December 9, 2022

Looking for a low-impact cardio workout? Get a recumbent bike.

A recumbent exercise bike is a good piece of workout equipment for those with back pain or bad joints. The bikes are easier on your joints and lower back than an upright bike, and the large, reclined seats let you steer clear of the saddle soreness you’d usually experience from a stationary bike.

Best bang for your buck

Schwinn 270

With training programs and virtual trails, the Schwinn offers a lot while still remaining relatively affordable compared to the competition.

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Exercise bikes provide a great home cardio workout that puts less strain on your joints than running on a treadmill. Out of the different types of exercise bikes, recumbent bikes are best for beginners, seniors, or people who don’t want to put as much pressure or weight on their joints.

What is a recumbent bike?

A recumbent bike is an exercise bike that positions you in a reclined form while pedaling. Think of it sort of like a rowing machine, but your feet pedal instead of your arms pulling back a cord. And unlike a typical stationary bike, the pedals are in front of your body rather than underneath it. Because you are leaning back, a recumbent bike can feel a bit awkward before you master it. 

The difference between a recumbent bike and upright bike

An upright bike is what you’d typically think of when you picture a stationary bike. You ride it like a normal bicycle, with your body straight up and down. Think of a Peloton.

A recumbent bike has a larger seat more like a chair, so you avoid that uncomfortable soreness you’d typically get from a bike seat. The reclined position of the seat is easier on the lower back — plus most recumbent bikes have seat backs for more support than you’d find in an upright bike. You won’t be hunched over handlebars like you would be on an upright exercise bike.

Which recumbent bike is best?

When determining the best recumbent bike for you, you really need to think about the design of the bike and how it’s going to work with your body. If you have a bad back, you’ll want a bike with a more supportive seat. While on the topic of seats: Short people, make sure the seat will slide to a position where your feet can reach the pedals comfortably. An exercise bike is worthless if you can’t use it properly and safely.

The levels of resistance a bike has will determine how tough your workout is. If you’re new to the world of stationary biking, you can probably stick with lower resistance, but if you’re a regular cycler, you’re going to want those extra levels of restraint to get the most out of your workout.

We’ve picked out some of the best recumbent bikes to add to your home gym. Let’s ride.

Bluetooth enabled • Includes a year of NordicTrack iFit membership • Touchscreen with on-demand classes • Virtual bike paths
Resistance levels might be too hard for some users
The NordicTrack VR25 has tons of great features for the ultimate cycling experience.

NordicTrack Commercial VR25

With plenty of bells and whistles, this recumbent bike is great for cycling veterans.

  • Levels of resistance:
  • Display:
    7-inch HD touchscreen
We’re kicking off with the fanciest recumbent bike, the NordicTrack Commercial VR25. This baby is like having a personal trainer in your home. Its 7-inch HD touchscreen is interactive and features on-demand workout videos, virtual backgrounds that make you feel like you’re cycling through the mountains of New Zealand or through a national park in Utah, and a comprehensive look at your stats like heart rate and elevation.
The bike’s seat is ergonomic, has lumbar support, and glides easily so you can adjust to a comfortable position. It features hand grips on either side of the seat and even has a cupholder so you can stay hydrated as you spin.
While this bike is suitable for all users regardless of skill level, it’s really great for experienced riders because it has 26 levels of resistance and a 25-pound flywheel for a hearty workout.

Virtual races and trails • Bluetooth connected • Comfortable seat
Some users reported inaccuracies with heart rate monitoring
This affordable option offers some seriously great features.

Schwinn 270

With training programs and virtual trails, the Schwinn offers a lot while still remaining relatively affordable compared to the competition.

  • Levels of resistance:
  • Display:
    Backlit LCD screen with panel
You know and love Schwinn for their street bikes, so it’s no surprise that people rave about the brand’s recumbent bike. The Schwinn 270 combines comfort with cardio. Sit back in the ventilated seat with lumbar support and a padded, contoured base while your hands naturally fall to the ergonomic handlebars.
Through the backlit LCD screen you can track your goals, participate in programs, and try out virtual races and trails. The machine is Bluetooth connected to transfer your stats and goals to the Schwinn app so you can track your progress on your phone.
With 25 resistance levels, immersive training, and a comfort-forward design, the Schwinn 270 is a top tier recumbent bike and an excellent deal.

Large handlebars • Comes with water bottle • Super affordable • Includes three free on-demand workouts
Display is pretty basic and small
This recumbent bike is pretty middle of the road and gives you enough features while staying very affordable.
If you’re cool with just riding a bike at your own pace with no trainer guidance, the Stamina Recumbent Exercise Bike 1346 will work perfectly fine. The display is nothing fancy — it looks like an LED clock that features easy-to-read numbers for your time, speed, distance, calories, pulse, and more.
There are a couple programs to follow, but the user interface is pretty basic. You won’t be watching a trainer on the screen, nor will you be watching the winding hills of a mountain-side trail as you pretend you’re there instead of just at your house. You can pop some nature pics on your TV if you crave that sense of outdoor biking.
This bike features eight levels of resistance and comes with three free on-demand workouts that you can follow along with on your phone, tablet, computer, or TV. The bike has a device holder for you to rest your phone or tablet.

Good number of resistance levels • Built-in speakers • One-month iFit membership included
Doesn’t have a video display • Activating the bike without paying for iFit is unclear
This bike has impressive features, but you’ll have to pay extra to get access to everything it has to offer.

NordicTrack Commercial VR21

A great, affordable counterpart to the NordicTrack VR25.

  • Levels of resistance:
  • Display:
    5-inch backlit display
Like the NordicTrack Commercial VR25, the Commercial VR21 is pretty decked out with features. It has a smaller LED display that doesn’t support video, lighter flywheel, and one less resistance level, but otherwise it’s very similar.
This is a more affordable option if you don’t mind those slight downgrades. This is still a superb recumbent bike that gives you plenty of resistance — you’ll just have to use your phone or tablet to follow along with instructors. Monitor your heart rate, play music, and feel a nice breeze from this exercise bike’s integrated workout fan. 
(P.S. If you don’t want to pay for an iFit membership and just want to ride the exercise bike on your own, press and hold the iFit logo on the display to activate the bike.)

Easy to store • Can use with almost any seat • Affordable
Could use more resistance • Obviously not as effective as a full-sized bike
Cycle on the couch or at your desk with this portable exercise bike.
OK, this one is loosely a recumbent bike. The Stamina InStride folding cycle is great for a quick workout wherever you can find a seat. Yes, that means you can work out from your couch. This is great for someone on a budget or someone with limited space as it allows you to get a bike workout even if you live in a tiny apartment.
This bad boy comes assembled, so you just have to unfold it and find a seat to get going. You can control how far you recline based on the seat you choose. It’s small, but this exercise bike does feature a digital monitor that tracks your workout. There’s a tension knob that you can tighten and loosen to control the level of resistance, though some reviewers said they wished they could tighten it more than it allows.
For what you’re paying, this is not a bad investment. You can cycle while you work or watch TV, and you can easily store the equipment while it’s not in use.