A recumbent bike is one of those bits of equipment that you might well have walked past in the gym countless times and not given it much thought. With its large padded seat and pedals out in front, it looks like it’s not anything special. The truth is that a recumbent exercise bike is probably the best piece of cardio equipment you’ve never used.
Stationary cycling is an amazing cardio workout that’s often under utilised by many avid gym enthusiasts. The reason is that it seems like it’s too easy to be effective. That’s couldn’t be further from the truth. A recumbent bike is a stellar choice for a low-impact cardio session – great news for athletes of all fitness levels.
Cycling is an especially beneficial cardio workout for athletes who need to find an active recovery option that isn’t going to be too taxing on the joints and muscles.
Let’s take a look at what a recumbent bike is and isn’t, and how it stacks up against an upright bike. We’ll figure out the best exercises to perform on a recumbent and the benefits as well.
Our Top Picks at a Glance
- JLL RE100 Recumbent Home Exercise Bike
- XS Sports Magnetic Recumbent Seated Exercise Bike
- V-fit G-RC Recumbent Magnetic Cycle
- Exerpeutic GOLD 525XLR
- Marcy ME-709
- DKN RB-4i
Note: There’s a lot more information below but clicking the above links will take you to current prices, further information and customer reviews on Amazon.
What is a Recumbent Exercise Bike?
A recumbent bike has a large padded seat that offers back support and looks like a chair. The pedals are positioned in front of you instead of below your body. This design means there’s less impact on your joints than some other cardio options like running or using a stair machine. The seating arrangement of a recumbent bike provides an isolated lower body workout without putting additional strain on the rest of the body.
Sometimes the pedalling movement can feel awkward to start because of the angle of the user’s leg in relation to the rest of the body. However, a recumbent bike can offer cardio advantages to people who have back problems, who are new to working out, or for whom age might be a deciding factor.
With a recumbent bike, once the pedals stop being pushed, the bike stops moving. Resistance is generally provided via a magnetic system and can be toggled via the display screen. Generally, displays on recumbent bikes are large and easy to read. They provide a variety of data, including calories burned and distance biked. Customisable programmes allow users to create workouts that align with their personal fitness goals.
Recumbent bikes often need to be plugged into an electric source to work fully and are generally larger than Spin bikes or upright bikes.
Recumbent vs Upright
There are a few key differences between a recumbent bike and an upright bike. Selecting a recumbent bike is a great option for those who might need a larger seat or a reclined body position.
- You sit comfortably inside the bike frame
- You’re more comfortable and naturally reclined. This reduces body fatigue and helps prevent muscle soreness in your upper body
- Offers a focused lower body workout
- The seat is much larger and far more comfortable
- You sit above the bike frame like a traditional cycle
- There’s limited upper body support
- The workout is more consistent with an outdoor ride
- Positioned correctly, you’re slightly hunched over with a slight bend in your neck and back. This might lead to muscle fatigue, especially if you’re new to cycling
- The seat is small and can be uncomfortable to sit on for long periods of time. This is a condition called saddle soreness
These are the main differences between recumbent and upright bicycles. Of course, each has its place in a well-rounded fitness routine, but a recumbent bike is better suited for you if you’re just beginning your fitness journey or need to be mindful of upper body stress.
Some people like recumbent bikes far more than upright because of the relaxed seated position. It can take away much of the stress of upright cycling and you’re far less likely to develop saddle soreness.
What is a Recumbent Exercise Bike Used For?
When using a recumbent bike, you’re either going to be using it for steady state cardio or as HIIT interval cardio. Let’s take a look at the difference to best understand what a recumbent bike is used for.
Steady State Cardio
This is what you think of when you imagine doing cardio – exercise at a constant speed for a specific amount of time. Depending on your fitness level, the time you spend at a constant speed is going to vary. Beginners might only be able to use a recumbent bike for ten minutes at a time, while a seasoned athlete might be able to cycle for an hour.
Steady state cardio is great for beginners because it helps train your heart, breathing patterns, and body to be in motion for a long period of time. Equally, steady state is beneficial for experienced athletes, since you’re already accustomed to a high range of motion.
Hight Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
Interval training is a great tool to aid in weight loss and to help with anaerobic conditioning. When you interval train, you’re varying the speed and intensity for a specific number of iterations. You might do one minute of low intensity followed by one minute of high intensity for the duration of your workout.
HIIT helps you burn a lot of calories in short bursts of energy and helps keep your metabolism revved for hours after your workout. It can help with your oxygen consumption and you might gain muscle more quickly when you incorporate HIIT into your workout routines.
Benefits of Using a Recumbent Exercise Bike
Using a recumbent bike offers a wide array of benefits. You’re going to improve muscle tone, increase your weight loss efforts, and strengthen your heart. First, let’s take a look at some of the lesser known benefits of using a recumbent bike.
