldable for storage

Reasons to avoid

-
A small footprint isn't very stable
-
3kg flywheel makes for quite an unrealistic pedal feel
-
100kg max user weight is limiting
-
Cannot connect to apps or offer electronic resistance

Not everyone wants or needs a high-tech exercise bike with masses of resistance and oodles of stability. For many people in this world, a simple exercise bike that tracks basic metrics in use, before being compact enough to fold away afterwards is the perfect solution. 

Enter the Pro Fitness FEB2000. FEB stands for a folding exercise bike, and this little unit weighs just 16kg, so is easy to carry up the stairs and put away in cupboards when you've finished your workout. 

Now, of course, there are some trade-offs: the 3kg flywheel provides about as much inertia as an ant rolling down a hill and is a good few kilos lighter than the Domyos flywheel. This means the pedalling feel is pretty unrealistic, and it's easy to unbalance if you get enthusiastic in your sprinting, but for someone who wants to get the legs moving and elevate the heart rate, this is perfectly up to the task, and the inbuilt heart rate sensors will help you keep an eye on your progress too. 

Schwinn IC7 exercise bike

(Image credit: Schwinn)

Schwinn IC7

Best budget 'spin' style exercise bike

Specifications

Connectivity: None
Type: Basic exercise bike (fixed flywheel)
Resistance: Manual, Mechanical
Adjustable crank length: No
Virtual shifting: No
USB charging port: No
Flywheel: 18kg

Reasons to buy

+
Sturdy 136kg max user weight
+
Heavy 18kg flywheel makes for a more fluid pedalling feel
+
Included bottle and screen holder

Reasons to avoid

-
Cannot connect to apps or offer electronic resistance
-
Need to move the tablet computer to get to your bottle stowed behind it

The Schwinn IC7 is a good at-home replica of the 'spin' bikes you'll likely know from the gym. Its fixed freehub and 18kg flywheel take a little bit of extra torque to get going, but the inertia generated helps to prevent that 'pedalling-through-treacle' feeling you can get with cheaper, lighter flywheels. 

The IC7 comes with an LCD display that shows your speed, time, distance, RPM, and estimation of calories burned. Its 58cm width and 45kg weight help to make it stable, and while it's certainly possible to unsettle it, that doesn't happen during normal use, even when sprinting. 

It also comes with dual-sided pedals, which include SPD 'clipless' pedals as well as a toe clip side so you can wear your normal shoes, and this also means it's rideable straight out of the box. Like other simple exercise bikes, you will have to bring your own entertainment, but it comes with a screen holder at the front, as well as a bottle holder for your hydration. And finally, its fit is widely adjustable, so it'll be good for the whole household. 

Best smart bikes

Kickr Bike

(Image credit: Colin Levitch)
The best smart bike, and by proxy, the best exercise bike on the market

Specifications

Connectivity: Bluetooth, ANT+
Type: Smart bike
Resistance: Electronic, electromagnetic
Adjustable crank length: Yes
Virtual shifting: Yes
USB charging port: Yes
Flywheel: 9.5kg

Reasons to buy

+
Integrated gradient simulator that tilts back and forth
+
New electromagnetic resistance unit
+
Wide app compatibility

Reasons to avoid

-
Bars wobble a bit when you're really sprinting
-
No easy-access space for your tablet or phone

The Kickr Bike features a brand new resistance unit for Wahoo; one which uses a quieter electromagnetic design which can generate up to a leg-busting 2,200 watts of resistance, instead of the belt-driven system found on its direct-drive Kickr turbo trainer. Wahoo then went a step further and integrated the function of Kickr Climb, to simulate inclines of +20 per cent and -15 per cent, mimicking the outdoor riding experience as closely as possible.

With a standard saddle and bar, the bike fit is tool-free using quick-release levers and each adjustable point features a printed-on measuring rule. Fit results from Guru, Retül and Trek Fit can generate the numbers needed to replicate your position on the road bike to the Kickr Bike. Alternatively, the accompanying app can produce fit measurements from a photo of your current bike, or from your height, inseam and riding style — or you can use a tape measure and get the measurements yourself. A mixture of the latter options turned out to be the best solution in our recent review. 

