Spin bikes are best for riders who are into intense workouts with higher muscle activation. But if you’re aiming for general health benefits through relaxed cycling, then stationary bikes are for you.

Keep reading to understand these differences further and decide which bike type should be in your home gym.

Spin Bike vs Stationary Bike: What’s the Difference?

There are slight differences between a spin bike and a stationary bike in terms of their construction and design.

Spin Bike

For instance, spin bikes or indoor cycles have an exposed flywheel. Their flywheels work with rubber pads or magnets to adjust resistance. Also, these models usually do not have a console.

Stationary Bike

On the other hand, stationary bikes have flywheels covered with a plastic shroud. They also come with consoles and built-in workout programs. These typically use direct contact resistance, too. Some examples of this bike type are upright and recumbent bikes.

Due to this construction difference, users get a different workout experience when using either machine.

Below is a table summarising workout features that make spin and stationary bikes unique. Scroll down further for a more in-depth comparison.

Fitness goalBest for intense workouts and athletic performance trainingBest for cardio fitness, muscle building and weight management
Target musclesUpper and lower-body muscles: core, arms, shoulders and back; quads, hamstrings, calves and glutesLower-body muscles: quads, hamstrings, calves and glutes
Caloric burnHighModerate
ResistanceFriction or magneticDirect or electric
Workout experienceSimilar to outdoor cyclingMore comfortable upright cycling
Injury riskModerate (especially when standing up while cycling)Low

Fitness Goal

Spin bikes are ideal if you’re a cycling athlete trying to improve your sports performance. This bike type allows you to simulate an outdoor cycling position, with your arms angled low and your upper body hunched over.

As it works with friction resistance, spin cycling workouts tend to be more intense. Also, you can stand at higher levels so you can pedal harder. It doesn’t mean that spin bikes are only for experienced cyclists. Regular users are welcome to ride it to boost their fitness capacity.

However, a stationary bike is better if you prefer less intense workouts. This type is perfect for all-around health improvement, including cardio fitness, muscle building and weight management. They are also perfect for people with movement restrictions or recovering from an injury.

A great example to compare is in this article on NordicTrack’s S22i Studio Bike and ProForm’s 8.0 Exercise Bike. The S22i is a spin bike type while the 8.0 bike is an upright stationary bike.

Target Muscles

Exercise bikes primarily work the leg muscles. But some allow full-body workouts, like air bikes.

This muscle-building effect depends on the type and construction of your indoor bike. For example, spin and stationary bikes can work your quads, hamstrings, calves and glutes. However, spin bikes allow you to stand while cycling.

This cycling form puts more load on your lower body, forcing you to work your core, arms, shoulders and back. Standing while spin cycling lets you experience total-body workout sessions.

Also, with more muscles involved in the exercise, caloric burn increases, too.

Spin Cycling while Standing Up

Caloric Burn

According to Harvard Health Publishing, you can burn 210 to 294 calories every 30 minutes of moderate stationary bicycling, depending on your body weight.

You can even burn more when you shift to a vigorous pace. Doing intense workouts for a higher caloric burn is easier to achieve when using spin bikes. That’s because spin bikes have heavier flywheels.

Compared with stationary bikes, spin ones take more physical force to keep their flywheels going. In turn, you need more energy to complete each cycle. In addition, you can shift from a seated to a standing position while on a spin bike. This form lets you work your leg muscles more and target your upper body.

Involving more muscles during workouts increases your oxygen needs and energy expenditure. And that means more efficient caloric burn every session. Note that both spin and stationary bikes have fixed handlebars. However, you can always incorporate arm exercises while on either bike type.

You can also do interval training on stationary bikes to boost caloric burn.


Another point of difference between spin bikes and stationary bikes is their technique to generate tension. Spin bikes, for example, can be friction or magnetic-based. Friction-based models use felt pads to create resistance.

With this mechanism, tension levels are infinite and continuously adjustable. It’s excellent for riders into progressive training.

However, over time, felt pads can wear out and require replacement. Also, they have no exact resistance levels, making them difficult to use with instructor-led workout sessions.

On the other hand, magnetic spin bikes have precise resistance levels. Twisting their dial or knob lets you move the magnet close or away from the flywheel to adjust the tension.

It is a quieter spin bike, too, which is ideal for shared spaces and apartments. The only problem with magnetic resistance is that users may have difficulty finding the resistance that matches their fitness capacity. Some seasoned riders also find fixed resistance too limiting.

Stationary bikes use direct contact resistance, which works like friction-based bikes. These typically have low to high resistance levels, allowing you to have the ideal tension for your preferred cycling exercise.

Woman on a Stationary Bike

Workout Experience

Stationary bikes encourage a more upright riding position, which most people find more comfortable. If you prefer the feel of outdoor cycling, go for a spinning bike instead.

This bike type has a lower handlebar, making you lean forward, like road cycling. It also has a more adjustable bike seat height and handlebars for a customised workout routine.

Also, while rare, you can get spin bikes with a chain-drive mechanism for a more authentic outdoor cycling experience.

Injury Risk

Riding either spin or stationary bikes is easy if you’ve ridden an outdoor bike. The body positioning in stationary bikes may feel slightly different but it should not cause any workout discomfort.

Riders even agree that the large and padded seats of stationary bikes are more comfortable than the narrow spin bike saddles.

Indoor spin bikes are also good as their flywheels keep the bike in motion. And that means less impact on your joints. Injury risk while cycling increases when you start standing while pedalling, though. Hovering while cycling on a spin bike may also cause back pain to some.

Generally, exercising while sitting down has a low injury risk. Also, always observe proper form, whichever bike type you use.

Elderly Woman on a Stationary Bike

Conclusion: Which Exercise Bike is Better?

Understanding the differences between spin and stationary bikes can help you choose which fitness equipment is best for you. Specifically, go for a spinning bike if you prefer intense workouts to boost cardiovascular fitness and muscle development.

However, if you’re a beginner looking for simple exercise machines, consider getting a stationary bike.

The best advice I can give is to shop in-store and try a few bike models. Doing this should help you gauge which one is better. Also, read exercise bike reviews or buying guides. Study and compare their features, then match them with your fitness level, preferences and budget.

1. Which is better for weight loss: air bike or spin bike?

Both exercise bike types are ideal for weight loss. But the choice between the two depends on what works best for you. Air bikes are for you if you prefer to lose weight through full-body workouts and short-interval training. For extended and quieter workout sessions, consider using a spin bike.

2. Which exercise bike is best for seniors?

Recumbent exercise bikes are best for senior riders. On top of its health benefits, recumbent cycling does not strain the ankles, knees and hips. These low-impact bikes allow more comfortable workouts, allowing the elderly to burn calories and stay active.