Choosing A Great Bicycle for Exercise & Fitness
Cycling is one of the best forms of exercise ever devised. If you ask any of my friends or family, they'll tell you how often I rave about this form of fitness.
It's not only an excellent cardiovascular workout, it develops coordination, helps with your lower body muscle development, and most important of all, it's a blast. The best bicycles for exercise and fitness will push a rider's limitations and provide a fun, fast and effective outlet.
Cycling has always been somewhat popular as a workout. Go to any gym and you'll see people crowded onto spin bikes watching TV as they exercise.
Personally I find that authentic outdoor cycling is a much better alternative, since it's more fun and (once you have a bike) it's free. Real cycling will provide a dynamic form of fitness that a stationary bike just can't match.
With this article, I'm hoping to explain a bit more about cycling as a form of exercise. We'll talk about the best bikes for fitness and we'll cover what not to look for. After that, we will take a close look at four great recommendations I have that can be found.
These are by no means the only options, just a few ideas to get the gears turning (pun intended). Let's get started and check out a few of the best types of bicycles for exercise.
Finding a Great Bicycle for Exercise: What To Look For
If you're looking for a hard and definitive answer to this question, I'm not sure I can give it. However, I will do my best. Here are a few things you might want to pay attention to as you're looking for the best bicycle for fitness and working out.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR:
The primary objective when you're looking for the best bicycle for exercise is to choose a bike that you know you'll ride. There's no point in investing money in a bike that will just collect dust. It's a good idea to analyze your riding style and where you prefer riding.
The easiest distinction to make is whether you prefer to ride on the road, or on trails. If you're a road rider, chances are you'll want something that's light, fast, aggressive and has somewhat thin tires. Lots of gears can help too. If you're more of a trails rider, you'll want something with a more generous suspension, wider and thicker tires, and probably a more upright riding position. More details on this in a moment.
Durability is a factor too. I'm not a bike snob and there are good deals out there, but one should be careful when buying low end (department store) bicycles. They just aren't built to withstand a lot of use and poor quality components will hinder your enjoyment.
WHAT NOT TO LOOK FOR:
OK, for this section I'm allowed to be a bit more explicit. There are certain models that I don't consider very good for a serious workout. Comfort and cruiser bicycles are not high up on my list. They're both meant more for the casual rider and aren't built for a hard ride.
Another one that I'd avoid is the fixed gear or single speed bicycle. If you really want the best type of bicycle for exercise you'll want a wide range of gears and options, since a good workout will take you over a wide range of terrain. A single speed can be quite a workout going uphill, but it's not nearly as practical.
The best bicycles for exercise will be fun, fast, light, well made and have a versatile riding quality. I'd recommend you start by looking at cyclocross bikes,road bikes, touring bicycles or suspension mountain bikes if you're into trails.
Diamondback Haanjo Metro: A good bicycle for fitness & fun
The Haanjo is styled after a type of bicycle racing that's just about as much fun as a person can have on two wheels: cyclocross.
Cyclocross riding is one of the best forms of exercise in the world, and the Haanjo Metro is one of the best bicycle choices for exercise that a person can find, even if you don't use it to race.
Unlike its CX brethren, the Metro is more suited to an urban style of riding. The tires are a bit less knobby and the geometry is a bit more upright. However, you still get all the control you could want, and a great wheelset.
This bike is one of the best bikes for fitness and exercise regardless of how you like to ride. With a lightweight yet strong 6061 aluminum frame, moderate Kenda tires on Equation CX aluminum rims, an upright riding position and great clearance, it's ideal for a mixture of pavement, light trails and grass riding.
It comes with good quality components, including an FSA crankset and a Shimano Acera shifter and derailleur. You've got 9 speeds to play with, which gives you a wide range of options. It has Tektro mechanical disc brakes front and rear. With sealed everything it's ready for whatever you want to throw at it.
The Haanjo Metro is a blast, perfect for commuting, leisure or fitness training.
If you relish a challenge, I recommend getting into cyclocross racing, it's a ton of fun!
Giordano Libero: Great road bicycle for working out or commuting
The Libero is a bicycle I've reviewed before, and I wanted to include it here as an example of a super inexpensive way to get into road cycling.
It's one of the best bicycles for exercise if you love high speed riding and pushing your limitations, but you don't have a lot to spend.
The Libero is nice and lightweight with a 6061 aluminum alloy frame and steel fork. It features a Shimano 2300 drivetrain and STI shifters offering 16 speeds of gearing range. The brakes are unbranded alloy side pull as found on most road bikes of this type. The rims are Vitesse alloy deep V and they're strong yet light.
