What Is Magnetic Resistance on an Exercise Bike: Magnetic Bike 101

what is magnetic resistance on an exercise bike

Exercise bikes bring the gym to your home, allowing you to work out in your self-made indoor setting.

While there are different kinds of exercise bikes, magnetic resistance bikes are a cult favorite among most users, but what is magnetic resistance on an exercise bike?

Since bikes are categorized based on the resistance mechanism, it’s the magnets that separate magnetic resistance bikes from other kinds of exercise bikes. 

Let’s discuss magnetic resistance bikes in detail to understand their working mechanism, benefits, and drawbacks.

How Does a Magnetic Resistance Exercise Bike Work?

Generally, a magnetic resistance exercise bike uses magnetic power, which is controlled by electric flow and a flywheel to create resistance.

Here’s a detailed look at what each contributing factor does:

The Magnet

The major component of a magnetic resistance bike is a magnet and most bikes have two magnets that create resistance.

Magnets can either repel or attract each other, depending on their poles.

That means if two magnets are repelling each other, they will create a resistance in the bike, making you work harder to move the pedals.

Similarly, if two magnets are attracting each other, you’ll have to use more force to keep them apart.

For magnetic resistance bikes, the magnets oppose the motion of your legs.

As such, you have to work harder to oppose the resistance and move the pedals forward.

As a result, while pedaling, you’re using more energy and burning more calories.

The Electric Current

While magnets are the basic components of the working mechanism of magnetic resistance bikes, it’s the electric current that interferes with the magnetic field.

Passing an electric current through the magnetic field has an effect on the way the magnets act.

Thus, in a magnetic resistance bike, an electric current increases or decreases resistance, depending on the settings.

The Flywheel

People who talked to a mechanic or worked with cars would know what a flywheel is: a machine that stores rotational energy.

Think of it like a battery. However, a battery stores chemical energy while a flywheel stores rotational or kinetic energy.

When riding a regular bicycle, you’ll see the flywheel at play.

Even when you stop pedaling, the bicycle will still go a little further and then come to a stop.

The energy for this movement comes from the flywheel since it makes up for the momentum lost once you stop pedaling.

The same mechanism is present in a magnetic resistance bike. With the presence of a flywheel, the bike resists changes in rotational velocity.

As a result, you have to pedal harder to supply more energy.

The wheels will turn at a higher energy level, and the extra rotational energy will be stored in the flywheel.

What Happens When You Increase the Resistance Level?

Magnetic resistance bikes have a knob or a button on the side that you can use to adjust the resistance level.

If you want to pack a sweaty workout, crank up the resistance. On the other hand, if you intend to do a light morning workout, keep the resistance low.

When you adjust the resistance, the electric current, magnets, and flywheel are equally involved. When you press a button, everything changes.

If you increase the resistance, the amount of current going through the magnetic field will also increase.

Similarly, the magnetic force will be stronger, increasing the resistance.

Consequently, the resistance in the flywheel will be higher, making you push harder.

If you decrease the resistance, the opposite will happen, reducing electric current and weakening the magnetic field.

Depending on how much workout you want to do or can bear, you can adjust the resistance accordingly.

Magnetic Resistance vs. Friction Resistance

Now that you know how a magnetic resistance bike works, let’s compare it with another type of resistance bike to understand what is magnetic resistance on an exercise bike.

When comparing magnetic and friction resistance bikes, you’ll find that there isn’t much of a difference.

In friction-resistant bikes, the components actually come into contact with each other to create resistance.

Meaning, if the resistance is at its highest, you won’t even be able to move the pedals.

In magnetic resistance bikes, no parts are touching each other. Instead, it’s the magnets creating the resistance.

You can get a high level of resistance by increasing the electric current and magnetic field’s strength.  

Although they differ in their mechanism, at the end of the day, it falls on you to choose between the two kinds.

After all, both bikes will give you a hard time during training, which is precisely why they are so great at their job.

However, you should consider the cost before buying a magnetic resistance bike since they can be quite expensive.

what is magnetic resistance on an exercise bike

Pros of Magnetic Resistance Bikes

Friction resistance bikes are a clear contender of the magnetic resistance bikes, but the latter has some pros that make it a better choice.

Some of the most notable ones are:

Quiet Operation

Possibly the best thing about magnetic resistance bikes is that they work rather quietly.

That is because no other parts are involved except for the magnets. That simply means no two parts come in contact with each other that would otherwise make noise.

This quietness or low level of noise is quite helpful, especially for people who work out at home.

Firstly, if you live in an apartment complex with noise restrictions, having a quiet bike lets you workout without bothering the next-door neighbors.

Secondly, they make excellent bikes for seniors, being quiet and smooth in their operation.

Likewise, mothers who want to exercise without waking up their newborns will appreciate how quiet magnetic resistance bikes are.

Even business owners can use magnetic resistance bikes in their offices without being noticed by their employees and staff.

In fact, you can even place these bikes in one area of your company to promote fitness and health in your workplace.

Multiple Resistance Levels

Even the best exercise bike can be useless if you don’t know how to work it.

That’s why magnetic resistance bikes are often the first pick for most customers. These bikes have marked resistance levels on them.

On friction-resistant bikes, you have to estimate the resistance by moving the knob until you’ve found the right level.

Even if you are cycling at a higher revolution per minute, the resistance will remain the same.

Plus, once you have set the level, the resistance remains consistent throughout the workout.

On the contrary, with magnetic resistance bikes, you can adjust accordingly.

Also, as you cycle faster, the resistance increases, resulting in a more fruitful workout.

Low Maintenance

A common issue with friction-resistance bikes is that they need regular maintenance.

Since they undergo friction, you have to lubricate the pads to minimize wear and tear.

In contrast, magnetic resistance bikes require less maintenance. As explained above, magnets do not touch each other.

As such, the bike’s parts do not undergo wear and tear easily and quickly. You also do not have to lubricate or regularly dust them.

You may have to tighten the wires every few years, but that’s really it.

Energetic Workouts

Magnetic resistance bikes are ideal for people who like to challenge themselves.

The bike’s resistance can be adjusted to make the workout as hard or easy as you like.

Once you have surpassed the basic riding speed, you can increase the resistance and get a better workout.

Cons of Magnetic Resistance Bikes

Even though magnetic resistance bikes are an incredible addition to your workout space, they come with a few cons.

High Price

Magnetic resistance bikes do not need regular maintenance, so you can save money in the long run.

However, as noted earlier, they have a high upfront cost. Let’s just say you’ll have a hard time finding a magnetic resistance bike under $500. 

Creating magnetic resistance is more laborious than creating frictional resistance. Hence, the higher price.

However, if you’re really fond of your workout routine, a magnetic resistance bike is worth the splurge. 

Lost Resistance

In some cases, a magnetic resistance bike may lose its resistance after a while, but will not render the bike useless.

The common reason for this is the misplacing of the magnet.

When a magnet moves out of its place, the same level of resistance is impossible to maintain. Plus, the magnetic field is disturbed.

You can fix this on your own by bringing the magnet back to its right position.

If you still have the warranty on your bike, let the manufacturers take care of the problem.

What Is Magnetic Resistance on an Exercise Bike: The Summary

To sum it all up, magnetic resistance is the mechanism through which your bike creates resistance for you to oppose.

Basically, you have to apply force and use energy to oppose the strength of magnets. 

When electricity passes through the magnets, it can increase or decrease their force of attraction or repulsion. 

Additionally, the flywheel stores the rotational energy to maintain resistance in the bike.

Using the knob, you can also enhance or reduce resistance, making the workout harder or more relaxed.


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