The Kickr bike isn't the best-looking smart bike, but function takes precedence over form and to be honest, we'd prefer it that way. At the front, the shifters' ergonomics replicate Shimano's dual control levers; however, the buttons can be customised to function like Shimano, SRAM eTap or Campagnolo drivetrains. Next to the stem there is a small screen that shows you what gear you're in, and there is a USB port on the underside to charge your phone or tablet — unfortunately, there is nowhere to put said phone or tablet, you'll need a Kickr Desk for that. 

Having been sceptical initially, after a few months reviewing the Wahoo Kickr Bike, our verdict was that it provides one of the most engaging indoor riding experiences available, though while the ride feel and the easy-fit process is top-notch, it does all come at a hefty cost. 

Stages SB20 Smart Bike review

(Image credit: Stages Cycling)
The smart exercise bike that most closely resembles the more traditional gym exercise bikes

Specifications

Connectivity: Bluetooth, ANT+
Type: Smart bike
Resistance: Electronic, magnetic
Adjustable crank length: Yes
Virtual shifting: Yes
USB charging port: Yes
Flywheel: Virtual 22.7kg

Reasons to buy

+
Quiet in use
+
Adjustable gearing
+
Wide app compatibility

Reasons to avoid

-
ERG mode gives a lot of leeway 

Nowadays, Stages Cycling is best known for its budget-friendly crank-based power meters, but it has long been in the world of studio bikes, so it knows what it's doing when it comes to exercise bikes. 

The Stages SB20 is the brand's first attempt at the smart trainer bike for recreational cyclists, however, it has a freewheel so you can coast and drop bars instead of the cow horn bars. In designing its smart bike, Stages has leant heavily on its fitness bike chops to build a stable platform that uses a Gates Carbon belt drive to spin the 22.7kg flywheel up to a resistance of 2,200 watts, as well as providing reliability and a low decibel count. 

With an integrated dual-sided power meter, the Stages Smart bike is Bluetooth and ANT+ enabled so it will integrate seamlessly with the training app of your choice, or allow your head unit to dictate your workout.

Mounted to the drop bars are a set of special TRP levers that feature electronic shift buttons, and separate sprint buttons which can be customised. There is a decent-sized mount for your phone or tablet, and a tray which allows you to keep your snacks to hand for those big Zwift workouts

Read our Stages SB20 smart bike (opens in new tab) review for more.

Stand-out deal: Stages SB20 | 32% off at Sigma Sports (opens in new tab)

Stand-out deal:
Stages SB20 | 32% off at Sigma Sports (opens in new tab)
Was £2,799.00 | Now £1,899.00
Featured further down this list among the best smart bikes, the SB20 is compatible with all indoor cycling apps (opens in new tab) via Bluetooth and ANT+. It's widely adjustable to fit riders of all sizes, has space to hold your phone or tablet, and it got four stars in our Stages SB20 Smart Bike (opens in new tab) review. 

Wattbike Atom

(Image credit: Wattbike)
The best smart bike for value

Specifications

Connectivity: Bluetooth, ANT+
Type: Smart bike
Resistance: Electronic, electromagnetic
Adjustable crank length: No
Virtual shifting: Yes
USB charging port: No
Flywheel: Virtual 9.28kg

Reasons to buy

+
Aesthetics
+
The updated version addresses the original Atom's pitfalls
+
Wide app compatibility

Reasons to avoid

-
Tools needed for some adjustments
-
'Next Generation' is available UK only at the moment

The Wattbike Atom is a vast improvement over the previous model, using a magnetic resistance unit that is quick to respond to resistance prompts from apps. 

It looks great, is widely adjustable, and comes with both road and time trial handlebars. The drop bars feature what amount to dual control levers without the brake lever blades, and feature buttons which simulate shifting, while at the end of the time trial extensions, there's an adjustable screen holder that can hold smartphones and most tablet computers with ease. 

On both, the handlebar and saddle are entirely adjustable; height is tool-free, but to change the fore and aft you'll need to break out the hex keys. While the bike offers plenty of adjustment, the cranks are fixed at 170mm and can't be changed like some of the other smart bikes on offer. 

Its power can be measured to within 1% accuracy, and it can handle 2,500 watts of output, which is more than almost everyone will need. With both Bluetooth and ANT+ connectivity, the Atom is universally compatible, meaning you can use any of the myriad training apps available - or any of the best bike computers - to control your workouts. The Atom also offers pedalling efficiency analysis, to help you not only become stronger but also improve your pedal stroke. 

