6 Best Recumbent Bikes – Do NOT buy before reading this!

Last updated:- December 1st 2016. A Recumbent bike allows users to recline in a comfortable position while working out and is quite possibly the most effective way to get a good cardio workout regardless of most limitations of size, weight, flexibility and injury. Here at FitnesStep labs, we have tested most of the recumbent bikes available in the market. We have rated all these recumbent bikes based upon their resistance level, build quality, features and price point and here are our recommendations for the best performing recumbent bikes for you:

If you want a recumbent that has everything but the kitchen sink, look no further than the Schwinn 270 recumbent bike. If we were to judge this bike for its smooth operation and workout performance alone, it would still win the top honors in our comparison.

Second place goes to the Exerpeutic 900XL recumbent bike which is perhaps just as impressive for the incredible value it provides. For a paltry sum of few hundred dollars, you get a recumbent that does not compromise on its core functions but still manages to add in niceties such as adjustable resistance and an LCD display.

Best Recumbent Exercise Bikes 2016 – Our Top Recommendations

We have tested some of the top known recumbent bikes available in the market based on various factors such as build quality, resistance and features. Based upon test results, here are few top-of-the-end recumbent bikes which are suitable for various budgets and requirements:

schwinn-270
schwinn-230
exerpeutic-400xl
velocity-exercise-chb
ironman-x-class

With these recommendations, you’d be able to choose the best recumbent bike so quickly. Just go through these recommendations and see which is the perfect recumbent bike for you based upon your current requirements.

The Winner- Schwinn 270 Recumbent bike

schwinn-270-recumbent-bikeDespite the price range, this is a top-notch product that can withstand intense workouts even from users with a max weight of 300 lbs. The design is sleek and black, with comfortable handle grips and backed-up seats. The build quality is really good with 3-piece pedal cracks and oversized pedals providing a good biking experience, and can support weights of up to 300 lbs.

The Schwinn comes with 25 levels of resistance and 29 workouts programmed into it to provide a superior experience. You not only get two backlit LCD windows, you also get custom heart rate programs, fitness test programs, 4 user profiles, and 12 challenge levels. Workout data can be stored including speed, time, distance, level of intensity, calories lost, etc. The perimeter weighted flywheel provides a realistic experience especially for the high speed and high inertia drive systems. There’s a media shelf that gives you control of entertainment, in-console speakers with plugin ports for MP3 players, smartphones and iPods, and even Bluetooth and USB data transfer features (through Schwinn Connect or the MyFitnessPal apps). The fan provides three-speed cooling, while water bottle holders come as standard features. Additionally, the Schwinn provides heart rate monitoring features through the handlebar grips (which display details) and the telemetry-enabled chest strap.

This is the perfect choice for the best recumbent bike which has an awestruck build quality, resistance level and features. With hundreds of verified reviews on Amazon, no doubt this beast is worth every single penny you’re spending in purchasing it.

Top-end Alternative – Schwinn 230 Recumbent Bike

schwinn-230-recumbent-bikeThe Schwinn 230 is the younger sibling of your top pick, the Schwinn 270. While it costs a lot less, it doesn’t make too many compromises in order to meet the lower price point. Indeed, the 230 has nearly all of the great features and performance of the 270 which makes it an excellent value proposition. Everything that you would expect in a high-end, high-quality bike is here, sans the price.

We love the dual-track display these bikes use and the LCD screen is large enough to easily view all your workout feedback. Just like the more expensive bikes, it logs all your exercise data and lets you export it to a computer for further analysis. There’s even a 3-speed fan to keep you cool and comfortable during workouts, something that is uncommon in this price range. 20 levels of resistance are a bit down from the 25 offered on the 270 but honestly, it’s not something you’re likely to miss. The seat is large, vented, comfortable and provides great support.

We’re big fans of Schwinn here at fitnesstep1 and primary among the reasons is the brand’s excellent support and coverage nationwide. Schwinn, being the oldest US bike brand has been in the game for a while and this is reflected in them backing these bikes with a 10-year warranty on the frame and a 2-year warranty for the mechanical parts. This is as safe a bet as it gets and a bike of this caliber at this price is an absolute steal.

Best Value for Money – Exerpeutic 400XL

exerpeutic-400xlIn keeping with the Schwinn and Exerpeutic theme of our top picks, the next bike we’re going to take a look at is the Exerpeutic 400XL. This is a great bike to consider if you don’t need all of the functions and bulk of the 900XL and like the idea of saving a few bucks in the process. This bike is foldable, which means that if space is a premium for you, this might just be the ticket.

