Stationary Bikes Vs. Spin Bikes: How Do They Differ?

Last Updated on March 29, 2021
written by Cycle expert Alex Bristol
Topics we've covered

Stationary Bike Vs. Spin Bike: How Do They Differ?

Looking to get into exercise biking and not sure where to start? Do you struggle to find the time to go to the gym and work out and desperately looking for another solution?

Well, good news, my friend, you’re at the right place!

You can actually build a gym in the comfort of your own home, and the best at-home alternative to going to the gym is getting yourself an exercise bike. It is like road biking but in the comfort and convenience of your own home!

The top exercise bikes lie under two categories: spin bikes and stationary bikes. So what’s the difference? They are often confused with one another, but they’re more different than you may think.

But no need to worry; I’m here to help!

I’m here to guide you through all the confusing features so you know exactly which one is best for you and the key differences to consider between the two. I’m here to answer all your questions, so stay tuned!

Did you know that the hassle of having to go out of the house to workout may actually make you procrastinate? Having an exercise bike in the comfort of your own home will actually motivate you to work out more because you can do it when you want to?

Let’s jump in; you’ll be a pro in no time!

Spin Bike vs. a Stationary Exercise Bike:

Let’s start off by breaking down the key differences between an upright bike/ stationary bike and a spin bike:

Stationary or Upright Bike:

You will often hear people referring to this as an ‘exercise bike,’ but they often mean stationary bike, which is also known as an upright bike. They come with a padded seat for added comfort and making the indoor bike workout more enjoyable for users.

They are fairly budget-friendly and the most popular form of an exercise bike; if you’re looking to establish your at-home gym and interested in indoor cycling, then this may be your best option.

Spin Bikes

Spin bikes, on the other hand, mimic a more natural feel and movement like you would get out of riding on a road bike; spin bikes also have more exercises than traditional upright bikes.

You can operate the pedals in both a sitting and standing position; the pedals are engineered to support a wider range of different cycling positions.

Side By Side Comparison:

It can be quite tricky to do a side-by-side comparison of the two bikes; people often get them confused and pick the wrong one.

There are many similarities and offer similar benefits, but there are some key differences to consider; let me break it down:

Nature of Workouts:

One of the main differences between a spin bike vs. a stationary bike is the nature of the workouts.

Upright bike:

The traditional upright bike is ideal for those who like to work out at their own pace; it allows them to have a personalized workout session. The level of individuality and personalization is the best in exercise bikes as you can design a workout plan that suits you and works towards your fitness goals.

You will often find that an upright exercise bike comes with a central console that allows you to set the goals and your fitness needs.

Spin bike:

A spin bike will be your best friend when it comes to an intense workout; they allow you to ride standing up on the pedals or sitting down; this allows for a more intensive workout and increases stamina.

They are also designed to mimic the function of a real-life bike; you can lean forward into a crouching position for a higher intensity workout. Spin bikes are brilliant for cardiovascular fitness.

Cycling Position:

Spin bikes:

Spin bikes are designed to mimic real-life-riding on real road bikes; it puts you in a leaning forward position while you cycle as the handlebars are positioned slightly lower than the seat (hence mimicking road biking).

However, it also allows you to stand on the pedals for a more intense ride or workout.

Upright bikes:

An upright bike has much higher positioned handlebars; you only need to lean forward slightly while riding. They also don’t allow you to stand while working out.

They often have a more padded, wider seat to provide comfort while riding in comparison to a spin bike.

Resistance:

Spin bike:

As we already know, spin bikes mimic the feel of a road bike, but instead of using actual wheels, they use a flywheel to simulate the feel of pedaling on a traditional bicycle.

Stationary bikes:

Stationary bikes have an electromagnetic, magnetic resistance system or fan resistance which allows them to adjust the resistance settings on the bike, to make the ride feel lighter. Instead of pedals, they come with a flywheel.

Technology:

Spin bike:

Spin bikes are very simple when it comes to their technology in order to mimic the feel of riding on a road bike. While there are spin bikes with computer consoles, you will find that spin bikes are much more simple in design in comparison to upright exercise bikes.

Stationary bike:

However, upright bikes come with more technology options, such as consoles and apps to track your workouts, your heart rate, distance, and the number of calories burned in each session.

Muscles Worked:

The movement may seem very similar, but indoor exercise bike vs spin bike work muscles very differently:

Spin bike: A spin bike works on shoulders, back, biceps, core, triceps, quads, glutes, hamstrings, and calves.