It's the most affordable of the smart bikes out there, which given it doesn't lack any functionality makes it the best value smart bike in our eyes, but that's only if you can get it since it's still not been launched in the USA. 

Read our review of the Wattbike Atom for full details. 

(Image credit: Tacx)

Tacx Neo Bike Smart

The best-looking smart bike you can buy

Specifications

Connectivity: Bluetooth, ANT+
Type: Smart bike
Resistance: Electronic, electromagnetic
Adjustable crank length: Yes
Virtual shifting: Yes
USB charging port: Yes
Flywheel: Virtual 125kg

Reasons to buy

+
Inbuilt fans, tablet holder and USB charging ports 
+
Same 2,200w resistance unit as Neo Smart trainers
+
Wide app compatibility

Reasons to avoid

-
Some assembly is required, and minimal crank arm adjustment
-
Fat saddle clamp may rub thighs

For its own version of the smart bike, Tacx has essentially taken one of its Neo trainers and built a bike on top of it. The electromagnetic drive unit itself and customisable road feel are all exactly the same. Like the Neo trainers, the Neo Smart Bike can be used without mains power if you'd like, but you'll need to plug it into the wall if you want the freewheel to spin down when you've stopped pedalling. 

At the front, Tacx has added dual fans that can be aimed directly at your face and the airflow can be tailored to track your speed, power or heart rate should you be after a more interactive experience. While the shifters at the front look and feel a little different to the levers on your bike, the Neo Smart Bike supports virtual shifting. You can customise the gear ratios in the companion app and a built-in display shows you which virtual cog you are spinning in addition to metrics like speed, heart rate and power. 

The bike sees a standard saddle and bars, meaning these can be customised depending on your personal preference and all the fit adjustments can be made either with the included levers or a hex wrench. Tacx offers the neatest solution for adjusting the crank length, using a design similar to the flip-chips used in full-suspension mountain bikes. 

The drive unit can generate up to 2,200 watts of resistance, simulate a 25 per cent incline and offer pedalling analysis to precisely measure how round your pedal stroke is. Tacx claims the power readings are within one per cent.

Best smart spin-style bikes

Echelon Connect Sport Indoor Exercise Bike

(Image credit: Echelon)

Echelon Connect Sport

The budget Peloton alternative

Specifications

Connectivity: Bluetooth
Type: Smart spin-style bike
Resistance: Manual, magnetic
Adjustable crank length: No
Virtual shifting: No
USB charging port: No
Flywheel: 7kg

Reasons to buy

+
Access to live and interactive workouts
+
136kg max user weight
+
Bluetooth connectivity
+
App provides more than just cycling workouts

Reasons to avoid

-
Low inertia 7kg flywheel
-
No display included
-
A closed ecosystem with a high monthly subscription

This budget Echelon exercise bike, the Connect Sport, offers much of the functionality of its higher-priced siblings but saves money by excluding a front-mounted screen. Instead, owners of this exercise bike will need to bring their own screen, which if you already own a smart device such as a tablet (or want the versatility of owning a separate tablet device) won't be an issue at all. Simply load up the Echelon Fitt app on your device, connect the bike via Bluetooth, and you'll have access to all the classes you need. 

It comes with a 7kg flywheel, which will leave some riders wanting more, although the magnetic resistance will help prevent the draggy feeling that can plague some of the more budget exercise bikes. 32 resistance levels offer a good spread of difficulty levels, while the 96 x 51cm footprint is stable enough for all but the most rigorous efforts. 

Best Smart bikes: Peloton Bike

(Image credit: Peloton)

Peloton Bike

The budget access to Peloton ecosystem

Specifications

Connectivity: Bluetooth, ANT+, WiFi
Type: Smart spin-style bike
Resistance: Manual, magnetic
Adjustable crank length: No
Virtual shifting: No
USB charging port: Yes
Flywheel: 17kg

Reasons to buy

+
Access to Peloton classes
+
Integrated touch screen with WiFi connectivity
+
App provides more than just cycling workouts

Reasons to avoid

-
A closed ecosystem with a high subscription cost
-
Doesn't have ERG mode capabilities

Exercise bikes have been in gyms for as long as we can remember, but Peloton has changed the game and reinvigorated a segment of indoor training for the masses beyond the Zwifters. In terms of the Peloton Bike itself, it's really not all that revolutionary; a knob near the handlebars adjusts the resistance, a 17kg flywheel maintains inertia, the saddle and bar position are adjustable without tools and there is no freewheel so you can't coast.

