Difference between Spin Bike and Exercise Bike


It’s been established that cycling has amazing health benefits and if you decide to try indoor cycling for some reason, you should know that all bikes are not the same. 

In this article, I’ll be throwing some light on two bikes: an indoor bike and a stationary bike. The indoor bike is a spinning bike and the stationary bike is an upright/exercise bike. 

I’ll go over their advantages and disadvantages, do a comparison and give advice on which of the two is best for you and your workout goals. 

What is a Spin Bike? 

Man exercising on a spin bike
Man exercising in the gym on a spin bike

A spin bike is an indoor cycling bike that is also referred to as a spinning bike. The design of a spin bike looks and feels like a traditional road bike with more useful options. 

It provides a full-body workout that effectively strengthens the hips, thighs, calves, abs, and shoulders. One of the distinctive features of a spin bike is the weighted flywheel. The flywheel is connected to the pedals via a transmission system that is quite similar to the system found in a road bike. 

Also, a spin bike has a direct-contact braking system that provides additional resistance for your workouts. If you want to enjoy the feeling of cycling without getting on the trail, a spin bike is just perfect! With a spin bike, you can stand as you train to burn extra calories because of the range of motions you’re able to make. 

Some of the features that you’d find on a spin bike are reinforced pedals, adjustable seats, and reinforced frames that are all great for different kinds of users. 

Spin bikes typically have small, hard, and somewhat uncomfortable seats. This is because they are designed to be ridden while standing up for the optimum workout. 

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Advantages of a Spin Bike

  • It’s a better choice for learning how to pedal as it mimics the experience of outdoor cycling. 
  • Spin bikes are sturdy and have a strong build. 
  • For intense training sessions, the spin bike’s features will help you better achieve your fitness goals if you’re looking to burn more calories as they are arguably more suited to High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) workouts. HIIT workouts are gaining popularity, along with scientific credibility, as highly efficient workouts for overall fitness and effective weight loss. 
  • If you’d rather do without fancy stuff like a console for stats, you’ll be fine with the good ol’ bike. 
  • The effectiveness of training on a spin bike is increased by the combination of riding position, wide-ranging and easily changeable resistance, and a more engaging experience that tends to make spinning workouts more intensive.
  • A spin bike’s resistance method is manually operated and has a wider range than the upright bike. It is also able to better simulate the feeling of cycling uphill.

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Disadvantages of a Spin Bike

  • The saddle is small and hard so this can make seating quite uncomfortable during your workout. 
  • Workout on a spin bike can be intense but you can sustain injuries if you’re in poor form during use. 
  • Although spin bikes are considered to be of better build quality than upright bikes, they are more expensive than normal upright exercise bikes. 
  • Using the spin bike puts greater stress on the lower back because you’re required to hunch over while riding. 
  • The spin bike is not as technologically advanced as the exercise bike. For instance, it doesn’t have features like an in-depth data display, etc. 

What is an Exercise Bike?

Man relaxing on an upright exercise bike
Dude relaxing on an upright exercise bike

An exercise bike is a stationary indoor bike that is built with a central console that allows you to customize your workout. It is mostly used for general fitness workouts. 

The exercise bike which is also known as an upright bike looks like a cramped road bike. This is because the distance between the seat and the handlebars is short and the pedals are positioned right above the flywheel. 

On some models of this equipment, you’d find that the handles are moveable, like those on elliptical trainers. The advantage of moving handles is that they give your upper body a better workout. 

Upright bikes are generally the most compact of all exercise bikes and can be found in gyms. Its design allows you to get a low-impact workout while still burning lots of calories. 

Common features of an upright bike include textured handlebars, a display screen, and a large padded seat.

If you compare an exercise bike with a spin bike, you’d notice that comfort is one of the most important features in its design unlike the more rugged feel of a spin bike. 

Cycling on the upright bike gives you an adequate lower body workout to burn calories. So, if you’re simply looking to burn a few calories and get in shape, however, an upright bike is a great option. 

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Pros of an Exercise Bike

  • Most exercise bikes are foldable, compact, and won’t take too much space during storage. 
  • It provides a low-impact workout that strengthens your bones and joints without stressing them. This is good if you don’t want to aggravate back or knee problems. 
  • It is fitted with a console that helps you track your progress. 
  • Provides a good workout for the core and lower body.
  • It’s fitted with a comfortable seat and is designed for a nice riding position.
  • It is easy to use. 

Cons of an Exercise Bike

  • Because of its low impact workout, an exercise bike may not be suitable for those who require a high fitness level like athletes, cyclists, etc. 
  • Limited resistance on the bike will restrict the intensity of the workout. 
  • Seated option only- unable to hop onto pedals for hill climbs like you can on a spin bike. 
  • As you’ll only be able to cycle without a variety of body movements, it can get boring to ride. 
  • Exercise bikes are not as durable as spin bikes. For this reason, they can hold less weight and are likely to break with vigorous use. 
  • According to LiveStrong, cycling alone for 30 minutes burns about 300 calories on an exercise bike. This might seem impressive but it’s nowhere near the number of calories burned in a spin class. So, if your goal is to lose a lot of weight, it might affect the speed of your progress.

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Spinning Bike vs Stationary Bike

1. Primary Use

Typically, stationary bikes are used for general health and fitness programs. They work well to improve cardiovascular fitness levels and increase muscle strength in your calves, hamstrings, and quadriceps. They also work on the muscles in your core, back, and glutes too! Additionally, using a stationary bike can help with effective weight loss. 

