Recumbent exercise bikes at YMCA

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Best Recumbent Exercise Bikes

Recumbent exercise bikes can help you lose weight, increase your mobility, or even help you rehab a bad knee from the comfort of your own home.

But with so many options to choose from, it’s hard to know where to start (especially for first-time buyers!).

In this review, we’ll show you our pick for the 5 best recumbent exercise bikes and highlight what to consider to find the best bike for your particular use case.

Let’s ride!


Best Recumbent Exercise Bike With Pulse Monitor: Schwinn 270
Best Recumbent Exercise Bike on a Budget: Marcy ME-709
Best Recumbent Exercise Bike for Tall Person: Nautilus R614 
Best Recumbent Exercise Bike With Moving Arms: Stamina Elite Total Body 
Best Recumbent Exercise Bike for Seniors: Exerpeutic 400XL Folding 


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What is a Stationary Recumbent Exercise Bike?

The stationary recumbent bike is a piece of cardio equipment that allows you to pedal while keeping your spine completely upright. Imagine a “chair-like” seat instead of a traditional bike seat.

Your legs pedal and push out in front of your hips instead of down below them. The pedals have adjustable resistance levels to make your leg muscles work to move them.

Health Benefits

Stationary recumbent bikes offer a low-impact, cardiovascular workout. They work the muscles in your lower body in a way that doesn’t pound the joints and help keep your heart rate and respiration up.

Regular aerobic exercise on a recumbent bike can improve muscle tone, strengthen your heart and lungs, decrease blood pressure, and help manage your weight.

They can also help you manage joint pain too. The design of a recumbent bike eases pressure on your spine and lower body. Low-impact cardio also brings fluid into joints to help lubricate them with movement.

Who are they for?

Recumbent bikes are ideal for you if you have limited mobility in the spine or any back, hip, or knee discomfort.

The “chair-like” seat keeps the spine upright and extra cushioning provides lumbar support. The forward pedal motion eases pressure on the knees and hip joints.

Recumbent bikes are useful for injury rehabilitation, but they’re also great cardio trainers if you value comfort. They can help you burn calories and reach your weight loss goals if you’re willing to put in the work.

Who are they not for?

Since recumbent bikes isolate your entire lower body and don’t engage your core, they’re not great for any kind of high-intensity training.

In other words, if you’re no stranger to exercise and really looking to push yourself, you’re better off going with a regular upright bike.

Upright bikes will provide the appropriate training options for your road and endurance cycle workouts.

Recumbent vs. Upright Exercise Bikes

Upright and spin bikes are designed to look like a real bike. You sit at a higher center of gravity above the frame. This position makes you lean forward to reach the handlebars and you pedal downwards.

You can ride an upright bike like a regular bike because it doesn’t require you to remain seated like a recumbent does. You also have more options in your workout because you can stand and pedal which is great for isolating your glutes

But the seats aren’t exactly a treat on an upright. These too mimic real bike seats and can cause a little “saddle soreness”. The chair-like seat of a recumbent bike is much more comfortable, even if it restricts you to one position.

Recumbent bikes also free up your hands which means you can watch TV, read a book, or play one of your favorite games. A great way to distract yourself while you exercise.

Stationary upright bikes are taller and take up less storage space than recumbent bikes. They also tend to cost less. If you can’t spare much room inside your home, you may appreciate the footprint of an upright bike vs. a recumbent.

Brake Pads vs. Magnets

Exercise bikes need a built-in resistance system since you’re stationary when you use it. The two main types of resistance systems available on recumbent bikes are:

  • Direct Contact Resistance
  • Magnetic Resistance

Direct contact resistance is when the brake pads on the bike (often made of felt) squeeze the flywheel to create resistance. This type of resistance is adjustable with a knob or lever. You can make it as easy or challenging as you want

The downside is, like your car, the brake pads on your exercise bike need to replaced every so often. The good news is that the large majority of recumbent exercise bikes are frictionless (magnetic) resistance so you likely won’t have to worry about this.