But it's not the bike itself that has created the phenomenon, it's the sweatproof 22-inch touch screen at the front that's earned the acclaim. This enormous head unit is WiFi, ANT+ and Bluetooth enabled and runs the Peloton app which features thousands of pre-recorded classes as well as live classes run by professional instructors. 

One thing the app doesn’t do is adjust the resistance, you’ll have to do that manually to hit your targets. The higher-priced Bike Plus, seen below, can offer this functionality. 

As with any of the other training apps, the sessions range in difficulty from cruisey spins to please-empty-the-contents-of-your-stomach-into-this-bucket difficult — there are scenic rides too. Peloton has also added a community aspect to its ecosystem, you can follow and chat with other people who are doing the same class, and see live rankings on who is pushing the most watts. 

Echelon Smart Connect EX-5S

(Image credit: Echelon)

Echelon Smart Connect EX-5S

The best peloton alternative

Specifications

Connectivity: WiFi
Type: Smart spin-style bike
Resistance: Manual, Magnetic
Adjustable crank length: No
Virtual shifting: No
USB charging port: Yes
Flywheel: 13kg

Reasons to buy

+
Included 21.5in display
+
Direct connection to the app via home WiFi network
+
App provides more than just cycling workouts

Reasons to avoid

-
A closed ecosystem with a monthly subscription

The EX-5S is a more premium step into Echelon's ecosystem, and in this case, there's no need to bring your own screen, since it comes with a large 22 inch sweatproof HD screen mounted up front. A slightly larger footprint helps to offset the top-heavy weight added by the screen, so it remains stable in all workouts, and it's widely adjustable, so it's fit for most of the family.

The same 32 levels of resistance provide the variable resistance, however, unlike even the budget smart bikes, it still doesn't offer 'erg' mode, so all resistance changes will need to be done manually, rather than electronically. 

Peloton Bike Plus

(Image credit: Peloton)
The best Peloton exercise bike

Specifications

Connectivity: Bluetooth, ANT+, WiFi
Type: Smart spin-style bike
Resistance: Manual & electronic, magnetic
Adjustable crank length: No
Virtual shifting: No
USB charging port: Yes
Flywheel: 17kg

Reasons to buy

+
23.8in screen included
+
App provides more than just cycling workouts
+
Resistance can be set by the instructor or the workout

Reasons to avoid

-
Closed ecosystem with high monthly subscription on top of the initial investment

Peloton's most recent response to the rise of the smart bike is the Bike Plus. This takes the original Peloton Bike and adds a slew of updates like a larger screen that is more adjustable, more speakers, a better camera, Apple Watch integration, USB-C charging and more. However, for us, it's the integration of 'auto follow' that sets this Peloton apart from its direct competitors. 

Auto-follow - perhaps better known as 'ERG' mode among the best smart bike scene - allows the app (in this case, the Peloton app) to control the resistance, rather than relying on the athlete to twist the knob on the top tube (though this does still exist). It also includes a power meter to more accurately measure and report on a rider's output. 

Among this genre, we see the Peloton Bike Plus as the most complete device currently available, but in our opinion, from both a technological and user interface standpoint, smart bikes still win out due to the addition of gradient replication, power measurement accuracy, and the varying choice afforded by third-party app connectivity. 

How to choose the best exercise bike for you

With such a wide array of different options competing for the title of best exercise bike, making a decision on which to buy can be daunting. In this section, we'll run you through a few questions to answer and considerations to make, which should steer you in the right direction. 

What do you want from your exercise bike?

Do you want to ride in group classes online? Follow a training plan? Ride on Zwift? Race online? Just want to ride?

At first thought, you might think there's only one answer to this question, but once you dig into the details of indoor cycling, you'll start to notice there are a lot of ways to answer. If your idea of indoor cycling is of group spin-style classes with an instructor at the helm shouting instructions with music blaring in the background, then a smart spin-style bike will replicate that for you at home. These exercise bikes are mostly reliant on a subscription, and the bike itself is commonly tied to a single software platform.  

