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Published Mar. 17, 2022

Nothing makes cardio relaxing quite like a recumbent exercise bike. You’re telling me I can pull double-duty working cardio and my lower body and sit back while watching TV? I’m loving technology! Beyond evoking memories of Squidward’s weird bike from The Spongebob Squarepants Movie (yes, I’m that young), recumbent exercise bikes are a stellar way to get a sweat going with minimal risk of injury, and Task & Purpose is here to walk you through your array of choices.

There can be an overwhelming assortment of workout equipment to choose from, but that’s what the experts and T&P are here for. We put together hours of research plus real-world experience to help you make the right move. Come along and check out our thorough guide to the next cornerstone of your home gym.

The Schwinn Recumbent Series 270 stands atop this list as the best all-around performer loaded with features for a reasonable price tag. The product comes fairly easy to assemble and is crowned with a padded, ventilated, and contoured seat which has garnered universal praise for its comfort.

It has an admittedly-dated LCD screen that showcases what you’d usually want to see such as estimated calories, heart rate, and distance. Bluetooth with Schwinn’s Trainer app is a plus and has been noted to work fairly well. Magnetic resistance is 25-way adjustable, and you can follow one of 29 pre-programmed workouts, giving it one of the broadest ranges of intensity in a recumbent bike.

Caveats come in the form of little annoyances here and there which were reported by a handful of consumers. Drawbacks include a fan that blows a bit too soft and subpar speakers for external MP3 devices. The simplistic LCD can be bypassed by whatever Bluetooth device you’re using for the Schwinn Trainer app via the device holder in front of it.

Product Specs
  • Dimensions: 67 x 27.7 x 49.9 inches
  • Weight rating: 300 pounds
  • Resistance range: 25 levels
  • Resistance type: Magnetic
PROS

Stellar value for the features

Ventilated, contoured seat

added Bluetooth capability with Schwinn Trainer app

Highly-adjustable magnetic resistance

CONS

Plain LCD screens

Weak integrated fan

Subpar built-in speakers for MP3 sources

If the Schwinn 270 was the best value in its class, this has to be the best value in recumbent exercise bikes. Period. The Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RB4616 gives you everything you’d need plus a bit extra for around $230. At the time of writing, however, Amazon will sell you one for less than $180.

The seat is wide, cushioned, and adjustable. You still get a heart rate monitor, and the tiny LCD display reads off calories, pulse, distance, etc. The product is also quite compact versus pricier, more featureful offerings, making it a great choice for smaller living spaces.

At this price point, don’t expect the Mercedes-Benz of workout equipment. The display is tiny, and I mean tiny, and only displays figures one at a time. There are just eight levels of resistance, so hopefully you’re not too demanding or find the lowest setting too difficult. As a testament to its price point, there is no device holder nor is there a cupholder.

Product Specs
  • Dimensions: 46 x 24.5 x 38 inches
  • Weight rating: 300 pounds
  • Resistance range: 8 levels
  • Resistance type: Magnetic
PROS

Appealing price point

Compact overall size

Retains a built-in pulse monitor

Simple assembly

CONS

Small, rudimentary LCD display

Relatively minimal range of resistance

No storage compartments of any kind

A solidly-built entry for those who like to bring extra stuff for the home workout, the Sunny Health & Fitness Evo SF-RB4954 sits quite a few rungs above their standard, more affordable offerings. It rivals the Schwinn with Bluetooth pairing capability, 24-way adjustable magnetic resistance, and a well-cushioned seat.

It sits at a somewhat higher price point but has been well-received for exceptional build quality and the availability of professional assembly. Another highlight is the inclusion of two device holders for those wanting to run a Bluetooth companion app on one device and perform miscellaneous activities with another.

Quite a few users have noted damaged packaging and electronics upon delivery, seemingly more so than the other entries, so be wary. A common complaint is that the adjustable seat has proven to be a bit stiff and reluctant to move. Additionally, the seating position and pedal size may be cumbersome for larger buyers.

Product Specs
  • Dimensions: 62.6 x 25 x 49.2 inches
  • Weight rating: 300 pounds
  • Resistance range: 24 levels
  • Resistance type: Magnetic
PROS

Option of professional assembly

Two device holders

Highly-adjustable magnetic resistance

Solid build quality

CONS

Overall size may be too small for larger users

Stiff adjustable seat

Best High-End Recumbent Exercise Bike

A luxury car among econoboxes, the NordicTrack Commercial R 35 is among the most high-tech and well-built options on the market for at-home athletes wishing to treat themselves.

Much like their top-tier treadmills, this recumbent bike’s centerpiece is the TV-quality touch screen, which not only displays the usual readouts but also controls their iFit companion app and its accompanying workout courses. Thirty days of membership are included with up to five users able to use it. Magnetic resistance is 26-way adjustable, the most on this list, and the heightened 350-pound weight capacity means it’s better suited for handling heavyset individuals.