Magnetic resistance is sometimes called “frictionless” because it uses a flywheel and two powerful magnets. The flywheel creates a resistance force by interfering with the magnetic field between the magnets.

It’s a quieter and smoother type of resistance which is great if you need to keep the noise down while you exercise. Plus, you don’t have to worry about replacing brake pads. But they tend to cost more.

 

7 Things to Consider Before Buying a Recumbent Bike

#1 — Cost

Recumbent bikes vary in price from $199 to $2000+. Your no-frill beginner models average $200+ and those with all the bells and whistles can run you $800+.

You’ll pay more for high tech LCD monitors, Bluetooth connectivity, resistance options, programmed routines, and built-in speakers. The more fitness data you want to track, the more you’ll pay.

This is great if you’re looking to make some measurable gains in your cardiovascular and physical health. Collecting and assessing your numbers is motivating!

But, if you’re just looking to get more active and don’t care to connect your apps to your bike, save some cash and go with a lower tech model.

#2 — Technology

You’ll be hard pressed to find a bike without some kind of fitness tracking technology. The best reason to track your workouts is to stay motivated en route to your fitness goals.

Each bike has a center console or monitor that gathers all the data from the machine. Basic models will track distance, time, and speed. More advanced ones can track heart rate, calories burned, and connect to your apps.

Basic models only offer start options and less than 10 resistance levels. High tech models have pre-programmed exercise routines with dozens of resistance levels (like the Schwinn 270).

Schwinn 270 Recumbent Exercise Bike - Digital Display

Close up of the monitor on the Schwinn 270.

The programs allow you to adjust your workout as you progress and help keep things interesting. Plus it’s nice being able to jump on your bike, press a button, and get your workout started.

Higher-end models can also store user profile information for 1-4 people. This is great if you’re not the only one riding your bike. It spares you having to re-enter all of your information every time you want to workout (height, weight, and other preferences). Just sign-in to your profile and get started!

Your level of motivation and exercise preferences are the best gauge for how much technology you need. If you’re an easy rider, low tech will suit you just fine. If you like a challenge, you may appreciate more tech and gadget options.

#3 — Size & Storage

Recumbent bikes are bigger and longer than traditional upright bikes. The handlebars, feet, and frame take up the most space in length and width.

Some models have foldable seats to help with storage, but they don’t exactly fold up into your closet.

They’re definitely built for indoor use because dust and moisture could warp and erode your resistance system. Dusty chains and fans can become annoying. Rusted chains or magnets could eventually break or seize.

So, be sure you measure your available indoor space and compare it to the footprint information from the manufacturer. You don’t want it cramping your living space or stored in a room where you can’t use it comfortably.

#4 — Comfort & Adjustability

Recumbent bike seats are lower to the ground than upright bikes and easier to get on and off.

Most models have adjustable seats (front to back) to accommodate your leg length.

Your ideal seat position should:

  • Keep your heel on the pedal when your leg is extended, but not locked
  • Keep the ball of your foot on the pedal when the knee is bent

Seat adjustability is important because too much or too little leg bend can cause pain in your back and knees.

It’s also important because you should be able to adjust your pedal resistance with ease. Leaning off the bike or having to stop your workout altogether to change the resistance can get annoying and can cause an injury.

#5 — Assembly

Some recumbent bikes are delivered to your door fully assembled, no labor required. And some arrive with basic assembly needed. This can include hooking up the monitor yourself.

Manufacturers provide all the tools and hardware you need to assemble your bike, but it can still be confusing.

Recumbent exercise bike assembly

Assembly can be messy. Take your time and be patient! (Source: Schuminweb)

Asking about on-site assembly isn’t a bad idea if you’re not keen on assembling the bike yourself. Just ask a sales associate on the phone or in person if you buy from a retail store or manufacturer.

