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Buyers Guides: Exercise Bikes

Exercise bikes are ideal for fitness training. The great thing about indoor exercise cycles is that they are low impact on your joints and gentle on your lower back. Semi Recumbent bikes offer a workout with even less back strain. If you do have lower back problems, consider a semi recumbent bike.

The natural cycling posture is to lean slightly forward and many people with troublesome backs find this position relieves pressure on the spine while at the same time building up muscle strength. A good workout on an indoor exercise bike can burn off 350 to 450 calories to help you lose weight, which is one of the best things you can do for your joints.

Although the exercise is generally targeted towards the lower body, it still works the cardiovascular system (heart and lungs) and is good for improving endurance and burning fat.

Extracts from "Which? report: Exercise machines"

So what's the best way to get your own body in shape? Recent sales figures suggest many of us are tired of wiping another person's sweat off the equipment at the gym, and are looking for quality exercise equipment to use at home.

Some cross trainers and exercise bikes are as good as those you use in the gym, but you should fight the urge to buy a cheap one.

We found these wobbly, boring and uncomfortable - a combination that will have you reaching for the stop button long before you reach your target weight.

You're far more likely to stick with a machine that makes exercise interesting so we'd recommend paying enough to get a solid machine with at least a few different exercise programmes and a heart-rate monitor.

More expensive machines tend to be more solid and offer features like water bottle holders and reading racks but, frankly, if it's a toss up between a reading rack or an exercise programme, we'd advise you to ditch the books.

Programmes make your workout more interesting and effective by varying the resistance level, which governs how hard you have to work.

They can make it feel like you're strolling through a valley, tackling a small hill, or even taking on the Three Peaks challenge.

Heart rate monitors
It's definitely worth buying a machine with a heart-rate monitor. Even the monitors on cheaper machines tend to be accurate, and they bring an extra dimension to exercising. Some machines, for example, have programmes that vary the resistance to keep your heart at a specific rate.

To improve your fitness level, it's more important to train for 35 to 40 minutes several times a week, than tire yourself out quickly by trying to achieve a particular heart rate. As you get fitter, your heart rate during exercise should gradually come down, and should recover to its normal level more quickly.

Exercise Bikes-specific features

Avoid falling at the first hurdle. If you are not confident when it comes to self-assembly you can purchase professional assembly and peace of mind from our expert team - just select the option at the checkout. We'll ensure that your machine is assembled and up and running as quickly as possible, plus we'll remove all the packaging material for you!

Fly Wheel
Check the weight of the flywheel, not all manufacturers publish this, but a solid weight, say over 12kg will give you good resistance and a smooth motion.

Check if there are descriptions of the various programmes on the display. On some models all your workout information is displayed simultaneously, but on most there is too much to see at once, so you may see some information constantly, and have the option or scroll or alternate to check other functions.

Drinks holders
These are useful but they should be deep enough to prevent the bottle falling out as the frame shakes.

Saddle & Adjustability
Consider the comfort and cushioning of the saddle as well as whether it moves up and down and forward and backwards.

Feedback modes give you information on your current workout. They vary between machines, but often include speed, pulse rate, incline, calorie counter, the current programme you've selected, heart rate measurement and total exercise time and distance.

Heart rate monitors
These are usually hand sensors on the handle bars (usually left and right), but some machines include wireless chest straps. You wear these on bare skin or over a thin layer of wet clothing. Some have the hand grips in the static handlebars, some in the moving. When located in the moving handlebars, you get a constant readout, whereas when in the static handlebars you need to reach for them.

See our range of exercise bikes