Recumbent vs Upright Bike: Which Bike is Better?

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Do you plan to buy an indoor bike for your home gym, but are unsure which one to choose? Should you buy an upright or recumbent bike?

Let this recumbent vs upright bike guide help you decide.

Recumbent vs Upright Bike

As a personal trainer, I’ve worked with clients who have used both types of bikes. In fact, I have both bikes in my home gym too.

So, I’m here to tell you that there isn’t a right or wrong answer.

I know that some people prefer the comfort and back support that a recumbent bike offers, while others prefer the challenge of riding an upright bike.

Whether a recumbent or upright bike suits you specifically depends on several factors.

That’s why in this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about these two types of indoor bikes.

Keep reading below.

Table of Contents

Recumbent vs Upright Bike Comparison

Type of exercise

A recumbent bike is a senior-friendly low-impact cardio machine.

It doesn’t look like the usual bike you see at the gym. There are no rear wheels, the seat includes a back rest, and the pedals are connected to the flywheel.

Due to the recumbent bike’s unique design, you don’t experience as much pressure on your joints as on other indoor bikes.

You can literally jump right in with no warm up. It unloads your joints, so it’s a good alternative if you suffer from knee, ankle, or hip issues.

An upright bike gives you the feel of being on an outdoor bike. It offers you to sit upright with no backrest like the recumbent.

Like a regular bike, you must lean forward to reach the handlebars. And it may be uncomfortable for the shoulders, neck, arms, and wrists for long periods.

Winner Type of Exercise Comparison

The type of exercise comparison is a draw, as it depends on your situation and goals.

Calories burned

When comparing calories burned on a recumbent bike versus an upright bike, upright bikes generally lead to a higher caloric burn. 

This is because upright bikes place more of the user’s weight on the pedals, requiring more muscle exertion to move. 

Recumbent bikes are often complimented as a better alternative for people with joint issues. But they don’t burn as many calories, because users sit back rather than lean forward.

Figures can vary based on the intensity of the workout and the individual’s weight. Nevertheless, the general agreement is that upright bikes lead to a higher calorie burn than recumbent bikes.

Winner Type of Calories Burned Comparison

The upright bike is the winner, because it places the user’s weight concentrated on the pedals, requiring more effort to move.

Targeted muscles

In the recumbent bike, you mainly target your leg, glutes, quads, hamstring, calves and shins, upper body, core, biceps, and triceps.

Upright bikes work the same muscles as recumbent bikes, but they work your leg muscles more. 

Also, you must balance yourself. And, you have to stand upright so your core muscles are engaged.

Upright cycling builds strength in the:

  • Gluteal muscles
  • Rectus femoris
  • Hamstrings
  • Gastrocnemius
  • Soleus muscles in the lower leg
  • Abdominal muscles
  • Back muscles

Let me add this important info from the BMJ Open Sport & Exercise Medicine [1]. They suggest you shouldn’t cycle exclusively, but instead participate in other forms of exercise to build bone strength.

Winner Targeted Muscles Comparison

Both bikes target almost the same muscles, but in different ways, so the targeted muscle comparison is a draw.


Both bikes offer various resistance levels. They also have the same adjustable components, like the seat, pedals, and handlebars.

What makes these two different when it comes to workout versatility is that upright bikes allow you to stand up while riding, and recumbent bikes won’t.

Winner Versatility Comparison 

The upright bike is the winner, because it’s more versatile than a recumbent bike.

Impact and intensity

The upright bike is more intense than a recumbent bike, because it uses more muscles. It also impacts your joints more, or worse, injury if you don’t ride your bike properly. 

Apart from that, it offers a higher-impact workout than recumbent, as they involve a more dynamic and engaging posture. 

On the other hand, recumbent bikes provide a lower-impact workout due to their ergonomic design. They support your back and joints, and you can sit comfortably while biking. 

However, it is beneficial if you have joint concerns or are recovering from injuries.

Winner Impact and Intensity Comparison

The recumbent bike is the winner, because you can still get a great workout with less impact and intensity on your joints.