Upright exercise bike: Works on quads, glutes, hamstrings, and calf muscles.

Spin bikes generally work on most of the body’s muscles, whereas upright bikes mainly focus on the legs.

Primary Use:

Now both may seem similar at first glance, but there is a considerable difference in primary use.

Stationary and upright exercise bike: These are brilliant for cardiovascular fitness and improving fitness levels, building muscles, and weight loss.

Spin bike:

Spinning bikes are brilliant for fitness classes; they are brilliant for professional cyclists as it mimics the feel of a real life cycle– they are brilliant for winter when you cannot get out on the road.

They are also excellent for weight loss and maintaining your weight while building muscle.

Which Burn More Calories?

Even if you know the key differences between upright bikes and spinning bikes, it can be actually more in-depth than you may think. Firstly there are different types of exercise bikes, not just upright bikes, and each burns different levels of calories.

Let’s break them down:

Recumbent exercise bike:

Recumbent exercise bikes are the king of comfort; they offer a more relaxed biking experience compared to other exercise bikes. They often come with a padded backrest and have a larger seat.

Rather than the pedals being below you, they are in front of you, leaving you sitting in a semi-reclined position while your ride. Unlike a spin bike, you cannot stand up while cycling.

Recumbent bikes don’t usually burn fewer calories than upright bikes. You can burn as many calories on a recumbent bike as you can on the other two.

But by them being in a more comfortable position, people can usually tend to exercise more intensely and for longer, such as pedaling lightly with minimum resistance.

People tend to shy away from a recumbent exercise bike, but it is an excellent choice; it has many benefits on your health and burns as many calories.

Upright exercise bikes:

Upright bikes don’t tend to have a larger comfortable seat with a backrest; they have a much smaller seat and closer to a regular saddle. The seat may feel less comfortable for beginners, but as you cycle more, the discomfort will reduce.

Upright bikes are more similar to regular bikes and outdoor bikes; there are even stands that will turn your regular bicycle into a stationary bike.

To break down the two in more detail, check out my recumbent vs. upright bike guide here.

Spin bike:

A spinning bike will often have weighted wheels which are connected with a belt to the pedal transmission system to add friction and magnetic resistance, varying in intensity.

Spinning bikes are commonly found and popular amongst those who do spinning classes. Spinning training classes have been an ongoing rising trend for years now. Just plug yourself in with some good music, and you can mimic your own spinning class at home.

A spinning bike does burn as many calories as an upright and recumbent bike would but in terms of fitness goals, you’ll usually notice you’ll lose weight quicker on a spin bike than you would on a recumbent one.

The heavyweight flywheel of the spin bike gives you the ability to vary your position while training; you can alternate periods of a standing cycle and a cycle while seated, which will burn more calories.

Plus by your back not being supported by the backrest does has more benefits for the health and strength of your core muscles. You are stabilizing more muscle on an upright and spin bike than you are on a recumbent, causing more calorie burn.

Spinning bikes are also an excellent choice if you’re looking for a full-body workout and a very popular choice for those who love spin classes.

 

Pros and cons of Indoor Upright Stationary Bikes:

Like any form of indoor exercise machines, there are some key benefits and limitations to consider:

Pros:

  • Flexible price range.
  • Best choice for customizable workout sessions.
  • Works out the core and lower body; your body is upright while your pedal and more resistance are placed on your lower body, especially your legs, glutes, and quads.

Cons:

  • Doesn’t work out the whole body, limited body muscles group.
  • It can be quite a tiresome session as it only targets the lower body muscles.
  • Doesn’t burn as many calories.

 

Pros and cons of Indoor Spinning bikes:

Here are the top benefits and limitations of getting an indoor spinning bike:

Pros:

  • Mimics real-life bike movements if you don’t want to go out in winter
  • Supports both sitting and standing cycling
  • Allows for intensive workouts
  • Works out almost all body muscles

Cons:

  • Can cause strain on your lower bike while cycling
  • Uncomfortable seats
  • Not the best for long periods of cycling

Summary:

There are several factors on your health you need to consider before making your choice of your next exercise bike, especially if you’re interested in getting into indoor cycling.

Take your time to reflect on the factors I have considered for you today and your fitness goals and budget before you make your decisions but there are some serious benefits of both!

Happy cycling!

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