The upright bike is perhaps the most famous home cardio machine of all time. These bikes are compact, cost-effective and can provide a heart-pumping workout regardless of your ability.
With so many choices on the market, it’s easy to get confused over what you need. Do you want to spend over a grand on a high-end upright bike, or can you find what you desire on an affordable bike instead?
Table of Contents
In this article we have tried to eliminate some of the guesswork. To start, we have highlighted ten of the very best exercise bikes with an upright design, along with mini reviews, and their pros and cons.
After this chart we dive into the world of upright bikes, shedding some light on what you should look out for when making a purchase – and what you should avoid.
Let’s get started!
Height: 4ft 8” to 6ft 4”
Resistance: 25 levels (Magnetic)
Features: Optimized drive train, adjustable gel seat, handlebars with integrated controls, dual LCD screens, 29 workout programs, heart rate monitor, USB charging port, media tray, 300lb weight capacity
A new addition to this list is the U618 – a popular midrange bike from big-name brand Nautilus. This one puts a big emphasis on the secondary features to provide a bike that is as convenient as it is hard working.
There’s a great central console with dual LCD displays and a media rack on which to hold a tablet. It is also equipped with Bluetooth connectivity to sync with multiple fitness tracking apps. It doesn’t lack in the comfort department either, with comfortable handles (with built-in controls), a thick gel seat and plenty of adjustability
Performance-wise it’s a great bike too, offering a smooth and quiet ride. There are 25 levels of magnetic resistance for great versatility – boosted by 29 preset workout programs.
Resistance: 16 levels (Magnetic)
Features: Compact build, four-way adjustable oversized seat, ergonomic handlebars, LCD screen, 12 preset workout programs, 3 heart rate programs, water bottle holder, heart rate monitor, chest strap, 350lb weight capacity
Our chart begins with a popular higher-end upright bike from 3G Cardio. On the face of it, the Elite UB looks quite plain – nothing overly swish or fancy on first glance. Yet as you dive deeper, you realize the true quality of this bike.
It features a rock-solid build with a small footprint (41” x 22.5”), making it suitable for homes of any size. At this price, we expect a flawlessly smooth ride – and this bike doesn’t disappoint! It offers 16 levels of magnetic resistance, with a handful of workout programs to keep the challenge fresh.
The LCD display is a little small compared to others, but offers all the workout data you need, including heart rate metrics. These are collected via both pulse pads in the handlebars and the included chest strap monitor.
Resistance: Unlimited (Air Resistance)
Features: 26-blade fan wheel, belt drive, moisture-repellent steel frame, adjustable seat, dual LCD screens, built-in HIIT programs, water bottle holder, 350lb weight capacity
The AD7 AirDyne is another higher-end bike on this chart, coming with a stellar reputation for being able to reduce even elite athletes to sweaty heaps by the end of a session!
This popular bike is built like a tank with a moisture-repellent steel frame, but performs like a dream. This is thanks to the belt drive powering the 26-blade fan wheel for an ultra-smooth ride – and surprisingly quiet to boot.
Movable handles incorporate your upper body, while smooth and natural acceleration makes for an excellent HIIT partner. It’s easy to find the best fit for you with multi-grip handlebars and great adjustability in the seat. Finally, the central console is well designed, with an aesthetically pleasing RPM screen, as well as a larger main display offering your workout feedback.
Resistance: 25 levels
Weight Capacity: 300lbs
Features: 22lb flywheel, belt drive, adjustable seat, DualTrack LCD display, 29 built-in workout programs, Bluetooth connectivity, heart rate monitor, built-in speakers, USB charging port, adjustable fan, media shelf, transportation wheels
The U616 from Nautilus is one of the most popular affordable upright bikes on the market, and a go-to for users wanting a combination of solid performance and advanced features, without paying over the odds.
It’s a sleek and attractive bike with a sturdy 300lb weight capacity and a four-way adjustable seat. There’s no shortage of ways to test yourself, with 25 levels of magnetic resistance along with 29 preset workout programs to keep the challenge fresh.
A 22lb flywheel ensures your workout is smooth and consistent. Meanwhile, this bike is well stocked with secondary features. For example, there are two backlit display screens, built-in speakers and Bluetooth connectivity, allowing you to connect to the Explore the World app with ease. Great value from a trusted brand.
Resistance: 25 levels (Magnetic)
Features: Steel frame, oversized pedals, padded handlebars, 29 workout programs, dual LCD screens, Bluetooth connectivity, heart rate monitor, built-in speakers, USB charging port, media shelf, 300lb weight capacity
The 170 is Schwinn’s higher-end upright bike offering, with a better performance and features when compared to the brand’s 130 and A10. However, it still boasts a very attractive price tag.
