Recumbent Bike vs. Upright Bike: What’s Best For You?

Are you looking to add an exercise bike to your home gym? These bikes offer low-impact workouts and, at the same time, help improve your cardio fitness.

They can help build endurance and are a safer alternative to road biking.

The two most common types of bikes used in home gyms are recumbent and upright bikes. But how do you go about choosing the right one for your home gym?

Both designs offer an effective cardio workout and help you burn calories.

One of the main differences between recumbent and upright bikes is the riding position. A recumbent bike supports your upper body, your back is in a reclined position, and you are in a much more comfortable position.

On the other hand, working on an upright bike is similar to riding a road bike. Your back will be upright, the seat will be narrow, and you will have to work on maintaining your balance.

The article delves deeper into the recumbent bike vs. upright bike debate. We will discuss the key differences and similarities between these exercise bike types.

An Overview of Recumbent Bike

An Overview of Recumbent Bike



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Sitting on a recumbent bike is like sitting on a chair. You get a nice cushioned seat. It is pretty easy to get on and off the bike.

The pedals are upfront. The pedal positioning ensures the user gets an effective lower-body workout. At the same time, with the upper body support, the bike is easy on the joints.

These reasons make it a popular model with beginners, senior citizens, and users with mobility issues.

The bike takes up more floor space, so ensure the proper measures of the free space available at your home gym beforehand. These bikes can be expensive compared to upright options.


  • It has a larger seat size.
  • It provides back support.
  • It can be used by young and senior adults alike.
  • It can help you build endurance.


  • The bike takes up more floor space.
  • It does not target upper body muscles.
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An Overview of Upright Bike

An Overview of Upright Bike



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Upright bikes tend to have narrow and triangle-shaped seats which are placed at a height. The handlebars are located higher than the seats. And the pedals are placed under the hips.

Owing to the bike design, you will have to sit in an upright position and maintain your balance during the training session.

Pedaling on the bike will engage your lower body muscles while maintaining your upright position will engage your upper body muscles. So, an upright bike can provide a total body workout compared to a recumbent.

The bike should be used by fit individuals who can get on and off the heightened position without any issues.

These bikes take up less space and can be good additions to home gyms. There are also several affordable options available in the market.


  • It offers a total body workout.
  • It takes up less floor space.
  • It offers affordable options comparatively.
  • Some bike models can be folded for easy storage.


  • The seats can be narrow.
  • Users complain about back pain.
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Recumbent Bike vs. Upright Bike: How Do They Perform?

Now we have a basic understanding of a recumbent bike and an upright bike. Let us compare these bike designs to know which will be a better addition to your home gym.

1. Ease of Use

Ease of Use
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If you know how to ride a bike, then you can get on the upright bike and start pedaling away. It is as simple as that.

Similarly, recumbent bikes are easy to use as well. Your back is in a reclined position, you do not have to hold yourself up, and you can easily pedal. The motion is different from riding a bike, but you will get used to it in a couple of sessions.

When it comes to comfort, a recumbent bike has a slight advantage as it has a larger seat. The upright bike seats can be narrow and can be uncomfortable.

2. Muscles Worked

Cycling, in general, helps build lower body strength. The same goes for recruitment and upright bikes.

Your lower body muscles, like quads, hamstrings, calves, and glutes, are engaged while working on both types of bikes.

But you need to maintain your position and balance with an upright bike. As you do not have any back support, your abdominal muscles are engaged to keep you upright. Your back muscles help with the balance part. Your arm muscles are also engaged as you lean forward and grip the handlebars.

So, the recumbent bike gives you an effective lower-body workout. And the upright bike can help you get a total body workout.

3. Calories Burned

Calories Burned
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If the number of calories burnt is your priority, both bikes can help you meet your fitness goal. As long as you maintain a good duration and intensity of workout, you should be able to burn a similar number of calories.

For example, with an upright bike, you can pedal faster and complete a high-intensity workout. Maintaining the same intensity on a recumbent bike can be difficult, but you can work out for a longer duration.

Engaging your upper body muscles with an upright bike may burn a few more calories than a recumbent bike. But the difference is not very significant.

