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Buyers Guide & Information

Best Recumbent Bikes For Ergonomic Exercise

Do you have upper back problems that keep you from working out? Exercise in comfort and be pain-free with one of these top-rated recumbent bikes!

by

Buyers Guide & Information

Best Recumbent Bikes For Ergonomic Exercise

Do you have upper back problems that keep you from working out? Exercise in comfort and be pain-free with one of these top-rated recumbent bikes!

by PITeam

by PITeam

Recumbent bikes are stationary exercise bikes that are designed so that you sit in a reclining and very laid-back position. They are the perfect at-home fitness equipment, regardless of your physical ability or health status.

They involve low-impact exercise ideal for general fitness, functional training, and even rehabilitation. They are much safer, comfortable and ergonomic than regular bikes.

As noted at Live Strong,  "The relaxed ride posture of recumbent bikes make them a good option for people who can't use upright bikes because of neck or shoulder issues."

What is A Recumbent Bike?

The stationary bike lets you sit down on the seat and lean down to the back to take off the weight on its upper back portion. By sitting on the bike and doing pedaling will let you concentrate on your workout comfortably. The bike comes in an ergonomic design that makes the exercising easy.

The main benefit of this bike is that it avoids the leaning over which is not present in most of the upright exercise bike. This can lead to the pain in the back portion.


How Does the recumbent bike work?

Recumbent exercise bikes are stationary exercise bikes consisting of a chair, backrest, and pedals you use with your legs to the front rather than below on a traditional upright cycle. As well as being laidback, the sitting position is very easy on your back and ergonomic, which is why it’s appealing to many users.

You will find most models utilize magnetic resistance that works with a flywheel a similar way to a standard indoor cycle. As the flywheel creates the necessary momentum to imitate and simulate the feeling of cycling for real in the great outdoors, the faster or slower you pedal, you will work areas of your lower body, such as your glutes, thighs, and calves. 

Although magnetic is most common, there are four common types of resistance used in recumbent bikes.

  1. 1
    Fan-based resistance
  2. 2
    Magnetic resistance
  3. 3
    Direct contact resistance
  4. 4
    Flywheel-based resistance

It's not just the lower body muscles groups worked while using a recumbent bike, though. You will also engage your core to provide additional stability and assistance with movement, by pulling in your abdominals while drawing in your waist muscles.


Benefits of Working Out with Recumbent Bikes

  1. 1
    Length of workout
    As you probably know, the more comfortable you are, the better you will be able to stick to a workout plan and exercise for longer each time. 
  2. 2
    Stability and comfort
    On an upright cycle, a lot of people find it difficult to cope with the feeling they’re unbalanced. With a recumbent bike, you don’t get that feeling because you are in a more natural and reclined position, alleviating pressure from your knees, hips, and back.
  3. 3
    Muscle-strengthening
    You’re in a different physical position when using a recumbent compared to an upright. Although targeting similar muscles, you are using them from a different angle, better for strengthening them.
  4. 4
    Cardio workout
    Recumbent bikes are ideal for aerobic exercise routines and use the largest of your muscle groups like your glutes, legs, hamstrings, and quads. Cardio has been linked to significant health benefits such as lower blood pressure, less risk of disorders affecting the lungs, and overall improvements in lung and heart function. 
  5. 5
    Positioning
    Generally, many types of exercise consist of lots of downward thrusting using your legs. This can place a lot of pressure on various parts of your body, such as your back, hips, ankles and, obviously, your knees too. That's why, in time, running can start to cause real pain. You won't have the same experience using a recumbent bike, though, as you can comfortably work out without stressing your back and hips. Rather than restricting your workout, it gives you greater control over how challenging and intense you make it.

Choosing a Quality Recumbent Bike

Unit Size Vs. Space at Home

The first thing you need to consider is the size. While there’s little difference from one model to the next, it is important to consider if you have a smaller home. Measure the space you have and measure (or check the dimensions of) the bike you are interested in.

AS well as space for the bike, you need to ensure there’s enough space around the bike, so you can get onto it or off with no problem. If applicable, you will also need to ensure there’s enough space for people to move around your bike while it’s in use or just sitting there.

Look out for collapsible or foldable designs that allow you to store them away easily when not in use. Another consideration when looking at size is whether they have wheels on their base, as these make it easier to move.

