Most commercial gyms run spin classes and in most spin bikes are one of the most commonly used pieces of equipment. Global phenomena like Soul Cycle, Peloton and Tabata have been built in part around them. If you ever see a room full of people peddling furiously in a darkened training room, this is what they’re doing.
If you’ve ever tried it out, you’ll know what an amazing workout it can provide. During training, your heart rate will generally be in the sought-after orange zone – 85%+, perfect for fat burning and raising the metabolism through after-burn. Your legs will be on fire, specifically your quads and you will be drenched in sweat within minutes.
Spin isn’t just for fancy classes at the gym, however. Spin bikes are amongst the best pieces of equipment to include in your home or home gym. They are generally small and lightweight (though often not as much so as upright bikes) and, as above, give you one hell of a workout.
Today, we’re going to look at some of the best spin bikes available on the UK market. We’ve tried and tested them, we’ve racked up hours of training, burned thousands of calories, sweated enough to permanently raise the local water table, and found four of the best available without spending commercial gym sums. We’re pretty confident in the results – both in terms of what we’ve chosen, and in their abilities to raise our collective VO2 maxes (a measurement of your cardiovascular health) quite significantly! There should be something here to suit everybody, no matter their needs or budget.
Before we dive into the full reviews, however, it’s probably a good idea to look into what makes a spin bike a spin bike, and how they differ from regular exercise bikes and upright cycles. There is plenty of confusion around the issue, so let’s clear it up before we carry on.
Spin Bikes And Upright Bikes: The Key Differences
First off, let’s start with the basics. Spin bikes and upright exercise bikes are not the same thing. Though they share some similarities, especially superficially, they are actually quite a bit different. They will each give you a very different user experience and training style.
Spin bikes will tend to give you a harder workout, requiring more from your legs, bringing your heartrate up a lot higher, and ultimately tending to help you get through a lot more calories. The afterburn effect they elicit – whereby your body will continue to burn extra calories for hours after training – is much more profound. They also lack the versatility of the upright bike. Where upright bikes will have different programmes, different settings and loads of extra gadgets, a spin bike is generally something of a one trick pony.
There are some structural differences between the two that account for a lot of the discrepancies between training experience. Spin bikes will generally have much sturdier bases than upright bikes, with more solid frames and a definite air of permanence. Basically, they can take a bit of punishment – they positively invite it. Exercise bikes will often be foldable, as well as being lighter and having a smaller footprint – this is something to consider if you’re space conscious in any way.
Spin bikes will also often keep your body in a much more natural, neutral position. They will feature drop handle bars that will usually be more comfortable and easier to hold intently when pushing yourself hard than those found on upright bikes – they are designed specifically to push upwards and away from the bike’s main frame. These features will both allow you to really grind some power into your workout. If you’re used to upright bikes, you’ll really notice the difference.
This being said, there are naturally some similarities between upright bikes and spin bikes, as noted above. They both work broadly the same muscle groups, giving your quadriceps and calf muscles a good deal of stimulation. They are both low impact, especially compared to other forms of steady state cardio like running or jogging. They both improve your cardiovascular fitness with regular use when employing the principles of progressive overload, and they both burn energy.
The main difference will be in intensity.
What To Look For In A Spin Bike
Finding and investing in a spin bike may seem a little overwhelming. It needn’t be – don’t let it be. They are actually quite simple machines and so should therefore be pretty simple to choose.
Longevity and budget are the two main things to bear in mind. If you can, spend a little more – you will get more longevity out of your purchase, and will likely get a better user experience. No worries if you need to keep things on budget, however. As you’ll see below, there are plenty of good options at the more modest end of the market.
After these, there are a few different facets to bear in mind. We have considered each in our selection below. In brief, however, here are the seven things you need to be looking out for:
A spin bikes ergonomics are incredibly important to user experience. In particular, you should look at the saddle, handle bars and pedals. These will be your main points of contact with the bike and will be the main areas in which you can lay down power as you train. Alongside this, the frame needs to be the right size for you – if you’re particularly tall or short, you will need to take this into account. Most are adjustable, but outliers might sometimes struggle.
Talking of frame size, you will want to look at a spin bike’s dimensions before you buy. Most will be roughly similar sizes. However, some can have larger footprints than others, so may be hard to find space for at home. Do note that folding exercise bikes might be a better option if you’re struggling for floor space – they store away easily when you’re not using them, unlike spin bikes.
