The York C201 is the best exercise cycle in terms of value for your pounds, and this is one of the easiest yet most effective types of home exercise you can do. Cycling is an excellent aerobic workout, though you need to ensure you're within your target heart rate zone (60-70% of your maximum), so a unit with a heart rate monitor is a must. If you're just gently pedaling along and hardly breaking a sweat you won't get optimum benefits. Ideally you should work out in your target heart rate zone for a half hour or more, and many users then transition into a strength workout or other form of exercise. Of course you could get a real cycle, but a home cycle can be used rain or shine, in front of the TV or while listening to music, and it's simply less of a commitment to hop on the saddle and go, so if your willpower is on the low side, this may be for you. A cycle can really improve cardiovascular health, and it has been described as the most space efficient piece of home exercise equipment you can own.
York is one of the most popular names in British exercise cycles, and though there are some slightly cheaper models, we like the C201 best as it regularly sells for 40% off retail and is chock full of features. You can spend alot more on a cycle, but we wouldn't recommend going much less, as you really will miss out on the extra features. The York C201 cycle is mains powered and relies on magnetic resistance for a whisper quiet operation. If you've only seen an exercise bike years ago like one of those fan-driven models, you'll be amazed by the noise reduction. There are an impressive 17 user programmes, including 1 manual, 1 user, 3 heart-rate controlled, and 12 pre-set programmes. At the toughest settings, a beginner will barely be able to move the pedals, so there's plenty of room to grow for new and experienced users alike. We found the heart rate programmes the best, as they tailor your workout to ensure you get the maximum aerobic calorie-burning benefit. One minor negative, in some cases it seemed like our reviewer's heart rate was higher than the device suggested, but most of the time it seemed about right. We can't emphasize enough how important it is on this or any cycle to stay in the optimum training heart range--too much and you'll burn out and push into less efficient anaerobic exercise, too little and you won't be getting the main calorie or cardiovascular benefits.
The monitor displays time, speed, distance, calories, pulse, and RPM. The pulse sensor is handily located on the handgrips for easy reading--no silly ear clip as on so many cycles. About all that's missing is a cup holder, and that's hardly a deal breaker.
The York C1201 has an adjustable, padded seat and will support users up to 125 kgs (around 19 and a half stone). It weighs 30.4 kilos and its footprint is surprisingly trim at 97 x 55 x 141 cm, but it is not collapsible.
Prices: The York C201 Exercise Cycle DVD retails for £299, but you can get it at a massive discount on Amazon for around £179, and that includes free shipping!