Are Mini Exercise Bikes Effective?

mini exercise bikeThese tiny exercise bikes have been around for sometime now and one of the main questions asked is whether mini exercise bikes are any good. It is an understandable question as, on the face of it, these bikes look…..well….ineffective. If you haven’t come across one of these pieces of exercise equipment before you’ll find that they are essentially just the pedal section of an exercise bike. There is no seat, no handlebars and no discernible wheels. As you would expect from that description, with so many components missing, pedal exerciser dimensions are very small. This leads a whole entourage of people looking for portable exercise equipment to investigate these bikes. Not withstanding how these bikes look, they can benefit certain individuals. Here is the inside track on the potential health and exercise benefits of these bikes and whether they might be a good choice for you.

Are Mini Exercise Bikes Any Good For Weight Loss?

mini exercise cycleA large group of all the individuals looking for exercise equipment are primarily looking for a weight loss solution. Mini cycles can be used to lose weight as part of a calorie controlled diet. Weight loss will usually involve an individual running a calorie deficit, essentially you can lose weight by eating less calories, burning excess calories via exercise or a combination of both exercise and diet. So the question of how much weight you can lose using a mini bike will come down to how many calories you can burn using the bike.

How many calories an individual burns during exercise depends on a plethora of factors from age, weight, heart rate, gender etc. In fact getting an accurate calculation at home is impossible but using the following formulas can get you a rough probable calorie burn dependant on heart rate, age weight :

Men: C/min = ((-55.0969 + (0.6309 x HR) + (0.1988 x weight) + (0.2017 x age)) / 4.184

Women: C/min = ((-20.4022 + (0.4472 x HR) + (0.1263 x weight) + (0.074 x age) / 4.184

(weight is in kg)

So, for a male, 39 years of age, 188 pounds, at a heart rate of 90 beats per minute (not fast enough to be sweating or breathing any more heavily than normal) he would burn 6.3 calories per minute or 189 in a 30 minute pedal.

In terms of weight loss, the individual would need to burn about 3500 calories to lose one pound of body weight per week. This gives you an insight into how much diet and easy peddling would be required for weight loss and that a mini pedal exerciser could be used effectively under a desk to burn calories and lose weight through the day. Using a mini exercise cycle under a desk or in front of the TV could be as effective as a regular gentle stroll.

Are Exercise Peddlers Good For Toning?

Can you improve your body tone with this equipment? When you lose excess weight it generally comes off in a uniform manner until you get to the very last tough sections. Using an exercise peddler will improve your tone through weight loss. It will also exercise muscle groups which should, through extra use, develop better tone and definition. In particular, the users leg muscles should show improvement over time. Calves, hamstrings, quadriceps and hip flexors should all show improved tone and definition through extra use.

The big difference between a standard stationary upright exercise bike and a mini exercise bike is the seating position. On an upright bike the user is perched upright in the saddle so core muscles in the mid torso area used for balance are gently used in the workout. With a mini cycle you are less likely to get this benefit unless you choose a suitable chair to workout on.

It is possible to use a mini exercise bike to tone stomach muscles, but this requires the user to target the muscles by placing the pedals further away from the body than might be usual and adjusting the chair position for some incline.

You will also see these bikes described as table top exercise bikes inferring that you can place the unit on a table top and get an upper body, shoulder and arm workout from the unit. Whilst this is possible, you might be better off just doing a few standard push ups. You certainly shouldn’t consider buying one of these mini exercise bikes if toning and adding definition to your upper body is a main goal.

Cardiovascular And Aerobic Fitness

Depending on your current fitness levels you may get some cardio and aerobic improvements from a mini exercise bike workout. Bear in mind these bikes are not built for people like Lance Armstrong, rather they are best suited for individuals who want to simulate walking exercise. The reason you can’t use them for high intensity workouts is that they just aren’t stable enough. Having said that, if you have done no meaningful fitness work they can gently bring you to an improved level of fitness over time but unlike a machine like a treadmill or exercise bike you couldn’t train to be an Olympic athlete on them.

