Getting a spin bike - where do I start?

Hi All - we are in a vv vulnerable household and I want to get a spin bike to use zwift on, mostly for my fantastic son, age 13 who is being very kind in a difficult life. Maybe for me a bit too. I want him to be able to tell he is going up a hill. But nothing I have read is written for someone who isn’t tech-minded. I can see a watt bike would do it but they aren’t available. I think power pedals on a different bike might do it but no advice starts from my knowledge point. I’m not even sure if I am posting to the right point on this forum! Any advice hugely appreciated.

Most “spin bikes” will not automatically change resistance, they require manual turns of the resistance knob. Most spin bikes also can’t be used with zwift unless you rig up a speed sensor or use power meter pedals.

The best experience is either using a real bike and smart trainer, or a very expensive trainer bike like the wattbike or kickr bike.

Thanks vv much Mike. So could I add power pedals to any decent exercise bike? And if so, might I just end up sobbing over instructions just written for the initiated? (I’m v resilient but life is currently taking me to my limit)

An exercise bike with power pedals is not going to “feel like going up a hill”. Get a cheap bicycle and wheel-on smart trainer.
The Smart Trainer Recommendations Guide: Winter 2020-2021 | DC Rainmaker

Hi Chris - how lively of you both to reply. Prob with real bikes is that I’m hoping 3 if us will use it at various points and we haven’t got masses of time or space, hence exercise bike route. What would you suggest?

Lovely, not lively, although some energy required too!

I recommend the Stages SB20.

If that is cost prohibitive, any spin bike and power pedals will do. But it is a poor approximation of the Zwift experience. I would look for one with a belt instead of chain.

I rode spin bikes for years…the last 5-6 years I have been on a smart trainer and the experience is vastly better and more interesting.

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I use Zwift with a spin bike. I know some on here have a spin bike that is bluetooth enabled, generates the watts, and sends them to Zwift. Mine isn’t like that. I use an app called HR2VP that translates my heart rate into watts and sends it to Zwift. Then I manually increase and decrease resistance as I see climbs etc in Zwift. I know it’s not considered perfect, but it works very well for me. I ride free rides for exercise so it fits my goals within my budget. My spin bike has magnetic resistance which I think is the better option over chain bikes.

OK, thanks again all. Heather, I think my son would manually increase resistance at hills but I’m not sure I have the self discipline! Although apologies for my ignorance but nor sure what the purpose of sending your watts (is this basically your effort measure?) from you via an app to Zwift. I’m so sorry, this is why it’s a struggle!
So sounds as though I’m prob heading for alir of money on a smart bike. I can cope with that although the wattbike is more affordable but not avail. Think u can get the Stages bike although not sure what else you get for the big price beyond the availability?

Watts are the measure of power you produce with each pedal stroke. This is how you move your avatar on Zwift, so a bike that can transmit power or watts via Bluetooth or ant+ to the device running Zwift is preferable.

Zwift can also estimate watts with a speed sensor and a supported trainer, this estimate is known as zpower.


You really don’t have a choice but to increase resistance on the hills at least some. I know if I don’t, I don’t generate enough Watts (the thing that makes the bike move) to make the bike go up a hill. With many hills even at my max power I’m barely moving. Of course I’m new and in my 50s so it’s not as hard for younger, in better shape, folks. If you can afford a smart trainer, then by all means. We went with the spin bike because it’s more affordable and the rest of my family could use it without purchasing shoes for the pedals. They don’t use it enough to need special shoes. I have clip in shoes which go on one side of my pedals but the other side have cages you can use with regular tennis shoes when my family wants to ride.

Right, I’m getting the just of this a bit more now re Watts & speed. But aaaah, you need special shoes?! Not good with a teenage boy! Is this true of all the smart bikes?

No, it’s not. You can always install regular pedals. Well, at least in 99% of the cases. But the experience tends to be a bit better with clipless.


Thanks for that info. I should have clarified that I had primarily looked at power meter pedals and I hadn’t found any that can be used either clipless or cage. I know it’s weird but I don’t actually own an outdoor bike so I didn’t really look at smart trainers but it does make sense that in that setup you could use any pedals. Have you heard of any power meter pedals that have both options? I like my current setup but maybe down the road I’d consider the power meter pedals if my family could still use the bike as well.

How tall are you, your wife and your son?
If not too far off, you might be able to get by with a reg bike and adjust the seat height between riders and pedal clips.
If the 3 of you are using the same spin bike, you are going to have to make adjustments anyway.
The spin bike won’t adjust to the hills and there is not a cheap way to make a cheap spin bike work with Zwift.

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I seriously doubt there are any power meter pedals with both clipless and shoe interface.

A workaround would be to use a crank power meter. But it’ll probably be hard to find a spin bike that uses regular cranks - it is an option though.

Another alternative might be too install both cadence and speed sensors to the spin bike. It’s much less accurate but it would provide a similar experience I think.

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You are all so kind and this has been so helpful. I’m now looking at the schwinn ic8 which from what Heather said, I think won’t just automatically adjust to a hill but if we don’t up the resistance we won’t get up the hill anyway? Does that sound right? And the pedals have clips one side & cages the other

I researched the Schwinn ic4 which I believe is the same as the ic8 and assuming that is correct, the computer that comes with it will transmit Watts to Zwift via Bluetooth. On a spin bike Watts is a combination of Cadence and Resistance. So if you need more Watts to get up a hill you will either have to up your cadence or your resistance (or both). You increase your cadence by pedaling faster. You will increase your resistance manually by turning the resistance knob. You might want to look on these boards or google elsewhere to get more information on how the ic4/ic8 calculates watts. I have seen some places that indicate there is a bug in the Schwinn software that makes the watts pretty inaccurate but I have not really looked into that. I just saw it in passing. It might not be true or relevant to your situation.

Thanks so much Heather - definitely falling more into place now. I also read that the Watts, weren’t v accurate but not sure that will matter to us as long as we can get round in a more entertaining way than without zwift. But I will search the forum

Ah, thanks Heather, sounds like it is a big problem! So may be back to square 1 - wattbike atom which you can’t get. Can get a wattbike nucleus but think more expensive but without the automatic adjustment with hills. Or the stages one which is similar - I think!