Best Recumbent Exercise Bikes
Low-impact cardio is helpful to everyone and necessary for many. It is easy on the joints – harder forms like running, jumping, boxing and so forth will often place undue stress into the ankles, knees, hips, wrists, elbows, and shoulders.
Low-impact cardio, like walking, swimming, and stationary cycling, limits the amount of stress going into the joints. This means that you can do a lot more of it.
If you currently sprint three times per week and don’t feel you can add any more stress to your joints but want to increase the amount of cardio you are doing (and the number of calories you are burning), then low-impact cardio is the way to go. Walking for an extra half hour per day likely won’t hurt your joints, nor will it tire you out for your harder training.
Low-impact cardio is also available to people for whom harder impact exercise is inappropriate. For instance, those suffering with joint problems like osteoporosis or arthritis can often take part in low-impact cardio as their main form of exercise, giving them the option to live an active lifestyle without aggravating their condition.
Recumbent cycling is, quite simply, one of the best forms of low-impact cardio going, which is why I want to delve into some of the best recumbent exercise bikes on today’s market.
Why Use A Recumbent Exercise Bike?
Broadly speaking, there are two types of stationary exercise bike that you can buy.
The first is the more common – upright exercise bikes, which are more like standard road bikes and which most of us likely think of when we think of gym cycling. The pedals will be directly below your center of gravity, and you will be able to lean into the handlebars for added power.
Recumbent bikes are slightly less common. They generally do not give as good a workout as upright bikes, but they are perfect for the right people. They have a neutral seated position, more like a bucket seat than a bike saddle, and the peddles are out in front. It’s far more relaxed and far easier on the joints.
You cannot put as much power into the movements with recumbent bikes but will find the experience safer and more comfortable for at-risk joints. There will also be a lot less pressure in the back, meaning that those recovering from back injuries, or living with back pain, stand to benefit greatly from using them.
The movements are also more supported, as will an athlete’s body be more generally. This makes recumbent bikes perfect with degenerative conditions that affect motor control, proprioception, and balance. Things like Parkinson’s can floor somebody, robbing them of their physicality. Recumbent bikes can be invaluable tools in reclaiming health and physicality in this kind of case.
They may not always be appropriate for those with knee pain, however, as the recumbent position can place a small amount of shearing force through the knees.
Choosing The Right Recumbent Bike for You
The same rules apply to recumbent bikes as per the majority of cardio machines, especially to bikes in general. There will be some things you are looking for as a must and some as a benefit. There will also, of course, be some things that are unique to recumbent bikes.
You will need to know to look for a few things in order to ensure you get the product you need.
First up, flywheel weight is quite a big deal, as it is with upright bikes and rowers. The flywheel is the metal disc that spins as you pedal, and it can make or break your workout. If you’re looking for anything more than a simple, gentle workout, you will need to be quite choosy over the flywheel.
Flywheels are generally perimeter weighted. If you’re after a smooth pedal motion that can challenge you when you need it, heavier is generally better. The added weight builds momentum through each rotation. This, in turn, reduces the lag experienced between pedal strokes, giving a smoother experience.
Heavier flywheels will also usually give greater overall resistance, though this can depend as much on the magnetic resistance system as well.
Anything over around 20lb is a pretty heavy flywheel for a recumbent bike, though options exist for twice this weight.
Top user weight capacity can also be an issue, especially for larger athletes. This is for a couple of reasons. I generally like to go with machines that can take far in excess of my own body weight (not always easy!). This is because top user weight is something of an objective measure of a machine’s stability and durability. Then there is the more immediately practical reason – you need a machine that won’t collapse under you!
If you know you’re a heavier athlete, double check the top-user weight to ensure you buy an appropriate machine.
The seat will be a big deal with a recumbent bike, too. One of their main benefits is the comfort of the seat, and the support the seat offers. Obviously, you need to make sure that your recumbent bike’s seat is comfortable and supportive for you, especially if you do have any underlying joint concerns or injuries.
A recumbent bike’s seat should be slightly oversized. It should also be fully adjustable in multiple directions – forwards and back, up and down, and sometimes even with an adjustable angle.
Finally, if you’re into it, a machine’s technology can make or break a purchase decision. Bluetooth and wireless connectivity, a decent LCD screen with all the data you need instantly available, good media, user profiles and a good mix of pre-programmed and customizable workouts are all pretty standard. If you’re paying a standard amount of money on your bike, you should expect some or all of these, plus often more.
Then there is price. Is the bike worth the money?
