Which is Better an Upright or Recumbent Exercise Bike – Your Guide to Making a Perfect Choice

Have you recently made the decision to use or purchase an exercise bike?

Well, it looks like you made a fantastic decision!

However, your work isn’t done just yet.

Deciding to purchase an exercise bike is only the first step. The next is to make the choice between the upright exercise bike and the recumbent exercise bike.

So, how do you choose?

We’re here to help you weigh the pros and cons to each decision, and help you figure out once and for all which is better an upright or recumbent exercise bike.

Which is better an upright or recumbent exercise bike

Which is Better an Upright or Recumbent Exercise Bike

Ultimately, your decision will depend on your specific needs and goals that come along with your purchase.

There are plenty of differences in the build of each bike, and how your body will get to use it.

So, let’s dig into why you’ll have to decide for yourself which is better an upright or recumbent exercise bike.

What’s the difference in the build?

Recumbent Bike Build

The recumbent bike is designed for the optimal comfort experience while exercising.

You’re given a backrest and will sit in a reclined position. The pedals are positioned in front of your body, too, so you get to stretch a bit.

This positioning is slightly different than you would find yourself in when using a real outdoor bicycle. So, if you want to mimic the feeling of outdoor cycling, this one won’t match it.

Here are some of the benefits of the recumbent bike:

  • It allows for an easier position for your body, which can help ensure a longer workout and eliminate post-workout soreness
  • The seat is more comfortable
  • The overall design makes it easier to use while watching television or reading

Despite all the great benefits, there are still a few cons to this bike, including:

  • It feels less like a typical bicycle

Upright Bike Build

The upright bike is more like your typically outdoor bike. Your body will be forced into a more upright position, and the pedals are positioned right underneath your body. The seat is much smaller, and there is no backrest.

There are plenty of benefits with the upright exercise bike:

  • You’ll feel more like you’re on an actual bicycle
  • They take up less space in your home

As well as some negative aspects:

  • The seat can be uncomfortable
  • It’s easier to feel soreness, especially in the neck and back

Do they provide a different workout?

Both pieces of equipment are exercise machines specifically designed to give you a good workout.

So, no matter what you choose, you’ll be better off than you would be prior to making the choice.

There are, however, some differences in the way that these bikes will help your body. If the muscles you target during your exercise is important, then the answer to which is better an upright or recumbent exercise bike may depend on some key information below!

Recumbent bikes have shown to strengthen your hamstring muscles more than riding an upright bike would.

Unfortunately, the recumbent bike also prevents you from working out some other muscles. You’ll engage fewer muscles overall when compared to the upright bicycle.

Specifically, muscles that are in your shoulders, lower back, abdomen, glutes, and arms will be given a better workout while using an upright bike.

If you’re looking at choosing an exercise bike to help you train for real outdoor cycling, whether it’s for recreational purposes, a triathlon, or a bike race, you’ll definitely want to pick the upright bike.

The muscles being used are practically identical to the ones being exercised during outdoor cycling.

Which one burns more calories?

In terms of calorie burn, recumbent bicycles have a reputation for being less effective than upright exercise bikes. However, the intensity and duration of the workout have a big impact on calorie burn. And, like the upright bicycle, the recumbent bicycle can be just as effective.

Many people may find it easier to spend longer time on the recumbent bike than on an upright exercise bike because of the greater comfort of the bike. Because of this, they can also push themselves harder and ride quicker, resulting in a higher calorie burn. This is an excellent alternative for people who want to lose weight.

Because upright bicycles can engage more muscles, most people assume they will burn more calories. Even though this is true, there are other factors that impact your workout session.

Since upright bikes are less comfortable, your workout session is likely to be much shorter. In addition, the discomfort might impact your enjoyment of the workout in the long run. However, if you don’t mind the slight discomfort and are looking to work hard, an upright bike can be a more effective way to burn calories. 

Which one is the safest?

Exercise bikes are a commonly chosen piece of equipment for those with pre-existing conditions, or for those who are recovering from an injury. This is because the exercise bike puts minimal impact on your joints, making it a safe workout.

The recumbent bike provides you with a larger seat and a backrest. This eliminates the possibility for most neck or back pains that are common with exercise. So, if you have a neck or back concern, the recumbent bike is likely your smartest choice.

While using a recumbent exercise bike you will also be in a more stable position. This is ideal for anyone who has problems with balance. Using an upright bike puts you at a higher center of gravity, making you and your bike less stable.

Recumbent bike vs upright bike: who should use each bike type?

Both recumbent and upright bikes improve mobility and muscle strength, strengthen bones, improve cardiovascular fitness and lung capacity, and burn calories.

Upright stationary bikes suit almost anyone looking to get fit or improve their fitness, whether they’re just starting out or they cycle regularly. Keen cyclists will prefer higher-end upright bikes as they can replicate the feeling of cycling on the road and provide higher levels of resistance.

Because you’re in a reclined posture, recumbent bikes impose less stress on your joints and muscles than upright cycles, making them excellent for anyone healing from a lower-limb injury or suffering from back difficulties. Recumbent bikes are also popular with seniors who are looking to stay mobile and get regular exercise rather than burning a tonne of calories.

Are there price differences?

Exercise bikes tend to be more budget-friendly than most exercise equipment, especially when compared to bigger machines like the treadmill.

The upright exercise bike does tend to be cheaper on average when compared to the recumbent bike.

Which bike should you choose?

As we mentioned earlier, the choice will boil down to the things that matter to you.

The answer to which is better an upright or recumbent exercise bike will depend on the factors we’ve mentioned above.

You should go for the recumbent bike if:

  • You want the safest option
  • You have any preexisting back or shoulder pains
  • You have plenty of space in your home for the machine
  • You like to watch television, use an iPad, or read while working out

You should choose the upright bike if:

  • Your main goal is being able to work as many muscles as possible
  • You’re training to be able to use an outdoor bicycle
  • You prefer the feeling of outdoor cycling
  • Your home has less space for a larger machine
  • You’re trying to go with the cheapest option

Check out some of our other exercise equipment guides to help you reach your fitness goals faster!

Regardless of what decision you’ve made, we trust that this guide has helped you make the right one!

The answer to which is better an upright or recumbent exercise bike will depend on your unique needs. While one may be safer, the other may give you a better workout.

Once you’ve made your choice, we hope you get some happy cycling!

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