When you work out, at home or at the gym, what’s your favorite piece of equipment? For many people engaged in a cardio routine, exercise bikes are the standard option. Over the years, upright exercise bikes have been the dominant style but now, increasingly, the interestingly-designed recumbent bikes are coming to the fore.
Both types of bikes have their advantages and drawbacks and, in an ideal world, you would purchase one of each. Today, though, we will focus purely on the laid-back option with an overview followed by a look at 5 of the best recumbent bike reviews.
**Below, you'll find more detailed reviews, but you can click the links above to see current prices and read customer's reviews on Amazon.
What Is A Recumbent Bike?
When it comes to cardio equipment, one of the key positives of exercise bikes is that they place very little stress on the joints. Once you get used to spending long periods of time in the saddle, they really are a supremely comfortable way to work out.
With a recumbent bike, the pedals are positioned in front of the body rather than tucked underneath. Your body position is reclined rather than upright and there is generally a larger seat. This leads to a more natural body position lessening body fatigue and also preventing upper body muscle soreness.
Whether you are new to cycling or suffer from lower back pain, recumbent bikes are certainly worth exploring.
Why Use One?
The driving motivator for most people who opt for a recumbent exercise bike is comfort. The seat more like a regular chair and the lateral positioning means that you will not feel on edge while working out.
Adding to the flexibility is the fact that you can exercise hands-free rather than being forced to grip the handles of a regular bike. For many who work out at home, they like to read, watch TV or play with their iPad so this freedom is a definite plus.
Another key advantage of this variety of bike is that for anyone with back or joint problems, the way that you sit and the support of the bucket-style seat place far less stress and strain on your body. Also, since you cannot stand up on the pedals, many of the accidents associated with normal exercise bikes are avoided so it’s a safe bet all round.
If you’re looking for comfort and ease while still getting in great shape, a recumbent bike could be just what you have been looking for.
How To Use A Recumbent Bike
Getting to work on a recumbent bike is remarkably easy. Assuming that the bike is fully assembled, check carefully that all moving parts have safe clearance.
Make sure that you have adequate room to safely mount and dismount without being cramped for space.
It’s crucial that you position both the seat and handlebars before you start cycling. Do not attempt to make tweaks while exercising. Proper positioning is important for comfort and effectiveness.
Note: If you feel a twinge in the front of your knee, this strongly indicates that you have too much knee bend going on. Pain in the back points towards inadequate bend. As a guide, when you reach the end of your pedal stroke, your leg should be bent somewhere between 10 and 15 degrees. The knee should be at right-angles.
Like with many things, it’s all in the preparation. Take your time, set up the equipment correctly then hop on and shed some calories.
What To Look For…
Comfort and Ergonomics
With their padded bucket seats and overall design, recumbent bikes in general are a snug way to work out. Check out which are most to your taste.
Check out, too, the design of the pedals and the straps to stop your feet slipping.
Some models come with built-in speakers, water bottle holders or fans so think about which areas like this are important for you.
Central Console Unit
Think of the console as the central nervous system of your recumbent bike.
It can gather all the vital data from the various gadgets and sensors attached. This information is processed then displayed for you on the LCD panel for crisp and easy reading.
Pre-set programs and settings are easily interpreted by the console which will then act in accordance with the instructions given.
This screen is arguably the most critical part of the central console unit.
The amount of data shown depends to a large extent on the make, model (and, of course, the price). Pretty much all of them will show the length of your workout, average speed and distance traveled along with the number of calories burned off. Custom settings will also be displayed.
Some of the more advanced versions even come with interactive video games which integrate your own performance into the game!
Heart Rate Monitor
Most of the cheaper recumbent bikes do not come with a dedicated heart rate monitor. You generally need to spend a little more for this functionality.
The importance of the heart rate feature is that for a cardio workout to be most effective, you need to ensure that your heart beats at a certain rate. This is commonly known as the fat-burning zone.
Although it’s undeniably convenient to have this tool built into the handlebars, if your budget does not stretch to a model offering this you can always buy a separate heart rate monitor without spending too much.
If you are looking for a space-sensitive piece of exercise equipment, a recumbent bike is ideal. The Exerpeutic 400XL can fold up so that it’s only half its already impressively small size. At 39 pounds, the 400XL is extremely lightweight. In spite of the slight dimensions, it can accommodate users weighing up to 300 pounds.
The double-drive V-belt transmission system coupled with a flywheel which is precision-balanced mean that your workout will be smooth and ultra-quiet.
You can enjoy up to 8 different levels of resistance courtesy of the Magnetic Tension system.
Technically, this bike is termed semi-recumbent which means that it’s slightly easier to mount and dismount.
The LCD display is clear and simple to read. All the important data points are handily flashed up for your benefit. Heart rate is measured via a hand pulse monitor.
The backrest and seat cushion are sizeable and very comfy. The design is suitable for all body types.
There’s a limited 1-year warranty but check for exactly what’s covered so you are not disappointed.
Considering its modest price and outstanding functionality, the Exerpeutic 400XL is certainly worth a look if you want something small yet capable. Almost all user reviews are very positive.
