The General Benefits of Cycling

Before I elucidate on the relative merits of the recumbent vs. upright exercise bike, I would just like to remind you of the benefits that accrue from cardiovascular workouts, such as cycling indoors.

Cycling can strengthen critical muscles, your heart, and your lungs. Additionally, cycling can improve the flow of blood and oxygen and improve your health in many ways, including:

  • Improved memory and brain functioning
  • Improved blood sugar levels
  • Lower stress levels
  • Develop a more robust immune system
  • Enjoy better sleep
  • Lower blood pressure

These benefits will apply equally whether you use an upright or recumbent exercise bike.

woman enjoying cycling on her upright exercise bike at home

Good and Bad Features of Upright Exercise Bikes

  • Limited support for the upper body
  • The body is in an upright position
  • Smaller seat
  • Traditional – similar to the stance taken in cycling outside
  • The vertical position might be the cause of fatigue
  • Both high and low impact cardio options

The most recognizable components of the modern gym are exercise bikes. There will usually be both upright and recumbent models to choose from, but in this section, I am going to talk exclusively about upright exercise bikes.

The bikes that you see today are very different from those you would have seen just a decade ago. New features are added with the release of each new model.

Before considering the installation of any new piece of equipment in your home gym, it is essential to ensure you have sufficient space to use the machine safely.

Space is where the upright option comes out ahead of the recumbent in that they need a smaller floor area, and often they are designed to fold-up when you have finished with them.

Upright exercise bikes will also provide an experience more closely related to cycling outdoors. And allow the user to use the equipment in the same way that they would use a bicycle. This could include standing up on the pedals during the workout.

The quality of workout provided by the upright bicycle is overall neither better or worse than that of a recumbent machine.

Some experts will state that a vertical machine will burn more calories than the same amount of time spent on a recumbent machine, and this may well be true. However, because of the relative comfort of the recumbent option, the user will probably spend longer using it and, therefore, will burn an equal, or higher, number of calories.

It is also clear that on a recumbent bike, the legs are in a horizontal position and will have to work harder than on an upright where the legs are more vertical.

Advantages Over A Recumbent Bike

  • More akin to a real cycling experience
  • More versatile
  • Less floor area

Effective Workouts With Upright bikes

Upright bikes are great for interval training. Interval training takes place after an individual has reached a level of fitness and switches the exercise to work on strength and stamina.

An example of interval training might involve cycling at a low intensity for ten minutes. Then medium activity for ten minutes, this is followed by between two rounds of 2 minutes high intensity followed by two minutes low power .followed by a cooling down of 2minutes high intensity and finally 10 minutes low intensity.

Recumbent Exercise Bikes – Good & Bad Features

  • Body position is reclined
  • The location of the pedals is in front of the body
  • Reduced upper body tension and fatigue in muscles
  • Full back support
  • You can choose low or high impact cardio options
  • Exercise is focussed on the lower body
  • The larger seat is more comfortable
man exercising on recumbent exercise bike

The most significant positive point about the recliner exercise bike is comfort. The flat chair is far more comfortable than the traditional cycle seat that is fitted to uprights.

The back is supported, and it is no longer necessary to hold onto the handlebars for safety, Both hands are free to carry out many other tasks.

An increasing number of people have begun to read while on a recumbent machine, claiming that time really goes by quickly, and they are still able to maintain a good workout rate while their mind is occupied with the book. E-Readers are particularly popular.

 Although not wanting to forget that the primary purpose of using the exercise bike is just that, exercise, the fact that people can easily read, play games, or watch TV simultaneously is very appealing.

 There are two primary disadvantages to the recumbent models. First of all, is that they take far more floor area than the upright unit. In a small apartment, it might not be possible to spare the floor space for the equipment. Secondly, they are substantially more expensive than uprights, and the price is a factor that many of us have to consider.

 Advantages over an upright bike

  • Stability allows hands-free use, so can read, play games, etc
  • More comfortable to use
  • Recumbent bike targets hamstrings and is better for those with back problems
  • Low impact – The reclined seat Position relives stress on lower back, hips knees and ankles

 Effective Workouts With Recumbent Bikes

Small scale research had established that there was no difference in the workloads when riders were using an upright exercise bike and a recumbent exercise bike. However, it was also found that pedaling a recumbent bike produced increased activity in two of the four muscles they had been studying

 [Lee C-W, Cho G-H, Effect of stationary cycle exercise on gait and balance of elderly women. J Phys Ther Sci. 2014;26(3):431-433. DOI:10.1589/jpts.26.431]


The general theme throughout this article has been in showing that there is no greater benefit to either an upright exercise bike or a recumbent bike. There are slight differences in the muscle groups that benefit from each but of no great significance.

 Recliner bikes allow users to read, play games or watch tv easily while exercising compared to an upright bike, even when keeping up with an intensive program.

 Recumbent bikes do, however, cost significantly more and take up a greater floor area. Probably recumbent machines are less suitable for apartment dwellers. Other than that, it is difficult to come down fully in favor of one of the different designs of equipment. It is suggested that readers go through this article and identify the factors that are most relevant to themselves.