The bike aims to offer everything you’d want from a stationary recumbent and nothing you don’t. It is simple, does what it’s supposed to and doesn’t demand too much attention. Just like the big 900XL, this bike supports users of up to 300 pounds. This is quite impressive for a bike of its size.

I suppose it’s important to mention here that this bike features what is known as a semi-recumbent design. This means that your position on the bike is somewhere between an upright and a fully reclined recumbent. This position is very comfortable for most people and offers a very easy transition to those who have never used a recumbent before. The position makes it very easy to get on and off. If you’re looking for a capable bike that’s very easy to use, ride and store at a very affordable price, this is the one to get.

Contender – Velocity Exercise CHB-R2101

velocity-exercise-chbYou might think that it’d be hard to find a full recumbent bike for less money than our previous pick. Well, you’d be wrong because that’s exactly what the Velocity Exercise CHB-R2101 is. This is an excellent choice for someone who wants a no-frills but fully capable recumbent bike. While this Velocity Exercise bike is not foldable like the Exerpeutic 400XL, it does come with wheels to make transportation and storage a little easier to live with. Apart from that little detail, the bike is as simple as they come.

The 8 levels of resistance, while not spectacular are still perfectly adequate for getting a good workout. The drivetrain offers a smooth and comfortable ride and reasonably large screen displays all of the most important workout information. There really isn’t a lot we can expect at this price but the bike covers all the essentials, making it worth of our recommendation.

All of the above bikes offer incredible value for money. However, you may be a serious athlete or someone who pushes a training load that might warrant a commercial-grade bike. You could also be someone who is looking for something that’s absolutely top of the line. These bikes were not a part of our standard comparison and testing since they are in a league of their own. Read on for more:

The highest performance recumbents money can buy: –

Contender – The IRONMAN H-class 410

the-ironman-hThis Ironman H410 is a significant step up from the bikes we’ve covered so far and is an idea for a current or aspiring athlete that’s going to use it as preparation for endurance events such as a Triathlon for example.

It features a bike computer with nearly every function in the book, including the ability to sync with your phone over Bluetooth. The computer can also store up to 4 user profiles, meaning that everyone in your family can have it set to their preference and toggle it in an instant. There are 24 levels of magnetic resistance that the machine can transition between smoothly to provide a superior workout experience. The bike also has a belt-driven drivetrain which makes it nearly silent in operation.

Features aside, the bike has plenty to offer on the usability front as well. Its seat has individual air chambers for increasing user comfort. The back rest is made out of memory foam and provides plenty of support. The bike uses an easy to use step-through frame that comes with a lifetime warranty. Seat positions can also be adjusted with ease and as you’d expect, the bike has transport wheels to make it easy to store or relocate. It even comes with a tablet holder. This is a very strong contender that is definitely worth investing in if you have serious fitness goals.

Contender – The Precor RBK 615

precor-rbk-615-commercial-seriesThis Precor bike has been pretty much the industry standard of what a rock-solid, high-performance commercial grade bike should be. Used and endorsed by gyms and fitness celebrities alike, if you are someone looking for something a bit special, or something that’s built to last, this certainly fits the bill.

We’ll start with all of the features are a must for any exercise bike that claims to be a high-end product. Sure enough, it’s all there. The bike has six workouts presets including weight loss and hill climb. Apart from the standard touch sensor for heart rate monitoring (only this one’s very accurate), it also supports Polar compatible wireless chest straps. The computer allows you to enter your age, weight and other data to help you stay in the correct zone for burning fat, gaining cardio or reaching new levels of peak power.

On the usability front, it features a seat with air pockets and a backrest that allows for plenty of ventilation. The bike features dual sides pedals with an option for flat or toe-strap depending on the user’s preference and even has the option of swapping them out for your pedals of your own choice. All of this is built on an easy to use step-through frame that comes with a lifetime warranty and Precor covers the rest of the bike as well as the wear parts for 10 whole years. Needless to say, if there was a contest for the absolute best recumbent money can buy, our bet would be on the RBK 615. That is, of course, provided you can actually put it to the amount of use that can justify the price of entry.

Why recumbents?

*Comfort

“Are recumbents comfortable? If so, how comfortable are they?” These are rather frequently asked questions. Allow us to illustrate the answer. Here is a picture of a man sitting in a recliner:

man-sitting-in-a-recliner

And here is a man sitting on a recumbent exercise bike:

man-sitting-on-recumbent-bike

Does that answer the question? It is quite obvious that a recumbent is the most comfortable type of bike out there. You get to relax in a reclined position while the legs do all the work. No more pain or numbness in weird places, just a quick and effective cardio workout.

