Recumbent bike seat position. What Is a Recumbent Bike?


This past weekend the Psyclists got together after a month hiatus to brave the 90 degree weather for a 14-mile excursion from Princeton to Lawrenceville.

We first rode through the comfortably shaded Institute Woods, and then picked up the DR Canal Towpath southbound until we reached the Lawrence Hopewell Trail (LHT) connector. Here we were met with our first construction detour where we had to ride 0.5 miles along Meadow Road to Princeton Pike instead of following the LHT through the office park to reach Princeton Pike. Not a big deal, but just be aware of that small detour and follow the signs.

About a mile later we encountered our next obstacle: The LHT through the Lawrenceville School campus was closed due to construction. Getting around this one is a bit trickier, but all you need to do is make a left to go behind the field house and then travel on the grass along the south side of the pond. Eventually you’ll end up on Woods Drive which will let you traverse the campus. The upshot is you get to ride through the most scenic areas of the campus before reaching Lawrenceville Village.

In the village there are a few snack/drink options including Starbucks, the Gingered Peach, and the Purple Cow Ice Cream. We decided to turn around there, but one could continue to follow the LHT northward into Village Park and beyond.

recumbent, bike, seat, position

The trails were in excellent condition, but we did struggle at times on the DR Towpath where the gravel and sand would get a bit too deep for comfort. There isn’t much you can do in those situations beyond slowing down and trying to keep the bike steady to push through the gravel without wiping out. This is also where having wide tires, especially on a recumbent, is beneficial.

Next week we plan to explore some more of the LHT between Pennington and Lawrenceville.

Here’s our Garmin route for anyone interested in this ride.

The Psyclists’ first spring ride

The Princeton Psychology/Neuroscience cycling group dusted off their bikes and reconvened after a long winter.

Today’s route took us along the scenic DR Canal towpath from Princeton to Rocky Hill. From there we crossed to the other side of the canal and looped back with a stop at PJ’s Pancake House in Kingston for some coffee and snacks.

Interesting sightings included a few dozen sunbathing turtle, some hissing geese, and a great blue heron flyby.

In total, we rode 13 miles– most of which were flat except for the steep hill along Rt 27 into Kingston.

Here’s our Garmin route for anyone interested in the ride.

Cycling with your child

With a kindergartner on the verge of riding a bike on his own (I think it’ll happen this summer, but let’s not jinx it), I thought it may be fun to review the various contraptions (there’ve been many!) I’ve used to bring him along on rides ever since he could hold his little head up. Some of these child carriers won’t safely work with a recumbent bike or trike, but I did manage to adapt a couple of them as you’ll see.

When my son was one year old, it made the most sense to have him in front of me within eyesight and also within reach in case of a fall. At that time I was riding a Surly Straggler that was set up as an upright and comfortable commuter.

I chose the Kangaroo by Kazam because unlike other front child seats that mount directly to the steerer, the Kangaroo mounts to a bar behind the head tube. This bar runs along the length of the bike and is secured to the seat tube at the rear and the head tube at the front. I like this design because it prevents the child from being a counterweight which would make steering more difficult.

Exercise Bike Seats

If you have ever ridden an outdoor bicycle, you would probably agree with my assessment that it’s not the most comfortable way of working out. Not just because of all the bumps in the road, but because of the miniature seats as well, which begin to feel really uncomfortable after a while. Also, you spend most of your time leaning forward towards the handlebars, which doesn’t exactly do wonders for your back.

Having said that, I have to point out that most people who switch to home exercise bikes (or use them in parallel with outdoor bikes) often overlook the importance of having the right seat. It should be precisely adjusted so that you don’t experience any discomfort, pain, or even chafing during prolonged workout sessions. Very few things beat a good cardio workout, but it’s not worth straining or even injuring yourself because of it.

Luckily, not only do you get to choose between several different types, such as upright, recumbent and indoor cycling bikes, but you also get the possibility of adjusting your bike of choice to fit your size. As I said, a good seating position is crucial, and I will guide you through the all the types of seating arrangements that can be found on exercise bikes. Let’s begin, shall we?

Recumbent Bike Seats

I want to start off with recumbent exercise bicycles, because they are the most visually striking of the bunch. When compared to traditional upright or indoor cycling bikes, they offer more back support for the user, whose body is in a reclined, more relaxed position. Since they provide additional support with their ergonomically designed bucket seats, they are especially useful for people with back problems, a fact that I was able to confirm myself after I experienced the same problems.

