This guide provides a bike trainer vs stationary bike comparison. It will cover what each bike is good at, as well as the areas they can be improved. Finally, this guide compares one of the most popular stationary bikes to a top of the line indoor smart trainer.
When you’ve reached the end you will know whether a bike trainer or stationary bike is best for you. There is a lot that gets covered, and there are a lot of different options available in both bike forms. If you think something is missing please leave a comment below.
Bike Trainer vs Stationary Bike: Which Is Better?
To settle the bike trainer vs stationary bike debate we first have to look at what each bike is made for. Indoor bike trainers come in basic and smart trainer options. A smart trainer will have controllable resistance, while a basic trainer will have manual resistance. Controllable resistance means whatever workout program you are doing through your connected third party apps, it will automatically set the resistance throughout the workout.
Stationary bikes come in a basic and smart form too. A basic stationary bike will simply be the bike with a dial or lever to adjust resistance manually as you ride. A smart stationary bike will be interactive. It will usually have a screen and you will ‘ride along’ with a trainer along a scenic route.
So which is better? The answer depends on why you ride. If you race bikes or are a cycling enthusiast, you will prefer an indoor smart trainer. If you are looking for a bike and have a primary goal of completing cardio heavy workouts then a stationary bike is great. To simplify, fitness enthusiasts get a stationary bike and cycling enthusiasts get an indoor bike trainer. If cost is a factor, many direct drive smart trainers can be found for under $1,000. A stationary bike with smart features costs much more.
What Is The Best Exercise Bike?
If you get your exercise on an indoor smart trainer the best experience I’ve had has come on my Wahoo KICKR. If you want to know more about indoor bike trainer setups ready this Wahoo Ecosystem Review. It’s the most realistic indoor cycling experience on the market.
The best stationary exercise bike is one that makes riding it fun. If riding it isn’t fun, you won’t use it and it will turn into a coat hanger. For me, the more realistic my riding experience is the more fun it is. One of the most popular stationary bikes on the market right now is the Peloton Bike.
Peloton vs Bike Trainer
If you aren’t familiar with the Peloton Bike, they offer two bike options. The Peloton Bike+ and the Peloton Bike which come with price points of $2,495 and $1,495, respectively. Both bikes have screen sizes in excess of 21″ and built in speakers. The Bike+ option has controllable resistance similar to a smart bike trainer. Bike+ also comes with a rotating screen.
The Wahoo Ecosystem has a total price tag in excess of $2,000, potentially quite a bit more because you need a bike to use with it. When it comes to price, the Peloton and indoor smart trainer setup are similar in cost. When paired with the Zwift app you get the most realistic cycling experience possible.
Both bikes provide an incredibly realistic and fun cycling experience. I like to race Cat 5 in the summer and prefer to train in the offseason on my own bike. When I move it from my trainer back to the road the feel is identical.
Meanwhile, the Peloton has a different geometry than my Trek Domane SLR 7. The ride is smooth, and the resistance adjustment is like butter. It feels strange compared to the fast and almost clunky resistance change from changing gears. When I am done racing and change to fitness goals over speed a Peloton Bike+ will be at the top of my wish list.
Bike Trainer vs Stationary Bike: Which Should You Buy?
In conclusion, the bike trainer vs stationary bike debate is not worth having because they are two completely different tools. For fitness buffs a stationary bike capable of displaying videos with trainers and beautiful scenery will keep you motivated. With speakers included you can even play music adding to your exercise experience.
For cyclists that want to simulate riding their bike outdoors, go with an indoor trainer. It provides the most realistic feel. Pair it with Zwift for the ultimate indoor cycling experience.
Both bikes are tools to improve or maintain fitness levels, but they serve two completely different markets.