Spin bike vs. regular exercise bike: What’s the difference and which one should you use?

spin bike vs exercise bike

by Sofia Alves

Cardiovascular exercise is very important for our health, our general wellbeing, our longevity. And while any cardio is good for us, there is still a significant difference between types. Today we will be dealing with the spin bike vs. exercise bike debate.

Both of these machines provide excellent cardiovascular exercise, but they do so in different ways. The article below will deal with their differences, what are their core benefits, and core drawbacks. Hopefully, this helps you decide for yourself which one you should use in the gym or buy for your home.

What is a spin bike?

First things first – explaining what a spin bike actually is. Unlike a normal exercise bike, a spin bike resembles a regular bicycle to a much greater degree. While they are, of course, stationary, spin bikes still give you a more natural feel when riding, one much closer to a real bicycle.

The advantages of a spin bike workout

Spin classes have been incredibly popular for some time now, and with good reason. These workouts are very intense, very focused. You can expect an amazing workout, with excellent results, in a relatively short period of time. The main benefits of spin bike workouts are as follows:

  • High level of calories burned
  • Great for cardiovascular health
  • Improved lung capacity

A spin bike workout allows you to burn a high amount of calories regardless of your weight or athleticism level. Furthermore, this type of exertion not only leads to greater calorie-burning levels but also excellent cardiovascular improvements. By increasing your heart rate, you are improving cardiovascular fitness. You can also expect improvements in lung capacity, giving you some extra endurance in every physical endeavour you take on.

Finally, what really sets out spin classes from other similar exercises is that you actually develop some team spirit. Namely, spin classes are often group activities, which makes them more fun, as well as easier in a way. An entire group of people is going through the same gruelling task, the same difficult exercise programme. It’s only natural that you will bond with some people here, as well as getting a better idea of what team spirit means.

Spin bike vs. Exercise bike – Key Differences

Structural differences

The key difference between the two is, of course, their construction. First and foremost, the spin bike is larger, more robust. It has a heavier, sturdier frame, and rightly so. A spin bike odes need to survive a workout, after all. It is both taller and generally larger than a regular bike. The seat is also higher on spin bikes.

Exercise bikes are much more compact. In fact, some exercise bikes can be folded, so as to be transported more easily. Furthermore, most handlebars on spin bikes are adjustable on both horizontal and vertical planes. Exercise bikes don’t really have these or have them at different positions.

The core difference can be found in the flywheel (a heavy disk that stores rotational energy). Without going into the details and the nitty-gritty, the flywheel is the device that allows you to transfer the power generated by you pushing on the pedals onto the wheels of your bicycle. The flywheel on spin bikes is much heavier, giving you a tougher workout.

When comparing structural differences between spin bike and exercise bike, certain details vary greatly from manufacturer to manufacturer, and from brand to brand. Some spin bikes can be very adjustable, while others are just as they are. The same goes for any regular exercise bike. Still, you will more often see standard upright bikes with console screens and additions such as those.

Practical differences

All these mechanical differences are there for a reason. Namely, the core difference between regular exercise bikes and spin bikes is that a spin bike workout is much closer to a real, regular bike workout.

The table below will show some core difference in usage and benefits when it comes to these two machines.

Spin bikesStationary bicycles
Specialised workouts for cyclingGeneral health and fitness
A bit easier to useDifferent than a regular bike, less natural to ride
Lower injury risk (low impact) for jointsLower risk for lower back pain
You can ride while standingStanding can be very awkward
Can burn potentially more calories (potentially more muscles are engaged)A lighter workout, fewer muscles used
Fewer accessories in terms of console displaysOften have a console
Bulky (but durable)Compact (but less durable)

So, one primary difference is that spin bikes, due to their construction, are much more similar to a regular bicycle. This means that if you are actually competing in some kind of cycling event, or simply want to be the best cyclist you can be, spin bikes are a much more effective option. They offer you a more specialised and natural workout.

Because of the way these bicycles are built, you will feel less pressure on your joints when using a spin bicycle, even if you’re riding with greater intensity. However, you are hunched over more when riding these bicycles, since their seats are much higher. This can lead to back pain during longer rides.

Spin class bicycles give you the option of burning more calories and offer more intense workouts. That’s because their heavy flywheel can help you really get the most out of your body. You can also ride them standing up, just like any “real” bicycle. Doing this on regular indoor cycling bikes will feel very awkward.

Both types of stationary bicycles activate your quads, your hamstrings, your calves, and your glutes. These are all the muscles you use to pedal forward. However, once you ride a spin bike standing up, you will feel a lot more activation in your core. Also, due to your slightly hunched posture for spin bikes, you will feel a bit more work in your biceps and triceps as well as your back. Regular bikes will give you a bit more focus on your quads though.

Finally, most standard exercise bikes are not as durable as spin cycles. However, they make up for this feature by being more compact, easier to store and move. They also often have consoles that show how many calories you have burnt, the speed at which you are riding… This is a far less frequent feature on spin cycles. However, spin cycles are much sturdier, giving you the opportunity to go all out (but also bulkier and heavier).

Spin bike vs. Regular exercise bike – Which one is better for weight loss?

To put it simply, you need to burn more calories than you actually ingest if you want to lose weight. Harder, more intense workouts that activate more muscle groups are better at helping you lose weight and fat. Know that there is very little difference in calories burnt when using these machines regularly. However, spin bikes have a far greater potential for calorie burning.

Due to the heavier flywheel used for spin bikes, you can push yourself, and the bike, harder, leading you to have a harder workout. Also, you can stand up and ride when you’re using your spin bike. This means you use more muscles, which then leads to an even stronger workout and more calories burnt.

Conclusion – Should you use a spin bike or an exercise bike?

Deciding between a spin bike or exercise bike is not that easy. While they are both excellent for building up your cardiovascular endurance, making your heart healthier, strengthening your legs, and losing weight, there are still some differences that basically come down to your own subjective preferences and wants.

Namely, if you’re looking for a more intense workout that burns more calories, then we suggest you go with a spin bike. A spin bike also mimics regular riding to a far greater degree compared to a regular exercise bicycle. This means you can prepare for a cycling event or cruise much better than you would with other types.

On the other hand, regular stationary bicycles are a bit easier on your lower back, are slightly more comfortable, while spin bicycles are easier on your joints, due to their low-impact nature.

Spin bicycles are great for people interested in becoming better cyclists, both in competitive and recreational terms. But if you want a lighter workout, and have lower back problems, a regular stationary exercise bike is the way to go.

Related content:

Exercise bikes vs Ellipticals
Exercise bikes vs. Treadmills
Are folding exercise bikes any good?

Author Bio
Sofia Alves is a fitness enthusiast who loves running and motivating others to adopt and stick to healthy habits. She is always learning, searching and investing in further education to build her knowledge. She strongly believes the worst workout is the one you didn’t bother to do.

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