Recumbent bikes are generally larger and require more floor space due to their extended frame and reclined design. They might not be the best choice if you have limited home gym space. 

Recumbent bikes come in different sizes to accommodate various body types and preferences. On average, their dimensions are as follows:

  • 57.6” in length x 24.9” in width x 44.6” in height.

Recumbent bikes for home gyms are usually between 46” to 67” long, and range from 17.5” to 30” wide. Generally, bikes designed for commercial use are usually larger and heavier than standard bikes.

Upright bikes are more compact and take up less space than recumbent bikes. It is your better option if you have limited room for workout equipment.

Upright bikes vary in size to accommodate different riders and spaces. On average, their dimensions are approximate:

  • Length: About 35″-48″ (89-122 cm)
  • Width: Approximately 18″-26″ (46-66 cm)
  • Height: Roughly 25″-30″ (64-76 cm)

There may be some variation in the dimensions listed above due to differences between brands and models.

Winner Space Comparison

The upright bike is the winner, because it takes up less space than recumbent bikes and is suitable if you have a limited home gym space.


The price of upright and recumbent bikes can vary depending on brand, features, and quality. On average, you can expect:

ModelsRecumbent BikesUpright Bikes
Basic Model$150 to $300$190 to $400
Mid-Range Model$350 to $1500$300 to $2000
High-End Model$1100 and up$3000 and up

The prices given are a general guideline. These are based on my research and recent purchases for my home gym.

  • A basic model of a bike is a minimalist approach to providing clear, simple functionality.
  • Mid-range bikes strike a balance between affordability and additional functionalities. 
  • High-end models have superior durability, customization options, and the latest innovations.

Winner Price Comparison

The price comparison is a draw, because the cost of the two machines is nearly identical; it depends on which model you like best.

Recumbent Bike vs Upright Bike: The Winner

In this upright vs recumbent bike comparison, the upright bike is the winner in terms of calories burned, versatility, and space.

However, there are certain situations where one bike is the better choice over the other.

For example, if you are a senior, have back or joint injuries, or simply prefer a lighter ride, then recumbent bikes are your perfect match. 

They’re best suited for long rides and won’t leave you feeling sore or uncomfortable.

An upright bike is your better option when you miss an outdoor bike experience.

However, the upright bike works more muscles, including muscles in the core, back, upper body, and lower body muscles. This allows you to work harder. 

Yet, you still have the option to choose both bikes like me.

Which workout machine is best for YOU?

Which is better for losing weight: recumbent or upright bike?

When it comes to burning calories, the upright is better than the recumbent bike. The upright bike is more intense, and you’ll burn more calories.

You can still lose weight on the recumbent bike. The difference is that you’ll lose more weight if you choose the upright bike.

Which workout machine is best for beginners?

A recumbent bike often wins for beginners due to its comfort and lower impact. The laid-back position is a good starting point for starters. 

But if you’re looking for a serious workout, the upright bike is better suited to newcomers. Also, upright bikes are straightforward to use and are more common in gyms.

Which workout machine is best for your budget?

If you’re looking for a more affordable choice, basic models of upright bikes might fit the bill. They deliver a solid workout at an affordable price.

When considering your budget, both recumbent and upright bikes offer affordable options.  But if you are willing to spend more, you can find mid-range versions of both types that offer extra features and durability.

What to do next?

Looking for the best bike for your home gym is like learning how to ride a bike. It’s not complicated, but it takes some time and practice. 

The good news is that unlike learning how to ride a bike (which can be painful), buying an exercise bike is relatively painless. 

I hope this article addressed some of your queries on the recumbent vs upright bike.

If you’re still in doubt, please drop your questions in the comments.

If you need more guidance regarding this topic, here are some articles worth reading:

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Inge van Haselen is a certified Personal Trainer and Nutritional Coach. For over 17 years, she has been coaching hundreds of clients in her gym. Inge published several programs on health and fitness. It is her passion to help you have the best Home Gym for your needs, so you can be in the best shape of your life. More info: About Us

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