What is the Best Exercise Bike for Bad Knees?

Bad knees are a real pain in the, well, the knees. Just one bad knee will try it’s best to shut down any physical activity. But some of us aren’t ready to sit down or opt for knee replacement. We know we can’t go on without exercise. But What is the Best Exercise Bike for Bad Knees?

Schwinn 230 Recumbent Bike

Are Stationary Bikes Good for Bad Knees?

I hate reporting back to you without the answer you’re looking for, but no one knows the answer to that question.

First of all, anyone attempting to tell you whether or not an exercise is good or bad for your particular knees would need to be a physician.

My own personal knowledge is personal and not medical, and it’s about exercising with arthritis in my own knee joints.

Here’s what I do know about osteoarthritis in knees:

The number one treatment recommended by doctors (of course not by surgeons who make their living with a knife) is regular exercise.

There are a number of reasons regular exercise is good for arthritic knees, which include but probably are not limited to these:

  • Movement of the affected knees release synovial fluid. Synovial fluid keeps the joint lubricated to reduce friction between the bone and cartilage, or bones in the case of missing and worn-out cartilage. Exercise can cause your body to produce this lubricant.
  • Knee are more than joints. Of course, the joint is what we consider our knees, but it takes a lot of muscles to make the joint work correctly. Without regular exercise, the muscles tend to atrophy and cause even more pain and problems in general.

Taking those two facts into consideration, if your knee problem is osteoarthritis, then exercise is probably the best thing for you. But, let’s get back to the original question.

What is the Best Exercise Bike for Bad Knees?

I do love stationary bikes! They make the perfect companion to exercising with bad knees and watching TV. In fact, most gyms these days have their upright stationary and recumbent bikes facing a Big Screen TV.

They make a good way to burn calories and tone muscles without getting out in the weather. Having bad knees can definitely limit your workout options, but the right exercise bike can help you keep up your strength, along with maintaining a healthy weight and health.

Any stationary bike provides a good no-impact aerobic exercise. To avoid adding more knee pain symptoms, just be sure to start out at a low tension, or pedaling slow.

Why Recumbent Bikes Are Best for Bad Knees

Getting your regular exercise on a recumbent exercise bike has a lot of advantages. Those advantages are what make them one of most popular exercise options these days.

Because it takes several muscles to make knees work, the stronger your legs are the better they work. On the flip side of that, the weaker your legs are, the more pressure is put directly on the joint, instead of the leg muscles helping to carry the weight.

Working out on an exercise bike develops leg strength to avoid the joint carrying all the weight.

The more you pedal, the more you build leg muscle. Of course, running with bad knees would do the same thing, only with a lot more stress on the joint.

7 Reasons Recumbent Bikes are Better for Bad Knees?

1. The Position of Your Knees

What separates recumbent bikes from upright bikes is the position of your knees.

With upright bikes your knees are pretty much in the same place as riding a regular bicycle. On the other hand, a recumbent model puts your feet and knees out in front of you.

By having your legs outstretched in front of your body, you never worry about any of your body weight, or even leg weight being exerted on to your knees.

2. No Need to Hunch Over Handlebars

Another reason I consider a recumbent the better option is that you’re never tempted to lean forward and hunch over the moveable handlebars.

This can be a real problem when exercising on upright bikes or ellipticals. Even though most bikes are made to keep you upright without hunching over, it’s tempting, especially as you tire.

Unless you avoid leaning forward and concentrate on sitting in an upright position on an upright exercise bike, you risk adding back problems to your bad knees.

3. Offer Good Cardio Workouts

There’s no doubt you get a good cardio workout while exercising on a recumbent bike and sitting down. And without stressing your knees as much as other types of bikes.

Exercise doesn’t stop being a valuable asset to overall health, cardiovascular health, losing weight, and lowering the risk of many diseases just because you have bad knees.

And, the fact is, cardio exercise on exercise bikes is just a great way to get a good workout, especially recumbent bikes.

4. Recumbent Bikes are Comfortable

The word recumbent means to by in the sitting or lying position, and that’s where you are on a recumbent exercise bike.

You get your workout in while sitting on a much more comfortable seat than upright bikes. That recumbent position on a nice seat makes this a great exercise choice for most physical fitness levels along with troublesome knees.

