When buying an exercise bike, one of the first questions people ask is: 'Do I want an upright or an recumbent exercise bike? What's the difference and which one is better?'
This article will help define these 2 general classes of exercise bikes and lay out advantages and disadvantages to each.
The first group of exercise bikes are:
1) Recumbent Bikes
Recumbent bikes are the newer exercise bikes on the market with the chair-like or bucket seats.
Your body is placed in a semi reclining position and your legs angle out in front of you to reach the pedals instead of hanging down as on an upright bike.
Recumbent bikes are obviously more comfortable than the upright bikes and they also provide better back support.
Recumbent bikes also provide more efficient blood flow throughout your body when exercising and help to work the abdominal muslces more.
These bikes are generally safer to use and, since they are so easy to use, are a great option for the elderly or those who don't exercise much.
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While some experts feel that you can't get the intense workout with a recumbent as you can on an upright bike, there are other experts that think you actually get a better workout on a recumbent since you can't cheat and stand up.
Also, recumbent bikes can be slightly larger than upright bikes (although not always) so this means they may be more difficult to move around.
2) Upright Bikes
These are also called "Stationary bikes" although this term is now becoming a catch-all term for both upright and recumbent bikes. These are the traditional exercise bikes that have been around for years and are similar in form to traditional outdoor bikes.
Upright stationary bikes provide a great lower body cardiovascular workout. They also fit easily into small spaces and some even fold up.
Upright bikes give you a cardio workout that focuses mainly on your quadriceps (whereas recumbent bikes focus more on the hamstrings and glutes)
Plus, if you're an outdoor cyclist you might prefer an upright bike to a recumbent as it can give you more effiecient training, especially in the winter months.
Upright bikes can be extremely uncomfortable over time - and especially if you get a cheap one with a minimally padded seat. Reading on an upright bike is also much harder than on a recumbent bike so it can get boring and this may cause you to get less use out of your exercise bike.
An offshoot of the standard upright bike is the 'Dual Action' Stationary bike like the Schwinn Airdyne. These bikes are similar in form to the upright bike but they also have movable bars or levers on arm handles to incorporate your upper body into the workout.
Using the upper body arm bars can help work your arms, chest, abs, and back muscles. This can increase overall aerobic intensity, burn more calories and provide a higher intensity workout challenge. Upper body arms can also help for those who don't want to work their legs as hard because of injury or muscle strain.
Of course there are several other offshoots of exercise bikes like spinners, bikes that combine rowing machines with exercise bikes, even interactive bikes where you can cycle while playing video games.
However for the general home exerciser, the first main question they need to decide is if they would prefer a recumbent or an upright bike.
Each obviously has its advantages and disadvantages but the bottom line is this: choose a design that you know you'll use. Because the true test of an exercise machine is if you can use it over the long term to achieve your fitness goals.
For more information on the best exercise bikes for your money visit our Best Exercise Bike page