Recumbent Bike vs Upright Bike – Best Exercise Bike

Which bike works best for you?

What makes fitness so interesting is the fact that there are so many ways to get in shape. Whether you’re into cardio training or weight training, there are many ways to go about it.

But in this article, I will be talking about cardio training. In particular…bike riding. If you’ve ever ridden a bike before, then you know how liberating a feeling it can be.

When it comes to exercise, stationary bikes are a very popular way to burn calories to help you lose weight. It’s important however to know there are two different types of bikes.

Recumbent bikes vs Upright bikes. Although they have the same function, both offer a very different feel and comfort level for those that love to cycle.

This will be important to understand especially for those that suffer with lower back pain. Age and height are also other factors that you may want to consider before deciding which type of bike will be best for your fitness needs.

Also to avoid confusion, spins bikes are also considered upright bikes as well. This comparison is based on your body position while riding an exercise bike.

Upright Bike vs Recumbent Bike Comparison

Recumbent Bikes

  • Pedals are positioned in front of body
  • Body is in reclined position
  • Has a larger seat
  • Very secure bike riding workout
  • Uses less of the upper body

Upright Bikes

  • Pedals are positioned under body
  • Body is in the upright position
  • Has a smaller seat
  • Takes up less space in house
  • Similar to actual bike riding

Key Differences Between Both Types of Bikes

Probably the biggest difference between a recumbent bike and an upright bike is the body position you’re in while riding.

With a recumbent bike, the body is in more of a laid back position allowing you to do multi-task a bit while exercising. One of the more popular things to do while using a recumbent bike is reading.

When it comes to the upright bike, you will need to focus a bit more on the actual workout. The body is leaning forward giving you that traditional bike feel.

Due to the way the body is positioned while riding, recumbent bikes tend to have the pedals positioned in front of the user. Where with the upright bike, the pedals are directly underneath the user.

So depending on what your preferences are, if you’re a hardcore bike rider, than the upright bike may be what you’re looking for. But if you’re just looking for a good workout where you can do other things like read, than the recumbent bike would be perfect.

Which Bike Offers a More Comfortable Ride?

Recumbent bike – these types of cycling bikes are designed with comfort in mind. You are able to pedal while laying back, leaving for a very comfortable ride.

One of the most uncomfortable things about bike riding can be the seat, and most recumbent bikes have a large seat.

Giving you a lot of support while sitting down. They’re so comfortable, you can read a book while you workout.

Upright Bike – there’s nothing worse than having to deal with a sore butt after a long bike ride. A reason for this is due to the small seat cushion bikes usually have.

The upright bike is no different. These bikes tend to leave your booty a bit sore after a workout, so it helps to make sure the cushion is very soft.

Not only that, but being in the upright position can leave you with a stiff back and sore shoulders. This is due to the body leaning forward most of the time while riding.

Advantage – Recumbent

Which Bike Offers Better Back Support?

Recumbent bike – as stated earlier, the way the body is positioned allows you to be more laid back. The seats are usually pretty big and offers a lot of support on the lumbar spine.

Almost as if you were relaxing laying on your couch watching tv. Which makes this a great machine for those that like to read while working out.

Upright Bike – if you’ve ever ridden a bike before or watched others ride a bike, then it’s easy to notice how the body is usually leaning forward.

This can cause a lot of strain and pressure on the lower back. This can be extremely troublesome for those that struggle with back pain.

Advantage – Recumbent

Which Bike Helps You Burn More Calories?

It’s easy to think that when it comes to potential calories burned, that there would be a difference between either bikes. When in reality, both bikes offer the same amount calorie burn and weight loss potential.

Remember, losing weight is all about putting your body in a caloric deficit. If you burn more calories than you consume, you will lose weight. The best way to burn those calories is through the intensity of your activity.

So when it comes to either bikes, it really does depend on your effort level. As long as you are pushing yourself during your workouts, either bike will have you burning the same amount of calories.

Which Bike Is Better For Seniors?

Recumbent Bike – the fact that you can lay back while you ride is a perfect for those not looking put too much stress on their body.

Being that there is a lot a wear and tear when it comes to those of age, it’s important to make sure you exercise comfortably, which recumbent bikes are good for.

Upright Bike – although the lower body is the main target of any exercise the involves riding a bike, upright bikes can also give you a bit of an upper body workout as well.

The reason being upright bikes require you to lean forward. This can put a lot of work on muscles in the shoulders. This can make exercising difficult for seniors.

Advantage – Recumbent

Which Bike Adjusts Best For Different Heights

Recumbent Bike – many recumbent bikes allow you to slide the seat either forward or backwards. So regardless of your height, being able to reach the pedal shouldn’t be much of an issue.

Making sure the machine allows for such adjusting is what you should be focused on when making a decision.

Upright Bike – with most upright exercise bikes, there’s usually a knob that allows you to easily adjust the height of the seat.

Many have a range in the maximum or minimum height required to use the machine. So unless you are extremely tall or short, you shouldn’t have trouble finding the right height for your workout.

Advantage – Tie

Recumbent Bike Pros and Cons


  • Easier on the lower back (lumbar spine)
  • Usually has a larger seat for added comfort
  • No fatigue given to the shoulders
  • Can multi-task while you exercise
  • Easy on the joints


  • Can cause you to not workout as hard
  • Can take up a lot of space in the home

View Best Exercise Bikes in 2018

Upright Bike Pros and Cons


  • More traditional bike riding feel
  • More of a total body workout
  • Have to be more focused when riding
  • Takes up less space in the home
  • Easy on the joints


  • Can cause discomfort to the lower back
  • Seat can be a bit uncomfortable at times
  • Less stable ride

View Best Exercise Bikes in 2018

What’s Trending: Recumbent Bikes vs Upright Bikes

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Final Thoughts

When deciding which type of bike will be best for your workouts, it really does depend on a couple of factors. One of those factors would be the health of your back.

If you are someone that has chronic back pain, the upright bike may be a challenge. The recumbent bike will allow for better support and comfort while you ride.

Another factor would be how important is it to you to have your exercise bike experience replicate the feel of a real bike. For some, this could be a very important thing. If this is the case, then you may want to go with an upright bike.

The last factor that will help you determine which type of bike is best for you is the multitasking aspect of it. Many people love to read while riding which would make the recumbent bike a more popular choice.

So when comparing the recumbent bike vs the upright bike, being aware of these factors should help you in your decision making process.

Also if you’re shopping around for some of the best exercise bikes on the market, then you should take a look at my article breaking down some of the best exercise bikes on the market today.