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Recumbent exercise bikes are a form of exercise bike on which users sit as though on an armchair with their legs up- they stretch their legs out in front rather than tucking their legs underneath as they would with a classic bike.
Although they are not as common or popular as upright and spin bikes, recumbent bikes bring a lot to the table. They come with a number of benefits. They are far more comfortable for many athletes, far more user friendly, and will be safer for many people in the long run.
Primarily, recumbent exercise bikes are a good way to allow people with back issues to get a good workout in.
Upright bikes are great for cycling out and about. You can generally generate more power from an upright position, you can better control the bike’s centre of gravity, and you can see and be seen a lot more ably. However, they aren’t great for people with back issues and can even cause back issues themselves over time.
The impact on the spine caused by cycling from an upright position can cause long term aggravation.
Those with weak lower backs can also find themselves growing increasingly comfortable with the hunched cycling positioning required of them and, in turn, cyclists are notorious for having strong thighs and weak posterior chains (the hamstrings, glutes and lower back, all of which contribute to back health).
Recumbent exercise bikes take much of this pain and discomfort away – though, it should be noted, training the posterior chain on a regular basis and staying limber will be the best ways to avoid chronic back pain in many cases.
They are also generally more comfortable. Comfort in exercise isn’t always a good thing – it will be harder to get your heart rate up as high on a recumbent bike than on an upright or spin counterpart. Nevertheless, this comfort can make or break many athletes’ ability to train, in which case ensuring it is vital.
Overall, recumbent bikes are often a simple solution when looking to bring a bit of activity into your life. They are comfortable, fit well into any home or home gym, and will allow you to raise your heart rate for some steady-state calorie burn whilst engaging your cardiovascular system and the muscles of the quadriceps.
What to look for in a recumbent bike
Position is key, of course, when looking for a recumbent bike. Instead of the conventional upright pedalling style, recumbent bikes will seat you in a reclined position in a wider, more comfortable chair.
This seat should therefore be comfortable, should be adjustable, and everything should flow smoothly from this position.
The pedals are out in front and should help even out a user’s bodyweight distribution. There should be handlebars at both the front display and along the sides of the seat.
Other than this, you should look for the same kinds of features as you would find on an equivalent upright bike: a clear display with the desired measurements, built-in workout programs, adjustable resistance settings, some form of heart-rate monitoring, and a smooth tread to the motor and pedal systems.
When choosing your recumbent bike for your home or home gym, you will want to take the machine’s dimensions and floor footprint into consideration. Their reclined position and often widened stance will often mean that a recumbent will take up a good deal more floor space than other bike options.
Finally, usability is key. What is the experience of using an upright bike? Is it easy to navigate, does it give a good workout, is the machine robust, and so on? First and foremost, this is a machine with which you will have to live and that will in all likelihood form a cornerstone of your fitness regime. It will have to work for you.
With all of this in mind, we’ve put together a list of some of the best recumbent exercise bikes that you can buy for your home. We’ll run through the details, the pros and the cons of each to help you get the right bike for your needs.
Our top pick: JLL RE100 Recumbent Bike
Comfort will be something of a recurring theme when talking about recumbent bikes. It certainly rears its head here, with the most comfortable entry on this list.
JLL RE100 Recumbent Exercise Bikes are extremely versatile and come with a backrest and seat that are so comfy that you’ll think you’re sitting on your couch. It really is pretty plush.
The relaxed position lends itself to correct postural alignment and will be great at accommodating those with neck or back problems who find that bending is difficult.
The seat is fully padded and adjustable for a range of body sizes and types, and the machine comes with a 5kg flywheel that can be pedalled in both directions.
This all means that fatigue is manageable, allowing you to focus your energy on the workout, maintaining decent endurance and performance.
The bike has high-quality obligatory sensors so that you can keep an eye on your heart rate throughout your workout. The monitor also tracks time, speed, distance and calories burned per workout, as you would expect. This makes progression and goal satisfaction easy to come by, allowing yourself to set targets and push yourself harder with every workout.
The JLL RE100 is also perfect for those looking to set up a temporary workout space at home. It’s easy to transport and store. The end caps double up as wheels, allowing the bike to roll almost effortlessly from room to room. This means you can put it away after every workout.