You may not have the option for on-site help if you buy online. Be sure to read all the fine print to see if it’s an option. If it’s not, you may be able to call and ask the manufacturer for assistance too.

It’s important to note that all on-site assistance will likely come with an additional fee.

#6 — Accessories

High-density mats are great additions for your home gym. Most bikes have wheels to help you move them, but they’re still heavy.

Dragging them across your floor can be damaging to the bike and your house. Protect your carpet and flooring with a mat under your bike.

Storage tables or trays can add more convenience to your ride. Bike’s don’t offer a lot of space to hold your phone, towel, book, earbuds, and TV remote.

Have all the gear and entertainment you need within hands reach. After your workout, just fold it back up and store it away.

If you prefer to workout with less, you can also use a smartphone mount. This keeps your head and spine in alignment and your hands-free to rest on the arm rails.

Seat pads can add more comfort to your workout. The chair-like seat of the recumbent bike is comfy already, but sometimes you just want more padding. Nothing wrong with that.

You can also create more padding by folding up a towel or using an extra pillow. It saves some money and keeps it simple.

#7 — Warranty

The warranty for your bike covers the frame, parts, electronics, and sometimes the labor. All manufacturers offer a factory warranty, but they vary widely.

Frames are covered between 2 years and a lifetime. Parts between 6 months and 3 years. Electronics and labor span 90 days to 3 years.

Investigate the return policy thoroughly before you buy because they may not apply to shipping damage. Shipping insurance can be a good way to protect your equipment and ensure it arrives in good standing.

Consider the frequency of your bike use to help determine which warranty is best. If you (or other people) will be using your bike a lot it might make sense to pay more for a bike with a better warranty for peace of mind.

 

Popular Brands

There are several brands and manufacturers offering similar products and we know it can be overwhelming, to say the least. We’ve narrowed down a few of the most popular recumbent exercise bike brands to (hopefully) spare you some browsing time.

Marcy

Marcy Pro is a high-quality brand of fitness equipment manufactured by IMPEX. They started manufacturing in 1982 and today produce 6 brands of fitness equipment.

Their popular recumbent exercise bikes include the Marcy ME-709 and Marcy Foldable NS-653.

Exerpeutic

Exerpeutic is a brand manufactured by Paradigm Health & Wellness. Founded in California in 2007, Paradigm promises their products to provide results and guarantees they’re ready to serve customers.

They offer full size and compact recumbent bikes like the Exerpeutic 1000 and the Exerpeutic 400XL (Folding).

Nautilus

Nautilus Inc. has been driving their mission to motivate people to live healthier lives for 40+ years. Their company has evolved to include 5 brands of fitness equipment, including Schwinn.

They claim to deliver unique home fitness solutions with bikes like the Nautilus R614 Recumbent Bike.

Schwinn

Schwinn is a brand of fitness equipment manufactured by Nautilus. Their dedication to providing home fitness solutions is exemplified by their Schwinn 230 Recumbent Bike and the Schwinn 270 Recumbent Bike.

NordicTrack

NordicTrack started out providing indoor ski equipment 25 years ago. In the 1990s they expanded into other home fitness equipment like bikes and treadmills. They’re committed to designing their brands with flare.

Two of their popular recumbent exercise bikes include the high-end NordicTrack Vr21 and the NordicTrack GX 4.7.

 

Recumbent Exercise Bike Reviews and Recommendations

Best Recumbent Exercise Bike With Pulse Monitor: Schwinn 270 Recumbent Bike

Schwinn 270 Recumbent Bike
  • Bluetooth connectivity, syncs with the Schwinn Trainer...
  • Sync with free downloadable RideSocial App and see the...
  • 29 programs: 12 profile, 9 heart rate control, 4...
  • 25 levels of resistance for a wide range of workout...
  • High speed, high inertia drive system with a perimeter...

One of the main reasons the 270 is the best recumbent bike is because it comes with 25 levels of resistance. It also has 29 pre-programmed workouts which allow you to pick your intensity and duration each time you exercise. Translation: it’s tough to get bored with this bike.

