What is a Recumbent Bike? Recumbent vs Upright Exercise Bikes
A recumbent bike places you, the rider, in a comfortable reclined position. And just like your favorite easy chair, it is a great place to watch TV, and get a little exercise at the same time.
That is more than you can say for your La-Z Boy recliner, right?
Today these recumbent bikes are so quiet, you won’t need to turn up the TV volume to ride, and you won’t disturb neighbors or your spouse while riding.
Unlike upright bikes, the recumbent bikes have seat backs, like a chair, and are easy on your back. No need to hunch over the handlebars and add more strain and aches.
A recumbent bike supports your back and puts your legs and body in a comfortable position.
Is a Recumbent Bike Better than an Upright?
It depends on your goals really.
If you want a high intensity “spinning” style sweat your butt off workout, an upright bike might be for you. You can stand and pedal on some upright models, but be prepared to break a sweat and then some.
A recumbent bike is, by nature, a little more relaxed. Since there is a seat back, and you are in a more relaxed position, you do not have to go full bore if you don’t want.
That’s not to say they do not offer a decent workout.
Most recumbent bikes have magnetic resistance and the upper level resistance settings can have you sweating just as much as the upright versions if you choose.
But your back and knees will feel less of the brunt of an intense workout on a recumbent bike.
Recumbent Bike vs Elliptical Trainer
Elliptical trainers are indeed easy on the knees, but since you do need to stand on an elliptical trainer, it can be a strain on the back after a while.
If you have a bad back or back pain, a recumbent bike may be a better choice.
In addition to that:
On a recumbent bike, if you need to take a break, simply stop pedaling. Since you are already in a seated position you can rest right where you are at.
On an elliptical trainer you need to stop and find a place to sit down in order to rest.
Recumbent Bike vs Treadmill
Treadmills can offer a great workout, no doubt. If you love to run or jog, or even take a walk in front of the TV set, treadmills are a great option.
If you have back knee or joint problems, the pressure from standing upright and walking or jogging may aggravate or exacerbate those issues.
With a recumbent bike, less weight and pressure are placed on the joints and back, so this type of bike is less likely to make any existing problems worse.
Top Benefits of Recumbent Bike Exercise
Recumbent bikes have larger More comfortable seats than other types of bikes.
Recumbent bikes have a seat back that allows you to comfortably sit back.
Pedals are out in front, so there is less pressure on joints.
You do NOT hunch your back on a recumbent bike like you would on any other type of bike.
You are at perfect TV watching level on a recumbent bike because they sit lower to the ground.
Recumbent bikes are far easier to get on to because they are lower to the ground and usually have handles near the seat and up front.
Is a Recumbent Bike Good Exercise?
Yes, a recumbent bike works similar muscles as any bike would, the difference is your legs do most of the work and your body is less involved.
Most recumbent bikes have magnetic resistance, so you can set the difficulty level as high or as low as you need, you are in control of the intensity.
How do I use Recumbent Bike to Improve my Fitness?
To ride a recumbent bike begin by sitting in the saddle and adjusting the seat so your feet are on the pedals, secured in the strap, and your leg is extended so your knee is just slightly bent.
Make any adjustments to the seat back and then set your resistance level on the console.
It’s that easy!
Most newer models even have a quick start button so if the seat is already set to your preferred adjustments, you can just push and go.
What Muscles will I Work on a Recumbent Bike?
Many folks think recumbent bikes work different muscles than other types of bikes.
But, that is not the case.
Recumbent bikes work:
Quads, the large front leg muscle
Glutes, the muscles in your bum
Calves, for pulling the pedal down and back
The hamstrings which are at the back of the legs
Recumbent Bike Workout for Beginners
While most recumbent bikes come pre-programmed with several workout programs, you can always increase your routine repertoire by including upper body into your cycling program.
Recumbent Bike workout with Dumbells
This simple routine uses both recumbent bike combined with dumbbells to tone arms while getting a great cardio workout from the cycling.
What You Should Look Out for before Choosing a Recumbent Bike
Seat and seat back
Of all the recumbent bike reviews I have seen, an uncomfortable seat was one of the most common complains. Look for a wide padded seat.
