1. Home
  2. /
  3. Recumbent vs. Upright Bike – Which One You Should Choose?

Recumbent vs. Upright Bike – Which One You Should Choose?

Last Updated on November 4, 2021 by Jeff

Recumbent vs. Upright Bike


Are you looking for a new piece of equipment for your home gym? Then you’ve probably stumbled upon the recumbent and upright bikes. 

At first glance, these two exercise machines may not seem that different. And while they share many similarities, they can be different when it comes to comfort, muscles worked, and other factors.

If you’re not sure whether you should go for a recumbent or upright bike, continue reading to learn more about these two exercise machines and what makes each of them a suitable choice!

Recumbent vs. Upright Bike: Short Answer

There’s no definitive answer on whether exercising on a recumbent or upright bike would be better for you. It all depends on your goals, fitness level, and whether you’d prioritize comfort over a better workout.

Comfort  recumbent bike vs upright bike

Generally speaking, recumbent bikes are much more comfortable than upright bikes. Recumbent bikes have larger seats, making them more tolerable in long exercise sessions. The Schwinn 270 recumbent bike and the Nautilus r616 recumbent bike are two of the most comfortable ones out there.

Nevertheless, you can make your upright bike more comfortable by replacing its seat with a slightly bigger and more comfortable one, but it’ll never be as delightful to sit on as a recumbent bike’s seat.

Winner: Recumbent bike

Ease of Use

If you’re used to riding outdoor bicycles, exercising on an upright bike will feel quite natural for you. All you have to do is get on the seat and start pedaling; it’s as easy as that. 

Recumbent bikes are also not that complicated to get started on. However, since your movements on a recumbent bike will be somewhat unusual compared to that when riding an outdoor bicycle, it’ll take some time to get used to. Nevertheless, you should get the hang of it after a few sessions.

Winner: Tie

Back and Joint Pain  upright vs recumbent bike

Experiencing pain when exercising on a recumbent or upright bike is pretty uncommon, but it happens. However, you’re more likely to get back or joint pain after exercising on an upright bike than on a recumbent bike. 

On an upright bike, you need to maintain an upward position, forcing you to use more muscles and, thus, place a bigger burden on your joints. 

It’s also worth noting that your chances of injuring yourself when exercising are less on a recumbent bike than on an upright bike. 

When you sit on the seat of a recumbent bike, a good portion of your weight is transferred to the reclined back of the seat, placing less load on your back. On the flip side, an upright bike holds all of your weight on a small tailbone chair, which could result in back or buttocks pain or injury. 

Winner: Recumbent bike

Engaged Muscles

Upright bikes work more muscles in your body than recumbent bikes. A recumbent bike will engage your quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, tibialis anterior, and glutes. Upright bikes work the very same muscles, with the addition of arm and core muscles.

When sitting on an upright bike, like the Schwinn 170 upright bike, you need to lean forward to grab the handles to stabilize your body, which requires you to use your arm and abdominal muscles. 

In other words, if your goal is to build more muscle mass, an upright bike is the way to go.

Winner: Upright bike

Experience Level

Neither recumbent nor upright bikes require a high level of experience for you to figure out how to exercise on them. However, upright bikes feel more familiar for a wide range of people because of how similar they are to outdoor bicycles.

Winner: Upright bike

Calorie Burn  recumbent vs upright stationary bike

Since an upright bike requires you to work more muscles than a recumbent bike, it’ll help you burn more calories. More muscles worked equals a higher metabolism, which corresponds to faster calorie burn. 

The Nautilus U616 upright bike is capable of giving you that high-intensity exercise you seek.

Winner: Upright bike


Both recumbent and upright bikes allow you to progress by either increasing speed or resistance. There isn’t really anything different between the two pieces of exercise equipment here. 

One could argue that since recumbent bikes are easier on your joints, you might be able to progress faster on them. 

Winner: Tie


Upright bikes occupy less space than recumbent bikes, so if you have limited space at home for your new piece of equipment, you might want to go for an upright bike.

Winner: Upright bike

Recumbent Bike – Pros and Cons

Pros Cons
  • Comfortable
  • Easier on your back and joints
  • Suitable for long exercising sessions
  • Low risk of injury
  • Takes up more space than an upright bike
  • Doesn’t help you lose fat as fast as an upright right bike

Upright Bike – Pros and Cons

Pros Cons
  • Works more muscles than recumbent bikes
  • Easy to use
  • Doesn’t take up much space
  • Burns more calories
  • Requires less experience 
  • May strain your back or joints
  • Not as comfortable as recumbent bikes

Recumbent vs. Upright Bike: The Final Verdict

To recap, both recumbent and upright bikes are excellent exercise machines that can help you build muscles, lose weight, and improve your cardiovascular health. 

The choice between the two primarily depends on your personal preference. If you don’t feel uncomfortable when exercising on an upright bike, then, by all means, get one for your home gym. It’ll help you gain more muscles and burn more fat faster.

On the other hand, if upright bikes hurt your joints or muscles, a recumbent bike would be your best bet. It’s way more comfortable than any upright bike out there.