What is a Spin Bike?

Thinking of braving one of those indoor bike classes at your local gym? Me too, but how different is a spin bike to your normal road bike?

For some people, attending spin classes is a great way to keep motivated in working out. You have a coach to guide you in your training every step of the way. Plus, the group setting can add fun and variety to an otherwise lonely workout.

However, signing up for classes and committing to go to a studio regularly may not fit into your hectic schedule, especially if the place is far from where you work or live.

So instead, what if you buy your own indoor or spin bike to replicate the experience in the comfort of your own home. Cheesy dance music and all (I won’t judge).

But what is a spin bike anyway? A spin bike is a type of stand-alone indoor stationary bike with a pedal that is directly connected to a weighted flywheel. Riding on a spin bike is comparable to riding on a bike. It is one of the best ways to do cardio exercise while working on your glutes, thighs, and calves.

But before you head out to your nearest cycling store or fill your amazon cart, it is best that you understand the basics about spin bike and how it stacks up to other indoor cycling options out there to make sure you are buying equipment that will work for you.

Spin bikes: The basics

Technically speaking, the term Spin Bike is actually a trademark owned by Mad Dog Athletics.

The company was the first to produce a stationary indoor bike that has mechanical components that resemble an outdoor bike. Before Spin Bikes, recumbent and upright stationary bikes were the norm in studios and at home.

Despite the fact that Mad Dog Athletics have a proprietary right over the names Spin® and Spinning®, the terms have become generic because of the popularity of the products and classes based around their products.

To avoid legal issues, other companies use the term indoor bike or indoor cycling bike to refer to their products that are patterned after Spin® bikes. Just know, we are not talking about indoor bike trainers, these are bikes in their own right, not those you place your own bike on.

Indoor/Spin bikes come in a variety of models to choose from so it can get confusing fast.

The following features are common to most of them though:

Bike Computer/display

Some indoor bikes are equipped with built-in sensors and a display to show how much calories you have burned, heart rate, time, and distance traveled to help you track your progress.

Adjustable handlebars and seats

Most indoor bikes come with handlebars that can be adjusted vertically.

Likewise, most indoor bikes have adjustable seats which can be adjusted vertically and horizontally.

The proper height and setup of the indoor bike will help the users optimize their workout and prevent possible injuries or strain to their body.

Varying resistance

The resistance that an indoor bike provides is very important for every user, especially for those who are looking for a solid workout.

Most indoor bikes have some kind of mechanism like a knob or a lever to adjust the resistance to suit the needs of every user.

Other accessories

Some indoor bikes provide a water bottle holder for easy access to water during your workout. Others also have two wheels in front for easy moving around your house, very handy if you live in a small space and need to stash it away after use.

Subscription Plans

Some companies that produce indoor bikes have subscription plans for studio classes that you can stream right in your own home.

Think of these like the smart bike trainers, just with real people. It’s pricey but does help to keep you motivated.

What is the difference between a spin bike and a recumbent bike?

Like a spin bike, a recumbent bike is a piece of stand-alone exercise equipment.

One difference between the two is the way the rider is seated. In a recumbent bike, the seat allows you to recline and it has a backrest to support your body.

The pedal of a recumbent bike is also positioned in front of the seat. With the backrest and the position of the pedal, the recumbent bike is more comfortable to use.

For more experienced cyclists like me however, they might find this inadequate for their workout needs.

On the other hand, a spin bike’s seat more closely resembles that of an ordinary bike. Some feature race bars or tri bars and with modern designs, the days of the infomercial spin bike is long gone.

Because of its design, the workout you can get from a spin bike is closer (but not equal) to riding a real bike than what a recumbent bike will provide.

What is the difference between an indoor bike/Spin bike and upright bike?

Compared to a recumbent bike, an upright stationary bike is a little bit more similar to an indoor or Spin bike.

The major difference is that the handlebars are situated higher up, making the rider sit in a more upright position and they tend to be more compact than a spin bike.

What is the difference between an indoor/spin bike and an indoor bike trainer?

An indoor/Spin bike is a stand-alone exercise machine, just like the recumbent and upright bike.

An indoor trainer, on the other hand, works in conjunction with a bike.

You need to attach your bike to a trainer and pedal as usual. The trainer provides the resistance as you push the pedal on your bike.

There are two main categories of indoor trainers: the wheel-on and the wheel-off trainer.

With the wheel-on trainer, you just simply align and clamp your bike into place.

Whereas in a wheel-off trainer, you must detach the rear wheel of your bike before mounting your bike to the trainer.

So what type of indoor cycling equipment should I get?

If you are looking for a low-impact workout or you are affected with a back or mobility problem, then a recumbent bike might work for you as it is more gentle for your back and joints.

If you already own a bike, it may be advantageous to buy an indoor trainer that you can use with your bike.

Indoor trainers, compared to spin bikes, occupies less space and can be stored when not in use. So it is the choice of most cyclists who like to work out indoors but doesn’t have enough space in their home.

However, if you have ample space and don’t like the hassle of attaching your bike on your trainer, then a spin bike might be a better choice.

In a spin bike, there is no assembly required. There may be some things to adjust though, like the height of the seat and the position of the handle bar, or the resistance settings. But for the most part, you just hop on and start pedaling.

In contrast with a wheel-on trainer, you do not need to worry about wearing down any parts of your road bike or buying dedicated training equipment just for the trainer.

Price-wise, there is not much difference between an indoor trainer and a spin bike, unless you are getting those high-end bikes with bundled monthly subscription plans for on-demand and livestreamed classes.

You can buy an indoor trainer from $100 to over $1000 depending on the brand and model.  Smart trainers, or those equipped with sensors and can connect to training apps, are on the higher end of the spectrum.

On the other hand, an entry-level indoor bike can cost around $200 and could go up to $1,000, again depending on brand, model and features. Meanwhile, the price range for Spin® bikes designed for home use is from $399 to $1499.

Related Questions

What type of shoes do I need to use with my spin bike? Most indoor and spin bikes have pedal cages with straps where you can put insert any kind of athletic shoes. At the opposite side of the pedal, there is a clip where you attach your special cycling shoes with cleats. For me, I prefer using cycling shoes with cleats for a smoother workout.

How high or low should I adjust the seat and handlebar of my indoor/spin bike? The saddle should be just right under your hip bone. If there is an option to adjust the seat forward or backward, bring your feet down so that they are equal distance from the ground, and make sure your knee in the forward leg is just over the ankle. The handlebar should ideally be at the same level of the seat. However, you can adjust it a little bit higher if you have back issues for a more comfortable workout.

Adam Johnson

As a middle-aged, 40-something cyclist, my riding goals have changed over the years. A lover of all things retro, and an avid flat bar cyclist, I continue to live off past triathlon glories.

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