When I was first getting into home exercise bikes I was completely baffled by the overwhelming number of different types of bikes, but over time I began to piece the puzzle together. Except for one, which is the difference between indoor cycling and upright exercise bikes.
On the face of it they look pretty similar, so figuring out the difference wasn’t as easy as it was in the case of recumbent vs. upright bikes (as discussed here). Since I started this website to help people eliminate weeks of research, I am going to go right ahead, and compare the two types, their similarities, their differences, and their own unique features.
Indoor Cycling Bikes
Since they pretty much look the same, I thought it would be best if we were to take look on the inside first. While most users wont be aware of the difference, these two types of stationary bikes provide resistance in two very distinct ways. Unlike upright bikes, indoor cycling bikes (or spinning bikes, as they are sometimes called), have a weighted flywheel which is connected to the pedals through a transmission system that closely resembles that of a real bike. Together with direct-contact braking to provide resistance
There are other similarities as well. You have to lean forward into an almost crouching position, as you would on an actual road bike. You can also adjust the handlebars, and the resistance via knob, like you would change gears. It is this quality that makes indoor cycling bikes such a popular choice among the professional and bike-riding enthusiasts, and all of those who wish to improve their cycling skills and stamina. An indoor cycling bike allows you to pedal while standing up, which is an advantage over traditional upright bikes, as they require you to remain seated at all times. Pedalling while standing gives you a much more intensive workout and engages different muscle groups.
Upright Exercise Bikes
Even though they look nearly the same from the outside, the inside of an upright exercise bike is entirely different than a cycling bike. Most of these bikes use electromagnetic induction in order to create resistance and (instead of the brake pads) magnets are used to slow down the rotation of the flywheel. Most upright bikes allow you to choose from a number of preset workout programs which can simulate the feeling of riding up and down the hill. Depending on the number of features and toys they have, their prices range from $200 to upwards of $2,000.
Because it has a central console, an upright stationary bike allows you to fine-tune a number of parameters, which makes for an extremely effective, custom workout. Perhaps the best things about them is that most models have integrated heart rate monitors. This is important, because if you are trying to lose weight, that will only happen in the fat-burning zone and this is different for each individual (depending on age and weight).
Those looking for a full-body workout tend to avoid both indoor cycling and upright bikes because they do very little for your upper body. However, if you prefer cycling to anything else but still want to engage your upper body muscles, you can get a stationary bike with dual-action arms to help you work out your arms, abs, back and chest. They are not exactly at the lower end of the price range, but at least they provide you with the best of both worlds.
As far as comfort is concerned, upright bicycles have the upper hand. They have much wider, well-padded seats, which won’t make you feel as uncomfortable, even after extended workout sessions.
If you are an advanced user or a cycling enthusiast, indoor cycling bikes are a great fit. Not just because of their efficiency or the way they mimic the sensation of real-life cycling, but because their resistance delivery is superior, especially at higher levels of resistance. It is much smoother and more natural than that of upright bikes.
If you are looking for a good way to burn calories, lose weight, or just something to keep you in shape, upright bikes are the way to go. Their consoles, large, clear LCD screen, heart rate monitors and pre-programmed workout routines are tailored to fit just about anyones need. The comfort level on upright bikes is much better, and there is a lesser chance of you straining or hurting yourself.
The effect both of these have on your body is nearly identical, provided that you work out on each one with equal intensity. I think I mentioned somewhere that, even though these bikes do enhance your workout, it is still entirely up to you. No machine can replace that.