Easy to adjust
Makes a grinding sound when pedaling
Pedaling doesn’t feel smooth
Doesn't offer many resistance levels
What is the Sunny bike?
This exercise bike is made by Sunny Health and Fitness, an exercise equipment brand that sells affordable home fitness gear like treadmills, ellipticals, and rowers. On its most prominent retailer, Amazon, the bike has almost 5,000 reviews and a 4.4 star rating. Like other popular at-home bikes such as Peloton, Soulcycle, Echelon, and Schwinn, it’s a spin-style bike, which means it is styled after a road bike with a slim seat, pedals positioned right below the feet, handlebars that encourage the rider to lean forward, and a knob between the handlebars that you turn to adjust resistance.
Unlike the others, the Sunny bike is about as basic as it gets. It can support weights of up to 275 pounds (the least of all bikes we tested) and its clunky gray steel frame with red accents makes it look retro, like something a parent in a John Hughes movie might own. The bike uses mechanical resistance and lacks a digital screen, meaning it doesn’t require electricity to work.
Unsurprisingly, it is not “connected”—that is, it doesn’t have a built-in touchscreen display like Peloton, Soulcycle, and Echelon that allows you to stream classes. Nor does it have an LCD screen for metrics and Bluetooth connectivity (which bikes like the Schwinn IC4 offer) that allow you to connect a tablet to the bike and stream a class from a workout app. You can, however, park it in front of a TV or buy a tablet holder (about $15 on Amazon) and hang it on the Sunny Bike to see video, if not all the metrics you might get from a more connected bike.
The Sunny bike’s drivetrain (the mechanism that connects the wheel and pedals) has two variations—a chain drive and a belt drive. The chain is less expensive and appears to be more popular (possibly for that reason), so that’s the one I went with for the review. Prices shift, but the bike is always much less expensive than most other popular bikes. Right now, the version with the chain drive is $299.97 and the version with the belt drive is $329.99. If you buy it on Amazon, you can also get assembly for an extra $89—I sprung for it, so I can’t evaluate its at-home assembly process, but reviewers say it isn’t too difficult to put together.
Both Sunny bike versions come with pedals that have cages, which are to be used with regular sneakers. In general, it’s better to use indoor cycling bikes with cleats that click into compatible pedals—it reduces foot slippage, strain, and gives you a better sense of connection with the bike—but it’s nice that you don’t have to buy a separate pair of shoes with the bike. On the flip side, if you want to use cycling shoes with the bike, you can buy cleat-compatible pedals and install them yourself.
What we like about the Sunny bike
Based on my testing—and, let’s face it, the fact that I was testing it against other, much pricier, more high-tech bikes—I was ready to write off the Sunny as OK for its price, but not much more. But then I got an email from a reader in response to my review about the Peloton app, about how she uses it with a Sunny bike, and basically thinks it’s the greatest. “My Sunny with my tablet on a music stand in front of my bike works as a great substitute for me, and all I spend is $12.99 per month [for the Peloton app],” the reader, Sherry, wrote. “[It’s] the best fitness investment out there, in my opinion.”
With that endorsement, I gave it another look. I can say that one of the best things about it—and something that Amazon reviewers consistently extol—is its price. It’s a fraction as expensive as other exercise bikes. The new Peloton Bike+ is $2,295, for reference, and the Myx bike that we deemed the Best Value is about $1,200, and each charge $40 and $30 per month, respectively, for their class memberships. For what you pay for the Sunny, the bike itself is good quality. The frame, while not stylish, feels sturdy and stable. Weighing under 100 pounds, it’s not too heavy if you need to move it within your home and it has durable wheels for gliding over floors, which make it easy to tilt and roll wherever you need it to go.
I was also impressed by the Sunny bike’s seat, which has thick, cushy padding that makes it feel more comfortable than most spin bikes. Many people buy seat covers for their spin bikes, but it’s unlikely that you’ll have to do it with the Sunny, even if you’re someone who tends to feel sore after a few minutes in the saddle.
The bike is also really easy to adjust for your body size. You can move the seat up and down and fore and aft and change the handlebar height and reach to fit riders with inseams ranging from 30 inches to 42 inches—I’m not sure how that translates to actual height, but it seems like it can accommodate a wide range of people.
Finally, the Sunny bike is straightforward and easy to use. You don’t have to mess around with screens, additional subscription fees, Bluetooth, or WiFi. Its most complicated component is the knob that controls resistance, which most people will know how to use intuitively. In fact, because it’s totally mechanical, you don’t even have to worry about setting it up near an outlet, and you could even get a ride in if the power is out.
What we don’t like about the Sunny bike
My biggest issue with the Sunny bike, when rated on its own merits, is with its flywheel resistance. The knob up top controls a felt pad that clamps tighter around the front wheel as you twist to the right. When I turned the knob, it shifted from very light to very heavy without much room in between. This meant that it felt like I basically had two options when I pedaled—flat road or up a steep hill—which didn’t jive with the many different, more precise levels I’d come to expect with other bikes.
And it’s not just me: This is a well-documented problem among Sunny bike owners, whether they have the belt or chain drive. One customer asked back in 2013 if anyone else was experiencing trouble with the resistance setting, noting that the bike lacked “gradual resistance” and goes from “easy to almost lock up,” even when they turned the knob in small increments. In response, one customer wrote that they removed the felt pads on the wheel and by the knob, scrubbed them with a wire brush, and sprayed them with silicone before putting it back on, and the bike’s resistance setting “greatly improved.”
If this sounds like a lot of work to you, I agree. I did not try this. Instead, I followed the advice of a different commenter, who wrote that spraying the pads with WD-40 silicone-based lubricant made them feel like they had a “brand new bike.” I didn’t have silicone-based WD-40, so I used the regular kind. This worked for me, albeit probably not as well as the other, more labor-intensive trick would have. It made the knob a little easier to turn and like I had maybe one more level of resistance—not as much as other bikes, but enough to feel like I had some actual middle ground, which is needed for most cycling workouts. However, the commenter also wrote that they give the pads a spray about every other time they ride the bike. If you’re OK with keeping a can of silicone-based lubricant in your home gym, it should work out just fine for you. If not, you may want to try something else. Even if you go with either DIY fix, the bike is not going to give you any precise resistance numbers, which may be frustrating if you use it with an app like Peloton that asks you to crank the resistance up or down to a specific range. Still, if you have a sense of what you need for different resistance settings, you can probably make it work.
Finally, my Sunny bike also made a slight grinding sensation and noise when I pedaled—remember, I had the version with the chain drive, so it’s possible that the one with the belt may be quieter. This grinding feeling also meant that the pedal strokes didn’t feel totally smooth, with some friction every time I pushed and an occasional hitch in the rotation. This is more of an annoyance than a technical issue, though, and may simply be a matter of getting used to.
Is the Sunny bike worth it?
If you don’t feel like dropping Peloton cash on something you’re not sure you’re going to use that much, or you want to start a fitness routine with minimal bells and whistles, the Sunny bike could work for you. This $300 bike is not going to hold up against a $1,000-plus one. It’s not going to provide the immersive experience that connected bikes do (even if you ride in front of a TV or prop up a tablet), and it has a few quirks that may make it a non-starter for some. But if you aren’t expecting it to be on par with fancier, pricier bikes, and don’t mind keeping up with some minor maintenance, the Sunny bike could be a great option.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.
Meet the tester
Sara Hendricks is an editor with Reviewed covering health and fitness.
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