3. Flywheel and drive belt
The flywheel and drive belt are crucial to a spin bike’s functioning. They are a large part of what sets the spin bike apart from other styles of exercise bike. With this in mind, you want to look for high quality – a well-made, strong flywheel coupled with a quiet, smooth yet strong drive belt. Often, heavier flywheels are better than lighter ones (though this is by no means a hard and fast rule). With regards the drive belt, you will generally have two options: a belt or a chain. Chains are stronger and more durable but louder, whilst standard belts give a smoother, quieter ride.
4. Maximum user weight
Exercise bikes of all types are good for larger people. Where running or using an elliptical will put undue stress on the joints with heavier people, the low impact delivered by exercise bikes will be safe and pain free. However, some cheaper models can have a low maximum weight. Though most spin bikes will be suitable for most standard bodyweight ranges, outliers may once again need to double check before buying.
This is less crucial for spin bikes than for regular upright exercise bikes, who tend to be more sophisticated and more reliant on gadgets and programs. However, you can still get some decent wearable tech and apps with spin bikes, allowing you to track things like heart rate and so forth. If this kind of add on is important or useful to you, finding a machine with good connectivity should be a priority.
6. Resistance levels
The intensity of your workout will depend on a few factors. Largely, however, it comes down to the resistance levels that you can program your cycle for. They can be manually or mechanically controlled (I prefer mechanically, but that really is just personal taste) and should come in upwards of 8 levels of resistance for variety’s sake. They should also be easy to control from the saddle, as many workouts will require you to change them several times during your ride – especially if you’re working through intervals or warming up and cooling down on the bike.
These levels of resistance are increments, not total figures. For instance, a spin bike with 18 levels may provide no more maximum resistance than one with ten – it will just have smaller, subtler climbs through each level. Many spin bikes will forego numbering altogether and simply have a turn dial for manual adjustment – this is perfectly fine and in fact works pretty well.
Spin bikes are a bit of an investment, with models starting at around £150 and going upwards as high as you like. You will want one that is built to last – you should be able to get a good few years out of it. Therefore, you want a durable model.
You will also want a model with a good warranty. If the manufacturer believes the spin bike will last, and are willing to pick up the slack if it doesn’t, you can feel confident. You should be able to get a warranty of 5-10 years, with lifetime warranties on certain components being quite normal.
Top 4 Spin Bikes In The UK
So, what do we think the top spin bikes are? What models represent the best way to spend your cash on your next fitness venture?
Our top pick: Bluefin Fitness Tour SP Bike
However, the Bluefin Fitness Tour SP Bike has more to offer than just a pretty face.
Comfort and convenience seem to be the bywords on Bluefin’s mind when they designed at build the Fitness Tour SP Bike. Its functionality is impeccable.
It’s one of the sturdiest models we looked at, for starters. At 122 cm long, 129 cm high and 58 cm wide, it’s robust enough without being a giant. Small things like the placement of the water bottle holder and the well placed tablet holder on the centre console seem to have been very carefully considered. Things like this stack up, delivering an air of luxury belying its relatively mid-range price tag.
The Bluefin Fitness Tour SP Bike also has a fantastic range of adjustable options. Quick release levers enable speedy, easy adjustment on the height of the handlebars, the height of the saddle and the distance between both. There are 9 levels of vertical adjustment in the saddle, all easily adjustable, so that height shouldn’t be an issue no matter how extreme. Switching between users is therefore very easy, so that multiple people in any household can jump on without causing fights.
Importantly, the Bluefin Fitness Tour SP Bike’s ride quality is fantastic. It has a well-built, smooth, belt driven 25kg flywheel that provides one of the softest, most even user experiences we have ever experienced – using it was a real pleasure. It’s silent, it’s comfortable, and it can take a pounding without any fear. The pedals feature a dynamic, anti-slip design. They have adjustable straps to keep you feeling secure throughout, and to make sure that no power is lost in your off leg as you pedal.
The drop handlebars are amongst the best – if not the best – out of all the models we tried for this list. They have great, comfortably firm padding and their design and positioning is as well thought out as the rest of the bike, and the arm pads are well-placed and stable so that you can really grind into them as you push yourself hard.
