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Recumbent Bike vs. Upright Bike | What Are the Differences?

    recumbent bike vs. upright bike

    If you have no time going to the gym but want to have a cardio workout at home to lose weight, there is a lot of exercise equipment you can choose from. Most people recommend treadmills, but not everyone likes running (like me). Furthermore, not everyone has so much money to buy a quality running machine.

    What are the best alternatives? Indoor stationary bikes!

    Cycling is not as hard as running but still an excellent training to boost your heart rate. So, it supports your weight loss and makes your health. Plus, you can do other activities comfortably while using the bike such as reading or watching TV.

    Also, indoor bikes are less expensive than treadmills, even the best ones.

    There are two types: the recumbent and upright bike. (We are going to compare them here, so you will know which one suits you the best.)

    A recumbent exercise bike is a type of stationary bike that has a backrest and a seat, and you use your legs to pedal in front instead of down below.

    Upright bikes make an individual hunch over the handles, and you can choose to sit upright or stand on the pedals. Both the recumbent exercise bike and the upright bike can be used as a way of getting low impact cardio exercises.

    However, there is a significant difference between the two fitness equipment.

    Differences in Details

    Differences in Details

    Muscles used recumbent bike vs upright | Image credit:

    • On a recumbent stationary exercise bike, you are positioned on the floor, and your legs are in front of you. While on the upright bike you are in a position same as if you are riding a traditional bicycle. While using the recumbent bike, the position of the legs has less impact on joints.
    • As you ride the recumbent bike, your back is supported by the chair while the upright bike there is no back support. Hence you need to hold yourself more like on a regular bicycle. The recumbent bike is best for people with back problems and as you lean on the back support, held onto the handlebars on either side of the seat then you get a good cardio and have balance.
    • It is easier to get on and off a recumbent bike as the seat is lower. Hence you don’t need to lift your legs over the frame. On upright exercise bikes, you will need to lift your legs over the frame and use the pedals to get over the seat slightly.
    • ​The seat on an upright bicycle is standard or oversized which makes it uncomfortable for some people as it can be hard for sit bones, so they will opt to change the seat to offer comfort. On recumbent exercise bikes, the seats are more padded hence very comfortable so you can work out longer than you would on an upright one.
    • ​Although you burn calories as you pedal, you get to burn more calories when you are on an upright model than on recumbent bikes because it has different pedaling positions. You also get to work out of your upper body more. With a recumbent model, you have the advantage of exercising longer due to the comfort. Therefore you will be able to burn more calories.
    • When you use the recumbent bicycle, the upper body is not engaged much because you are in a sit-down position, the back is supported, and the arms rest freely on your side. In an upright exercise bike, you work the chest, abdomen, back and arms more because of the upright sitting position. And when you slightly bend forward and hold yourself upright, you add more stress to your upper body.
    • ​On both equipment, you exercise the lower body, i.e. the glutes, quads, hamstrings, hip flexors and calves, but the recumbent bike gives a more work out for the hamstrings and glutes than the upright. The main difference is that you get to exercise more upper body muscles such as the back, abdomen, shoulders and arms on an upright exercise bike.
    • It costs less to buy an upright model because it’s much smaller and requires fewer materials than a recumbent one.
    • It is more convenient to read a book or watch TV on a recumbent bike than on an upright stationary bike because it has a comfortable seat and your hands are also free. Although it’s nice to take off your mind while exercising, it can also slow down your workout intensity because your mind is engaged somewhere else.

    Advantages & Disadvantages of Both

    Both types of machines have their own pros and cons, and these include:

    Recumbent Exercise Bike Benefits & Cons

    recumbent vs upright exercise bike


    • Well designed such that you can comfortably distribute your weight over your buttocks and back, unlike on an upright bike where the weight rests on the sit bones, hands, and feet.
    • It offers more aerodynamic dynamics as the reclined leg forward position helps the rider’s body to create smaller front profile hence increase the efficiency and maximize on speed.
    • ​More comfortable, so you are likely to work out for longer and concentrate on training without any distraction.


    • More expensive than the upright bike and bulkier because of the features that have been added to minimize the risk of getting injuries and maximize comfort.
    • It can be boring because you only get to perform your exercises in one position and it doesn’t motivate one to use more effort.

    Recommended: Best indoor recumbent exercise bikes

    Upright Exercise Bikes Benefits & Disadvantages

    recumbent exercise bike vs upright


    • You will need to pedal slightly faster if you want to burn as many calories as on a recumbent bike.
    • You burn more calories because you can easily stand on the pedals when you want to do a hill climb and spin workouts unlike when on a recumbent bike.
    • It is a better option if you don’t have enough space in your home or you don’t need an expensive bike.


    • The seat is very hard, hence it makes one feel uncomfortable as they exercise.
    • It doesn’t offer any back support so it can be used by people who have back or joint problems.
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    Although both types of bikes can give someone a good workout session, most customers recommend a recumbent exercise bike because of it comfortability features, has a back support, especially if you have back or joint issues, and you have great balance while you are pedaling on it.

    Other people will prefer the upright bike for intense workouts, especially the spinning workouts. They are also the best if you want to train inside your home.

    So if you prefer comfort choose a recumbent exercise bike, but if you want more cardio get an upright one. Before buying a bike, make sure you test it first and take your time to ensure that it is comfortable enough for you to use.


    James Wright

    James (36) has been working out since he was 15 years old. He has a home gym where he pumps iron, does bodyweight workouts and boxing. He likes sharing his experiences with others who want to build a better physique.

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