If you have been to a gym you will be familiar with the three types of exercise bike we are discussing, upright, recumbent and studio. This review will start off by giving a brief description of each, go on to discuss the pros and cons, and finish by explaining which is better for certain people or goals.
Upright Exercise Bike
This is the most commonly used type of exercise bike in both the gym and the home. They have been a popular form of exercise for a long time. Along with Treadmills they are the most used cardio exercise machine. They range from basic models that can be easily folded away for storage, to advanced models with high tech computer consoles, built in workout programs and smart device compatibility. This range of models means this is also a wide range of price points. There is an upright exercise bike for every budget.
Upright exercise bikes are suitable for a wide range of exercise routines. From intense interval training sessions to slow and steady extended time period cycles. Being able to complete this wide range of workouts is another reason that makes them so popular. Higher end models have pre-programmed workouts. For instance at the start of your workout you can choose from a routine aimed at fat-burning, heart rate, hill climbing, intervals, or endurance, as well as many others. This is particularly helpful if you are new to exercise bike workouts, helping your planning and understanding. Recumbent bikes will also have built in routines, whereas studio bikes will not.
These bikes are versatile and comfortable to use. The upright position is similar to cycling on a road bike. The seats are often more comfortable on an upright exercise bike, wider with more padding. Pedals are wide and usually have a strap that fits over the top of your feet, keeping them in place. It is possible to cycle in a standing position, lifting yourself off the seat as on a road bike. Studio bikes have a similar upright position, but recumbent bikes place you in a reclined position.
These are practical to use in the home, taking up little room and fold away options available. There are three types of resistance available, mechanical braking, magnetic braking and air resistance. Noise levels can be kept low by choosing a braking resistance type. Weight levels vary, depending on build quality and size, but most have wheels that enable them to be transported easily of you wish to store away in between use. This sets them apart from recumbent bikes, which are larger and less easy to move.
Recumbent Exercise Bike
Recumbent exercise bikes are often seen in the gym as well, although there are unlikely to be as many compared to upright or studio bikes. They are a more recent addition to the exercise bike family. There is also a range of recumbent bikes, with different sizes and levels of additional equipment. However the entry level machines are larger and more expensive than entry level upright or studio bikes. The major point of difference is the seat style and position. A chair like seat positioned back from the pedals, cycling in a more horizontal than upright position.
You can vary the type of workout you do on a recumbent bike. It is still possible to do interval training or hill climbs. Although this type of bike is best suited to those that wish to cycle at a more sedate pace. In fact these bikes were designed with this in mind, and are suitable for those of more advanced years or with lower body issues or injuries.
Weight baring is taken by the back as well as the lower body by sitting in a reclined position. There are handles by your side, but it is very easy to cycle without handles. Meaning you can read a book, change TV channels or play a game such as Suduko while cycling.
Many people believe that although a recumbent bike is more comfortable, it provides less of a workout than an upright or studio exercise bike. This is not always the case, it depends on how you plan to be training. It is fair to say that a workout on a recumbent is less rigorous than the alternatives. However if you are only planning on carrying out slower paced cycling for extended periods, then a recumbent bike can be just as good.
Recumbent exercise bikes are larger and heavier than upright or studio bikes. They will take up more space in the home and be harder to move around than the other types of exercise bike. This is a trade off, comfort vs practicality. The price range also starts at a higher price range than the other types as well. This means that recumbent bikes are more suitable for the smaller range of people to which comfort and support are the key factors when selecting an exercise bike.
Studio Exercise Bike
Studio exercise bikes have become very popular in recent years. They are often seen in their own studio away from the other gym equipment for specific exercise classes. They are generally more stripped back than the other forms of exercise bike. More similar to road bikes in both cycling position and appearance. There is a large price range, with entry level bikes being quite affordable. The most robust and technically advanced models can become expensive. However, as with anything, higher quality comes with a price, and the most expensive will last for many years of use.
At the gym these are most often used for group classes at high intensity levels. Working out on a studio bike is as close as you can get to cycling a road bike. If you are looking for a regular high intensity workout and are less focused on extended workout periods this is the best pick. Studio bikes do not come with built in pre-programmed works like the other two types of exercise bike. Nor do they have computer consoles that rack your performance. Therefore they are more suited to someone who is either experienced or planning to research their exercise routines.
In general these are the lightest of the three types of exercise bikes as they are more stripped back. However as you go up the price range the materials used and build quality increases and they become heavier. There are no fold away models that I am aware of, however the footprint is on the smaller side and home storage is practical. The lack of an electric console and monitor found on upright and recumbent bikes means there is less that can go wrong. Therefore these are very hard wearing machines.
Pros and Cons of each type of exercise bike
|Upright Exercise Bikes||Recumbant Exercise Bikes||Studio Exercise Bikes|
|Wide range of workouts||Comfortable seating position||Similar to road bike|
|Option for performance measurement||Low stress on joints and back||Lightest|
|Option for built in workouts||Hands free for reading etc||Takes up least space|
|Lower comfort levels||Takes up most space||Lowest comfort levels|
|Optional extras increase cost||Entry price point highest||Does not measure performance|
|Less adjustable positioning than studio bike||Less suitable for vigorous training||No built in workouts|
Note. The above table has to generalise, and though there may be the occasional exception to the the rule, it is a good approximation.
Who is each type of bike suitable for?
It is not possible to capture every individual in an assessment like this. However I hope you find a description approximating yourself and your goals.
|Upright Exercise Bikes||Recumbant Exercise Bikes||Studio Exercise Bikes|
|Beginners in reasonable health||Focused on comfort||Road cyclists in winter|
|Targeting weight loss||Seniors||Athletes looking for interval training|
|Valuing workout feedback||Injured or with joint problems||Advanced fitness levels|
|Wanting variety and built in workouts|
Wrapping this all up
I hope this was in some way useful. You can see there are differences and similarities between all three of these types of exercise bike. Choosing the right one for you is really dependant on your level of fitness and your goals. Upright and studio bikes start at lower price points and are more versatile and practical. However if comfort is your major point of consideration then recumbent bikes could be for you.
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