Stationary bikes are one of the best pieces of equipment to improve cardiovascular health and build lower body strength. For those of you who want to get a good low-impact workout, stationary bikes are one of the staples. They are also great for people who don’t own an outdoor bike or during bad weather. In this article we will talk about two of the main types; recumbent bikes and spin bikes. Both are excellent choices, but there are certain differences that make one more suitable for someone than the other. If you are faced with the decision to choose between them, then keep reading to find out which one is perfect for you.
Recumbent Bike and Spin Bike Head-to-head
The table given below will give you a quick overview of the key aspects and differences between spin bikes and recumbent bikes.
|Property||Recumbent bike||Spin bike|
|Pedal position||Out in front of the seat||Directly below the seat|
|Seat||Large, comfortable seat with back support||Typical saddle-type seat as in outdoor bikes|
|Handlebars||None, but there are handles to grab on either side of the seat||Similar design and position as in outdoor bikes|
|Flywheel weight||Usually slightly lighter||Usually heavier|
|Adjustability||Seat position and resistance level||Seat position, handlebars and resistance level|
|Speed||Very high speeds and acceleration not possible||Accelerate to maximum speed of rider in just a few seconds|
|Impact level||Very low impact||Slightly higher than recumbent bike|
|Price||Higher than spin bike||Lower than recumbent bike|
|Lower body engagement||All leg muscles, mainly quads and hamstrings||All leg and low back muscles, mainly quads|
|Upper body and core||Almost no engagement due to the positioning||Slight upper body engagement, but good core workout|
|Programmability||Console typically available for stats display and different workout plans||Most of the time console is not included|
How to choose between the two
We know that both spin bikes and recumbent bikes are great tools for your fitness journey. However, which of the two you should choose depends on many factors relating to your personal preferences and requirements, Let us now discuss these in detail.
Recumbent exercise bikes have the pedals out in front of the body. The seat is usually large and comfortable and is in a reclined position. It can be moved forwards and backward and also has good back support. There are handles that you can grip on either side of the seat instead of traditional handlebars. This machine is designed to be more for beginners or for a less strenuous workout with a slightly lighter flywheel.
Spin bikes are designed to simulate a real road bike as much as possible. The handlebars and pedals are in the same position as an outdoor bike. The seat is small and may cause saddle-soreness if used for long periods. The flywheel is heavier to provide more of a challenge and also for a smoother and quieter workout at high speeds. In terms of customization, the position of the seat and handlebars can be adjusted just like a real bike.
Weight loss and calorie burning
When it comes to burning calories, the spin bike is the preferred choice. Spin classes consist of alternating periods of high-speed and normal pedaling. This sort of training boosts weight loss more than continuous steady cycling. Not to say that you can’t shred fat on a recumbent bike, but spin bikes allow for rapid acceleration and higher speeds. They also engage more muscles in the body which is crucial for calorie usage.
Both forms of stationary bikes help to build strength and muscle mass in the lower body. The larger the resistance, the more effort your legs will have to exert, and the more muscle growth you will see. However, due to the different riding positions on each, different groups of muscles will be targeted to varying degrees. Cycling on spin bikes focuses more on the quads and the core muscles will also be working constantly to stabilize your body. There is also a little work done by the upper body while holding onto the handlebars.
In comparison, the reclined position of recumbent bike users means there is almost zero engagement of the upper body and abs. However, you can get better all-round leg development because the quads and hamstrings are equally worked.
A lot of people might experience lower back or shoulder while using spin bikes. This is due to the hunched over position that users have to be in. For those people and also for others with chronic back pain, the recumbent bike is the clear winner. The enhanced back support lets you get in a good workout without having to worry about these issues. Recumbent bikes are also better for users who have sensitive joints or are overweight since the whole weight of the body is not exerted on the knees and ankles. Regardless, both machines are very low impact compared to say, treadmills. We recommend consulting with a physician before making a final decision.
Progression and variability
To stop your body from getting accustomed to exercise, it is important to add changes to your routine from time to time. All stationary bikes allow the rider to add resistance and increase speed. This increase in difficulty ensures continuous progression in strength and cardiovascular health. Nonetheless, spin bikes have a slight edge over recumbent bikes. You can do more intense interval training on a spin bike thanks to larger acceleration and greater maximum speeds. To make it even more challenging and burn extra calories, you can pedal standing up, which is impossible on a recumbent bike.
Most recumbent bikes have a built-in console that gives you access to various workout plans. This makes working out easier since you don’t have to think of a routine to follow. Just select one of the modes and you’ll be good to go. Spin bikes usually do not have such consoles. So programming the workout will be completely up to you. Although you will find them in higher-end spin bikes.
If you are looking to build a home gym, another factor to consider is the amount of space available. Recumbent bikes are longer and bulkier, so they take up a greater volume. They are also quite a bit heavier than spin bikes. Hence, if you plan to move the equipment back after every session, it would be a lot easier with a spin bike.
Considerations before buying
If you want to purchase an exercise bike for home, you will now be able to decide which one is right for you. But before that, we would like to discuss some common points for recumbent and spin bikes that will influence your choice.
Stationary bikes come at a wide variety of price points. Some cost less than $200, while others can be more than $2000. With steeper prices, you will get better features and longer lasting machines. We recommend not being too frugal while buying an exercise bike, as the returns you will get will be well worth it. Although, this will only hold true if you actually use the bike. A good number of people use their exercise bike more as a clothes hanger. It’s great that you want to lead a healthier lifestyle, just be sure to not give up. It is important to note that recumbent bikes are generally more expensive than spin bikes.
Safety and maintenance
Even though stationary bikes are very safe pieces of equipment, there are some things to look out for. The moving parts of the machine other than the pedals should be enclosed so that nothing gets caught up in them. Make sure that there is nothing within a half meter radius around the bike and definitely keep children away. Breakdowns are very rare for exercise bikes, so no added cost there. Both types only require occasional dusting or oiling. With proper care, they can serve you well for as long as a few decades.
Nowadays exercise bikes, and other indoor machines as well, come with a lot of features to improve the workout experience. You can track your distance, time, and current speed on a screen. Pulse sensors on the handlebars let you monitor heart rate. Some even have Bluetooth and speakers. Although, these are less common for spin bikes. However, other features are universal, such as bottle holders, seat adjustments, and good quality dials for changing resistance. Be sure to check for the features you need before purchasing.
F. A. Q.s
1) Are there any other types of exercise bikes?
Ans: There are actually three main types of stationary bikes, two of which we have already talked about. The third one is called the upright exercise bike. Upright bikes have a more compact design and are similar to spin bikes. But unlike them, on an upright bike, the user stays in a more upright posture. Other variations are also available, such as air bikes, mini exercise bikes, etc. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages and are built for specific purposes.
2) Which cardio exercise machine is the best?
Ans: Unfortunately there is no simple answer with this one. Other than exercise bikes, there are rowing machines, treadmills, ellipticals, and many more. Which one comes out on top entirely varies from person to person. It all depends on fitness goals, underlying physical conditions, and personal preference. However, we can say for sure that exercise bikes are among the most versatile. They are great for anyone, from absolute beginners to professional athletes. For a better understanding watch the following video.
To conclude, recumbent bikes should be the go-to for people with back pain or joint issues. They are also a good option for a complete leg workout and they offer built-in workout programs to make things easier. Spin bikes are for avid cyclists and others who want to take their workout to the next level. They work the whole body and help to burn more calories. Nevertheless, both are integral to the gym and you should reap the benefits of both if you can. Thank you for taking the time to read this article and we hope found it helpful. Good luck!
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