The flywheel is the powerhouse of any cycle. It gives you resistance and determines the fluidity of the pedaling action. As the name suggests, it is a big wheel, made of metal, that is positioned at the front of the bike. When you turn the pedals, the flywheel also turns. A chain or belt drive connects the flywheel to the pedals.
The more massive a flywheel is, the harder you need to pedal to get it moving and the more revolutions it will make before slowing down once you stop pedaling. Before flywheels were introduced in the 1980s, exercise bikes did not produce the natural pedal motion that you get with a bike. If you get a bike without a flywheel, you will find it way too easy to pedal and you won’t get a good training experience.
Flywheels are measured by weight with the more substantial, the better. It is because heavier flywheels replicate the hard pedaling that you need to do get started when cycling an outdoor bike. If the flywheel is too light, you will always be having to increase your resistance level to keep the pedal motion natural and fluid. It can produce a jerkiness that is not only frustrating; it’s also hard work on your joints.
Spin bikes have the heaviest flywheel weight, followed by upright. A flywheel weight of around 30 pounds (18kg) will provide you with a fluid motion and plenty of resistance. As a beginner, you will want to get a bike with a flywheel that is at least 20 pounds. Any less than this and the motion is not very smooth.
Flywheel weight is a big contributor to both the weight and the cost of a bike. As a result, more budget bikes and those that are foldable will have lighter flywheels. However, it would be a mistake to compromise on this critical feature to save a few bucks or to get a lighter bike.
One more feature to look out for is the resistance type. Exercise bikes will use either friction, magnetic, or electromagnetic resistance. The best most expensive is electromagnetic resistance, which uses a copper coil wire and electric current which is controlled through the bike’s console.
Next, best is magnetic resistance, which is what you will find in most mid-range bikes. It features a series of ferrous magnets placed around the flywheel which are controlled by the computer console. Of the three resistance types, this is the most reliable and the one we recommend.
Friction resistance is the least desirable of the three. It features a felt pad which contacts the flywheel and can be tension adjusted. It often produces a jerky action and will wear comfortably.
The monitor is a handy feature almost every bike has. Many bikes will market the multi training programs that are built into their monitors. However, most people hardly use such programs, so don’t make several programs a deciding factor. An upright that provides 5-10 programs is plenty. However, your monitor should provide the following training diagnostics: Speed, RPM, workout time, pulse rate and distance. These allow you to keep an eye on how you were progressing in terms of fitness from one session to the next.