All of the recumbent bikes on our list below should more than satisfy you – they are all fantastic options, well worth their prices, with everything you would want from a recumbent.
Recumbent Bikes: Our Top Picks
The following recumbent bikes all have something to offer. Whether it’s value for money, excellence at the right price, or simply standard design, benefits and build quality dialled up to eleven, each will give you something.
The Schwinn 270 is a good one for techies first getting into fitness, or those gadgetry types looking to train in a more relaxed fashion. It has excellent Bluetooth connectivity that syncs ably with the Schwinn Personal Trainer app (as well as a host of other fitness apps).
The Schwinn Personal Trainer is free to download and helps to deliver a full 29 fitness programs. You can choose between 12 profiles, 9 heart rate control settings, 4 custom built programs, 2 fitness tests and a quick start option, giving you fantastic range and variety – you really won’t get bored using the Schwinn 270. There are 25 levels of resistance, so that absolute beginners and hardcore fitness buffs alike will be able to find something to suit and challenge them.
In addition to all of this, the Schwinn 270 syncs with the freely downloadable RideSocial App, which can let you see the world as you virtually ride alongside friends, all in real time.
The drive system itself is well weighted and pretty smooth, though it uses friction rather than magnetism for resistance. It is nevertheless a well-made system, giving you a relatively quiet (though not silent) action with a subtle grade across each resistance level.
The frame is made from high-quality carbon steel, weighing in at 86.6 pounds, and standing at 64 x 27.7 x 49.9 inches. This allows for a respectable top user weight of 300lbs.back to menu ↑
The resistance is a funny one with Sunny Health’s recumbent bike. It’s sort of chalk and cheese to the Schwinn 270.
You only get eight levels of resistance. This isn’t an issue in itself – half the items on this list have 8 levels of resistance. However, it’s something to bear in mind – you can get more if you want to.
These eight levels are magnetic, however, meaning that they are incredibly smooth and near silent. Again, this will be a recurring theme in this list – half the items have 8 levels of magnetic resistance. I generally prefer a wider range and a bit of clunkiness, but plenty don’t. If you would like a slimmer range that is even as anything and very quiet, you should be looking at machines like this one.
It also has a little bit of techy goodness. You get a digital LCD monitor with pulse. The monitor displays your time, speed, distance, calories, odometer, and heart rate, so that you can track your workouts really easily and ensure that you’re always hitting the heart rate zone you want.
I really like the handles. They come with in-built pulse grip sensors which allows monitoring heart rate and workout intensity, which is pretty standard, just very well done in this case. You get front and side mounted handlebars for added flexibility and comfort – again, nothing too novel, they are just well-spaced, well-placed, and well thought out. The seat is also particularly comfortable and easily adjusted, with a simple flick of a handle. This can be done in-place so you can stay sitting down and still get yourself where you need to be. Finally, self-leveling pedals make it easy to place your feet in the straps.
The machine is also pretty light, at 58.7lbs, and pretty small, with a footprint of just 46 x 24.5 x 38 inches. I couldn’t get any information on top user weight, but it coped with me easily enough (I top 200lbs for reference!) and felt incredibly stable as I put it through its paces.back to menu ↑
Marcy Recumbent Exercise Bike
I would thoroughly recommend the Marcy Recumbent Exercise Bike to anybody with sore joints. It’s one of the best cardio machines going for those with limited mobility and seems extra kind to bad knees.
This is in large part thanks to its clever ‘step-through design’. Long story short, this allows for maximum mobility during training for quick mounting and dismounting. It is kind on the knees and lower back, giving users a level of comfort and dignity often denied those with chronic mobility concerns.
The construction itself seems to be pretty heavy duty. As a personal trainer who has dealt with clients with poor joint health and obesity concerns, this is the kind of machine I like to see in any gym or home-space. It can take a lot, give you confidence, and keep you secure. The construction features 14-gauge steel tubing with a powder coated finish. It’s tough as nails, no matter what you throw at it.
The Marcy Recumbent Exercise Bike is another offering with eight levels of magnetic resistance. Again, not the best going, but decent enough, well-executed, smooth and near silent. You could comfortably use this at home without worrying about waking up the neighbors or bothering any other members of your household!
The seat is padded incredibly well, to support sore joints whilst still being comfortable. Its weighted pedals are designed to provide the most foot support available whilst still offering a great deal of control.