The downsides would have to be that it’s quite fitness-focused in its approach to amenities. The iFit app is a special treat, but the screen doesn’t stream any sort of entertainment, so place it facing towards the TV. There are no device holders either, so keep your pockets empty. And don’t get us started on the eye-watering price tag, easily the most expensive choice on this list.

Product Specs
  • Dimensions: 68.2 x 23.7 x 53.4 inches
  • Weight rating: 350 pounds
  • Resistance range: 26 levels
  • Resistance type: Magnetic
PROS

Massive 14-inch HD touchscreen

Most resistance adjustment on list

Higher maximum weight capacity

Free month of iFit membership included

CONS

Touchscreen doesn’t stream entertainment

No device holder

Eye-watering price tag

Best Recumbent Exercise Bike for Older Adults

Seemingly tailor-made in its design, the Exerpeutic 5000 is an outstanding recumbent exercise bike for the elderly or those undergoing physical therapy. One user even noted how similar it was to the example they use during their physical therapy sessions.

High-mounted, padded armrests and a pillowy seat ensure maximum comfort over other options even after hours of use. The armrests plus the vertical hand grips provide a stable and secure seating position, although the spacing of the armrests may impede its use by larger consumers. It’s a cinch to operate with large-enough and comprehensive LCD readouts and well-labeled controls.

Nitpicks include its middling price in the $500 range. For that, you don’t get a built-in fan, and the seat adjustment is reportedly cumbersome. Some users have experienced stuck seats while one even reported how their example had issues latching properly.

Product Specs
  • Dimensions: 58 x 30 x 41 inches
  • Weight rating: 325 pounds
  • Resistance range: 24 levels
  • Resistance type: Magnetic
PROS

Abundant seat padding

Padded armrests

Highly-adjustable magnetic resistance

Easy-to-use LCD and controls

CONS

Armrests may hinder use by obese consumers

No built-in fan

Finicky seat adjustment

Best Multifunctional Recumbent Exercise Bike

A favorable piece among consumers seeking an effective full-body workout, the Sunny Health & Fitness Cross Training adds movable armbars to the recumbent exercise bike formula. The cushioned, contoured seat provides a stable seating position, while the arm bars can either be operated alongside the pedals or by themselves for upper body-only regiments. Equally as appealing as its dual functionality, the price point slots well below $400, making it one of the stronger value propositions among recumbent bikes.

Potential buyers must take note of the non-adjustable backrest, which a few individuals have reported is set a bit too far back for their tastes. The armbars are also non-adjustable, meaning that some owners under six feet tall may have to overstretch or sit in awkward positions to get a proper grip. It is not so bad as to impede their workout, but it has detracted a bit of comfort from the experience.

Product Specs
  • Dimensions: 60 x 25.5 x 52 inches
  • Weight rating: 350 pounds
  • Resistance range: 8 levels
  • Resistance type: Magnetic
PROS

Ability to work upper body

Higher maximum weight capacity

Reasonable price poin

CONS

Non-adjustable armbars

Awkward seating position for some

Best Recumbent Exercise Bike for Small Spaces

Look at this little thing! By far, the most compact and lightweight entry, the Exerpeutic 400XL folding recumbent exercise bike is about as minuscule as they get, but that makes this far more versatile than you’d think. Its folding nature means it can be easily stowed away or reconfigured into a more upright position to be paired with a desk for fervent multitaskers. Slotting below $200, it still manages to retain LCD readouts for distance, heart rate, calories, etc. Interestingly enough, this has been one of the more universally acclaimed options on this list, more so than some larger choices with an abundance of goodies.

Criticisms are limited to a lack of storage of any kind. Not unlike our Best Value pick, there is no cup holder or device holder. Additionally, a few users have also noted that the shape of the seat may impede leg movement or rub on one’s thighs should they choose to configure the 400XL in an upright position.

Product Specs
  • Dimensions: 20 x 17 x 54 inches
  • Weight rating: 300 pounds
  • Resistance range: 8 levels
  • Resistance type: Magnetic
PROS

An apartment dweller’s delight

Among the most affordable on this list

Foldable for storage or use with desks

Still includes LCD readouts

CONS

No storage compartments of any kind

Seat cushion may impede leg motion

Why you should trust us

Task & Purpose is staffed by an enthusiastic team of active-duty servicemembers, veterans, and simply fun-loving outdoors folk. We’ve trekked up entire mountains and slammed weights in deployed zones. Fitness has been a part of most of our careers and key aspects of our lifestyles. In short, it’s safe to say that we know a thing or two about exercise and quality workout products. The T&P staff pair our combined real-world, hands-on experience with days of strenuous research on the kinds of products you’re eyeballing, and we’re keen to deliver our honest takes to ensure you’re getting your hands on the right choice. 

