This Spin ® Bike buying guide is a comprehensive overview of the current features and technologies available in modern Spin ® Bikes. Use this buyers guide to help you make a more informed decision about your next spin bike purchase.
What is a Spin ® Bike?
A Spin ® Bike is a very different beast compared to most other kinds of indoor cycle on the market. Spin ® Bikes are designed with the aim of providing a realistic cycling substitute that closely replicates what you would experience on a road or track bike. Spin ® Bikes are the best product for bringing the outdoor cycling experience indoors and this is reflected in rise of Spinning ® and other indoor cycling classes to becoming one of the most popular exercise trends in the world.
What are the defining characteristics of a Spin ® Bike?
Body Position – Perhaps the greatest similarity to a road bike is the low body profile. The saddle and handlebars should be roughly at the same height to simulate the dropped down handlebar position of road racing machines. Handlebars tend to offer different position options that instructors will typically call first, second and third. Each of these allow the rider to cycle different positions to work muscle groups in different ways when performing seating and standing climbs, flats, sprints and jumps.
Pedals – Spin ® Bikes pedals will come with a toe strap which allows the user to tightly fix their foot to the bike. Many bikes, especially those in a commercial environment will have a fixing for the SPD cleats on specialist cycling shoes which are more secure than toe straps. The idea being that the ability to both drive down and pull up on the pedal, again increases the likeness to a road bike, but also works more muscles and allows the user to cycle against greater resistance.
Flywheel – Spin ® Bikes use an open front flywheel, driven by a chain or belt. Both the visible rotation and force transferred from the pedals to the wheel contribute to the rolling road bike feel. The fixed gear means that you can’t coast or stop abruptly like on other stationary bikes. Traditional recumbent or upright exercise bikes tend to work using magnetic discs to create resistance.
Resistance – Increasing resistance on a Spin ® Bike is most commonly done by tightening a pad which acts like a break on the spinning wheel, requiring the rider to apply more pressure to maintain their cadence. Compared to the electronic buttons which alter resistance on a regular stationary bike the user will have to turn a knob or wheel.
Home and Commercial Spin ® Bikes: What are the main differences?
A commercial Spin ® Bike is built to be used heavily in a studio or gym and is made to withstand over 6 hours of use per day, whereas home models are built for less intensive use.
This is reflected in the design and construction, with commercial bikes having more durable frames and parts including the flywheel. If you are buying a commercial Spin ® Bike the manufacturer’s warranty will often be valid for two years, whereas home bikes will just be one year.
Setting up a Spin ® studio is often the next logical step for gym or fitness centre owners. We sometimes get asked how many bikes a gym needs to buy to set up a studio and whether a Spin ® studio is a good investment. Often, the set up costs of a studio can be recouped in a year or less, but if you want to know more about the potential return on investment we would be happy to offer you some advice.
Top 10 Spin ® Bike Features:
1. Q Factor
The Q factor is one of the most important features to look at on a Spin ® Bike. The Q factor is the distance between the inside of the pedal attachments on the crank arms on either side or, more simply, the width of the gap between the two paths your feet follow.
In terms of replicating the most genuine riding experience, lower Q factors tend to be a closer representation of real bikes. The most popular indoor cycles will have a Q factor of between 155mm and 175mm. Research has revealed that a narrower Q factor is more ergonomically efficient and allows the rider to apply more force to the pedals. Some experts do argue though, that riders with particularly wide hips are sometimes better suited to riding a bike with a greater Q factor. Generally speaking, the lower the Q factor the closer the Spin ® Bike will feel to a real road bike.
2. Flywheel Weight
The weighted rotation of the flywheel maintains the forward momentum of the bike’s pedals. The heavier spin bike flywheels replicate the smooth ride and rolling movement of road bikes more accurately. Flywheels range in weight from approximately 14kg to 20kg. All current Star Trac Spinning ® models have a flywheel weight of 17.2kg. One of the Myths people often hear about Spin ® Bikes is that they should stay away from a flywheel under 20kg. Resistance is created by the friction or magnets, the weight of the flywheel only has a bearing on resistance for the first couple of revolutions at zero resistance.
3. Adjustable Seat Position
Similar to the handlebar setup, having the correct saddle position is important in making sure that the Spin ® Bike rides comfortably and the risk of injury is as low as possible. Fore and aft movement is essential in catering for riders of different sizes and those with slightly different riding positions.
4. Adjustable Handlebar Position
To allow users to find their most comfortable riding position handlebars are maneuverable to suit people with longer and shorter arms and upper bodies. Things to consider with regard to the adjustable handlebars are whether or not the bike has fixed heights or completely free movement. Completely free moving adjustments allow you to be accurate, to the millimetre, with your set up. The other thing you should look for is both horizontal and vertical movement to adjust the hand positions for taller people and for people who ride with a lower body profile. This is important for cyclists who aren't experienced or people who have back problems as they are likely to find a riding with low handlebars uncomfortable.
5. Type of Resistance
There are two types of resistance on a Spin ® Bike, friction resistance and magnetic resistance. Friction resistance works by pressure being put on the flywheel to slow it down and make it harder to spin. In the long term, bikes with friction resistance will need to have pads replaced due to wear but are generally not as expensive as their magnetic counterparts. Magnetic resistance works by moving a strong magnet closer to the wheel to increase resistance.
6. Water Bottle Holder
Indoor cycling and Spinning ® classes are notoriously some of the most perspiration inducing sessions on offer in gyms and sports centres, so staying hydrated is important. Many of the top model Spin ® Bikes have a double water bottle holder in between the extended arms of the handlebars which can also be used to hold a towel or any other gym equipment. Bottle holders attached to the lower parts of the Spin ® Bike can often be difficult to get at when pedaling quickly, so this is something to bear in mind when making your decision.
7. Multiple Handlebar Positions
As mentioned earlier, one of the advantages of indoor cycling machines is that it makes use of the following actions; seated and standing flat, seated and standing climb, sprints and jumps which all require different hand positions.
8. Drive Train Mechanism
The connection between the crank and pedals can be a belt or a chain, depending on the model of Spin ® Bike. One of the advantages of belt driven bikes is that they make very little noise, which is ideal for home use. However, commercial Spin ® Bikes most commonly use a chain driven mechanism because, over time the belt will stretch and can begin to slip. When the belt is stretched this creates a rough ride, especially when doing simulated standing climbs or when sprinting chain driven bikes will stand up to extensive use.
For serious cyclists, SPD pedals will be a must when buying a Spin ® Bike. However for other users and commercial buyers toe straps might be all they require. Either way the bike must have an adequate method for fixing the riders foot to the pedal securely.
10. Transportation Wheels
Spin ® Bikes can be quite difficult to transport and move without having wheels at the front of the machine. They are essential for easy, simple moving, especially at home where space can be limited.
Almost every Spin ® Bike today will have wheels attached to the base of the bike to allow for easy transportation. For both home and commercial users these are important, as the frames and flywheels are heavy pieces of kit, weighing roughly 50-55kg.