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Can a Foldable Exercise Bike Do Anything Other Than Save Space?

I know we’re not talking about a Peloton here, but does it even approach the workout that bikes that don’t collapse in on themselves provide?

If you’re being honest with yourself, you miss the days of attending those quad-burning spin classes at Lifetime Fitness, but with COVID variants popping up all over the place — including variants that have given you a curious urge to revisit some standout Futurama episodes — you simply have no desire to share confined air with two dozen of your panting fellow cycling enthusiasts.

To make your circumstances even more formidable, you live in a cramped apartment, and you can’t spare the space for a heavy-duty spin bike even if it could double as a glorified hanger for your sweatshirts during the 23-and-a-half hours each day that it’s not in use. Fortunately, we exist in an era where some exercise bikes have been designed specifically with space-saving features in mind. This includes foldable bicycles that you can pull from beneath a bed and set up to ride, and then slide back from whence it came when your training reaches its sweaty conclusion.

Will a foldable bike really give me everything I need?

That all depends on how you define your biking needs, because stripping away bulk from devices that are typified by their imposing size usually comes at the expense of some customary features and all luxury features. In other words, if you require your exercise bike to stream Netflix on an HD monitor, you’re probably going to be disappointed.

Instead, let’s focus on the desired features that folding bikes have proven capable of reliably replicating. First of all, folding bikes aren’t one-size-fits all devices: You can find foldable bike models that are upright or recumbent, and some that are capable of emulating the basics of both. Far from being fundamentally flimsy, there are now foldable bikes of sufficient strength to support up to 400 pounds of rider weight. Some foldable bikes even come equipped with muscle-strengthening resistance bands.

That’s all well and good, but where can I find a portable spin bike?

Unfortunately, the essential features and requirements of a spin bike make it a poor candidate to be converted into a foldable format, and if anyone ever attempts to sell you a foldable spin bike, I’d question either the legitimacy of that bike’s foldability claim, or its performance quality (or both).

The defining feature of a spin bike, aside from the high-riding posture it enables its riders to assume, is its weighted flywheel. Without exception, spin bikes come equipped with an obligatory weighted flywheel that’s attached to the pedals via a chain, and which literally spins. 

Other exercise bike varieties aren’t required to have any sort of wheel attached to the pedals, and can be equipped with either magnetic resistance or friction resistance, which is how compact versions of those bikes are able to accomplish their purpose. Even a foldable bike defined as a true spin bike — if such a creature existed — would have to come furnished with a wheel of significant weight, or it couldn’t reasonably be listed within the spin-bike category.

So are you saying I should be happy with whatever foldable bike I can get?

When you get right down to it, it’s a cruel fact of life that you can’t have everything. For example, as much as I’d love to own a portable, collapsible, high-functioning Endless Pool that could fit in the middle of my bedroom, that’s a fantasy unlikely to be realized in my lifetime. Either I need to bite the bullet and fork over the 40k for a good one — which I’m going to need to crank the heater all the way up on to neutralize the weather during that cold day in hell — or I just need to make due with the best cardio machines at my disposal. 

A foldable bike won’t make you forget the cushy confines of your Lifetime Fitness spin room, but as a reliable, next best alternative that will also save you some space, you should be able to find a practical option that won’t leave your wallet looking empty — and also won’t leave your living room looking cramped.