With a full padded seat and a design that puts the rider's legs out in front, recumbent bikes are ideal for those who have back issues, difficulty putting weight on their joints or problems stepping up to a high seat, owners say. Many riders prefer the design of recumbent bikes, saying the angle of their legs and back on an upright bike is uncomfortable.
Reviews indicate that the Schwinn 270 Recumbent Exercise Bike (Est. $500) is not only super quiet – making it easy to listen to music or watch TV during a workout – but also well made. This top-grade recumbent exercise bike uses a magnetic eddy current brake for resistance, which experts say is quieter and lasts longer than bikes with belt tensioners. A USB port allows you to charge your phone or tablet as you exercise, and can be used with a flash drive to transfer data to a Schwinn Connect website for tracking your fitness goals. Heart rate monitors are built into the hand grips and the bike is chest-strap compatible, though a strap is not included.
There are 29 workout programs, 25 resistance levels, and 10 resistance "quick keys" to rapidly cycle a user from an easy workout to a hard workout with a press of a button. On-board memory will store settings for up to four users. Heart-rate control programs that adjust the intensity of your workout to keep your heart rate within a preset zone are built in. Also available are a built-in fitness test and a test to see how fast your heart returns to a resting state following exercise. Workout programs range from fun rides, such as "a ride in the park," to mountains "Mount Hood," to challenges like the "uphill finish, "plus three more).
User feedback ranges from very good to excellent. We did see some reports of missing parts or frustrations with the company's customer service, but those are in the minority. Some also say that they have difficulty with the heart-rate monitor. Schwinn representatives often respond on Amazon.com inviting those who post negative feedback to contact them for expedited help. Daniel Borden at BestFitnessAdvisor.com allows that assembling a piece of exercise equipment is never "fun." but that it's not too painful with the Schwinn 270. "I found the manual to be very explicit, and even though there was no one to help, I managed to put it together in 90 minutes," he says. It's the top-rated recumbent exercise bike in its price class at his site. The exercise bicycle's warranty covers the frame for 10 years, the mechanical parts for two years, the electrical parts for 1 year, and labor for 90 days. It's rated for users up to 300 pounds.
If the idea of spending $500 for an exercise bike is a turn off, many reviews recommend the Marcy ME 709 Recumbent Exercise Bike (Est. $165) as the best recumbent model for under $200. It's one of the better-rated recumbent bikes at Walmart.com, Amazon.com and Wayfair.com, where hundreds of owners praise its convenience and value. The Marcy ME 709 boasts a magnetic resistance system for a quiet workout and smooth pedal action. Owners say it provides an efficient and user-friendly experience, with a no-frills design that is straightforward to assemble and use. The LCD console displays basic information such as speed, distance and calories burned, but doesn't offer workout programs or a heart rate monitor. The compact design is ideal for tight spaces, and users say the lightweight ME 709 is easy to move with its built-in wheels. The bike includes a two-year limited warranty on the frame (only).
Feedback among experts is limited, but About-Bicycles.com offers its take. The editors there note that they generally recommend against less-expensive exercise cycles because of the compromises they have to make to hit their price point, but add that with the Marcy ME-709, the right types of compromises are in play. "Marcy keeps the cost down on their Stationary Bikes more so by excluding extra features and options rather than by using inferior parts and components," they say. The bike is rated for users up to 300 pounds, but because of its light weight, About-Bicycles.com advises not to push that upper limit.
The Exerpeutic 900XL Extended Capacity Recumbent Bike with Pulse (Est. $150) is another cheap recumbent exercise bike worth considering. Daniel Borden at BestFitnessAdvisor.com calls it an entry-level bike with an affordable price and solid construction. The best feature is that the magnetic resistance produces an exercise machine that is relatively quiet -- making it possible to listen to music or watch TV. The display has more options than the Marcy ME 709, with a scan mode to scroll through statistics and a program to count down time, distance or calories. A heart rate monitor in the grips and a setting on the display gives users the ability to maintain a target heart rate during their workouts. Exerpeutic includes a three-year warranty on the 900XL.
User reviews are plentiful, and relatively strong, though some note that durability may be an issue. This is another lightweight bike with a 300-pound user rating; as with the case with the Marcy, it's probably best for users that weigh quite a bit less than that.
Assembling the Exerpeutic gets mixed reviews. Borden says that the task itself isn't bad, but that the complicated manual might take a little study. His biggest issue is with the seat -- adjusting the position is harder than on some exercise bikes. Not a problem, really, if the 900XL will be used by only one individual. However, he adds, "if the bike is going to be shared by people of different sizes, whom will require to adjust the seat to their own preferences, then this can become pretty annoying and certainly not something that you will enjoy."
One problem with all recumbent bikes is that they can hog floor space. Not so for the Exerpeutic 400XL Folding Recumbent Bike (Est. $150), which can compress to half its normal size for compact storage. Similar to the 900XL, the 400XL includes a magnetic resistance system, eight tension settings, a built-in heart rate monitor and an LCD console. The solid frame can still support up to 300 pounds, and owners and experts say its performance is quiet and smooth. User ratings are positive -- 4.5 stars after nearly 1,000 write-ups at Amazon.com. BestFitnessAdvisor.com also has a largely positive impression, though it warns that the 400XL might be too cramped for tall users. Borden notes that anyone taller than 6 feet 2 inches or so should consider that before opting for this model. Unlike the 900XL's three-year warranty, the 400XL has only a one-year limited warranty.
Elsewhere in this Report:
Best Reviewed Exercise Bikes: What's the difference between upright, indoor (or spin), and recumbent exercise bikes? Editors offer insight and name top models and budget-friendly options
Best Indoor Bicycle: Do you dream of racing up and down the French Alps in the Tour de France, but don't have the time to get away? Indoor spin bikes replicate the feel of bicycle racing to provide the most intense exercise.
Best Upright Exercise Bicycle: Classic upright exercise bikes are still the top choice of many looking for an ideal piece of exercise equipment. They are comfortable and affordable.
Buying Guide: Not sure what type of exercise bike is right for you? We discuss what factors to consider to help you make the right choice
Our Sources: These are the expert and user sources we consulted in finding which exercise bikes please their owners, and which are most likely to disappoint. They are listed in order from most helpful to least.