Types of recumbent exercise bikes

Recumbent exercise bikes have quite a bandwidth occupying multiple niches across a vast price range. Some are better at certain jobs than others. Some have unique traits which illuminate them in a sea of copy-and-paste look-alikes. Here are some ways in which recumbent exercise bikes can distinguish themselves.

Standard

Nothing too special here. These are fairly common options that usually have roughly the same features. You can find them at your neighbor’s house or at most gyms. The frame will often be fixed with an adjustable seat and a broad range of resistance adjustments depending on pricing, and your readouts may be displayed on a large screen or an LCD. Most will be built with the courtesy to include a nifty shelf for devices or cup holders for drinks (or TV remotes). Most modern examples of middling price will feature Bluetooth capability for workout apps, built-in fans, and connections for MP3 devices.

Elderly/physical therapy

Regardless of pricing, examples aimed at this audience will be designed with a little extra thought placed in the ergonomics. Extra seat padding and the inclusion of armrests aid in enhancing comfort for individuals who may fatigue faster or experience discomfort easier. Another key attribute to recumbents for the elderly or recovering injured would be slightly wider gaps between the pedal mechanisms and the seat for easier ingress and egress of the machine.

High-end

Premium recumbent exercise bikes will be the most comfortable, ergonomic, and feature-rich options on the market and carry hefty price tags to reflect that. They will often have the widest range of resistance from 20 to even over 30 levels. LCD screens are traded for tablet-like touchscreens, and premium brands will often incentivize their purchase with professional assembly and free memberships to their companion apps ranging from 30 to 90 days. 

Folding

Exactly as described, they are recumbent exercise bikes that can fold into an upright seating position or completely away for storage. Perfect for apartments or crowded homes, these are among the most versatile despite their often sparse spec sheet. This is because they can be altered to fit nearly anywhere from the corner of the living room to in front of a desk in lieu of a chair. Due to their folding nature, don’t expect much in the way of high-tech trinkets or storage for drinks and devices.

Multifunctional

For those looking to add their upper body to the mix, multifunctional recumbent exercise bikes will function just like your standard setup with the addition of equipment to involve your arms. They may either come in the form of bars which you might row or pull down or as hand cranks with which you move like pedaling with your legs. Tied to the same resistance mechanism, you may use your upper body to assist in normal pedaling or you could plant your feet on the ground and solely work your upper body. These are less common, but they’re definitely out there in both the average and higher-end price ranges.

Key features of recumbent exercise bikes

Resistance type

You may have seen this a lot in the product specs, but it’s important to note the type of resistance in your recumbent exercise bike. It may either come with magnetic resistance, which most modern, quality recumbents are sold as, or with friction resistance. The latter often utilizes dense cotton pads that clamp down on the flywheel to create that drag you feel but at the expense of wear and noise. Magnetic utilizes literal magnets hovering near the flywheel to provide resistance with little-to-no maintenance and often a much quieter ride.

Information displays

Displays come in all shapes and sizes reading out basics such as heart rate, calories, distance, time, resistance level. LCDs are cheap and common in most recumbents, and they can be large to display all your information at once or tiny to display one figure at a time. The latter is usually common on budget-minded or folding recumbent exercise bikes. Smaller, more portable models with rudimentary LCD devices will be powered by AA or AAA batteries. Standard models are more likely to use larger displays. Premium, higher-end recumbents will likely trade LCDs for tablet-like touchscreens to streaming classes with and run companion apps without the use of an external device.

Frame

The frame is the root of the entire machine and a crucial factor that determines its compactness, sturdiness, and overall build quality. Most recumbent exercise bikes will have fixed frames, but some can be adjusted or folded away for storage. Larger, wider, and heavier frames will provide a more stable base for your workout and better resist movement as your routine intensifies. Regardless of price, they will almost always be constructed out of some variation of steel.

Benefits of recumbent exercise bikes

A comfy place to sit (and sweat)

Call it lazy or call it innovation. The lack of a regular bike saddle in favor of what’s essentially a chair means working out has never felt cozier. As effective multitasking tools, users can set one up at home and get their routine in while comfortably watching TV or reading, oh, let’s say more Task & Purpose articles without bouncing on a treadmill or hunching on an upright bike. Owners no longer have to sacrifice an effective workout or risk faceplanting on the sidewalk after attempting to stream videos while jogging. Ask me how I know.

Effective workout with less strain

You can get an effective workout on a recumbent exercise bike, and you can do so without the added shock through your joints. With the relaxed seating position, less strain is placed on your tailbone and spine as well. Placing less weight on your lower body also means they’re less likely to be aching even after hours of continuous exercise.

