Biking and cycling is oftentimes one of the more popular physical activities for many of us. I’m sure plenty of you have driven by or seen the scores of bikers on weekends throughout your neighborhoods or the guys riding their bikes to commute from and to work everyday.

And for good reason too, there’s nothing quite like blazing through the air and wind on a hot and sunny day feeling the rush of speed that you get from moving by your own muscles and body.

Plus, it’s an added benefit that biking, unlike running, is a relatively low-impact sport, and there’s certainly less chances of developing stress fractures, micro-fractures as a result of repeated ‘impacts’ of your foot on the ground, and other types of ‘jarring’ and/or ‘shocking’ pain or injuries related to the act of running.

Basically, you can rest assured that you will likely be able to bike more and for longer into your life than you could running.

Basics of a Recumbent Bike

recumbent-bike-basicsBut what does biking and a Recumbent Bike have to do with one another?

Well that answer should be obvious enough in the actual naming of the two, but the simple answer is that they are both just different forms of biking.

Granted, one is more well-known than the other and is commonly accepted as the ‘normal’ one while the other is sort of the opposite, but those are largely just semantics.

But with that being said, it’s still a good idea to understand the very elementary differences between the two.

Here they are:

  • Recumbent bikes have a ‘bucket seat’.
  • They also have a backrest.
  • The pedals are in front of you and not below or beneath you.

And those are the three major architectural differences.

What they translate to, in real life, is that you will be largely in a horizontal position while biking and not in a vertical position, and that makes a huge difference.

Both in terms of actual speed/performance as well as the challenges and workload put onto your body.

Pros of the Recumbent Bike

Obviously, due to the differences in the actual engineering of the bike and how your body adjusts to them there will also be differences in how your body responds as well.

The major ones are:

So as you can see there are certain benefits that are simply indefinability better for your overall physical health for the long haul (like when you’re past the ‘middle-age’ part of your life).

Now the ‘gentler on the lower back’ part might be easy enough for many of you to grasp. After all, it’s not hard to see why sitting on a nice, big comfortable seat while ‘reclining back’ would be less of a stress to that part of the body then being hunched over on a tiny triangle thing.

But that second part there where it says easier on all joints may not be as clear cut.

So allow me to explain.

It’s because of the horizontal ‘position’ of your body. Long story, short when you are riding ‘upright’ and vertical in a ‘normal’ bike there’s a lot of weight and mass being pushed DOWNWARDS until the joints in your lower body, and when you combine that with the fact that your ‘axis of motion’ is also parallel to gravity then you can clearly see how there’s simply more force being applied to your joints.

But with a Recumbent bike this is not the case.

Since a Recumbent bike puts you in a horizontal position your body weight isn’t necessarily ‘crushing down’ on your joints. Which, alone, would mean that there’s simply less strain on them, but when you further consider that the pedaling motion is pushing perpendicularly to the force of gravity and not with gravity then you realize that there’s even less ‘grinding’ and ‘crushing’ of the joints, so-to-speak.

So therefore, that’s how the Recumbent bike helps your joints compared to a ‘normal’ bike.

But not all is sunshine and flowers.

Recumbent Bike Cons

As terrific as it would be if the Recumbent bike were to be all benefits and advantages over a ‘normal’ bike and no disadvantages, that just simply isn’t the case.

I’ll play Devil’s Advocate here and go over some of the disadvantages of a Recumbent bike compared to its ‘normal’ counterpart:

  • Recumbent bikes do not work the arms as much.
  • And they also do not work the abs as much either.

Both of these are readily apparent when you just look at the thing, but even if that wasn’t the case many of you would likely have figured this out once you began riding anyway.

And it’s rather self-evident.

A ‘normal’ bike requires that you grab onto the handles pretty tightly and then ‘control’ your movements and direction of motion with it. You need to grab those handles pretty tightly and then hold onto them with a strong grip as well as making sure that they don’t get out of control. Otherwise, you will get out of control and likely fall and/or possibly run into something.

As for that second part? Well it’s actually due to the ‘sitting position’ again.

So it’s actually kind of like the ‘inverse’ of the whole ‘lower impact on joints’ thing from earlier.

If you remember, a Recumbent bike is less stressful on your joints because you are horizontal. Well, that horizontal thing also means that it’s less strenuous on your abs too.

When you sit vertically it forces you to maintain a certain level of tension and tightness in your abs to maintain a stable position. And that’s how a ‘normal’ bike is better for your abs.

So there you have it…the Pros and Cons and differences between a Recumbent bike and a ‘normal’ bike.

But before we head off here, let me just leave you with a quick and simple workout to get you started in the right direction. After all, concept without action isn’t going to do much good right?

Simple and Beginner-Friendly Recumbent Bike Interval Program

NOTE: That, obviously, because of how similar a Recumbent bike and a ‘normal’ bike still really are this workout can easily be applied to both.

  • 10:00 minute warm-up, pace should eventually build up to a consistent heart rate around 150, +/- 10 beats or so. Resistance should be set to 1.0 (or whatever is the first ‘level’ of resistance after zero)
  • 20:00 minutes of alternating sprints/maximum intensity and ‘recovery’ pace with 30-second time intervals. Resistance should be set to quadruple the amount that you set your warm-up resistance at (if your bike doesn’t go that high, simply max out the resistance) during the sprint phase, and then toned back down to double the resistance of the warm-up phase. So, for example, if you set the resistance at 1.0 during your warm-up then you’d sprint at 4.0 and recover at 2.0, and if you set the resistance to 3.0 during your warm-up then you’d sprint at 4.0 (or max if need be) and recover at 6.0 resistance setting.
  • 10:00 minute cool-down, set resistance to 1.0 (or whatever was your warm-up resistance level), and ensure that your eventual heart rate settles to a consistent count of 100 with a leeway of +/- 10 beats again.

Now really quickly the last things I want to mention are that:

  • Intensity can be measured by heart beat count. When going for maximum intensity you should be shooting for as close to 200 beats per minute as possible, don’t lie to yourself here either.
  • During the ‘recovery’ phase you should be going for a heart rate of about 120 or so…before you begin the sprint phase again.
  • Also, resistance levels may obviously be adjusted at your will, but resistance should remain consistent for each ‘phase’ as you will not need to employ ‘dynamic resistance changes’ at this point yet.

So…ready for a ride?

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Matt Williamson
My name is Matt - fitness freak by choice. I intensively study and write about nutrition and health related topics. After reading and researching intensively on human health, I aspire to proliferate the wisdom that I acquired in a simple way.