For most people using a recumbent exercise bike is more comfortable and is more ergonomic than using an upright. They’re becoming more and more popular and manufacturers are making more and more models. This is a good thing, as there’s more choice, but it can be very confusing, especially if you’re a first time buyer. Here are some tips to help you find the one that’s right for you.
Most people who use a stationary bike are getting on a bit, or are overweight, or have some physical restrictions and for these, and other users, cycling in an inclined position while seated in a chair is a more comfortable way of cycling. Uprights can exacerbate discomfort for those with lower back problems, whereas discomfort can be greatly reduced when using a recumbent because the chair provides support to your back.
Putting comfort aside, cycling in a reclined position is also more ergonomic as your abdominal muscles relax which in turn leads to easier, deeper breathing and better aerobic exercise. Being comfortable tends to lead to longer workout sessions.
When looking for a model that best suits your requirements, you must first decide on your budget. The cost of a recumbent exercise bike falls in to three categories; entry-level, mid-level and professional standard, with prices from under $350 to many thousands of dollars.
If you’re a first time user or think you’ll only use the bike occasionally, or just aren’t sure if you and bike will get on, it makes sense to buy an entry-level.
Here are some guidelines about what you can expect to get
Anything costing less than $350 will be a basic machine of low to medium build quality. The console will be simple – or you might not even get one – and you may not get a heart rate monitor, built-in programs will be limited in number and sophistication and you’ll get short warranties. The number one reason most people stop using a bike is because they get bored. Unfortunately having a poor display and feedback on these cheaper models isn’t going to give you much motivational feedback.
Spending more should mean you get a machine with a better console and feedback so you should stay more motivated. Some are now iFIT compatible which means you get virtual coaching and a host of other features to help keep you on track with your workout. The software can be downloaded off the internet or you can simply buy the DVDs and CDs from a sports equipment store. Also, you’ll get more preset workout programs that will give you a better workout and are fun and challenging. These mid-range machines will almost certainly have magnetic resistance making the machine very quiet when in use.
The best machines come with everything you could possible want. The preset workout programs will be pretty comprehensive and you’ll be able to configure and save your own tailored workouts. Some models come with iFIT, MP3 – and even TV – and consoles that that give you every kind of feed back that you could imagine. The warranties offered will be very generous; a Lifecycle exercise bike comes with a warranty of 3 years on parts, 1 year on labor and an incredible lifetime warranty on the frame.
Pay attention to the type of resistance
This is what makes you work. The higher the resistance the harder you have to pedal. Resistance is provided by one of three means; direct tension, air and magnetic.
Direct tension is now more or less obsolete and is really only available on very cheap bikes. The resistance is delivered through the use of a belt and requires manual adjustment.
Air resistance isn’t much used but what it means is that the resistance is achieved by sucking in air as you pedal. There are some cons to this but its main advantage is that it doesn’t require the bike to be plugged in; you can use it anywhere.
Magnetic resistance is usually the preferred choice and is what most recumbent exercise bikes use. A magnetic current is generated to create the resistance. Magnetic resistance means quiet operation and the resistance itself can be fine-tuned usually by pushing a knob or by pressing a switch on the console.
There’s no such thing as the best recumbent exercise bike; the best bike is the one that has the features you want at a price you like.