Even for the midrange price, this bike offers a solid build, with a sleek and strong steel frame capable of taking users up to 300lbs. The seat and handlebars are adjustable, leading to a better fit for you and a more comfortable ride. Meanwhile, having 25 levels of magnetic resistance means you can enjoy (or endure!) a great challenge and progress gradually.
The secondary features on the 170 are impressive for the price. These include a built-in heart rate monitor, integrated speakers, Bluetooth connectivity and dual LCD screens, so you can still check your workout data while using the media tray.
Resistance: 14 levels (Magnetic)
Weight Capacity: 300lbs
Features: 10kg bi-directional flywheel, four-way adjustable padded seat, adjustable non-slip pedals, LCD screen, pulse-grip heart rate monitors, transportation wheels
The popular B7 from Harison is a surprisingly affordable upright bike, boasting some good features that help it shine compared to others in the lower end of the market.
One of these features is the heavy-duty frame that supports at least 300lbs of user weight and feels stable in action, no matter how aggressively you pedal. The four-way adjustable seat also ensures you can find a good fit, no matter what your shape.
With a magnetic resistance system in place, you have 14 levels from which to choose – again, this is a considerable step up from most entry-level bikes. Resistance is selected via a turn dial at the front, with a central console above offering a large LCD screen, a solid device shelf (great for iPads), and a water bottle holder.
Resistance: 8 levels (Magnetic)
Features: Space saver frame, belt drive, integrated resistance bands, LCD screen, heart rate monitor, media shelf, transportation wheels, 265lb weight capacity
As we move into the more affordable price ranges it should be no surprise to see a bike from Sunny Health & Fitness. Yet, the SF-B2710 is no ordinary bike… it comes with a twist!
This affordable unit features integrated arm and leg resistance bands, allowing you to work on enhancing flexibility and strength as you cycle. The bike frame itself folds up and wheels away to save space when you aren’t working out, although it remains sturdy – taking users up to 265lbs.
Up top, the SF-B2710 is equipped with a basic but functional LCD screen that displays information about your session, including time, distance and heart rate – the latter of which is collected via the pulse monitors in the handlebars.
Weight Capacity: 300lbs
Resistance: 15 levels (Magnetic)
Features: Steel frame, four-way adjustable padded seat, adjustable non-slip pedals, LCD screen, pulse-grip heart rate monitors, aux input, USB charging port, water bottle holder, floor levelers, transportation wheels
We are all different sizes, so an upright bike with ample adjustability is key to finding something that will give you a good ride. The AMZ-594U from Circuit Fitness has plenty of adjustability in the handlebars, seat and pedals, while the sturdy frame will cater for users up to 300lbs in weight. In short, it’ll fit you!
The AMZ-594U is also a smart choice for those wanting to interact with media devices for onboard entertainment or workout videos, as the control console features a retractable media shelf and a USB charging port.
Not forgetting the exercises, this bike features adjustable magnetic resistance with 15 preset modes to work through. Your workout feedback is displayed on the bright backlit screen in the center. Not bad for what is still very much an affordable bike.
Resistance: 8 levels (Magnetic)
Features: Steel tube frame, adjustable seat, padded handlebars, LCD monitor, transportation wheels, 300lb weight capacity
Marcy’s ME-708 is another upright bike that doesn’t tax your wallet, but ultimately offers a solid at-home cycling workout.
Unlike other budget options we have featured, this bike doesn’t fold up, yet it still remains a compact model ideal for smaller homes – especially as the integrated wheels allow you to move it into a corner after your session.
The ME-708 features a stylish design and sturdy powder-coated steel tube frame, accommodating users of many heights and up to 300lbs. It offers a standard magnetic resistance system with eight levels of difficulty, selected via a twist of the control dial. The small console isn’t spectacular, yet provides the key workout data you need. Great price and great value.
Height: 5ft 3” to 6ft 1”
Resistance: 8 levels (Magnetic)
Features: Folding X-frame with seat support, three-piece crank system, belt drive, transportation wheels, LCD display, 300lb weight capacity
This budget bike from Exerpeutic is one of the most popular upright bikes on the market today and just had to make the cut. One of the reasons behind its popularity – aside from the value – is that the frame folds to just 22” x 20”, so is simple to store post-workout.
Despite the compact footprint, this folding bike still takes users up to 300lbs, which is very commendable. As for the actual cycling, this unit provides eight levels of magnetic resistance, with a belt drive keeping everything rather quiet during use.