The ultra-functional LCD computer screen is easy to use and shows you all the metrics you would generally want to see – time, speed, distance, and calories. They are all displayed in extra-large numbers for great readability. As joint concerns tend to go hand in hand with ageing, which also goes hand in hand with vision loss, I love this element.
The Marcy Recumbent Exercise Bike really is intelligently designed to open up access to health and fitness for those who might otherwise be denied it.
The machine sits at a relatively modest 55.5 x 25 x 37.5 inches, and weighs a mere 60lbs.back to menu ↑
Harison Recumbent Bike
The Harison Recumbent Bike acts as a nice middle ground, for me, between magnetic resistance smoothness and variability in resistance levels.
It uses a magnetic flywheel, as the above couple of offerings, but gives a full 14 different resistance levels. This really is fantastic.
The bike itself is small and mid-weight, weighing in at 77lbs of good-quality stainless steel. This looks very attractive whilst still focusing every attention on good performance.
This is all good. I like it. However, this all combines with ‘step through technology’ to rival anything else on this list. If you have mobility issues but don’t want to scrimp on training effort level, this is the one for you. You can get into position easily enough. The seat itself is well-padded with high-density foam and, along with the backrest, will very ably support your hips and back to ensure correct posture and proper comfort. Then dial yourself through those 14 resistance levels to find something to fit your needs.
It really is a well-made machine. I love it.
The resistance levels themselves are very smooth and evenly spaced. There is no great leap between them, so that your joints won’t have to deal with any jarring changes as you change levels, and the smooth torque cranking system provides a smooth and consistent pedaling motion.
The LCD display is easy to navigate and read and will give you all the usual suspects – time, speed, distance, calories, RPM, scan, odometer and heart rate. You get an iPad holder, making up a little for the lack of tech involved with the Harison Recumbent Bike’s design.
I would thoroughly recommend this for anybody looking to make the most of their physicality whilst caring for sore joints and postural concerns.back to menu ↑
PooBoo Recumbent Bike
The heavy-duty steel frame that PooBoo have used with their recumbent bike feels fantastic. Though it can only take about the same top user weight as every other model on this list – a respectable 330lbs, which should be more than enough to cope with all but the largest of athletes – it feels more solid, like it could take more.
It barely shifted at all as I trained with it, no matter how hard I pushed myself (and I pushed myself pretty hard!).
The seat went some way to explaining this. It is fully adjustable, and I managed to get it into the absolute perfect position, and the foot straps were stable and fully able to keep me secure as I ploughed on through my workout. The padding on the seat and backrest is all high-density foam designed to keep your posture correctly aligned throughout your training.
The resistance is all magnetic, with the almost obligatory 8 levels, so that you can retain a little variability whilst keeping everything as quiet and comfortable as possible.
The LCD computer screen clearly displays time, speed, distance, calories and so forth, all with great readability, allowing you to keep tabs on your workout in real time. Pulse sensors on the hands help to monitor your target heart rate.
Again, a well thought out step through design built ergonomically into the frame’s heavy-duty steel tubing makes getting into and out of position very easy, pain and stress free, even for those with more serious joint concerns.back to menu ↑
The 400XL by Exerpeutic is one of the smallest recumbent bikes I’ve come across, making it perfect for home use. It’s only 33” x 19” x 46”, and can still take a reasonably impressive max user weight of 300lbs.
It uses a semi-recumbent design, making it easier to get in and out of, and can be used as a desk bike with height adjustable desks. This unlocks a perhaps hidden use for the recumbent bike – they aren’t just for gym sessions themselves, but can be fantastic, low-impact ways to keep moving as you work.
I really do respect this feature – it’s fantastic.
The resistance itself is magnetic, with an unsurprising 8 level range, so you can find the right resistance for your training goals whilst keeping everything smooth, quiet and comfortable. This comfort is reinforced by the large, well-padded seats and backrest, and the three-piece, high-torque crank system that provides a smooth, consistent pedaling motion. Large pedals with good quality safety straps round it off, giving you a great degree of stability.
The easy-to-read LCD display allows you to track your distance, calories burned, time, speed, scan, and heart rate, is easy to use and navigate, and is pretty readable even for more myopic athletes.
All this, and it only weighs 43lbs.
Recumbent Exercise Bike FAQs
Can a recumbent bike burn as many calories as an upright bike?
Let’s split hairs before answering this properly. No cardio machine can burn calories. You burn calories using them (and even this is a simplification!). The machine doesn’t determine how many calories you burn – the effort you put into training does. If you put in the effort on a recumbent bike, you should be able to achieve good results.
