Exercise Bikes: Magnetic Vs Friction. This May Surprise You!

January 17, 2021

With so many options available to us as consumers, it’s important to know what you’re looking for!

When it comes to exercise bikes, there are two main contenders: Magnetic and Friction. But which one comes out on top, and why?

The answer to this question, of course, depends on what you’re looking to achieve, what’s most comfortable for your body, and what ends up being the kindest to your bank account!

To anyone who isn’t already a keen cyclist or gym bunny, the difference between the two types of resistance exercise bike might seem inconsequential. After all, they’re both stationary bikes for working out on, right?

But there are some key differences in mechanics between the two which come with their own advantages and benefits. Let’s put it in layman’s terms:

Magnetic Exercise Bikes

What are they?

Magnetic resistance exercise bikes are the most frequently used type by gyms and home users, and work using both magnets, and electrical currents to control the strength of these magnets.

The magnets attract and repel one another depending on the charge of each of their poles and the electrical current passed through them controls how intensely the magnets interact with each other. More electricity equals stronger attraction and repulsion.

So, the electricity provides variability in how the magnets work, but how does that control the resistance you feel when pedalling? It comes down to another key component called a flywheel.

A flywheel is a wheel that resists changes to its own direction – it’s a stubborn thing that wants its own way all the time! When the strength of the magnets is increased, the flywheel has to work harder to resist the additional force being applied to it.

This means you have to pedal harder to keep rotating the flywheel.

The Benefits of Magnetic Exercise Bikes

Magnetic exercise bikes are the most popular type of resistance exercise bikes and there are definitely reasons for this.

Magnetic exercise bikes tend to be quieter than their friction counterparts which can led to a smoother and more focused workout. Because the magnets themselves create no sound, and because nothing is pressing on the flywheel as it turns, there really isn’t much to hear at all apart from your own pulse racing!

In terms of maintenance, magnetic exercise bikes are super easy to look after and require very little technical intervention. You might need to replace the display batteries every once in a while or other menial adjustments but generally, they’re good to go without too much fuss.

Common Features of Magnetic Exercise Bikes

Majority of exercise bikes nowadays have many similar features so in terms of bells and whistles, the to types are fairly evenly matched.

Because magnetic exercise bikes tend to be slightly more technological in their approach, you might find that more magnetic bikes have features like heart rate monitoring handles than friction bikes. If you’re looking at the more high-end scale, some even have built-in fans for cooling you down as you cycle!

You can find some top-quality magnetic exercise bikes to help you on your fitness journey here.

Friction Exercise Bikes

What are they?

Friction exercise bikes work, as the name suggests, through the use of applying friction to the flywheel. Most friction resistance bikes have thick cotton felt pads on either side of the flywheel which press the flywheel with varying force depending on the how the resistance settings of the bike are adjusted.

Ramping up the resistance will cause the pads to press harder and create more fiction whereas lowering the resistance will cause them to separate, allowing the flywheel to rotate more easily.

Pretty basic stuff but there we go!

The Benefits of Friction Exercise Bikes

Because friction exercise bikes alter resistance through tangible, physical means (namely, pressing against the flywheel to make it harder to turn), friction bikes are some of the best out there for more challenging workouts.

If you really want to amp up your efforts and go all out in the name of fitness, then a friction bike will take things to the next level.

Because friction exercise bikes are less technologically complex, they’re cheaper to manufacture and therefore cheaper to buy. If cost is a concern and you don’t fancy yanking the purse strings too hard, friction bikes are what you want to be looking at!

Common Features of Friction Exercise Bikes

Most friction-based bikes don’t have set increments for adjusting resistance, using a knob that you can turn however far you like instead. This means that you can tailor your resistance to exactly where you want it, making this a handy feature for a lot of people.

As technology advances so quickly, most friction bikes will also have digital displays where you can monitor different metrics such as speed.

Adjustable pedals and seat heights come as standard in both bike options, helping the rider to optimise comfort and minimise the risk of injury.

Alternative Options for Cardio Fitness

The motion involved in cycling isn’t necessarily for everyone, even on a stationary bike. Pedalling can take its toll on joints and your back so it’s important to consider other options if you have these sorts of issues.

Another kind of stationary exercise bike that might be a better fit is the recumbent exercise bike. Due to the reclining nature of these bikes, the pressure on your back, hips, and other joints is minimised whilst still allowing you to get an excellent cardio workout in.

If you’re looking for something that will target muscle building as well as cardio, something like a rowing machine might be more up your alley. Rowing machines are great for both weight loss and body building and offer a low impact alternative to cycling.

On the other hand, if pressure on your joints and back are not a concern, a treadmill could be a great option too! Most treadmills offer a wide range of possible adjustments including speed, resistance, and incline to make your workout better suited to your specific desires.

If cost and space are concerns, there is a large variety of foldable manual treadmills available that are cheaper than their motorised counterparts as well as more compact. Whatever your fitness needs, there is a cardio solution out there.


Because there are both similarities and differences between magnetic and friction exercise bikes, the best way to determine your ideal match is to weigh up what you want out of your fitness regime. Either option will give you a great cardio workout and will help you to lose weight and get fitter.

The smaller things are the one that require more consideration. If you don’t like noise whilst working out, then a magnetic exercise bike will be the better choice. If you want something a bit more hard-wearing then magnetic will also be the way to go as the felt pads in a friction bike will need replacing several times per year.

If you’re not too fussed about a bit of light noise and see cost as a more important factor, then a friction exercise bike is your best bet. Friction bikes can also enable you to tailor your workout more specifically which could swing your vote in favour of friction.

And should you decide that a bike isn’t what you want after all, you now have an idea of some viable alternatives too!

About the author

Starting my early career in IT, I quickly realised that web development was for me. All the while when it came to shopping or buying online, I suffered massively from OCD. Both of these traits - along with the fact that I enjoy writing; put me in the perfect position for starting and writing for my own product review site.

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