What’s the name behind Schwinn exercise bikes? The Schwinn name has been big in cycling for more than a century. It comes from Ignaz Schwinn, a German-born bike engineer. He immigrated to Chicago and co-founded a bike factory in the era of “original hipsters”: the 1890s, when fashionable men wore top hats and rode bikes with huge front wheels. Bicycles were popular with bold women too, giving many a first taste of independent transportation.
People preferred Schwinn bicycles over those from hundreds of competitors, partly because they were safer to ride. After Henry Ford introduced the Model A car in 1903, most bike companies went out of business – but Schwinn endured! Five generations later the Schwinn name remains one of the most-recognized in outdoor biking. And since 1965, Schwinn has also built indoor bikes for cardio health and muscle training.
Schwinn indoor bikes cover the full spectrum of styles: upright stationary bikes, recumbent exercise bikes, and indoor cycle trainers. To help keep prices low, they’re all manufactured overseas. Schwinn is now part of the Nautilus family of home exercise equipment with headquarters in Vancouver, Washington instead of Chicago.
Schwinn exercise bikes especially appeal to people looking for low prices. All models are available for under $1000 and some vendors provide free delivery. Some bikes sell for less than $500. In general Schwinn exercise bikes aren’t intended for advanced trainees, but Schwinn Airdyne bikes are for all challenge levels. Highlights vary from bike to bike, but some favorite features are wireless heart rate monitoring and a great variety of preset workouts.
This Schwinn exercise bikes review considers the eight models featured at the Schwinn Fitness website.
- Choices with quiet magnetic resistance include two traditional stationary bikes called Schwinn 130 and Schwinn 170, and two recumbent exercise bikes called Schwinn 230 and Schwinn 270. All have preset workouts.
- Making more noise, the IC2 is Schwinn’s indoor cycle trainer or “spin bike” for beginners. It uses a contact brake for resistance and does not have workout programs.
- The three Schwinn Airdyne exercise bikes let riders generate infinite levels of air resistance. Airdyne bikes have moving arm bars to make total-body workouts convenient. One Airdyne has training programs on board.
The Great:For a low price, Schwinn packs a lot into their products. There is great variation among each of their lineups, but here are some generalizations.
- Small Footprints: Made for residential use (not for commercial gyms), Schwinn exercise bikes are conveniently sized for condos and other small homes.
- Sturdy Bike Frames: Schwinn exercise bike frames are generally good quality for the price. Most weigh at least 80 pounds and have maximum user weights of 300 pounds. With caster wheels attached, the bikes are also easy to move when workout time is through.
- Adjustable for Rider Size: Handlebars on Schwinn exercise bikes can be moved vertically or turned forward and backward to fit different riders and riding styles. Seats can also be repositioned for different leg lengths.
- Contoured Saddles: Being comfortably seated helps improve endurance during cycling. Recumbent exercise bikes by Schwinn have high-backed seats for lumbar support, and they’re made from mesh material for ventilation. The upright models have padded seats with smart contouring.
- Built-In Exercise Programs: Most new Schwinn exercise bikes have preset workout programs. Exceptions are two air bikes and the IC2 indoor cycle trainer. The widest selections are on the upright Schwinn 170 and the recumbent Schwinn 270. These have 29 preset workouts each if you include manual mode and user-designed routines. Preset programs are optimized for weight control, cardio health, tackling distance goals and more. Most Schwinns let up to four users save profiles to measure their progress.
- Unlimited Resistance on Select Models: Most home exercise bikes nowadays have preset resistance levels, which are controlled by magnetic flywheel systems. Often the max challenge on low-priced bikes is disappointing. An alternative is a bike like the Schwinn IC2, which does not have preset resistance levels for its heavy flywheel. Air bikes are different too, as they can generate unlimited resistance. Schwinn makes three air bikes called Airdynes.
- Heart Rate Control: Heart rate control is available on Schwinn recumbent bikes, upright bikes and the top air bike, the Airdyne AD7. With heart rate control, the fitness machine automatically adjusts to help you exercise at a specific cardio exertion level.
- Data Tracking: Some Schwinns help riders track data long-term. The 130 and 270 upright bikes, and the recumbent 230 and 270, all have USB ports for transferring time, distance and calorie data. You can share data with the Schwinn Trainer mobile app and with popular third party apps such as Apple Health, Google Fit, MapMyRide and MyFitnessPal.
- Audio: Four Schwinn bikes have speaker sets for MP3 players. These are the upright magnetic bikes (130 and 170) and the recumbent magnetic bikes (230 and 270).
- Amenities: Some conveniences added to Schwinn bikes are water bottle holders, reading racks, USB charging ports and multi-speed cooling fans. Specifics are included in our model-specific Schwinn reviews.
Since these bikes cost so little, customers generally go easy in the reviews. Here are some common themes. More specific criticisms for each bike model are in our product reviews.
- Warranties: Warranties have improved since our last general Schwinn exercise bikes review, but they’re still not as generous as those from other fitness equipment brands. Especially short are Schwinn labor warranties. They used to be 60 days and are now 90 days… but most home exercise bike brands cover labor for at least one year. If you choose a Schwinn, keep in mind that when repairs are needed, you might feel like you’re on your own.
- Low Contrast: Owners sometimes criticize Schwinn data screens as being hard to read because of low contrast.
- Quality Control: Comparing customer reviews of Schwinn bikes, we find that while a majority of reviews are positive, for various models at least 10 percent of customer reviewers allege poor quality control. Also, customer review scores for Schwinn Airdyne bikes in particular have fallen over the past several years. People who have owned older versions and newer versions from the Airdyne series report that quality has declined.
- Light Resistance on Select Models: Unless you choose an air bike, Schwinn probably isn’t the best brand for powerful pedaling resistance. The heaviest flywheel is on the IC2. It’s heavy for an upright bike at 31 pounds, but most indoor cycle trainers have 48-pound wheels and better warranties. Meanwhile the flywheels on traditional upright Schwinn exercise bikes and recumbents weigh either 13 or 17 pounds, which is light in both categories.
Who Should Choose the Schwinn Bike Brand?
Schwinn home exercise bikes are meant for people with smaller spending limits. Recumbent and upright Schwinns (traditional stationary bikes) are best for beginners and intermediate-level cardio trainees. Their varied programming can be very helpful for weight loss and other fitness goals, but the upper challenge levels aren’t adequate for higher-level athletes.
Air resistance bikes in the Schwinn Airdyne series can train all ability levels. It can be suitable for gentle rehabilitation and serious workouts at any intensity.
The IC2 indoor cycle trainer can deliver intense challenges although it’s not as powerful as its competitors.
The Bottom Line
Once upon a time Schwinn was a cutting-edge brand for indoor cycling. Its products were robust and made in the USA. More recently the Schwinn logo has been applied to products that are built overseas. Schwinn exercise bike reviews from customers suggest that these newer models aren’t built to serve for more than a couple of years. But if a bike only costs $500, a couple years of exercise could be a great return! Schwinn exercise bike prices aren’t published on the Schwinn Fitness website, and prices vary with vendor and season.