If you wish to replicate the real-world experience as closely as possible, then a smart bike is likely the best choice for you. This will enable you to connect to apps like Zwift, Rouvy and RGT, which will put an avatar of you on the screen in front of you. The gradients of the road will then be translated to your pedals, and you can ride with - or against - other avatars being controlled by like-minded cyclists around the world. In addition, if you wish to follow a training plan or a standalone workout, alternate apps (like TrainerRoad and SYSTM) will allow you to do this. Most of these exercise bikes come with a free app, but a subscription to a third-party app will help you make the most of the different options and gamification available. 

Thirdly, if you don't want the added complexity and cost of connecting to apps or online classes, and you simply want to jump on, stick some music on and ride, then the budget end of the spectrum will have you covered. Basic exercise bikes are just that: basic. They forego connectivity in favour of cost, and they are therefore often much less expensive than their smart counterparts. 

How much are you willing to pay?

Smart bikes, smart spin-style bikes, and simple exercise bikes all come with different pricing models. Smart bikes, such as the Wahoo Kickr (£2,999/$3,499), Wattbike Atom (£1,999/$3,399) and Tacx Neo (£2,299/$3,199) have a high initial price, but the ongoing cost of ownership is zero, aside from any third party apps you might choose to subscribe to. 

Smart spin-style bikes have a slightly smaller initial cost. For example, Peloton's Bike is £1,350/$1,495, but with a £39/$44 monthly subscription to the Peloton app. 

Basic exercise bikes start as low as a few hundred pounds/dollars and grow to four figures for those with extra features and improved build quality.

Are there other considerations for buying a smart bike?

If you've decided that a smart bike most closely matches your needs, then there is one more thing to consider: do you already own a bike? If so, and you'd be happy to use it indoors, then you might be better served by a smart trainer instead. This would offer most of the same features, but instead of a standalone bike, you would mount your own bike to a pared-down version that lets your bike provide the touchpoints. 

However, with a smart bike, once you have replicated the fit from your road bike, all you have to do is jump on and start pedalling. There is no need to wheel your road-grime-splattered bike through the house and remove your wheels. Dedicated training bikes are also noticeably more stable than your standard smart trainer and most will be quieter too. 

While these features are all well and good, we think the main selling point of smart bikes is the fact that it takes some stress off your bike and components. Wearable parts like chainrings, chains and cassettes are expensive, which adds to the cost of a turbo-trainer-and-bike. 

Should I buy a smart spin-style bike?

If you want to join online spin-style classes such as those from Peloton, then a smart spin-style bike will provide the setup required. Of course, as we've discussed at length here, there are plenty of alternative ways to get your indoor pedalling fix. 

Which exercise bike would we buy?

Given all the options, we would lean towards the smart bike sub-genre of exercise bikes. Sure, they come with a higher initial cost, but once that cost is paid, the ongoing expense is much lower / zero. 

To compare: The most popular third-party app, Zwift, has a monthly subscription of £12.99 / $14.99, whereas the most popular of the closed ecosystems, Peloton, is £39.00 / $44.00. That difference will very quickly add up, and to enjoy your investment in the future will require continued investment.

Smart bikes also offer 'open' compatibility with third-party apps, meaning if you get bored with one, you can move onto another, and most smart bikes are accompanied by a free app from the manufacturer if you want to keep the monthly costs down. With smart spin-style bikes like Peloton, you are buying into a closed ecosystem, so if you fall out of love with the entertainment on offer, there are no alternatives short of reverting to the functionality offered by 'basic' exercise bikes.

What's more, technologically, smart bikes are more advanced. They use power meters to measure your output, and they can control resistance electronically meaning software can set your resistance automatically to help you follow set workouts or hold a specific wattage. Freewheels allow you to coast downhills, and extra features such as tilting, braking and steering add to the realism and interactivity of the ride. It's closer to the experience of riding outdoors, and for us, that's what we want from our indoor cycling, though of course, we appreciate not everyone will agree. 

For a feature-rich system, we'd go for the Wahoo Kickr Bike, but for maximum value for money, it's hard to overlook the Wattbike Atom if you can get it where you live. 

In addition, we believe the more 'basic' exercise bikes will always have a place in the market for those who can't justify the higher investments of a smart device. They forego any of the interactivity, but there are plenty of workout videos you can follow on YouTube, or you can simply lose yourself in Netflix while pedalling. 

Whichever you choose, if it gets you pedalling more and helps you to get fitter or feel better, then in our opinion, it's a win. 

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