Difference between an upright and recumbent bike workout

What are you doing when you do a cardio workout? Its simple you are trying to get motion into the bodys big muscles, the legs, back, chest and the most important muscle of all the heart. A great way of doing this from the comfort of your home or gym is on a bike, and these come in two forms an upright or recumbent. We look at the differences between them.

The Body Position:

This is the key difference, on a recumbent bike you lie nearly flat in a relaxed position. Legs out in front. An upright is what you more commonly see on the roads, sitting tall, legs underneath you.

There is no real difference to the quality of the work out on either types of bike. You might use different sets of leg muscles to turn the pedals, but you are here to work your heart.

If you want better looking legs or butt then you need to do weights, not cardio!


If you are planning on spending a long time in the saddle then a recumbent is definitely the more comfortable option.  With their large comfortable seats and relaxed position they are great for riding while reading a book or catching up on programs on a ipad.

Compared to any upright bike, where you have to perch on an uncomfortable saddle, I would take a recumbent any day!  As you are sitting on an upright bending over the handle bars your lower back is more prone to hurting, as is your butt.  Gel saddle covers are popular for a reason!

If your back is hurting consider correcting the saddle height from the British Medical Journal Blog:

Riders who tend to ride with a seat below the ideal height commonly experience:

  • iliotibial band issues,
  • patellofemoral pain syndromes (this is due to increased compressive forces in knee flexion) and
  • restrictions in the hip.

Those who have high seats, they are more likely to present with:

Sciatic nerve irritation

Back pain and occasionally upper body symptoms from being over stretched and flexed positions.

The Premium

Schwinn 130 Exercise Bike With a basic exercise bike they can be constructed with a couple of steel tubes and a saddle welded together.  They are simple and inexpensive. There are basic bikes on this site for less than $300 such as the Schwinn 130 and some for under $150. With a recumbent the build is far more complex, and prices start at about $400-$500 like the Schwinn 270 Recumbent Bike.

If you are looking to spend more then there are great machines such as Livestrong LS6.0R and Livestrong LS5.0R

Weight Loss from Cycling

With either option you will get a great exercise.  But weight loss starts in the kitchen.  A good cycling workout can burn about  600 calories (about the same as not eating a McDonalds Quarter Pounder with Bacon and Cheese)  so the choice is whether you would prefer an hour in the saddle or one of these…?calories in mcdonalds bacon and cheese burger




Space and Storage

Another consideration is where to put your bike.  If you are lucky enough to live in a large house with a separate workout area then this may not be an issue.  But many people will simply not have space for a recumbent, they are big and bulky.  Compared to an upright they take up about three times the floor space and cannot be easily folded away.

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