The Difference Between Cycle Bikes, Recumbent Bikes & Upright Bikes

Cycling is a great option for low-impact cardiovascular activity.

4 min read


collage of woman using upright exercise bike, woman using indoor cycling bike, woman using recumbent bike

Cycling is a great option for low-impact cardiovascular activity. But when you’re searching the gym floor for your ideal bike, which is your favorite - a cycle bike, recumbent bike, or upright bike? There’s no wrong answer, as you can achieve an incredible workout on all of these bikes, however, your position while seated on each bike will differ and will make each bike preferable for different users’ fitness goals, comfort, and preferences. Keep reading to learn more about what makes each of these bikes great, and which one is the best choice for you!


Recumbent Bike

Recumbent bikes are bikes designed to sit lower to the ground with an easy step-through design. In general, they have a wider, supportive seat with a backrest for spinal support, as well as grips at your sides to help maintain balance.

  • Recumbent bikes are easier on the lower back. They offer a supportive seat back that encourages better spinal posture and support for those who experience lower back pain.
  • Recumbent bikes provide a wider, cushioned comfort seat which provides support for users who prefer a more comfortable experience or may be concerned with balancing on other stationary bikes.
  • Recumbent bikes offer a step-through design, so users with a limited range of motion have no need to lift their legs to mount the bike.
  • Recumbent bikes can be easier on the hips due to the reclined position of the seat.
  • Due to the low impact nature of a recumbent bike, they’re great for those looking for a great cardiovascular workout that’s easy on the joints.

Bottomline: Recumbent bikes are great for those who have a limited range of motion, looking for a supportive, comfortable, and low-impact workout machine.


Upright Bike

Upright bikes are similar in design to cycle bikes but are typically designed just for seated cycling. The seat sits a little wider and more comfortable than a normal cycle bike with handlebars closer to your body keeping your upper body in a more upright, stacked position.


Upright Bike Benefits

  • Upright bikes take up the lowest footprint and will take up less space in your home gym.
  • They’re a great next step from a recumbent bike, as they mimic the upper body positioning of a cycle bike to increase muscle engagement in your core and upper body.
  • Upright bikes typically have a smaller seat than a recumbent bike, but often offer a wider and more cushioned seat than a classic cycle bike.
  • The handlebars are closer and higher to the user than on a traditional cycle bike, which encourages an upright posture, with no need to feel as if you’re leaning forward to reach the handlebars.
  • Some upright bikes, such as our upright fan bikes will require more engagement from your core and upper body as you engage with the handlebars and are ideal for high intensity or metabolic conditioning style workouts.

Bottomline: Upright bikes are great for those looking for a similar feel to a cycle bike with a smaller footprint and more comfortable seat. Fan bikes are great for those interested in higher intensity or metabolic conditioning style workouts.


Cycle Bike

Stationary Bike include a slim performance seat, or slightly wider comfort seat, and multi-grip handlebars to accommodate a variety of riding positions. From neutral grip to an aerodynamic position; in the saddle or up for a climb – a cycle bike is what you need to take your spin workouts to the next level. If you’re a road cyclist, a cycle bike is a great option for indoor cycling when weather or conditions keep you off the road.


Cycle Bike Benefits

  • A cycle bike is what you’ll find at your local cycling studio and the closest in similarity to outdoor cycling.
  • Using a cycle bike will provide a full-body workout experience. Not only will you need to engage your core, as well as your biceps, triceps, and shoulders to hold you upright on your bike, but you’ll also be able to complete standing climbs and jumps. If your bike comes equipped with dumbbell holders, there are also many rides which incorporate upper body strength exercises.

Bottomline: Cycle bikes are what you’ll find at your local cycling studio or gym and are great for a full-body workout incorporating not only your lower body, but also your core and upper body through the wide versatility of exercises and positions you can do on this style of bike.


Which Bike is Best for Burning Calories?

If you’re looking to get some calorie-burning cardio in, you might wonder which one of these bikes will burn the most calories. The good news is, you can achieve an amazing, calorie-burning cardio workout on each of these bikes, so be sure to choose the bike design you think will be best for your fitness level and physical abilities.

Typically, I would say a cycle bike is going to have the highest calorie-burning potential, simply because you are engaging more muscles during use, and more muscles used means more calories burned during exercise. However, we have a wide variety of upright bikes and recumbent bikes, and many come with full motion handlebars or arm exercisers that will increase your calorie burn more than a standard workout on one of these bikes.

Most importantly, remember whether your goal is to burn calories, increase cardiovascular fitness, or improve overall health, consistency with your exercise routine is essential for reaching your fitness goals. Having a bike at home isn’t helpful if you never ride it! Set yourself up for success by not only investing in a home gym but finding fun ways to stay fit with your machine. Check out the Sunny Health & Fitness YouTube channel for fun workouts you can do with your new Sunny bike!



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1 comment

Paul Stokes

Im 6ft 8in I would like to order a cycle bike with an adjustable seat for my height. Incumbent don’t adjust backwards far enough for the limted motion in my left leg.