What is a Recumbent Bike?

A recumbent bike is a good option for almost anyone. So, we’ve put together this article to walk you through everything you need to know about recumbent exercise bikes.

Think of a recumbent bike as an upright stationary bike—except it’s more comfortable because you can workout in a reclined position. It’s most suitable for beginner or casual exercisers, elderly people, and people who are recovering from an injury.

Depending on the brand and model you want, a recumbent bike can be expensive. Therefore, you want to avoid impulse buying.

Read on to learn more about recumbent exercise bikes.

What is a Recumbent Bike?

As we defined earlier, a recumbent bike is an indoor exercise equipment that puts the rider in a comfortable lounging position. The adjustable seat and backrest are usually oversized and padded to provide back and hip support and maintain a stable posture.

The heavy-duty frame features a step-through design for easy entry and exit from the bike. The recumbent bike’s heavy weight and low center of gravity make it possible for you to stay stable as you pedal away.

The average weight of a recumbent bike for home use is around 81.5 pounds. But basic models usually weigh less, around 60 to 70 pounds. Higher quality models with more features could weigh up to 105 pounds.

Most recumbent exercise bikes come with different technologies for keeping track of your workout perimeters (calories, distance, heart rate, speed, time, etc.), which are shown on a built-in digital monitor. They also have built-in sensors for monitoring your heart rate to help you target a specific zone.

The anti-slip pedals usually have an adjustable strap to ensure a perfect fit for your feet. They may also be self-leveling or counterbalanced, which means they stay upright to make it easy for you to insert your feet into the pedals.

What is a recumbent exercise bike good for?

A recumbent bike works the muscles of your buttocks, calves, and thighs. Because it’s designed to put you in a laid-back reclining position, it puts less stress on your hips and knee joints. That’s why it’s a great exercise equipment for older folks and people with joint problems due to an injury or illness.

In general, these exercise bikes use electromagnetic resistance—which involves a large flywheel—to help you train harder. Every model offers different levels of resistance, which you can change by turning a knob or pressing buttons on the digital display.

Recumbent Bike Vs. Upright Bike—Which is Better?

Both exercise bikes can help you stay fit and healthy. However, they have their advantages and disadvantages that you need to consider when deciding which one to use. Here are a few of them.

Targeted Muscles

Since you rest your back on the backrest of a recumbent bike, you don’t need to engage your abdominal muscles to keep your body stable and upright. Recumbent exercise bikes usually target the following muscle groups:

  • Buttock muscles (glutes)
  • Calf muscles
  • Muscles at the anterior part of your legs (tibialis anterior)
  • Posterior thigh muscles (hamstrings)
  • Muscles at the front of your thighs (quads)

On an upright exercise bike, you’re using those same muscles plus these:

  • Abdominal muscles
  • Forearms
  • Muscles and tendons of the back (erector spinea)
  • Muscles on the back of your upper arm (triceps)
  • Shoulder muscles

Risk for Injury

Compared to recumbent bikes, upright stationary bikes could pose a greater risk of injury for different reasons:

  • The downward pressure when you sit straight on an upright stationary bike causes your butt to feel slightly painful after a ride.
  • The lack of backrest promotes back pain.
  • They also put more pressure on your joints, specifically your knees. That’s why they’re not suitable for people who’ve suffered from any muscle or joint injury.

In most cases, you can avoid these injuries by hopping on a recumbent exercise bike. The reclined position transfers the center of balance away from your tailbone to your buttocks, which can prevent saddle soreness. In addition, the generous padded backrest prevents lower back pain due to poor posture.

Calorie-Burning Potential

A lot of people are still divided on this topic. Some people feel that an upright stationary bike burn more calories because it engages more parts of the body, including the arms. People can also change their position—either leaning forward or standing on the bike—to increase the intensity level of a workout.

However, there are a few factors that may affect the amount of calories you burn using an upright stationary bike. For instance, you might get tired easily or be less comfortable. This could cause you to decrease the duration and intensity of your workout.

Since it engages fewer muscles, a recumbent exercise bike might not be as effective as an upright stationary bike in terms of burning calories. But, others believe this isn’t true at all.

The upside of this exercise bike is it’s so comfortable that you might end up extending your workout sessions. And since it leaves your hands free during your workout, you can do other arm or hand exercises, like those that require you to use dumbbells.

In general, recumbent bikes and upright bikes can help you burn calories and fight fat. You aren’t going to see any major advantages in either of the two, as long as you’re putting in equal amount of effort and time.

Fitness Level

The popular recommendation is to use a recumbent bike if you’re a beginner. However, it does take time to get used to it because of the position you have to assume while on it.

If you’re looking for more challenge, or if you don’t have any balance problems, choose an upright stationary bike. Since most of us have ridden a bike before, it won’t take a lot of time to get used to riding it. You can just hop on it and start pedaling away.

Increasing Difficulty Level

When it comes to making your indoor cycling harder, both types of stationary bikes are not much different from each other. They usually have a knob that you can twist to the left or right to decrease or increase the resistance of the bike.

Many stationary exercise bikes provide different levels of resistance, usually between 1 to 10. Some mid-priced and high-end models can offer up to 25 levels of resistance.

