In the past, if cycling was your cardio of choice choosing the bike for this was pretty straightforward. Your only option was an upright bike. But times have changed. There is a whole new world of bicycles just waiting to be discovered. It kind of makes you wonder which one you should go with. Right?
For now, forget about the other types of bicycles and focus on the two most efficient bicycles for cardio. That is the upright and the recumbent bike.
Which one should you go with? Is there a difference in the calories burnt? What do I stand to gain with each type? If these are some of the questions running through your mind, relax. You have come to the right place for answers. We compare both bikes, tell you which is the best is for you and then some.
So, should you keep it old school and stick to the upright bike or is it time to switch to recumbents? Find out today!
Also Read: Best Spin Bikes Review!
IS THERE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE TWO?
Absolutely Yes! There is a huge difference between an upright and a recumbent bike hence their ability to offer different workout experiences. This is mostly brought about by the difference in designs. Here are some differences:
- The seat on a recumbent bike is large, comfortable and comes with a backrest reclining your body in a natural position hence reducing body fatigue. On the other hand, an upright bike comes with a small seat that may be a little challenging to stay on.
- The recumbent bike is lower than the upright bike since the seat is incorporated into the body or frame of the bike. With an upright bike, the seat is raised above the frame.
- The pedals of a recumbent bike are placed in front of the user while those of an upright bike are at the side.
WHY STICK WITH THE ‘OLD SCHOOL’ UPRIGHT BIKE?
As mentioned earlier, these bikes have been around for a while. Perhaps you have even used one at some point. What exactly do they bring to the table?
The first and arguably the most important advantage of using an upright bike is the ability to engage more muscles while working out. A cycling session on this kind of bike allows you to hit your lower back muscles, abdomen, shoulders and neck. Not forgetting your entire leg muscles from the glutes (butt) to the thighs and right down to your calves. The upper body muscles are engaged as a result of the posture offered by this bike while the lower body muscles are due to the cycling action.
You will also notice that with the upright bike, you have many cycling positions to go with. You can opt to sit upright, arch your back a little or even stand while cycling (this requires some getting used to and great balance). Of course, all these options come with the benefit of targeting different muscles.
If you are keen enough, you may have noticed that upright bikes come at a pocket-friendly price when compared to recumbent bikes. This does not mean that they have fewer features. Far from it. You will be able to find all kinds of features on an upright bike such as heart rate monitoring, training modes, different intensity levels and so on. Despite all these amazing features, most upright bikes are way cheaper when compared to recumbent bikes. This helps especially if you are looking for a home exercise bike and you do not have any mobility issues.
The upright bike will also save you on space whether you are opening a gym or planning to set up a home gym. Again, this mostly affects people who are simply looking for a good cardio workout without any special needs. An upright bike will do that without taking up too much space.
THE FLIP-SIDE OF AN UPRIGHT BIKE.
Unfortunately, it’s not always smooth ride (forgive the pun) when it comes to using an upright bike. It also comes with some disadvantages.
An upright bike comes with a high center of gravity making it quite easy to fall off be it a stationary or a mobile bike. This makes it less ideal for people with mobility or balance issues.
Speaking of, the upright bike is also not the best choice for anyone with back pain, balance or mobility issues. This is because of its design consisting of a small seat with no backrest.
WHY GO RECUMBENT?
You have noticed these bikes at your gym or on the internet and are wondering, what is the big fuss about recumbent bikes? They also come with some great benefits.
The most obvious advantage of owning a recumbent bike and perhaps the reason behind their existence is their ability to offer great body support. This is enabled by the large seat with a backrest common feature in recumbent bikes. For this reason, recumbent bikes are ideal for anyone with mobility or balance issues.
Contrary to popular belief, recumbent bikes are not just for people with mobility issues. They are also a great tool for a relaxed workout session. Thanks to their ergonomic design, you can literally sit back, relax and cycle while doing your favorite things such as watching TV or reading a book.
They are also pretty hard to fall off from making them less injurious. To add to this, they are easy on your joints since your legs are in front of you and your back is well rested on the seat. This makes them ideal for use by the elderly looking to keep fit. Also, if you an athlete looking for a safe but effective cardio workout (for cross training), a recumbent bike should come to mind.
THE OTHER SIDE OF RECUMBENT BIKES.
The problem with recumbent bikes other than coming with a big price tag is that they usually take up so much space thanks to the seat and general frame design.
But if money and space are not an issue, consider this. Recumbent bikes promote a relaxed and restricted sitting posture which does not encourage engagement of most body muscles such as your core and arms.
So, if you are looking to work out other body parts and not only your legs, a recumbent bike may not be the best choice for you.
WHICH BIKE BURNS MORE CALORIES?
It is easy to assume that an upright bike will melt all your body fat in a few sessions due to the “not so relaxed” nature or intensity level of this bike. What you don’t know is that intensity is determined by your ability to push yourself further in your workout rather than the design of your bike.
For instance, some people might argue that since an upright bike engages most muscles and requires balancing, your workouts will be intense hence burn more calories. But then again, the design of a recumbent bike results in a more intense cycling session due to the pedals being placed in front of your body. Also, consider the fact that you will be more inclined to extend your workout sessions while on a recumbent bike due to your relaxed state hence arguably burning more calories.
What I’m getting at is, in theory, where all the factors are constant, the upright bike should burn more calories as it engages more muscles and is more strenuous. But in the real sense, there are a lot of factors affecting the intensity and length of your workout which leaves the number of calories you burn in your control. This is enabled by tweaking the speed, difficulty level and duration of your workouts in both bikes which is made easier thanks to consoles they come with.
SO, WHICH BIKE IS BETTER?
The better question to ask is, which bike will better serve my needs? There is no definite answer to which bike between the two is the best. It all depends on your workout needs among other factors.
To be clearer, a recumbent bike is the best choice for people with balance, mobility and back ache issues. The elderly can also benefit from a recumbent bike as it will be easy on your joints while you work out. If you are a busy person and cannot find time to workout, why not mix work and fun by cycling as you watch a movie? Just be ready to part with a little more extra money for this.
The balancing required while using an upright bike and its ability to engage many muscles improves your coordination and works out your entire body respectively. This makes the quality of your workouts using an upright bike unquestionable. So, if you have no issues regarding mobility or back problem an upright bike will be more beneficial to you.
Simply put, the decision is entirely yours. Consider your needs and workout style.
Cycling is a great form of cardio that is bound to set you on a path to a healthier body. I wish there was a way to determine the clear winner in the battle between recumbent and upright bikes. But at the end of the day, the bike you chose should match and address your needs.
If you have mobility issues or age is catching up, don’t give up on exercises, go for a recumbent bike. Otherwise, an upright bike will do just fine. When all is said and done, remember that no matter what bike you own, the outcome of your workout depends on your hard work. So set workout goals and aim at achieving them.
If you have any questions or comments regarding recumbent or upright bikes, don’t be shy, leave me a comment and I will get back to you.