Difference Between Magnetic & Friction Resistance Exercise Bikes

Difference Between Magnetic & Friction Resistance Exercise Bikes

The vigorous workout you experience on an indoor cycling bike could not be achieved without increasing and decreasing resistance. We will examine two very different resistance systems and how to identify which one is right for you.


  • What is magnetic resistance on an exercise bike?

As more and more bike designs include magnetic resistance, it is crucial to understand what magnetic resistance is and how it works. For magnetic resistance to occur, a few things have to happen, and as you might guess, this process includes magnets. A standard design contains two powerful magnets placed in parallel with the flywheel between them.


  • What is frictional resistanceon an exercise bike?

In the past, friction resistance has been the gold standard for exercise bike resistance systems. To understand how this type of model works, we first need to understand what friction is. Friction is the resistance felt when trying to slide two objects against each other. On an exercise bike, frictional resistance occurs when fabric pads exert pressure on the flywheel. These pads may be located on either side of the flywheel and squeeze the flywheel when the resistance knob is turned clockwise or include a larger pad that applies pressure in a downward motion to the spinning flywheel. Pads are usually made of fabric. Cotton is the most common pad material.


  • Detailed differences of magnetic and frictional resistance

Although, in the end, both resistance systems successfully add resistance to the indoor cycling bike, they are vastly different. Let's discuss the differences that make each design unique.


  • Feel

The feel of these two systems can be a deciding factor in deciding which option you prefer. A magnetic resistance system has a slight delay from the time you turn the resistance knob until you feel the resistance start. For riders who have become accustomed to the feel of a friction system, it may take a little time to acclimate to this type of system.

Friction resistance resembles riding a road bike. Just as you instantly feel the change in incline when you begin to climb a hill, the change in resistance begins immediately as you turn the knob. The resistance change is smooth, consistent and hard to overcome.


  • Sound

If you have ridden an indoor cycling bike yourself and heard a soft "whooshing" sound that occurs, then you are in the presence of a bike that uses a friction resistance system. A friction system works by means of cotton pads that apply pressure to the spinning flywheel, as we discussed earlier. These pads, therefore, create the slight "whooshing" sound when they come in contact with the flywheel.

A bike with a magnetic system is nearly silent because the spinning flywheel travels through the magnetic field and does not come in contact with anything. If you don't mind the sensation of magnetic resistance, then a quieter ride is more beneficial.


  • Resistance levels

Many friction indoor cycling bikes do not include a way to identify your specific resistance level. Instead of having set resistance levels, this option allows more flexibility for the rider. These bikes allow the rider to keep adding resistance until it becomes impossible to keep pedaling.

Magnetic resistance systems include a monitor that quickly identifies the level at which you are pedaling. The number of levels may vary between manufacturers, but typically one level is always visible to the rider.

Suppose you are the type of cyclist who likes to see your progression in a workout that includes more than just mileage. In that case, a magnetic resistance model gives you the opportunity to track your maximum resistance and gives you something to strive to beat on your next ride.

If you're a strong, experienced cyclist, you may prefer a friction system that allows for added resistance.


  • Maintenance

The initial cost is important when buying a bike. However, the buyer must also consider the cost of additional maintenance to keep the bike at its best. When looking for a friction or magnetic system, there are a couple of things to consider.

On average, friction resistance bikes require a greater amount of resistance over time than a magnetic option. Often, friction resistance systems include a front flywheel. This flywheel placement is in the "sweat zone." Sweat can cause erosion of critical mechanical components over time. In addition, the cotton cloth pads should be replaced approximately every 6-12 months.

The magnetic resistance cycle does not have components that need to be replaced as frequently, since technically nothing technically comes in contact with the flywheel. The flywheel can also be located at the front or rear of the cycle, depending on the brand. Flywheels located at the rear of the bike also have a lower chance of erosion from sweat. As for maintenance, a magnetic resistance indoor cycling bike will require less.


  • Cost

The price can fluctuate between a magnetic or friction resistance system. Magnetic systems are more expensive than a friction system. Magnetic resistance bikes are more expensive to manufacture and therefore the expense is passed on to consumers. If you have a smaller budget, then a friction resistance system might be a better option.

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