The best bikes allow you to adjust the seat settings to ensure the most comfortable position, and the position that’s easiest on your knees.

5. Avoid Boredom While Exercising

Another advantage of recumbents is avoiding boredom. Choose a bike with built in programs to keep you challenged, interested, motivated, and excited about your next workout.

Different manufacturers develop different workout programs. Some are much more difficult than others, but all provide a great lower body workout without undue stress on your joints.

6. Recumbent Bikes are Safer

Recumbent exercise bike can make a really good choice either in the gym or your own home gym.

There are several reasons why it’s considered a safer option for toning muscles and losing weight.

The most obvious reason it’s safer is because the seat puts you lower to the ground. That makes it much easier to mount and dismount than a traditional upright model.

Because the center of gravity is so much lower, you will feel much more in control, balanced, and stable.

7. Longer Workouts

If you are having trouble exercising as long as you would like, recumbents may be your answer.

Due to the fact that they are so much more comfortable than upright bikes, they are easier to ride.

It’s a well-known fact that exercise releases “feel good” chemicals into your brain, but it takes a little while to get them going.

Using a recumbent exercise bike allows you to exercise longer with bad knees to feel good and make overall health improvements with less stress and pain.

Are Recumbent Bikes Really the Best Option?

First of all, let me remind you that any exercise is good and quite beneficial to overall health, and osteoarthritis.

However, there is one drawback to choosing a recumbent for your own exercise program. This is just my personal experience, and observations at the gym. Even though it may not hold true for you, it’s worth taking into consideration?

When I’m riding my own exercise bike for weight loss, I need to pedal pretty vigorously. When riding a recumbent bike, I’m more apt to go to sleep watching TV than I am to burn any calories?

There, I’ve said it! An upright bike with arm movement provides a full body workout, and keeps me focused on a good workout even if it is affecting my bad knees more than a recumbent bike.

The problem I have, and notice with other people, is that a recumbent bike tends to relax you more with the large comfortable seat and legs out in front as you pedal.

How to Prevent Knee Pain on a Recumbent Bike?

There are some precautions to take in order to prevent knee pain from exercising on your stationary bike.

  • Warm up your body and knees before stressing the joints
  • Take care to adjust the seat properly
  • Be sure your knees are bent rather than stretched out fully
  • Good form is better than speed, time or distance
  • Keep your shoulders in a relaxed position and not hunched over toward the handles
  • Divide your workout into several sessions instead of one long exercise session

One of the main reasons people start an exercise program and quit before they see any results, is doing to much when they start out.

If you haven’t been exercising regularly, start out with very short sessions and gradually work your way to longer and more exhaustive sessions.

Do not make the mistake that pedaling a recumbent bike, or any other exercise bike is less taxing than any other workout. It isn’t! Your legs and knees are always working and stressing as you pedal, so go easy on them.

Varying Your Workout Routine

Exercising your knees is usually the best way to protect them from further injury. Any physical activity you can do to strengthen the leg muscles that support your knees is helpful.

Other exercises to strengthen bad knees include squats, lunges, leg presses, stretching, and foam rolling.

Riding your bike every day may not be the best option, so varying your workout routine gives you different ways to make your legs stronger for less pain.


In general, using an upright bike for exercise is better on your knees than weight bearing exercises such as treadmills or other cardio equipment.

A lot of rehab programs and physical therapy institutions use them. If you compare exercise bikes to treadmills, they are overall safer and easier on your knees.

A recumbent or upright model can:

  • Strengthen your leg muscles
  • Improve and maintain your range of motion to keep you active with bad knees
  • Stronger leg muscles can aid in improving overall joint stability.

However, it’s important to remember that even though working out on an exercise bike is safer and a good option,

You can still aggravate your weak knees and cause more pain.

It’s important to:

  • Consult a doctor
  • Start slow and easy and don’t pedal for long periods of time
  • Use stretching exercises before and after your workouts
  • Try a good knee sleeve to help stabilize your knee while exercising

Going overboard and doing too much with bad knees as well as sudden speed and exertion changes can cause more and added pain.

When it comes to what is the best exercise bike for bad knees, I personally prefer my recumbent bike. That’s simply because with my legs stretched out in front of me rather than under me, there seems to be less stress on my bad knees.

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