What these bikes are good for is low intensity work that helps most users burn calories, helps moderate blood sugar levels, helps combat cholesterol, provides gentle toning, keeps joints mobile through gentle use and improves general circulation.

Motorised Versions For The Elderly

motorized exercise peddlerA special note should be made with reference to elderly users. As you peruse the stores for the perfect model you will come across electric mini exercise bikes. These models actually turn the pedals on behalf of the user. These are not magnetic mini cycle exercise bikes where the bike is plugged in and the power feeds a magnet that creates resistance. The purpose of the electric mini cycle with turning pedals is to therapeutically encourage gentle leg movement to help joints remain supple in older age. By gently moving the legs, muscles are also stimulated and encouraging better circulation.

So do mini exercise bikes work? Are they effective and are there any benefits? Absolutely, these bikes are great at simulating a level of exercise similar to walking which can improve overall fitness, burn calories, improve tone, maintain healthy joints and improve circulation. They can be used under a desk or in front of the TV so are convenient.

Mini Exercise Bike Reviews

Our Top Choices

Here is a list of our top picks. Visit the link for the latest prices and reviews. Read on for more details on each model and our top pick!

Choosing The Right Bike

Choosing the right mini exercise bike can be tough. There are so many options available on the market in so many different price ranges it can be hard to know where to start. We recommend that first you decide which type of resistance system you want as this will often determine the budget you need and will make the process of elimination so much easier.

Generally speaking there are three different resistance systems : friction, magnetic and motorized.

A mini cycle with a friction resistance system will offer the user resistance whilst pedalling by operating with a clamping arrangement to the pedals. The arrangement will come with various settings that can be manually altered to restrict or permit movement of the pedals. These systems naturally wear over time due to the friction, can be noisy to use, are not the smoothest pedal action, tend to be lightweight so are less stable but are cheaper than more complex systems and are easier to store. They are only really suitable for light use applications. Budget $25 – 85.

A magnetic resistance system is usually based on the user turning a flywheel via the pedals. The flywheel is then resisted by powerful magnets. These can be manually set at different settings away from the wheel to create different levels of tension for the user. These systems are less prone to wear over time as fewer moving parts are in contact with the resistance generating parts, are smoother action to use, more life like to use, more stable during use and are quieter in use. They are generally heavier and take up more space and come at a higher premium to the friction based models. These are suitable for more frequent use by beginners or intermediates looking to improve mobility and increase general activity levels. They won’t replace a good upright bike when it comes to a through cardio workout. Budget $100 – 150

Motorized mini exercise cycles turn the pedals for the user rather than offering resistance that the user works against. The motorized models are for rehabilitation or therapeutic use. As discussed earlier, they help the elderly or those with restricted movement to maintain or improve movement and offer gentle exercise where exercise may be difficult. These machines are often heavier than the other types of machine due to the requirement for a motor and need locating near mains electricity to power the equipment. You would think that these bikes would be much more expensive than the other models but you can purchase these bikes with a budget of $85 upwards.

Here are some of the common models in each class :

Stamina Instride Folding Cycle (Friction)

stamina instride folding cycleOne of the earliest frame and friction design mini bikes available on the market, has been copied by many other manufacturers. Made with simplicity and price in mind, this bike is a very basic entry model. Can be used in a sitting position or can be placed on a table for arm exercises.

Consists of a very rudimentary fold down tube design which is great for storage, and light weight (7lb) for mobility. Comes with a few basic tension settings and a basic monitor.

Ideal for a light user or someone looking to gently increase basic activity or improve mobility. Does not offer enough resistance or stability for a more advanced user or someone looking to get a thorough cardio vascular workout. Beware, many poor reviews by people expecting more from the equipment than it is really designed for.

Features a 90 day warranty and available for $25-40.

Marcy Cardio Mini Cycle (Friction)

marcy mini cycleThe Marcy mini cycle is a friction resistance bike with a little more weight behind it than the stamina model. Coming in at 14lbs it offers a little more stability during use than the stamina, but does not fold down and is a little less convenient to store. Can be used on the floor or table top, features a basic exercise monitor and a 2 year warranty. Price wise you are looking at $30 – 40.

