By Christopher Pregony, BS, CSCS
For many of us, making time to go for a bike ride can be difficult or downright impossible. Sometimes working out at home is the ONLY option. Cycling has long been an effective means of burning calories while having fun. There are several different types of stationary bikes that can fit nicely in a spare room or garage. The question is what type is right for you?
A recumbent bike is by far the most comfortable of the types that we will discuss. The rider sits in a seat that resembles an office chair and can be every bit as comfy. The larger seat and back rest, along with the pedals being positioned in front allow for a relaxed setup for the rider. The recumbent bike is great for people with low back pain, or people who find the traditional set up of a bike to be painful.
The upright setup is what most of us think of when we think of a stationary bike. It closely resembles a traditional bike in that it has a smaller seat positioned above the frame. The pedals are located under the rider with the handles in front. This causes the rider to be hunched over when riding. For most people the position does not cause many problems, but some complain of low back pain.
My favorite innovation in this type of bike is the technology with which it is associated. Some models have a touch screen with online capabilities. Users can virtually be a part of a class with a display of the instructor right in front. The bike will keep track of other riders to help motivate the user to keep up. These bikes can even take the rider though different landscapes that adjusts for resistance and hills.
A.K.A. the devil’s tricycle. This bad boy is set up similar to the upright with the smaller seat and pedals being under the rider. The pedals and handles are connected to a large fan located on the front of the bike. The harder you pedal and push the handles, the more resistance is created. Whereas the recumbent and upright allow for longer rides, this one is only good for short bursts as it will roast you metabolically. Fan-based bikes are great for intervals, or as part of a larger exercise circuit. Thirty seconds all-out on a fan bike will leave most people in the fetal position.
Bike trainers are used primarily by cycling enthusiast who need to log some miles but are short on time, or cannot leave the house. Trainers require the use of an actual bicycle that is attached at the rear wheel’s skewer.
The other option in the category is a roller. Rollers are usually aluminum cylinders that sit on the ground. The entire bike sits on the rollers. As the bike is pedaled, the rotation of the wheels spins the cylinders. This most closely mimics riding outside, without being outside.
The beauty of the stationary bike is that it is a low-impact cardio option. It is easy on the joints, and offers a fun alternative to running. Each style of bike brings a unique quality to exercise. The recumbent offers comfort along with functionality. The upright mimics a real bike with state-of-the-art online capabilities. Although fan bikes are as old school as it gets, they can burn calories like no other, while trainers offer riders a chance to stay on their own bikes while working out at home. So, consider your needs and then find the bike that best suits you!