You can track a lot of information with the Schwinn 270. Collecting and assessing your fitness progress keeps you motivated. The LCD display screen tracks time, distance, heart rate, and calories burned for each ride.

The “Quick Start” feature, in-console speakers, USB media charging, and adjustable fan are bonus additions. It’s a one-stop shop for phone charging, temperature control, and audio entertainment.

The bike plugs into a standard electrical 110V-120V wall outlet. Storing it near the outlet is ideal instead of running electrical cords to your bike. Safety is always important for your home gym.

If you’re active and busy, you’ll appreciate the pre-programmed workouts and convenience features. Squeeze in a great workout quick!


Best Recumbent Exercise Bike on a Budget: Marcy ME-709

Sale
Marcy Recumbent Exercise Bike with Resistance ME-709
  • STEP-THROUGH DESIGN - Featuring heavy-duty construction...
  • EIGHT RESISTANCE LEVELS - This stationary bike uses a...
  • READ COMPUTER SCREEN - The ultra-functional LCD...
  • COMFORTABLE PADDED SEAT - The equipment has an...
  • COUNTERBALANCED PEDALS - Weighted pedals designed to...

Similar to the Exerpeutic 400XL, the Marcy ME-709 is constructed from steel tubing and comes with a small footprint for easy storage.

The gap between the armrests is of 21 ½ inches and allows for easy access on and off the bike. Don’t worry about getting tripped up because the armrests can be removed too if you need more room.

The seat is 19 inches above the floor and adjustable so you can get onto the bike with less effort. The foot straps on the pedals are adjustable to ensure your footing is secure and comfortable.

The LCD screen tracks calories burned, speed, distance and time which make monitoring your workout easy. But, it doesn’t track heart rate or provide pre-packaged programs. It’s also limited to 8 levels of magnetic resistance.

The low seat and ability to completely remove the arm rails make this the best recumbent bike for bad knees. It requires very little effort to get on and off the seat. Also great if you have stiff hips.

If you get bored easy during cardio you won’t value the low tech and lack of built-in programs on this bike.


Best Recumbent Exercise Bike for Tall Person: Nautilus R614

Sale
Nautilus R614 Recumbent Bike
  • Goal Track capability enables users to set individual...
  • 22 programs: 9 profile, 8 heart rate control, 2 custom,...
  • 20 levels of resistance for a wide range of workout...
  • DualTrack LCD displays
  • In-console speakers with an MP3 input port

This bike has many of the same data tracking features of the Schwinn 270 to keep your exercise routine fun and interesting.

It has 22 pre-programmed workouts, 20 levels of resistance, speakers, and a fan to keep you cool during your workout. The warranty is even comparable with a 10-year frame, 2-year parts, 1-year electrical, and 90-day labor.

This is one of the best recumbent exercise bikes if you’re tall (6’1” and above) because it has one of the longest frames of all the picks on our list.

The biggest drawback of the R614 is the heart rate monitoring isn’t wireless and is limited to the hand grips. This bike also requires some assembly after delivery. Expect to spend about an hour assembling it with a step-by-step manual. The manual is included with the bike parts on delivery.

This is a great high-tech bike if you’re shopping on a budget and/or are above average height.


Best Recumbent Exercise Bike With Moving Arms: Stamina Elite Total Body Recumbent Bike

Stamina Elite Total Body Recumbent Bike with Upper Body and Lower Body Exercise
  • Eight levels of smooth, adjustable magnetic resistance;...
  • Multi-function electronic display
  • Upper hand pedals allow for arm, shoulder and back...
  • Molded, contoured, padded seat and backrest designed...
  • Heart RATE sensors; built-in wheels for Transport;...

The solid steel frame of the Stamina Elite is quite durable. The cushioned and semi-reclined seat supports the lower back and adjustable arm rails stabilize your upper body providing you additional comfort.