This bike is ideal for light usage by people with reasonable mobility looking to maintain their activity levels. A good contender for gentle rehab work or absent minded pedalling in front of the TV.

Sunny Health & Fitness Magnetic Mini Bike

sunny health fitness mini bikeThe first of the magnetic resistance bikes discussed by us, this model is positively reviewed and widely appreciated by those who have bought it in the past.

The reviews indicate the step up in quality and usability between friction and magnetic resistance bikes.

The magnetic resistance bikes like the Sunny are heavier (21lbs) due to use of flywheels but are more stable in use than friction bikes. They also offer a smoother pedalling action allowing the user to get more out of the different resistance levels.

The Sunny comes with eight different resistance levels, has pedal straps and a reasonable exercise monitor on board. The Sunny comes in at over $100. A very good choice if you want a basic, smooth, magnetic mini exercise bike. Ideal for intermediate work.

DeskCycle Under Desk Cycle

deskcycle-mini-bikeMany people intuitively wonder whether their mini bike can be used under a desk at home or at work. Most models discussed here are not really not marketed for such use. The DeskCycle, however, is a purpose built magnetic mini bike for office or desk use.

It features all the benefits of a magnetic resistance bike – smooth operation, enough weight to generate the feeling of stability (23lbs), enough resistance levels to feel you can incrementally increase the level of exercise and a decent monitor displaying speed, time, calories and distance.

Additionally it has a very short pedal throw of only 10 inches. This means your knees won’t rise as high as on other bikes when pedalling. However, even with such a low pedal height, if you are taller than 5ft 7ins you will struggle to use this bike under a standard height desk (27 ins).

This bike is very positively reviewed for build quality and performance but make sure you can fit it under your desk or your desk can be raised or set to new levels or you may be caught out!

Coming in at $150+ this bike isn’t cheap but very few reviewers consider it expensive or a waste of money either, and that has got to be a good sign of quality, durability and good design.

Magnetrainer Mini Exercise bike

magnetrainer mini bikeThe MagneTrainer is the “daddy” of the magnetic mini exercise bikes having been around the longest. Since inception it’s basic design has not changed – and it needn’t with the top reviews this bike has got all the way through it’s lifetime.

Featuring a quiet, stable, smooth action, more resistance levels than any other magnetic mini bike and a computer that compares with the top offerings in this class, this bike is hard to beat if you are after a smooth mini bike. Can be used on table top for upper body workouts.

Suitable for all users barring those who want an upright spin bike replacement. The only way other models compete is on price – coming in at circa $150 you could go cheaper with the Sunny but you miss out on the resistance level choice. Justifiably class leader….

Confidence Fitness Motorized Exercise Bike

confidence motorized mini exercise bikeThe confidence motorized exercise bike is a great example of a well designed product aimed at helping users build strength and maintain mobility into old age or through recovery.

The bike has a 70w motor offering max 80rpm. It features 12 speed settings, 5 automatic programs and 1 manual program and features a timer so you can set the length of your workout. All these controls can be set from a hand held remote control so no need for bending over – ideal for restricted mobility. The overall package is well thought out and generally available for less than $100.

Pedals have velcro straps to keep feet in place and a computer measures distance, time, speed and calories.

Lots of positive reviews – great for dementia sufferers, elderly who otherwise wouldn’t get much exercise and users suffering from conditions which can be improve by gentle exercise and strength exercises.

Best Mini Exercise Bike 2017 – Our Pick…

For us the Magnetrainer mini exercise bike would be the pick of the bunch providing we were not in the market for a motorized bike. The Magnetrainer would be our pick because of the levels of customer satisfaction seen in reviews, because of the variety of resistance levels offered compared to other models and overall high levels of build quality. Quiet, stable and smooth – these are the main characteristics you want in use and the magnetrainer ensures this is what you get.