General Comfort Level

Comfort is subjective. For most people, an upright stationary bike can be uncomfortable because of the forward-leaning position and narrow saddle. It also puts pressure on the tissue on your tailbone and other parts of your body (back, neck, shoulders, arms, and wrists). Over time, especially if the saddle lacks adequate padding, the pressure could result in a sore.

With that said, recumbent bikes are the best choice if comfort is your top priority. Since you’re slightly inclined, with a backrest supporting your back, you’ll unlikely suffer from back pain after your workout. The typically padded and larger seat relieves pressure from your buttocks and lower legs. In addition, the pedals are placed out in front of your body, allowing your legs to stretch freely.

How to Choose Good Recumbent Bikes

Recumbent bikes can help you stay fit and healthy. But we all know they’re not created equal, so it’s really important to know what to look for when buying one. Below, we’ve collected a few things to think about when buying the best recumbent exercise bike for home use.

What’s Your Budget?

A recumbent bike is an investment. And in the real world, that means making sure you stay within your budget, without short-changing yourself.

The price of recumbent exercise bikes could range from $120 to $5,000. Recumbent exercise bikes that cost less than $1,000 fall in the “budget” category. As you might expect, these typically have basic features, shorter warranties, and lower maximum weight capacity.

If you want a better-quality model, you’d generally want to check out recumbent bikes in the mid-range category. These bikes would cost anywhere between $1,000 and $1,500. Compared to budget recumbent bikes, they have a more heavy-duty frame, better load capacity and warranty, and are more comfortable.

Commercial-grade models would cost $1,500 to $5,000, or higher. You’ll probably like these recumbent bikes because they’d normally mimic the feel of a recumbent bike that you’d find at a commercial gym. They also have longer warranties (as they should, considering the price) and additional impressive features.

Check the Warranty

Aside from the price, warranty is another thing we consider when shopping for a new fitness equipment. After all, it greatly reflects the manufacturer’s confidence in the reliability of their recumbent bikes.

The shortest manufacturer’s warranty for repair and replacement is a month or 30 days. Mid-range models would usually come with a one-year manufacturer’s warranty. Other manufacturers allow customers to make a return within 90 days.

It’s rare to find a recumbent bike with a lifetime parts warranty. You’ll probably have to content yourself with a high-quality recumbent bike for home use that has at least a 5-year warranty for the frame and a 3-year warranty on all parts.

The Flywheel Matters

For other people, the first thing they check when shopping for a recumbent bike is the weight of the flywheel. This is important because it directly affects the resistance and “feel” (how fluid the pedaling action is) of a recumbent bike.

The rule of thumb: the heavier the flywheel, the better. Heavy could mean differently for every person. In general, a flywheel that weighs 30 to 50 pounds is already heavy.

Why is a heavy flywheel good? It’s better than a lighter flywheel because it’s able to create plenty of momentum as you’re pedaling, which results in a smoother ride and safer movement.

The people who’ll benefit the most from a heavy flywheel are those who want to feel like they’re riding outdoors on a real road bike. But remember, the intensity of a workout on a recumbent bike is more about the applied resistance than the weight of the flywheel.

The Best Type of Resistance

The effectiveness of a recumbent bike is mainly determined by the amount of resistance it can produce. Most budget recumbent bikes would usually have a resistance level that ranges from 1 to 10. If you’re willing to spend more, you could find models that can offer you 20 to 25 levels of resistance.

How does a recumbent bike increase or decrease the intensity of a workout?

Most recumbent bikes use magnetic resistance to set the intensity of a workout. This means that there’s a magnet installed on either side of the flywheel. Now, when these magnets move closer to the metal flywheel, there would be an increase in resistance. And when they move away from the metal flywheel, it results in lower resistance.

The benefits of a recumbent bike that uses magnetic resistance:

  • It doesn’t rely on electricity to function. (The electronic computer display needs batteries, though.)
  • It’s low maintenance because it doesn’t have parts that come in contact with each other. This prevents its parts, like the felt pads, from wearing down easily.

Find the Perfect Fit

This is going to be challenging if you plan to shop online. If you can, visit your local fitness equipment store.

To know if a recumbent bike perfectly fits you, simply do the following:

  • After sitting on the recumbent bike, put your feet on the pedals. Make sure the ball of your foot is in front of the pedal spindle.
  • Now, with the other pedal in the 3 o’clock position, there should be a small bend in your knee (around 25 to 30 degrees). This position allows you to pedal with power and ease.
  • Check if you can adjust the seat. If you have too much or too little angle, you want to be able to adjust the seat.
  • To know if the angle is just right, try pedaling a little. If you stretch too much at the farthest point of your pedal stroke, you need to readjust the seat to lower it.

Conclusion

While they may not be the ultimate fitness equipment, there’s no doubt that recumbent bikes can help you burn calories, especially if you pair them with other workouts, healthy eating, and adequate sleep. They’re specifically highly beneficial for older folks, people who need to lose a few pounds, and people with health conditions that affect their mobility.

There are plenty of options out there, so take your time when buying one. Set your budget, shop around, and don’t forget our buying considerations.