The only niggle is that there are quite a few reports circling of issues with the monitor, which could impact your ability to reliably track progress.
However, the JLL RE100 is very reasonably priced, especially compared to some of its main competitors. There is no quality sacrificed for this lower price tag- monitor issues aside, it is built to an incredibly high standard.
It’s also easy to put together and get started with and doesn’t seem to degenerate in quality even after months of hard use.
It really is one of the most accessible pieces of cardio equipment on the market.
DKN RB-4i Recumbent Exercise Bike
Up next, we have the DKN RB-4i Recumbent Exercise Bike taking up our number two spot.
DKN have a strong reputation for high build quality and top performance in their products. They do not disappoint with the RB-4i. Their seat is a lot like a chair.
It comes with a wide variety of adjustments to give the greatest comfort during any given user’s workout, no matter their shape or size, with the least possible amount of stress being placed on their body. You can adjust the backrest, armrests, and pedals to ensure a perfect workout.
In addition, as one might expect from DKN, each bike is made with high-grade, industrial-level materials. They are pretty much guaranteed to last for a lifetime.
The RB-4i also has a high-quality LCD monitor that saves all of the user’s information, helping to guide their future training through workouts best suited to them as individuals. This also shows workout and biometric data throughout the workout so that users can keep an eye on how they are getting on.
The RB-4i also comes with twelve pre-recorded programs split into beginner, advanced, and performance levels. Each of these programs is perfectly designed to give a user the specific workout they are looking for and need whilst maintaining their skill level. There is an added level of resistance with each advanced program, allowing for progressive overload even as you are kept in comfort.
The RB-4i connects to Kinomap, allowing the user to link with maps, routes and trails from all over the world. It offers 32 levels of resistance through these 12 pre-recorded programs, meaning that it really does have something for everyone.
You have the option to choose from over 70,000 miles of courses from all over the world. You can watch along as you ride along roads in real-time, with your bike adjusting the resistance level for a super realistic riding experience.
It also connects to Vescape. Vescape turns working out into something very much like a video game. With 80 difficulty levels, these workouts will keep you inspired and motivated, challenging you to build endurance, speed and much improved cardiovascular health.
There really are nothing but good things to be said for the RB-4i recumbent bike. They are easy to use and adjust and come with such a wide variety of options and programs that every workout will be different.
XS Sports Magnetic Recumbent Bike
The XS Sports Magnetic Recumbent Bike is another very comfortable model. It’s also very resilient, safe and sturdy, made to a high standard by another company with a reputation for quality and care. It really is built for strength and endurance, fashioned from high-quality materials.
In addition, XS guarantee that the bike has gone through hundreds of hours of research and development, in with consultation from professional athletes, to ensure that it is up to the highest standards in terms of functionality.
The XS Sports Magnetic comes with fully adjustable seat and pedals, allowing you to fit it to your build and get a comfortable workout.
The pedals have really nice, good-quality and fully adjustable straps so that you can maintain your foot position throughout your workout. The 4kg bidirectional flywheel has 8 easily adjustable levels and the whole machine is incredibly easy to put together and store.
However, the seat isn’t quite as adjustable as on some of the other models on this list. Some larger or taller users may have a hard time of it trying to find a comfortable position in which to train.
The XS Sports Magnetic boasts an advanced monitoring system equipped to show a variety of stats and biometrics throughout the process of your workout: as with other models, the XS Sports Magnetic will measure your pulse, calories, time, speed, and distance all on one screen.
It then offers feedback at the end of each session to help you get the most out of your training long-term, ensuring that you’re always progressing and developing.
Nordic Track VR21 Commercial
The Nordic Track VR21 Commercial is one of the pricier options you can go for when looking to invest in a recumbent bike. There is good reason for this: it’s a superb model.
The only issue is working out whether it’s worth it for a home gym experience, and whether you’re really need all the bells and whistles it boasts.
To start off, the Nordic Track VR21 Commercial is incredibly well put together, as you might expect from a company like Nordic Track. You get a fully adjustable, customisable seating arrangement.
