We decided that it was time to give our top ten recumbent bikes chart a bit of a revamp, so we added a few new models to replace some older bikes that had become harder to find.
The HCI Fitness PhysioCycle XT-800 became our new top pick, while we also added the midrange Sunny Health & Fitness SF-RB4880 PowerSync.
Exercise bikes are some of the most popular home cardio machines around, and for good reason — bikes are convenient, easy to use, and provide a great cardio workout without placing as much stress on your joints as a treadmill.
Among the different types of exercise bikes, recumbent bikes are some of the best for beginners, seniors and other users who don’t want to place as much weight on their joints, but still want the cardio benefits.
Table of Contents
In this complete guide, we’ll evaluate each one of our top picks individually to help you get a clearer idea of the strengths and weaknesses of each bike.
Then we’ll explain some of the features you need to look for in an exercise bike, and answer some of the most common questions new bikers have about recumbent machines. Read on to find out everything you need to know!
Resistance: 8 levels (Magnetic)
Weight Capacity: 300lbs
Features: Step-through design, bidirectional cycling, 15-position adjustable padded breathable seat, mesh backrest, 7 preset workout programs, pulse grip heart rate monitor, backlit LCD screen, transportation wheels
One of our current favorite recumbent bikes is one with a twist – the PhysioCycle XT-800 from HCI Fitness. Most notably, this unit features pedals for both your legs and arms, which adds an upper body element to your training sessions.
This higher-end home bike features a robust frame with a 300lb weight capacity to cater for heavier users, while a 15-position adjustable breathable padded seat allows you to find your perfect fit. There’s a mesh backrest, adjustable pedals and fixed handles on the sides, should you want to focus solely on your legs.
In action, the PhysioCycle XT-800 is smooth and quiet, with bidirectional cycling and magnetic resistance. Resistance levels are controlled via push buttons with information displayed on the bright – albeit a little basic – backlit LCD screen.
Resistance: 24 levels (Magnetic)
Weight Capacity: 300lbs
Features: Self-powered unit, step-through design, adjustable seat, adjustable non-slip pedals, 12 preset workout programs, pulse grip heart rate monitor, color monitor, built-in speakers, USB charging port, media shelf, rear handlebar, transportation wheels
The reliable SF-RB4880 PowerSync from Sunny Health & Fitness is a self-powered recumbent bike with plenty to offer the midrange shopper.
With a weight capacity of 300lbs, it’s a quality bike, offering users a smooth, quiet and stable ride. It’s easy to adapt the bike to fit your body size and fitness ability, with an adjustable seat and adjustable non-slip pedals, as well as 24 levels of computer-controlled magnetic resistance.
Talking about computers, the PowerSync features a decent color monitor, providing a glimpse at your workout data – from workout time to distance to heart rate. The latter is monitored via pulse grips in the side handles. Throw in a media shelf, built-in speakers and a charging port for your device, and you have a quality bike that shows off good value.
Resistance: 20 levels
Features: Magnetic resistance, heart rate sensors built into handlebars, LCD display, goal and performance tracking, USB port onboard, built-in speakers, 300lb weight capacity
Moving into the more affordable end of the market, the Nautilus R614 packs in some high-end features without sacrificing critical elements in its design. This machine packs in 20 levels of magnetic resistance with a weighted flywheel that provides smooth transitions and an exceptional ride.
The R614 includes over 20 workout programs already built into the machine. If you’re not sure how to structure your workouts or don’t have the time to form your own plan, these programs make a great extra option.
An LCD screen dominates the central display, showing statistics of your workout and keeping the machine running smoothly. Unfortunately, this isn’t backlit, so you’ll have to keep the screen in a lot of light to see it!
Resistance: 25 levels
Features: Magnetic resistance, 13lb flywheel, 29 built-in programs, Bluetooth functionality, backlit LCD console, built-in heart rate sensors, USB charging port, integrated speakers, 300lb weight capacity
Next on this list, the Schwinn 270 covers all the performance standards required for anyone looking for a low-impact workout, with a few uncommon amenities for the price range. If you’re in the market for a recumbent bike and don’t want to spend too much money, this could be a great option for you.
