The Best Exercise Bikes for Bad Knees: Minimize Pain and Maximize Comfort

Best Exercise Bikes for Bad Knees


Knee pain, whether it be from an injury or normal wear and tear on your joint, can interfere with your health and fitness goals. And really there is nothing more frustrating to a fitness junkie than bad knees or other injuries getting in the way of a workout. Cycling is a great alternative for those looking to stay on track with their fitness while not further hurting their knees. In fact, very often part of knee rehabilitation and physical therapy is using a stationary bike to strengthen surrounding muscles and ligaments.

Specifically, recumbent bikes are some of the best exercise bikes for anyone with nagging knee pain. They are ergonomically designed with a semi-reclined position that provides back support and a relaxed cycling position. Since the pedals are in front of the body, there is minimal stress on the knee allowing you to get in a solid cardio sesh without the pain.

You can find great recumbent bikes at every price point made by major manufacturers in the fitness industry—Schwinn, Proform, and NordicTrack to name a few. Narrowing down the right one for you can be daunting given all the options on the market. So, we have rounded up the best recumbent bikes for bad knees in this comprehensive review. Read on to find yours.

Why Trust Us?

ACTIVE.com’s editorial team relies on the knowledge and experience of fitness and wellness experts including competitive athletes, coaches, physical therapists, nutritionists, and certified trainers. This helps us ensure the products we feature are of the highest standard. Collectively, the team has spent countless hours researching equipment, gear, and recovery tools in order to create the most accurate, authentic content for our readers. Customer satisfaction is also a key part of our review process, which is why we only feature products that are highly rated.

The Best Exercise Bikes for Bad Knees - Our Top Picks

By clicking on the product links in this article, we may receive a commission fee at no cost to you, the reader. Sponsorships and affiliate commissions help support our research so we can help you find the best products. Read the full affiliate disclosure here.

Best Overall Exercise Bike for Bad Knees - Sole R92 Recumbent Bike

Sole R92 Recumbent Bike

SPECS

  • Dimensions: 57"(L) x 30"(W) x 50" (H)
  • Display: 9.0" LCD
  • Weight: 134 lbs.
  • Weight capacity: 300 lbs.
  • Material: Aluminum steel frame

Check Price

Sole is a leader in the field of cardio equipment known for engineering machines with top-of-the-line components sold at an affordable price. The Sole R92 Recumbent Bike lives up to the formidable Sole reputation and has snagged the top spot as our pick for the best overall exercise bike for bad knees. From its easy step-through design to the patented 2-degree inward design of the foot pedals which corrects posture, the Sole R92 is an ideal choice for anyone with knee or mobility issues.

The Sole R92 features a large padded and adjustable seat (fore and aft) as well as a supportive padded back support which ensures comfort and a fit that minimizes stress on your knees. The aluminum-coated steel frame comes with a 300-pound user weight capacity providing a sturdy and supportive workout experience. Notable conveniences include an integrated 9-inch LCD screen, integrated fans, a tablet holder, a USB port for charging, Bluetooth audio speakers, pulse grips, and an included chest-strap heart rate monitor to more accurately track your fitness metrics.

What We Like

  • Ergonomic fit
  • Low stress on knees
  • Quality build
  • 10 programs
  • Warranty

What We Don’t Like

  • Large footprint
  • Basic display

BUY: Sole R92 Recumbent Bike

Best Budget Exercise Bike for Bad Knees - Schwinn 290 Recumbent Bike

Schwinn 290 Recumbent Bike

SPECS

  • Dimensions: N/A
  • Display: 7" LCD
  • Weight: N/A
  • Weight capacity: N/A
  • Material: N/A

Check Price

If you are looking to keep the cost down but seeking a high-quality recumbent bike with the option for interactive programming, the Schwinn 290 Recumbent Bike is a solid choice. The Schwinn 290 offers a customized fit thanks to its padded, ventilated, and adjustable seat as well as adjustable handlebars. This allows for a relaxed and supported position minimizing joint stress while ensuring comfort.

The Schwinn 290 features a seven-inch LCD display, weighted strapped pedals, media shelf, water bottle holder, and transport wheels to move and store the bike out of the way when not in use. When it comes to programming, your purchase of this bike comes with a 1-year JRNY membership. This fitness platform provides personalized training with adaptive workouts, real-time coaching, on-demand classes, and various routes to choose from via Explore the World app (subscription required).

What We Like

  • Padded and ventilated seat
  • Adjustable fit
  • JRNY membership included
  • Bluetooth enabled

What We Don’t Like

  • Small monitor
  • No onboard programs

BUY: Schwinn 290 Recumbent Bike

Best Premium Exercise Bike for Bad Knees - NordicTrack Commercial R35 Recumbent Bike

NordicTrack Commercial R35 Recumbent Bike

SPECS

  • Dimensions: 68.22"L x 23.69"W x 53.42"H
  • Display: 14" Smart HD Touchscreen
  • Weight: 192 lbs.
  • Weight capacity: 350 lbs.
  • Material: Commercial-grade steel construction

Check Price

The NordicTrack Commercial R35 Recumbent Bike is a high-quality bike with top-notch technology making it a great choice for those who place a premium on both build and interactive programming. The sturdy, durable solid steel frame offers a 350-pound user weight capacity, patented StepThru design, an oversized lumbar-supported cushioned adjustable seat, and extra-wide ergonomic foot pedals with adjustable straps making it suitable for just about any sized user looking to minimize knee pain while getting a good workout.