Workout tracking comes courtesy of a simple but effective LCD monitor, housed in the central console. Here you will find feedback on your time, distance, speed, calories burned and heart rate (collected via the integrated pulse monitor).
When people first think of buying an exercise bike for their home, more often than not they are thinking about an upright bike. These traditional exercise bikes can deliver a considerable challenge to all ability levels, without compromising on comfort or features.
But what resistance style is best? Do you need an LCD screen? Will the bike actually fit you?
Over the next few sections we will be answering these questions and more. Keep this information in mind before you make the plunge and part with your cash.
As you may have read, there are three main designs used for exercise bikes. These comprise spinning bikes (requiring a forward-leaning position), recumbent bikes (with a reclined position), and upright bikes (keeping the user in an upright position).
The first two both have their advantages and are ideal for different users. For example, spin bikes are perfect when it comes to high-intensity sessions, while recumbent bikes are favored by seniors, beginners and people with joint issues.
However, the disadvantages of both bike designs are also quite clear. Recumbent bikes tend to be fairly large and cumbersome, while spinning bikes tend to be too aggressive for most users.
Upright bikes are the best compromise between size, comfort and performance.
They sit somewhere between the demanding positioning of a spin bike and the comfort of a recumbent bike. Unlike a spinning bike, the seats usually tend to be more comfortable, making it nicer to work out for extended periods.
The seat of an upright bike is placed lower than the handlebars so, while you can still lean forward to ride if you wish, you are not forced to do so.
Seats and positioning aside, not all upright bikes are created equally. While all upright bikes will feature handlebars, some are not stationary. Instead, they allow you to push and pull them as you move your legs (these are sometimes known as ‘dual-action bikes’).
These movable arms – usually paired with an air resistance system (see below) – add an upper-body element into your workout. This can be a welcome feature, burning more calories and helping to build your upper body strength.
However, movable handles aren’t ideal for users who enjoy a longer session – they are best used for high-intensity training. Be aware of your goals before you buy a bike with this design.
Regardless of the handlebars, you will want to ensure your potential bike has a good frame that can support your weight. The majority of upright bikes will use steel tubing, although higher-end bikes may use lightweight aluminum. Check out our reviews as well as user reviews to ensure the bike is capable of performing without shaking.
With regards to space, upright bikes are more compact than recumbent bikes and should fit comfortably in most homes. However, be aware that some upright bikes fold. Combined with built-in transportation wheels, these bikes can be reduced in size and moved into storage after a session.
The only caveat is that the performance may suffer a little as the bike is less stable and usually lacking in features. Still, for a small apartment, condo or dorm room, folding bikes can be a godsend.
Resistance is essential if you want a good workout. Ultimately, there is no point jumping onto a bike with no resistance, as you won’t be testing your muscles, raising your heart rate or burning calories.
There are several resistance systems found on upright bikes, although magnetic resistance is the most common.
This system makes use of a series of magnets acting on a heavy metal flywheel to create resistance. The heavier the flywheel, the smoother the performance.
As you add resistance, the magnets are pushed closer to this wheel, slowing it and creating the feeling of friction. As you back off the resistance levels, the magnets move away.
The prime benefit of this system is that it is quiet and smooth. There is no direct contact with the flywheel, so there is no brake dust either.
You can also make use of incremental resistance levels. These allow you to always land on a consistent level that works for you. The best bikes tend to feature more levels, which allows for more consistency and gradual progression.
For example, a bike only offering eight levels of resistance doesn’t give you a lot of versatility or room to develop, compared to the 25 levels you may find on a higher-end machine.
If there are disadvantages of magnetic resistance it could be said that these machines tend to cost more, although – as our budget picks prove – this isn’t always the case.
Also, the set levels may work well for steady-state cardio sessions, but are not as effective for high-intensity training, as you cannot accelerate or decelerate without manually pressing a control.
This is where upright bikes with air resistance come into play. As mentioned above, these bikes are usually paired with movable handles – as you would find on an elliptical – to deliver a full-body calorie-blasting workout.
These bikes make use of a fan wheel instead of the traditional flywheel. As air hits the blades of the fan it causes resistance – the harder you pedal, the harder the resistance.
While these bikes are noisy and less suitable for longer steady-state sessions, they offer natural acceleration and no resistance ceiling. This is why they are so popular in CrossFit boxes and HIIT classes, as well as with professional athletes.
The good news is that, if you are around average height, pretty much every bike will fit you and you can skip this section. However, if you are particularly short (under 5ft) or tall (over 6ft), then it is worth paying attention.
If you are too tall for a bike you will find the experience is too cramped and uncomfortable. Users too short for a bike may struggle to reach pedals and/or handles, especially if they are not adjustable.