Favorable among elderly, overweight, or recovering injured

Due to a recumbent exercise bike’s relative lack of stress, they’ve become highly favorable among the elderly athletes, the overweight, or those participating in physical therapy where other forms of cardio may not be recommended for them. They represent the perfect way to still do cardio while minimizing the risk of injury. Those undergoing physical therapy may use these machines as stepping stones before progressing back to their original cycling or running routines.

Pricing considerations for recumbent exercise bikes

Budget

Under $300 is where most of the rudimentary, budget-minded options exist with sparse features and minimal adjustments. Brands like Marcy, Sunny Health & Fitness, and Exerpeutic occupy plenty of real estate in this realm. You will get a piece of equipment that gets the job done but doesn’t offer not many thrills. Thankfully for those trying to make efficient use of their living space, many folding recumbent exercise bikes fall into this price range. 

Mid-range

Between $300 and $800 is where a majority of the options on this list reside,and you will get plenty of fairly-priced, well-equipped options of similar specs with little tidbits here and there to set themselves apart. Some will have slightly higher ranges of adjustment than others, but most will achieve well over 20 levels of resistance. Magnetic resistance mechanisms are essentially standard, and larger LCD readouts become more common. Also, expect better-shaped seats and more robust build quality. Specialty models like senior-oriented or multifunctional recumbents are sold within this range.

Premium

For the devoted fitness enthusiasts, all the high-end examples exist at over $800. Think of the best build quality with high maximum weight capacities. LCDs become high-definition touchscreens to make use of their integrated companion apps. Professional assembly will be a commonly offered perk, and free (limited-time) membership to their app subscriptions is typically thrown in. Manufacturers like Sole and NordicTrack dominate the segment. Even pricier models, some of which come paired with multifunction capability, can be found from companies like HealthCare International.

How we chose our top picks

After much research, the top picks came to be models which would best fulfill their intended niche with the strongest value and most robust quality. They were the most acclaimed by professionals and, more importantly, by average consumers like us who’ve spent time assembling and using them. Because what good is a spec sheet if the final product can’t perform in the real world? Multitalented recumbent bikes with a host of features would clearly be the most desirable, but priorities shifted as the categories got more specific. Products with little-to-no consumer feedback or professional assessment were ignored in favor of products with real-world backing.

FAQs on recumbent exercise bikes

You’ve got questions, Task & Purpose has answers.

Q. Who should use a recumbent bike?

A: In fairness, anyone can use a recumbent exercise bike, from rookies to professionals. If you had to boil it down to a specific group, however, they’re especially favored by the physically impaired in need of a machine that minimizes fatigue and risk of injury. Elderly, physical therapy patients and overweight individuals are prime examples of those who would benefit due to the design’s inherent lack of stress on joints and bones.

Q. How long should you work out on a recumbent bike?

A: Depending on your style of routine, the recommended duration may vary. Typically, high-intensity workouts favoring rapid calorie burning can be accomplished within 15 to 30 minutes. Those attempting to maintain a steady pace at a steady heart rate can press on for an hour or more depending on your own limits.

Q. Can you lose weight using a recumbent bike?

A: Like any form of cardio, you can very much lose weight on a recumbent. It’s all a matter of diet and workout intensity. Typically, higher intensity bursts of cardio may result in greater weight loss in a shorter time than longer, less strenuous routines. 

Q. Should you stretch before riding a recumbent bike?

A: As with any workout, you should always stretch no matter what. Even with the lessened strain of a recumbent, you’re still engaging in some form of resistance training and could risk pulling something, especially if you decide to ramp up resistance levels. Do yourself a favor and stretch before and after your workout. 

Q. Is a recumbent bike good cardio exercise?

A: Yes, it can be effective just like any other form of cardio. It just depends on your exact use case and what your routine is. As professionals will preach, the same methodology applies: Higher intensity, short bursts will result in more calories burned quicker. Steady, continuous pedaling at a reasonable resistance may promote lower body muscle development and cardiovascular endurance. 

Q. What is the difference between upright and recumbent exercise bikes?

A: A recumbent exercise bike sports a laid-back, relaxed seating position that eases the spine and tailbone as you’re not on a saddle hunching over handlebars. You’re sitting in a more conventional chair-like position with legs outstretched, reducing strain on your joints, making recumbents ideal for physically-impaired athletes or those simply wanting to reduce the chance of injury.

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Jeric Jaleco is an AGE mechanic (2A6X2) in the Nevada Air National Guard as well as a contributor to The Drive and Car Bibles. Born in SoCal and raised in Las Vegas, he’s a diehard car enthusiast and aspiring purveyor of firearms. He’s journeyed far from his first deployment in East Africa to pursue a career in writing.

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