Recumbent Exercise Bike Vs Upright: (Compared For Calories)

For this article, we will be investigating what is better for weight loss and calorie burn out of two of the more popular forms of stationary exercise bikes, the recumbent bike and the upright.

In most commercial gyms, these are two machines that you will find an abundance of within the cardio section.

What We Like

  • Perfect for beginners.
  • Allows you to watch TV, which can be great for those who aren't motivated on that particular day.
  • Some variants come with pedals instead of handles which is great for those with injuries or a disability.

What We Didn’t Like

  • Because they are so relaxed, you really need to focus on putting a lot of effort in.
  • Don't burn as many calories as most cardio machines in the gym.
Recumbent Bike Vs Upright

Upright Bike Pros & Cons

What We Like

  • More effective for calorie burning and fat reduction.
  • The ratio that calories are burnt per effort put in is higher.
  • Builds endurance and leg strength.

What We Didn’t Like

  • Tougher and more uncomfortable seating position.
  • Difficult for those with back injuries.
  • Can be difficult to mount if you have bad hips or knees.

Comparing Recumbent Bikes Vs. Upright Bikes

For Calories Burned

When considering how many calories are burnt during exercise, we will assume that the same amount of effort is being put in during 1 hour of each machine.

An upright bike will burn around 600 calories, with a spin bike topping around 900 calories.

The average burn for 1 hour on the recumbent is 330 calories. We think this is because most gym-goers progress from the recumbent bike to a more difficult machine rather quickly.

The winner here is obviously the upright, but we do note that if you are pretty out of shape, the recumbent bike might be the better option. If you need to begin on the recumbent, don't let it put you down.

Winner - Upright wins here, although the recumbent could be more beneficial for some.

For Weight Loss

Weight loss isn't all about calories. When you stack the two machines side by side, you have a clear winner for calorie burn. The real-life applications are slightly different.

Upright bikes require a certain level of fitness and a certain level of posture control. If you are not at this level just yet, you probably won't be able to do an hour's session on an upright bike, whereas you might be able to do an hour on the recumbent bike.

You need to make your own evaluation here. Weight loss is about the consistency of training and diet. If you find the upright bike that hard that you dread doing it, you will probably slack off or miss cardio sessions.

Winner - While the upright is better individually, we recommend picking the machine you will stick to for a couple of months. At that point, you can re-evaluate.

For Cardio Training

If your goals are more aligned with increasing your cardiovascular ability, you will do better if you stick to traditional upright bikes. They allow for a more hardcore workout.

You can use resistance and HIIT intervals to really blast your fitness levels.

Again, for newcomers and those who have been out of shape for a while, you should choose the most comfortable machine. There is no point attempting a spin class if you are not at a certain level of fitness.

Winner- Upright except for those that have lower cardio ability.

For Strength

Both the recumbent bike and the upright bike are cardio machines. This means they won't have as much effect on your strength as a good weightlifting strength program.

They both have the potential to increase size and strength in your legs, though, with the stationary bike hitting them particularly hard.

Winner - Upright bike.

Comparing Recumbent Bikes Vs Upright Bike

Specialist Exercise Bikes Explained

The upright exercise bike is the winner in most aspects. On top of this, there are a couple of different specialist variations you might want to consider incorporating into your workouts.

  • Spin Bike 
    We have mentioned the spin bike a couple of times in this article. The spin bike is the hardcore version of the upright exercise bike. Spin classes are designed to blast your cardio like no other. These classes will leave you with jelly legs for a couple of days but are unrivaled when it comes to fat loss and calorie burn.
  • AirBike 
    AirBikes are what happens when a rowing machine and an upright bike have a baby. Using an air system, you control the difficulty by the effort you put in. Pedal harder and the resistance goes up, pedal softer, and the resistance goes down. This leads to a really intuitive workout that you can control with your body. If you are into interval training, this machine is the one to use.
  • Elliptical Bike 
    The elliptical bike is similar to a cross-trainer in the way that you can use your arms. This allows you to take advantage of the higher calorie burn you get from a full-body workout. They are awkward to use at first, but they make a great partner to strength routines as they are less heavy on one body part.

Key Things To Remember For Weight Loss

Exercise is only one aspect of the weight loss calculation. To lose weight consistently, you will need to get the other things in check as well.

  • To lose weight, you must follow the Golden Rule of Weight Loss. You must consume fewer calories each day than you consume. If you don't, you won't lose weight.
  • You also need to make good use of Rest Days. Your body uses its rest days to grow and burn fat. If you neglect them, you will stall. Make sure you eat well and take it easy on these days.
  • HYDRATE HYDRATE HYDRATE - Stay hydrated all day every day, especially during workouts, and your body will thank you.

Cardio Machines That Are Good For Weight Loss

Even though both of these machines are different in their usage, they are both bike-based pieces of equipment. For some people, this just doesn't sit right. Some of us prefer a different flavor of cardio. If this is you, then you might want to consider these other cardio machines.

Rowing Machine

The rowing machine is perhaps the favored cardio machine for those that are into heavy weight training and strength. This cardio utilizes your upper body more than your lower body and requires

strength in equal parts to cardio.

The rowing machine burns an incredible amount of calories per hour and is well suited to those with injuries that prevent them from running or cycling.


The treadmill is what most of us think of when you hear the word cardio, and for good reason.

Treadmills allow you to run without all of the stress and strain that accompanies road running. They come with a range of programs that can simulate anything from HIIT training to marathons, high inclines to brisk Sunday walks.

If you like to switch it up a lot and prefer to run for your cardio, consider switching to a treadmill basis routine.


As you can see, the upright bike is better in most aspects of weight loss. If you have the fitness and ability to use one, you should pick it over the recumbent.

Recumbent bikes are still useful, though, and have the potential to help you burn a lot of calories with the right effort.

Our advice?

Weight loss and fitness are long-term goals; pick the machine that you need to progress at this current moment. There is nothing wrong with choosing the easier machine to stick to your program consistently. You will see better results this way overall.

Last Updated on January 30, 2023

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Andrew White

Andrew White is the co-founder of Garage Gym Pro. As an expert fitness professional (gym building nerd) with over 10 years of industry experience, he enjoys writing about everything there is to do with modern fitness & the newest market innovations for garage gyms. When he isn’t testing out products for his readers, he’s usually out surfing or playing basketball.