Exercise Bike vs Turbo Trainer: Which Should You Buy?

Have you decided to take your bike ride inside?

If yes, you’ve just made the right decision!

As we all know, cycling is a great cardio workout. But which exercise machine should you get for your indoor cycling – exercise bike vs turbo trainer?

If you’re having a hard time choosing, we’re going to compare  both options so you can decide which is better for you.

Exercise Bike vs Turbo Trainer

What’s Better – An Exercise Bike or Turbo Trainer?

The never-ending debate: exercise bike vs turbo trainer. Two different ways to train indoors, but which one provides the better workout?

One isn’t necessarily better than the other. So, instead of trying to sway you in one direction over another, we will discuss the different types of exercise bikes and turbo trainers, cost, resistance, and benefits. 

This will make it easier for you to decide which exercise machine is better for your fitness needs.

What is an Exercise Bike?

An exercise bike is a machine designed for replicating the movements of a real bike. It has some form of seat and pedals but usually only has a single wheel.

There are a number of  different exercise bike types including the popular, upright exercise bike,  recumbent, and spin bike. 

Upright Exercise Bike: The upright exercise bike resembles a real bike in more ways than one. Like riding a real bike, you need to sit upright and hold onto the handlebars. Or you can choose to stand and pedal as you would with a real bike. 

Having the option to either ‘sit and pedal’ or ‘stand and pedal’ enables you to vary the workouts for your target muscles and legs. 

Furthermore, the upright exercise bike tends to be cheaper than the recumbent exercise bike and takes up less space. Some models are specifically designed for easy storage and transport. 

Recumbent Exercise Bike: Unlike the upright exercise bike, this one is uniquely-shaped – it has a large and comfortable seat. Not only is the seat larger, but it is also positioned closer to the ground, thereby providing maximum comfort as you exercise your legs. 

The seat’s reclined position in a recumbent exercise bike saves your back from any strain. As you may know, the lack of proper back support is a common issue that leads to lower back pain in cyclists

Spin Bike: The spin bike is designed to mimic the position and posture of a racing road bike rather than a standard real bike. Compared to the upright and recumbent exercise bikes, this one has a wider range of adjustment in its handlebar inclination and height. This means you can make this exercise equipment more customizable to your workout.

Another noticeable difference is it has a much heavier flywheel than other exercise bikes. Because of this, more effort is exerted in pedalling, making it the ideal equipment for high-intensity interval training.

Pros & Cons of an Exercise Bike

  • Since you keep it inside, you can train anytime no matter the weather condition.
  • It is super-safe. You don’t have to worry about difficult terrains, slippery roads, harsh winters, brutal summers, and other dangers associated with biking outdoors. 
  • You can focus more on your workout as there are no distractions like cars, traffic signals, and other bikers. 
  • You have access to video workouts and classes.
  • You can customize your workout routine according to the schedule that works best for you.
  • You may get bored easily due to lack of real-world scenery and good company.
  •  It is not ideal when trying to train for a race. This is because the exercise bike cannot challenge your body like the real bike can.

What is a Turbo Trainer?

Ever seen a turbo trainer? Well, this is a stationary device that attaches to your bike and holds it in place while you pedal. Its most basic functions include replicating sprints or climbs and providing a level of resistance to control your training. 

In recent years, manufacturers have developed turbo trainers with all of the key metrics necessary to help you stay on top of your training. 

A turbo trainer has three main types – wheel-on smart trainer, direct drive smart turbo, and rollers. 

Wheel-on Smart Trainer: The wheel-on smart trainer holds your bike and adjusts the resistance. Adjusting the resistance gives you the upper hand in deciding what kind of workout you want to do that day. 

Direct Drive Smart Turbo: The direct-drive smart turbo trainer removes your bike’s entire rear wheel, giving more stability. Since the bike is already very stable, you can increase the resistance for a more productive workout.

Roller: A roller is ideal if you want to actively train your core while cycling. With a roller, you place your bike on two rolls that are not secured to it and don’t give you any resistance. So, when you use it, you really need to maintain your balance.

Pros and Cons for Turbo Trainers

  • You can ride your bike any time of the day or night.
  • You can keep using the bike to which you’re accustomed and comfortable.
  • It can give you more for your limited time.
  • It can provide the same fitness benefits as cycling outdoors.
  • It can wear out parts of your bike.
  • Your workout sessions can get dull due to lack of distractions.

