The Schwinn AC Performance Plus and the Keiser M3 are two of the most popular bikes for gym use in indoor cycling and spinning class. Also, they are both highly regarded by people who have bought them for use at home.
These bikes each have their own pluses and minuses depending on your fitness goals and aims.
They are premium bikes and are for people who take or want to take their training seriously although you can use them for moderate exercise but you may want to consider more affordable options if you are unsure how much you are going to use the bike. (If you are just starting out see our post on beginner spin bikes).
To be able to write this in depth comparison I’ve spent hours looking at the features of the bikes by checking out their manuals, reading the product listings, reading customer reviews and asking questions of the supplier when there was something I need clarifying.
I’ve then looked at the features side by side to compare and contrast them to fully explain the advantages of one bike over the other.
In this post I go through each of features in detail to give the full picture on how each one stacks up against the other, but if you want to just compare the features check out our compare table that just lists the features of each bike we’ve reviewed to date.
To start here is a brief overview of each bike:
Keiser M3 Plus
This is one of the best looking bikes out there, but it is more than just looks or else it wouldn’t be as highly rated as it is. It is solid stable bike that is low maintenance with magnetic resistance and a belt drive for smooth and fluid workouts even though it has a light flywheel.
It is fully adjustable to fit anyone between 4 ft 10 ins and 6 ft 5 ins. The adjustment is quick and easy so it can be used by multi users.
It also comes with a console that you can use to monitor your performance as you workout to keep yourself on track. The magnetic resistance works with the console so you can see what level of resistance you are using so it takes some of the guesswork out of how hard you have it set.
This is a very quiet bike making it possible to ride in the middle of the night or early morning without disturbing the sleep of others in the house.
Schwinn AC Performance Plus
This bike doesn’t have as great a look as the Keiser. It has more of a classic look but it does come with a lot of great features all the same.
This bike is also fully adjustable with seat and handlebars quickly adjustable horizontally and vertically to get the best comfortable fit for people between the heights of 4 ft 11 ins and 6 ft 8 ins making it suitable for most members of a family.
It weighs 112 lbs and comes with a 37 lbs perimeter weighted flywheel that gives a full pedaling cycle and smoothes it out preventing any jerkiness that can cause impact injuries in hip, knee and ankle joints.
The bike comes with magnetic resistance that is controlled by a tension knob at the top of the frame giving you incremental increases and decreases on a continuous scale from easy to hard.
The handlebars are one of the stand out features with padding and shape designed for comfort when gripping the ends of the bars or leaning on them in the aero position.
Both bikes are sturdy and stable no matter how intense the exercise you are doing including jumping and transitioning between sitting and standing.
The Schwinn is the heavier bike weighing in at 112 lbs and the Keiser weighs 81 lbs. This difference is mainly in the flywheel weight will be most noticeable in the lower resistance settings with the Schwinn (37 lbs) pedaling more natural and a more fluid motion. The Keiser (8 lbs) in comparison will be choppier and it may feel like it is too easy like when you are in the wrong gear on a bike. At more intense resistance levels this difference becomes less but the Schwinn will still have a more natural feel to it.
The adjustment process is similar. Both bikes are fully adjustable, that is the Keiser M3 Plus (the Keiser M3 handlebars don’t adjust horizontally) and Schwinn seat and handlebars can be adjusted horizontally and vertically.
With the Keiser M3 Plus it is more a 45 degree upwards and downwards for the handlebar rather than vertical but this is covered by the horizontal adjustment to get the bike to fit properly.
With the Keiser M3 plus you can tighten the seat and handlebars in the position you want without regard to the adjustment holes which are there if you don’t tighten up the adjustment knobs enough. With the Schwinn the horizontal adjustments are micro so you position where you want but the vertical adjustments you need to use the pre-set adjustment holes to hold them in place.
The Schwinn can cater for a wider range of sizes with it suitable for people between 4 ft 11 ins and 6 ft 8 ins whereas the Keiser caters for those 4 ft 10 ins and 6 ft 5 ins.
Both bikes come with magnetic resistance but there are differences in how you control and determine how much resistance you are applying.
The Keiser you use a lever at the front of the handlebars that works with the console to give you an indication of the level of resistance you are applying. This great to see how hard you pushing yourself and returning back to a previous setting.
The Schwinn magnetic resistance adjustment is more traditional with a tension knob used to increase and decrease level. You can’t see the level you are at which is the same as you get using friction resistance.
The resistance on both bikes is constant and transitions smoothly as you increase and decrease the amount you want to apply.
The Keiser comes with a hard wearing drive belt as standard giving a smooth and very quiet ride.
The Schwinn AC Performance has a chain drive that gives a ride like you get with an outdoor bike. It require more maintenance than the bet drive and is a little noisier. You can upgrade the bike so it comes with Carbon Blue drive which is belt drive with ribbing across the belt. It moves across sprockets like a chain drive to preserve that bike feel when pedaling. It isn’t silent but it is close with a whisper sound.
