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Cheap Exercise Bikes Buying Guide

Staying healthy and keeping motivated doesn't have to mean spending up to $4,000 for a spinner bike with thousands of customized workouts and a built-in high-resolution data/entertainment screen. It's equally possible to get a good workout with a cheap exercise bike that costs less than $400, although Allexercisebikes.net suggests springing for a pricier model if you expect to ride more than five miles a day.

Major players in the home exercise bikes market include Cybex, Healthrider, Kettler, LifeCycle, Nautilus, NordicTrack, Precor, ProForm, Schwinn, and Stamina.

There are several types of cheap exercise bikes. Upright exercise bikes mimic the experience of an actual bicycle. Spine specialists say the forward leaning position on an upright exercise bike is particularly good for people with spinal stenosis or osteoarthritis. Spinner bikes are a type of upright bicycle that's acquired a following in recent years, particularly in gym exercise classes and among die-hard cyclists who use it as an indoor training alternative. Recumbent exercise bikes let you sit back while pedaling with your legs out front. Recumbent exercise bikes are recommended for seniors, people with joint problems, and those just starting out, but may provide a less strenuous cardio workout. Dual action exercise bikes have handlebars that move, thus incorporating your upper body and delivering a more complete workout. Most, but not all, dual action models are priced beyond the Cheapism range. And finally, you can always convert a bicycle you already own into an exercise bike with a stand that costs about $50.

Regardless which type of cheap exercise bike suits your fitness level and goals, it should possess several critical qualities. Chief among them is comfort -- because any exercise bike that irritates is one you won't use -- so pay attention to the seat and the bike's size. You should be able to sit for extended periods and be confident that your knees won't hit the handlebars and your feet can reach the pedals. (Consumer Reports found that the specs for some models overstate the maximum user height that can be comfortably accommodated.) Also check the maximum weight a cheap exercise bike can handle. Expensive, gym-quality stationary bikes are good up to 350 pounds but the maximum weight on cheap exercise bikes usually stops at 250 or 300 pounds. If possible, test-ride the equipment before committing.

Also be on the lookout for certain features. A good cheap exercise bike can be adjusted to your improving fitness levels by letting you increase the resistance you feel as you pedal. Many cheap exercise bikes come with a number of preset resistance levels as well as workout programs that can be customized or ignored. Consoles with a workout tracker that keep tabs on your progress are common, and a few cheap exercise bikes even come with heart rate monitors and screens that display calming scenes (like vacation spots), video games, or workouts led by fitness gurus.

Among the many brands and models out there, we found several high-quality, cheap exercise bikes that should suit your frugal budget. Our two favorites are recumbent exercise bikes that give value for the price. The Schwinn 240 Recumbent (starting at $399) stands out for the variety of workout programs, build quality, and the ease of kicking it up (or down) a notch, and the Marcy Recumbent Mag Cycle (starting at $154) wins points for its low price and quiet and smooth operation. Our runner-up choices include the ProForm 290 Indoor Cycle Trainer (starting at $297), a bare-bones, mechanical upright spinning cycle that provides an intense workout, and the NordicTrack Upright Exercise Cycle GX 2.0 (starting at $299), which boasts plenty of challenging preset programs and a rich feature set. We also found one exercise bike that isn't all it could be. The Stamina 15-0200 InTone Folding Recumbent Bike (starting at $153) scores with its small footprint, storability, and ease of assembly but is sabotaged by durability issues.

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