What Are Some Fitness Apps You Can Use to Fight Exercise Boredom?

As you can see, it’s easy to get bored when riding either an exercise bike or a turbo trainer because they can get monotonous after some while. But don’t worry, you can fight the exercise boredom and make your fitness more fun with these apps:

Zwift: This fitness app works like a videogame, where you enter a virtual cycling world with multiple bike routes, group rides, and even races. You can earn new bike gear for your avatar by participating in a limited time mission or joining in-app challenges.

Peloton: This app is not exclusive to Peloton bike users. Even if you don’t own one, you can still get a membership to the Peloton app. The membership allows you to access live and pre-recorded classes. 

Fitscope: Fitscope offers on-demand classes with experienced instructors. These classes are specifically designed HIIT workouts categorized according to exercise goal, exercise level, and exercise type. The instructors are great at encouraging and motivating you to give your all. 

Struct Club: You can think of Struct Club as a virtual personal trainer that goes to the gym with you. You get to participate in kickass workouts while listening to music from Apple Music and Spotify playlists. Furthermore, the app displays how many beats per minute each song is, allowing you to keep the tempo better or adjust the resistance.

Exercise Bike vs Turbo Trainer: Noise

Working out at home may be super convenient, but not until your neighbours or other household members complain about the noise. Exercise bikes and real bikes secured on a turbo trainer always make noise when used. In that case, place a bike mat,  yoga mat or a gym mat under the exercise machine to deaden the sound.

As an alternative, you can soundproof your workout room by hanging a carpet on the walls. This will deaden the sound and prevent some of the noise from escaping your workout space.

Exercise Bike vs Turbo Trainer: Resistance

The exercise bike resistance is designed to resemble that of a real road. Resistance is created by either direct contact, magnetic, or friction. The resistance then proportionally directs towards the pedals, making you increase the intensity. 

On the other hand, the resistance in a turbo trainer can be air, magnetic, fluid, and direct drive. 

In air resistance, a fan is used to generate the turbo trainer. This is the cheapest option; however, the noisiest as well. 

The magnetic resistance is created by using magnets against the back wheel’s force. You can either get the magnetic resistance by a pull-cable or directly on the turbo trainer itself. 

Next is the fluid resistance. It is created by turning the impeller inside a thick solution. The harder you pedal, the harder it is to turn the impeller. 

The most realistic resistance, direct drive, is created by removing the back wheel and attaching the cassette to the turbo. While realistic, it can take some time setting up!

Exercise Bike vs Turbo Trainer: Cost

The basic exercise bike costs around $300-$400, while a good entry-level turbo trainer costs approximately $100. So, if you are on a tight budget and already have a bike frame, it might be practical to get a turbo trainer.

Which gives you the best workout?

When it comes to the actual workout, both the exercise bike and turbo trainer pushes your body to the limits. As long as you’re willing to put in the work, you can’t go wrong with any of these exercise machines. 

However, exercise bikes are inevitably larger than turbo trainers and require a lot of storage space. So, if space is a deciding factor when choosing, you may want to invest in a turbo trainer. 

Exercise Bikes vs Turbo Trainers – Final thoughts

The exercise bike and turbo trainer both allow you to take your bike ride indoors. Being similar in that regard, they come with several advantages.

Both are time-efficient. One of the biggest benefits is how little time it takes compared to riding your bike outdoors. During a busy week, it’s easy to squeeze in a training session at home with either an exercise bike or a turbo trainer. 

If you’re planning on doing that outside, you need to plan which route is free from traffic and other elements, which all the more makes squeezing in a session difficult. 

Also, both are ideal for combatting bad weather. Because an exercise bike or a turbo trainer workout takes place out of the elements, you don’t have to worry about the rain and snow. 

And of course, both are very safe. When you ride your bike outdoors, it’s inevitable that you will end up in accidents involving other vehicles. Fortunately, you can eliminate this risk with either an exercise bike or a turbo trainer. 

Now, the decision on which exercise machine to get depends on your preference. If you have ample  space at home, choose the exercise bike. If you have limited space, choose the turbo trainer and work directly with your own bike. 

Whatever you choose, we know that the fun of having a dedicated indoor machine setup is surely unmatched!

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