I would recommend you pick a bike that you are most comfortable with. This will ensure you consistently stick to your workout routine, which will help you lose weight in the long run.

4. Back And Joint Pain

With gym equipment, there is always the probability of injury. Home gym owners should especially be aware of the proper form and technique as one may not have trained fitness instructors at their disposal.

If we specifically focus on back and joint pain, the recumbent bike wins over the upright because it has a cushioned seat supporting the user’s back.

The design helps you maintain a center of balance. And while pedaling, the weight is better distributed and not weighing down on your tailbone.

On the other hand, you do not have any back support on an upright bike. Whether you are sitting on a narrow seat or standing up, there will be much pressure on your back.

This does not necessarily translate to pain. But longer training sessions may lead to butt sores and back pain.

5. Floor Space

Floor Space
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If you are a home gym owner with limited space, an upright bike would be a better option than the recumbent.

The recumbent bikes have a wider base with the pedaling unit and the backrest.

Let us take the example of the two exercise bikes from Schwinn. The 130 Upright Bike and the 230 Recumbent Bike are entry-level models by Schwinn.

The 130 bike has the dimensions 41.3 L x 21.4 W x 54.5 H inches, and the 230 bike has the dimensions 64 L x 27 W x 44.5 H inches. Even with other models from Schwinn, the recumbent bike can be a minimum of 20 inches long.

You also need to free space around the bike so you can get on and off without any hindrance. So do consider the bike dimensions before buying one.

6. Safety

Again, recumbent and upright bikes are safe equipment to use. There is no inherent problem with any exercise bike.

There is a possibility of back and joint pain with upright bikes. But as long as you maintain your posture and regulate your workout sessions, you should be good.

Safety can become an issue if you are a beginner, have no experience riding a bike, or are suffering from health issues.

For example, if you never rode a bike, getting on an upright bike and maintaining your balance will be a challenge initially.

If you have lower body strength, getting yourself on an upright bike’s heightened seat can also be difficult.

So, in such cases, the recumbent bike is the safer option.

7. Popular Models

Here are some popular recumbent bike models:

Here are some popular upright bike models:

Recumbent Bike vs. Upright Bike: What’s Best For You?

In terms of effectiveness, both bike types can provide you with a good cardio workout session. There are no such limitations as to who can use which bike. It comes down to personal preference.

For example, if you suffer from joint pain or, as a senior adult, you do not want to put pressure on your back, again, a recumbent bike would be better.

Younger adults can also choose the recumbent bike if the aim is to improve endurance. With the backrest and pedals upfront, it becomes easier to stay on the bike longer and build on that intensity level.

On the other hand, if you aim to build power and athletic performance, an upright bike would be ideal. You can pedal faster on an upright bike than on a recumbent.

If you plan to take up road biking as a hobby or a sport, working with an upright bike that mimics your position on an actual bike would be better.


Which bike is better for knees – upright or recumbent?

Exercise bikes typically offer low-impact workouts. And the same is true for upright and recumbent bikes. The recumbent bike has a slight advantage as your back is in a reclined position, and your weight is better distributed.

Can I lose weight with a recumbent bike?

Recumbent bikes are an effective way to get your quota of cardio workout. They can supplement your weight loss plan but not be solely responsible for it. You will still have to maintain a good diet and sleep schedule.

Is an upright bike better than a recumbent?

The answer depends on your requirement. A recumbent bike would be better if you prefer back support and a low-impact workout. On the other hand, an upright bike would be ideal if you want to burn slightly more calories and build power.


Recumbent bike vs. upright bike – what should you buy? The answer is your personal preference and fitness and health level.

For example, both bikes offer a good low-impact cardio workout and can help burn a similar number of calories.

If you are a senior adult or have back issues, consider a recumbent bike. If you want a higher-intensity workout or training for road biking, consider an upright bike.

Recumbent bikes offer a cushioned seat, back rest, are easier on the joints, and can help build endurance. Upright bikes offer a total body workout, take up less space, and tend to be more affordable.

Both can add a good cardio element to your home gym. We hope the comparison above helps you find the ideal exercise bike.

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