Durability

The durability is very important as it determines how good an investment a model will be. Reviews are an excellent source for identifying models with durability issues. You want to know the bike you but is going to last. Consider the materials used in the construction. Is it metal or plastic and have a good reputation for durability or is the build quality poor and cause it to fall apart far too easily?

Display Console & Workout Programs

You will find most recumbent bikes come with display consoles. This is a helpful feature as it not only enables you to monitor various metrics while working out but often provides pre-programmed workout plans.

As many consoles have different screen sizes, you need to be sure to choose one that suits your preferences. The higher the number of preprogrammed workout plans there are, the more diverse your routines will be.

Figure out what you need and don’t need, though, as the price can be high or low depending on the unique features of the onboard display console/computer.

Resistance Type & Levels

You will find most recumbent bikes available and, in our guide, have adjustable resistance levels. Machines with this option enable you to start with easy, low resistance level and increase it as you get used to it.

As noted earlier, there are four main types of resistance you are likely to find in recumbent bikes: flywheel-based, direct contact, magnetic, and fan-based. While direct contact is perhaps the most popular and provides users with the most versatility, it’s much noisier. Magnetic resistance, on the other hand, is much quieter, so although it needs more maintenance comparatively, it's a softer option.

Comfort, Safety & Ease of Use

Comfort, safety, and ease of use are crucial aspects of recumbent bikes. The very fact you are investing in a recumbent style exercise bike is because of the level of comfort it provides. The more comfortable an exercise machine, the easier it will be to use for longer periods.

Look for one with an adjustable seat. Generally, they are adjustable by height, and you will want to match the height of your hips as this will reduce the chance of causing injury to your joints and back. Although horizontal adjustability is another fine feature to look out for, it's not as necessary.

Along with the seat, you may want to find one with adjustable handles too.

Another feature to look for is wheels that allow you to move the bike around.  This kind of design is best suited to the elderly, infirm, and anyone with fitness or physical issues.

There are many models of recumbent bikes out there that are foldable, which makes it easier still to tidy and store away.

User Weight Limitation

The user weight limit is another aspect you need to give thought to, as this will determine who can and can’t use the bike. Are there many overweight people in your household? Modern recumbent bikes are designed to cater to users with maximum weights of 250-pounds.

Not only can user weight limitation be different from brand to brand and model to model, though, but it can also differ significantly depending on the price tag.

Convenience Features

Although the convenient extra features a recumbent bike is supplied with may not and should not be the main deciding factor when choosing the model that's right for you and your household, many are beneficial.

For instance, some models have heart rate monitors. These can help to add new dimensions to your workouts but are not exactly necessary. Tension levels also add another layer of adjustability and make it tougher on your muscles when cycling with them engaged.   

Fitness trackers are very popular these days, and the addition of one onboard a recumbent bike can make your workouts more comprehensive. You may not have considered the size of the pedals and figured they are just a standard size. While that's true for most models, you can invest in some with oversized pedals that people with larger and wider feet may find more natural to use than the standard size.

Warranty

The warranty a product comes with, if it does indeed come with a warranty, is a sign from the manufacturer that they have faith in their product. A word of caution would be that you need to make sure you look for not just one singular warranty, but one on the frame and parts separately. You may even find models with a warranty on their flywheel tool.

A company that offers a robust warranty on their recumbent bikes suggests they are confident it will last a long time and run smoothly for a long time.


9 Best Recumbent Bikes Reviewed

1. Schwinn 270

Best Recumbent Bike for Home

Resistance Type

Flywheel

Resistance Level

25

Built-In Programs

29

Maximum Capacity 

300 lbs

Bike Weight

93 lbs

Warranty

Frame – 10 years, Parts – 2 years, Electronics – 1 year, Labor -90 days

To say the Schwinn 270 recumbent bike was one of the best on the market, would be quite an understatement. Various aspects of the design and construction put it head and shoulders above many of the others, especially when looking for a capable exercise machine for your home.

First things first, it's built with a high-inertia, fast drive system, and a flywheel weighted at its perimeter. This makes it incredibly easy to start pedaling and offers consistent and smooth movement. This, along with the 25 different resistance settings and 29 programs, gives you a wide range of versatility, ensuring your workouts will never get dull or too easy.

