Recumbent Bike or Upright – Which Should You Choose?

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Recumbent Vs Upright Bike?


recumbent vs upright bikeThroughout the years, the human race has been caught up in some classical dual-option debates. Evolution or Creation? Democrat or Republican? Coffee or tea? Ginger or Mary Anne? Upright or recumbent? Ok, maybe not so much.

But if you’re buying an exercise bike, you probably are wondering which kind of bike you should choose – a recumbent or an upright?

Not to worry. This post will give you the benefits of each – so you can choose which type of bike best fits your lifestyle and preference.

So here we go:


Recumbent Bikes:

sole recumbent bikeRecumbent bikes are the newer exercise bikes on the scene with 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 upright bikes for many people. Plus they also provide back support. So if you’re more comfortable, you’re more likely to use the bike – another benefit.

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’re so easy to use, are a great option for the elderly or those who don’t have a lot of fitness experience.



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 say you actually get a better workout on a recumbent (since you can’t ‘cheat’ and stand up as you can with an upright). So the jury is still out here.

Also, recumbent bikes can be slightly larger than upright bikes which means they may be more difficult to move around. A good recumbent will also tend to be slightly more expensive than a similarly made upright.



Upright Bikes:

upright bike These are also called “stationary bikes” although the term is now becoming a bit of a catch-all to cover both upright and recumbent models.

Upright bikes are the traditional exercise bikes that have been around for years. They are similar in form and layout as traditional outdoor bikes where you sit on the bike seat and your feet reach down towards the ground to touch the pedals.



Upright bikes give you 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 (or more specifically a spinning or indoor cycling bike) as it can give you more efficient training, especially in winter.



Upright bikes can become extremely uncomfortable over time – especially if you get a cheap one with a minimally padded seat.  And if it hurts to ride on it, you’re not going to use it. Same goes for any family member that you bought the bike for.

Reading on an upright bike is also much harder to do than with a recumbent. So it can get boring and cause you to use your bike less.

Standard upright bikes may be cheaper (an advantage) but they also tend to be limited in the workout options that you get (like built-in workouts, iPod docks, etc.)


So those are some of the main advantages and disadvantages of recumbent and upright bikes. But let’s cut to the chase and answer the question you really want to know:


Which type of bike is better for calorie burning – recumbent vs upright bike?


calorie burning bikeGood question. Unfortunately, I don’t have a definitive answer. Because it really depends on you.

The harder you work on a machine and the longer you use it, the more calories you’ll burn, period.

So let’s say that an upright bike may burn more calories during a one-hour workout than a recumbent.

Great. But if it’s so uncomfortable after 30 minutes that you have to stop, you’re way ahead if you go with a recumbent that will be more comfortable (and keep your little butt in the seat for an hour).

It also depends on resistance. So if you get a recumbent bike with 10 levels of resistance (not a lot), you may top out after about 3 months – and have nowhere to go.

Now compare this to a recumbent (or upright) with 25 levels of resistance. You can keep burning calories for a long time, always pushing your body to new heights, without slowing that calorie burn.

So again, which bike is better for calorie burning really comes down to you.


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Keep in mind that here are also other types of bikes like indoor cycling bikes (similar to upright bikes but built for tougher workouts and experienced outdoor cyclists), dual action bikes (with moving arm bars) and even hybrid bike-elliptical trainers.

So the bottom line is really this: what gets you excited about working out? What will you feel most comfortable on? And what are your goals?

Once you know the answers to those questions, you’re in a better position to decide the answer to the age-old question: Recumbent or Upright?

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