Friction Resistance vs Magnetic Resistance On An Exercise Bike


If you want to upgrade your home workout space, you may be considering buying an exercise bike. These days, there are many options to choose from when looking at the exercise bike and spin bike market. One important item to consider is the type of resistance.

The question is often asked: which is better, friction resistance vs. magnetic resistance on an exercise bike? Today, we will dive into the pros and cons of each option.

Magnetic Resistance

As the name implies, bikes with this mechanism use magnets to create resistance while riding. The magnets’ distance apart on each side of the flywheel is simply adjusted to increase or decrease the resistance. This adjustment is most often made with the touch of a button on a smart bike. Models that use magnetic resistance include the Peloton and the Nordictrack S22i bike.

Friction Resistance

Alternatively, friction resistance is applied via felt pads that put direct pressure on the flywheel. To increase resistance, a knob is typically manually turned to press the pads tighter against the wheel. This traditional form of resistance tends to come at a lower price point and is easier (and cheaper) to fix if something goes awry. Popular models that use friction resistance include the Bowflex C6 Bike and ProForm Studio Bike.

Which is Better?

The consensus is that magnetic resistance provides a better user experience. This is because the resistance is easier to adjust for a more seamless workout. However, many newer exercise bikes on the market that use friction resistance are significantly quieter and easier to use than past models.

Plus, they can provide a more fluid change in resistance since magnetic resistance can sometimes lag. The biggest drawback of magnetic resistance is the price point. Regardless of which option you choose, there are high-quality models on both ends of the resistance spectrum to explore.

How to Choose a Resistance Option

There are a few key factors to consider that will help you decide which type of resistance is right for you. These include the following:

  • Sound- Friction resistance comes with a faintessential swooshing sound, while magnetic resistance is very quiet.
  • Budget- Knowing what you can afford will differentiate which models to look at while starting your exercise bike search. Magnetic resistance comes with a heftier price tag.
  • Level of resistance- Magnetic resistance is limited to a certain number of groups. At the same time, friction is essentially endless (you can turn the knob until the wheel can no longer be moved). If you like high resistance for standing workouts or have powerful legs, this may play a role in your choice.
  • Maintenance- In general, friction resistance will require more maintenance as the pads wear out or get out of alignment. Yet, when a magnetic resistance bike does need to be serviced, it most often requires more time and money to be fixed.
  • Workout experiences- Magnetic resistance is most often reported as easier to adjust while during a workout versus turning a knob. Some magnetic resistance models can even be modified by an exercise program itself, making for a smooth experience.
  • Integrations- Nowadays, most exercise bike models on the market are considered “smart” and come integrated with an HD screen interface. This allows access to online programs with anything from live workouts and personalized training to competitions. Each brand comes with its unique program and interfaces depending on your preferences and budget.

Ultimately, there is no better choice when it comes to magnetic resistance vs. friction resistance. Purchasing the right exercise bike is about finding a comfortable model, using it consistently and enjoying the long term. Having an exercise bike at home can help take your exercise goals to the next level.

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