On the other hand, spinning bikes are preferred by cyclists and athletes because they allow you to mimic the competitive cycling body position. This lets you get an intense full-body workout. So if you want to practice your cycling and are looking to train indoors, spin bikes are for you. They are also used for spinning group fitness classes. 

2. Ease of Use

If you’ve ever used a regular bike, you’ll have no trouble using either of the two bikes. And even if you notice any difference from the traditional bike, it won’t be noticeable enough to give you any challenge while riding.  

However, spin bikes are more difficult to use than stationary bikes. They also tend to be larger and heavier than their stationary counterparts because of the flywheel. Compared to spin bikes, stationary bikes are lighter, smaller, and more compact (and sometimes, even foldable!)

Woman relaxing on an exercise bike
Upright and relaxed riding position of exercise bike

3. Flywheel

An upright bike has a flywheel of a few kilograms which helps you ride smoothly. When you stop pedaling, the flywheel keeps turning but the pedals remain stationary. This is similar to how you coast when going downhill on a regular bike.

On a spin bike, the flywheel is heavier and directly connected to the pedals so even when you stop pedaling, the pedals keep spinning. 

The spin bike’s flywheel has various levels of resistance which can help you to accurately replicate the rough terrain you might ride while out on your bike. The resistance can be magnetic or friction-based, giving you the flexibility to choose the type of workout you want. 

4. Risk of Injury

The spin bike bears more injury risk compared to the upright bike. This is due to the spin bike’s flywheel which keeps the bike in constant motion. 

Although the spin bike’s flywheel allows for less impact on a rider’s joint, intense/faster spinning while standing can increase injury risk because of the greater range of movement. 

So, if you’re using a spinning bike, remember that standing and spinning puts you at a higher risk of injury than sitting and spinning. And while sitting and spinning are less risky, you might develop back pain from being hunched over while riding. 

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5. Workout Difficulty and Variety

Both bikes allow you to up the difficulty of your exercise by increasing the resistance. While speed can be enjoyed on both bikes, only the spin bike allows you to stand and cycle. 

Standing and cycling let you explore a variety of exercises that you can’t comfortably do on an upright bike. 

So, if you like to switch up your workout sessions, the basic nature of an upright bike might bore you. 

6. Targeted Muscles

A spinning bike allows you to get a full-body workout when you stand while spinning. Standing puts more stress on your lower body muscles like calves, quads, hamstrings, and glutes. It also works your shoulders, arms, back, and core to a higher degree compared to using a stationary bike. The spin bike is your best bet for a full-body workout.

7. Calorie Burn

The spin bike burns more calories because it takes more energy for you to keep the flywheel going. But if you plan to sit during your workouts, you can go for either bike because then, there won’t be much difference in the number of calories they burn. 

8. Riding Position

The riding position for an upright exercise bike is usually just that – upright – and the seat is quite wide for comfort but the adjustability is not that great. 

A spin bike, on the other hand, resembles a road racing bike. The handlebars are inclined more horizontally and the riding position allows you to lean forward when exercising. 

Side view of Spinning Bike
Spin bike with no console

The amount of adjustment is greater than that of an upright bike, so it emulates a road bike more. Although you can still sit more upright when riding if you want to. 

9. Console

When it comes to the console, the upright bike is the obvious winner. Spinning bikes do not typically come with consoles but stationary bikes provide you with the stats of your workout. 

The spin bike LCD will offer riders basic workout data including, speed, distance, time, and calories. 

However, it doesn’t offer in-depth data that you would find on an exercise bike like program charts, body fat calculator, speed, distance traveled, the number of calories burned, and other programmable options.

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Upright Bike Vs Spin Bike Chart

UPRIGHT BIKESPIN BIKE
Requires less effort to operate. Requires more effort to operate because of the flywheel. 
To ride, you have to be in an upright position. To ride, you have to be hunched as you would if riding a traditional bike. 
When riding and you stop pedaling, the brakes let you stop immediately. Even when you stop, the pedals keep moving. 
The handles are higher than the seat.The handles and seat are at the same level. 
The seat is larger and more comfortable to sit on. The seat is harder, smaller and less comfortable to use. 
Resistance is digitally controlled with buttons on the panel. Resistance is manually controlled with a knob. 
Recommended for endurance workout sessions.Better suited for customized workout sessions with acceleration, coasting, etc. 
Lack of clip-in pedals drastically limits the grip and intensity of your pedaling. Pedals are equipped with clips that attach directly to your shoes for optimal grip while pedaling. This gives you nice control of your pedaling intensity. 
Upright bike vs Spin Bike Comparison Table

Which Bike is Best for You?

Man pointing at you

Now, you know the major differences between spin and stationary bikes and their pros and cons. I know that deciding on a choice between both can be tricky still. 

Frankly, your choice should be determined by your fitness goals. So, if you are looking for a comfortable cardio machine that is easy to use and won’t stress your joints, go for an exercise bike. 

If however, you need a bike that can help you achieve intensive workouts with high resistance, then you should consider copping a spin bike. 

While these are important technical issues to be considered, I believe that the best kind of bike for you is the type that you’ll use. What’s the use of any bike if you don’t ride it? 

So, even though spin bikes are used for more intense workouts and faster results, if the comfort of an upright bike will make you more consistent towards achieving your goals, then it’s the best for you. 

The best bike for you comes down to your fitness goals and physical requirements. Put these into consideration and you’ll be able to decide on what’s perfect for you. Whichever one you choose, be sure to use it. Cheers! 


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