The listed height range of a bike removes the guesswork and informs you whether or not you will fit the bike. It’s better to know this before you buy, assemble and try to use it!
However, not all manufacturers list this important figure, so some guesswork is still in play. If the bike you are considering does not specify the height range, keep an eye out for the leg inseam measurement instead. This is usually as good at determining whether or not the bike will fit you.
The prime function of the control module or central console on an upright bike is to allow you to control your workout and receive feedback on various aspects of it.
This is why most bikes will feature a panel with an LCD screen taking center stage, surrounded by buttons. These buttons are digital controls, so you can adjust resistance levels and other things, all in one place.
For example, you may have a console with precision controls, allowing you to gradually move up or down resistance levels. You may also have a set of ‘quick controls’, which allow you to make bigger jumps in resistance levels – from level 5 to level 15 for example. This can be particularly useful for HIIT sessions.
How advanced your console is will depend almost entirely on how much you pay for the bike.
To illustrate, a higher-end exercise bike may feature a large panel with both precision and quick controls. In addition, it may feature two LCD screens, offering a range of workout metrics (such as time, distance, speed, calories burned and so on) and feedback on any workout programs you may be using.
On the other hand, the central console on a budget exercise bike may be nothing more than a manual resistance dial, along with a basic LCD screen to accompany it.
If convenience and amenities are important to you, you will be pleased to know that an upright bike is more like a good recumbent bike when it comes to secondary features.
One feature that is essential to a good ride is the seat. While seats don’t matter so much on spinning bikes (as you are mainly riding with your butt off the seat), you will be using them most of the time on an upright bike.
Most seats will be large, padded and contoured, especially if you are shopping in the higher end of the market. If you are in the budget zone, then you may need to buy a seat cover to go with your bike, as some can be a little uncomfortable.
As for less important features, you can expect things including heart rate monitors, built-in cooling fans, integrated speakers, a media tray (to hold a smartphone or tablet), USB charging port and Bluetooth connectivity. There’s a big list!
While the secondary features you end up with will largely depend on the price you pay, a heart rate monitor is found on units through the price ranges, from those reaching over $1,000 down to budget exercise bikes.
Built-in heart rate monitors will feature pulse pads (little metal sections) in the handlebars. Place your hands on these, wait a moment, and your heart rate will be displayed on the screen.
As useful as this can seem, be aware that built-in heart rate monitors aren’t known for being consistently accurate – a good guide, but don’t rely on them for more than that.
If you want accuracy, you will need a chest strap. Some premium upright bikes will actually include a chest strap in the price. If not, they are affordable enough to buy separately anyway.
Heart rate aside, the other features mentioned can all be useful if you want to work out with media close by. Plug in an iPad, fire up a workout app, listen via the speakers, keep things charged with USB connectivity and cool yourself with the fan.
However, don’t buy your exercise bike based solely on these features. Think of them as extras. The most important thing to consider is the performance offered by the bike – the build quality, the resistance levels and whether it will actually accommodate you.
There are many, many ways to work out on an exercise bike. Frankly, if we tried to run you through every single workout, we’d be here forever! However, let’s explore a few to get you started.
The best way to work out will depend on a few things. Firstly, it will depend on the bike you buy, as a high-intensity session is better on a spin bike than a recumbent bike.
It will also depend on your level, as a workout designed for beginners won’t be much of a challenge for advanced riders.
Finally, it will depend on your goal. If you are trying to lose weight, your workout may be a bit different to if you are trying to build stamina or train for a cycling event.
To find the best workout for your exact goals and ability, it will be worth speaking to a personal trainer who can help you develop a plan tailored to you – as opposed to something plucked off the internet (although there are many great plans out there!).
If you want something quick to get you started, beginners will be wise to start with a shorter session that you can build in time and intensity as you develop.
Aim for a 25-minute ride for your initial session, then add one minute per session. By the end of two weeks (using the bike five days a week), you will be up to a 35-minute session!
Within this session keep switching up the intensity – pedal lightly for five minutes, then pedal with a higher intensity for one minute, then return to the lighter pedaling for the next five minutes, then repeat.
If you are looking to build stamina, torch calories and lose weight, then there are so many workouts to look at, with many focusing on interval training.
For example – after warming up for ten minutes – cycle at a high intensity for two minutes, then at a low intensity for two minutes to recover. Then repeat this pattern for the next ten minutes, before cooling down.
That is HIIT in a nutshell, but there are many ways to expand this and create a bespoke HIIT plan for you.