The saddle isn’t the best option we have tried, however. It’s a little uncomfortable and will likely lead to a bit of chafing with too much use. However, a simple additional gel covering will fix this issue easily enough, allowing you to go for longer rides without discomfort.
The centre console is a little simple, though it is one of the better made and designed of the consoles on this list. Its simplicity is also a great way for Bluefin to keep the cost down whilst putting in quality where it matters, in build quality and so on. The simplicity also isn’t a drawback – you get a pulse rate monitor built into the handsets which is shown up on the display and the console is also compatible with third-party heart rate straps (a real, if overlooked, bonus!) You can also still easily display your own device above it if you want to use the KinoMap app for live or pre-recorded training sessions.
The maximum weight is officially 100kg. This should work for most users, but not everyone, of course. However, customer reviews and feedback suggest that it can go up to 125kg (do so at your own risk – we wouldn’t advise it.)
This is one of the smoothest, quietest, best put together machines we tried, with the best user experience. It’s well worth the money and more.
JLL IC300 Pro
JLL are one of the best producers of fitness equipment and supplies going. Building their kit in the UK, they bring everything out with a high standard that puts others in the industry to shame – including the IC300 Pro.
The IC300 Pro has a strong yet smooth, 20kg flywheel driven by a rubber belt, and features a wide range of adjustable components so that you can truly make it your ride. Comfort and performance work harmoniously throughout the machine.
It uses magnetic resistance, easily adjustable through enough levels that you can really zero in on the demands you want to ask of your body. The gap between the easiest and the hardest is pretty wide. There is no set number of levels, here, but rather a dial – I actually really like this way of doing things, as you can get super precise and fluctuate resistance easily as you go.
The IC300 Pro comes with a handy aluminium water bottle designed to fit into its drinks holder, located conveniently to the side of the front wheel. The centre console is another basic one, but, as with the Bluefin Fitness Tour SP Bike, it’s in a good way. It functions well, giving you all the stats you could ever need, and the readouts from the in-built pulse rate sensors are particularly accurate. The pedals come with a 3-piece crank system, which makes them more durable in the long run, and makes them feel very durable in the moment.
The whole lot is backed by a 12-month warranty.
It’s also pretty easy to move around, as it comes with transport wheels to the front, making its hefty 45kg weight actually quite manageable. There is a user maximum weight of 130kg, so that larger athletes can use it comfortably.
Overall, it’s a super quiet, super comfortable machine suitable for all-comers.
XS Sports SB500
Now we come onto our budget pick: the generous XS Sports SB500. Though it doesn’t have the same build quality as the other offerings on this list, you can still get a good solid spin out of it – all for a rock bottom price. It really does give you value for money.
The frame is also still pretty solid, so much so that you can confidently work as hard as you want, knowing it will still last you for a good few years. In fact, it has a maximum user weight of 125kg, up there with the best of them, showing off its structural integrity.
The SB500 is 112cm long, 48cm wide and 105cm high, so shouldn’t take up too much space. The saddle height is fully adjustable, as you would expect, as is the handlebar height and the distance between the saddle to the handlebars. This, combined with its high top weight, makes it perfect for all sizes of athlete.
The handlebars themselves are decently padded and are long enough to support you through a variety of positions as you vary intensities. They are a little narrow for some tastes, though this really is a small niggle (that soon disappears when you see how much money you’re saving by buying the XS Sports SB500). The elbow pads are also pretty well made and nicely placed for some support during tougher workouts.
For a company selling such a reasonably priced product, XS Sports clearly put a lot of care and attention into their designs. In fact, they apparently worked hard researching ideal ergonomics, which shows in the bike’s structure and the quality of the seat. The saddle is well padded, the padding is well stitched, and you will find it as comfortable and durable as most other commercially available spin bikes would offer.
The flywheel is small at 15kg and is far less smooth than models by companies like JLL. However, it’s not quite jerky and is completely sufficient for most people’s needs. The magnetic resistance is impressive and can be quite a challenge in the higher ranges, and the pedals are well made with good foot straps and decent pedalling action.
The centre console is as basic as any of the others we have seen on spin bikes but, much like the others, gives you all the information you need – key data like speed, distance, calories burned, time and heart rate, with reliable enough heart rate monitors built into the handles.
