FoodFit's tips for buying a stationary bike.
Pedal Pusher's Guide to Stationary Bikes
by Carol Krucoff
One of the first aerobic exercise machines ever
developed remains one of the most popular. Stationary bikes provide an excellent, low-impact
cardiovascular workout, strengthening the muscles of the lower body without excess strain on the
knees. They eliminate worry about balance, traffic, darkness or bad weather making it a top
choice for older exercisers and those who are overweight. Stationary bikes are also
one of the best values in home equipment. A quality bike costs about $300, although you can spend
more than $2,000 on gadget-laden models.
Upright or "Laid-back"
The two main designs of stationary bikes are traditional upright bikes and the newer
recumbent models which have been increasingly popular in recent years especially among
people with low back problems. Recumbent bikes literally offer a "laid-back" workout because
they feature a bucket-type seat that extends the exerciser's legs out to the front. These bikes are
extremely comfortable, especially for people who want to watch TV or read while biking.
People who also want an upper-body workout can look for
dual action bikes, which have movable handlebars that allow you to work the upper torso and arms.
Stationary bikes offer variable resistance through a
variety of mechanisms. Experts recommend picking a bike that provides resistance through a belt or
strap surrounding the flywheel, or one with fan blades. The harder you pedal, the more resistance you
get and the cooler the breeze that accompanies your ride. But with air-resistance models, the
only way to intensify your workout is to pedal faster. Another more costly option is a bike with
computer controls that uses magnets to apply resistance to the flywheel.
When you're shopping, dress to workout and always try before you buy. Check for:
- Ease of use
- Warranty and Service requirements
Be sure to consider:
height Position the saddle high enough so that
your knee remains slightly bent when the pedal is
at the bottom of the stroke. Place the ball of your
foot securely on the pedal and make sure you don't
have to stretch your leg to reach the pedal at the
bottom of the stroke. The seat height should adjust
easily and smoothly.
The handlebars should be adjustable, so that you can
easily reach them, with a slight bend to your elbows.
If you find one handlebar position too confining,
look for bikes that provide alternate handlebar positions.
comfort The seats are a lot softer than you might
remember. New, foam anatomical saddles are available
in men's and women's widths, often with "cut
outs" that correspond to pressure points. Women
are frequently most comfortable with the saddle level
or tilted slightly downward, while men often like
a saddle to be tilted upward.
fit Be sure that the ball of your foot, not your
instep, rests on the pedal. Wear bicycling shoes or
walking shoes with a firm bottom, avoiding shoes with
too much cushioning.