Not all spin bikes or indoor cycles come with consoles.
In fact its common not to see them.
It seems many people don’t use them.
I like to have one.
It helps to keep me on track and set and reach targets.
Traditionally spin bikes didn’t have them and you don’t use them to keep yourself on track
There are a choice of feature you can get with the console depending on what you want and your fitness goals are.
There are plenty of choice here as many basic bikes don’t have one.
Many who want to do spinning or just exercise may not be that interested in a console at all. Many like to use music to keep their pace up and aren’t particularly interested in the numbers (not me – I like the numbers to see how I’m getting on and for staying on track).
The basic meters don’t come with much. They measure speed, calories, time, distance and cumulative distance. They are all estimates other than time.
They can help to keep you on track during the workout which can be motivating to help you push yourself a little harder to keep up or beat a previous score. (See Sunny Health & Fitness SF-B1423 Indoor Cycle)
To keep track of your workouts you have to keep a manual record of your results
Want To Track Your Results
If this is what you are looking for, there isn’t too much choice. This is where they record your results for you so you don’t have to do it manually for tracking your progress.
There are only a few more affordable ones such as the Ironman Fitness X-Class 510 which allows you to upload your results to their fitness account which provides you with some good information on your results. You can also add other training and food too.
Then if you spend quite a bit more there is the Keiser M3i Indoor Cycle which comes with a Fitness App which you can sync your results with Bluetooth but people don’t seem that excited about to say the least.
After that you have the CycleOps Phantom 5 which provides you with an account to track your performance as well as giving you plenty of pre-set training programs too.
You might want this to keep your pace up and many workout DVD programs want you to try to keep this up to a certain rate.
I know I struggle to estimate this and some people can do this fine even on their own or with the help of the music that is playing on the DVD.
Heart Rate Monitor
If you are wanting measure your heart rate to help with your training there are 2 methods that are used to measure it and display on monitors.
They either use hand pulse sensors or a heart rate strap to monitor the heart rate..
The heart rate strap provides a more consistent and reliable measure than the hand pulse sensors. I think the heart rate strap is a much better way to go because of this but although some consoles work with a strap they aren’t always supplied with it and you have to buy it separately.
These bikes traditionally don’t let you know the level of resistance you are working out at. They are more about feeling the intensity or about turning the knob a certain amount. it doesn’t give you an objective way of setting. Even the knobs don’t have the levels detailed.
To get this on a console you do have to pay extra for this feature where you can see this on the console . The bikes with this tend to be those with magnetic resistance (CycleOps Phantom 5 Cycle is an exception with it having friction resistance) and being a premium priced bike. Some of the most popular bikes with this are the Keiser M3 Series bikes which give you 24 levels of resistance on the console so you can get it set objectively to get the level you want.
These measure your watts output to help you know the power you are generating. Unfortunately they aren’t directly comparable to what you generate when using an outdoor bike but can be used for comparing from workout to workout.
This has been tested by a number of people and unfortunately the two don’t coincide.
The best bikes that measure watts are listed here: Best spin bikes with power meters.
These aren’t common at all. And the ones that have these you have to pay a premium generally and in some cases a lot more for ones that work with the internet to provide you with a big choice of programs and options. Two examples of these indoor cycles/spin bikes are the espinner and the CycleOps Phantom 5.
But there is a less expensive option if that is what you want the Diamondback Fitness 510Ic which is a mid-range bike – it comes with 14 workout programs, including 8 profile programs where resistance is automatically adjusted at set intervals, 4 heart rate control programs where resistance is adjusted to keep your heart rate at the specified rate. It does work with hand pulse sensors and not with a heart rate strap. Read the full review here.
There isn’t a huge choice of bikes with consoles that have these programs with the expectation you either follow along to a workout DVD or make up your own.
What Can You Do If The Bike You Want Doesn’t Come With A Console
Some bikes like the Spinner S5 or Schwinn AC Performance Plus With Carbon Blue Belt Drive have a console you can buy separately – they are good consoles but they’re not the most affordable ones.
There doesn’t seem to be a generic model for spin bikes but you can with a little DIY skills add a bicycle computer or sensors to the bike to get basic measures (such as a CatEye). It is fitting it to the handlebars and modifying the spoke magnet that take a little work.
There is plenty think about when getting a console if you want more than just a basic one. The most basic ones do come on a few bikes but they only offer basic measures and normally don’t include cadence or RPM or Watts.
To get those that do give you more you normally have to pay for extra features too which I guess reflects how serious and committed to your workouts, conditioning and training.