My new spin bike obsession (& a guide for future obsessives)

I decided to buy a spin bike to compensate for my new indoors lifestyle. Ohhh, how I love it! I feel stronger, more balanced and happier. Mind you, I spent ages researching. What is the difference between a spin bike and an exercise bike? What should I look for when buying a spin bike? How much do they cost? And … does spinning make your bum bigger?!

For anyone else drowning in confusion, here’s my guide to spin bikes and how to choose one. Happy pedalling!

spin bike review

What is the difference between a spin bike and an exercise bike?

Until last week I thought they were the same.

But no.

Spin bike pedals are linked to the cycle wheels. This means that if you suddenly stop pedalling, the wheels keep on moving. It feels like a ‘real’ outdoor bike. In terms of posture, like an outdoor bike, you hunker over the handlebars. Spin bikes offer a great, high intensity workout.

Meanwhile, stationary or recumbent exercise bikes often have LCD screens with fitness programs. Unlike ‘real’ bikes, when you stop pedalling, the bike stops immediately. You also sit upright. They’re especially great for warm ups, or if you like to follow a specific programme.

Personally, I opted for a spin bike over an exercise bike. I just wanted a really well made, simple bike that would last me a long time without too much maintenance. I didn’t want anything with too many gadgets or flashing screens that could go wrong. Also, I only have about 30 minutes exercise time per day, so I prefer HIIT style, cardio training that a spin bike can offer.

spin bike

What should I look for in a spin bike?

Here are the things I looked at before I finally invested in a spin bike:

1. Belt vs chain mechanism

This gets geeky, but bear with me…

In terms of which is better – a belt or chain drive spin bike, it depends.

In general, belt bikes tend to be better quality, quieter and require almost zero maintenance. They’re also more expensive and tend to be used in gyms and professional spaces.

As for chain bikes, they’re generally noisier and need oiling, as well as a little more general maintenance.

Having said this, I opted for a better quality chain bike over another belt model. It’s super quiet and feels well made.

2. Magnetic vs friction

Next you need to choose between a magnetic spin bike and a friction belt alternative.

Magnetic spin bikes, like the Peleton, use magnets to create resistance. As the flywheel spins, it passes between two magnets. To vary the resistance, the magnets move closer to and away from the flywheel.

Meanwhile, friction spin bikes uses felt pads that rest on the flywheel (the wheel at the front of a spin bike). You tighten a knob connected to the pad and that pushes the pad on to the flywheel, creating resistance.

Generally, magnetic bikes are better, but they’re significantly more expensive.

Nevertheless, friction bikes aren’t all noisy and clunky. My friction bike is sooo quiet and I’m very happy with it. I couldn’t justify the additional price hike for a good magnetic bike. A poor quality magnetic bike has nothing on a better friction bike.
spin bike choronmeter

3. Flywheel weight

The general consensus is that a heavier flywheel (the wheel at the front) offers more stability and a smoother cycling feel. Some spinning pros say you’ll need a flywheel of at least 13kg for a good experience.

Nevertheless, some really good bikes, like the Keiser models, use light flywheels to allow you to go faster. Again, flywheel weight is something to look at, but it’s not everything.

4. Brand & reviews

I bought my spin bike from Belda Cycles in Chile. I researched the brand and the online reviews were really good. Most people said they were durable, strong and built to last.

Alas, Belda is currently out of stock of spin bikes, but see below for some other alternatives I was eyeing up. If you can find something similar from an independent bike retailer, all the better.

5. Size & weight

We live in an apartment and we’re constantly on the go. For this reason, I didn’t want anything too bulky or heavy.

6. Cost

I wanted to invest in a model that would last me through a few country moves, but I didn’t want to break the bank on my first bike.

I managed to find a great deal for just $550, but most good spin bikes seem to be around the $1,000 USD mark and upwards.

7. Gadgets

A select few spin bikes come with fancy LCD screens (e.g. the Peleton), a lot come with the bike and no screens whatsoever.

I wanted a very simple screen to track how far I’d cycled, but without too many gadgets that could go wrong or hike the price up.

Is spinning a good way to lose weight?

I’m loving the high intensity workout I’m getting through my spin bike. I feel so energised and strong after a 30 minute routine. Personally, I’m in this for the strength, mood boost and tone up, rather than weight loss.

Nevertheless, spinning can offer really high intensity exercise so I’m sure it could be a good way to lose weight.

On the other hand, spinning builds muscle strength and some reckon you can actually gain weight from spinning. Some say spinning can give you a bigger butt (see below).

I feel the strain more in my legs, so I reckon for a really good work out it’d best to mix it up with other cardio exercise and weight training.

How long does it take to see results from spinning?

It depends what you call results. I felt instantly more energised after my first session. I slept better that night and I’ve been sleeping better in general since I started spinning about a month ago.

In terms of toning up, I started to feel stronger after a few weeks. I can up the resistance on my bike and I don’t die of exhaustion like I did when I first started. However, I’m no pro and my 70 year old spinning pro dad can still go faster and further than me (no joke!)

As for losing weight, I don’t know. I don’t weigh myself. Personally, I don’t think weight is a reliable indicator of how healthy I am. I prefer to measure how I’m feeling.

Some say it takes 21 days to build a habit. A month in, I’m still spinning everyday. I’m trying hard to make spinning a permanent lifestyle change.

Is spinning bad for knees?

I have arthritic psoriasis and my joints tend to ache if I use the treadmill too much. So far, I’ve never felt any joint pain. The only ache I felt was in my butt!

Does spinning make your bum bigger?

Remember when spinning was all the rage, then gradually it went out of fashion? Some women turned away from spinning, convinced that it was making their butt bigger. And their thighs. And their belly.

Spinning works up such a sweat that it could be tempting to over reward yourself with foodie treats afterwards. Personally, I do my workout before a late lunch and actually spinning has the opposite effect for me. If I workout I feel like healthy food and lots of water. If I haven’t done a spinning workout before lunch I’ll go straight for the carbs and wine.

As for your butt, depending on your body type, spinning could bulk you up with muscle. Celebrity trainer David Kirsch says you should mix it up with some muscle lengthening yoga.  

How much does a spin bike cost? How much is a good spin bike?

I found that there was a huge jump from budget (around $200 USD), to medium range (around $500 USD) to top level, commercial spin bikes (from $1500 USD).

My bike set me back around $550 USD.

Should I buy a spin bike for home? Is a spin bike worth it?

If you need to exercise at home then a spin bike could be a worthwhile investment. However, if you’re more of a gym or outdoorsy person you might find your spin bike gathering dust post pandemic.

As for me, as a mother of three I often find myself trapped indoors as I wait for a child to wake up from a nap. For this reason, I love my spin bike which I can just hop onto whenever my schedule allows.

I love the fact you don’t need to waste time inputting any special instructions or set any programs up.

Assuming it doesn’t break or require too much maintenance, my spin bike has been a wonderful investment.

What is the best spin bike for home use? What’s the best budget spin bike?

Alas my Belda 830 Indoor home spin bike is now out of stock. Here is my round up of the best spin bikes in 2020 for the UK and US:

Do you spin? Let me know your tips in the comments below. 

 

2 Comments

  1. Carolina Silva
    May 23, 2020 / 9:42 pm

    I spin! I looooooove it! Highly recommend the peloton app for classes!

    • Nina
      Author
      May 23, 2020 / 10:52 pm

      Will definitely check it out. Right now I’m enjoying podcasts and some seriously feel good music to spin (and dance) along to. My neighbours must think I’ve gone nuts !

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