Recumbent vs Upright Road Bike (Which one is better?)

If riding in a bike sounds difficult or intimidating, then you must not have seen or heard about the recumbent bike. The recumbent bike, just like the road bike, is a cardiovascular machine and it basically gives you a similar workout to the bike. The Recumbent vs upright road bike article focuses more on the differences in structure and performance of the two bikes while on the road.

Let’s look at the main differences between the recumbent bike and upright road bike

Recumbent vs upright road bike

Recumbent vs upright road bike


Recumbent bike – Recumbent bikes on the road are purely attention seeking. Many people will turn heads while you ride on the road.  With this bike, get ready to talk to many people, make new friends and more. This is one of the best things about owning a recumbent bike, especially if you love meeting new people.  Also, the recumbent bike is pretty close to the ground which makes you feel like you are moving faster.

The thought of having fun or getting a great view from a recumbent bike is almost non-existent for most people. What most people do not know is that recumbent bikes give you a chance to look up for longer times. While the bike is on a lower level than a road bike, it allows you to have a wider view of the world while you ride.

Upright road bike – The truth is, with an ordinary road bike, you need to look down constantly so you do not trip over something or ride on the wrong road. This makes it hard to have a better view or fun while you are on the road.

Speed and control

Recumbent bike – the speed you travel in will obviously be determined by your level of fitness. Regardless of that, recumbent bikes are considerably fast.  Most people think that standard road bikes go way faster than a recumbent bike but are shocked to hear that they are pretty fast. Recumbent bikes are faster because the sitting position provides less target for aerodynamic drag therefore there is lower wind resistance. The position and structure of the bike also give you a higher control level while on the road.

Upright road bike – road conditions will also affect your speed on either bike. Generally, upright bikes are fast and easy to peddle but only on specified roads. Unlike the recumbent bike, upright road bikes need plenty of concentration for good control.

Comfort and safety

Recumbent bike – Comfort is one of the main reasons people get recumbent bikes. The back support and seat are responsible for taking on all your weight which means you have very little pressure on your arms, wrists and legs which is nice. Recumbent bikes are the least dangerous bike types. The bike is pretty close to the ground and the structure gives it a low center of gravity which means you have lower chances of tipping while riding.

Upright road bike – Upright road bikes are considered less safe to recumbent bike because you have to stand on the pedals while you ride.  Quite frankly, the sitting/standing position on an upright bike is less comfortable and incomparable to the comfort levels you get while on a recumbent bike. It is easier to trip or fall while on an upright road bike than a recumbent bike.

How effective is the workout?

Recumbent bike – these bikes focus mainly on the lower body. While they use a low impact cycling style, they can provide a total workout on different body parts and levels. If you have lower back issues, then you should go for this bike because of its low impact during exercise.

Upright road bike – When it comes to outdoor running, they give you a more consistent workout. Road bikes also ensure you are working with most of your muscles which is more like whole body aerobic exercises; they also work the abdominal muscles and help you keep your back in an upright position over the long haul.

Which muscles are put to work?

Even though they are marketed as aerobic equipment, recumbent bikes use several muscle groups during your workout session.  Just like road bikes, recumbent bikes focus solely on your cardio and lower body muscles while you ride.

The muscles include;

The heart- the consistent aerobic exercises on your recumbent bike is known to decrease your resting heart rate, improve ling capacity, and in the long run reduce high blood pressure.

The rectus femoris – this is basically one of the quadriceps muscles and it is responsible for the movement and flexing of your hip. This muscle raises and extends the knee as well as allowing you to flex your thighs.

The vastus medialis – this muscle is located on the front of your thigh and is put to action once you start riding your recumbent bike. The bike helps you stabilize your leg muscles, extends your leg at the knee and stabilizes your knee cap.

Abdominal muscles, gluteal muscles and hamstrings, Back muscles, biceps and triceps are put to work more on the road bike but not the recumbent.

Structural differences – Recumbent vs upright road bike

upright road bike

Recumbent Bike -These bikes have bucket seats and backrest plus the pedals are located in front of you. When you operate the recumbent bike, it is usually in a horizontal position. This takes any pressure off your lower back and will prevent you from slouching while riding. The wheels on either side of the bike allow for plenty of support by the bike alone.

Upright road bike – upright road bikes are typically made with the basic bicycle frame design. You have to slouch on the seat or stand up while riding the upright bike.

Recumbent vs upright road bike – the verdict

The main difference between the two is the bikes is the set up as well as the comfort levels and control.  Recumbent bikes are easier on your upper and lower back as well as your joints. The larger seats allow for a higher comfort level while riding on the road. Generally, recumbent bikes are safer because you do not stand on the pedals therefore reducing the chances of injury.

Recumbent bikes also have a lower impact after an accident, which reduces the risks of pain and more. Upright bikes on the other hand are multifunctional, you can use them for workout as well as a ride out on the road.

The best thing about both bikes is that they come in ranges to suit all people, from kids to adults. Most recumbent bikes are designed for comfort while others are built for performance while road bikes offer effective performance.