When you're on the go all day, it can be a relief to finally stay put for a while. Unfortunately, that's a poor way to get in a workout. The big drawback to conventional cycling is that it's one more thing that keeps you on the go after a busy day. Stationary bikes provide the perfect solution to getting fit when you don't feel like traveling. There are three types of stationary bikes. Each version offers different benefits and drawbacks for your personal fitness goals.
A recumbent bike's seat rests at or below the bike's pedal system. This configuration lets you ride with minimal impact to your knee and hip joints, with less stress on your lower back. The recumbent bike also features a wide cradle-style seat that allows you to pedal hands-free and perform other exercises with your upper body -- such as free-weight routines -- in a relatively high level of comfort. On the downside, the motion is quite different from a non-stationary bike, so training on a recumbent bike doesn’t translate to riding a real bike outdoors.
Dual-action exercise bikes get your arms pumping at the same time that your feet are peddling away. Instead of fixed handlebars, a dual-action bike comes with moving handles that give your arms a pretty tough workout. Some models have adjustable resistance bands that work your arms almost as if you were lifting free weights. The downside is that a dual-action bike can get uncomfortable if you're riding it for a long time.
Upright exercise bikes feature the same motion as regular bikes, which makes them the perfect practice tools to prepare for outdoor cycling. Most upright bikes are the same, with a seat that puts you right over the pedals. You'll often find advanced models in tough spin classes down at the local gym. The seat can be uncomfortable, but for certain high-speed exercises, you'll use a standing position that doesn't plant your rear in the seat anyway. Be careful if you use an upright bike for long rides, because it may cause pain in your joints and lower back.
No matter which type of bike you choose, the controls are basically the same. Some stationary bikes have mechanical or electronic controls for setting the resistance and to keep track of how far you've pedaled while staying still. Fancier bikes let you raise or lower the angle of the ride for a harder burn. But the more advanced the controls are, the more frustrating using them can be if you're not technically inclined. The best bet is to find a comfortable exercise bike that lets you get away from it all without moving an inch.
Bobby R. Goldsmith is a writer and editor with over 12 years of experience in journalism, marketing and academics. His work has been published by the Santa Fe Writers Project, "DASH Literary Journal," the "Inland Valley Daily Bulletin" and WiseGEEK.