What’s the best pedal exerciser / mini exercise bike?
Arm and Leg Pedal Exercisers – Mini Exercise Bikes – Desk Cycles
Pedal exercisers have become increasingly popular in the last couple of years and are now amongst the most popular exercise machines. Essentially, they are machines which have the workings of an exercise bike without the rest of the frame. So you use it like a recumbent bike, but using your own furniture.
Are time and space a real problem for you? No, this isn’t a Relativity question! But time and space (or lack thereof) do seem to be among the biggest obstacles for people who want to get more exercise but aren’t doing so. Common complaints include:
- “I haven’t got the time to exercise” – if you’re a busy person, sitting on an exercise bike (let alone travelling to a gym to do so) can seem like ‘dead’ time when you’re not able to get anything else done
- “I haven’t got the space in my house/apartment for an exercise bike” – They can take up a fair amount of space. Even the folding ones might not be small enough.
- “They’re too expensive” – You might feel you can’t afford £100 (at the lower end) to spend on something which might end up gathering dust
A possible solution to this quandary is a Pedal Exerciser – or mini exercise bike.
These machines are so versatile they have a host ultra of different names! [The terms are used almost interchangeably but, arguably, there is a slight tendency to use ‘pedal exercisers’ at the cheaper end and ‘mini exercise bikes’ at the dearer end, which how I refer to them as they resemble more closely, the workings of standard exercise bikes].
Pedal exercisers can provide an answer to the problems above because:
- They tend to be cheaper than the full-frame equivalent – at the bottom end of the scale, very cheap indeed
- They obviously take up a lot less space – and are lighter to move around and smaller to store out of the way
- You can use it on the sofa or at a desk – No more ‘dead’ time. You can still work or watch tv with your family but instead of ‘putting your feet up’, you’re getting exercise. You could also place it under a desk to use while working, which is why they’re also sometimes called Desk cycles.
An added feature is that these machines can often be placed on top of a table and used to exercise your arms as well. Hence, yet another name: ‘arm and leg exercisers’.
So within your budget, what’s the best pedal exerciser or mini bike to buy?
Unlike with other exercise machines, the dimensions become less of an issue and you don’t have to worry about the machine’s ‘maximum user weight’, as long as you know which chairs you’ve got that won’t collapse under the strain. (One model quotes a max. user weight but it’s surely pretty meaningless as long as you don’t stand on it).
Exercising at work, if you’re usually chained to a desk, is another popular application of this type of equipment and that is exactly the target audience for the top model we’re looking at here.
Use it with an upright stool and pedal exercisers can be like an upright bike; use it on the sofa and it’s a recumbent bike. Another use for these peddlers is that you can place it on a table and exercise your arms and shoulders by holding the pedals with your hands and ‘pedalling’ with your arms.
So it’s about time we took a look at what they offer, what you get for your money and which one is most suitable for your purposes.
As usual, I’ll look at the best and top selling models in different price ranges.
N.B. At the cheaper end of the range, you will find a lot of machines which are practically identical but sold under different brand names. There may be slight hidden differences in quality or perhaps the after-sales service is better, or maybe it’s just marketing, but I’ve chosen the model to look at with a combination of better value and better review scores.
ARM AND LEG PEDAL EXERCISERS
BASIC PEDAL EXERCISERS < £20
At the absolute basic level, you have a frame with a pair of pedals attached. There is a single knob to adjust the resistance level. And that’s it. No bells or whistles, but at this price you wouldn’t expect any.
BUDGET PEDAL EXERCISERS £20 – £30
The resistance is adjusted the same way but the legs also fold inwards and you get a display which shows:
time duration, calories consumed, cycles and revolutions per minute
Folded: 340 x 370 x 190 mm (13½ x 14½ x 7½-inch). Operating: 480 x 370 x 270 mm (18.8 x 14½ x 10.7-inch). Weight: 2 kg (4.4 lb)
The pedal exerciser above is ok if you want something basic which will fold up small enough to hide away under a coffee table, but you don’t have to pay much more for a machine which looks more substantial. In fact the following machines look a little like the main part of a normal exercise bike minus the seat pillar and handlebar column etc.
LOW MID-BUDGET MINI EXERCISE BIKES £30 – £50
The Multifunction battery-powered LCD Display shows:
- Total Distance
- Calories Burnt
- Scan Functions
Anti-slip rubber pads prevent the bike slipping & sliding during use.
