If you have bad knees, you know you have bad knees. It’s a very limiting thing. You watch people on Facebook and Instagram showing off their latest marathon PB and you know it’s not something your body will let you do.
But you can’t let bad knees stop you from getting a good work out. I let it be an excuse for long time, gaining weight and losing confidence. Indoor exercise bikes were my answer, providing that high intensity exercise without the damaging impact on the knees.
In this guide, I’ll take you through the best indoor exercise bikes on the market right now. Combine that with plenty of knee strengthening exercises you can do to help develop the muscles around the joint, and you will see a noticeable difference to your health.
Even if you don’t buy one of the ones listed below, just remember to look for maximum adjustability. You want to be able to set the bike up to your body type, weight, and height. If you can’t do that, even the most expensive bike won’t be enough.
Best Exercise Bike for Bad Knees: Our Top 4 Picks
Best Overall: Schwinn Fitness Indoor Cycling Exercise Bike Series IC4
Runner Up: Sunny Health & Fitness Magnetic Belt Drive Indoor Cycling Bike
Best for Arthritis and Bad Knees: SCHWINN 270 Recumbent Bike
Best For Your Budget: EXERPEUTIC 900XL Extended Capacity Recumbent Bike
1. Best Overall: Schwinn Fitness Indoor Cycling Exercise Bike Series IC4
- Resistance Mechanism: Magnetic
- Display: LCD Display Tracking Time, Distance, Calories, Heart Rate & RPM
- Weight Capacity: 330 pounds
- Warranty: 1 year electrical, 90 days labor, 10 years frame, 3 years parts
While expensive, the IC4 is worth the price if it fits into your budget. But even though it’s at the higher-end of the budget bracket, it’s still a fraction of what you’d pay for a Peloton. And with the IC4, you’re getting Peloton-esque performance.
This bike matches pretty much anything you’ll find at a decent gym. It just feels high-quality, if you get what I mean. It doesn’t have that flimsy-ness to it that many indoor bikes have. While this obviously doesn’t guarantee quality, it’s a good start, right?
One of my favorite things about this bike is that it’s compatible with a bunch of cycling apps. For example, you can use the Peloton app to stream on-demand classes on the IC4’s screen. You can also use the Zwift or Explore the World apps; it’s up to you.
The bike also includes a bluetooth heart rate armband. Considering I’ve been overweight myself, I would really recommend using one both for weight loss and safety. You want to make sure you’re always in the right HR zone, without overdoing it.
Overall, this bike just gives you a superior experience. It feels like you’re using a quality product, which the IC4 undoubtedly is. The Peloton bike, in my opinion, doesn’t offer much more and it’s far more expensive. This one isn’t cheap, sure, but it’s the best bang for your buck out there.
If you’re looking for a bike that has countless workout programs, all the bells and whistles, and unbeatable comfort, this is the bike for you if it fits your budget.
The machine, while heavy, isn’t too large, so you can squeeze it into your home if you are somewhat limited for space. The unique padding keeps you in style and comfort, and it is built to last for years to come. Peloton performance without the Peloton price.
2. Sunny Health & Fitness Magnetic Belt Drive Indoor Cycling Bike
Listen, this thing isn’t a Peloton. And it’s not an IC4 either. No one is going to argue that, even Sunny Health themselves will concede this machine doesn’t quite match them.
But they’re not trying to. This bike does everything it needs to at a high level, which is all you need to deliver a great (and safe!) workout without impacting you knees. The company has been around for over 20 years, so they know what they’re doing.
The machine feels like a quality product right out of the box. It has floor stabilizers, meaning it won’t move around during your workout. Both the seat and handlebars are fully adjustable, so you can ensure you’re comfortable before starting your workout. You also get a device holder, should you want to watch something during exercise.
It’s also functions using a magnetic belt drive, which is just plainly the superior experience. Little maintenance, a smooth (and super quiet!) ride, it’s just a nicer workout overall compared to a friction bike.