But, having a large, chair-like seat is not enough if it’s not positioned correctly. As a general rule of thumb, the seat should be set up so that your legs are at the same level or higher than your hips. Also, your legs should never extend fully while you are pedalling. Your knees should always be slightly bent during the workout, roughly around 10 to 15 degrees, which I found to be the sweet spot. If you follow that rule, you won’t risk straining or overextending your joints, and you won’t feel like you’re behind the wheel of a go-cart either.

I neglected to mention the most obvious benefit of the seating position on a recumbent bike. That would be the fact that you no longer have to bend forward to reach the handlebars, since your hands will be free.

Upright Bike Seats

While less comfortable than those found on recumbent bicycles, the seats on upright exercise bikes are miles ahead of their outdoor bike counterparts, and feature generous foam padding and ergonomic design. However, you should pay attention to the dimensions of the seat, because it will constantly rub against your thighs if it’s too wide. Also, as is the case with recumbent bikes, you have to adjust your seat in order to feel the benefits.

First of all, you should consider the seat height, which should be at the same height as your hips. I usually find the right height by getting on the bike and pedaling. When fully extended, your knee should be slightly bent. We’re talking about a small angle, no more than ten degrees, otherwise it’s going to feel as cramped as the interior of a clown car.

After you’ve found the right height for yourself, it’s time to adjust the seat by sliding it either forward or backward until you find a comfortable position which won’t make you feel uncomfortable. Again, as a rule of thumb, your knees should be vertically aligned with your feet, otherwise you’re are going to strain your joint really fast.

Indoor Cycling Bike Seats

Indoor cycling bikes, or spinning bikes as they are also called, have seats that are quite similar to those on real bicycles, both in terms of shape, size and positioning.

The set-up which works best for me is to have my knee bent at an angle of about 30 degrees, while the pedal is perpendicular to the floor. Once the pedal becomes parallel with the surface, your knee cap should be aligned with the center of the pedal. Keep on sliding the seat forward or backward until you find the right position. It’s simple as that. As is the case with upright bicycles, the seats on spinning bikes can also be tilted to the front of back.

Recumbent Bike Benefits

There are quite a few benefits of recumbent bike exercise, including the following:

#1: Recumbent Exercise Bikes Can Improve Cardiovascular Health and Fitness

As a form of aerobic exercise, recumbent bike workouts can strengthen your heart and lungs and improve your cardiovascular fitness and health, reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease and all-cause mortality.

As long as you are elevating your heart rate to at least 50% of your maximum heart rate during your recumbent exercise bike workouts, any time spent doing recumbent bike exercise will count towards the recommended amount of exercise you should be getting each week to reduce your risk of lifestyle diseases and improve overall health.

Studies have indeed demonstrated that recumbent bike workouts can improve cardiovascular fitness, especially when performing sprints or intervals with a fast cadence (between 80 and 100 revolutions per minute).

#2: Recumbent Exercise Bike Workouts Can Strengthen Your Legs

As with other forms of cycling, recumbent bike workouts can strengthen the muscles in your legs, namely your hamstrings, quadriceps, calves, hip flexors, shins, and glutes.

With that said, the reclined seat position in a recumbent bike virtually eliminates any core muscle activation because you don’t have to balance your body, and because you are holding on to the handlebars, there is no upper-body muscular work.

#3: Recumbent Exercise Bikes Are Beginner Friendly

The primary recumbent bike benefits in comparison to an upright exercise bike, indoor cycling bike, or fan-resistance exercise bike are that a recumbent exercise bike is much more stable and requires very little balance.

Being able to sit in a seat with back support can be more comfortable and stable for seniors or beginners who are in poor physical condition. You do not have to get yourself up onto a small bike seat with a step-over design; rather, recumbent bikes have an accessible seat and an easier step-thru entry.

#4: Recumbent Exercise Bikes Are Comfortable

Although comfort is subjective, most users find that recumbent bikes are inherently a bit more comfortable because the well-padded seat is more of a supportive chair with full gluteal and back support.

The seats on indoor cycling bikes and upright exercise bikes are notoriously uncomfortable and can cause perineum pain and irritate your butt.

Sitting in the recumbent bike seat can feel more natural and relaxing, potentially allowing riders to perform longer workouts without needing to get off simply due to physical discomfort from the seat.

#5: Recumbent Bikes Are Good for Multitasking

Although it is possible to do a vigorous workout on a recumbent exercise bike, recumbent bike exercise lends itself well to low- to moderate-intensity workouts.

