The 5 Best Budget Exercise Bikes
With all the options and styles available in exercise bikes, it’s difficult to decide which bike is the best even when the cost is no object.
So, when you’re trying to find one on a budget, getting a model with all the features you want at a price you can afford may seem completely overwhelming.
Luckily, we’re going to make this process a little easier by breaking down what you need to look for in an exercise bike and the best five models for $400 or less.
What to Look For In A Budget Exercise Bike?
The first thing to do when deciding on an exercise bike is to determine what design best fits your fitness goals. Exercise bikes come in three main designs: spinning, upright and recumbent.
Also known as indoor cycles, spinning exercise bikes are your best option if you’re looking for an aggressive cardio workout.
The seat sits level with the handlebars, so you’re required to rest some of your weight on your arms and shoulders, getting your upper body into the workout as well.
This design feels much like riding a regular bike, though the forward-leaning posture & small seat are not the most comfortable for many users. This style of bike has become very well-known lately due to the rise in popularity of Peloton.
Upright exercise bikes have a similar posture to a spin bike, but the seat is lower below the handlebars, involving your arms some but at a less aggressive stance.
The seats on upright bikes are typically more padded than those of spinning bikes, making them more comfortable, especially if you plan on riding for an extended period of time.
Recumbent exercise bikes differ from the other two designs in that users lean back in a reclined position with no weight being supported by the upper body.
They don’t feel like a traditional bicycle but are far more comfortable, especially for extended ride times.
While this design isn’t ideal for users wanting an intense cardio workout, it’s very popular among new riders and older users due to the comfort it provides.
The resistance system is what allows you to mix up your workout routine with intervals and increase the resistance as your strength improves.
In the budget exercise bike market, the main types of resistance are manual adjustment, magnetic flywheels, and belt or chain drives.
Many exercise bikes in the budget category rely on manual adjustment, using a rotating knob to increase or decrease resistance. This is often the case with spin bikes.
Because manual adjustment is imprecise, this is best suited for users wanting a steady level of resistance throughout their workout or who are comfortable tinkering with the resistance every time they want to change it.
Many higher-end exercise bikes use magnetic flywheels that operate very quietly and provide set levels of resistance.
Belt or Chain Drives
Exercise bikes using a belt or chain drive behave most closely to outdoor bikes in terms of their responsiveness.
However, these models must be maintained. Chain drives must be lubricated regularly and belts should be replaced every few years.
While a bike’s controls don’t directly contribute to a user’s workout, their ease of use greatly impacts how enjoyable the experience is.
In this day and age, almost every user will appreciate an LCD screen that tracks distance, speed and calories burned. While the more elaborate screens are reserved for high-end machines, many budget models come with a basic display.
Though special features won’t make or break your workout, there are some extras out there that will improve your overall experience.
The biggest extra is a pulse or heart rate monitor. Being able to accurately track your heart rate is a tremendous asset when trying to gauge your cardio level and plan your workouts. It’s also quite beneficial in estimating calories burned.
Other extras include convenience factors like multi-grip handles, drink holders, phone/media shelves and padded seats. None of these items will improve the function of the bike you choose, but having them may increase the amount of time you spend exercising.
Another special feature would be space-saving models. Even in the budget category, several exercise bikes are made to fold up for storage or are designed to be portable for homes with space constraints.
The 5 Best Cheap Exercise Bike You Can Buy in 2020
1. Exerpeutic LX7
The Exerpeutic LX7 is a great at-home spin bike option for users looking for an intense cardio workout on a budget.
At $400 it’s on the upper end of our budget category, but it is packed with higher-end options, including a 40 lb. cast iron flywheel, responsive chain-driven resistance and even a heart rate monitor built into its multi-grip handlebars. (1)
The only con is that its LCD control screen is surprisingly basic given the high-end feel of the rest of the bike.
- 40 lb flywheel
- Responsive resistance
- Heart rate monitor
- Basic LCD controls
2. ProGear 555LXT
A great recumbent option for beginners or others looking for a lower-impact workout is the ProGear 555LXT.
At just $160, it’s a great entry-level option featuring 14 levels of magnetic resistance, a media shelf and an LCD screen tracking speed and calories burned.
The only downsides are that the seat is not the most comfortable on the market and that assembly can be somewhat challenging.
- 14 levels of resistance
- Quiet operation
- LCD screen
- 3.3 lb flywheel
- 225 lb. weight limit
If space is an issue, the XTERRA Fitness FB350 is a great upright option.
Its lightweight frame folds up to occupy a space of just 20.5″ x 20″ when not in use, and its price point of $140 is very budget-friendly.
It’s also functional, offering a 3.3 lb. flywheel and eight levels of manually adjusted resistance and a pulse monitor.
Additionally, an LCD screen displays time, distance and pulse. Drawbacks are this model’s 225 lb. weight limit and its relatively lightweight flywheel.
- Space-saving design
- Pulse monitor
- Eight levels of resistance
- 3.3 lb flywheel
- 225 lb. weight limit
Another great recumbent bike for the money, the Marcy ME-709 has features that far exceed expectations for its price of $155.
It features eight manually adjustable magnetic resistance levels, a comfortable seat, counterbalanced pedals and powder-coated steel construction with a weight limit of 300 lbs. Users love how comfortable it is to use and its straightforward assembly.
The only cons are that the seat adjustment is a little tedious, so it’s not recommended for multiple users with differing heights, and it doesn’t include a heart rate monitor.
- High weight limit of 300 lbs.
- Sturdy steel construction
- Comfortable to use
- Seat adjustment is awkward
- No heart rate monitor
For users wanting a spin bike on a budget, look no further than this model by Sunny Health & Fitness.
Clocking in at less than $200, this exercise bike is ideal for getting a full-body cardio workout at home. It features an impressive 30 lb. flywheel and chain drive for plenty of resistance provided by an adjustable tension knob, all wrapped in a sleek package.
The only drawbacks to this model are that it has a max weight limit of 220 lbs., and it’s a no-frills model lacking an LCD display or pulse monitor.
- 30 lb. flywheel
- Sleek design
- Adjustable tension
- Weight limit of 220 lbs.
- No LCD display
- No heart rate monitor
The Round-Up: What Cheap Exercise Bike Should You Buy?
While all five of these models are excellent options for home fitness, if you’re looking to get an intense cardio workout, the Exerpeutic LX7 is your best bet.
Its spin design and higher-end features lend itself to intense workouts. Especially when paired with many of the apps available for spin programs, it will keep your workouts fresh and engaging.
However, if you don’t feel like your fitness level has advanced enough to warrant a $400 spin bike and/or the Exerpeutic LX7 is out of your price range, any of the remaining four are great options.
The most important thing is finding what works best with your budget, your space, and your fitness goals.
I’m a personal trainer based in Denver (Matrix Gym) and a true fitness nerd. If I’m not training clients or working out at my home gym, I’m probably skiing, cycling or hiking with my dog Rufus.