But the best part about this bike is that it allows you to work your entire body. Using your arms and legs to pedal (independently) can pump your training heart rate up to 70-85% of your max which is great for weight loss.

The heart-rate monitors and the tension dial are easy to access on this bike during your workout which means you can adjust your workout intensity at any time without having to stop or slow your ride.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t come with pre-programmed workouts in the monitor unlike many of the other recumbent bikes on this list. And it’s limited to 8 levels of magnetic resistance.

The Stamina Elite is designed for all fitness levels, but the full body workout design is ideal for your weight loss efforts. Training your upper and lower body revs up your metabolism and helps tone your muscles.


Best Recumbent Exercise Bike for Seniors: Exerpeutic 400XL Folding Recumbent Bike

Sale
Exerpeutic 400XL Folding Recumbent Bike
  • Foldable recumbent exercise bike with quiet V-belt...
  • Precision-balanced flywheel; 8-level adjustable...
  • Easy-to-read LCD display tracks your distance,...
  • Semi-recumbent design for easy entry and exit; large...
  • Supports up to 300 pounds; Product setup dimensions:...

The highlight of this bike is the unique and simple design. It doesn’t come with all the bells and the whistles like the Schwinn 270, but it’s super space efficient. This is one of the best recumbent exercise bikes if you’re a senior because it’s small and easy to use.

This bike is slimmer compared to others like the Stamina Elite. It’s constructed from heavy-duty steel tubing and sports a large padded seat that folds up for easy storage.

Don’t worry about the slim frame tipping or rocking during use because it comes with leg stabilizers. The LCD screen is basic but it still tracks heart rate, calories burned, speed and mileage. You don’t need much else when you’re starting out.

But, it’s limited to 8 levels of resistance and the extra large seat may be too big if you’re petite. The slim frame comes with height limitations too. It only accommodates users under 6’1.

The pedals are mounted a little lower than other recumbent bikes and this could cause more back stress during pedaling if you’re really tall.


Recumbent Bike FAQs

Q: Can I really get an intense workout from a recumbent exercise bike?

A: It depends on your fitness level. Recumbent bikes use the muscles in your legs to power your ride. These are big muscles and they require a lot of energy and fuel. The stronger they are, the less energy you exert.

If you have little strength in your legs, pedaling for an extended period of time can really increase your heart rate and provide an intense cardio workout. This fades over time as you get stronger.

Q: What can I do to make the ride more entertaining?

A: Jam out, listen up, and Netflix. Recumbent bikes allow you to be hands-free. You can use this freedom listen to your favorite playlist, audiobook, or podcast.

It’s also the perfect opportunity to catch up on shows if your bike is near at TV. Or, download apps that provide your a scenic ride like BitGym.

Q: Can I burn as many calories on a recumbent bike as I would on an upright bike?

A: It depends on your fitness level. If you’re just starting out – yes you can burn the same amount of calories.

If you’re an occasional rider and you have a lot of resistance levels – you can burn the same amount of calories.

If you’re an experienced biker or spinner – you will likely burn less on a recumbent bike. This is due to the stationary horizontal position.

Q: Where can I find exercise bike programs to follow?

A: Some manufacturers offer free apps for download like this Schwinn app. You can subscribe to other apps for a monthly fee that provide you different tours and courses like Zwift.

There’s also a plethora of free online programs that give you the options for a HIIT or Tabata workout.

 

Final Thoughts

Recumbent exercise bikes are a great piece of fitness equipment to have at home if you’re looking to lose weight, increase your mobility, or rehab a bad knee.

Hopefully, this review has given you a better understanding of what to expect when browsing online or in-stores.

Our top recommendation is the Schwinn 270 because it has 25 levels of resistance and 29 built-in programs which means it’s nearly impossible to outgrow.

If you’re looking for a quality recumbent bike on a budget, we recommend going with the Marcy ME-709.

What’s your take on recumbent bikes? Which ones are your favorite and why? Let us know in the comments below!


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