A lot of people make the decision of purchasing an exercise bike. After all, it facilitates low-impact exercise that raises your heart rate and burns a lot of calories, all in the comfort of your home.
But with any large purchase, proverbially speaking, "the devil is in the details."
And that’s why it’s just as important to understand the different exercise bike accessories that are available for you to purchase, as much as the exercise bike itself.
There are several key accessories to know about when you're looking around for the best exercise bike to purchase and use.
We'll examine a five of the most important exercise bike accessories you should consider:
The standard exercise bike that you'll see in most gyms around the world utilize what's known as a "platform pedal."
These are basically pedals that have a flat surface which you place your feet on, and your feet are then held in place with the adjustable strap.
The size of these pedals can vary, based on things like color, shape, aesthetics and sometimes in surface area, as well as the general design. Some platform pedals will have hooks on the side, which the straps will hook into.
Other pedals will have a clip and grip system, where you loosen the clip, adjust the strap, and then tighten the clip that grips onto the strap to keep it in place. Finally, other types of pedals will simply have a strap that's already built onto them.
However, when you walk into your gym's spin cycling studio, you're usually not going to find the platform pedals on those bikes.
Rather, because the riders in these classes will not only accelerate their pedaling to very high speeds, as well as sometimes balancing their full weight on the pedals, these bikes will utilize what's referred to as "toe cages" (sometimes called "toe clips" as well).
These cages are essentially a plastic casing that's bolted down on to the pedal, which helps keep the front of your foot, as well as your entire foot overall, in place while pedaling. Regardless of what type of footwear you're utilizing when at the gym, these cages will ensure your feet remain in the same place while pedaling.
In some cycling studios, you might also find what's known as a "clipless" pedal.
As you might guess, these are flat pedals that don't really have the capability of having a strap placed across them. These are designed with the most seasoned exercise bike enthusiasts in mind, providing them with a small and basic pedal that sits directly under the ball of the foot, without touching the arch or the toes of your foot.
As we've alluded to, the straps are what go with the platform pedals, to help keep your feet in place.
When you're pedaling on the bike, because of all the up and down motions of your feet and even your body, the straps are a vital way to ensure that your feet stay affixed to where they need to direct all that energy.
The type of strap you want to purchase really depends on the type of platform pedal you have (and how the straps would attach to the pedal), and how big of a strap do you want. Generally speaking, the differences in the straps are based on how wide they are.
So, your decision is around whether you want a thin strap that just keeps your foot in place or a wider strap that snugly fits around your shoe.
Depending on where you're going to place your exercise bike that you purchase, one of the best -- but most overlooked -- investments you can make is a bike mat that will help protect your home, and yourself.
While you could try and use a carpet or even an oversized yoga mat, you really want to find a mat that was specifically designed for exercise bikes, as you want the mat to be able to accommodate the full dimensions of your machine; in fact, if the mat is a bit bigger, that's a good thing.
The reason you want a mat versus a carpet is because the mat's primary job is to serve as a layer of protection between the bike and the floor. Because the bike supports your full bodyweight and absorbs all the motions you put into the biking process, it can be susceptible to movement, vibrations, and even leakages of internal fluids while it's being used.
Thus, a rubber mat will help ensure the bicycle stays in place during any such movements, and the latter makes cleaning a breeze.
Just to make an important distinction: when you're talking about your standard "seating" on an exercise bike, that's referred to as a "saddle."
The key distinction between a "saddle" and a "seat" is that a saddle supports only some of your weight, with the remainder of it being in your legs; when we're talking about recumbent exercise bikes, then the term "seat" applies, because nearly all of your weight is resting in your posterior.
With that distinction out of the way, it would make sense that you want a functional and comfortable saddle on your exercise bike, considering the more discomfort you have with your bike, the less likely you are to use it.
While you may think in your head that you want to avoid a saddle that's really hard and go with a saddle that's really soft, you want to take the "Goldilocks and the Three Bears" approach to your bike saddle, and go with the one that's just right.
As you might surmise, one that's too hard is just going to cause soreness on your tailbone and the muscles around it. But a saddle that's too soft is just going to quickly deflate and displace, sinking your bottom right down to the hard seat -- the scenario you were trying to avoid in the first place.
You want a saddle that's got a little bit a of give, so that your backside can mold in comfortably while on the seat, yet still maintains a little bit of firmness, to provide that support for your tailbone and your lower back.
Over time, any good cushion is going to lose its firmness or softness. The softest pillow will eventually turn into a flat pancake if used for a prolonged period of time.
Instead of trying to replace the entire saddle, exercise bike companies sell inexpensive bike seat covers which you can simply place over the saddle and regain that extra layer of cushion that you were seeking. You can find these in a variety of sizes (narrow to wide), cushioning (regular padding or gel padding), or colors (anything from dark blue through black).
However, you don't have to wait for your seat to go flat before getting a good seat cover.
Many consumers go ahead and buy one for their saddle as soon as they first get their bike, because it'll give them that much better of an initial biking experience, and even if that first seat cover goes flat, it's easy to remove and replace with a brand new (and inexpensive) one.
Again, like with many other purchases, you can often buy the basic equipment, and really improve your experience with that equipment by purchasing various accessories.
More often than not, the basic exercise bike you purchase won't have many of these "bells and whistles," and the ones that do will often charge a much higher amount than if you went and bought these on your own.
This post was last updated on October 28th, 2017 at 09:39 am
Over the last few years, I’ve taken my love of the outdoors, hiking, skiing, trekking and exploring to the next level by starting this site. I started a bike shop in Denver, CO, and have seen amazing growth over the last few years. Getting paid to do what I love has been a dream come true for me. That’s also what led me to start BikesReviewed.com. In my shop, I spend a large amount of time helping people find the perfect bike for them and the style of biking they’re going to be doing. It only made sense that I expanded my reach and got online, making it possible for me to help people all over the world. If biking and staying fit is your priority, too, you’ve come to the right place.
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