With 25 levels of magnetic resistance, the 270 has more than enough power to keep seasoned bikers engaged. The extra levels also make this a great fit for users who are recovering from an injury – as you gradually improve, you can increase the resistance bit by bit.
The 29 built-in workout programs are a major plus for inexperienced users; they make it easy to progress even if you’re not confident about planning out rides on your own.
Height: 5ft” to 6ft 4″
Resistance: 20 levels
Features: Magnetic resistance, 20lb flywheel, 9” LCD screen, Bluetooth compatibility, USB charging port, built-in speakers, cooling fan, media shelf, transportation wheels, 300lb weight capacity
The Sole R92 is next on our list thanks to its stellar performance and snazzy extras, without the hefty price tag. It’s built to help users of all sizes and experience levels get a great workout, with top-level performance specs and some thoughtful extra touches.
The 20 levels of magnetic resistance offer plenty of challenge, no matter your experience level. Combined with the 20lb flywheel, this is one of the highlights of the R92 – it’s light enough to feel comfortable for beginners, but the upper levels will challenge advanced users as well.
Beyond the core features, the R92 also includes a large 9” backlit LCD screen which displays statistics and manages the bike’s built-in exercise programs. Bluetooth connectivity, built-in speakers and an onboard USB port offer extra functionality.
Resistance: 20 levels
Features: Magnetic resistance, seat rail adjustment, built-in USB port, onboard speakers, heart rate sensors built into handlebars, 22 preset workout programs, 275lb weight capacity
The little brother of the more upscale 270, the Schwinn 230 Recumbent Bike strips away some of the frills to provide you with a great workout at an even better price. While you sacrifice some of the amenities, the combination of value and performance makes the 230 hard to beat.
Like many bikes on this list, the Schwinn 230 offers 20 levels of magnetic resistance from its weighted flywheel. It also incorporates 22 preset workout programs that you can use to spice up your exercise routine.
The seat on the 230 is also mounted on a sliding rail, which makes it quick and easy to adjust. No matter your height or size, this bike should be able to fit you without any problems.
Resistance: 24 levels
Features: Magnetic resistance, 22lb flywheel, 24 preset programs, built-in audio jack and speakers, 5.6” backlit LCD display, 300lb weight capacity
The Xterra SB2.5r targets new users who need a smooth ride with lighter resistance levels across the range. While this bike offers a 22lb flywheel, the 24 levels of resistance make it easy for beginners to start light and work their way up as they progress.
The easiest settings on this bike offer almost no tension – while advanced bikers may want a machine with more power, the easier ride is a great advantage for beginners trying to build up strength.
The SB2.5r also incorporates a built-in audio jack and speakers so you can play music while you work out. While small, the central console incorporates a 5.6” backlit LCD display. The durable steel frame is another plus – this is one of the sturdiest bikes on our list!
Height: 5ft and taller
Resistance: 8 levels
Features: Heavy-duty steel frame, hand crank system, LCD monitor, padded adjustable seat, integrated heart rate sensors, built-in transport wheels, 250lb weight capacity
This intriguing bike from Stamina is a streamlined machine that prioritizes total-body performance over frills and extras. While it includes eight levels of quiet magnetic resistance, its main feature is the pair of hand pedals.
These two cranks, mounted on either side of the console, allow you to work out your upper body at the same time as your legs. If you’re struggling to fit time to exercise into your daily routine, these cranks can be a lifesaver!
With eight levels of tension, this bike suits beginners and intermediate users well. It may not offer enough resistance to keep advanced athletes challenged, but most other users should do fine. No matter what level you use, the LCD screen can track your speed and performance statistics.
Resistance: 8 levels
Features: Magnetic resistance, LCD screen display, weighted pedals, step-through design, 14-gauge steel frame, padded seat back
Another budget option that prioritizes strong performance over amenities, the Marcy ME709 provides a great workout at a low price. Thanks to the step-through frame, this bike is also a bit smaller than some competing models – if you’re unsure whether you can find space for a bike in your house, you should check this model out.
The ME709 offers users eight levels of magnetic resistance, adjustable via a dial beneath the central console. The frame is made from powder-coated 14-gauge steel, which keeps the bike sturdy despite the smaller footprint overall.
