Are you looking to enter the world of exercise biking and wondering which type of resistance is right for you and your fitness goals?
If so, then I have good news! You’re at the right place.
I have done all the research and devised a guide breaking down all the key differences to get to the bottom of all the pros and cons and which is best for you.
Building your at-home gym is such an exciting experience but can be quite daunting. With magnetic and flywheel exercise bikes being thrown at you, it can be quite challenging to find the best fit for your fitness needs.
But don’t let that put you off:
To make things easier for you, I have broken down all the confusing bits and key factors to consider when buying each, so after you’ve finished reading this guide, you’ll know exactly what to look for.
Here’s a tip: The heavier the flywheel, the more resistance you’ll get out of your exercise bike and the harder it is to pedal. But as the flywheel gets heavier and heavier, the bike gets bigger. We don’t want a gigantic bike filling up our living room now, do we?
Enough of me rambling; you don’t want to miss this!
What Is Magnetic Resistance On An Exercise Bike?
Magnetic resistance bikes use two magnets in order to create resistance. So, how does this work?
A magnetic field is created between the two magnets. The flywheel, which is either at the front or the rear, acts as a conductor. As the flywheel passes through the magnetic field, it experiences resistance. This makes it harder for you to pedal on the magnetic resistance bike.
The magnetic resistance system is great for exercise bikes as the resistance levels are highly adjustable. To increase the resistance level for magnetic exercise bikes, I just have to move the magnets closer to the flywheel.
To decrease resistance for a magnetic bike, I need to move the magnets further away from the flywheel. The resistance systems can be adjusted by using tension knobs or a button on a console.
I like magnetic resistance models because they allow me to create no-contact resistance for my spin bikes.
What Is A Flywheel Exercise Bike?
A flywheel exercise bike is a stationary bike with a weighted disc below either the front or the rear. It has the same structure as an outdoor bike but with only one wheel.
The flywheel weight is connected to the pedals via a belt or chain. As the rider pedals, the flywheel starts to spin. The spinning flywheel builds momentum with each pedal stroke which makes for a steady and smooth indoor cycle.
There are various different flywheel weights to choose from. I like to use a heavier flywheel as it’s harder to get it spinning. This makes for a more intense workout. I only use a light flywheel if I’m feeling a bit lazy!
Heavier flywheels imitate the way a regular upright bike works out on the road. That’s why I use them for my indoor cycles during the winter months.
Most exercise bikes are unable to recreate the sensations of road cycling in the same way that flywheel bikes can.
You will notice that most exercise bikes come with a flywheel; a flywheel is the mechanical part of an exercise bike that stores rotational energy. It is a heavy-weight disk that is found on the front side of the bike.
It replaces the wheel found on a regular road bike, and in most exercise bikes, it is not visible and is covered with a sturdy casing.
A flywheel connects to the cycling pedals through either a chain or belt and often resembles a road bike. As you ride, the flywheel stores the momentum generated through your feet.
Exercise bikes that have heavy flywheel weight will generate a higher resistance for the rider. It can weigh from around 40-50 pounds, and the heavier the flywheel, the more resistance and intensity you feel riding an exercise bike.
Plus, the higher the resistance, the more calories you will burn.
Cons of a flywheel based friction resistance:
It is quite impractical when using solely without other methods of creating resistance. You will need a heavyweight flywheel to achieve high resistance, get the most out of your workout, and have a higher contact resistance; you will need to have a larger flywheel.
However, to prevent this from happening, exercise bikes use efficient alternative methods of creating resistance during indoor cycling. Magnetic resistance and direct contact work by braking the flywheel to generate resistance.
This is what we are going to compare today!
Direct Contact Resistance
Friction is the main idea behind direct contact resistance. These exercise bikes use brake pads fitted along the flywheel to help create a braking effect and increase resistance.
When the pads come in contact with the flywheel, it causes the rotation to decelerate, this creates resistance in the rotational speed of the flywheel and a reduced riding speed, and more tension is created as a result.
The resistance makes your workouts more challenging, you have to use more pedal force to reach higher cycling speeds, and as a result, your training becomes of higher intensity, and you begin to burn more calories.
These types of exercise bikes are much more accurate and reliable, it also allows you to work at your preferred resistance and build it up over time. Difference exercise bikes use different contact friction resistance to reach higher intensity levels.
These levels also resemble gears on real road bikes, it gives you the option to customize your workouts, plus the brake pads are made with sturdy, durable materials that will last you a long time.
Some brake contact resistant systems use friction bands instead of brake pads which will sit on the flywheel’s edge.
Pros and cons:
Unbeatable resistance: The resistance and tension created through direct contact flywheels can be tough and may take some time for beginners. But with different levels, you are free to start at the lowest level and work your way up as you improve your fitness.
Wear and tear: Direct contact or friction-based resistance tends to go through a fair amount of mechanical wear and tear. You may need to replace your braking pads or resistance after some time, and the flywheel may come apart.
The replacement comes with an additional cost that varies across different models; this is a major drawback with this type of resistance system as it may not last as long as you may hope.
Noise: Exercise bikes with direct contact resistance tend to produce more noise and can be quite disturbing during workouts. Suppose you enjoy reading or listening to music while indoor cycling; you may not like the noise.
Now direct-contact exercise bikes have been the most popular exercise bikes on the market for years but have been sharply overtaken by magnetic resistance bikes, and here’s why.
