Exercise bikes provide low impact workouts that are highly effective for weight loss. You can find these stationary bikes in most gyms and are often the first piece of gym equipment people purchase for their home. There are recumbent exercise bikes that are closer to the floor, stationary, folding bikes, and spin cycles.
Depending on whether you exercise moderately or intensely, you can burn 250 – 400 calories with a 30-minute workout. (Even more with HIIT workouts and spin cycles)
Of course, you can see even more results by consuming fewer calories to go along with riding an exercise bike for losing weight.
Which Exercise Bikes are More Effective
Even though all of these exercise machines are all great for cardio exercise, providing physical activity and other health benefits, some styles are just better than others when it comes to burning calories and fat.
Stationary bikes can be divided into several groups, and I have listed the 3 main styles below. You will see how they compare for dieting and the advantages and disadvantages of each.
Knowing how the different styles compare and the advantages and disadvantages of each can help you know how much exercise you need to lose weight.
1. Upright Bikes
An upright style is what most people think of first and they are good for weight loss. They can deliver powerful results for burning calories, toning, strengthening, endurance levels, overall fitness, and cardio health.
You sit up high with the pedals aligned under your knees while riding an upright bike. The handlebars are at a comfortable distance from you and require you to use the upper body and core muscles to stay upright.
Most quality upright exercise bikes have handlebars that move in sync with the pedals, giving you a high-efficiency workout.
Because your entire body is involved in this workout, the number of calories you burn is higher from pushing and pulling the handlebars as you pedal.
Some use a fan for air resistance which also aides in keeping you cool as you pedal. The faster you pedal the more resistance you meet, and the more calories you burn.
With this bike, you can work your arms and upper body alone or your legs and lower body alone by only using the pedals or handlebars. Use them both simultaneously for a great calorie burn to lose weight with a full body workout.
Check out my Schwinn Airdyne review post for more information on upright bikes.
2. Recumbent Bikes
Recumbent bikes put less strain on your back and joints than any other type, and are good for people with back problems. They provide the same health benefits as any of the other types but are the least efficient for losing weight. You can see from the image below that you don’t get to use your arms and upper body when exercising on this machine. However, they are much more comfortable which is a real advantage for many people.
The main difference is the seat and the location of the pedals and handlebars. Whereas an upright bike uses a saddle type bicycle seat, the recumbent bike has a chair type of seat.
Sitting in the chair allows you to sit closer to the floor with your feet out in front instead of below you.
You’ll also find the handlebars stationary and at your side instead of in front of you. This design causes even less stress on your knees and hips but offers a great way to get plenty of physical activity into your life.
There’s little doubt that the recumbent bikes provide a more comfortable exercise experience. However, it might come with some disadvantages?
However, all of this comfort leads to less of a workout than any of the other types of exercise machines. With this style bike, you have great support but engage fewer muscle groups.
Most of the people I see on recumbent bikes at the gym are merely taking a leisurely ride and the number of calories they use isn’t enough. Of course, you can turn up the intensity by pedaling faster and harder, but I think the comfort sort of distracts from a real workout?
Here’s my review of one of the best recumbent bikes.
3. Indoor Cycles
Indoor cycles, or spin cycles, are usually the dominant bikes in gyms these days. The reason is simple: They are the best stationary bikes and burn fat like nothing else.
That is, if you’re willing to put out a lot of energy and ride as hard and fast as you can?
Indoor cycles often resemble upright bikes, except that the handlebars are stationary and much farther forward. Indoor cycles are often referred to as spin bikes.
With the forward handlebars, you shift your body forward and can even stand up to pedal.
This position of your body actually engages more muscles than either of the other classes, therefore causing some very serious calorie burn.
In fact, indoor cycles, or spin bikes, are the most efficient.
4. Folding Exercise Bikes
Folding bikes may not be quite as effective as the other styles, but the health benefits are the same. However, if you don’t have a place you can permanently allocate for a bike, these are a good choice.
Any exercise bike at home requires a place to set it up for use. Even though some have wheels to move them from place to place, they still take up space. If you live in cramped quarters or don’t want a home gym — folding bikes are perfect.
They come equipped with the same features like heart rate monitors and LCD displays for calories burned, pedaling speed, and how far and how long you’ve ridden. They fold up fast and effortlessly and usually have small wheels in the stabilizers for moving them from place to place. They can easily be stored in a closet full of clothes or behind a piece of furniture.
Read this review of one of the best folding bikes and see all the benefits.
Beginner Stationary Bike Workout Plan for Weight Loss
Like any workout, there are a lot of ways to go about it. If you’re new to exercising on a stationary bike you want to work into it slowly. The same as any workout plan, if you start wide open you will soon have sore muscles and quit before your body weight changes.
You will get the best results with riding every other day and the harder you work, the more calories you burn and you’ll feel good. How to get more out of your workout depends on the type of bike you’re using. Some bikes allow you to up the resistance level while others require you to pedal faster to burn fat.
