Face-Off: The Next Generation of Stationary Bikes Is Here

Here’s how two top choices stack up.

The next generation of stationary bikes is here, and for the triathlete who needs advanced indoor training options—but wants to share with his or her fit family—we pit two top picks that are more than just spin bikes head to head. Here’s how they stack up.

Technogym Skillbike Stationary Bike; $4,900

With a built-in touchscreen (it’s an Android-based tablet), the Skillbike gives pre-programmed workouts, keeps a workout profile through the companion app, and connects to a host of online services—ride Strava routes or use Zwift. This stationary bike also shifts gears with paddles on the bars (it even has built-on aerobars—be sure to add some padding to the arm rests) and displays dual-sided power measurements like left-right pedaling efficiency on a very techy analysis screen.

Pros: The setup is very similar to a real bike’s geometry, so it’s easy to replicate most fits. The gear-changing (8 speeds) was very realistic, and the ability to coast on a freewheel made the setup feel very real world—the Skillbike also gives road feedback from Zwift, so you can feel the hills and shift in or out of them accordingly. (Note: You still need another device to run the Zwift app; as of this writing it does not run through the bike’s display.) The built-in tests and exercises were a great bonus, and the technology integration between the software, the hardware, and the internet was impressive.

Cons: The initial set up was a little tough, and the display screen’s program had a few bugs here and there, but nothing too bothersome. Because updates happen automatically and overnight, this stationary bike needs to be plugged in at all times for best use—we also found the Skillbike quite difficult to move around with the small wheels and dragging (often smashed) plug.

Stages SC3 Stationary Bike; $2,500

 The SC3 is Stages’ top-tier spinner. This stationary bike boasts a single-sided Stages power meter that communicates wirelessly via ANT+ and Bluetooth LE to the self-powered Stages digital display (no plug is a plus!). The large display gives a ton of info (KJ of work, calories, power, cadence, speed, heart rate with strap, time, and distance) in a column next to the averages of each.

Pros: The machine build itself is studio solid. The handles, knobs, levers, and adjustments are all easy to use, even with super sweaty hands. The drop bar position and huge dual water bottle holders in the front are a thoughtful bonus. Connecting the stationary bike to Zwift and other online services is as simple as connecting a power meter—but bear in mind you still control your own resistance via the good old spin bike knob between your knees. Also, the cord-free design and excellent rollers make it super portable for small workout spaces.

Cons: At its heart, this is a spin bike with a power meter built into one side of the cranks. With virtual training environments like Zwift, there was no rider feedback based on hills, wind, or drafting. Also, there’s no way to integrate workouts into the display for automatic intervals or built-in sets. The SC3 also has a weighted and direct-drive flywheel, so there’s no coasting or shifting, just a resistance knob—though the knob has a very handy lever to switch resistance up or down quickly for big efforts.

Face-Off Winner

Technogym Skillbike
If you’re really spending enough time indoors to warrant a dedicated machine, get one that does everything—and will likely upgrade itself as technology does.