The reclined position of the seat can make the exercise more comfortable and can be a great way to read, watch TV, or socialize with other people while you work out.

#6: Recumbent Bike Exercise Is Joint Friendly

As with other types of exercise bikes, recumbent bike workouts are low impact, so they are easy on the joints.

Because your feet are always in contact with the pedals, and your body weight is completely supported by the bike seat, recumbent bike exercise is non-weight bearing and puts little stress and strain on your bones and joints. This can make it a great type of exercise for people with arthritis, bone or joint pain and injuries, or osteoporosis.

Some people find that the horizontal pedal stroke used during recumbent bike exercise is even more comfortable on their knees compared with regular upright exercise bikes.

The range of motion and movement angles are slightly different between the two types of bikes, and recumbent exercise bike riding tends to reduce the required angle of knee flexion as well as the magnitude of the peak forces through the knees.

#8: Recumbent Bike Exercise Can Increase Range of Motion

Range of motion refers to how much permissible movement your joints have, and oftentimes, as we age, range of motion and mobility are impaired, causing us to feel stiff.

Studies suggest that recumbent bike exercise can be an effective way to increase range of motion, mobility, and flexibility by increasing circulation, mobilizing tissues, and stretching the muscles surrounding the hips, knees, and ankles.

Recumbent Bike Workouts To Try

There are no “right” or “wrong” ways to exercise on a recumbent bike, but here are a few sample recumbent bike workouts:

#1: Recumbent Bike Steady-State Cardio Workout

Warm up with 2 to 3 minutes of easy cycling and then increase your cadence and resistance until you are working at 70 to 80% of your maximum heart rate for 20 to 60 minutes, depending on your fitness level and goals.

#2: 20-Minute Recumbent Bike HIIT Workout for Beginners

Warm up with five minutes of easy cycling. Perform 10 x 30 seconds hard and 30 seconds easy. Cool down with five minutes of easy cycling.

#3: 30-Minute Recumbent Bike Advanced Interval Workout

Warm up with 4 minutes of easy cycling. Then, do 20 x 45 seconds hard and 30 seconds easy. Cycle 2 minutes at an easy effort to cool down.

#4: Recumbent Bike Progression Workout

Begin with a warm-up of two minutes of pedaling at 80 to 100 RPM on level zero. Depending on the length of the workout that you have in mind and the number of resistance levels on the bike, every 2 to 3 minutes, increase the level of resistance on the bike by one level, keeping your cadence the same throughout the entire workout.

For example, if the bike has 10 levels of resistance and you want to exercise for 20 minutes, increase the resistance level every two minutes, keeping your cadence at least 80 rpm.

To maximize the effectiveness of recumbent bike exercise, vary your workouts and wear a heart rate monitor so you can make sure that you are pushing yourself to the appropriate intensity.

If you are looking to switch up your cardio workouts by trying out other gym equipment and machines, we have some great guides to get you started. Check out our guide to the rowing machine and workouts to try the next time you hit the gym.

Recumbent Bike Disadvantages

Stationary recumbent bikes are not perfect, and here we’ll run through some stationary bike disadvantages. Firstly, a recumbent bike is a focused lower-body exercise that is much easier than riding a regular bike.

On a regular bike, you will get a full-body cardiovascular exercise that also stresses your hands, arms, back, and neck. With recumbent bikes, your workout is limited to your lower body, even during high-intensity efforts.

recumbent, bike, seat, position

Getting a hard workout on a recumbent bike can also be difficult. The reclined seating position is much easier on your back and joints but can also be more relaxing than challenging. This is great for those with limited fitness and mobility, but it also makes it harder to get a good workout in.

On a regular bike, you can access many training platforms, including virtual workouts on Peloton or Zwift.

Recumbent bikes have their own basic riding style, and you typically have to adjust the resistance yourself manually. All said recumbent bikes can be more boring than regular bikes, especially during long rides or hard workouts.

A recumbent bike can also cost more than a regular bike. Since recumbent bicycles are specifically built for individuals with limited mobility, they have a high-cost design that makes them more comfortable than practical.

At home, a recumbent bike can cost upwards of 3,000, whereas a regular bike can be bought for 450,000 within baseline models.

Lastly, recumbent bikes can be harder to maintain than regular bikes. Because recumbent bikes are much less popular than regular bikes, so there is a smaller market for those knowledgeable about recumbent bike maintenance and replacement parts.

If you are going to a gym to use a recumbent bike, then you needn’t worry. But if you have a recumbent bike at home, it can quickly become quite a hassle.