 This delighted customer related, "one thing I really like is how you can choose one of the pre-programmed workouts and adjust your time goal. Each program is preset for 30 minutes taking you through alternate resistance levels every 2 minutes. But if you have only 10 or 15 minutes to get a workout in or say you want to pedal for an hour you can adjust the time goal on any of the preset programs. You will still do the program in its entirety just in shorter or longer resistance intervals."

Aside from the different settings and programs, though, other elements that make it an excellent investment for your home include the Bluetooth connectivity that enables you to sync the bike with the official Schwinn Trainer app or a similar fitness tracker. Furthermore, you can sync with the Ride Social app that allows you to ride along with friends from around the world virtually.

Pros

  • 25 resistance levels to choose from
  • 29 programs
  • Ride Social app for riding and tracking you and friends

Cons

  • The contacts for the heart rate monitor are temperamental

2. Exerpeutic 400XL

Best Compact Folding Recumbent Bike

Resistance Type

Flywheel Magnetic

Resistance Level

8

Built-In Programs

No

Maximum Capacity 

300 lbs

Bike Weight

43 lbs

Warranty

1 Year Limited

First up we have what we are sure is one of, if not, the best compact folding recumbent bike. Owned and made by Paradigm Health & Fitness, the Exerpeutic 400XL is an excellent example of a reasonably affordable piece of exercise equipment.

As it’s not quite fully recumbent in design, it’s a lot easier to climb on and off, while still providing a high level of comfort during workout sessions. This is thanks to its generous, almost luxury-sized backrest and cushion that can be adjusted to fit your height.

A key component of this recumbent bike is the 8-level magnetic tension resistance system that firmly puts the resistance in the user's control. You have the option to adjust the tension and resistance to just the right level to offer a trickier or easier workout.  

This works in conjunction with the v-belt drive and flywheel setup and the 3-piece crank system to provide a consistent and smooth pedaling that makes it a joy to use the bike.

One Amazon customer was extremely happy with the resistance the 400XL offers, stating, "The resistance range is excellent. If you really want to work your leg and heart muscle, you can crank it up a lot, but I just use the number 5 setting cause it's like the resistance on my road bike.”

Although the onboard LCD console does not feature extras you may find in pricier models (such as preprogrammed workouts), it does the most important metrics so you can monitor your progress. With hand pulse sensors, you have access to an effective and reliable heart rate monitor too.

The compact design and ability to fold this bike away is another key selling point and one that will suit people with little space to play around within their home. When you consider the price and its features, despite its simplicity, the 400XL is a great folding recumbent bike.

Pros

  • Compact and foldable design
  • A simple but effective LCD display
  • Adjustable resistance

Cons

  • Pedal cranks are shorter than other models

3. Mobo Triton Pedal Go Kart

Best Recumbent Road Bike

Resistance Type

None

Resistance Level

0

Built-In Programs

None

Maximum Capacity 

220 lbs

Bike Weight

39 lbs

Warranty

~

Not all recumbent bikes are designed to be used by adults for high-intensity workouts. This Mobo Triton pedal go-kart is a recumbent bike for active kids who don't want to stay in one place. Due to its recumbent design, it's easier to learn how to ride than a traditional upright cycle.

This 3-wheeler recumbent was made for riding over gentle slopes and paved ground. Absolutely no balancing is required to sit on this bike or control it, thanks to the low-to-the-ground positioning of the frame.

You may wonder why we've snuck this into our guide, well with a maximum capacity of 220-pounds, more than just kids could use it. Small adults 5-feet 2-inches and lower below that weight will find this the perfect size.

Maneuvering and navigating the bike couldn't be more comfortable with the large dual-joystick steering system. One thing we noticed, when reading other reviews was the bike is perfect for people with balance issues or who have disabilities and difficulties, like Autism or even Cerebral Palsy. 

Like this very happy reviewer who stated, "After some adjustments; pedal straps, the Mobo Mini seatbelt/harness and a lot of practice, our little girl is now speedy. Thanks for making a great bike, Mobo!!"

