Comparison of Upright Bikes vs. Indoor Cycle Trainers

Comparison of Upright Bikes vs. Indoor Cycle Trainers

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All types of stationary bikes provide an efficient cardio workout.

Ian Wyatt/Photodisc/Getty Images

No matter what your fitness level, you can likely get an effective cardiovascular workout on a stationary bike, such as an upright or an indoor cycle trainer. Both types of bikes can help you to burn calories, increase your endurance and build lean muscle mass. The two types of bikes differ greatly in features; the upright offers automation and preset controls and the cycle trainer provides more of an authentic feel to the ride.

Upright Stationary Bike

The upright stationary bike is designed like a traditional road bike, but it is equipped with a motorized system, digital console and varying resistance levels. A benefit of the upright bike is that it usually provides preset workouts, which help you to focus on a particular fitness goal, such as hill climbing to increase power in your legs and glutes, calorie burning to help you lose weight, heart health to improve your cardiovascular system and endurance to focus on your strength and stamina. You can also set the bike to manual mode, which allows you to determine the resistance level and duration of your workout.

Indoor Cycle Trainers

An indoor cycle trainer turns your road bike into an indoor stationary bike, which can be convenient during inclement weather. The entire bike is slightly elevated; the front wheel rests on a block while the back wheel is attached to the trainer. The trainer also provides resistance -- fan, fluid or magnetic -- depending on the model. Fan resistance is the most limiting and noisy but it is also the least expensive of the three. Pedaling powers the fan, which is attached to the rear tire. Magnetic resistance, which is on the quiet side, uses a flywheel that also attaches to the rear tire. Fluid resistance expands on the magnetic flywheel with fluid resistance chambers; fluid resistance costs more than the other two methods, but it also provides a greater varying level of resistance.

Deciding Factors

The size and particular adjustments of a road bike, such as the type of seat, seat position, handlebar position and length of the stem, are usually fitted to your specific body and can therefore offer a more comfortable ride. Additionally, if you are an avid cyclist, using the real thing, even indoors, may be more satisfying and save you the trouble of having to acclimate to a different type of bike. On the other hand, if your goal is simply cardio exercise and you mostly work out indoors, an upright bike may be the better choice. An upright also offers various preset workouts, which can be especially beneficial if you have a particular fitness goal that you are trying to reach. With the indoor trainer, you have to have the knowledge and experience to effectively create your own workout.

Price Considerations

If you already own a road bike and are looking for the least expensive option, then the indoor cycle trainer may be the winner; a basic cycle trainer can be found for around $80. Upright bikes come in several different price ranges; a very basic bike can be purchased for approximately $200 and top-end models can sell for around $2,000. However, road bikes themselves can be pricey, so if you do not own one and you plan to ride indoors, an upright may pay off in the end.