Guide to Recumbent exercise bikes versus upright exercise bikes

Guide to Recumbent exercise bikes vs Upright exercise bikes: What are the bike benefits to each workout?

                You are ready to purchase a stationary bike, but you want the best fitness bike for your workout. This guide is written to help you choose between the types of indoor bikes that are available. In the battle of the exercise bikes two competitors face off: recumbent bikes vs. upright exercise bikes. What are the benefits of each bike workout? (Please note: If you have already decided on an upright bike and need more information on types of upright bikes, then please check out our resources page for the differences between the traditional upright bike and Cycle Bikes.)

                There are a few key questions that you should ask yourself when choosing an indoor bike. First, do you have a recent or older injury that requires you to be cautious? Do you have back pain or lower back problems? Are you recovering from an injury and seeking cycling as a means of rehab? Or are you training for an outdoor event or competition? Are you choosing indoor cycling as a means to stay fit during poor weather with a purpose to hit the outdoors during fabulous weather? Are you limited on your space in your home? Finally, what does your budget allow? We will discuss all of these questions and which bike is best depending on your answers.

Recumbent Bikes are the newest form of indoor cycling and have gained rapidly in popularity among all athletes and riders. One of the main reasons for this, is the benefits that the recumbent bike has on the rider’s body. Recumbent bikes have minimal impact on the human body. Recumbent bikes sit lower to the ground on a bucket seat while upright bikes seat the rider above the frame and more closely resembles the outdoor bike’s position. Because recumbent bikes sit lower to the ground in a more comfortable bucket seat, they take the pressure off the lower back, actually giving added support to the back. Finally, a bike workout that encourages better posture! The larger bucket seat is much more comfortable for both guys and gals, but guys, especially, will enjoy the bucket seat of a recumbent bike compared to an upright bike. Another benefit, the low impact, reduces risk of injury and pain while building strength.

Additionally, the rider’s hands and arms are not required for the rider to cycle. This means that the strain that upright bikes place on the wrists, elbows and shoulders is eliminated with a recumbent bike. This makes the bike more comfortable. These benefits make recumbent bikes the best choice for those that suffer from chronic neck and back issues or for heavier riders. It also makes them the only choice for rehabilitation and for riders who are recovering from an injury


Another benefit of recumbent bikes, is the increased workout on your legs and butt. Because the rider is seated and the upper body is not used during the workout, recumbent bikes work the hamstrings and gluts heavier than upright bikes. The upright bike lets gravity help with the motion which works the gluts less.

There are a few other less important benefits of recumbent bikes.  First, your hands are free to do other things. You can watch TV, enjoy a book, or play a game. That is, if you can still concentrate on exercising while doing these things. Personally, I tend to ride slower and with less effort while reading and cycling . . . but that is a subject for a different article. Another key benefit is that the added comfort of a recumbent bike may encourage you to extend your cycle workout longer and thus burn additional calories.

As incredible as a recumbent bike is, there are a few disadvantages of recumbent bikes. First, they don’t help train for outdoor cycling as effectively as upright bikes because they don’t improve core strength and don’t require any muscle participation from the upper body. They don’t improve the wrist and shoulder strength that is required when using an upright bike. Unlike upright bikes, which require balancing muscles and counter actions while peddling, recumbent bikes don’t build upper body strength. They also don’t build a full range of motion.

You should also know that recumbent bikes take up more space in a room. They don’t fold and because the rider is not positioned above the pedals, the bike footprint is longer than an upright bike. This might be an important factor for those in limited space such as an apartment or small room. Finally, recumbent bikes are more expensive and take up a larger footprint of space than upright bikes.

Upright Bikes position the rider above the pedals. The rider should be slightly hunched with a slight bend in the back and neck and the workout is more similar to riding a traditional bike. This is ideal for athletes who use indoor cycling to train for outdoor events. Upright bikes give a more consistent ride compared to outdoor cycling. Because the upright bike requires the rider to stay upright, it works abdominal muscles to keep the body upright and support the upper body. The counter balance muscles throughout the upper body are required to keep the rider in position during the cycle workout. Since the recumbent bike sits the rider in a reclined position, it doesn’t work the abdominal muscles at all. The upright bike works the biceps, triceps and shoulder muscles while riding in the upright position.  Upright bike workouts offer more of a whole body workout which helps with core strength.


For those who like to vary their spinning workout, upright bikes offer many programmed workouts and are less restrictive. They also allow the rider to remain seated or stand up and cycle, increasing the workout on the hamstrings and legs. This more intense workout is a critical component for those who enjoy outdoor cycling and need an indoor cycle workout to continue endurance building during poor weather.

Upright exercise bikes have another benefit! They take up less space. This is particularly important for those with limited space who still want to cycle for fitness. Because upright bikes are easier to store and have a smaller footprint in a room, they are also ideal for spinning classes and cycle workout fitness groups.

Yet, one of the biggest benefits of upright exercise bikes is that they are a lower cost, which makes them ideal for almost any budget. Remember, it is better to start exercising and improving your health than to perpetually wait to start because you have budget constraints.

Upright bike have some disadvantages. The typical bike seat makes them more uncomfortable and gives saddle soreness to the new rider. Because they require counter balance muscles, they are harder on the back. The upright bike rider has to sit hunched over the pedals and handlebars which requires the arms and wrists to help support the upper body during the cycling workout. This is harder on the back and joints. They also have a higher center of gravity so an upright bike can be more unstable. This makes upright exercise bikes less a poor choice for anyone who has back problems, is trying to rehabilitate, or suffers from chronic injury or pain. 


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