- Extremely small and portable for easy storage
- Lightweight yet surprisingly sturdy
- Weight limit a more than adequate 300 pounds
- Competitively priced
- Quiet and smooth
- Folds for easy storage
- Safety straps on pedals to avoid slipping
- Smooth pedaling motion
- No wobbling or shaking thanks to stabilizers
- Not great for tall people
- Some users complain about pedal issues
- Questionable flywheel
- Warranty comes with limitations
Next up is another offering from Exerpeutic, this time a slightly more expensive model, the 900XL.
Easily decipherable instructions mean that you can assemble your bike in no time and get straight down to a vigorous cardio workout. The parts are all very clearly labeled and the guide walks you through step-by-step.
With no wobbling or stability issues, you can get straight up to speed and raise your heart rate for the optimum cycling experience. The Smooth Torque cranking system allows for smooth pedaling all the way.
Some users report that the handlebars are positioned rather too far forwards but this depends to some extent on taste.
Overall comfort levels are great. With its nifty hand sensors, remaining within the ideal target heart rate is a breeze.
Built-in wheels make transporting the bike straightforward.
If you are looking for a great fully recumbent bike on a budget then the 900XL, with its limited warranty, is worth checking out.
- Seamless assembly
- Easy-to-read LCD display
- Budget price without compromising quality
- Extremely comfortable
- No slippage issues
- Quiet operation
- Hand pulse sensors
- Lack of extras
- Handlebars slightly too far forward
If you want to sidestep that saddle sore feeling and strain that are associated with regular exercise bikes, give the Marcy ME709 recumbent bike a shot. This black and copper model is made from powder-coated steel and is built to endure.
There are 8 levels of magnetic resistance which is fairly standard for this price range of recumbent bike. On 7 or 8 it will prove challenging to most riders.
Its console is clear and easy to read. You can fix the settings or allow it to fluctuate between speed, distance and the number of calories burned as you cycle.
The general comfort level is reasonable but some users complain that after 30 minutes or so the saddle starts to induce soreness.
If you use this bike then you will shave off more calories by working the body’s largest muscles. The angle and comfort, though, mean that while you reap these rewards it will actually feel like you’re putting in less effort.
Overall, check out the downsides listed below and see whether or not this recumbent bike suits your needs.
- Durable and well-built
- Console simple to use with large digital display
- Easy to mount and dismount
- Seat adjusts to accommodate most heights
- Extremely quiet
- Lightweight and easy to move on wheels
- Plastic dustcover provided
- No heart rate monitor
- Seat feels hard after extended use
- No pre-programmed workouts
Schwinn has been making bikes for 150 years and such heritage usually comes with a price tag to match. It’s not cheap but represents superb value for money.
This technically advanced bike has a great LCD display which permits tracking of 13 feedbacks and the use of 29 programs. It comes with a USB port for data exchange and charging.
There are 25 resistance levels which is a big step up from most entry-level models. There are 10 quick keys for resistance to make your life simpler.
If you enjoy listening to music as you work out then the built-in acoustic speakers will deliver in fine style. A fan and water bottle holder complete the accessories nicely and mean that you can exercise vigorously while remaining comfortable.
Despite its rugged nature, the Schwinn is light enough if you need to move it around.
The warranty is impeccable covering the frame for a decade, all mechanics for up to 2 years, electronic components for 1 year and labor for the first 90 days.
If you are tech-savvy and have a generous budget, the Schwinn 270 recumbent bike is among the best options you could think about buying. Treat yourself!
- Exceptional build quality
- Speakers built in
- Superb warranty
- Superb warranty
- Reasonably easy to assemble
- 29 workout programs
- Ultra-bright LCD display
- Accuracy of heart rate monitor could be improved
- Customer support not the best
We’ll finish up our reviews with a glance at another Schwinn model, the marginally less expensive 230. This is a very well-made bike with a wide range of workouts to choose from. There are 22 programs and 20 separate resistance levels to keep on challenging you as you progress.
The speakers and fan, as with the 270, make for a workout with creature comforts. SchwinnConnect technology lets you both track and export data via USB. Up to 13 pieces of information can be displayed on the clear LCD screen. With the heart rate monitor housed in the handlebars, keeping tabs on this is no hassle.
The seat is extremely comfy and adjusts simply. It molds well to all body shapes. As with all Schwinn products, the warranty is first-rate. Schwinn: not cheap but you’re worth it!
- Not cheap but superb value for money
- Outstanding range of exercise options
- Long lasting and sturdy
- Ease of assembly
- Excellent warranty
- Speakers built in
- Comfortable seat
- USB connectivity
- Great for users with lower back pain due to vented seat back
- Quite heavy and awkward to move around
- Only 2 user profiles
Each of these recumbent bikes represents a smart choice.
Think carefully about what, precisely, you need from this piece of workout equipment and choose accordingly.
Our advice is to go for one of the Schwinn models if you can afford it but the Exerpeutic and Marcy bikes will not disappoint either.
Get in touch if you have any questions at all and enjoy some lateral exercising on your new recumbent bike.