Exercise Bikes

Written by Sierra Rein
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Exercise bikes are bicycles utilized for fitness purposes instead of travel. The first exercise bikes were probably made by taking ordinary bicycles, removing the front wheels, and attaching the rear belts or gears to flywheels. However, during the late 1950s and early 1960s, the concept behind stationary pieces of exercise equipment that can simulate the experience of riding a bicycle without having to actually be outdoors caught on.

The simplest types of exercise bikes feature fully adjustable handlebars and seat rests. The user mounts the bike as though he was about to head onto the road and begins pedaling as normal. If he wants to challenge his heart and create a cardiovascular workout, he can pedal as fast as he can for as long a period as he wishes. On the other hand, if he wants to simulate a hill and gain strength in his thighs or buttocks, he has the ability to turn a resistance knob to make pedaling harder and more difficult to perform.

Exercise bikes have a number of varying design methods to increase or decrease the resistance (and intensity) that the pedals offer. The first bikes used integrated fans that created a high level of air resistance as long as the cyclist kept the pedals going. Later, friction mechanisms like leather and rubber brake pads were designed like regular bicycle pads to physically create varying degrees of resistance. The most advanced type of resistance mechanisms utilize magnets that are charged with equal forces to the metal flywheels; the closer the magnets get to the wheel, the more pedaling force it takes to push the wheel between the magnets.

Making the Ride More Comfortable

For years, bike riders would complain of upper and lower back aches, especially if they were riding their bicycles for long stretches at a time. In the 1990s, manufacturers of exercise machines got the bright idea to dust off an old, 100-year-old bike model called the "recumbent" and design exercise bikes that allowed the rider to lean back in a comfortable seat. The legs are in front of the rider's torso rather than directly below it (as in regular "upright" exercise bikes). Recumbent bikes are extremely popular today because they allow the back to be fully relaxed, even while the lower body is in the middle of a strenuous workout.

Exercise Bikes Go Digital

In 1968, the first computerized exercise bike, the Lifecycle, was introduced and became a huge phenomenon in health clubs and the personal homes of Olympic athletes, movie stars and fitness personalities. Since then, many fitness cycles have been fitted with a number of technologically advanced computer options, including performance analysis sensors and heart rate monitors. Unlike the spinning bikes, however, these machines need to be plugged into a wall socket and usually demand a lot of power to run.

Although most young children are too small to fit on a full-sized exercise bike, no one can truly be considered "too old" to use one of these machines. Many manufacturers have created fitness machines that are perfect for those who think themselves too frail or weak to get on a regular bike. Some of these bikes are designed to have pedals and seat cushions set low to the ground, making them easy to mount or dismount from. Others are motorized in order to help those with limited strength and mobility regain muscle control and power.

Fight Boredom with Pre-Programmed Exercises

It is important to vary your workouts throughout the week to stimulate and strengthen all the muscle groups of the body and to prevent boredom. Those who continue to work the same program over and over throughout the week are in danger of finding themselves on an exercise plateau. They can also experience unnecessary amounts of muscle fatigue. Many exercise bikes contain a large variety of workout programs to keep the lower body continuously challenged. However, it is up to you to look for upper body workout options, such as free weights, to create a more balanced approach to fitness.

Lately, some gyms have even taken the concept behind "exercise fun" and have integrated exercise bikes into a game. Adapted video game consoles are often hooked up to a stationary exercise bike and used in conjunction with a projected digitized cyclist. As the virtual racer goes through a pre-programmed route, the real rider must work hard to keep up with other riders or virtual competitors. These games are incredibly effective motivational tools, but are often too expensive to install for many people.

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