Types Of Resistance And Which One Is Right For You?

Keeping your body fit is not optional. You must engage in regular exercise to keep your body in shape. Stationary exercise bikes are now available on the market.

They come to aid in your everyday workouts. On the market, you will find different types of exercise bikes. We have upright, recumbent as well as indoor cycling exercise bikes.

These types of bikes come with different construction structures and operating systems. Purchasing an exercise bike demands the conduction of in-depth research. You must understand how a given bike works before deciding on buying.

Apart from having different sitting positions, exercise bikes differ in the resistance.

We are here to prevent you from buying an inappropriate type of exercise bike. Our aim is to equip you with knowledge on the different kinds of resistance in exercise bikes. Knowing what goes on below the casing of a bike will put in a better position of going for the best product.

That said, it’s only right that we go straight to the point.

So, what are the different ways used in exercise bikes to generate riding resistance? Let’s find out.

There are four different types of resistance used on various exercise bikes. They include:

  • Brake-based systems Resistance
  • Direct contact resistance
  • Magnetic resistance
  • Fan based resistance

In this article, we concentrate on reviewing these types of resistance. We bring you everything you need to know before rushing into the market for an exercise bike.

1. Flywheel-based systems resistance

Taking a closer glance at most home workout bikes, you will notice that most of them come with a flywheel. A flywheel is a mechanical part that stores rotational energy.

It’s a heavy weight metal disk that resides on the front side of an exercise bike. It replaces the wheel on the ordinary road bike. In most bikes, the flywheel is not visible. It comes covered with a sturdy casing.

The flywheel connects to the cycling pedals through a belt or chain. This connection resembles that of a road bike. As you continue to ride, the flywheel stores the momentum generated. It only releases it once used to completion.

To generate high resistance to a rider, the manufacturers make the flywheel heavy. It can be around 40 to 50 pounds. Rotating the wheel at the start is, thus, an upward task. This is one of the ways of generating riding resistance in an exercise bike.

It helps in working out and could help one lose some few calories at the start of each exercise session.

Limitations of the flywheel-based resistance.

  • Impractical when used solely without the other methods of creating resistance:

    The weight of the wheel is a limiting factor. One may need a heavyweight flywheel to achieve high resistance. To have a heavy weight flywheel, you will have to use a large flywheel.The exercise bike would look impractical. Judging from the look of such a bike, many would dismiss it.

    To prevent this occurrence, exercise bikes use the efficient alternative methods of creating resistance. Methods like magnetism and direct contact operate on one primary principle. They all aim at braking the flywheel thereby generating resistance.

2. Direct contact resistance

The friction principle is the main idea behind the direct contact resistance. Sturdy breaking pads find their use in this method. The braking pads fitted along and above the flywheel help in creating the braking effect.

Once the pads are in contact with the flywheel, its rotation decelerates. It becomes resistant to increasing the rotational speed of the flywheel. A reduced riding speed is the result of this process.

The resistance created poses a challenge to you. You have to use extra pedaling force to reach the higher cycling speeds. As a result, your workouts advance from the norm to higher intensity.

The direct-contact is accurate and reliable. It allows you to select your preferred resistance level. Different exercise bike models that use the direct contact resistance feature high resistance levels.

You will find bikes with unbeatable levels of resistance. The levels resemble gears on a real road bicycle. You are free to customize your workouts. The brake pads come from different sturdy materials.

Some brake contact resistance systems use friction bands instead of brake pads. The resistance bands sit on the edge of the flywheel.

Pros and cons of the direct contact resistance systems


  • Unbeatable resistance:

    Overcoming the resistance created through the direct contact method is tough. It takes a lot of time to overcome it. You don’t get used to the bike with ease. With the different levels, you are free to start at the lowest levels as you advance your body fitness.


  • Wear and tear:

    Direct contact or friction based resistance bikes tend to go through extreme mechanical abuse. They tend to wear and tear as time goes by. With time, one might have to replace the braking pads or friction bands. The flywheel might also tear apart.

    The replacement cost varies with different exercise bike models. Going an additional charge is not pleasing at all. Thus this ranks as a drawback to the exercise bikes that use this type of resistance systems.
  • Noise:

    The direct contact resistance system is entirely mechanical. The exercise bikes that use this type of resistance tend to produce too much noise. They tend to be disturbing during the workouts. This is a drawback as compared to those with magnetic resistance.

    It becomes hard to work or read while exercising on these exercise bikes. Families and neighbors will also feel disturbed by the noise.

3. Magnetic resistance

For many years, direct contact exercise bikes had dominated the market. Anyone who needed a high-performance exercise bike would prefer the direct contact resistance. Today things have changed. The direct contact bikes have lost their position to the Magnetic resistance bikes.

Magnetic resistance is a solution to the problems associated with the direct contact resistance.

So, how do bikes with magnetic resistance operate? Let’s find out.

Bikes which operate with magnetic resistance generate the resistance through a series of steps. The resistance system in these bikes utilizes the flywheel and two powerful magnets. In this case, the flywheel acts as a magnetic conductor.