Pros

  • Perfect for children with balance issues and special needs
  • Easy to control
  • Sturdy steel construction

Cons

  • Can be unstable at times

4. Stamina Elite Total Body

Best Recumbent Exercise Bike Under $1000

Resistance Type

Magnetic

Resistance Level

8

Built-In Programs

0

Maximum Capacity 

250 lbs

Bike Weight

117 lbs

Warranty

5-years

Next, we're back with an adult model and one from Stamina Products, a company with a sterling reputation who've been designing and producing fitness equipment since the late '80s. Looking at the images, we're sure you can see the most unique component of this recumbent bike that sets it apart from the rest. Rather than just featuring pedals for your feet, there are also upper pedals for your hands.

This means you can work out more of your body at the same time. So, while you still focus on your quads, hamstrings, legs, and other connected muscles with your feet, the hand pedals can help you work out your back, shoulders, and arms. 

The near-silent running magnetic resistance provides 8 levels to try to give your workout a great deal of versatility and intensity. Comfort has clearly been at the forefront of Stamina Product's minds when creating this machine as the seating is adjustable and fully padded out. But not only that: the excellent textured pedals and straps mean you can pedal to your heart's content without worrying about slips occurring.

Pros

  • Adjustable resistance
  • Hand pedals allow for full-body workouts
  • Comfortable and sturdy design

Cons

  • Can’t exercise hands and feet simultaneously

5. Nautilus R614

Best Recumbent Exercise Bike Under $500

Resistance Type

Flywheel

Resistance Level

20

Built-In Programs

22

Maximum Capacity 

300 lbs

Bike Weight

93 lbs

Warranty

Frame – 10 years, Parts – 2 years, Electronics – 1 year, Labor – 90 days

Like the Schwinn 270 model we’ve already reviewed, the next, from esteemed fitness equipment manufacturer Nautilus, relies on a high-inertia, high-speed drive system and utilizes a flywheel weighted at the perimeter to make it easy to start pedaling and continue for more consistent and smoother workouts. 

In discussing the resistance and near-silent running of this machine, a customer said, "There is a wide range of resistance adjustment, from almost none to quite heavy. The operation is very smooth and quiet. I have heard no noise at all from the flywheel area. Occasionally, depending on the seat position, there might be a little click or noise from the seat support, but that is rare.”

Aside from the smooth-running resistance and the 20 levels you can select from, the big selling point of this Nautilus R614 is 22 programs and specialist Goal Track compatibility. This allows you to establish goals and track your progress. Which anyone who already follows a fitness routine will agree, is good for encouragement and motivation to continue working out.

Like many of the models in our guide, this features speakers and a USB charging port as well as a place to connect an MP3 player. This means you can listen to your playlists while pedaling away. In addition to the adjustable resistance, the Nautilus R614 also features 22 programs to work through, including 8 based around heart rate control, making great use of the heart rate monitor sensors in the handles.

Pros

  • Quiet and versatile resistance
  • Goal Track capability
  • LCD displays

Cons

  • Heart rate monitor could be a lot better

6. Fitness Reality R4000

Best Budget Recumbent Bike

Resistance Type

Magnetic

Resistance Level

14

Built-In Programs

0

Maximum Capacity 

250 lbs

Bike Weight

60 lbs

Warranty

1 year limited

Compared to others in our guide, the Fitness Reality R4000 magnetic tension recumbent bike may look a little simplistic. It doesn't have many of the features our other bikes do, but we find that it is the best budget recumbent bike.

That's not to say that it doesn't feature any adjustable settings at all because the magnetic tension resistance can be switched between 14 different levels to change the intensity of your workouts, while the LCD can be set to three specific workout goals of calories burned, time exercised and distance traveled. 

We really appreciate the Step-Thru design, as the company calls it, as this makes getting on and off even easier. With an extended cushioned seat, oversized pedals and generously large backrest, Reality Fitness has clearly been considering the end-user during the design process.

customer who bought it for themselves (5-feet 1-inch woman) and their 6-foot husband, was delighted with how easy it was to adjust and had this to say too "Unexpected bonuses to me are the ease of step-through design."

