Recumbent Exercise Bike Vs Spin Bike – Which One Meets Your Needs?

Recumbents and spin bikes are two types of indoor bikes which serve the same overall purpose but are very different in their features. There are many models of each type in the market, all with distinct advantages and drawbacks.

This is a recumbent exercise bike vs spin bike comparison highlighting the similarities and differences and what they mean for you as a user.

Hi, my name is Greg. I work as a personal trainer at a fitness studio. I generally work with small groupsand individuals, all of varying ages and fitness levels. Many of my clients end up looking to buy fitness equipment such as indoor bikes for home use and often ask me whether recumbent bikes are better than spin bikes.

There is a lot to consider when deciding which one of the two suits you best. Here is a recumbent exercise bike vs spin bike comparison to help you decide which one best meets your individual needs.

What Are The Differences Between Recumbent Exercise Bikes And Spin Bikes?

Recumbent bike
Spin bike
Riding position
Calorie burn
High ( when in standing position)
Muscles involved
Lower body
Lower and upper body ( when in standing position)
Flywheel weight

Recumbent Exercise Bike Vs Spin Bike – How Do They Compare?

Riding Position

The first and perhaps most obvious difference between recumbent bikes and spin bikes is the riding position. In a recumbent bike, as its name suggests, you have a wide seat with a large and firm back rest. This means you get to literally sit back and cycle away.

On a spin bike, there is no back rest. The saddle is typically small and quite often uncomfortable.

This makes recumbent bikes ideal for elderly people, obese people and users with joint problems such as injuries or conditions like osteoporosis.  There is no strain on the back and there is little chance of strain on knee joints like often happens with upright bikes.

In this regard, neither of the two can be said to be better than the other. It depends on your workout goals and if you have any bone or muscle problems which call for minimized strain.  

Calorie Burn

A majority of people using indoor bikes cycle with this as their primary goal. They are looking to burn calories and effectively lose weight. This is why it is important to understand a bike’s calorie burning potential before making a purchase.

You burn more calories on a spin bike mainly because of the ability to vary sitting positions.  On a recumbent bike, there is only one sitting position you could take so you have to stick with it throughout your workout.

With a spin bike you have the option to sit on the saddle or stand. Cycling in a standing position helps you burn more calories than you do in a seated position.

If you are looking to burn as many calories as possible spin bikes are best. Riding in a standing position burns more calories.

Muscle Involved

Although the primary action of pedaling is the same in both recumbent and spin bikes, there are some differences in terms of specific muscles involved and the extent to which they are engaged.

When you ride a recumbent bike, you end up working both quads and hamstrings quite evenly. With a spin bike, your position makes you focus more on quad muscles than any other muscle groups. This is why people who use spin bikes regularly may notice uneven muscle growth when recumbent bike users have even muscle growth and toning.

If you choose to use a spin bike, then cycling in a standing position is considered mostbeneficial because it takes muscle involvement to a whole new level. This position has been proven to engage every muscle of the body, including upper body muscles (like biceps, chest muscles and core) which are otherwise minimally engaged. You end up getting a full body workout so you don’t have to work out on another machine to cater for upper body muscles.

Spin bikes are better bikes to use in this regard, though users are advised to keep alternating between sitting and standing positions in order to engage as many muscles as possible.

Riding Experience

Although both bikes allow you to vary resistancelevels, there is a stark difference in the riding experience you get from these two bikes.

Firstly it is easier to get on and off a recumbent bike because they are typically lower than spin bikes. After warming up, you get to the height of your workout when you want an intense sprint. With a recumbent bike, you may not be able to get to your maximum speed or power due to the position you are in. Cycling too fast tends to make you bounce about in the seat.

Spin bikes on the other hand are designed for intense training. The bike and position taken allow you to cycle to full intensity. This limitation may have a significant effect on overall progress since sprint training helps you burn many calories over short periods of time.

If you are new to indoor cycling, you may find it more difficult to ride a spin bike than a recumbent bike. The reason behind this is that spin bikes tend to have heavier flywheels (up to 40 lbs.) These demand significantly more energy to spin.

Recumbent bikes have slightly lighter flywheels therefore making it easier to pedal and get the flywheel spinning at a steadily high speed.

If you are looking to lose weight or get a good cardiovascular workout, spin bikes are better bikes. The fact that they demand more energy and effort from you means you burn more calories and place greater challenge on the heart.

Recumbent Exercise Bike Vs Spin Bike – A Comparison Review

Recumbent Exercise Bike Overview

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Recumbent bikes are much like upright bikes and spin bike only that you sit in a reclined position. The primary attraction to recumbent bikes is the comfort you get to enjoy while working out. You still get a good cardiovascular workout and enjoy a comfortable seat. Your weight is evenly distributed over several square feet so there is not much strain on the back and buttocks.

It is true that you burn less calories on a recumbent bike but many users have said they end up burning just as many calories on a recumbent bike because you are comfortable enough to continue cycling for longer than you would on any other bike.

Recumbents are great if you want to do something else as you ride. You are in a reclined position so you can easily read a magazine, browse on your phone or watch television.

The downside to recumbent bikes is that you are limited to a single position. As much as it is very comfortable, it does get tiring to sit in the same position especially if you are working out for long. Recumbent bikes are quite large in terms of the amount of dedicated space required for it. This may be a challenge for users in apartments and other living areas with limited floor space.


  • Large seat
  • Full back support
  • Reduced knee joint tension
  • Even muscle building


  • Limited sitting position
  • High footprint

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Spin Bike Overview

Indoor bikes have been in the market for many years but the popularity of spin bikes is a more recent development in the world of fitness. Spin bikes are most popular in gyms and fitness studios where spin classes are conducted.

Some spin bikes come without a screen so you just hop on and get pedaling. Although this does serve as a great workout, it is best to use a tablet or your mobile phone to access live or recorded spin sessions. These help to motivate you to work out for longer and at greater intensities. With these sessions, you don’t have to put too much thought into the details of your personal workout in order to achieve your goals. Sessions available from various companies are led by professional trainers and you get to choose sessions based on your personal objectives.

Spin bikes give users a road bike feel and this is why they are preferred by professional cyclists looking to train without losing the road feel.

The main disadvantage to spin bikes is that they are not particularly comfortable. They typicallyhave small saddles with little padding. When riding in a sitting position, your weight is supported by the small saddle. This has been known to cause strain on back muscles as well as hand and wrist muscles since the weight is then forced onto the handlebars.


  • Full body and cardiovascular workout
  • Low-impact workout
  • Varied riding positions
  • Road-bike feel


  • Could cause muscle strain
  • Uncomfortable seat

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Recumbent bikes and spin bikes are both indoor bikes which assure you of a great lower body workout and cardiovascular exercise. With both, you can vary resistance levels to make your ride easier or more challenging. When it comes to maintenance, there is little difference between the two. Occasional dusting and oiling is sufficient to keep them running well for many years.

Verdict: So which is better recumbent exercise bike or spin bike?

Recumbent bikes do give more even muscle growth. However, considering overall benefits and the riding experience, spin bikes are better bikes for users who are looking to lose weight and achieve better cardiovascular health. Spin bikes allow you to vary sitting positions and enable you burn more calories especially if you ride in a standing position. This way you can achieve your workout goals faster albeit with more effort.


How many calories can I burn in a spin class?

After a 30 minute spin class, you will have burned between 400 and 600 calories depending on your age, weight and gender.

Will a recumbent bike help me lose belly fat?

Using a recumbent indoor bike helps you burn calories so you lose weight evenly throughout the body, including your stomach. Combining cycling and abdomen strengthening exercises does help to speed up loss of belly fat.