Exercise Bike vs Elliptical: Which Should You Buy?

If you're looking for some cardio equipment, you're probably asking yourself 'should I buy an exercise bike or an elliptical?'

Much like when deciding between a stationary bike and a treadmill, if you're struggling to pick between the two don't worry, we're here to guide you through some of the key similarities and differences in price, ergonomics, and storage to help you come to an informed decision.

Let's begin...

Exercise Bike vs Elliptical - Price

Like most machines, stationary bikes and cross trainers can vary massively in price depending on the features they include, the brand, and the number of resistance levels.

An entry to mid-level exercise bike like the YOSUDA Indoor Bike featured in our best exercise bikes list comes with an LCD display and a 35lbs flywheel, but won't include an HD touchscreen or 24 levels of digital resistance like a premium NordicTrack Studio Bike.

YOSUDA exercise bike product image of a black and grey stationary bike.
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Image Credit: YOSUDA

By comparison, you can pick up an entry-level elliptical like the XS Sports Luna Pro featured in our best cross trainers for less, but you'll be sacrificing in terms of technology and levels of resistance in comparison to a more advanced bit of kit like the Life Fitness E1.

In general, you'll probably find a mid-range elliptical to be slightly cheaper than an exercise bike with a comparable amount of technology so, therefore, might be better value for money.

Exercise Bike vs Elliptical - Ergonomics

Despite being relatively similar machines designed to improve your cardio, there are a few differences between them, especially in the movements.

Exercise Bike

Firstly, a stationary bike is a low-impact and joint-friendly machine for improving your cardio, but it is specialised in the sense of it only focusing on your lower body, particularly your glutes, quads, and hamstrings.

Moreover, an exercise bike allows you to perform a movement similar to cycling in real life and, therefore, is more functional than an elliptical which can be beneficial if you're training for a particular purpose like a triathlon.

If you struggle with coordination then an exercise bike may be beneficial when compared to an elliptical as you only have to focus on rotating the peddles with your legs as opposed to synchronising your arm and leg movements.


The major difference with a cross trainer is the lack of a seat, meaning you're forced to move your entire body, especially your arms whilst holding the handlebars, during a workout - but whether this leads to more calories burned is up for debate.

NordicTrack elliptical product image of a black and grey machine
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Image Credit: NordicTrack

According to Havard Medical School, a 155lbs person will burn 334 calories in 30 minutes on an elliptical compared to 252 calories when pedaling at a moderate speed for 30 minutes on a stationary bike, but more vigorous peddling will result in 278 calories burned.

Moreover, a 2011 study comparing cross trainers to exercise bikes found elliptical training showed greater quad activity and greater quad/hamstrings coactivation than all other conditions.

An elliptical continues along the same lines as the exercise bike in terms of the stress placed on your joints as both are low-impact movements so should suit anyone with knee or hip problems or even arthritis.

However, the elliptical movement isn't the most functional out there as it doesn't truly resemble anything you do in real life and, therefore, might not suit you if you're planning on training for a particular event.

Exercise Bike vs Elliptical - Storage

In terms of storage, an exercise bike will likely be longer horizontally whereas an elliptical should be taller.

What this means is a cross-trainer will probably take up far less floor space, leaving more space for other gym equipment like a top barbell for deadlifts.

You are, however, more likely to find foldable exercise bikes like this Exerpeutic Folding Bike which is more suited for storing away post-workout.

Ellipticals tend to be static bits of equipment due to the handlebars connecting to the peddles, making them harder to compact for storage.

So Exercise Bike vs Elliptical - Which Should I Buy?

The bottom line is both are consider low-impact cardio machines so should suit anyone with osteoarthritis or those simply looking for a joint-friendly bit of kit.

You may be able to burn more calories on an exercise bike as it is easier to up the intensity compared to an elliptical, but a cross-trainer will help to build strength in both your upper and lower body by engaging more muscle groups in the movement.

We feel, given ellipticals work a greater area of your body, much like a top rowing machine, it will probably provide better value for money than an exercise bike, especially considering a mid-range machine is typically slightly cheaper.

If, however, you're looking for something that incorporates your entire body but utilises a more functional movement, then check out our list of the best treadmills available right now.

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