Upright Vs Recumbent Exercise Bikes: Which One is the Best Choice?

Thinking of buying an exercise bike? If so, you’re probably wondering whether an upright or recumbent bike is the best option. The answer will depend on a number of factors, including your fitness level, your budget and how much space you have in your home. Let’s compare these two bike types to help you decide which one is right for you.

Upright vs. Recumbent Exercise Bikes – What’s the Difference?


Upright bikes are similar in design to road bikes. The seat is situated just above the pedals, so as a rider, you’ll be sitting upright and leaning forward during your workout.

Upright Exercise Bike


With recumbent bikes, however, the seat is in line with the pedals. So, instead of sitting upright, you’ll be sitting in a reclined position, and your arms will hang naturally to your sides.

Recumbent Exercise Bike

Back and Joint Support

When it comes to back and joint support, recumbent bikes have a major advantage. Recumbent bikes have a full seat with back support. Upright bikes, like a regular bicycle, have no back support whatsoever.

For this reason, recumbent bikes put far less strain on the lower back. The horizontal seated position also puts less strain on the knees. So, if you suffer from back or joint pain, a recumbent bike may be your best option.

Muscles Worked

Both upright and recumbent bikes target the lower body, including the glute, quad and hamstring muscles. But because of the horizontal positioning of a recumbent bike, it works your glutes and your legs much harder than an upright bike.

Aside from the legs and glutes, these bikes also work your hip flexors and calves. Upright bikes require a greater range of motion from your knee and hip joints, so recumbent bikes are lower impact in this sense.

One advantage that upright bikes have is that they work your abdominal muscles. Because you have less support and stability in the upright position, you’ll need to engage your core muscles to stabilize your pelvis and spine.


As far as comfort goes, recumbent bikes win here too. The larger seats with back support make these bikes far more comfortable to ride.

Upright bikes have small seats that are almost always uncomfortable. And even if you can find a model with a comfortable seat, you’ll probably still wind up with saddle sore. The good news is that you can purchase seat padding that can make an upright bike almost as comfortable as a recumbent.

Calories Burned

Whether or not upright bikes help you burn more calories is still up for debate. But many believe that the relaxed seated position of a recumbent bike results in fewer calories burned.

While this may be partially true, it’s possible to burn the same amount of calories on either bike with the right intensity level.

Cost and Size

When it comes to cost and size, upright bikes win. Because of their compact design, upright bikes don’t require as much material to make as recumbent bikes. Typically, uprights are the smaller and more affordable option.

Recumbent bikes are longer, and generally come with a much higher price tag. How high of a price tag? Generally, these bikes start at the $300 – $400 range, whereas you can find an upright bike for as little as $150 – $200.

Both recumbent and upright bikes offer a low-impact, moderate-intensity workout that can help you reach your weight loss goals. But if you’re dealing with lower back or joint pain, a recumbent bike’s back- and joint-friendly seat position may make this bike type the best option for you. If space and budget are a concern, upright bikes are a smart choice.