Both bikes hav dual pedals with one side having toe cages and straps to fit athletic shoes and the other fitting SPD specialist shoes with cleats.
The Schwinn pedals are closer together horizontally (Q Factor) measuring 6 3/4 inches compared to the Keiser at 7 3/4 inches which makes the Schwinn closer in feel to an outdoor bike. The narrower this distance is it keeps your feet and hips more in alignment reducing stress on your legs and reducing the chances of injury.
The big difference in this area is the handlebars with the Schwinn having the much better of the two. They have a flattened out section at the end of the handlebars for a better grip when standing. In the center they have the aero bars with are bent for using in the aero position and with a flattened section on the cross piece at the bottom of handlebars so you can rest your forearms on it without hurting them – which is great for long sprints and training in that position. The Keiser M3 Plus handlebars are fine for spinning and training but don’t have these 2 features that make the Schwinn standout in this area.
The Keiser M3 is going to be quieter and not drop as much lubricant due to it having a belt drive which makes it better for home in this respect but the Schwinn is fairly quiet and won’t drop too much lubricant.
There is not much to choose between the seats with this being down to personal preference as to which one is the most comfortable for you. If you don’t like the seat you can replace it or try padded bike shorts or a gel seat cover.
Both bikes are relatively straightforward to assemble with most people reporting they can get it done within 60 minutes. Having said that the Schwinn is easier of the two to assemble as there is less to do and the necessary tools are included to complete the job.
The Keiser requires you to supply your own tools and to attach the flywheel and console which is still simple but are 2 steps more than the Schwinn.
The Schwinn doesn’t have a console, it comes with the flywheel attached and the tools required are included.
Both bikes have transport wheels on the front that are used to move the bike to where you want it. Both work well on carpet as well as hard flooring. Of the two the Keiser is going to be easier to move because it is lighter.
In storing the Keiser needs an area of 25.75 by 48.25 inches and the Schwinn an area of 20.5 by 42 inches
The Keiser M3 comes with a console as standard whereas the Schwinn AC Perfomance Plus you need to purchase this separately.
The Keiser M3 console shows you RPM, power (watts output), heart rate, resistance level (gear), time elapsed and distance traveled (not miles or kilometers). You need to supply your own Polar heart rate strap to sync with the console. It doesn’t come with the ability to upload your data to an app or your computer for further analysis and tracking, so this needs to be recorded manually.
The Keiser M3i version of the bike has a console that is compatible with Apps but it costs more for this.
The Schwinn has a console you can buy separately (with the Watts upgrade) that measures the same information as the M3 console except for resistance levels. You can upload the information to your computer by using a compatible ANT+ USB stick.
Neither bike comes with much in the way of accessories with the Schwinn edging the Keiser but this is faint praise. It has a dual water bottle holder vs a single bottle holder. The holders are situated in a better place between the handlebars and it is easier to grab your bottle and return it using the gravity bottle holder whereas the Keiser one where you have to slide it in place.
The Schwinn AC Performance Plus is normally less than the Keiser M3i, but you don’t have a console or belt drive. If you upgrade to the carbon blue belt drive the bike it is can be less than the Keiser M3i but you still don’t have a console (with the Watts upgrade) which costs extra.
The advantages of the Schwinn are the heavy flywheel, much better handlebar design and a narrower Q Factor. These give a more natural ride that should be easier on the joints and legs than the Keiser M3.
Having said that you still get one of the best rides available with the Keiser which is the reason for its top rating- at higher resistance levels this difference won’t be as noticeable. You also get to know your resistance levels and have a console to help with motivation and tracking performance.
The Schwinn AC Performance Plus is the bike for you if you are concentrating on spinning type workouts so you get that pull through of the pedals. You might also want to consider it if you plan on long training workouts in the aero position with the comfortable flattened out bars for resting your forearms on.
The Keiser M3 Plus gives a smooth ride too but at lower resistance levels you are likely going to find it choppier and harder on the joints. It is a quieter bike and comes with a console. This makes it ideal if you don’t want to disturb others in your house or neighbors if you live in an apartment. The console gives you the instant feedback to keep you motivated with your workout and track performance over time.
Great review! These two models are available between the two gyms I frequent and I’ve been trying to work out which one I like more. I reckon you’ve nailed the good and bad points of each.
Schwinn good: Two bottle holders close by, narrower crank distance, more realistic resistance
Schwinn bad: Inaccurate consoles need recalibrating ALL the time (showing lean or generous watts) twist knob resistance is less precise and harder to use for accurate intervals.
Keiser good: Precise and instant resistance level changes with the lever, quieter, less maintenance and consistently accurate console
Keiser bad: Almost too smooth and doesn’t feel as much like a real bike, wider crank arms, one water bottle space in awkward spot between legs
Still, they are really hard to choose between. If visiting a gym (and not having to do the maintenance) I’d prefer to ride the Schwinn but if I owned a gym or bought one for home (and had to calibrate/maintain it) I would choose the Keiser hands down.
Thanks for this. It great to hear about your experience with the two bikes.