It always catches up to you: you slump down onto the couch after a hard day’s work, reheated dinner in hand. You sit eating away, and something falls off your plate and onto your stomach. You go down to grab it, and think, “Whoa. Whose stomach is that? Is that MINE?”
Yes, putting on extra weight is a gradual thing you don’t notice until the world of your old self collides with the world of your current self.
For most people, this is the dawn of a new era and commitment to personal fitness. Everyone has even just a little vanity, and when it comes time to restore your physical self-image, you find yourself in the market for exercise equipment.
Whether you decide to use that equipment in public at a gym or in the privacy of your own home is up to you, but this new motivation will put you in a world where there’s all kinds of fitness equipment to choose from to burn off those extra pounds to take back the body you want.
Enter the bicycle.
No longer the dinosaur your grandma had in her garage next to that machine with the white band you put around your waist which actually shook your body “to new fitness heights (who SOLD that thing, anyway?)”, bikes now come in many shapes and forms, and with a plethora of technologies. In fact, they’ve become so advanced, the only really recognizable thing on them is the bike seat; the rest, well…
So, what types are out there, and how do you use them?
THE BASIC BICYCLE
From the comically oversized bike ridden by the strongman with the handlebar mustache on Coney Island to the sleek space-metal machines teams ride on the Tour de France, the basic bicycle is two wheels on a frame with handles on the front. It’s a thing of beauty where your legs act as the pistons that drive the wheels that can take you all over Mother Nature.
And on the wheels, note: gravity holds you down to the Earth, right? If you think of a gyroscope, the spinning motion within temporarily defies gravitational force. The faster you spin the internal wheel, the more gravity is defied.
In cycling, that translates to the faster you pedal, the more you defy gravity. Pretty cool, huh? They are used for everything from exercise to entertainment, and – if you’ve ever had the chance to take a bike tour of any vineyard or ocean view – sometimes both.
THE BASIC EXERCISE BIKE
Also known as the Upright Exercise Bike, this old standby is the blueprint for every stationary bicycle out there, and it utilizes a variety of technologies for resistance. From magnets and fans to various friction mechanisms, the standard stationary bike is what is most familiar to us, and is designed to best emulate actual bicycle riding.
They usually have some type of ergometer on them that measures the amount of work (exercise) done by the rider, and that ergometer can range from something very basic (like a dial) to very complex (a digital calorie counter, distance tracker, and pre-set workouts). They’re great for pre-workout warm-ups and workouts themselves, and are fantastic for training through minor leg and back injuries.
THE LONG BIKE
More for recreational use than exercise, long bikes are exactly that: long. With a custom frame long enough to sit two or more people, long bikes are great for couples and families that just want to get out for some fresh air. Seating on them varies from recumbent (reclined) to standard (upright); choosing which to use is purely a matter or personal preference.
THE MAGNETIC BIKE
Often designed to look very similar to the basic upright bike, the magnetic bike uses a simple magnetic principle as its means of resistance: the faster you pedal, the more resistance you face. The Stamina 4825 recumbent bike is a perfect example.
To give you an idea of how it works: if you take a pizza cutter and spin it as fast as you can, it spins for some time. But if you spin it and put it in the middle of a horseshoe-shaped magnet, it stops spinning quite abruptly. That’s the magnetic mechanism these bikes utilize. They are otherworldly quiet, and are great for exercise, especially in rooms where other people may be.
(Read our Recumbent Exercise Bike Review for even more details.)
THE AIR BIKE
Often built looking like an elliptical trainer, the air bike typically involves a rowing apparatus to go along with the bicycle base. Like the magnetic bike, the faster you move the wheel, the greater the resistance, but there’s no magnet involved, just good old-fashioned wind power.
The encased fan blades spin faster the faster you pedal, and that quickly increases the resistance on your workout. Air bikes are great for injury recovery in active people, and as a low-impact way to maintain bone density in the elderly and people with degenerative bone complications.
And there you have it: five bikes and a quick breakdown of how they work and how to use them.
Cycling of any sort is a fun and easy way to burn fat and strengthen muscle. What does strengthening muscle have to do with the newly found gut your errant piece of microwave dinner landed upon?
It’s simple: fat is sandwiched between you skin and muscle. Tearing and building that muscle will force it to grow, pushing fat aside, and your internal temperature rise resulting from exercise will desiccate and help “burn off” the lipids that store the fat. Remember: fat cells never really leave your body, so you have to dry them out.
Why not have fun doing it?