Stationary bikes are among the best and most popular holiday gifts of 2020. Ever since the coronavirus pandemic and COVID-19, sales of models from Peloton, Echelon, Nordic Track, Schwinn, Bowflex, Technogym and many more have been through the roof. Gyms, health clubs and fitness chains remain closed in many places, and in some spots they are closing yet again in the current wave of infection. The work from home (WFH) and stay at home lifestyle has made many people more aware of the advantages and conveniences of fitness gear in their home, with no commute, no strangers and an easy way to squeeze in a workout at lunch, before or after work, without going anywhere.
If you think it is too early to be holiday shopping for a bike, you are wrong, and delay may leave you empty handed. Industry leader Peloton is currently running 10 weeks on delivery for its hot new Peloton Bike+ model, though you can still get the original Peloton Bike faster or wrap a gift certificate for the new model and expect delivery around late January. In any case, there are plenty of great options at many different price points. There are basically two styles of stationary bikes, those that have followed the popular model invented by Peloton and offer a subscription to “live” and recorded classes, like being in an indoor cycling studio but at home, along with lots of other kinds of instructor led class workouts, and bikes aimed more at do it yourself rides, for those who prefer to just pedal to TV shows or read or do their own heartrate zone based workouts. I’ve rounded up the best examples of each kind for your holiday gift shopping.
Need a Holiday Gift for a Golfer? Check out the Best 2020 Golf Gear options here.
Peloton Bike & Bike+: Peloton revolutionized home fitness with its virtual cycling class participation model, which has since been expanded to over 10,000 classes (and growing daily) in nearly a dozen indoor and outdoor fitness disciplines including Bike Bootcamp (mixing cycling and strength training), yoga, strength training, indoor and outdoor running, and many more. While other manufacturers have replicated the hardware, and there are even more advanced bikes out there, Peloton is still far in the lead when it comes to the quality, variety and sheer quantity of class offerings. I’ve had a Peloton bike for years and love it – the instructors are great, the little bells and whistles like being able to search by playlists or even specific musicians is great, and innovations just keep coming. If having an endless choice of great classes is important, you cannot beat Peloton.
The new Bike+ ($2,495) went on sale in September and is currently back ordered (10 weeks). It adds a 23.8” rotating (180 degrees left and right) HD touchscreen so users can easily transition between cycling classes and floor-based workouts with the same display, and was designed to facilitate total body workouts and complement an indoor cycling class with strength, yoga, stretching and meditation classes. The Bike+ is ideal for someone looking for an all-in-one home gym experience in a single unit. It also features a high-fidelity four-speaker sound system and pairs with an Apple Watch with just a tap. Finally, the Bike+ adds Auto-Follow, an optional touch-free software program that automatically scales your resistance based on Target Metrics. Throughout the classes, the digitally-controlled resistance remembers where you fall within the Target Metrics and automatically adjusts based on instructor guidance, allowing you to fully immerse yourself in the class. The original Peloton Bike dropped in price to $1,895, and still offers a great cycling workout, while allowing you to do all the other classes off the bike with your own tablet.
Technogym Bike Personal: The Ferrari of fitness, Italy’s Technogym is what you find in the gyms at luxury hotels and high-end health clubs, beautifully designed, ergonomic and impeccably manufactured. This is arguably the best made workout gear brand on the planet, and the top tier Bike Personal ($11,650) is the luxury pick for this holiday season, part art, all workout. Gorgeous and efficient, with the smallest footprint of any high-end stationary bike, this is a home accessory that fits in any room. But it is also the culmination of three decades of ergonomic research, designed to pedal just like a real road bike, with the same distance between the pedals, narrower than most indoor models, making this a top choice for avid cyclists. Controls are perfectly designed and located for easy use, heartrate sensors are built right into the handlebars, it offers wireless charging for you handheld devices while you ride, the crystal clear monitor with Technogym Live offers one on one training sessions, high intensity interval training (HIIT) classes, customized goal oriented training, as well as internet access for social media, Netflix and whatever else you want to watch. Pairs with both Apple and Samsung Galaxy smartwatches through the mywellness app.