The overall impression you get when riding is that of agility; it is quick and light, easy to turn and a breeze to accelerate. It's among the best bicycles for fitness because it's so enjoyable to ride, you just won't want to stop pedalling.
Available in a range of sizes and in a step-through frame if you prefer it.
Diamondback Overdrive: A sturdy mountain bicycle, ideal for fitness on trails
I'm listing another Diamondback here because I wanted to showcase a great quality yet affordable bike model that works well for anyone who's more into trails riding for their workouts.
Unless you're doing hardcore downhill riding, you probably don't need a crazy expensive mountain bike; look for something that's light yet strong and has good components.
The Diamondback Overdrive is one of the best bicycles for exercise if you're a trails rider. The key with this bike is the 27 inch wheels. Bigger wheels mean better clearance and more ability to handle roots and obstructions along the way.
The frame is a 6061 aluminum alloy with oversized tubing. The front fork has a spring suspension with 100mm of travel, but it's a hardtail and doesn't have a rear shock. (That makes your ride less "squishy", which I prefer.)
The brakes are by ProMax and they're disc brakes, which stop really well. If you expect to ride in the mud pretty often, you'll want disc brakes like this, as their performance won't be affected by muck.
With massive tires and tons of clearance, 21 speeds and Shimano Acera shifters and derailleurs, this bike is built to take you far, and it's super affordable for what you get. It's definitely one of the better mountain bicycles for exercise.
KMX Viper: A recumbent bicycle for exercising in comfort
I'm not sure if you've considered a recumbent bicycle before, but they're well worth your time to take a look at. This particular model is a three wheeled recumbent bicycle by KMX, and it's called the Viper.
Recumbent bikes are a lot of fun to ride and they tend to be easier to pedal because of the riding position and mechanical advantage of your legs in a recumbent stance. They're among the best bicycles for exercise on the market, and the KMX is actually quite affordable.
The KMX Viper is an agile little beast that has a great seating position. It has a super comfortable, chair-like seat that offers lumbar support. They make use of a dual derailleur system which gives you 24 speeds. More than enough to keep up with regular bikes.
It's a great choice for anyone who is looking for the best bicycle for exercise but suffers from back issues, since the high and supportive seat reduces strain. I also highly recommend it for those who weigh a bit more. It's just easier on all your joints.
Plus it's like a human powered go cart. You'll love the sensation, trust me.
It's a bit different from a conventional bike in steering, but once you get used to it you'll never go back! The Viper is a recumbent bike that's great for exercising and fitness training.
Questions about these or other bike types?
Sally on July 01, 2020:
I believe I’m interested in a adult multi speed 3 wheel bike but would like recommendations. I’m 80 +, can’t afford any more falls & want to get outside & do things.
SweetPedals on January 03, 2019:
Nice list of qualities and characteristics to look for, thanks. And as a family man on a budget and also a daily commuter I do actually ride department store bikes for their affordability. I have ridden high quality bikes, and really do like them(!).
That said, I am very willing to maintain them and annually critique the bottom brackets and drivetrain, etc. But yes with a wife’s discount at Target, some very comfortable models to chose from, and my willingness to keep them up... I literally have zero problems and commute 10+ miles daily. Will save up for a garage-queen for group events but exercise is my commute :)
Maria on July 04, 2015:
I will say that you're idea of affordable isn't the same as mine. The last bike you showed as affordable was $2,000. The other was $500+. I feel that affordable is around $200. Perhaps I'm being naive, but surely there has to be a decent hybrid bike that falls into that range. With a family of four, I have to be more practical...
Tony Capon from Upminster, Essex, United Kingdom on July 17, 2013:
Actually...............I do agree with you! Tony
Bill (author) from Canada on July 14, 2013:
Thanks for the comment and suggestion of doing a summary, I probably will do so when I get the chance!
Truthfully, I love riding a fixed gear bike for exercise, it's an awesome challenge, especially on the hills. But it's certainly not for everyone, and as such I didn't want to recommend it as a 'crowd pleaser'. If you like a challenge, or enjoy the velodrome, track or fixed is a great way to work up a sweat too!
Tony Capon from Upminster, Essex, United Kingdom on July 14, 2013:
Hello Bicyclebill, I'm with you on your opening gambit (worth repeating as a summary) that the best bike is the one that actually gets ridden. After years of trying to get my wife to ride a descent bike, I finally gave up! But not completely, her sit up and beg-shopper now boasts a pair of hand built wheels on good hubs and a Woman's specific saddle!
William, O William, how you break my heart with you comments on "Fixed-Wheeled" bikes. Tony