Cycling can also be beneficial to your mood. Aerobic exercise increases blood levels of a chemical called anadamide. This natural cannabinoid might explain why so many cyclists experience a “high” after a satisfying ride. When anadamide is released into the body, emotional and cognitive processes are altered, giving you a feeling of euphoria and a mental boost.
Because of this natural boost, it’s not surprising that using a recumbent bike can also help prevent and treat depression over the long term. Even short cardio sessions have been shown to produce a spike in serotonin, which can help keep you happier throughout the day.
Recumbent cycling might also help treat and manage some of the conditions relating to ADHD. Research is still in its preliminary stages, but early studies suggest that cycling might have similar effects on the brain as Ritalin.
Research shows that recumbent bikes are an excellent choice for anyone with a neurological condition, like Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s. People with cerebral palsy can also benefit from using a recumbent bike. For this reason, recumbent cycling is well suited to help slow the effects of these neurological conditions. Recumbent cycling changes the brain by activating some of the same areas that pharmaceutical medications activate and helps to increase the connectivity in the brain.
Obviously, a major draw of using a recumbent bike is the cardio benefit. It’s an excellent option for aerobic exercise and utilises many of your major muscle groups – quads, hams, legs, and glutes. Using a recumbent bike often will ultimately provide you with increased heart and lung function, a decrease in blood pressure, and you’re less likely to develop chronic illnesses like heart disease or diabetes.
If low back pain is of any concern to you, you’re going to love using a recumbent bike for your cardio workouts. It’s so much more comfortable on the lumbar spine because of the way you sit in the bike. Your seating position also encourages better spinal posture overall. As we know, your posture is directly related to the strength of your core. So, if you remain in a better seated posture for longer periods of time, you’re going to be working on your core while getting a cardio workout! That’s a double win.
Recumbent bikes are so gentle on your joints. Your lower back is well supported and unlike other cardio options, you’re not going to putting your ankles, knees, and hips at risk.
The large seat is absolutely enticing for just about everyone, but especially for athletes who need some active recovery but are pretty spent from a week of heavy training. This is also beneficial because you’ll be able to log more time on the recumbent bike. More time ultimately means more benefits, so it’s a win all around.
Generally speaking, you’re safer riding a recumbent bike than a traditional upright cycle. That’s because you’re unable to stand on the pedals, which eliminates lots of potential injuries.
What To Look For When Buying A Recumbent Bike
Generally speaking, it’s better to have wider and larger options when you purchase a recumbent bike. This is especially true if you’re going to be sharing the bike with others.
A heavy flywheel is going to best mimic a road cycling experience. The same goes for perimeter-weighted flywheels. If this is important to you, make sure the recumbent bike you purchase has a flywheel that meets your expectations.
Step through design
A step through design means you can walk onto the bike without anything in your way, just like sitting in a chair.
Seat and backrest
Because the recumbent bike is so suitable for people with back problems, make sure the seat is both adjustable and well-padded. A backrest that’s made of mesh is ideal to allow air to circulate while you’re using the bike.
The beauty of a pre-set program is that you don’t have to fuss over creating a workout. Stay motivated and challenged with programmes already created.
Magnetic tension resistance gives you a smoother ride. Opt for a recumbent bike with that feature if this is a big concern for you.
If you’re leaning back, you might not be able to see your screen. Look for a recumbent bike that’s backlit so you can track the progress of your workout. A display holder to hold your tablet or phone is also a good idea so you can watch a movie or read a book.
A high-end recumbent bike is going to have Bluetooth connectivity so you can quickly and easily download data about your workouts. This gives you the chance to better track your metrics and stay in charge of your fitness.
A Detailed Look at the Best Recumbent Exercise Bikes (UK Availability)
With eight resistance levels and a six-function display, the JLL RE100 is a great recumbent bike option. Suited for just about everyone, it even comes with adjustable toe straps for the pedals and heart rate sensors built into the handlebars.
- Magnetic resistance
- 7-level seat adjustment
- 5kg flywheel
- Display measures all relevant metrics
- End caps double as wheels, making it easy to move
- Battery operated; doesn’t require a power source
- Seat is small compared to most recumbent bikes
- Uses a rubber belt to move the pedals, which might wear out quickly
- Seat is a little low, might be hard for some users
- No instructions on how to use the digital display
- Assembly required
There are some real benefits to this bike. The seat adjustment option makes it great for users of all heights. The same can be said for the pedal straps. However, the seat is low and because it uses a rubber belt to propel the pedals, it may need eventual maintenance.
The bi-directional 4kg flywheel is going to ensure that your ride is smooth when you use the XS Sports Magnetic bike. Eight resistance levels will keep you challenged as your fitness levels continue to improve. A fully adjustable seat means you’ll be comfortable riding, no matter what preconditions you might have.