Finally, you’ll also find a couple of extra touches, like an LCD console display, a padded seat, and weighted pedals. They’re not make-or-break factors, but together they make this bike feel good value for the price.
Height: 5ft to 6ft 3”
Resistance: 14 levels
Features: Magnetic resistance, LCD display with workout statistics, light step-through frame, Quiet Drive belt system, media shelf, 250lb weight capacity
Rounding out our list, the ProGear 555LXT is another recumbent bike that works well for beginners and anyone on a tighter budget. At well under $200, this is one of the most affordable bikes on our list – but it doesn’t sacrifice performance despite its light price tag.
The 555LXT’s 14 levels of magnetic resistance are almost double the amount of levels that most other bikes in this price range offer. Plus, with a 250lb weight capacity and a usable height range of between 5ft and 6ft 3”, this bike will fit almost any user.
It’s hard to compare with some of the amenities featured on the expensive bikes on this list, but the LCD display and tension adjustment knob get the job done without creating an unnecessary hassle
A recumbent exercise bike may be a good addition to your home gym – but they can also be some of the more complicated cardio machines on the market. To end up with the right model for you, it’s crucial to know what features to look for in your bike.
This shopping guide offers a list of the most essential factors for any recumbent exercise bike. No matter your budget or fitness goals, considering these features will help you make a more informed decision when it comes to buying!
Recumbent bikes are all the same, right? Not really! Even though many look the same at first glance, there are still a couple of key differences that might help you narrow down your options.
One is the seat design. Most of the bikes featured here offer seats mounted on a track, which allow you to easily adjust the distance from the pedals for a more comfortable workout.
Certain bikes on our list also feature different flywheel designs. Generally, a heavier flywheel can offer more resistance as you pedal. This is a big advantage for experienced riders, who need the extra challenge to elevate their heart rate and make the most out of their cardio session.
With magnetic resistance systems, heavy flywheels can still provide low-resistance settings as well – the increased size and weight just offers some extra flexibility.
However, these flywheels tend to be bulky and unwieldy to design around. Many recumbent bikes eschew large flywheels which weigh 20lbs or more in favor of smaller units that take up less space. While these wheels might not be able to generate quite as much resistance, they still work perfectly well for beginners and people who use recumbent bikes for rehab or to get back in the groove after an injury.
Finally, the pedal setup is also critical for any bike. While the specific choice of design often comes down to personal preference, knowing the different categories may help you cross some options off of your list.
Each bike will vary in terms of the height and width between the pedals. While width remains fairly constant across different models and manufacturers, pedal height may vary more significantly.
Some bikes place the pedals up high so that your legs are at seat level or higher when you pedal. Others keep them lower down on the chassis, which keeps riders in a position closer to sitting naturally as they pedal.
Whichever feel you prefer is up to you. If you’re not sure which to pick, it may be a good idea to test out some bikes for yourself at a local gym and see which ones you like best.
Recumbent bikes tend to be some of the sturdiest models around. Their seat design and pedal setup allows them to accommodate larger users and hold up with ease during even the most strenuous workouts. A good recumbent bike can last years – even decades – thanks to its strong frame.
However, this stability comes at a cost: portability. Because recumbent bikes place the seat further back than other models, they tend to weigh more and take up more space than upright or spin bikes. You also won’t find many folding recumbent bikes!
Generally, this increased bulk isn’t a problem, as long as you assemble the bike where you want to use it. However, smaller riders may have a tough time moving a recumbent bike on their own.
If you do plan on moving your bike around after you’ve assembled it, look for a model with built-in transportation wheels. These will save you time and effort when you need to haul a bike to your workout space.
While designs can be very similar among recumbent bikes, resistance levels are the easiest way to separate different models from each other.
Some of the bikes on our list offer 20-plus resistance levels for an ample challenge, while others are simpler and geared towards lighter workouts. Depending on your prior cycling experience and fitness goals, you’ll find that one style might suit you much better than another.
One major advantage of bikes with plenty of resistance levels is that they offer room to grow. If you are a beginner, you can start with a lower level, then work your way up gradually.
A wide range of resistance levels also provides smoother transitions as you increase the tension. For example, a bike with only eight levels will have larger gaps between the levels than a comparable model with 24 levels.