Both sets of handles have reliable pulse rate sensors, allowing you to find your heart rate easily. The bike itself, though designed very much for home use, comes with many of the hallmarks of the kind of pro cycle you would find in a gym, including 25 levels of digital resistance and incredibly intuitive touch controls on the console.
The Nordic Track VR21 Commercial has a fantastic display and brilliant connectivity, with the ability to connect and communicate with a mobile device through its Bluetooth tech. This gives you access to iFit, which in turn gives you access to a whole world of training videos and virtual personalised training and instruction.
The built-in software that comes with the VR21 also gives you a really impressive 32 workout apps, each with a different purpose dependent on your own fitness level and goals.
There are few at-home bikes that will offer you such a veneer of professionality and such a degree of usability as the Nordic Track VR21 Commercial. However, this does come at a price. If you have the cash to spare and really want to buy the best, absolutely go for it.
However, if you want something that will be comfortable, easy to use and effective, without breaking the bank, you will be much better served by some of the other offerings on this list.
V-Fit G-RC Recumbent Magnetic Bike
As might be expected from a list containing some of the top recumbent bikes available, many of the companies featured pride themselves on, and have a reputation for, making high standard, good quality training equipment. V-Fit and the G-RC recumbent bike represent no exception to this trend.
As with so many others on this list, the G-RC gives a very comfortable user experience, with a very comfortable riding position.
However, the G-RC does so particularly well: it puts less strain on the hips and knees than might commonly be expected from something that gives you such a good workout.
Everything is well padded and sculpted for comfort. Seat’s cushioning is well made and the seat itself can adjust to a variety of reclining positions (which takes the strain off your lower joint nicely, without impairing the quality of your workout). Even the armrests are well padded, giving extra comfort.
Its magnetic flywheel also offers a variety of workout routines whilst maintaining very quiet, very smooth operation. The LCD display is very easy to navigate and read and gives all the standard readouts you would expect from this kind of machine.
Everything else is fairly vanilla: a good range of resistances and training systems, well laid out instructions, navigable settings and biometrics on demand.
The main selling point of the G-RC is its smooth, comfortable ride with a great deal of joint support. If nothing else, this makes it worth its price tag and then some.
Exerpeutic 900XL Recumbent Exercise Bike
Finally, we have the Exerpeutic 900XL recumbent exercise bike.
It is solidly built with a durable frame, which is the main thing that sets it apart from some of the other bikes available on today’s market. It has an impressive maximum weight of 300lbs.
The seat itself is fully adjustable and oversized, with a maximum height of 6’7”. The flywheel is incredibly smooth and quiet
This, together with the fantastic posterior support it offers, makes it a perfect machine for anybody more generously proportioned and/or with a lot of weight to lose.
They can do so easily, in relative comfort, safe in the knowledge that they are secure as they train.
It’s not all bulk, however.
The Exerpeutic 900XL is a clever machine with plenty of versatility. It has an 8-level magnetic tension system, making it very easy to personalise resistance to match your needs and fitness level. Again, combined with its generous support for larger users, this means that pretty much everybody will find the Exerpeutic 900XL accessible.
The build itself is decent, but not great. Though it’s not particularly surprising of such a reasonably priced machine, the Exerpeutic 900XL tends to deteriorate pretty quickly. It will not give the same user experience after a year’s use as it does when you first get it.
However, if you don’t want to spend too much, and/or if you need the enlarged framework and support that the Exerpeutic 900XL provides, it’s a solid bet.
It’s a pretty safe bet that any of the recumbent bikes on our list will leave you feeling satisfied. If you choose any of them then you will get good value for money- sometimes great value for money- and a most often a product built to an incredibly high quality.
You will have a machine that will allow you to train, improve your cardiovascular fitness and burn calories in comfort, whilst enjoying user friendly gadgets and a great degree of variability and flexibility.
Most importantly, you will be kept safe. If you have any concerns about your back at all, either past, current or potential, a recumbent bike represents a good investment. All of the above represent good investments.
All that is left is for you to choose your poison and crack on with getting yourself into shape.
James is a full time personal trainer and an award winning writer with over 10 years of experience behind him. So far, he has helped hundreds of people with their health and fitness through his career.