You finally decide to get a stationary bike for yourself, so you hop on to the internet to find the perfect one, only to realize that there’s more than one type of stationary bike.

You will find a wide variety of styles and configurations for stationary bikes. The most popular types of bicycles are either upright or recumbent.

Adding even more options to choose from when there are already so many different kinds of cardio equipment to pick from can be very overwhelming.

While both have unique designs, they serve the same purpose of simulating a real bike inside a gym or a home. While both do a great job in doing so, one of the options might be more fitted for you than the other.

This article will go through the difference between the Recumbent Bikes Vs. Upright Bikes, and which one is the best option for you?

So What’s The Difference?

Recumbent and stationary bikes are two types of exercise bikes available for indoor workouts. A stationary bike is one you sit on and pedal like a regular bike, but it doesn’t move forward – no crashing into walls.

Let’s discuss what’s the significant difference between these two.

woman on nordictrack recumbent bike
woman on nordictrack upright bike

Upright Exercise Bikes – Feels Like Riding an Actual Bike

The crank on this stationary bike is positioned vertically below the seat to replicate the riding position of a standard bicycle.

So, you can stand up and cycle when you want to really get into the cycling session and sit back down when you’re tired.

This gives you a more intense workout, can replicate the feeling of actually riding a bike, and gives you more hands-on experience.

Recumbent Bikes – Lean Back and Cycle

This stationary bike is made so people can ride it while leaning back. The word “recumbent” means to lie down or lean back.

Most recumbent bikes have a more traditional “seat” with a broad base and a backrest instead of a saddle. As the crank is usually in line with the seat, you have to stretch your legs to reach the pedals.

Recumbent bikes can give you a more relaxed workout with less impact on your lower body. Many people can read or watch TV while using the bike.

woman watching ipad on her recumbent bike

Targeted Muscles

Both of these varieties of exercise bikes offer a low-impact method of getting in shape because cycling does not place a strain on your hips, knees, or ankles. This is especially true when compared to higher-impact sports like running.

The gluteal muscles, rectus femoris muscles, hamstring muscles, gastrocnemius muscles, and soleus muscles in the lower leg are all worked out when cycling.

Upright Bikes Use More Muscles

Like a road bike, the upright bike enables your customers to stand. They will be able to use more muscles and different muscles instead of just those used when pedaling while sitting down.

You will use your core and abdominal muscles while sitting and standing on an upright bike because the seat forces them to support their weight while exercising. In contrast to the recumbent bike, this demands more stability and balance.

The lower body is engaged in both seated and standing positions. Shifting to a standing position will also involve your glute muscles and arms. Alternating from seated to standing positions offers more of a full-body workout.

Using a higher resistance while riding an upright bike can help build strength in your legs and lower body.

This is especially true if you ride faster.

The movement of pedaling can assist in the strengthening of your calf muscles, hamstrings, and quadriceps. In addition to this, it has the potential to strengthen the muscles in your core, back, and glutes.

If you ride a bicycle with handles, you’ll be able to exercise the muscles in your upper body, including your shoulders, triceps, and biceps.

Moreover, studies have proven that the rectus femoris muscle (part of the quadricep group) was under a more significant workload on the upright bike.

Recumbent Bikes – Only Work The Leg Muscles

You have no choice but to remain seated while riding a recumbent bike, which prevents you from engaging different muscle groups by standing. When using this bike, many customers do not actively engage their core muscles because the seat is positioned so that it slightly reclines backward.

When you ride this bike, you will only be working out your lower body. On the other hand, because it offers a stable environment and does not require you to hold on to the handlebars, clients have a bit more flexibility in terms of what they can do with their hands while exercising (utilizing weights, reading a book, etc.).

An electromyography study published in the International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy found that when pedaling on recumbent bikes during moderate exercise, the recumbent bike worked two muscles harder than the upright bike.

These two muscles were the semitendinosus in the hamstring and the tibialis anterior, located along the shin. Recumbent bikes and upright bikes both train all of the same muscles.

Hence, both bikes train your body slightly differently.


Regarding stationary bikes, comfort is also something to look for because you will be cycling on them for more than 30 minutes on average, and constant working out shouldn’t put an extra burden on your supporting muscles, which is a leading cause of chronic pains.

Upright Bikes – Less Comfortable With No Back Support

An upright bicycle is like a standard road bicycle that you would ride outside. The seats are more compact and do not include any back support; in addition, the pedals are positioned beneath the rider’s legs.

Riding a bike may be uncomfortable in certain body parts, particularly the region around the tailbone, the shoulders, the neck, the arms, and the wrists. This is because the seat position and size, as well as the slight forward lean required to reach the handlebars, are all factors that contribute to the discomfort.

Recumbent Bike – Larger Seat, Back Support, Less Stress on Joints

During exercise, sitting on a bike seat allows the body to put on a more natural position, which is typically less stressful on the joints and back. The body’s position is analogous to sitting on a piece of furniture that provides sufficient back support and seat coverage.

The back support has a slight incline to it. The seats are typically roomier, offer increased support for the back’s lumbar region, and are positioned in front of the rider; as a result, the ride is more comfortable and stable.

Ability to Burn Calories

While the amount of calories burned is relative to the amount of work done, good equipment can help make a relatively tiring exercise a breeze.

Most people believe that clients will burn more calories when using upright bicycles because they can engage more muscles.

This is possible. However, there are additional aspects that must be taken into account. Because these bikes are typically less comfortable, using them may result in a much more limited workout in terms of duration and intensity.

Because of this, it is possible that their enjoyment of the exercise will suffer, which can have a significant impact on the number of calories burned over time.

On the other hand, this can be a very efficient method of burning calories for people willing to put up with some discomfort and put in a lot of effort.

Can I Burn As Many Calories on a Recumbent?

The commonly held belief is that recumbent bicycles do not burn as many calories as their upright counterparts when used for exercise.

However, the number of calories burned during a workout largely depends on the intensity and length of the workout. Additionally, the effectiveness of the recumbent bicycle can be comparable to that of the upright bike.

Many users may find it easier to spend more time on the recumbent exercise bike because of its increased comfort level compared to the upright exercise bike.

In addition, they can exert more effort and pedal at a faster rate, which will result in a more significant number of calories being burned. People who want to reduce their body fat would benefit significantly from this option.

Final Thoughts

Both types of exercise bikes give you a good workout that can help you get in shape, burn calories, build muscle, and be more active in general.

If you like to be comfortable while you work out and want to be able to use your personal electronics or read a book, the recumbent bike is probably a better choice.

This is also true if you have problems with your back or joints since the bike supports you and is easier on your joints. In fact, bikes are often recommended for getting back on your feet after a joint injury or surgery.

Also, if you have trouble keeping your balance, the back support and armrests will keep you from losing your balance on the bike.

If you don’t have much room in your house or don’t want to spend too much on a good bike, an upright bike might be a better choice.

Even though you can get a good, intense workout on a recumbent bike, it is easier to do so on an upright bike, especially for spinning-style workouts.

Or, if you want to use the bike to train indoors when you can’t go outside, you should get an upright bike because the riding position is the same.

Aside from medical or health reasons, the most important thing to consider is which bike you are most likely to use since your users will determine how well you reach your fitness goals.

Thanks for Reading!