Pros

  • Step-Thru design for easier use
  • Silent drive operation
  • Tough resistance levels

Cons

  • The display is very basic

7. Fitnex R70

Best For Overweight People

Resistance Type

Magnetic

Resistance Level

16

Built-In Programs

8

Maximum Capacity

400 lbs

Bike Weight

165 lbs

Warranty

Parts – Lifetime, Labor – 1 year

Next in our guide is this beastly but affordable recumbent bike from Fitnex, designed with larger users in mind. It has an extremely high weight capacity of 400-pounds, which is impressive considering its compact 73 x 23-inch footprint. The main selling point is the capacity, so it doesn't have quite the same level of features and settings others do.

The magnetic resistance offers 16 adjustable settings to change the intensity of your workouts easily while the onboard display tracks pulse rate, calories, speed, distance, and time while offering 8 workout programs.

One thing we would point out about this model is that as it's designed for the larger user, it's a lot heavier than others available, with a weight of 165-pounds. While the plush and comfortable seat is not adjustable, the pedals are so that you can figure out the best setting for you. 

Customers, like this man, have praised the sturdiness of its construction, stating “It is very heavy, but I like it for its rock solid. It seemed to me it was very easy to put together about an hour or so.”

Pros

  • Solid and durable build
  • Can cater to users of up to 400-pounds
  • 16 adjustable resistance levels

Cons

  • Some users found the console challenging to use

8. Marcy

best for seniors

Resistance Type

Magnetic

Resistance Level

8

Built-In Programs

0

Maximum Capacity 

300 lbs

Bike Weight

61 lbs

Warranty

2 years

We picked out this recumbent bike model specifically for senior users. It features the step-through style of design that makes it easier to mount and dismount to reduce the stress on the back and knees. It also benefits from a padded seat that provides a high degree of comfort and contoured handles that further support your arms and back, so your posture is always correct during use.

All this plus the counterbalanced pedals that have been specially weighted to provide excellent support for your foot, without minimizing your level of control. Considering its extremely competitive price tag, we’re impressed with the magnetic resistance and eight adjustable levels of resistance it comes equipped with. So, for the more capable and able senior citizens,

Even the computer display screen has been made to easy to read, lending itself to older users. 

As noted by this amazon user, a 72-year old woman, "You can ride it sitting back or lean forward, grab the handlebars like a regular bike. I do both. I do recommend this bike for anyone who wants to exercise in the privacy of your own home. I did 10 miles on my first session!”

Pros

  • Step-Through design for easy mounting and dismounting
  • Quiet and smooth resistance
  • Comfortable seating and weighted pedals

Cons

  • Calorie burner is not especially accurate

9. Exerpeutic Gold 525XLR

Best Heavy-Duty Option

Resistance Type

Magnetic

Resistance Level

8

Built-In Programs

0

Maximum Capacity 

400 lbs

Bike Weight

55.1 lbs

Warranty

1 year limited

The second Exerpeutic recumbent bike in our guide is this folding option. The Gold 525XLR has not only been selected because of its compactness and storage advantages but because of its durability. This consists of around 27% more steel than the 400XL that we've already discussed here. As well as providing a more stable structure, it also helps to give it a higher level of performance, even with heavier users.

The interesting thing is, despite the fact it’s designed to take a maximum of 400-pounds, it still only weighs the relatively light 55-pounds and can be easily stored to half its size. Magnetic resistance and 8 different settings provide diversity to keep your workouts interesting, while the adjustable seat is generous and can accommodate heights between 5-feet 2-inches and 6-feet 5-inches.

Reviews like this from one grateful gentleman are common, where he says, "I am not a small guy. Over 300 lbs, 5' 11", and looking to lose weight, so I wanted a bike that supports up to 400 lbs. Since my apartment is already crowded, having a bike that can fold was a must.”

Pros

  • Sturdy and tough design
  • Compact and foldable
  • Easy to use and assemble

Cons

  • The seat is not as comfortable as it could be

Comparison Between Cycling Equipment

Recumbent Bikes Vs. Upright Bikes

As there are different types of bikes available, it’s worth discussing the comparison. While a traditional upright bike is designed for the rider to sit upright, the recumbent style bike has you in a more relaxed position. This could reduce muscle fatigue and pain because you are not hunched over with your back and neck bent.

There is also a case for the size of the chair on a recumbent being more inducive to a comfortable workout because they are generally larger than upright bikes. The general rule is that recumbent bikes are better suited to people who are not avid cyclists, and particularly if you have any health issues that prevent you from having a regular exercise routine.

