Okay, no more lectures. But if you are looking to buy a recumbent exercise bike, you’ve made the right decision. This type of stationary exercise bike is a recent phenomenon, brought about because manufacturers have redefined their focus away from the bike and towards the consumer; and about time too. Here are some reasons why they are better than traditional uprights and some recommendations of the best bikes in the low-, mid- and high-end category.
Advantages of recumbent exercise bikes
Most people who use a stationary exercise bike are older, or overweight, or have health reasons for wanting to get in better shape; the majority is not young athletes. Cycling in a reclined position in a chair rather than on an upright on a seat is much more comfortable, especially over long periods, and for those with lower back problems it is especially so. Also, someone who is overweight will find being seated in a chair better.
If you’ve used an upright before you may have experienced numb or sore wrists and fingers. This is caused by median nerve compression from the direct result of placing weight on the wrists. This problem is completely eliminated when cycling in a reclined position.
The gluteal muscles (buttocks) are stressed more so than with traditional upright bikes. So you can exercise in more comfort and get a pert butt at the same time.
One last big advantage to be mentioned is that a recumbent bike is more ergonomically correct than a traditional upright. This means that breathing is improved because the abdominal muscles relax so you breathe better, which in turn leads to a better cardiovascular workout.
My choice of the best recumbent exercise bikes
For a low-end, cheap model you should take a look at the Weslo 4.5R. It retails for around $200. It comes with a smallish, but adequate, LCD monitor that provides basic feedback readings such as speed, time elapsed, distance, heart rate etc. The hand grips beside the chair are fitted with heart rate monitors and the user weight capacity is 250 lbs. It’s a nice looking, compact machine. Of course at this price, the resistance has to be manually adjusted. Another minus point is that if you’re either tall (over 6 feet) or heavy (over 250 lbs) you are going to have to look at a more expensive model like the NordicTrack AudioRider 400.
The NordicTrack AudioRider 400 bike is a mid-level model that retails for around $500. You get 10 levels of resistance (you can change them when cycling by pressing a knob), a heart rate monitor and 10 Personal Trainer workout programs that automatically adjust the resistance to keep your heart rate at the optimum rate. The console is feature-rich, large and easy to read – you can even plug in your mp3 player. It has a user weight capacity of 300 lbs.
The main disadvantage with the NordicTrack exercise bike is that is comes without user programmable workouts – but this is really only needed if you’re a serious cyclists. But, if you are a serious cyclist then the Lifecycle R1 recumbent could be for you. It retails for around $1,500 and is one of the best machines on the market. The LifeCycle exercise bike comes with 20 resistance levels, hand grip and wireless heart rate monitors, 10 workout programs, 3 goal workouts, 2 user profiles, 2 custom workouts and a race mode.
There’s no disputing the better comfort and ergonomic benefits of a recumbent exercise bike. If you’re still unsure as to what model is best for you, take my advice and read as many consumer reports and reviews as you can. Set your budget and the feature list you require and don’t budge on them.