The last thing you want getting in the way of you and your fitness goals is a hard, uncomfortable seat.
It defeats the whole purpose of buying a bike and setting it up if you don’t use it because it is a pain in the rear, literally.
Look for a padded seat, and preferably, a padded or mesh seat back.
The bikes in the recumbent bike reviews list have a wide range of max user weights. Some could handle riders up to 220 lbs, while others were able to accommodate 400 lbs plus.
Check the max user weight limit before purchasing a bike
Cheaper bikes tend to be more wobbly and make the rider feel insecure.
I weeded out models that were poorly built and felt unstable, however, the less expensive the bike, the more likely it is to have a little wobble.
There are some really great, sturdy bikes in the reviews that are on the lower end of the price spectrum, so less expensive does not always mean poorly built.
Review: This moderately priced commercial recumbent bike by NordicTrack is one of the top rated recumbent exercise bikes because it incorporates cutting edge technology and features like push button adjusting magnetic resistance, a fan that adjusts with your intensity, MP3 sound system and dual 2” speakers.
Plus a fully adjustable seat and comfortable ride, at a much lower cost than other commercial level recumbent bikes.
Built in speaker and fan that auto-adjusts as speed increases.
20 lb flywheel for a smooth ride.
32 on board workout apps, heart rate monitor and state of the art on board console.
Stiff chair back, plus data in console disappears if you stop pedaling for too long.
Quiet, Quality and current technology from one of the best recumbent bike brands.
Review: This wildly popular and value priced Marcy Recumbent bike has 8 levels of magnetic resistance, an on board console to track your workout data and a large wide padded seat for a comfortable ride.
For the price, it is surprisingly quiet and well built.
Quiet and well built.
Easy to put together.
Not enough seat adjustments back and forth, however, does accommodate short folks well.
The most popular bike of all the recumbent exercise bike reviews here, and no wonder, it’s got one of the lowest prices too!
Review: This Stamina recumbent bike has several features you may like, at a price that is affordable.
The bike has magnetic resistance, which is easily adjusted using a knob and the resistance at the highest level is very challenging. If you are after a good workout, this may be the best recumbent stationary bike for you.
8 Levels of magnetic resistance with upper levels being quite challenging.
Very quiet bike, great for apartments.
Weight limit of about 300 lbs, adjusts to accommodate both short and tall folks.
Smallish seat, and no straps on the pedals.
If you are looking for a serious workout, this is the best recumbent bike for home gyms in this price range with strong resistance.
Review: This quality bike from Nautilus has 22 levels of magnetic resistance that range from virtually no resistance, to very high resistance, giving you complete control of how hard you want your workout to be.
The bike is so quiet you can watch TV while riding, and the seat back makes for a comfortable ride.
Tech features: Two speakers, fan, with handle pulse monitor, Dual LCD display.
22 levels of magnetic resistance plus weighted flywheel for smooth ride at any resistance level.
Sturdy bike, suitable for heavy riders.
Pedals are a little too narrow.
A smooth quiet ride make this bike one of the best home recumbent bikes out there.
Review: This gym quality recumbent bike is built with durability and comfort in mind.
The padded seat and padded seat back are fully adjustable, plus the seat is VERY easy to move due to a wrap around adjustment bar. The bike seat and handlebars adjust making this the best recumbent bike for short legs.
Armrests that lift up out of the way, walk through design.
Self powered, no need to plug in.
Finer details – Pedal straps, built in fan cup holders, heart rate built into front handles that adjust, perfect for short users.
Since it is so adjustable and able to get into your ideal riding position this is recommended as one of the best recumbent exercise bike for bad knees.
Life Fitness RS1 Go Recumbent Lifecycle Exercise Bikes
Review: The life fitness Recumbent bike is one of the most popular models in health clubs and gyms.
It has a step through design, side comfort handles with built in heart rate monitor, front assist handles, and a well crafted and extensively tested ergonomic design that positions your legs feet and knees perfectly.
Adjustable seat with padded back and seat rest.
Side and front handlebars make it easy to get on and off.
14 workout programs plus heart rate monitor.
Pricy, but with commercial quality.
This model is one of the easiest on the knees of all the recumbent exercise bike reviews listed here.