What Muscles Do Recumbent Bikes Work?

Thanks to their reclined seating position, recumbent bikes work muscles differently compared to regular bicycles. Of course, the lower body muscles are the main target of the exercise, but they are worked in a different way on a recumbent bike.

In the recumbent bike position, your legs are out in front of you, so you can’t use gravity to assist your pedal stroke in the same way that you can on a regular bike. However, many of the same muscles are worked on both recumbent bikes and regular bikes.

Recumbent bike muscles worked include the quadriceps, hamstrings, shins, calves, and glutes. Riding a recumbent bicycle can improve your muscle strength and endurance through easy rides and hard workouts.

Riding a recumbent bicycle can also improve your flexibility, range of motion, and balance. Even in the reclined position, recumbent cycling can improve the range of motion in your hips, as well as your lower limb flexibility.

Lastly, recumbent cycling improves your blood circulation, which is especially important for the elderly and rehabilitation patients.


Can you get fit on a recumbent bike?

Recumbent bicycles are a great workout. Depending on the resistance and your pedaling cadence, you can ride easy, medium, or hard on a recumbent bike. Recumbent bikes have a number of benefits, such as improving your cardiovascular health, rehabilitation, and strengthening your lower body muscles and joints.

What parts of the body does a recumbent bike work?

A recumbent bike works your lower body muscles mainly. The pedaling motion strengthens your quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, hips, and ankles. You are also using your core and lungs while riding a recumbent bike, strengthening them in the process. During hard recumbent bike workouts, you can use your arms to hold onto the handlebars and your core to help stabilize your body as you pedal hard.

Why are recumbent bikes not popular?

Recumbent bikes are specifically designed for comfortable cycling for the elderly and those with limited mobility. Cycling is a non-weight-bearing activity, so even riding a regular bike is comfortable for most people. Nowadays, there are so many different styles of bikes with upright and comfortable positions, including beach cruisers and hybrids.

Recumbent bicycles use a reclined seating position that is quite unique. Many riders prefer the upright seating position on regular bikes. Lastly, recumbent bikes can be quite expensive and difficult to maintain at home. Otherwise, you’ll usually have to go to a gym on a stationary recumbent bike.

What are the disadvantages of a recumbent bike?

Recumbent bikes use a reclined seating position that takes the pressure off your back and upper body. While this is beneficial for the elderly and those with limited mobility, it can be detrimental to other riders.

In the reclined seating position, some riders are actually less comfortable because of the difference in pedaling motion. Recumbent bicycles also provide a focused lower body exercise, but that is limiting in and of itself. On a regular bike, you can get a whole-body workout and cardiovascular exercise that strengthens your lower body and your core, shoulders, arms, and neck.

Is the recumbent bike good for weight loss?

Recumbent bikes are great for weight loss because they are a non-weight-bearing, cardiovascular exercise.

Non-weight-bearing activities such as cycling and swimming are perfect for people with balance problems, injury history, or old age.

While walking may be challenging or dangerous for the elderly, recumbent bicycles are a great way to fit in a cardio workout without worrying about injury.

Recumbent cycling can also burn 300-500 calories per hour and more than 500 calories per hour during a hard recumbent bike ride.

Is a recumbent bike as good as walking?

Recumbent bikes and walking are both cardiovascular exercises, but the main difference is that recumbent biking is non-weight-bearing. That means that you aren’t putting a heavy load onto your joints during recumbent cycling, but you are walking.

During a walk, you are putting at least the force of your body weight through your foot with every step. For the elderly or those with injury or balance problems, walking can be a big challenge.

Both recumbent biking and walking have similar benefits for your cardiovascular health, but recumbent biking is much safer, more comfortable, and better for injury prevention.

Are recumbent bikes good for your back?

Recumbent bikes are good for your back when they are set up in the correct position. That means adjusting the seat height and fore and aft so that the recumbent bike fits your unique body size. There should be no strain on your lower back in the correct position.

While regular bikes can hurt your back (due to the upright position), recumbent bikes help take the stress off your back and other lower body joints using a reclining position.

About The Author

Jeff Balton

Jeff’s been riding and racing road and mountain bikes for most of his life. It all started when he was seven years old and received his first mountain bike. He likes to write about bicycle-related stuff, help organize events for the community, and he dreams that one day there will be more free time for everyone. You can often find Jeff riding with his kids. At the moment, they’re either in the child bike seat, or he’s running next (read: far behind) their balance bikes


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