Exercise Bike Magnetic VS Flywheel – Which Is Right For You

As you go about your search for an exercise bike, you might come to wonder, which type of exercise should you be using? You may see the words magnetic and flywheel being tossed around. So in the question, which is better, exercise bike magnetic vs. flywheel, you feel a bit confused.

In order to answer this question, you need to remember one important thing: it is not a versus situation here.

Almost all exercise bikes come with a flywheel of sorts. It’s how the flywheel is used that you need to be looking at.

In many cases, the weight of the flywheel is what’s the variable factor. The heavier the flywheel, the harder it’s going to be to pedal and thus the greater the resistance will be. This does become a limiting factor however because as your flywheel gets heavier and heavier, the bike is also going to get bigger and bigger. Since we don’t want gigantic bikes sitting in our homes, we need to find another way. Two of the popular methods are direct contact resistance on the flywheel or else magnetic resistance.

Once you’ve read this article, you can check out our The 9 Best Exercise Bikes of 2024 where our fitness editor, Brian Boyce (CPT) has reviewed the best bikes per category and has made his expert recommendations on which bike to look to get.

Let’s look at these two more closely so that you can determine which is the right model for you.


  Magnetic Resistance Direct Contact Flywheel
Can increase and decrease resistance easily Yes Yes
Accurate level of resistance Yes Yes
High Levels Of Resistance Achieved Yes Yes
Level of Wear And Tear Low High
Noise Low High
Maintenance Low High
Price High Lower


Let’s look at these more closely now.

Changing The Level Of Resistance

The first question you are probably asking yourself is if it’s possible to change the level of resistance quite easily. The good news is that in both the exercise bike magnetic vs. flywheel resistance, this can be achieved quite easily.

With magnetic resistance it’s just a matter of having gears that are used on the bike to adjust how the magnets are interacting with the flywheel and with direct contact flywheel set ups, it’s about the contact pads moving closer, creating more friction.

Provided the bike is in proper working order, both should be able to achieve great results.

Accurate Levels Of Resistance

The next question you have to ask yourself is whether you can achieve accurate levels of resistance with both bikes. If you are trying to advance your program, it’ll be important that you are always biking at the same level of resistance as you did the last session – or even higher.

So is this possible?

To a degree, yes. The magnetic flywheel system is more accurate as these are typically computerized and you will just punch in which level you want to be at. It’s the type that you see so often in the commercial gyms because these bikes are very popular.

So if you want accuracy, this may be the one to go with.

With the contact based resistance model flywheel, it can be slightly less accurate, but it’s generally still quite good. Most people should easily be able to complete their workout fine and see good advancements using this type of resistance, so it’s not something that you really need to be worrying about.

To boil it down, magnetic exercise bikes’ resistance levels are preset, and riders can see what level they are riding at via the console. Flywheel resistance systems are more flexible. Riders just adjust using the knob without knowing what exact level they are at.

If you are someone who’s say training for a road race, and you need utmost precision, then the magnetic flywheel will take the edge.

High Levels Of Resistance Achieved

When considering exercise bike flywheel versus magnetic resistance models, you also may want to ask yourself how high of resistance can you get with both of these models. Obviously getting to the highest overall level of resistance will be critical to ensuring that you are doing great things.

If you hope to get stronger, burn more calories, and get faster with your cycling, adding more resistance is all part of that game.

The good news here is that both of these are able to get you to very high levels of resistance. With magnetic resistance, you can apply it so high that the wheel essentially stops running altogether. Contact-based resistance systems have higher resistance as the rider can keep adding resistance until the pedals can’t continue, whereas magnetic bikes have a fixed resistance level range.

Level Of Wear And Tear

Which bike is going to have more wear and tear? For this, most definitely contact forms of resistance. Magnetic resistance is nearly completely maintenance free because the only thing that’s changing is how powerful the magnet is that’s being utilized to prevent the spinning of the flywheel.

With contact based resistance, something is actually touching that flywheel, so you are going to get that higher level of wear and tear on those pads, which may then eventually have to be replaced.

So if you don’t want to spend any money in replacement costs, go with a magnetic bike. Your chances of ever needing to replace anything are far lower.


If you plan to use this bike at home in the early hours in the morning or late at night, noise is probably going to be something that you want to be considering. The last thing that you want is a bike that’s so noisy you can hear it three rooms away.

If this is the case, you definitely want to go with a magnetic system. Contact based resistance models are much louder because something is actually touching that flywheel, slowing it down. This creates friction and as such, noise.

Ease in Transport

Do you anticipate moving your exercise bike around a lot? Maybe you’re concerned with getting a heavy piece of equipment unloaded and assembled. While each individual product will have a unique weight, generally speaking, flywheel-based resistance bikes are heavier than magnetic ones and harder to transport or move around your home.


Lastly, consider price. If budget is your primary concern, you’ll find that contact based resistance flywheel systems are cheaper than their magnetic resistance counterparts.

Magnetic resistance bikes typically do come with all the bells and whistles though – programmable options, the LED console screen, and such, so you are getting an overall better experience on these bikes – or at least what some people would consider to be.

But if you want more of a traditional feel like you are just riding a regular bike outside, then you will probably love the contact based resistance bikes and can get one at a lower price point.

So keep these pros and cons in mind when you choose which type of bike you want to purchase. Both bikes are going to offer great results and can certainly take your fitness up a notch, but you do need to consider which one is going to be most suited to your goals, needs, and preferences.

Best Magnetic Resistance Exercise Bikes

NordicTrack Commercial S22i

The S22i is NordicTrack’s response to the Peloton revolution. It allows you to bring the energizing atmosphere of a studio spin bike class home.

See Best Price

Sole LCB Upright Bike

The Sole LCB Light Commercial Bike is a great basic for shared workout spaces and adds a bit of luxury to home gyms.

attractive young woman riding the sole LCR

See Best Price


Frequently Asked Questions

Is magnetic resistance better than friction resistance?

If you are on a tight budget, friction resistance may be the way to go. However, you get what you pay for. For the extra investment, magnetic resistance offers easy maintenance, minimal dust, and a quiet workout every time.

How does a magnetic exercise bike work?

Magnetic exercise bikes use magnetism and electricity to increase or decrease the resistance you experience during exercise. When the metal disk spins inside the magnetic field, currents are produced that lead to drag that creates incremented resistance.

Are magnetic exercise bikes quiet?

Unlike friction resistance exercise bikes, magnetic exercise bikes require no direct contact with the wheel, thus making for a quieter workout.

What is the best flywheel weight for an indoor bike?

The heavier your flywheel, the smoother the ride. At the same time, a very heavy flywheel can result in too much resistance, difficulty getting the bike moving at the start of your workout, and a higher price tag. Indoor bike flywheels range in weight anywhere from 15-40+ pounds. Those over 20 pounds will typically offer the momentum and steadiness you need.

What does a flywheel on an exercise bike do?

The flywheel is positioned at the front of the bike where the front wheel of a bicycle would be. Although it’s disc-shaped, it’s not there to look like a wheel and simulate a road bike. Rather, it serves the critical function to store rotational energy to ensure your indoor bike runs smoothly. Not only does this make for an enjoyable experience, but it prevents damage to the bike and injury to the rider. As you shop for a new exercise bike, analyzing the flywheel is very important. As it limits rotation, it simultaneously works to control both inertia and resistance.

Does flywheel weight matter with magnetic resistance?

Yes, a heavier flywheel on a magnetic resistance bike will limit momentum, while a flywheel that’s too light will stop quickly, making it difficult to maintain momentum.

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