A standard upright bike, while effective in its own way, is not designed with the intent of taking full advantage of the human anatomy. This is especially true for people with limited mobility and for those that have back/wrist pain.

Our bodies are built for our head to drop, not to pull the head back as you would on an upright bike. This means that chances of both back and neck pain are greatly reduced.

*Focus

While cycling is without question the ultimate form of cardio, recumbent bikes can take it to the next level. One of the ways they can help do this is due to the focus on the actual movements of cycling i.e. the spinning of the legs. They do so by taking everything else out of the equation. Therefore, the back is well supported, the neck is in a relaxed position and the spine is neutral. This allows even unfit or injured individuals to maintain and gain fitness and makes the great cardio benefits more accessible to a wide range of people.

*Rehabilitation

While most fitness equipment is recommended by gym instructors and other fitness experts, recumbent bikes are usually recommended by doctors. This is particularly true for people dealing with injuries, are a risk of injury or currently unfit to engage in conventional exercise.

By the same measure, it can also be a great tool for athletes recovering from an injury. A recumbent can prevent them from losing too much fitness as they recover.

Cardiovascular exercise offers many benefits but they cannot be attained by people that are unable to engage in them for any number of reasons. Chronic pain, arthritis, and miscellaneous joint conditions are usually not a hindrance for riding recumbents. Even patients that have been bed-ridden and completely immobile for extended periods of time are usually able to work with a recumbent bike. It can indeed, in many cases be easier than even walking! All of the benefits that can really help the injured or elderly get in some exercise can also benefit anyone looking to improve their fitness as long as they have a functioning pair of legs.

Setting up a recumbent bike:

Cycling, in general, is a low-impact exercise and recumbent bikes are among the most forgiving of fitness machines. There is, however, a certain amount of care required when setting them up for the first time. Once you set the bike up, it’s likely like you’d want to leave it that way and so it’s important to get this right once and for all. Take a look at the following illustration:

exercise-bike-useage-tips

The above picture outlines the correct knee angle/position for a recumbent versus an upright bike. The knees are one of the most technical parts of the human body and should therefore be treated with care.

An easier way to go about this is to raise the seat height until your knees are almost fully extended at the point the pedal is furthest from you. Not only will this ensure that you recruit all of your leg muscles into the movement, but it will also make sure your knees stay nice and protected during exercise.

Now, you might feel that you have to change the seat position to target different muscle groups but that’s actually not true. Keep the bike seat in a place that is optimal for your knees. To work for different muscle groups, play with the resistance settings. All good recumbent bikes come with adjustable resistance. Simply raise the resistance to shifting the workout to your glutes and hamstrings. If you do high-RPM speed work with the pedals, that’s going to engage more of the quadriceps into the movement. Therefore:

More resistance = Glutes, hamstrings
Less resistance, fast pedalling = quads

Adding some weighted squats and lunges is a great way to complement your bike workouts. Do them before or after your session as per your preference. Since we’ve already mentioned muscle recruitment here, let’s smoothly move on to the next topic: –

Muscles recruited while riding a recumbent bike:

Muscles recruited while riding a recumbent bike
As illustrated above, the quads, hamstrings, glutes and calves are the main muscle groups used while cycling. Of these, the quadriceps are arguably the most powerful. The glutes provide a lot of support to the movement considering that it is such a large muscle group. The hamstrings help in bringing the pedal back at the end of the pedal stroke and the calves add a bit of kick to the movement while also functioning as pump in the important task of sending used up blood back to the heart for re-oxygenation.

There are however a few more muscles that are or at least can be engaged in order to make your workouts more effective. While cycling, it is possible for us to engage our core to assist the movement and also to stabilize the body. This can be done by simply pulling the abdominal muscles in, drawing the muscles of the waist to assist your back and keep you in place can be a great way to exercise your core and abs while getting a great cardio workout.

Wrap-up:

We’ve strenuously tested and vetted the best recumbent bikes against each other in order to provide you with a definitive guide to selecting the best pieces of equipment available today. While we’re fans of many types of exercise equipment, there is a consensus that recumbent bikes are the most accessible of them all due to the comfort and ease of use they offer. We’re confident that any of our recommendations will have you spinning your way to fitness in no time.