Recumbent Bike Vs. Upright Bike

Updated March, 2021
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While both recumbent and upright bikes are two of the most popular bike types in the market, which is the right choice for you? We've compared the two types and looked at construction, performance, and accessories to see which is the better exercise bike in 2021!

Recumbent Bike Overview

Recumbent bikes allow you to exercise while in a reclined position. As a result, your body weight is more evenly distributed, placing less stress on your back and buttocks. This means the pedals are in front of your torso, which can help with lessening fatigue.

Upright Bike Overview

In contrast, upright bikes are designed to be more similar to a bike you may take out on the road. The pedals are located underneath you, so you have to sit up with your back straight to operate it. Your whole body has to get engaged, so it's preferable for people wanting to work out their arms as well as their legs.

Construction Comparison: Recumbent Vs. Upright

Seat/Pedals/Handlebars

Recumbent

Recumbent bike seats are more relaxed. They allow you to sit similarly to how you would if you were sitting on the couch watching TV. With your legs extended in front of you to reach the pedals, you can move at your own speed. Often times, the handlebars are located on either side of the seat, so there's no reason to lean forward to grab them. This makes it preferable to people with bad backs who may not be able to sit upright for longer stretches of time.

Upright

Upright bikes often have narrower seats. You can either sit directly on it or raise your body upward a bit if you want to pedal more intensely. There's also no back rest, so some people report feeling aches and pains more quickly. Upright bikes may be better for younger people without prior medical histories that may prevent them from working out at full capacity.

The Frame

Recumbent

Since recumbent bikes are longer, they take up more space in your home. This variation also means it primarily focuses on working out your lower-body muscles.

Upright

Upright bikes are more designed to resemble bicycles you may take on the road. It may not be as comfortable, but it's designed to give you a fuller-body workout.

The Console

Recumbent

Consoles vary by brand, so you need to look at each recumbent bike you're interested in to make sure it works well for your needs. In general, consoles tend to be easier to reach on this style because it's designed for you to sit comfortably in place.

Upright

The same goes for upright bikes. You need to look through various brands to see what specific kinds of consoles are out there. Most riders want a console that provides the following.

  • Built-in speakers
  • Cooling fans
  • Cup holders
  • Tablet holders
  • USB ports

Performance Comparison: Recumbent Vs. Upright

The Flywheel

Recumbent

Recumbent bikes generally have front-drive flywheels. This allows for easier transitions, and it's also simpler to move the machine from one location to the next when you need to. However, you want to make sure you maintain it properly, especially if it's exposed to dust and sweat.

Upright

Upright bikes usually have rear-drive flywheels. These are much more likely to feature casings to protect the device, but it may not feel as comfortable to pedal.

Incline/Decline

Recumbent

You don't usually find incline and decline settings on recumbent bikes of any kind.

Upright

Ditto for upright bikes.

Resistance/Tension

Recumbent

The resistance settings on recumbent bikes can vary quite a bit. You should check to see whether one you're interested in comes with knob-style alterations or digital. This impacts how easy it is to change resistance in the middle of a workout.

Upright

Upright bikes also have variable resistance settings. There are a ton of ways it can differ, so you need to inspect each one carefully to see what you get.

Technology and Warranty Comparison: Recumbent Vs. Upright

Workout Programs

Recumbent

While the exact number of preset programs can vary, these bikes tend to focus on your calves, glutes, hamstrings, and quads. If you can find a recumbent bike with Bluetooth compatibility, then you can unlock even more workouts with a fitness app.

Upright

The same holds true for upright bikes. In the event it does come with preset programs, it's capable of targeting a wider array of muscles, including your forearms, triceps, shoulders, and core in addition to the muscles a recumbent bike can hit. If you're looking for all-over workout regimens, then an upright bike is your best bet no matter what.

Stats tracker

Recumbent

As long as your bike has a console with a screen of some kind, you should be able to keep track of distance, time, and calories burned. Just check to see whether you can monitor your heart rate through handlebars sensors or if you need a wireless strap.

Upright

Upright bikes can typically burn as many calories as a recumbent bike. The console should provide you with all the data you need.

Warranty

Recumbent

Warranties depends on the brand. Buying a recumbent bike from NordicTrack or Schwinn matters significantly in this regard, so make sure to examine the company's warranty policy carefully.

Upright

The same holds true for upright bikes regardless of brand.

Side-By-Side Comparison

 
Recumbent
Upright
Resistance/Tension
Front-drive
Rear-drive
Frame
Reclined
Upright
Pedals
In front
Underneath
Handlebars
2 sets
1 set
Seat
With backrest
No backrest
Workout Programs
Varies
Varies
Dimensions
Varies
Varies
Weight Capacity
Varies
Varies
Foldable?
No
No
Warranty
Varies
Varies

So, Which Should You Choose?

While recumbent and upright bikes provide different experiences, they aren't all built alike within the same subcategory. Two recumbent bikes made by different brands can still be vastly different, so you need to do even more research to determine what would suit you best. However, you can still narrow down your selection by considering whom these bikes are best for.

Recumbent bikes are great for people who want as minimal impact as possible. The backrest provides more ergonomic support, so you can sit for longer. It's preferable for elderly people or individuals recovering from injuries who can't go at top speed.

Meanwhile, upright bikes are pretty much like regular bicycles except you stay in place. You need a bit more balance since there's no backrest, but if you don't mind pushing yourself to the limit, then an upright model has the ideal design. People who are serious about training and really want to get in excellent shape should consider this variation.

Shop For Your Perfect Exercise Bike, Today!

Whether a recumbent bike is a better fit for you, or you prefer the benefits upright bikes have to offer, the options to buy these are endless (and a little overwhelming). Fortunately, we've done the work for you. We've researched high and low and found the best pricing for each of these exercise bikes to be on Amazon!

Get recumbent and upright bikes here, today!

Get $200 off, purchases over $1000!

Saatva is our top pick for the #1 mattress in 2020! They're a luxury mattress shipped with FREE white-glove delivery & setup (different than regular bed in a box brands put on your doorstep). They have over 50,000 reviews.

Check Price →