Different Types of Resistance

Exercise bikes not only differ in their seating position and other fancy features, but there is another difference that sets apart different types of exercise bikes. Exercise bikes differ in how they provide resistance. You may think that what’s inside may not matter that much because pedaling all the machines is pretty much the same. However, once you understand the difference between different resistance types, you’ll be able to make a much more informed decision.

Different exercise bikes provide resistance in different ways while you pedal to simulate the sensation of an actual road bike ride. While most exercise bikes employ magnetic braking system or direct contact to offer fully adjustable resistance, these two are not the only types as there are some bikes that use fans to produce air resistance that you can feel while pedaling.

Brake-Based Systems

flywheel resistance close up lookThe majority of the exercise bikes employ brake-based systems and at their heart is a flywheel. The flywheel is basically a mechanical device that stores rotational energy. It is a metal disk that works in the place of the wheel and is connected indirectly to the pedals via a belt or chain. To provide resistance, flywheels are heavier and the first few rotations can be very hard.

The problem with this resistance type is that to increase the resistance, you will need to increase the flywheel size. To overcome this, bikes use magnetic braking system or direct contact braking.

Direct-Contact Resistance

close view of brakepad resistanceThe bikes that feature direct-contact resistance rely on friction to offer resistance.

The brakes are applied directly to reduce the speed. This type is accurate and you can choose different levels of resistance to custom-fit your workout.

Magnetic Resistance

magnetic type resistanceMagnetic resistance is also on the rise and taking the market away from direct-contact resistance bikes. Their major advantage is that there is no contact or direct friction and hence, there is no wear and tear.

This system relies on electromagnetic induction and is far more convenient.

Fan-Based Resistance

fan based resistance pictureThese bikes are also a modern invention. Instead of using a flywheel, they feature a resistance fan. This fan is connected to the pedals indirectly through a belt and pulley. It is simple; as you start to pedal, the fan turns and as your speed increases, so does the air resistance. To increase the resistance, you will just need to paddle faster. It may be difficult to get used to, but once you learn how to, it can be very effective. You can also feel the breeze of the fan that’ll help you cool down during your workout sessions.


All these different types of resistance used in exercise bikes have their pros and cons. Direct-contact is simple and sturdy, but you may have to replace the parts every now and then. Magnetic bikes are smooth and quiet, and you can also fine-tune the resistance. On the other hand, the fan-based bikes have an entirely different and unique take on the matter.