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Recumbent Or Upright Bike Better For Knees?

Last Updated on November 4, 2021 by Jeff

There has been some debate over whether a recumbent or upright bike is better for knees. 

Which has a better impact on the joints? Which is more comfortable? Which is better for physical therapy?

Continue reading for the answer to these questions and more. 

Recumbent Bike Vs Upright Bike For Your Knees? 

Recumbent Bicycle

Impact on Joints

On a recumbent bike, the pedals are in front of the body. It’s considered low impact since there is less strain on the joints. 

This makes a recumbent bike good for hip pain and easier on the knees and ankles.

Recumbent Or Upright Bike Better For Knees

The bike is easily adjustable. You can slide it forward and backward, and even change the incline.

This feature can benefit:

  • The elderly
  • Those who have had a knee or hip replacement
  • Those who have pain in the lower back or legs

Comfort and Safety

This is one of the best things about a recumbent bike. The larger seat and backrest provide a more comfortable workout. 

The back support means that a recumbent bike is good for back pain. 

Reclining bikes are also safer since they are lower to the ground. For people with balance and mobility problems, this is a major plus. 

Muscles Worked

A recumbent bike works the lower-body muscles. These muscles include:

  • Quadriceps
  • Hamstrings
  • Glutes
  • Calves

Knowing how to ride this bike with knee or hip pain is important. Remove the pedal straps and place your heel on the pedal. 

Don’t worry if you can’t do a full circuit at first. It will take time to build muscle strength and increase mobility. 

As your range of motion increases, you can place the ball of your foot on the pedal. 

Physical Therapy

Using a recumbent exercise bike for physical therapy has become the norm. That’s not to say that it’s for everyone. 

The bike is more suitable for those with lower-body problems. It will be easier to use a recumbent bike after knee replacement or hip replacement. There will be minimal pain getting on and off the bike, and less pressure on the healing leg. 


  • Easily adjustable.
  • Larger seat and backrest for comfort.
  • Lower to the ground makes it safe for those with balance and mobility problems.
  • Less strain on the joints.
  • Good for lower back pain.
  • Great for resistance training.


  • Only targets the lower body.
  • Less intensive cardio workout.

Upright Bicycle

Upright bicycle for knees

Impact on Joints

With an upright bike, the pedals are under the body. This puts more strain on the knee and ankle joints. 

Whether this is a problem depends on where you are health-wise. It might be too difficult for the elderly or those who had an injury or surgery in the lower body. 

As your range of motion increases, you might feel more comfortable moving to an upright bike. 

The seat can be modified to your preferences. It should be the same height as your hips when standing, and over the pedals when seated. The handlebars can be adjusted for a comfortable reach. 

Comfort and Safety

The upright bike has a small seat and no back support. Its height off the ground can be problematic if you have mobility or balance problems. 

If you have knee or hip pain then getting on and off the bike might not be possible. It could be too painful to lift your leg or you could lose your balance.

Muscles Worked

An upright bike provides a full-body workout. It works the following muscles:

  • Quadriceps
  • Hamstrings
  • Glutes
  • Calves
  • Abdominals
  • Back muscles
  • Biceps
  • Triceps

The upright bike is effective in strengthening all muscle groups. Pedaling strengthens and tones the leg muscles. The arms are strengthened by gripping the handlebars in front of the body. 

The core and back are constantly engaged to remain upright and maintain balance. 

If you have knee pain, it’s best to add the resistance slowly as you build muscle strength.

Physical Therapy

The upright bike is an effective aid for physical therapy. Cardio workout is one of the main recommendations for recovery. 

It might not be ideal immediately after knee surgery. Once you’ve gained some mobility, you can use it to increase muscle strength. 


  • Easy to handle.
  • Great for cardio and resistance training.
  • Full-body workout.
  • Easily adjustable.


  • Not suitable if you have balance or mobility problems.
  • The small seat isn’t comfortable.
  • Puts more pressure on joints.

Which Stationary Bike Is Better For Your Knees?

The knee joint load on a recumbent vs. stationary bicycle is an important point to make. 

It likely won’t be possible to use an upright bike immediately after knee surgery. A recumbent bike is safer and gentler on the joints.

If you have chronic knee pain, the recumbent bike is generally better. It’s low impact and strengthens the muscles without strain. You won’t have to worry about losing your balance either. 

Either way, your physical therapist or physician will recommend which is best for you. Always consult your healthcare provider before exercising after injury or surgery.