This bike is your best bet if you don’t want to pay Peloton or IC4 prices. Sure, you don’t get the extras, but it’s still a gym-level experience. What’s important is that you get all of the essentials for a good workout without damaging your knees; adjustable seat and handlebars, a smooth and reliable ride, stable. It’s still an investment, but 100% worth it.
BEST FOR ARTHRITIS AND BAD KNEES
3. SCHWINN 270 RECUMBENT BIKE
The Schwinn 270 recumbent bike may just be the best exercise machine for knee pain, with its 29 programs, 25 resistance levels, and extra gadgets, along with the cushioned seat, enhanced lower back support, and ergonomic pedals. The screen tracks your calories burnt, distance, and time, with the added feature of a USB port so that you can transfer your data onto your computer.
The bike comes with wheels at the bottom, making it simple to move and store if you need some extra space, and assembling it is surprisingly simple. The magnetic tension ensures you will have a quiet ride, so you can concentrate on other things (such as the music coming out of the speakers) without losing focus.
One of the only downsides is the adjustment of the seat can be a bit complicated, as the seat slides downwards while also moving forwards, therefore simultaneously decreasing the distance and height from the pedals. However, you can adjust the settings for most body types and fitness levels, making it an excellent choice for anyone looking for a low impact workout to rehabilitate and diminish knee pain.
All in all, this is a fantastic choice for anyone with a mid-level budget, with its impressive number of programs and the built-in amenities that will cater to users with arthritis and knee pain who want to ride in comfort.
This bike comes at a mid-price point, making it a great value when you think of all the features as well as its bells and whistles. The built-in fan will help keep you cool, you can sync your fitness data to your computer or apps to stay motivated, and the utmost customization makes it a fantastic choice if you have bad knees.
BEST BANG for your buck
4. EXERPEUTIC 900XL EXTENDED CAPACITY RECUMBENT BIKE
Even though its a lower end model, the bike has a sleek design with a black, silver, and grey color scheme, matching almost all home decor settings. Surprisingly, considering its low price point, it has a significant number of built-in features, including an LCD screen that displays distance, calories burnt, speed, time, and heart rate, an eight-level magnetic tension control system, and an adjustable seat that can be accommodated to comfortably seat people of all heights.
The one downside that we can see is that the seat is somewhat firm, which can lead to some discomfort if you also suffer from lower back pain. Assembling it can also be somewhat complicated, so we do recommend some patience or hiring some professional assistance when it comes to assembly.
The reasonably compact size has an impressive 300 lbs maximum weight limit, and it’s relatively small, so it can easily fit most spaces. Its magnetic tension means you get a quiet workout, and while you may not get all the extensive amenities and features from more high-end bikes, you can’t really beat the price.
This bike is a sturdy bike made for people with a tight budget. There are not as many bells and whistles as with some of the other bikes, but it does have a heart rate monitor in the hand grips, so you can adjust your workout to your fitness level. However, what it lacks in features, it makes up for in a user-friendly and durable design, making it easy to get on and off the bike.
Do I Need an Exercise Bike?
Physical Benefits of Stationary Bikes
Exercising on a stationary bike has a lot of physical as well as mental benefits. When you exercise daily, you sleep more soundly, enhance your cardiovascular health, strengthen your heart and lungs, accelerate fat-burning and feel and look better.
Some other physical benefits include:
- Stationary bikes are easy on the joints: Sitting on an exercise bike means you will be resting your weight on your pelvic bones, instead of on your legs. Therefore, it’s an excellent option for anyone that suffers from stiffness or joint pain.
- You get an aerobic workout by pushing pedals: Aerobic exercises are great for your brain, and heart. They also trigger endorphin release, which are your body’s feel-good chemicals.
- Cycling helps with everyday activities: The physical benefits from a stationary bike carry over to stair climbing, endurance, standing, walking, and balance.
- Pedaling rebuilds bone mass: Pushing pedals, which is a resistance activity, will pull on the muscles which then pull on the bone, increasing bone density.
