The Differences in Flywheel Weights & Spinning Bikes
Stationary indoor cycling imitates the spinning movement of a bicycle and strengthens stamina while gentle on the knees, back and joints. The most common types are the upright exercise bike, sometimes referred to as a customary stationary bike, and the spin bike. Both are equipped with flywheel weights that control resistance. The flywheel controls the bike’s resistance, and its design on a customary stationary bike is different from a spin bike. A heavier flywheel also has smoother motion but requires more energy for momentum.
Flywheel Weights: Heavy Versus Light
A flywheel is disc-shaped, and its weight controls inertia or resistance on the bike. A heavy flywheel improves traction, produces more power at a steady rate and makes the movement more controlled and less jerky. The disadvantage is that it requires more energy and momentum to get the flywheel in motion; however, once in motion, it allows mechanical energy to be stored so the pedals continue to move even after the pedaling action has ceased. A lighter flywheel uses little pedaling power as it requires minimal momentum to start.
A customary stationary bike is also called an upright exercise bike. The rider is situated in a more upright position, although some stationary bikes allow the seats to recline. It is often equipped with a perimeter-weighted flywheel that allows for a smooth and consistent resistance. The flywheel also weighs less than those on spin bikes. This type of bike is often used in home gyms and fitness centers and is designed for individuals who are not specialized cyclists. Unlike a spin bike, which is pared down, an upright exercise bike is equipped with features allowing users to save profiles and to select customized workout programs and LED displays showing heart rate, calories burned, speed and distance. The bike is designed to be more comfortable, with seats that are wider and can only be adjusted forward and back. The rider stays in the seat during the workout and requires the use of a pedal power unit (PPU) to produce momentum and energy from pedaling.
A spin bike is made of stronger steel. In high resistance spin cycle mode and a rider can stand up to put more strength on the pedals. Similar to a road bike wherein a rider can adjust the position of the bike seat and handlebar in numerous ways, a spin bike also allows the rider to customize the positions of the seat and handlebar by adjusting it forward, back, up and down to generate more power. The flywheel weight is attached to the pedals to control inertia. The rider determines the intensity of the workout by operating either a knob or a lever that controls tension to the weighted flywheel. Turning the knob increases or decreases tension, simulating ascending and descending a hill on a road bike. Depending on the bike, the flywheel can weigh as much as 20 to 30 lbs. and is connected by a chain to the pedal. Spin bikes are generally used by competitive cyclists unable to train outdoors or in exercise classes for groups taught by a certified indoor cycling instructor.
Elizabeth Stewart has been writing and editing since 2000. Her articles appear on eHow, where she specializes in writing about education and travel. She also works as an editorial consultant for novelists. Stewart holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Millsaps College and a Master of Arts in international education.