Many exercise bikes actually include preset workout programs focusing on different goals (including distance, times, heart rate zones and more). These programs remove a lot of guesswork and can turn a mediocre bike into a very useful one.
As we have mentioned many times in this article, there are several styles of bike available, all suiting different users.
Two of the most popular are the upright bike and the recumbent bike. Both share qualities in that they can both encourage better cardiovascular health, boost endurance and burn calories – all with a low-impact action.
But which is better?
As you may have already guessed, there is no definitive answer. An upright bike will be better for some users, while its recumbent cousin will be better for others.
Consider the designs of each. The recumbent bike places you in a reclined position, with handlebars at the side of the seat and the pedals in front of your body. An upright bike is more similar to a traditional road bike, with the pedals underneath your body and the handlebars in front of you.
By distributing your weight more evenly over a larger area, there is less stress on your lower body joints with a recumbent bike than when sitting on an upright bike.
The recumbent bike is therefore much better than an upright bike for people who may struggle with joint issues. Recumbent bikes for seniors are particularly popular for this reason.
Another plus of recumbent bikes is that most feature a ‘step through design’ allowing you to sit back on the seat as you would a regular chair. This means you don’t need to lift your legs or climb onto the bike, as you would with an upright unit. Again, this is a great feature if you struggle with your mobility.
However, if you have no joint problems or mobility issues, then we believe an upright bike is better for you.
While the positioning is a little more demanding (although not as demanding as a good spin bike!), the scope for a higher-intensity workout is better. If you know anything about fitness, you’ll know that intensity is a good thing!
Upright bikes are particularly good if you want to replicate outdoor riding as their positioning is more consistent with a road bike. Upright bikes also put a bit more stress on your upper body, including your core, for a more athletic experience.
It’s worth noting that they are also smaller and less cumbersome than a recumbent bike, and therefore easier to use at home.
Still unsure? It’s worth forking out for a session at your local gym to try out both versions – you may find one instantly appeals to you.
There is no closely held secret or magical potion – weight loss all comes down to those little things called calories. Taking in 500 calories less than you need every day will result in the loss of 1lb of body fat over a week. Do this consistently for a few weeks and you will see big results.
If you need to figure out how many calories you need to consume, try our awesome free TDEE Calorie Calculator.
The simplest way to achieve a calorie deficit is to eat a cleaner diet – and less of it. However, exercise is an excellent way to boost this deficit while keeping your body in shape. The upright bike is the perfect tool for doing this at home.
Various studies reveal various results on how many calories a session on an upright bike can burn. Depending on your weight and intensity, you could burn anywhere from around 200 calories up to over 1,000 calories in an hour’s cycle.
However, a 155lb person should burn around 400 calories an hour with a light cycle and around 750 calories with a higher-intensity session.
The bottom line is that, to burn significant calories, you must cycle with enough intensity – usually by increasing the resistance – to get your heart rate up.
Of course, if you are new to exercise or cycling, make sure you do this gradually. A full guide on a cycling program goes beyond the scope of this answer, but a quick internet search will offer you hundreds of worthwhile programs.
In addition to ensuring the resistance and intensity is high enough to challenge you, you should vary your routine regularly. For example, if you usually do a longer session of steady-state cardio, try a few HIIT sessions.
In addition to staving off boredom, this variation keeps the body guessing which, as a result, can boost the calorie burn.
If – like many of us – you are addicted to your new exercise bike (or just want to get your money’s worth!), you may wonder if you are doing any harm in using it every day.
The good news is that there are no problems in using an exercise bike every day. While all differ slightly, the general guidance offered by many health and fitness organizations is that 30 minutes of exercise for at least five days a week is beneficial.
Exercise bikes offer a low-impact way to get your minutes in, without adding the stress on your knees or other joints that would arise from running every day.
However, if you are planning to jump on the bike daily, keep a few things in mind.
Firstly, mix things up a bit – don’t mindlessly cycle for 30 minutes at the same resistance level every day. Try incorporating higher-intensity sessions with longer steady-state sessions. Keep your body guessing and improving.
Also, consider the rest of your body. Regardless of the bike style you choose, cycling is primarily a lower body workout. So, look at adding some upper body work to balance things out.
This could be something like a session on the SkiErg or a good cross trainer, or moving away from cardio entirely and lifting weights instead.
Coming up with a top ten chart of the best upright bikes on the market was not an easy task. There are so many suitable options – no matter what we included, we had to leave some out!
This is why we suggest you have a good browse around the market yourself, as you may discover a hidden gem (and if you do, please let us know!).
Read our guide and then use that information to make an informed decision – one that will eventually result in you being the proud owner of a genuinely useful upright bike that will serve you well for years to come.