Therefore, if you want to make fast progress, smooth transitions are crucial; they’ll allow you to increase tension gradually and lower your chances of getting stuck on one level without being able to continue moving up.
Beyond levels of resistance, you may also need to evaluate the types of resistance each bike offers. Most of the machines on our list come equipped with magnetic resistance systems, which use magnets to create drag against a central flywheel. Magnetic resistance is standard on most midrange and high-end bikes because it’s smooth, durable and almost silent.
Aside from magnetic resistance, you might also find some bikes which use fan wheels. While these don’t require preset tension levels – the tension will always increase as you pedal faster, without any maximum limit – they can be more difficult to work out with, and make more noise than their magnetic counterparts.
Recumbent bikes are a deviation when compared to a good upright bike – it’s rare to find recumbent models equipped with full-color touchscreens or consoles that include internet capabilities. However, depending on the model, you might find that you don’t need a flashy screen to get an outstanding workout experience.
Basic LCD display screens are the most common amenity on recumbent bikes. These usually include a large panel that displays feedback on your workout, often in conjunction with smaller sections to track other statistics and let you know the current settings of your machine and/or workout program.
Many bikes use backlit LCD screens. If you work out after dark or want to keep the lights off so you can watch TV while exercising, make sure to pick a model with a backlit screen.
Beyond the display, recumbent bike consoles generally include a set of buttons to control the bike as you pedal. This will allow you to adjust the resistance to your level. Of course, if you are shopping for a more affordable bike, then you are more likely to find a manual resistance dial in lieu of digital controls.
As we’ll discuss in a moment, you may also find extra amenities on this console, such as USB charging ports, built-in speakers, or a tablet holder.
Apart from the basic aspects of each bike, you’ll also find a number of secondary features that can add or detract from the overall package.
While these might not be the first things that you look for in a bike, they can certainly make or break your final decision. Pay attention to these factors to make sure that you end up with the right bike for you.
While we briefly touched on the seat design above, seat padding is another feature that’s often overlooked, but can make your workout much more comfortable. You’ll usually find padding on bikes in higher price ranges, but plenty of budget bikes include extra padding as well.
If you are worried about staying comfortable over the course of your workout, you might want to stay away from plain molded seats. These seats, more common on budget bikes, will be less cushy than padded seats. If you’re on the larger side, molded seats may also flex or bend while you exercise.
For bikers who value amenities and want a bike with the most modern features around, a USB port and built-in speakers can be essential. These will allow you to play music during your session on the bike, while they can also be used to charge your phone or other devices if you’re low on battery.
Finally, before you settle on one bike you should also take a look at the handlebars. These aren’t as important on recumbent bikes as they are for spin or upright bikes. Unfortunately, though, many buyers ignore them completely!
Recumbent bikes usually feature handlebars located down by the sides of the seat. Oftentimes they’re parallel with the floor, though some models include armrests and place the handles upright.
Whichever style you choose is a matter of personal preference – but, if you want to make the most out of your workout, you might want to look for models with built-in heart rate monitors. These bars measure your pulse through the grips and relay the information back to the central console so you can get a better idea of your exertion levels in the middle of your biking session.
Recumbent bikes have long been popular with new users, seniors, and people rehabbing from injuries. In fact, seniors should check out our article on the best recumbent bikes designed specifically for older users.
With their reclined, low-impact design, recumbent bikes provide a much more relaxed feel than other stationary bikes, and make exercising more comfortable over longer periods of time. If you are wondering whether or not to pick this style of bike, you are probably more concerned with one central question – can I get a good workout on a recumbent bike?
The answer is a resounding yes! While recumbent bikes might not seem as demanding as spin bikes, which force you to lean over the handlebars, they can give you the exact same cardio benefits as any other type of bike.
In fact, certain recumbent bikes with many resistance levels may even exceed the tension available on other types of bikes.
While the style of bike you pick may not impact the cardio benefits of your workout, it may slightly alter which muscles receive the most stress. That’s because the different ergonomics of recumbent bikes change your pedaling motion and force you to rely on different muscles, when compared to upright or spin bikes.
