Purchasing a new exercise bike requires some technical decisions. You may start out simply wanting to exercise at home, but the process of comparing indoor bikes and analyzing features will show you that there are multiple ways to ride a bike at home. How you intend to ride your bike should guide your buying decision, and the weight of the bike’s flywheel is an important consideration.
The weight of your flywheel will determine how smooth your bike feels as you ride. Some bikes are great for fast pedaling sessions while others are smooth and quiet as you glide through a longer ride at a more restrained speed. Keep reading to learn what flywheels are, why their weight matters, and what you should look for when selecting a new exercise bike.
What are Flywheels?
Flywheels are lightweight wheels attached to exercise bikes by a rotating shaft. They’re designed to turn as your feet push the pedals, generating and transferring power from your moving feet to all operational components of the bike.
Just as the wheels on an outdoor bike spin around continuously to move the bike forward, the flywheel must turn over repeatedly to keep an indoor bike spinning. Your legs power the flywheel, and that’s one of the main reasons flywheel weight matters. Let’s take a closer look at that issue.
Why Does the Weight of a Flywheel Matter?
Your legs must push against the bike pedals to kick the flywheel into motion. The heavier the flywheel, the more force you must apply to get it moving. Lightweight flywheels are easier to put in motion, meaning you won’t have to push as hard or have as much leg strength to get them spinning. Heavier wheels take more effort and strength to get into motion.
That may sound like heavier flywheels are more work, but they’re also smoother and more even once they’re in motion. They build momentum as you pedal. Exercise bikes with heavier flywheels will feel smoother and more stable as you pedal, even though you put out more effort to get them started.
Lighter weight flywheels often feel shakier and less stable as you pedal, but they’re designed for speed. You can put your feet on the pedals and quickly kick the bike into fast-pedaling gear. The faster you pedal, the more momentum you generate, and the more stable the bike may feel.
Also, keep in mind that heavier flywheels take more effort to stop. You generate amazing momentum as you pedal and enjoy a great bike ride, but then your legs must push against that momentum and bring the flywheel to a complete stop before you get off the bike. The heavier the wheel, the more effort you will exert to stop the bike.
What About Joint Health?
When we talk about exerting more energy or applying more force to kickstart and then stop a heavier flywheel, we’re also talking about more pressure on your muscles and joints. Your full body is involved in operating an indoor exercise bike, and that includes joints that may already feel stiff or painful for some people.
If you have issues with your joints, you may want to go with a lighter flywheel that works properly without as much exertion from your body. A mid-weight flywheel may deliver a smooth ride without overexerting your lower body muscles or joints.
What is a Good Flywheel Weight for an Exercise Bike?
For most people, an indoor bike with a heavier flywheel that weighs at least 20 pounds is ideal. Most people have enough strength and energy to get a 20-pound flywheel spinning, and the smooth momentum creates a more enjoyable bike ride. Combine that heavier flywheel with a high-quality magnetic resistance system, and you have a great indoor bike for challenging and effective at-home workouts.
It ultimately comes down to how you want to use your exercise bike. If you want a bike that takes little effort to get moving and pedals fast, then a lighter flywheel will fit your needs. If you want to build momentum for a smooth, consistent ride with great stability, then a heavier flywheel is ideal.
Benefits of Heavy Flywheels
20-pound flywheels are generally considered the turning point between light and heavy flywheels. That’s a good mid-weight that allows most people to comfortably get their exercise bike spinning and keep it moving for a smooth workout.
The benefits of a heavier flywheel include the following:
The more weight you add beyond 20 pounds, the harder you will need to work to get the flywheel spinning and then bring it to a stop at the end of your workout.
Benefits of Light Flywheels
Lighter flywheels get a bad rap in the fitness industry. The assumption is that they’re lower quality and won’t perform as well as exercise bikes with heavier flywheels. In general, anything below the 20-pound mark is sometimes considered subpar, but there are some riders who benefit from a lighter flywheel.
The benefits of a lighter flywheel include the following:
The lighter the flywheel, the less control you may have over the exercise bike. Very light wheels tend to spin fast with little force, so they don’t require much work from your legs. That means you might not get the best workout and may feel the flywheel is running away from you rather than being controlled by you.
Selecting Your Ideal Exercise Bike Flywheel
If you want a smooth ride that is challenging for your lower body but not overly stimulating, look for a bike with at least a 20-pound flywheel. You will get a steady build-up of momentum and a relatively smooth ride without sacrificing the ability to pedal fast when needed. With a magnetic resistance system that allows you to change resistance levels easily, you can create effective workouts that help you achieve a variety of health and fitness goals.
If you want more of a challenge or want an extremely smooth ride that maintains momentum without aggressive pedaling throughout the workout, then going with a heavier flywheel is a good option. In that case, 20 pounds is the minimum and you may need a few added pounds. Just make sure you don’t go so heavy that it’s difficult to get the bike started and stopped at your current strength level.
In addition to the flywheel weight, look at the resistance system. The flywheel and resistance system work together to create smooth workouts that are challenging for users at a variety of fitness levels. The more adjustability in the resistance system, the more opportunity you will have to grow as you gain strength through indoor cycling. You can work up to the higher resistance levels to build strength and ensure you don’t outgrow your indoor exercise bike.
Should You Try Your Flywheel First?
The best way to compare flywheel weights is to get on a few indoor exercise bikes and take them for a spin. If you have a local store that sells exercise equipment, that is your best option. You won’t find the best prices in most local stores, but the display models give you an opportunity to try out a variety of flywheels for comfort, speed, and overall performance.
You may also try out exercise bikes if you take advantage of free or trial gym memberships. The problem there is you won’t have a tag that easily identifies the weight of the flywheel and other specs. You may also have to go through some uncomfortable sales efforts if a salesman wants to get you to enroll in a membership.
If you don’t have the time or desire to try different flywheels out before buying, you may want to stick to the middle and go with a 20-pound flywheel. That weight is generally considered effective and safe without requiring extensive effort to put the wheel into motion. If you know that you want less of a workout or want to pedal fast with little effort, go down a pound or two. If you want more of a challenge, then go up in weight a bit.
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