This being said, it is harder to put in as high a level of effort with a recumbent bike as you can manage with an upright bike. It is designed to be gentle, after all. The peddles being in front stops you from being able to fully utilize the meaty muscles in your legs. There is little core engagement, as your full torso is supported throughout.
If you are concerned with burning calories, with this as your prime goal, an upright bike or spin cycle will likely be far more relevant to you.
How big is a recumbent bike?
All bikes will have a different footprint. All are different, with different designs and frames, so you will always need to check the actual dimensions of your chosen bike before buying. You will need to check how much space you have in your home or studio for it.
However, there are some averages we can work with. Few bikes will diverge wildly, so unless you’re aiming at a supremely snug fit, you should be able to manage with the same set of figures for all models.
Generally, a recumbent bike will be about 70 inches long and 28 inches wide.
Weight can vary a lot more, with an average range of about 90 – 200lbs. This will depend on the material used, the design, and the weight of the flywheel. Higher quality machines are typically heavier. This is a good thing – it will mean the bike will likely be more robust, and that it will shake and wiggle less during use.
Mobility will be an issue, particularly if you have any joint concerns. Most recumbent bikes will have wheels for ease of movement, but it will still likely be a good idea to bring in some outside help when setting it up.
What kind of power does a recumbent bike need?
Some recumbent bikes don’t need any power at all, though most do – especially if they have a monitor. There are three main power sources that most bikes will use.
Generally, lower cost recumbent bikes will have a monitor that runs off a few AA batteries. This is completely adequate. Slightly more expensive bikes may need and use AC adaptors, so you need to find a spot in your home or studio where you can plug them in.
Higher-end, more advanced recumbents may be self-powered. This can be more convenient, greener, and cheaper in the long run, as you don’t need to pay for power from the grid. You will have to continuously pedal, however, if you want to keep the console working.
What heights can a recumbent bike accommodate?
This is another question that depends entirely on the model. However, common sense can go a long way to answering it. Generally speaking, larger bikes can accommodate taller athletes. Smaller ones will be more appropriate for smaller individuals.
Shorter athletes may also find larger, longer recumbent bikes uncomfortable, as they have to over-extend their legs and put their knees and hips into awkward positions.
Always double check. Read reviews, like mine above, or contact the seller directly. However, most recumbent bikes will comfortably accommodate most heights. If you are somewhere between 5’2” and 6’4” you shouldn’t run into any difficulties. Outside of this range, you may need to shop a bit smarter.
Are recumbent bikes quiet?
They should be. In fact, most recumbent bikes will be near silent – if they aren’t, something will either have gone wrong with the model, or the model itself will be an inferior product.
Most recumbent bikes use magnetic resistance – as do many items on my list above. This will give very little noise as there is no friction at all needed to produce the resistance. Instead, magnets are brought closer or moved farther away from the flywheel’s metal surface to increase or decrease resistance. It is a near silent process.
The only noise you should get is from your own movement and huffing and puffing, and the pedals themselves squeaking. A little oil can fix the latter issue (there’s not much that can be done about the former!).
Will all heart rate monitors work with my recumbent bike?
Not unless advertised, no.
Most wireless heart rate monitors use either Bluetooth or ANT+ to sync with the recumbent bike. The vast majority of recumbent bikes (and cardio machines in general) use Bluetooth. I would generally advise buying a Bluetooth operated monitor in the first place – then you can generally be confident that you can use it with most commercial and at-home cardio machines, recumbent bikes included.
However, obviously, if your bike uses ANT+, you will need a monitor that can be used with it.
It’s always good to check before purchasing either a recumbent bike or a heart rate monitor.
I would advise anybody with any kind of joint concerns – injuries, or chronic conditions like arthritis or osteoporosis – to invest in a recumbent bike. If this is you, or if you have any kind of degenerative condition like Parkinson’s, a recumbent bike can be a lifeline.
A recumbent bike will represent a healthy, low-impact way to build and/or maintain your physical fitness, whilst maintaining healthy body composition and lower body musculature, even in the face of a lack of mobility or control in your day-to-day life.
Most of the benefits of living an active lifestyle can be garnered from 20-30 minutes per day on a recumbent bike, keeping you healthier and happier, for longer.
They are also great for your downtime, too. If you train hard several times per week, want a way to perform active recovery, and want to rest your joints between training sessions, a recumbent bike could be just the tool you need.
All the items on this list represent worthy purchasing decisions. Any one of them can give you the benefits you need from a recumbent bike.