As one cycles, the flywheels continues to rotate. The flywheel interferes with the magnetic field between the two magnets. The resulting attraction of the flywheel brings about a resistance force.

The magnets do not touch the flywheel. The resistance opposes riding efforts. You need to use more force. You can increase the resistance level through the knob or buttons suited on the console of a given bike.

Pros and cons of Magnetic Resistance


Friction resistance comes with many limitations. The magnetic resistance aims at eliminating all the drawbacks in the friction resistance. Exercise bikes with magnetic resistance have a significant competitive advantage to those with the direct impact resistance.

  • Quiet and smooth operation:

    Unlike the direct contact resistance, magnetic resistance operates well. No parts come into contact to create the resistance. With a bike that utilizes magnetic resistance, you will enjoy your workouts. The environment is always quiet.

    You can thus catch a movie or read a magazine while working out. Again, you can use the bike in residential areas with noise restrictions.

    Mothers with young children will find bikes with magnetic resistance more convenient and reliable. They offer no disturbance to your baby as he/she takes a nap.
  • Marked levels:

    Friction resistance bikes don’t offer marked resistance levels. You are to estimate your preferred resistance level through the knob. On markings are there to guide you.

    Also, after turning the knob, the resistance remains constant throughout the workout. Cycling at high RPM will not increase the resistance in any way. You have to twist the knob to alter the resistance.

    Magnetic resistance bikes are completely different. Levels of resistance come predetermined by the manufacturer. There are indications on the console on the resistance levels. You are free to set your preferred resistance through the buttons on the console.

    Also, the magnetic resistance changes with the cycling speed. The higher the bike speed, the greater the resistance. This is due to increased interference with the magnetic field by the fast-rotating flywheel.
  • Less maintenance:

    Friction resistance bikes need regular replacement of pads. Lubrication and dusting are also necessary due to wear and tear of the moving parts in contact. The maintenance cost of the friction resistance bikes is high.

    Magnetic resistance is completely different. No parts come into contact. No wear and tear of the bike’s components occur. This means that neither dusting nor regular lubrication is necessary.

    You only need minimal maintenance with the bikes magnetic resistance exercise bikes. The only maintenance may be tightening of wires and screws. This maintenance should come after some few years of regular workouts.
  • Hard to overcome:

    One can configure the magnetic resistance to extreme levels. It can stop the entire flywheel from the slightest movement. The resistance created through magnetism is usually more than enough for the workouts. It could take you forever to get used to the resistance generated through magnetism. You keep on improving your fitness to high levels. The workouts also become attractive with the tough challenge.


  • Expensive:

    Exercise bikes that use magnetic resistance are more costly than those with friction resistance. Magnetic resistance is quite costly to generate. The resulting exercise bike is expensive. But, the benefits that come with magnetic resistance bikes are worth the investment.

4. Fan-based resistance

The fan-based resistance is entirely different from all the other types of resistance. It does not use a flywheel. It uses a massive resistance fan in the place of a flywheel.

Instead of creating magnetism or friction, this type of resistance comes from Air. The fan connects to the bike’s pedals through a pulley system and a sturdy belt.

So, how do the fan-based exercise bikes operate?

The resistance generation in fan-based bikes is simple. The fun is set to start as you start pedaling. It begins turning at a slow speed with the first cycling turns. As you advance or increase the cycling speed, the fan rotation increases too.

The air resistance on the fan’s blade increases with the fast rotation of the fan. If you need more riding resistance, you will have to ride faster.

The fan-based resistance seems complicated to beginners. But, as you proceed with the workouts, you will get to know how to use it.

Pros and cons of the Fan-based resistance


  • Quiet and smooth operation:

    The fan-based action involves no contact between the moving parts. Moreover, it even eliminates the flywheel. No noise results from its use. You can thus use such bikes even at home.
  • Cool breeze:

    As the fan rotates, it creates a breeze that hits your entire body. It helps in cooling your body. You are free to engage in intense exercises as you will always be comfortable and fresh.
  • Less maintenance:

    The absence of moving components minimizes the maintenance needed in the fan resistance bikes. Only molecular alignment of the fan’s blades is necessary. Also, you might need to tighten the screws after many years of use.


  • Costly:

    The fan-based exercise bikes need great expertise to setup. Their performance also sets them apart. As a result, they are more expensive than the regular exercise bikes.

So what is the best resistance to use?

Each type of resistance comes with its pros and cons. The magnetic resistance exercise bikes are the most recommended. The performance of magnetic resistance is outstanding.

The bikes with magnetic resistance are easy to use. Those with fun-based resistance come in second. Finally, the direct impact resistance exercise bikes come in third.

Your choice will depend on your needs. Go for an exercise bike that suits your requirements in the best way. The right resistance will help you attain perfect fitness within a short while.


Understanding of the different types of resistance helps in getting the right exercise bike. The construction and performance of a given bike are among the factors to consider.

Go for a bike that suits all your needs including budget, height, and weight.