Magnetic resistance has solved all the problems that the direct contact resistance failed to. Bikes with magnetic resistance operate by creating resistance through a series of steps.
They use the flywheel to operate two powerful magnets, and the flywheel acts as a magnetic conductor. As you cycle, the flywheel will continue to rotate, interfering with the two magnets’ magnetic feel. This when creates a resistance force.
The magnets don’t touch the flywheel, so it all works through the magnetic field and magnetic resistance. You can change the resistance level using the tension knob or buttons on the console of the bike.
It also allows you to control the amount of resistance the magnets give off and control your workout intensity.
Pros and cons:
While friction-resistant exercise bikes come with so many limitations, there’s no wonder that friction resistance bikes have come out on top for indoor cycling:
They have a quiet and smooth operation:
This is the number one reason why magnetic resistance bikes have come out on top, as they are much quieter and run a lot smoother than a direct contact exercise bike.
No parts of the bike come in contact to crease resistance; they rather utilized magnetic resistance so you can enjoy your workouts in peace as the environment will always be quiet.
The magnets are away from the flywheel, so the noncontact motion takes away the noise.
You can even watch a movie, read a book or listen to music on a speaker without as this exercise bike is smooth and quiet. If you have children or live with other people, then they will thank you too.
Friction resistance and direct contact resistance bikes need much more maintenance in comparison to magnetic bikes. This is because their pads will need to be replaced regularly. Plus, you will need maintenance of lubricating and dusting the wheels to prevent wear and tear in the flywheel’s moving parts.
With a magnetic resistance bike, no parts come into contact, which means that this wear and tear element will not occur. Plus, you won’t need to constantly lubricate and dust the flywheel as nothing is coming in contact.
A magnetic bike will only require minimal maintenance; the only maintenance you may need to do is tightening the wires and screws after a few years of regular workouts.
They have Marked Levels:
Contact resistance bikes don’t usually offer different levels; you can only have a stuck level. With magnetic resistance bikes, you can set your preferred resistance using the tension knob on the exercise bike.
Plus, after turning the knob, the type of resistance is constant and won’t change throughout your workout; cycling at a high RPM will not increase resistance. So you can put as much as you want with complete control over the resistance.
The manufacturer can determine resistance levels; one bike may have a higher resistance level than another. You can set your preferred resistance through the buttons on the bike console, and you’re good to go.
With magnetic resistance changes with your cycling speed, the faster you’re cycling, the greater resistance as the magnets and magnetic field interference are greater.
The only issue with magnetic resistance bikes is that they are quite pricey compared to a direct contact one. For some people, this may be a drawback, but with controlling the level of magnetic resistance you put in, it is definitely worth every buck.
This is because magnetic resistance is quite costly to generate, but the benefits of magnetic resistance bikes are worth the investment as they will last you a lot longer.
Here are some of the top frequently asked questions:
How does a magnetic exercise bike work?
A magnetic exercise bike works by creating a contactless-type of resistance via a magnetic field. The flywheel acts as a conductor, and resistance is created as it passes through the magnetic field.
These bikes have a fixed resistance level range of up to a maximum of 100 levels. So, the resistance levels are highly customizable. This is one of the reasons I like them.
Which is better, a magnetic or a friction spin bike?
Friction bikes and magnetic bikes both have their pros and cons. I like them both but for different reasons. A magnetic system has a slight tendency to lag. Friction systems, on the other hand, are usually more fluent. This makes for a really smooth ride.
However, as friction resistance bikes use direct contact resistance, they require more maintenance than magnetic ones. Which one you think is better will come down to personal preference. Neither one is objectively better than the other.
Are magnetic resistance spin bikes better?
It is still all down to personal preference of exercise bike magnetic vs. flywheel, which is right for you is all down to you and your budget. Arguably I would say that a magnetic resistance spin bike is better than friction or direct contact bike.
This is because they are first a lot quieter, smoother, and allow you to adapt the types of resistance using a knob on or buttons on the bike’s console. They also require less maintenance and tend to be easier to use.
The benefits of the magnetic resistance bike massively outweigh the benefits of friction resistance bikes and direct contact resistance bikes, but they come at a higher price point.
Is a heavier flywheel better on an exercise bike?
The flywheel weight on an exercise bike determines the types of resistance it will produce. A heavy flywheel’s main benefit is that it provides a natural and smooth riding motion and offers a more efficient riding experience.
It has the momentum to keep the pedals turning, so they don’t slow too much and will keep a good cycling motion while pedaling.
Does flywheel weight matter with magnetic resistance?
If a resistance pad or magnet is acting on the flywheel, then the momentum will be limited, but if the flywheel is lighter, it will be easier to stop the bike.
You should look for a good balance of weight, not too light that it won’t remain its momentum but not too heavy that it is difficult to get momentum and using resistance.
What difference does the flywheel make on an exercise bike?
A flywheel is a replacement of real wheels in an exercise bike. By giving the flywheel more weight, it will increase the momentum and resistance. A heavier flywheel will take more initial energy to get moving, but it will continue that momentum during your fitness workout.
Before starting to bring your gym into the comfort of your own home it is important to work out how resistance works and the different types of resistance as it will help you in choosing the right exercise bike.
The construction, performance, price, noise, and maintenance are also important factors to consider. Whichever resistance you decide to choose you can’t go wrong if it suits you best.
Let’s boost our indoor workouts together!