Even though I call this the beginner plan, for most healthy weight loss goals this plan works fine.
- Start out at a very comfortable pace for about 5 minutes. Because you never want to start any workout wide open without first warming up your muscles, tendons, and ligaments, this first 5 minutes gives your body a chance to warm up.
- After the warm-up, increase the speed or resistance until you know you are working harder, but not as hard as you know you could. I do this for about 5 minutes a faster pace that still allows me to breathe freely and carry on a conversation.
- Now increase the speed or resistance until you know your heart rate is rising and you are breathing a little harder. If this is your first ride, keep it up for about 10 minutes and quit. That gives you a 20-minute workout without overdoing it and being sore tomorrow.
- I find that after about 10 minutes of warming up and getting into the flow, I kick it up to just below an all-out run for another 20-35 minutes. This gives me a good workout and calorie burn lasting from 30-45 minutes.
To lose weight you need to burn calories, and exercise bikes do that relentlessly when you are exerting yourself. Like any workout, the results will equal your effort and dedication.
Use this calculator to see how many calories you can expect to burn with your workout.
Interval Training for Extremely Effective Workouts
HIIT is the best form of exercise I know of for losing pounds fast, and is perfect for exercise bikes.
Here’s a few post describing the effectiveness of High Intensity Interval Training:
HIIT is all about short intervals of your maximum exertion followed by short intervals of rest, and doing this for about 15 minutes.
Interval training burn ridiculous amount of calories in a very short time while you pedal, but it keeps your body burning calories for hours afterwards.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. How Long Should I Ride an Exercise Bike to Lose Weight?
The key is awareness of your fitness level before you start. Having your own bike at home is great for burning calories, but you can pedal too much. Especially in the beginning.
Start your workouts slow for best results, and work up to riding 3 times a week for 30 -45 minutes. Unless you’re using High Intensity Interval Training, which takes far less time and burns more calories.
It’s easy to be overzealous and train too hard, especially when first starting out. Riding your exercise bike too long or too often can lead to:
- Sore muscles, joints, and injuries
- Your body to hold excess weight instead of losing it
- Losing your motivation to continue exercising
These bikes make it easy to regulate the intensity and time of each workout.
In fact, many now come equipped with heart rate monitors and calorie counters. This makes it easy to stay in your perfect heart rate zone while visually seeing how many calories you burn.
So, take it easy at first and work up slowly to your peak performance you’ll lose weight and build strength.
2. Are Exercise Bikes Bad for My Knees?
Indoor cycling is one of the best ways to get your exercise and stay fit with no damage to your knees.
In fact, exercise bikes are always a part of rehab programs. Cycling to lose weight is much easier on your knees than walking, running, or using a treadmill.
Exercising on a bike is considered a low impact workout and provides a great for improving both stability and range of motion in your knees.
Tips for Exercising with bad knees
- Don’t overtrain, especially when you start your exercise program
- Instead of jumping on the bike and start pedaling, warm up your knees by walking around a little.
- Try different seat positions. Find the perfect settings for up and down, and don’t hunch over the handlebars. Slide forward and backwards on the seat to keep your knees over your ankles when riding.
- Keep a slight bend in your knees on the down stroke.
- Knee Sleeves add warmth, stability and support to knees.
When it comes to losing weight, you never want to depend on only one exercise routine.
Instead of relying strictly on a stationary bike, include walking, and weights. Alternating days keeps you active and your metabolism stoked all the time, promoting calorie burn constantly.
3. Which Exercise Bike is Best for Weight Loss?
There is a vast variety of brands, types, and models, and most of the more expensive models come with a variety of features.
I think the least effective types are recumbent exercise bikes, and folding bikes. Even though they both provide excellent benefits when it comes to cardio, you miss the full body workout of other types.
The best exercise bikes, in my opinion, will have movable handlebars that are part of the exertion action.
Often referred to as upright bikes, when the handlebars flow back and forth in tandem with the pedals, you burn a lot of calories.
Of course spin cycles burn extreme amounts of calories when you are in an extreme workout.
I prefer an upright bike because it always gets both my upper and lower body involved in the exercise.
When it comes to what brand is better, I always chose Schwinn simply because they make quality products.
There’s two camps of believers when it comes to losing weight: Those who rely on consuming less calories and those who rely on exercise. And then there’s the common sense approach that includes both.
You’ll lose weight without exercise by merely cutting your caloric intake by a minimum of 500 calories a day. However, when you exercise for 30 minutes to an hour most days of the week, you turn up your metabolism for more effective weight loss. After every workout, your metabolism will stay fired up for hours afterward, and this is the key to losing that excess fat as fast as possible.
Losing weight always means balancing the calories you eat with the calories you burn, and exercise bikes are an effective way to lose weight.