Uprights will always be best for those who cycle regularly and who are looking for a more intense cardio workout. They also tend to be more compact and take up less space. Though, folding recumbents don’t suffer from that problem.

Recumbent Bikes Vs. Indoor Spin Bikes

The biggest difference between spinning cycles and recumbent bikes is the flywheel. You'll find spinners have heavier flywheels and can weigh as much as 40-pounds, which takes a lot more exertion and power to spin. It also is dependent on your motion, so if you don't pedal, it won't turn. That's how they can help you burn more calories when used for the same length of time as recumbent models. 

Obviously, the other difference is the seat and sitting position. Like with upright bikes, this provides you with a more intense workout than the laidback approach of a recumbent. However, if you have mobility issues, a recumbent will always be the smarter choice.


Resistance Types on Exercise Bikes

Fan-based

Fan-based, as you may have guessed, involves the creation of resistance via a fan, rather than a flywheel. The fan is linked to the pedals via a belt, and if you want to increase the resistance, you need to pedal faster. It's as simple as that.

Magnetic

Straight off the bat, we need to say there are additional maintenance and care required with magnetic resistance recumbent bikes because there is a low level of friction against their flywheels. The reason you'll be seeing these more often is that they've gained popularity thanks to their quiet operation and the fact that they utilize induction via an electromagnetic field.

Direct contact

Direct contact relies on brake pads for slowing down the flywheel. It is by far the most popular type of recumbent bike because the user has a wide variety of levels of resistance to choose from, though it should be noted it’s a lot noisier than the others mentioned above.


Recumbent Bike Assembly

There are a few things you need to do when setting up your recumbent bike for the first time.

  • After assembling your bike, sit down and practice pedaling. Your legs should have a slight bend in them. Adjust if necessary.
  • You may also need to adjust the seat height.
  • You also need to adjust your seating position, so you are not slouching over, and your back is straight while holding the handlebars.

Cleaning, Care & Maintenance

The better care you take of your recumbent bike, the longer it will last. As you are likely to sweat a lot during use, it's a good idea to have a towel to wipe it over when you're finished. Although designed to cope with a lot, moisture can cause problems.


Useful Tips When Working Out

  • Always warm up first
  • Always adjust your bike to suit your needs
  • Avoid overdoing it. Gradually work your workout lengths and the resistance you use up
  • Always cool down

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I adjust the seat correctly for my height?

You need to adjust the seat while sitting in it until you find that sweet spot of your knees being bent at 10 to 15-degrees when extended.

Which muscles of your body are being worked out by a bike exercise machine?

According to Live Strong, "Recumbent bike benefits include working muscles throughout your legs, including the glutes, quads, hamstrings and lower legs. If you have arm cranks, your shoulders and arms also get in on the action.”

How many calories can you burn on a stationary exercise bike?

Again, according to Live Strong“If you weigh between 170 to 200 pounds, you would burn between 4.9 to 5.8 calories per minute at 5.5 miles per hour and between 7.7 to 9.9 calories at 9.5 miles per hour. For example, if you weigh 100 pounds and you bike at 5.5 miles per hour for 30 minutes, you multiply 2.8 by 30 which equals to 84 calories.”

Will you lose weight when using these exercise bikes?

As noted on Share Care, “Both recumbent and upright bikes can achieve this goal. The problem is that although this will allow for a higher percentage of fat being burned during the exercise, very few total calories are burned. ... For overall fat loss, the upright bike will give you more benefits in the long run.”

How long should a person workout for per day?

According to the Mayo Clinic, “As a general goal, aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity every day. If you want to lose weight, maintain weight loss, or meet specific fitness goals, you may need to exercise more.”

What could be medical reasons why people prefer recumbent bikes?

“Recumbent cycling puts less stress on the knee and hip, so it may be beneficial for people with arthritis.” As noted by AZ Central Healthy Living.

What is the purpose of a flywheel in a bike in a recumbent bike?

The flywheel is basically there to provide a more realistic cycling experience, like the one you’d have with a proper road bike.


Conclusion

So, there you have it guys, our extensive and comprehensive look at the best recumbent bikes across a variety of different categories and users. In our humble opinion, though, we’d single out the Schwinn 270, as this has the best combination of features, is very lightweight and has a generous weight capacity of 300-pounds.


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