Any complaints that can be made about the XS Sports SB500 can be waved away easily enough by the price tag. You couldn’t expect more for the money – in fact, you would normally expect an awful lot less.
Sportstech SX200 Indoor Studio Bike
The Sportstech SX200 is pricey. As a result, we wanted to ask a lot of it. It delivered… but not much more. You absolutely get a good bike, but when you consider what other companies have offered for a lot less, it can be pretty unspectacular.
Everything is present and correct with the Sportstech SX200. It is incredibly well built, with a sturdy frame coming in at 104 x 54 x116 cm, a comfortable user experience with a heavyweight, 22kg flywheel that keeps the ride very smooth. It has the same adjustability as the other models on this list, with a neatly designed water bottle holder and a centre console aligned perfectly with a user’s head height. The resistance levels are also easy to change mid-ride and are controlled using a progressive dial rather than individual resistance steps, with a marked difference between the top and bottom resistance levels. The maximum user weight is a respectable 125kg and the saddle, which features both horizontal and vertical adjustment, is very comfortable. The handlebars are ergonomically designed to be perfect – an aim that they achieve – with well padded arm rests for when they are needed. The pulse rate sensors built into the handles and the optional chest strap heart rate monitor are both accurate and easy to use, and the Sportstech SX200 has a much larger display than the other spinners on this list.
It is this display, and the attendant connectivity, that really sets the Sportstech SX200 apart. If you like techy gadgets, this is the spin bike you should go with. It’s where it makes its price tag up.
It’s not quite high end – which is why it won’t set you back two or three grand – but the Sportstech SX200 seems to be amongst the most sophisticated in its price bracket.
KinoMap works particularly well with the Sportstech SX200 because of its superfluous connectivity. You can stream everything to a third-party screen if you want this kind of size, which basically gives you a Peloton experience without a Peloton price tag. Altogether, this makes the Sportstech SX200 perfect for those who need a little motivation or a little entertaining as they train.
Spin Bike Frequently Asked Questions
There is a lot of information and misconception floating around with regards spinning. It can confuse beginners and aficionados alike. With this in mind, now you’ve seen the models on offer, let’s take a look at some of the more common FAQs and concerns surrounding spin bikes.
Will I lose weight by spinning?
You will most likely lose weight if you get involved with spinning. However, nothing is guaranteed. The only way you can guarantee weight loss is to maintain a caloric deficit. A daily deficit of around 500 calories will have you losing roughly 1lb/05.kg per week.
This is most easily achieved via your dietary intake. It’s a lot easier to undereat 500 calories than it is to burn them off exercising. However, exercise can either make up a large portion of your deficit, or your whole deficit if you eat strictly at maintenance calories (the amount of energy needed to remain at the same weight). What it can’t easily do is make up for poor nutrition – if you overeat 800 calories per day, you’re unlikely to lose weight, no matter your cardio output.
Your weight loss regime should look something like this:
You expend 2500 calories per day through a mix of metabolic function and daily activities. You want to lose weight, aiming at around 12kg in 12 weeks. To do this, you need to create a daily caloric deficit of 500.
You can simply eat 2000 calories per day. Or you can eat 2300 and perform 200 calories worth of exercise per day. Or you can eat 2500 and perform 500 calories worth of exercise.
What you can’t do is eat 3000 calories because you’ve done 300 calories worth of exercise and expect to lose weight. Here, you will actually end up gaining weight.
Use spin as a tool for weight loss, but combine it with sensible eating choices.
How much energy does spinning use?
This depends on a few factors. Notably, intensity of training and the participant’s body composition will have a big effect. Somebody who weighs 100kg and goes balls to the wall will use a lot more energy, in the form of calories, than somebody who weighs 60kg and only pushes themselves a little bit.
However, most half-hour spin sessions can burn an average of 200-300 calories, for most people.
Why spin at home?
Simply, it’s more convenient for many people to train at home. We all have busy lives, and it can be hard to find time to get to the gym. You may have childcare commitments that mean you need to be at home. You may have long work hours. Or you may live in the middle of nowhere, far from any leisure centres (us city folk often take this fact for granted).