Technogym Skillbike: A signature of the luxury Technogym lineup is replicating the feel of real outdoor cycling inside, and there is no better example than the pricy but far less expensive (then the Bike Personal above) Skillbike ($4,870). It is the only stationary bike on the market with an actual gear shifting mechanism to bring the familiar feel of road riding home. Climbing is especially realistic on the Skillbike, where just like the road, you can maintain constant cadence under inclines by changing gears (while the monitor displays gear ratios), instead of merely grinding through more resistance and pretending it is a hill. The triangle of the frame is also designed to replicate road bike geometry and biomechanics, it has the same narrow pedal span as the Bike Personal, while the uniquely versatile handlebars let you adopt three distinct postures: those of road riding, mountain biking and time trials or triathlon aero position. This is the bike for avid cyclists who want to train in winter, and it gives you all the feedback stats you need for a complex training routine, even monitoring the circularity and symmetry of your pedaling stroke for maximum efficiency, reporting the torque if each leg in real time on each pedal revolution. It offers preset route rides and other workout programs. A built in 3-minute output test lets you precisely find your threshold power level and then set training goals off of that. Connectivity with Garmin, Strava and Zwift lest you try your hand at famous rides all over the world, from the Tour de France and Giro d’Italia, all from the comfort of your home.
Schwinn IC4: At the opposite end of the price spectrum, the Schwinn IC4 has been extremely popular lately because it is the best value proposition in stationary bike under a thousand dollars – including free shipping ($899). The bike itself is a high-quality model in the traditional style of an indoor cycling studio bike, and in fact, many gyms use this model. The heavy-duty frame has a 10-year warranty and the mechanical parts and electronics three, more than most competitors and indicative of the quality. But the big innovation here is skipping a proprietary subscription program and instead of trying to reinvent the wheel, the full color LCD monitor is designed to be compatible with both Zwift and the Peloton app. Basically you can use this just like a Peloton bike for less than half the price, plus the Peloton app subscription is just $13 a month while the full membership for the Bike and Bike+ is $39, a difference of over $300 annually. The IC4 comes with all the bells and whistles, including 100 levels of precise digitally displayed resistance, under the seat dumbbells are included, dual water bottle holders, even a Bluetooth heartrate armband sensor. The display gives you all the info you need to use Peloton or Zwift including resistance, heartrate and cadence. The dual sided pedals have SPD clip in one side and cages on the other for any type of footwear including cycling shoes. You can also opt to subscribe to the Explore The World app ($80 annual fee) from Bowflex and Schwinn, for virtual rides down real roads (and runs, with 5 and 10Ks and marathons around the world). If you have budgetary gift constraints, you can’t get more bang for your buck then this fully loaded, ready to go machine.
Stryde: Of all the Peloton competitors that have popped, up, Stryde has the most unique and compellingly different approach, with two ways to ride. The integrated 22-inch HD tablet runs on a the Android system and comes with preinstalled Stryde app and a browser so you can also skip classes and watch streaming video via Netflix, Prime, Hulu, Disney Plus or other services, a really nice feature lacking on the Peloton. For classes, instead of hiring instructors and trying to catch up on self-generated content, Stryde partnered with five well known, highly acclaimed existing indoor cycling studios around the country to tap into expert content – High Ride Cycle in Denver, CO; Prime Cycle in Hoboken, NJ; Vibe Ride in Atlanta, GA & Detroit, MI; Red Bike, Miami, FL; and City Cycle in Seattle, WA. Not only do you get first rate instructors, but each studio has its own focus – for example, High Ride has signature high intensity cycling/strength training combos while Prime does metrics-based rides of 20, 30, 45 and 60 minutes. The bike itself ($1550) is a typical indoor style similar to the Peloton or Schwinn design, but notably lacks bottle holders and does not come with the dumbbells, though it has the under-seat racks. Ant+ and Bluetooth allow you to add your own heartrate monitor.
Bowflex VeloCore: Released less than three months ago, this may be the most unique product offering of 2020 – the first indoor exercise bike that leans. They mean this very seriously, as the entire bike is mounted within a second external frame so that it poivoit side to side and lets you corner like you would on a real bike outside. A super simple one push knob just beyond the resistance knob lets you lock and unlock this function so you can secure it as a regular, truly stationary bike. With the proprietary JRNY Experience subscription you can ride real road routes from around the world for a first-person perspective, ripping down hairpin turns in the Alps while leaning side to side. For avid cyclists and adrenaline junkies, there is nothing else like this. The VeloCore also has 100 levels of resistance, includes a Bluetooth heartrate armband, and comes with everything you need, including dumbbells and cupholders. In addition to the cool twisty road rides, the JRNY membership features adaptive workouts that customize themselves to your fitness level and challenge you more as you progress, as well as virtual coaching and (not live) trainer led classes. Finally, like Stryde, the tablet lets you stream Netflix et al for more relaxed riding and you can even use it to enjoy a Peloton or Zwift digital subscription. The VeloCore comes in two options, the only difference being the size of the HD touchscreen display, with a 16-inch console ($1699) or larger 22-inch version ($2199).
