Just looking at indoor bikes, one would be forgiven for assuming that they are all the same. The price tags suggest different. What makes a magnetic bike different from a spin bike? In this magnetic bike vs spin bike comparison we shed light on the differences and why they should matter to you.
I have always used magnetic bikes at the gym. I have been looking to buy an exercise bike to use at home but notice magnetic ones are quite pricey. Spin bikes are more affordable so I will probably go with one of these.
What is the difference between the two types and what am I forfeiting by opting for a spin bike? Will it cost me more in the long run?
Here is a magnetic bike vs spin bike comparison to enlighten you on the differences between them and why one type is superior to the other.
Â What Are The Differences Between Magnetic Bikes And Spin Bikes?
Part replacement, re-alignment andÂ lubrication required
None (completely quiet)
Minimal noise (loud when in poor condition)
Accuracy of resistance settings
VeryÂ accurate ( no estimation required)
Little accuracy ( requires estimation)
Maximum levels of resistance
Pedal cannot be moved ( cannot outgrow challenge)
Pedal moves slightly ( user can outgrow challenge)
Magnetic Bike Vs Spin Bike â€“ How Do They Compare?
The two types of bikes require different levels of maintenance.
Magnetic bikes are more or less maintenance free. The only things you may need to do, especially if there are multiple people using the bike regularly, is wipe down the surfaces with a clean cloth to remove traces of sweat.Â If you can, use an antibacterial spray on the surfaces once a week when wiping it.
Spin bikes are different by virtue of how their resistance system works. There is a lot of friction between the flywheel and brake pads. Whenever there is continuous friction between two surfaces, there will be some wear and tear. After continued use, the pads will wear out and require replacement. Â The wearing produces a fine-dust like substance.
Brake pads generally need to be replaced after 6 to 12 months depending on the frequency and intensity of use.
Before replacement is due, you will need to clean and then lubricate the padsusing silicon based oil every so often. It helps to prevent excessive friction. This means you will be cleaning dust and sometimes oil off the floor when you have a spin bike.
You may also need to re-align the pads. Some pads, especially the double caliper type sometimes move and get out of alignment. You have to re-align them to maintain uniform resistance.
Neither of these two types of bikes can be said to be noisy but one produces more than the other. The little noise which might be heard is as a result of friction.
In the magnetic bike, there are no parts coming into contact with each other. There is no friction anywhere so it is no surprise that it is completely smooth and quiet.
You can be riding in the living room and not disturb someone else watching television in the same room. If your bike is in the bedroom, you can ride as someone else sleeps and not make a sound.
The spin bike is relatively quiet but does produce a little noise due to the friction created when the flywheel is slowing down.
We did say that spin bikes make very little noise. That is the case when it is in good condition. If your bike is not well maintained, the noise can be loud. If the brakes are not well lubricated, friction of the pads on the wheel can cause a loud squeaking sound.
Â Accurate Setting of Resistance
It is important to be able to accurately track resistance levels you are using so you know when you are making progress by managing higher resistance levels.
In a spin bike, resistance is adjusted using a knob. You can only note changes in resistance from riding the bike. If there are several people using the bike, it is difficult to get to the exact same resistance level you were at when you were using the bike last because a few people have used it since and made their own changes. You can only estimate based on how the pedals feel.
With a magnetic bike resistance levels are typically displayed on a console. If you want to come back to the very same resistance level the next time you hop on, simply note it and then set it to that level next time. There is no guesswork or estimation even if other users have changed the settings.
Â Maximum Levels of Resistance
If you were to compare maximum resistance levels in both types of bikes, you would notice that one makes it virtually impossible to pedal and the other leaves some room for movement.
In magnetic bikes which have magnetic brakes, setting it to its highest level of resistance makes it impossible for anyone to rotate the pedals. Even the strongest, professional cyclists cannot pedal.
In a spin bike which has friction brakes, the highest level of resistance still allows for some movement of the flywheel, albeit slight. If your fitness and strength levels are continuously increasing, you may at some point outgrow your spin bike. The highest resistance level may cease to be challenging.
Magnetic Bike Vs Spin Bike â€“ A Comparison Overview
All exercise bikes are designed with the intention of giving users the feel of an outdoor bike. This feel is created by variations in the riding experience, just as happens when you are riding an outdoor bike.
At some point you come across flat ground where it is relatively easy to pedal, other times you come across a steep climb when it becomes difficult to pedal. This is what resistance in indoor bikes is about.
Manufacturers use one of two methods to create resistance.
In Magnetic systems, resistance is achieved using magnets (hence its name).
How does it work? There are two magnets positioned on either side of the flywheel. When you adjust resistance upwards, the magnets move towards the flywheel, therefore making it more difficult for the flywheel to move and effectively making it more difficult to pedal.
The science behind the process is that the flywheel, usually made of steel, is deliberately placed in-between two strong magnets so that it interferes with magnetic field between the magnets. Movement of the magnets closer to the flywheel creates resistance force.
When you adjust resistance downwards, the magnets are moved further away from the flywheel and this allows it to move more freely, therefore making it easier for you to pedal.
The fact that flywheels are made of steel is no coincidence. Steel is a magnetically hard material which is often used to make permanent magnets.
In magnetic bikes, you can increase or decrease resistance manually or digitally depending on the specific bike you have. Manual adjustment is done using a tension dial or knob. Digital adjustment could be done on the console.
- Completely quiet and smooth
- No maintenance required
- High accuracy for resistance
- Manual or digital adjustment
- Marked levels
- Difficult to outgrow resistance levels
Spin bikes have what is called direct contact resistance. In this system, resistance is controlled using strong cotton felt pads. These work like brake pads in a bicycle. Some spin bikes have one pad located on top of the flywheel and others have two located on either side of the flywheel.
The science behind its working is friction (the degree of how easy or difficult it is to slide an object over another).
In the case of one pad, when the user adjusts resistance upwards, the pad is lowered down onto the rotating flywheel. This makes it more difficult for the wheel to keep rotating and thus makes it more difficult to pedal. If there are two pads, they both move in towards the flywheel when resistance is increased. They grip onto the flywheel to create resistance. The wheel becomes harder to rotate.
Direct contact resistance is generally adjusted manually using a dial or knob. If you need to stop the flywheel instantly, push the resistance knob or dial down and the pads bring it to a halt immediately.
- Quick wear and tear of parts
- Regular maintenance required
- Can be noisy
- Some users outgrow it
- No accurate marking of resistance levels
Magnetic bikes and spin bikes are both convenient indoor bikes which allow you to enjoy a good workout from the comfort of your home. Both make use of a steel flywheel which controls movement of the pedals as you cycle.
Verdict: So Which Is Better? Magnetic Bike or Spin Bike?
The primary difference in these two bikes in in how the resistance system works. Magnetic bikes use magnets and spin bikes use friction. Magnetic bikes prove to be more reliable and convenient.
They are very smooth and quiet and require no maintenance. You can easily replicate resistance levels even after other people have been using the bike and you cannot outgrow a magnetic bike no matter how strong you get.
Can magnetic power on a bike weaken?
Magnetic resistance power should last forever. Although it does weaken, the decline is so small and so slow, the effects cannot be felt throughout the life of the bike.
How do I lubricate the brakes on a spin bike?
Apply a small amount of silicon based oil on your fingers and gently apply it on the rim of the wheel. Manually rotate the wheel slowly as you let your oiled fingers run over the wheel. Do this until the entire circumference is oiled.
Apply a small amount of oil on the surface of the brake pad as well. Now get on the bike and pedal for a minute to allow the oil to soak into the pad and spread evenly on the wheel.