When it comes to physical activity, I tend to prefer something that will not only have me work up a good sweat and provide me with an intensive workout, but also something that will entertain me. That’s probably the reason I have stuck with teams sports for so long, because they motivate me to compete with others. That and the fact that they are less repetitive than, let’s say, going to the gym and lifting the same weights over and over again. But, my joints aren’t what they used to be, not to mention getting my butt kicked out there by younger guys, so I had to find some other form of recreation that involved low-impact activities. The choice was obvious: stationary bikes.
There is more than one reason as to why upright and recumbent bikes are my workout of choice, but at this time, I am going to focus on one in particular. That reason is the high-tech approach adopted by manufacturers of exercise bikes.
Nowadays, you would be hard-pressed to find an indoor bicycle that doesn’t implement modern technology in one way or another.
Now, I do consider myself a bit of tech nerd, but all that technology needs to serve a purpose, other than to light the room like a Christmas tree with all its lights and LEDs.
Not that I would mind people leaving me presents underneath my exercise bicycle, but all joking aside, the main reason why I chose to go with indoor bikes is the fact that all these bells and whistles do a great job of motivating me to do better. Keep on reading as I take a look at some of the toys and gadgets that improve the workout process and take it to a whole new level.
Central Console Unit
Or simply put, a console. Without getting too technical, the console acts as a central nervous system of the bike, gathering data from all the sensors and gadgets attached to the machine, processing it, and displaying it for the user on a dedicated LCD panel. And it’s not a two-way street either. You won’t find anything like this on your traditional bike.
Any settings dialed in by the user, such as resistance or choice of a pre-set workout program, are interpreted by the console, which then controls the bike and tells it to act as requested by the person using it. Sounds boring, but trust me, it makes all the difference.
The most important part of the console is the LCD screen. Its role, of course, is to inform the user of all the crucial parameters and numbers during each workout session. The amount of information shown on the LCD varies depending on the make and model (and the price of the bicycle), but most screens show at least the duration of the workout, distance travelled, average speed, number of calories burned and custom workout settings, and more advanced models will also show your heart rate.
Of course, you could still have a good workout without all these trinkets, but it would be an entirely different experience, and a lot a less efficient one. Some of the more advanced (read expensive) indoor bicycles even have interactive video games that translate your real-life performance into the game, motivating you to compete and pedal faster.
Heart Rate Monitor
Before I continue any further, I have to point out that those stationary bikes which sit on the lower end of the price range usually dont come with a built-in heart rate monitor. If you are strapped for cash, you can always buy a cheaper exercise bike and purchase a separate hear rate monitor later. But, having it integrated into the handlebars is always a better solution, if you can afford it.
Why is the heart rate monitor so important, anyway? Perhaps I neglected to mention this, but any type of cardio workout is at its most effective if your heart beats at a certain rate, which is also known as the fat-burning zone. Having the monitor remind me of that has cut down the time I spend on the exercise bike significantly, since I stay in the zone every time I use the bike.
If comfort and ergonomics are placed high on your list of requirements exercise equipment has to fulfil, then you are going to find much to like about indoor bikes. Riding an outdoor bike is great, but it’s not exactly a comfortable ride. But, since you are pedalling while remaining stationary, you can assume a more comfortable position. Also, the seats on home exercise bicycles are generously padded and ergonomically designed so you don’t feel any discomfort, even after extended workout sessions (more on that here).
Recumbent bikes especially excel in the ergonomics department. Since you exercise with your body in a reclining position, it puts much less stress on your lower back and gluteus, because the pressure is more evenly distributed across your body. This type of bike is a great fit for those who experience pain or discomfort while leaning forward on an upright bicycle. Needless to say, on both recumbent and upright bikes, you can adjust the seat to your liking.
You will feel the benefits of ergonomics when you use the pedals, too, since they are large enough for anyone’s feet. They usually come with straps which keep your feet from slipping during those intensive workouts. Of course, they are fully adjustable as well, and your feet will be spared from strain or injuries, thanks to proper positioning.
Also, creature comforts such as fans, built-in speakers, and water bottle holders can also be found both an upright and recumbent bikes, although those are not as essential as the ones I have analysed here. The purpose of every indoor bicycle is to help you get in shape and/or lose weight, and the only thing you need for that is your legs. But, some assistance in the shape of gadgets I discussed above is a welcome addition as far as I am concerned.