Fitness Equipment Reviews

Recumbent vs Upright vs Spin Bikes

When it comes to working out to lose body fat and increase cardiovascular fitness, a quality exercise bike is essential. But finding the right bike is no easy task. The market ranges from cheap and nasty to ultra-high spec. There is also a range of bike types, from recumbent to spin. In this article, we break through the confusion to spell out the differences between recumbent, upright, and spin bikes.

Spin Cycle Overview

  • Mimics outdoor cycling experience
  • Most intense workout
  • Can stand while pedaling
Best For . . .
  • Experienced outdoor cyclists
  • People wanting a realistic outdoor cycling experience
  • Those who want to burn max calories in minimum time
  • People wanting a spin class experience at home
A spin cycle most closely replicates the outdoor riding experience. Spin cycles have the heaviest flywheel of all bike types, situated at the front of the unit. Spin cycles feature a fixed gear, the effect of which keeps the pedals revolving even when you are not actively pushing down. The crankshaft of a spin bike is similar to what you find on an outdoor bike. You can stand up while pedaling just like on an outdoor uphill ride.
Spin cycles use a flywheel to provide resistance. This is the power base of the bike that provides the resistance and determines how fluid and realistic the pedaling experience is. You can find flywheels on upright and recumbent bikes as well but those on spin bikes are much heavier.
Spin cycles are more spartan than upright and recumbent bikes, with few accessories, a smaller seat, and little in the way of monitor technology. Unlike upright cycles, the handlebars on a spin cycle are positioned slightly lower than the seat. This more closely replicates the seat position on a road bike. It also encourages you to rise out of the seat when you are pedaling with intensity.
Spin cycles are ideally suited for experienced outdoor cyclists and those who want to replicate a spin class session at home. They are also a great way to burn off a lot of calories for people who are wanting to lose weight fast.

Upright Bike Overview

  • Most comfortable for longer workouts
  • Advanced consoles with built-in programs
  • User friendly and suitable for all family members
Best For . . .
  • Those who a comfortable yet intense workout
  • New indoor bike users
  • People who want to do long workouts (40 minutes+)
The upright bike is the most popular exercise cycle. It is designed for performance and comfort. As such, it has a larger seat, wider pedals, and handle positioning that allows for a more upright stance than a spin bike. Upright bikes usually feature a console that includes user training diagnostics and inbuilt training programs.
The flywheel on an upright bike is much lighter than on a spin bike. Upright exercise bikes will use either friction, magnetic or electromagnetic resistance. The best most expensive is electro-magnetic resistance, which uses a copper coil wire and electric current which is controlled through the bike’s console.
The next best is magnetic resistance, which is what you will find in most mid-range bikes. It features a series of ferrous magnets placed around the flywheel which are controlled by the computer console. Of the three resistance types, this is the most reliable and the one we recommend.
Friction resistance is the least desirable of the three. It features a felt pad that contacts the flywheel and can be tension adjusted. It often produces a jerky action and will wear easily. The upright exercise bike is the most commonly purchased type of exercycle by the home user. An upright is more user-friendly, more comfortable, and more accessible to novice users. That means that it can be used by the entire family.
Most uprights will come with a handhold heart rate measurement system inbuilt. These are notoriously inaccurate, so the better models include wireless heart rate monitoring which involves your wearing a chest monitor to provide a very accurate heart rate measurement.
Choose an upright bike if you want a comfortable yet intense workout, along with full monitor functionality. Upright bikes are a smart choice for newcomers to the home exercise market because they don’t require any technique points to perform your workout effectively (unlike a spin bike). There is a wide range of models to choose from for all user experience levels.

Recumbent Bike Overview

  • Full back support
  • Most comfortable seating
  • More ergonomically beneficial seating position
  • Easy access
  • More effectively targets glutes and quads
  • Less jarring on the body
Best For . . .
  • People with lower back issues
  • Seniors
  • People wanting to target their glutes and quads
Recumbent bikes are designed to accommodate people with lower back and mobility issues. The seat has a full padded back and the pedals are positioned in front of the legs, with the whole unit sitting lower than an upright or spin bike. The unique pedaling position of a recumbent allows you to work the quads and glutes more directly than the other bike types.
Recumbent bikes are positioned much lower to the ground than spin or upright bikes. This makes them easier to get onto for people with mobility issues. However, recumbent bikes are not just for people with sore backs and the elderly.
When you are pedaling with your feet out in front of you rather than below you, you place less stress on your knee joint. Your pedaling action is more circular than when you are peddling on a spin or upright bike. This is not as jarring on the body, especially in the transition from pushing down on the pedal to recovering on the foot rise. When you are sitting on a recumbent bike, there is also less hip flexion. Because you are sitting in a lean-back position, there is also no risk of rounding the back unnaturally when you lean forward.
A recumbent bike is a smart choice for those who have lower back problems or who are wanting to place specific emphasis on the quads and glutes.

Bottom Line

If you are an experienced rider who wants to get a realistic outdoor experience, choose a spin cycle. An upright bike is the go-to selection for people who are after a more comfortable, accessible workout that suits the whole family. If you have lower back or mobility issues or want to directly target your quads and glutes in your workout, opt for a recumbent exercise bike.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You Might be Interesterd in
image (28)
French Fitness MIC4 Magnetic Indoor Commercial Cycle vs Schwinn AC Performance Plus
Finally decided to step on the bandwagon of fitness? kudos! It may be an uphill journey, but it keeps…
image (27)
The Top 4 Home Gyms with Leg Press Reviewed
The COVID pandemic not only gave rise to work-from-home, but also saw working out at home.
image (29)
French Fitness FSR80 vs Force USA G12: Which Functional Trainer Should You Get?
A functional trainer (a.k.a a cable gym or cable crossover) is one of the best workout equipment you...
image (26)
Scroll to Top