Recumbent vs Semi-Recumbent Exercise Bike – Compared and Contrasted

recumbent vs semi-recumbent exercise bikeIn this recumbent vs semi-recumbent exercise bikes comparison they go head to head to see how these two similar exercise bike types match up.

This can affect the workout benfits you get.

Both can give you a good low impact cardio workout.

But they do have advantages and disadvantages when put up against each other.

Knowing the difference between them and their affect can help you decide if one of the other is right for you.

This, of course depends on your fitness goals and other wants from an exercise bike.

Before starting the match up here is a quick look at each of the exercise bikes:

Semi Recumbent Exercise Bike

Semi-recumbent is really a bike that is half way between a recumbent and an upright bike. Rather than have your feet out in front of you they are angled down in front of you.

You are sitting up on the seat with your legs down and in front at an angle of around 45 – 60 degrees (give or take) depending on the model.

Most of these bikes do tend to be foldable, that I’ve come across. This is to do with the X-frame resulting in the legs being out in front of you and not below as you have with an upright bike. You sit reasonably high up in an oversized bike seat that has a backrest to help in supporting your back. (Exerpeutic 400XL is a bestselling example)

There are models that come with a desk allowing you to work and exercise at the same time – although they may be considered more upright (see FitDesk 2.0)

Recumbent Exercise Bike

These bikes are lower to the ground. You use the bike in a recumbent position where you sit back against a seat with a back rest and legs on pedals out in front of you in an almost parallel to the ground position.

The seat height is about the same as a piece of furniture. The bikes have a step-thru so you don’t have to lift the leg over a frame to get into position making it easy to get on and off the bike. (See Schwinn 230 a highly rated and popular model)

How Do They Differ


One of the big advantages of a recumbent exercise bike is that it is gentle on the joints. It provides a low impact exercise and there is also less weight pushed on to joints due to the position when compared to an upright bike.

With a semi-recumbent there can be slightly more pressure exerted but most find them gentle on the joints.

Muscles Worked

As you’d expect both bikes work your lower body such as your glutes, hamstrings, quads, hip flexors and calves.

The recumbent gives a bit more of a workout of the glutes and hamstrings than the semi.

The semi as mentioned earlier may give slightly more to your upper body as you need to support it more.

Seat – Riding Position

The semi-recumbent position means a higher up seating position where you may need to step up on to the bike. You may even need a step to get on the bike. It is a more active position where you do need to support yourself even with the help of a back rest.

The recumbent bike you are leaning more against the back rest which can provide much more support for your back as you workout

Calories Burned

In terms of calories burned it is possible to burn the same amount in a similar time. This is a matter of intensity rather than the bike. You might burn minimally more on the semi-recumbent as you are in a more active sitting position thereby engaging your upper body more.

However, recumbent exercise bikes due to their more comfortable seat you may find that you actually workout for longer thus burning more calories overall.


Both types of bikes are stable but you are likely to be and feel more stable on a recumbent bike exercise bike. It’s lower to the ground and the bigger seat provides more support too.


Semi-recumbent bikes on the whole tend to be cheaper than recumbent bikes. They provide you with the basics.

You can get a recumbent exercise bike in this price range too but you do miss out some of the benefits that you get with the more expensive bikes.


Depending on the model you buy you can have recumbent exercise bikes that have pre=set programs, media centers, somewhere to place and plug in your personal electronic to play them through speakers and charge them up.


Semi-recumbent exercise bikes provide you with a basic console that display measures as you workout.

With recumbent exercise bikes that cost more they can have pre-set workout programs, track your progress, free fitness accounts as well as track more measures as you workout.


Much of this comes down to the seat. The semi-recumbent bikes tend to use an oversized bike seat with back rest .

Also with the legs being down and not completely out some people find the seat can dig into the legs as they pedal.
The recumbent bikes tend to have a bigger seat and bigger backrest to provide a better overall fit and support for the sit bones and back.

It is easier to replace the seat with a semi-recumbent – but it isn’t straightforward with the simplest method being to by an exercise bike seat adapter that allows you to replace with standard fitting bike seats.

Support For Back

Both bikes come with a support for the back. The recumbent bikes tend to have larger support and you can much more easily lean back against it for support than on the semi-recumbent because of your leg position being out in front of you.


Full Recumbent exercise bikes take up much more floor space due to your feet being out in front of you. They need the extra length to accommodate the legs whereas the angle of the semi-recumbent requires less length as some of it is accommodated by the height of the bike.

As many semi-recumbent bikes are foldable bikes they can also save space when you put them out of the way when not in use – they can fit in closets and behind the door.

In Closing

Both bikes can be used by people who want a workout that is easy on the joints and supports the back. The recumbent exercise bike does provide a workout that is gentler and seat offers more support and comfort especially the more expensive.

The semi-recumbent is great for those who want an affordable bike, don’t have too much space and only want a semi-comfortable exercise experience.

You can get affordable versions of the recumbent exercise bike but these are basic and although more comfortable and easier on the joints than the semi you don’t get all the benefits you do when you pay more for a bike – more comfortable and supportive seat, extras , better tracking and pre-set workouts.

7 comments for “Recumbent vs Semi-Recumbent Exercise Bike – Compared and Contrasted

  1. Connie Woroszylo
    May 14, 2018 at 4:18 am

    How much is a semi-recumbent? I have back and neck issues in addition to fibromyalgia however, I must lose 30 pounds. I was researching recumbent and semi/recumbent bikes to ride now that the weather is finally nice.

    Thank you,
    Connie Woroszylo

    • Paul
      September 12, 2018 at 6:40 pm

      You can find a good range of semi-recumbent exercise bikes at Amazon. You can find a selection of their bikes here. There is a range of prices depending on your requirement.

  2. Dick
    October 19, 2018 at 5:36 pm

    do recumbent bikes have arms that move like an eliptical

  3. Debb Christos
    June 13, 2019 at 1:59 am

    I have ankylosing spondylitis, and want to know if the SEMI Recumbent bike is okay for that? I actually mistakenly bought it, and dont know if it is a poor idea or might injure me? THank you in advance for your opinion and any facts you might be able to share

    • Paul
      June 13, 2019 at 6:30 pm

      Hi, I am sorry to say you are best speaking to your medical professional.

  4. Carl
    January 23, 2023 at 2:01 am

    Can a Semi recumbent on the flats beat a road bicycle?

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