- 4kg flywheel
- Made from steel, so should last a long time
- Well suited for beginners and those recovering from surgery
- Heart rate monitor helps keep you motived while using it
- Display is incredibly small and might be hard for some users to read
- Assembly required and directions are unclear in instruction pamphlet
- Metric tracking might not be completely accurate
- Seat might not be adjustable enough for tall users
- Tension belt can snap after being used, which would require repair or replacement
- Batteries not included
There might be some difficulties assembling this recumbent bike, in part because in instructions aren’t well translated but also because the spring coils can be problematic. The steel construction and 4 kg flywheel suggest it will perform well for years to come, but the metric tracking on the LCD display might fail long before that time.
This V-fit recumbent bike has a magnetic flywheel resistance system designed to give you just the right workout every time. Adjustable displays help you track your workout. Non-slip oversize pedals ensure your feet always stay in place. Pulse sensors conveniently placed on the handlebars help you keep your heart rate in the appropriate cardio zone.
- 6kg cat iron flywheel will give you a smooth ride
- Large seat makes it suitable for many users
- Multi-function large screen is easy to see
- Max user weight 18.1 st / 115 kg
- Seat height isn’t adjustable
- Pedal distance isn’t adjustable
- Doesn’t come with transport wheels
- Resistance might not be enough for experienced athletes
- Cover on seat might not hold up during normal use
With a max user weight of just over 18 stone, this V-fit bike is going to work well for many users. Though it doesn’t offer an adjustable seat height or leg distance, it does have a large comfortable seat and oversized pedals. The multi-function display screen is easy to see to help you keep track of your workout. Resistance might be lacking for users who bike or train a lot.
With an extended weight capacity and eight levels of resistance, this Exerpeutic Gold recumbent bike is well suited for all types of athletes. The large LCD display helps you track metric and a larger than normal seat keeps you comfortable for the duration of your ride. A step through design makes it easy to get into and out of the bike and the fold-up option means it stores away easily, keeping your space tidy.
- Fold up design makes this well suited for small spaces
- Seat adjustment goes from 1,55m-1,98m, so it’s perfect for just about everyone
- Display is very easy to read
- Back portion of seat doesn’t adjust; might be awkward for some users on the shorter side
- No wheels so storage might be tough
- Angle of seat might be awkward for some people
This isn’t the traditional design of a recumbent bike, so it doesn’t offer the traditional experience. While most users equate a recumbent bike with comfort, this model might feel a little austere. The fold-up design is a great option if your space is small, but without wheels, it might be tough to utilise that function to its full capacity.
The Marcy recumbent bike is a great choice. It offers a fully adjustable length frame distance and it has a very thick seat. The LCD display shows standard metrics, giving you control over your workout. You can easily achieve your goals with this recumbent bike. A knob adjusts resistance to give you a workout perfect for your fitness level.
- 40 cm foam seat
- Step-through frame
- Low seat height
- Steel frame
- Display is very small
- Max weight is only 17 st / 110 kg
- 4 kg flywheel
- Only measures heart rate and time, not calories burned, or distance travelled
This bike might be best suited for those who need to be active but aren’t too concerned with overall performance since it doesn’t track calories burned or distance travelled. The seat and handles help keep your body in proper form and the step-through frame is perfect for those with mobility issues.
The added feature of user profiles makes the DKN recumbent bike stand out from all the rest. This is a great option to have, especially if you’re going to be sharing the bike with others in your household. An 11kg flywheel gives you plenty of resistance and will help mimic an on-the-road cycling experience. 12 pre-set programmes mean all you have to do is decide which one to follow.
- Extra large screen makes it very easy to see
- Padded back rest and padded seat keeps your comfort in mind
- Transport wheels makes it easy to move around
- Max user weight 23.6 stone / 150 kg
- Bike weighs 50kg so even though it has wheels, you probably won’t move it often
- Assembly is required and might take as much as two hours
- Sometimes the app isn’t updated, rendering it useless
- Customer service isn’t the best, so reaching the company might be problematic
This is an amazing recumbent bike option. The flywheel is heavy enough that you’re going to get a good cardio workout, no matter your fitness level. Bluetooth compatibility gives you the option to change music directly from the bike. With the option of watching live video from around the world, this bike is definitely going to keep you engaged. It’s probably best suited for those who already have an established fitness routine and are looking for a new cardio challenge.
Recumbent bikes are popular in gyms and health clubs for food reason. They’re a great way to warm up for a heavier workout session, or as part of active recovery on rest days. These kinds of bikes are especially useful for a wide array of mental benefits and can directly improve the quality of life for people with certain neurological conditions.
With a recumbent bike as part of your home gym, you’re going to be more motivated to get on and pedal away. Investing in your own recumbent bike is a great way to take your health – both physical and mental – to the next level, all from the comfort of your own home. Of course, the more comfortable you are with your workout, the more likely you are to return to it.
Recumbent bikes are a perfect addition to your home gym because it’s such a beneficial piece of equipment.