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.
Among recumbent exercise bikes, none get the kind of love that the Exerpeutic 900XL Recumbent Bike (Est. $170) does. It's well-constructed in spite of its affordable price, and the magnetic resistance produces an exercise machine that is relatively quiet -- making it possible to listen to music or watch TV while riding, owners say. The LCD display is large and easy to read, 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, although the heart monitor gets lackluster reviews -- some say it stopped working relatively quickly, others claim it's not close to accurate. There's also no option to add a chest-style monitor, but, if you really want to monitor your heart rate, head over to our report on heart-rate monitors to find out top recommendations.
User reviews are very strong for the Exerpeutic 900XL, with few complaints overall. Assembly is said to be tedious, with confusing instructions, and we saw complaints of damaged units on arrival; some seem to be the fault of the shipper, but others are obviously quality control issues. However, those comments are in the minority; most are pleased and call this recumbent bike a great value.
The 900XL has an upper weight limit of 300 pounds, and the seat is adjustable for individuals from 5-foot-3 to 6-foot-3. We did see some comments that the seat is hard to adjust and the bike may not be sturdy enough for those at the upper end of that 300 pound weight rating. Exerpeutic includes a three-year warranty on the 900XL, but it excludes almost everything except the frame; the good news is that, overall, users say this bike is well-constructed enough that you'll probably never need to use it.
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. Owners give this bike very high praise for its solid construction, quiet operation and basic but effective range of adjustments. It's also easer to assemble than the 900XL, they note. Unlike the 900XL's three-year warranty, the 400XL has only a one-year limited warranty.
Neither of the above two bikes are the best choice for heavier individuals, nor do they have any fancy features. If you need something more heavy duty, or would like something more high-tech, you need to consider the Schwinn 270 Recumbent Bike (Est. $500). It's 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. 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 the 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 such as "Mount Hood;" to challenges like the "uphill finish; "plus three more.
The Schwinn 270 was our Best Reviewed recumbent bike in our previous report, but it's dropped to runner up status due to quite a few durability complaints, making the Exerpeutic a better option for price versus value. While the Schwinn is rated at the same 300 pounds as the models above, heavier individuals say that if feels solid during even a hard workout, so it might worth checking out if you are near that upper limit.
Another good option in the sub-$200 price class, the Marcy ME 709 Recumbent Exercise Bike (Est. $140). It's one of the top-rated recumbent bikes by owners, who 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. While it doesn't fold, the compact design is ideal for smaller spaces and it gets kudos for its attractive design. The bike includes a two-year limited warranty on the frame. Like the other recumbent bikes we cover, it has a maximum weight of 300 pounds.
Elsewhere in this report: