Spin Bikes vs Upright Exercise Bikes: What Is The Difference?

Spin bikes and upright exercise bikes are both stationary bikes, although there are noticeable differences between them. A stationary bike provides an excellent workout option, burning calories, and body fat whilst strengthening muscles.

If you are looking to invest in an exercise bike but are undecided as to whether a spin bike or upright exercise bike is right for you, several factors will influence your choice. From your fitness routine and goals that you aspire to achieve to your budget, you should avoid basing your selection solely on the appearance of the bike.

In our guide below, we have drawn upon the similarities and differences of both bike’s features. We have also identified the advantages and disadvantages associated with the use of each type of bike to provide you with a clearer understanding as to which type of bike is right for you.

Spin bikes and upright exercise bikes boast similar features as they have a seat, handlebars, and pedals, however, spin bikes share a similar resemblance to road bikes with the exception that they are designed with flywheels rather than traditional wheels that move.

A spin bike targets the whole body working the hips, thighs, abs, shoulders, and calves. Although they have a seat, they allow users to stand as they workout if they would prefer. Not only does a spin bike target many muscles, but it can also benefit metabolism whilst delivering a boost of energy.

An upright exercise bike requires the user to sit for the duration of their workout and use the handlebars. The pedaling motion is particularly effective in working your legs, arms, and shoulders but delivers benefits to the whole body.

The Riding Position

Both bikes are effective in targeting many areas of the body and can aid with weight loss. When using an upright exercise bike, users will remain in a seated position.

The seats are typically wider with more padding for enhanced comfort and the handlebars are situated at a higher angle requiring the users to sit forward slightly to reach them. As your leg extends to apply pressure to the pedal and encourage movement, there should be a slight bend in the knee.

The design of a spin bike is very similar to that of a road bike and intends to emulate the feeling of traditional cycling. Users have more opportunities to adjust their position as they see necessary. The handlebars are situated on a similar level to the seat and allow the riders to sit more forward.

There is also the option to stand when using a spin bike and add more pressure to the pedals to enjoy a workout with more intensity, although a seated workout still delivers many benefits. The seat of a spin bike is narrower than that of an upright bike and lacks padding which some may feel affects the comfort.

The Resistance

The greater the resistance, the more calories you will burn and the more challenging your workout becomes. Regardless of the type of bike, a mechanical or magnetic resistance method is adopted.

Most exercise bikes allow riders to alter the level of resistance according to their fitness level via a rotating knob located on the body of the bike, or an electronic feature. Spin bikes are designed with flywheels which have a weightier feel.

The resistance of the bike can be increased to stimulate the feeling of traveling uphill or decreased to stimulate the feeling of riding downhill on a traditional bike.

Typically, an upright bike will feature a magnetic or electromagnetic resistance system with lighter flywheels. 

Some models will use an air resistance method which means that the resistance equates to the speed at which you are traveling. Upright exercise bikes offer a selection of settings that allows the rider to alter the intensity of the resistance to suit their fitness level and goals.

The Technology Options

The majority of stationary bikes feature some sort of console display. This makes the bike more intuitive and provides the rider with more control regarding its functionality.

Spin bikes tend to lack these technological features because the focus is on emulating the feeling of a traditional bike. While it is possible to find some spin bikes with this feature, most will not have a console so you won’t be able to keep track of your stats as you ride the bike.

Upright bikes, on the other hand, are typically equipped with a greater array of features in the form of a console that allows you to keep track of different elements of your workouts such as the distance that you have traveled, the calories that you have burned and your heart rate. Some will also have programmable features that will allow you to work towards a specific target.

If technological features are of importance to you, you will benefit from purchasing an upright bike that offers more selection and the opportunity to immerse yourself in your workout stats.

The Effectiveness

The effectiveness of training on a spin bike or upright bike is likely to influence your selection. You don’t want to invest in a bike only to find that it is ineffective and fails to deliver the results that you were expecting.

Spin bikes are considered to be a better option for weight loss because the riding position and ability to change the resistance activates more muscles and burns more calories. You can also choose to stand up if you would prefer, doing so will add more intensity to the workout.

Sitting on a spin bike also engages your core and upper body. This isn’t to say that upright bikes are not effective. As have mentioned previously, this type of bike does in fact work your whole body from your abs and back to your legs, glutes, and arms.

The type of exercise bike that you deem to be the most effective is likely to be determined by your fitness routine and what you want to achieve through training in this manner. It also depends on the muscles that you want to target too. 

Although spin bikes are thought to be the most effective, upright bikes are still likely to cater to the needs of many.

The Muscles That Each Bike Targets

Both bikes work similar muscles, although spin bikes have the added benefit as they allow you to stand up. 

When sitting on a spin bike and cycling regularly, you will be targeting many muscles in your legs including your calves, glutes, quads, and hamstrings. Your core will also help to maintain your balance.

Adopting a standing position will transform the workout into one that targets the whole body. Whilst still working the muscles previously mentioned, you will also be working your arms, core, and shoulders with much more intensity.

Upright exercise bikes require the rider to remain seated for the duration, however, the inability to stand at any point of the workout doesn’t mean that you will not work as many muscles. The pedaling motion will target your hamstrings, quadriceps, glutes, core, quads, and back.

Using the handles to support yourself as you ride will benefit several upper body muscles from your biceps, triceps, shoulders, and also your neck.

Training using either a spin bike or an upright exercise bike will target many muscles delivering several benefits to your entire body. 

For this reason, both bikes provide a viable option for those who do not participate in a vast amount of other exercises because you can work a range of muscles from using your exercise bike alone.

The Comfort

Upright bikes have been designed with comfort in mind and because of this, they are an ideal option for those who are new to using a stationary bike. Most are designed with wider seats that provide the rider with more space to sit comfortably.

The seats also tend to have more padding and offer more support so that you don’t feel as though you are sitting in direct contact with an uncomfortable surface.

Spin bikes, on the other hand, are suggested to lack slightly in terms of comfort. This is because the seats are typically smaller and narrower and resemble those found on standard bikes.

They also have less padding and therefore do not offer the support that many may expect, particularly beginners. Despite these factors, spin bikes are designed with a handful of adjustable features which allow the user to alter different elements to cater to their requirements.

For example, the height of the seat and handlebars can be changed to suit your size. Ultimately, these features will prevent you from overstretching or straining any skeletal muscles and heart muscles when the bike is in use.

Using The Bike

Generally, both types of exercise bikes are praised for being easy to use. Essentially, all that you need to do to ride either bike is get on, sit comfortably and begin pedaling. Those who have experience of riding a traditional bike are likely to find a spin bike or upright bike easy to adapt to.

Users who do not have previous experience of riding any sort of bike may need to familiarize themselves slowly, although it is unlikely that this will cause a great deal of disruption to the completion of the workout.

Upright exercise bikes are thought to be slightly more advantageous for beginners than spin bikes due to the design of the frame and the comfort of the seat. On the whole, the concept of actually using a spin bike or an upright bike to train isn’t overly challenging.

The Price

Spin bikes typically retail within a higher price range than upright bikes and this is often reflected in the build quality. They also tend to sport a more simplistic design and do not come with overly complex features.

Although some may feel that this justifies a lower retail price, the basicity of most models means that they are less likely to encounter regular issues that need to be resolved.

Of course, there are cheaper and more expensive upright bikes available and as most are designed with consoles that display valuable workout information, this is likely to be reflected in the price tag.

Typically, the price at which an exercise bike retails reflects its sturdiness, build quality, and selection of features but there are still many budget models of both bikes available that still provide an effective workout.

The Advantages and Disadvantages

As you can see, there are apparent differences between both types of bikes. Despite this, they also share similarities as spin bikes and upright exercise bikes target a similar set of muscles whilst providing the benefits of a total body workout.

Below, we have pinpointed the advantages and disadvantages of each type of bike.

For those who are keen cyclists, spin bikes can help to improve your skills from the comfort of a gym or your home. As mentioned, the concept of a spin bike replicates a traditional bike and therefore provides a great way of improving your technique.

This is also great for those who have not ridden a traditional bike before, as they can develop confidence using a spin bike beforehand. Spin bikes also allow users to increase the intensity of their workout by changing their position.

For example, those who want to enjoy a more relaxed workout can remain seated and those that want to work their body a little harder can stand up. The overall build quality of spin bikes is deemed to be more robust than upright exercise bikes too.

There are also disadvantages associated with the use of a spin bike too. Although a bike of this kind will work the upper body to some extent, ultimately, the pedaling motion will work the legs and lower body more. For this reason, it can become easy to neglect your focus on your core and upper body.

To avoid such issues, it is important to supplement your use of a spin bike with other workouts too. Spin bikes also aren’t recommended for individuals who suffer from back or joint problems because it can be difficult to maintain a healthy posture for the duration of your workout and there is also a risk of straining muscles too.

Upright bikes are a worthy option for riders who value stats that record the details of their workout so that they can keep up to date with their progress.

As the handlebars are positioned higher than the seat, it will also work the arms; biceps, and shoulders of the rider as they have to reach slightly to grasp onto the handles as they apply pressure to the pedals at the same time. The seats of upright exercise bikes typically incorporate more padding so they provide the user with more comfort whilst they are seated.

Another advantage of upright bikes is the price at which most models retail. Of course, there are high-end models available, but on the whole, upright bikes retail at a very reasonable price when compared to other types of stationary exercise bikes.

Training using an upright exercise bike is more restrictive due to the inability to workout in a seated and standing position. As such, there is a risk of some users getting bored of the repetition of sitting down for every workout that they complete.

Although it is possible to alter the resistance of an upright bike, you cannot alter the intensity in the same way that you can when using a spin bike because of the limitations in regards to standing up. Upright bikes also require users to develop a slightly slumped posture which may also lead to potential back or neck issues.

Comparing Upright Bikes With Other Stationary Bikes

Another popular type of stationary exercise bike is the recumbent bike. When browsing the market you will likely be inundated with offerings of different types of exercise bikes and this can make it difficult to narrow the selection down to the best option for your fitness requirements.

Similar to spin bikes and upright exercise bikes, there are several advantages and disadvantages associated with a recumbent bike, and because of this, you may be wondering which is the favored option out of the three types that we have mentioned.

Ultimately, your decision will be based on a range of factors with the most prominent being your training goals and your commitment to applying your efforts to your workouts.

What is a recumbent bike?

Recumbent bikes add a relaxing feel to working out. This is because they are designed with a lower and wider seat and whilst this type of bike allows users to strengthen many muscles such as their calves, glutes, and thighs, their joints aren’t subject to as much pressure and possible strain.

The pedals are also slightly elevated so you can sit comfortably at a reclined position, while the padded backrests ensure that you are sufficiently supported. Recumbent bikes are also designed with handles that are located next to the seat and this allows users to maintain their balance as they ride.

A recumbent bike is typically sought after for home workout purposes and is particularly popular amongst those that suffer from joint issues such as arthritis which prevent them from using other types of stationary exercise bikes.

While it isn’t possible to stand up when using a recumbent bike due to the reclined design, as you are not required to hold onto the handles unless you feel necessary you can free your hands without worrying about losing your balance.

How Do The Features Of Spin Bikes, Upright Bikes And Recumbent Bikes Differ?

As we have touched upon previously, there are noticeable differences between the features of a spin bike and an upright exercise bike but the features of a recumbent bike differ too.

The Positioning Of The Handlebars

On an upright bike, the handles are positioned above the seat and require riders to sit in a slouched position to reach them. The handles on a spin bike are more level with the bike seat and also encourage the riders to slouch to reach them.

On a recumbent bike, however, the handles are located next to the seat and only really need to be used when the rider feels slightly off-balance, otherwise, it is possible to use a recumbent bike without holding on to anything.

Because of this, recumbent bikes aren’t the best option for those who want to workout their upper body and arms as they aren’t used. Out of all three options, the elevated positioning of the handlebars on upright bikes means that they will work your arms and upper body.

The Positioning Of the Pedals

When seated in a recumbent bike, the pedals will be in front of you rather than below you. 

However, on an upright bike or spin bike, the pedals are positioned lower than the seat.

The Comfort Of The Seat

For many, the comfort of their exercise bike is a key consideration. The padding and size of the seat will affect how comfortable it is to sit on.

Recumbent bikes have bigger seats with higher backrests both of which are padded. As such, the rider is provided with plenty of support and has a comfortable surface to rest their body against.

For this reason, if comfort is desirable you will likely benefit from investing in a recumbent bike, rather than an upright bike or spin bike where the padding on the seat is a little more sparse.

The Resistance Method

Similar to upright bikes and spin bikes, it is possible to alter the resistance of your recumbent bike. How you do this will depend on the model.

More basic recumbent bikes will require you to do this manually, however, those that are slightly more advanced will allow you to use this via digital controls. Upright bikes are also similar as they can be controlled manually or digitally, whilst spin bikes are typically controlled manually.

Although recumbent bikes may appear easier and less intense to use due to the more relaxed design of the seat and the location of the pedals, when the level of resistance is high, the bike will require the rider to apply a lot of effort and engage their muscles.

The Muscles Targeted

Spin bikes and upright exercise bikes target similar muscles and require the rider to engage more muscles.

A recumbent bike still provides an effective workout, however, you will not be using your upper body but rather your legs and glutes. Because of this, an upright bike or spin bike is the best option for those who want to work out their lower and upper body as they ride.

Unlike a recumbent bike, an upright bike will engage the arm muscles as you will have to stretch more to reach the handlebars. Although a spin bike doesn’t target your arms in the same manner, it will still work out your upper body and core.

Calories

All three types of exercise bikes allow the rider to burn calories, and the amount burned will often be a reflection of your efforts. Spin bikes and upright bikes tend to burn the most calories because they work more muscles in your body.

The ability to stand on a spin bike will also allow you to workout more intensely. This doesn’t mean that a recumbent bike is going to be ineffective in burning calories and contributing to weight loss, however, the reclined seats of a recumbent bike tend to lead the user to relax rather than pedal intensely.

If you would prefer to workout using a recumbent bike do not be deterred. If you apply maximum effort and pedal intensely with the resistance set to a medium or higher level, you will reap the benefits in regards to the number of calories that you will burn.

How to Choose Your Exercise Bike

When contemplating which exercise bike is right for you, it is important to consider which type you are likely to get the most use of, otherwise, you may invest in an exercise bike that ends up being a wasted purchase.

Some users may benefit from a selection of training programs and this isn’t a feature that is going to be found on spin bikes or basic upright bikes, so you must determine whether this is going to affect the type that you choose.

Also, consider the adjustable features of the bike because some models will allow you to make more adjustments to ensure that the bike caters to your requirements whilst others will not.

Final Thoughts

Choosing between a spin bike and an upright exercise bike can be a challenge. Although there are several differences between each type, both will have many benefits and will deliver a great workout.

It is paramount to consider your fitness levels and goals to ensure that your chosen exercise bike accommodates this. Whilst upright bikes are recommended for beginners in particular, spin bikes provide a viable option for those with a more moderate fitness level who want to feel as though they are riding a normal bike.

It is also important to account for any existing physical injuries because an upright bike or spin bike may worsen such conditions. The space that you have available will also influence your choice because the market offers some bikes that fold and others that do not.

There are other types of exercise available such as the recumbent bike so there is variety if you do not feel as though a spin bike or upright bike is an ideal choice for you. By assessing the factors that we have listed above, you will likely find it easier to arrive at a final decision.

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