The back of the machine includes a built in carry handle – Ideal for Taking on the Move with You
Dimensions: L: 41cm – W: 34cm – H: 31cm
Boxed weight 6Kg
Popular Accessory – Fitness Equipment Mat
MOTORISED MINI EXERCISE BIKES – £50 – £100
The next jump in price adds a built-in motor to help do some of the work. This can be particularly useful for the elderly or those, for example, recovering from stroke.
- 12 speed settings
- A wired remote control to change settings including speed without having to reach for the machine.
- The built-in digital monitor displays the number of revolutions, calories burned and elapsed time
The motorised Electric Mini Exerciser Bike from Aidapt will help to improve circulation and muscle strength and is ideal for those keen to exercise from the comfort of their own home. Designed to do the work for you, it can be used to exercise your legs from a seated position or lying down, or on a table for arm exercises.
Comfortable pedals which move forwards and backwards are designed to target various muscles.
The Electric Mini Exercise Bike features variable resistance giving a customized workout so you use minimal effort and do not have to push.
With a lightweight, sleek and compact design, the Mini Exercise Bike can easily be stored away when not in use. Minimal assembly required.
HIGHER BUDGET MINI EXERCISE BIKES – £100 – £200
the Desk Cycle is a high quality product with premium components, so, if you can afford it, you may find it well worth the difference,
Like most full-scale exercise bikes, it uses a smooth and quiet patented magnetic resistance providing a smooth pedal motion. It is the same mechanism used in the highly-respected Magne-Trainer.
Comparing the specs to an upright bike: due to DeskCycle’s innovative design, when set on a maximum resistance, can achieve up to 220 Watts of Torque whilst cycling at 120 RPM this is comparable with many upright bikes with an 8 Kg flywheel.
Being the lowest pedal height of any commercial exercise bike at only 24cm, it fits more easily under a desk. The makers claim it works with desks as low as 69cm.
N.B. Bear in mind, though, that usability for you will depend on the height of your desk and the space from the top of your knees. Some people find desk cycles impossible to use as their knees hit the underside of their desk. If using at a desk is your main reason for buying it, check the space first! It is suggested that tall people sit slightly back should the desk and long legs combination impede cycling.
There are 8 levels of resistance ranging from very easy to ‘more than you need’ – up to twice the range of other pedal exercisers is claimed.
The 5 function display includes:
- plus online calorie calculator
A Desk Display Extension Kit is included with this product thereby avoiding strange looks from your colleagues as you poke your head under the desk to see how many calories you used!
The Desk Cycle comes almost complete – you just need to attach the computer display and the pedals with the spanner provided.
As mentioned above, some users find it difficult to use at a desk, while others use it quite successfully like that. Others mention using it with a dining chair or sitting on the sofa (with extra cushions behind their back).
However, it is recommended to use a downwards force when peddling, not a forwards pushing action. At higher tensions, the latter could cause the machine to be pushed away from you a little. Having said that, if you are concerned about using it with a wheeled office chair, a strap is provided with the Desk Cycle to help alleviate such problems.
Overall comments are extremely positive with one user summing it up:
“If you’re serious about peddling your way to fitness and are going to use one of these regularly then you need this type which has magnetic resistance – not a screw method which just wears out. The extra expense in getting a proper magnetic cycle is absolutely worth it.”
Dimensions: 45cm Wide x 60cm Deep x 27cm High
Boxed-product Weight: 11 Kg
Conclusion – best mini exercise bike to buy?
So many of us (including me) spend far too much time sitting. And it’s now known that it’s not just being overweight and unfit which can shorten our lives, but the amount of time we spend passively sitting is a factor in itself. In fact, if you’re able, there shouldn’t be an hour that goes by (other than when sleeping, of course) when you don’t stand up and move around a little. (I really like the feature on my Apple watch that tells me to stand up!)
As far as equipment goes, it’s really one of those where you get what you pay for. If you don’t want to spend much and just need something to help keep your legs moving a little when they wouldn’t otherwise be doing so, then you can get something for very little indeed. It might even be worth buying a cheap one as a kind of trial run to see if you can get along with the concept, then upgrading to a better one later and donating the first one to a friend.
The more serious you are about exercising while seated, and the more you’re prepared to spend, the better a pedal exerciser you can get and, for those who have spent a bit more, they seem to think it’s worth it.
But if you look at standard recumbent exercise bikes on Amazon you’ll see that they pretty much start at the price of the best one here, the Desk Cycle, so it’s still a pretty good deal.
Whatever you choose, do make an effort to use it regularly.