In this regard, recumbent bikes don’t incorporate quite as many muscles as some other designs. For example, they won’t work your abs or upper body unless you buy a model with dedicated hand pedals (such as the Stamina Elite Total Body Recumbent Bike, featured on our list).
Equally, if you want to build muscle in your lower body, a traditional spin bike is likely to engage your calves a bit more than a recumbent design.
Recumbent bikes are popular exercise tools for athletes and fitness enthusiasts who need to rehab after suffering an injury. Because they provide a great cardio workout with minimal impact on your joints and bones, they are one of the best options around if you need to stay fit during rehab.
Recumbent bikes – and exercise bikes in general – are ‘closed-circuit’ cardio machines. That means that you are always in contact with the machine during your workout, and you don’t suffer the repeated impact that you do with other forms of cardio – like running on a treadmill, for example.
Closed-circuit exercise machines tend to stress your joints and skeletal system much less than their open-circuit counterparts. While they won’t stimulate muscle growth or burn quite as many calories as a good treadmill, exercise bikes still offer the same cardio benefits without most of the risk of joint damage.
If you’re rehabbing from an injury, look for a closed-circuit cardio machine like a recumbent bike. It’s a great way to maintain a good degree of fitness without opening yourself up to further injuries or setbacks.
Determining how long to ride your new exercise bike can be a tricky topic. On one hand, to improve your overall fitness it’s important to ride your bike often – but on the other, pushing yourself too hard can lead to fatigue, burnout and even injury.
This is particularly true if you are new to exercise biking or cardio workouts in general. Solid habits are more important than quick gains – don’t overdo it in your first few workouts only to fall out of your routine!
The exact amount of time that you ride your bike will hinge on how fit you are and your goals. Rather than give one length of time that works for everybody, we will offer a range of times to ride your bike in order to suit different goals.
At the very minimum, riding for 20 minutes a day is a good idea. These rides are short enough to fit around your schedule, even if you’re incredibly busy.
If you have a bit more time, 30 minutes a day will strengthen your heart and increase your overall fitness levels further. Many physicians recommend 30 minutes or more of cardio exercise daily. With its reclined, impact-free design, a recumbent bike is a relaxing and effective way to fit that exercise into your schedule.
More advanced users may find that 45-minute or one-hour rides help them progress steadily. After you build up some strength, these longer workouts will become easier to manage, and they will keep your fitness levels increasing steadily.
If you struggle to carve out enough time for long rides, you can also try increasing the resistance rather than the length. In fact, a 20-minute ride at high intensity will often get your heart pumping more than a long but relaxed 40-minute ride.
For beginners, a daily ride between 30 and 45 minutes should be more than enough to get in shape. As we mention above, it’s more important to create a solid foundation than it is to go as hard as you can out of the gate. Keep your emphasis on consistency and you’ll see better results in the long run!
Because recumbent bikes are generally seen as a more relaxed form of cardio exercise, they are often compared to walking. If you are interested in purchasing a recumbent bike, but wonder whether or not it’s worth spending money when you can walk for free, it may be helpful to compare the similarities and differences directly.
First and foremost, recumbent bikes are a closed-circuit form of cardio exercise while walking is not. Though walking won’t impact your joints as much as running or jumping, recumbent bikes will still be easier on your body overall. Over time, the difference can add up!
Recumbent bikes will still burn more calories than walking for the same amount of time. Of course, your exact calorie burn will depend on the intensity of your exercise bike workout. With a recumbent bike, you’ll also have more flexibility than with walking – if you want a strenuous workout, you can increase the resistance; for a lighter day you can always dial back the tension.
Finally, one major advantage of using an exercise bike is that you can get a workout in from the comfort of your home. While it may seem like a minor point, on extremely busy days or cold nights where you don’t want to take a walk outside, an exercise bike offers a much more convenient alternative.
Having said that, buying a good walking treadmill can be a smart idea if you are still keen to walk, but don’t want to go outside!
We searched the market to compile a list of bikes that would suit both experienced cyclists as well as complete beginners, and all sorts of budgets.
Check out the options we feature, then take a look at the wider market before settling on the best bike for you!
If you’re struggling to narrow down the list, be sure to revisit our buyer’s guide and frequently asked questions section for the information needed to make a more informed decision.