Types of Exercise Bikes for Bad Knees
There are currently two types of in-home use stationary bikes that anyone with knee issues can use comfortably and safely as they allow for a low-impact exercise: upright bikes and recumbent bikes. The two, while similar, also differ in some ways.
Upright Exercise Bikes resemble a regular bike, as they are upright with the pedals positioned below the hips, same as an outdoor bike. The seat on this style of bike is also similar to a regular bicycle.
Recumbent Exercise Bikes have a plusher and broader seat, which rests in a semi-reclined position, as the bike has been manufactured to also provide back support when pedaling. The pedals are also located in a different location, as they are not located below the seat, but in front of it.
A lot of users have posed themselves the question ‘Are recumbent bikes hard on knees?’, and luckily that’s not true. While the jury is still out on which bike is best for knee pain, some users feel that recumbent exercise bikes are the best choice, as the ergonomic design allows the users to exercise in a laid-back position, which can be more comfortable. That’s why all the bikes mentioned in this review are recumbent bikes.
Correct Seat Position in Recumbent Bike for Knee Pain
The best posture to have in a recumbent stationary bike is a semi-reclined position, as this will assist in redistributing your body weight while your back is also supported as you push the pedals. A study showed that the stress on the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is lessened while riding a recumbent bike.
Unlike an upright exercise bike where you adjust the seat up or down, you change the seat backward or forwards in recumbent bikes. To have the best posture, relax against the back of the seat, and begin at a mid-position, as being too reclined or too straight can cause pain or discomfort. Not having proper posture can also put additional stress on your knees, resulting in an increase of knee pain.
Your leg should only have a minimal bend while riding a recumbent bike, so your legs should be completely straight to start with, and then you can adjust the seat, so your knees don’t lock while you push the pedals. Your legs shouldn’t bend too much when pedaling, as this means added pressure on your knees.
Avoiding Knee Strain
When you are just starting out, you may feel a bit of pain in your knees after riding an exercise bike, as your legs are always extended forward. To avoid any soreness, don’t lean too far back in your seat, as this will put all the stress on your legs.
Choosing the Best Recumbent Bike For You
Before taking the plunge and purchasing a recumbent bike for bad knees, you need to be well informed. First and foremost, you need to determine your needs and goals. Identify all current aspects of your situation such as your desired comfort level, the available space in your house, your budget, as well as your current and desired fitness levels.
Some other things to take into consideration include:
There are two factors that come into play when you talk about bike size: the available space in your home and the height of the people that will use it. Bear in mind that recumbent bikes are bulkier than a spin bike or an upright bike, so you will need a larger area. Furthermore, you need to make sure that the bike has an adjustable seat, so you will be able to comfortably reach the handlebars and pedals.
There are stationary bikes at very different price points, some starting as low as $100 and as high as $5,000. You can expect more quality when you spend more, but if you’re on a budget, there are still some low-end models which, while designed with fewer features, will still work just as well as a higher-end model.
Depending on the brand, the noise level of recumbent bikes can vary. Manual resistance bikes tend to be noisier than the quieter, magnetic resistant bikes.
Most recumbent bikes have an adjustable seat so that you can adjust it to your desired preferences and comfort level. Nonetheless, the seat can sometimes be too high for shorter adults, so make sure that you review the designated height range, ensuring that the bike fits your needs.
Most modern exercise bikes come with pedals that have a strap which holds your foot in place. For users with knee pain or knee problems, look for a bike with slightly inward sloped pedals, which mimics your body’s natural posture, and helps to loosen any soreness or tightness in your muscles.
Heart Rate Monitoring
Most exercise bikes have the ability to monitor your heart rate, which is essential as you can pace your exercise routine to your current fitness level. When you track your heart rate, you’re able to maintain a steady speed, so you can work out for longer without exhausting yourself, and you can also track your progress.
You want to be sure that the exercise bike you end up buying has a good manufacturers warranty. In the event that the item is defective or breaks down suddenly, that extra warranty is vital. Depending on the cost and quality, the warranty will vary, but you should look for a bike that offers at least a 1-year warranty.