What is a recumbent bike?
A recumbent bike is a stationary bike that has a reclined seating position. The seat is wider and more padded, plus it includes a seat back that gives you the support you need without hindering your pedaling ability. It also allows your upper body muscles to relax while your lower body does the work, increasing your strength in this area while giving you a great cardiovascular workout.
Recumbent bikes also have the added benefit of being easy to use. First-time riders can jump on and start pedaling with no learning curve needed. It is also great for more advanced users, ramping up the resistance for a more challenging workout. Seniors or those with joint or back issues can also use these units without straining themselves or doing more damage to their injured areas.
Features to consider when choosing a recumbent bike
When choosing a new recumbent bike, there are a few features to check out. This will ensure you’re getting the right bike for your size, workout level, and home situation.
Though many of the recumbent bicycles in our reviews have a weight capacity of 300 pounds, some have smaller weight limits, like the 275-pound capacity of the ProForm 235 CSX. They can also have higher capacities, as the Nautilus R618 shows with its capacity of 325 pounds. This information is important because it tells you how much weight the unit can support and who in your family, therefore, can use it.
These exercise bikes are built well, with sturdy materials, but if too much weight is placed on the seat, it may not be able to support you for long. The seat, back, and bars underneath that hold everything together could start to bend or even break, so it’s best to buy one that can support your weight and the weight of anyone else using it. This way, it will stay in the best condition possible for as long as you’re using it.
Programs and resistance levels
All of the recumbent bikes that we’ve reviewed have varying resistance levels to choose from, which can be adjusted to meet your needs. If you’re just starting out with one of these machines, you will likely want to set it at the lowest resistance level to begin with. If you find it is too easy, you can raise it to the next level if you like. As your legs, hips, and buttocks get stronger, you’ll be able to go up in the levels, which will give you a more challenging workout as you raise the resistance. Some recumbent bike models have 8 resistance levels to choose from, which is fine, but if you want to increase your levels higher than that, you may want to try out a model like the Schwinn 270, which has 25 levels to work your way through.
Workout programs are not included with every home recumbent bike but can add a bit of variety to your workout. These can make it seem like you’re riding over hills, trails, or even in another country. Though not necessary to get a good workout, these programs can make it more fun to get your daily exercise in.
The weight of the recumbent bike may not seem important but it will be once you try to move it around. Even when you’re assembling the unit, you need to hold up certain pieces to attach them to the rest of the machine. The heavier it is, the harder it is to do this. You may even need a second set of hands to help you put the recumbent bike together, with one person holding the larger parts while the other person attaches the pieces.
If you’re planning on leaving your recumbent bike in one spot, like a dedicated workout area, then once you have it assembled, you likely won’t need to move it again until you’ve worn it out and need to replace it. Of course, not everyone has the space for a large piece of workout equipment, so they may need to move it out of the way when they aren’t using it. For these people, a lightweight model like the Exerpeutic 300SR may be a good choice. This one also has the added convenience of folding down, so it is much easier to store when needed.
The dimensions of the recumbent bike are important for the same reasons as the weight of the unit. The larger the bike is, the more space it’s going to take up in whichever room you plan to store it in. If you have a dedicated workout space in a basement, den, or living room, then the bike may fit in there without forcing you to sacrifice too much of your space. Those with smaller homes or apartments may not have much room to spare, so they may need the smallest model possible to fit among their other furniture.
One that can be folded down makes it easier to store in a closet or behind a couch but this feature isn’t included in most of the units in our reviews, so it may be best to figure out how much space you have to store your unit before choosing one.
The display is another important feature you may want to consider before buying a new recumbent bike for your home gym. This usually consists of a large backlit screen, displaying various pieces of data about your workout. This could include the calories you’ve burned, the distance you’ve traveled, the time you’ve spent pedaling, and your speed. There could also be other stats, like your heart rate, though this will require some heart monitor sensors on the handles of the bike or a chest strap.
As well as the display screen, there will likely also be some controls that go with it. These will allow you to change the screen display, showing the information you want while allowing you to scroll through to see the other data whenever needed. The buttons should be well labeled and easy to use to make this whole control panel even easier to use.
The display should also be easy to read when you’re leaning back on the recumbent seat and pedaling. If you have to stop your workout to lean forward to see the screen, it will make it much harder to keep track of your progress.
Bluetooth connectivity is another handy feature, though it isn’t included with most of the recumbent bikes in our reviews. When it is included in models like the Schwinn 270, you can use it to connect to your other Bluetooth-enabled devices, like smartphones and tablets. This way, you can link your recumbent bicycle to your device. This allows you to connect to any workout or health apps on your device, keeping your progress updated without having to input the information manually when your workout is done. This saves you some time and effort, so you can focus solely on getting your workout done for the day.
An adjustable seat is one of the most important features to look for in a recumbent bike. Though all of the other features are something to consider, you won’t have any use for any of them if you can’t fit on the bike well or comfortably reach the pedals. If you’re too short, you won’t be able to pedal at all, while those who are too tall will be constantly be hitting their knees on the upper handles or the control panel.
An adjustable seat can accommodate all sizes of people, allowing you to move the seat forward or back to give you the perfect position to pedal properly and comfortably. This adjustment should be easy to do, so you don’t need to struggle every time you sit down on the bike. This is especially important if more than one person in your household is using your recumbent bike. If it’s being adjusted a few times a day to fit everyone, it needs to be done quickly, or some members may not want to bother fighting with it to get it into the position they need it.
The handlebars on most recumbent bikes are usually in a different place than on other stationary bike types. Though there are handles at the front of the bike that you can use to get in and out of the seat, the main handles that you would use to maintain your balance while actually riding the bike are positioned on the sides of the seat. This allows you to hold onto the handles, keeping yourself upright as you pedal rather than shifting back and forth with nothing to hold onto.
Some models, like the ProForm 235 CSX, also include sensors in the handlebars. When you hold onto the handles, the sensors track your pulse, showing your heart rate on the display, which helps you maintain the rate you want to reach your fitness goals.
If your new recumbent bike should have any issues with faulty parts or pieces that aren’t installed correctly, you’re going to need a decent warranty to get new parts, repairs, or a new machine sent to you without costing you extra money. Some of the units in our reviews have a basic 1-year or 2-year limited warranty, which is fine if the issues show up right away. Others have a more in-depth warranty, covering different parts for different lengths of time. For instance, the Schwinn 270 has a 10-year limited warranty on the frame, a 2-year warranty on the mechanical parts, 1 year for the electronics, and 90 days for the other parts and the labor. Be sure to check out what is covered and for how long so there are no surprises if your machine isn’t working as expected.