What Style of Exercise Bike is Right for You?

Need a new exercise bike? If you're ready to get that open road feeling from the comfort of your home, an exercise bike is sure to level up your workout. But with so many styles on the market, it can be difficult to find the right one for you. 

Thankfully, at Northern Fitness, we know our upright bikes from our indoor spin cycles. In this buyer's guide, we'll explain the differences between an air bike, upright bike, recumbent bike, and indoor spin bike. 

Below, we've summed up the key features and benefits to help you decide what style of exercise bike is best for your needs. Let's ride right into it! 

1. Air Bike

What Is an Air Bike?

No, it's not the fitness equivalent of an air bed! Unlike standard fitness bikes, an air bike features two handles that move back and forth with the pedals (a bit like a cross-trainer). It gets its name because there's an in-built fan powered by the handles. You might also hear it referred to as a fan bike. 

schwinn ad6 airdyne

The faster you move the handles and pedals, the more resistance you create. This style of indoor cycling equipment doesn't have resistance levels that you can program electronically — the resistance simply increases in league with your input. It means that the resistance level is technically infinite. 

But the lack of electronic resistance doesn't mean this equipment is low-tech. At Northern Fitness, our air bikes include all the features you'd expect from a standard exercise machine — think LCD consoles, heart rate trackers, and ergonomic design. Bikes like the Assault Bike Elite take this technology to the next level with Bluetooth connectivity and a large LCD.

What Are the Benefits of an Air Bike?

Air bikes have several key advantages over standard exercise machines. The most important benefit is the fact that they work your upper body as well as your legs.

Because you're simultaneously using the pedals and the handles, your whole body gets a workout. No more alternating leg and arm day — with an indoor exercise machine such as the Schwinn AD7 Airdyne, you can combine the two.

Another great benefit is that air bikes are low-impact. The workout is much gentler on your joints than running or cycling, making it an excellent choice for people who want to burn calories without putting too much strain on their body. 

That doesn't mean these machines are easy, though. A workout on a ride like the Schwinn AD6 is an excellent form of cardio, especially for people who feel constrained by the resistance levels on pre-programmed bikes. 

Should You Choose an Air Bike?

If you enjoy cycling but want to upgrade to a full-body workout, an air bike could be an excellent choice for you. The variable resistance means this type of indoor exercise equipment is suitable for all fitness levels, although people looking for a short, intensive workout will particularly benefit from using one. They're also beneficial for people seeking interval training.

Priced at less than a thousand dollars, the Schwinn Airdyne AD2 is the perfect introduction to the world of air bikes. Why not try it out for yourself?

2. Indoor Spin Bike

What Is a Spin Bike?

At first glance, an indoor spin bike — also known as a spin cycle — looks a bit like a conventional upright model. The biggest difference is that an indoor spin bike has drop handlebars, which means it closely resembles the riding position of a racing bike. Generally, the handlebars should be level with your hips for the most efficient workout. 

keiser m3i bike

Another key difference is that the flywheel on a spin bike is a lot heavier than the flywheel on an upright model. For example, the flywheel on the Schwinn IC3 weighs a substantial 40 lb, while that of the SB20 Smart Indoor Cycle weighs 50 lb. The flywheel connects to the pedals, which means that the pedals keep spinning even if the rider stops moving. This constant motion is due to inertia. 

What Are the Benefits of a Spin Bike?

The biggest benefit of spin cycling machines is that it forces the rider to work harder. Thanks to the heavy flywheel, it takes more energy to start moving, and you can't stop the wheels immediately by stopping pedaling.

Some riders like to clip their feet into the pedals so that even when they stop pushing, their leg muscles are still working to keep up with the spinning wheels. 

Using a spin bike can also be a great full-body workout. The position of the seat and handlebars mean it's possible to ride while standing, which results in a more intense workout. It's particularly good for working your calves, glutes, thighs, abs, hips, and shoulders. 

Should You Choose a Spin Bike?

Spin bikes are a great choice if you're looking for a high-intensity workout that you can adapt to your fitness goals. While pricier than an air bike, a spin cycling ride also can be an excellent long-term investment. Check out our store now for the ultimate bundle and save $600 on the Keiser M3i.


3. Upright Bike

What Is an Upright Bike?

An upright bike is the classic type of exercise machine. The handlebars are much higher than those of a spin bike, which means you have to sit upright during your workout. 

schwinn 130 upright bike

Although spin cycling has become enormously popular in recent years, the upright cycling design is still one of the most popular exercise machines in the world. Its simplicity and accessibility make it suitable for all fitness levels. 

What Are the Benefits of an Upright Bike?

Using an upright bike is a great aerobic workout that burns calories without putting strain on your joints. Cycling is one of the best forms of cardio, strengthening your heart, lungs, and muscles. A model such as the Nautilus U618 includes a wireless chest strap and contact grips to monitor your heart rate as you ride. 

Upright bikes are also much gentler on your joints than high-impact aerobic exercises. Because your feet stay on the pedals, there's no undue pressure on your ankles or knees, making it an excellent choice for people with injuries or arthritis. 

Should You Choose an Upright Bike?


There's a model to suit everyone, from the beginner-friendly Schwinn 130 to the custom-designed 200 Upright Bike. Not only is it a safe, all-weather alternative to road cycling, but it's also an excellent workout that promises high-intensity and low impact. 

4. Recumbent Bike

What Is a Recumbent Bike?

A recumbent bike is an exercise machine that allows you to sit against a backrest as you ride. The seat resembles an ergonomic office chair rather than a traditional saddle! 

schwinn 270 recumbent bike

Many models, such as the PS100 Recumbent Ride, have two sets of handlebars — one at the front and another at hip-height beside the seat. Others, such as the FreeStep LT1, work a bit like a cross-trainer, with one set of push-pull handles instead of pedals. 

Another distinctive feature of this type of indoor exercise equipment is the position of the pedals. The pedals positioned at the front of the machine force you to stretch out your legs to reach the full extension. 

What Are the Benefits of a Recumbent Bike?

Although indoor cyclist makers initially designed recumbent bikes for people who were unable to use a traditional upright model, all kinds of riders swear by their health benefits today. 

One of the most significant benefits of using a recumbent bike is that your back has full support throughout your workout. This ergonomic design makes it a low-impact exercise that's great for people who struggle with back problems such as slipped discs.

Should You Choose a Recumbent Bike?

A recumbent bike is a perfect choice if you sometimes get back pain using other types of exercise bikes. Even people who haven't got pre-existing back injuries can struggle with a stiff neck after spending an hour hunched over their handlebars! The recumbent bike is the optimal solution.

These bikes won't necessarily provide the full-body workout you'll get from the other types of indoor cycling machines listed here. However, they're ideal for strengthening the largest muscles in your body. Plus, a recumbent bike like the Schwinn 270 has dozens of programs and resistance levels to ensure that your workout is a dynamic experience.

Thanks to their low impact, recumbent bikes are great for people who want to work on their endurance and get short bursts of cardio. 


We hope this guide has helped you choose the best type of exercise bike for your needs. Whether you're a gym bunny who's looking for the latest addition to your home gym or a total beginner who's new to the world of workout equipment, there's something for you at Northern Fitness. Embrace your best life and buy your exercise bike today!