It may also perhaps be less intimidating to train at home. Gyms can be scary for newcomers or those who suffer with anxiety. Spin studios tend to be very busy, and spin classes tend to book out quickly, making finding your spot hard and uncomfortable. Far nicer to simply head out into the garage or the spare room and blast out a good half hour with some privacy and comfort.
What downsides are there to training at home?
If you’ve gone for a good-quality spin bike, like those above, equipment shouldn’t be a downside. However, poorer models will obviously negatively affect your training experience.
In addition, classes have a great many advantages. You will have a trainer leading the class. They will both motivate you and hold you accountable, whilst delivering an engaging class with hopefully a good deal of variety. You won’t have to stick to the same old workout every session or rely on your own creativity.
Other members of a class can also be motivating. There will likely be an element of friendly (or, perhaps, less than friendly) competition spurring everyone on – nobody wants to fall behind the rest of the class! They will also likely be sociable and encouraging, and will all be going through a similar journey to your own, giving you a good deal of moral support over the weeks as you work towards your goal. Obviously, training from home will lack these benefits.
How do you choose the right spin bike?
Read our list! It should contain one or more spin bikes that sound appealing to you. At least one of the above offerings should offer you what you need. Look it up, read some customer reviews, go down to a stockist and try it out, if you can. Get as informed as possible, then simply jump in.
Pushing yourself hard, day in and day out, is more important than getting the perfect model. As long as it’s a good enough model – and all of the above are more than good enough – you will be able to get a decent training regime from it.
Spin Bikes: The Pros And Cons
Spinning is genuinely one of the best forms of cardiovascular exercise going. It can be pretty punishing, but it will get your cardiovascular fitness up in no time and will be a powerful ally to those wanting to lose weight, and to those wanting to train without too much impact going into the joints.
This being said, nothing is perfect. There will always be a balance between the positives and negatives, and spin is no different – there are a few negatives to be wary of, and a few positives to bear in mind.
Let’s begin with the positives.
As mentioned above, taking part in regular spin cycle classes can be a great way to keep your heart healthy and your entire cardiovascular system working efficiently. It is low impact and represents a perfect way to hit your weekly cardio target without overburdening crucial joints like your knees and hips. You can use them in the comfort of your own home, no matter the time or what the weather’s ever-changing vagaries have in store.
If you’re looking to improve VO2 max and/or your stamina, to take part in high intensity interval training (HIIT) or sprints, to condition your legs and/or to lose weight, both through caloric burn during exercise and the afterburn effect, spin bikes are perfect for you.
However, there are a couple of issues with spin bikes. Both of them are human errors, and thus are eminently fixable in any user’s routine.
The first problem is intensity, and lack thereof. A spin class will do everything mentioned above, giving you the workout that you need. However, as plenty of spin is conducted at home, in the absence of a trained, motivational instructor (and, given the nature of this list, yours will be), it can fall short.
This is true of any home workout, of course. Any form of exercise gives you as much as you put in. But where an upright cycle or elliptical trainer will come with set programs, adjustable targets and intensity levels, spin bikes rely on you to push yourself. They require you to be honest with yourself, to genuinely motivate and push yourself, and to make sure that you are truly working as hard as you need to be.
This can definitely undercut their efficacy.
The second human error common to spin is the polar opposite to the first. Overuse and overdoing intensity are common with spin. There can be something of a cult-like following to spinning, similar to CrossFit – users and participants can have a certain mindset in which they are there to work hard, to ruin themselves, and to prove to themselves and everyone else just what they are capable of.
This is no bad thing. It’s always good to see people pushing themselves and testing their limits. A little friendly competition and a bit of inner drive will certainly help any individual to meet their goals.
However, the body needs time to rest and adapt. Without this period of adaptation, no progress can be made. Your muscles won’t grow, your central nervous system won’t deal with the demands placed on it, and your skill in the task at won’t develop. You’ll also make yourself ill and greatly increase your risk of injury.
If you want daily cardio, great. It’s what we’re designed for. But regulate and fluctuate intensity. Take part in 3-4 spin sessions per week. Of these, try making half HIIT and half steadier state. Then, on your off days, go for a nice walk. You will be far stronger for it in the long run.
James is a full time personal trainer and an award winning writer with over 10 years of experience behind him. So far, he has helped hundreds of people with their health and fitness through his career.