Elite Tuo Trainer: Here’s a totally different approach to indoor cycling – take your existing road, mountain or gravel bike and use it with an indoor trainer. This is by far the cheapest way to get an in-home workout (assuming you have a bike) yet for serious cyclists, it may also be the best. You get the perfect fit and familiarity of your own bike, along with mountains of training data. Italy’s Elite is the premier maker of high-quality indoor trainers and the fancier models involve removing your rear wheel and mounting the bike on units with their own gear cassette, which is great of you plan to set it up and leave it all winter. If you are a cycling geek check out the Direto XR or Suito, but for an easy, inexpensive and turnkey gift for everybody else, I like the Tuo. It is very compact, takes up little space and is both simple and elegant. It’s a wheel-on trainer so you don’t have to do any disassembly, just drop your rear wheel in the slot, tighten the clamp on your hub and you are off to the races. It’s so fast you can put the trainer (folding) and bike away between rides if you have urban space constraints. Even in summer cycling season, you can quickly set it up when rainy weather hits. It’s also high tech, and thanks to an elastogel roller, much quitter than most trainers, while also reducing wear on your tires. It was designed to accept bigger chain stays and the current rage, thru-axles, found on most mountain and road bikes with disc brakes. It simulates grades up to 10%, is interactive and using Ant+ or Bluetooth with the app, you can adjust resistance on the fly, collect and store data and metrics, and it works with any device, app and system, iOS, Android, OSX and Windows. It measures power output, speed and cadence, covering everyone from those who want to watch TV and pedal to those data lovers training for an Ironman, and does all of that for just $500.
Technogym Artis Recline: Have you ever wondered why almost all the popular stationary bikes for home use look the same, yet when you go to the gym many users prefer the recumbent models? Recumbent styles are easier on the lower back for anyone with problems in this area, and while cycling in general is low impact, these put even less strain on your joints, popular with arthritis sufferers. Finally, the larger seat is more comfortable and better for those who just can’t get used to a bike seat, which many find uncomfortable. On the other hand, upright models burn more calories and engage more different muscles, and also occupy far less floor space. If a recumbent is for you, the Technogym is the Mona Lisa of the genre, and the Artis Recline ($8450) is especially designed for those who are heavier or have mobility issues. It is very accessible, and features the largest walk through space in the industry, plus a highly adjustable backrest, is easy to get on and off, has seat mounted controls for resistance so you don’t have to lean forward, has integrated reading racks and water bottle holders, wireless device charging, and is completely made to sit back, relax, pedal and either choose workouts or fitness routines or watch streaming television on the included full HD screen. It is smartwatch compatible (Apple or Samsung) and the built-in workout options include virtual outdoor road ride routes, goal driven workouts (time, calories or distance), goal oriented routines (weight loss, stamina, leg strength), heart rate driven programs, themed workouts (hill climbs, cross training, etc.) and numerous built in fitness tests (fitness, Borg 15, Air Force and navy fitness standards, etc.).
Nordic Track Commercial VR 21 Recumbent: Want a recumbent bike without spending north of eight grand? You can’t get more bang for the buck than the VR21 from Nordic Track, a longstanding home fitness equipment maker that recently updated its full line to next generation digital with monitors and extensive programming (I have a Nordic Track elliptical with all these features and love it). For less than a thousand dollars ($999) the VR 21 includes backlit display, speakers, 25 digital resistance levels, a heart rate monitor in the handle, integrated tablet holder, water bottle holder, and easily adjustable seat with lumbar support and a built in workout fan, a really nice and unusual feature for when things heat up (also on my elliptical and I use it every workout). There are 32 built in workouts, and it is ready for Nordic Track’s subscription product, iFit, which offers interactive personal taring at home, an extensive mix of classes and trainer led virtual rides through real like cities, countryside and various settings around the globe. iFit also includes a variety of additional off the bike workout modes, such as yoga, cross training and strength training.