Featuring a 14-inch Smart HD Touchscreen, automatic trainer control technology, easy One-Touch controls, two 2-inch digitally amplified Bluetooth Speakers, and a AutoBreeze workout fan, the VR35 engineering places an emphasis on comfort and convenience. Included in your purchase is a 30-day iFit trial which unlocks access to thousands of on-demand workouts to spice up your routine. If you do not want to pay for programming, you are in luck. The R35 comes with 35 onboard workouts in addition to its 26 levels of digital resistance providing plenty of training variability to keep you engaged.

What We Like

  • Tons of program options
  • Sturdy frame
  • Weight capacity
  • Conveniences
  • Comfortable seat
  • Larger monitor

What We Don’t Like

  • Footprint and weight
  • Cost

BUY: Nordictrack Commercial R35 Recumbent Bike

Best Exercise Bike for Bad Knees and Arthritis: ProForm Pro C10R Recumbent

Proform Pro C10R Recumbent

SPECS

  • Dimensions: 25.4" W x 56.8" D x 49.8" H
  • Display: 10" Smart HD Touchscreen
  • Weight: N/A
  • Weight capacity: 300 lbs.
  • Material: N/A

Check Price

If you suffer from both bad knees and arthritis, the ProForm Pro C10R is a good choice as its engineering and adjustability make it easier to maintain proper posture, lessening stress on all of your joints. As an added bonus, the budget-friendly bike comes equipped with a 10-inch Smart HD Touchscreen display with iFit capabilities and trial membership included - features not often seen on recumbent bikes at this price point.

Beyond the iFit subscription, users can choose from the 10-20 onboard workout options (Wifi required). Alternatively, you can use the 25 levels of silent magnetic resistance in manual mode to create your own workout. For added comfort, the C10R comes equipped with ergonomic pedals with adjustable straps, a cooling fan, dual 2-inch Bluetooth speakers, Bluetooth headphone compatibility, a water bottle holder, and oversized leveling feet to keep the frame sturdy. The weight of the inertia-enhanced flywheel is not noted on ProForm’s website however several users do report that it is lighter in weight producing resistance that may not challenge more experienced cyclists.

What We Like

  • Interactive programming
  • 30-day trial
  • Quick touch resistance buttons
  • Comfortable
  • Affordable

What We Don’t Like

  • Resistance may not be challenging enough for some
  • Warranty on parts is disappointing

BUY: ProForm Pro C10R Recumbent

Best Folding Exercise Bike for Bad Knees: Ironman Exerpuetic 400 XL Folding Recumbent Bike

Ironman Exerpeutic 400 XL Folding Recumbent Bike

SPECS

  • Dimensions: 17"(D) x 20"(W) x 54"(H)
  • Display: None
  • Weight: 145 lbs.
  • Weight capacity: 300 lbs.
  • Material: N/A

Check Price

If you are tight on space, the Ironman Exerpuetic 400 XL is a folding recumbent bike designed to accommodate weights up to 300 pounds. The biggest draw to this bike is its compact footprint relative to most recumbent bikes making it a good choice for people living in smaller quarters. And it folds so it can be stored out of the way when not in use. The 400 XL features a precision-balanced flywheel, 8-levels of magnetic tension, and a v-belt drive system. Belt drive systems do tend to be noisy so it's something to consider if you live in an apartment building.

There is a small LCD screen located on the frame that tracks distance, calories, time, speed, and heart rate however the accuracy is questionable. Should you want some programming options, you can purchase a compatible cadence sensor and subscription to MyCloudFitness for access to training options.

What We Like

  • Space saving
  • MyCloudFitness capabilities if you purchase cadence sensors
  • Sturdy
  • Easy-to-use
  • Versatile

What We Don’t Like

  • May be noisy
  • Tension levels reportedly not very challenging

BUY: Exerpeutic 400 XL Folding Recumbent Bike

Types of Exercise Bikes for Bad Knees

Stationary exercise bikes fall into one of two categories—upright exercise bikes and recumbent exercise bikes. Upright exercise bikes look similar to traditional bikes with a seat located in an upright position and the pedals located below the hips. These seats are typically more narrow which reduces friction between the seat and legs.

Recumbent exercise bikes look different with the seat typically in a semi-reclined position and the pedals located out in front. These seats are broader and usually padded with backing for lumbar support. Recumbent bikes also carry a larger footprint than upright bikes.

Both types of exercise bikes are good options for people with bad knees. There is research that suggests recumbent bikes may have a slight advantage over upright bikes in regards to bad knees since the seat is located behind the pedals thus reducing stress on all joints. But this is largely dependent on the reason you are experiencing knee pain and where it stems from. As such, we recommend talking to your healthcare provider to determine which bike is the best one for your knee condition.

How to Choose the Best Exercise Bike for Bad Knees

Dimensions

By design, recumbent bikes take up more space than do any other stationary bike. Still, each model may vary in dimensions which becomes particularly important if you reside in a smaller home. The first step in your search is to measure out the area where you plan to keep your new piece of cardio equipment. You can then narrow your search criteria down by those specific dimensions.

Display

The display on exercise bikes varies by size, type, and overall functionality. The majority of stationary bikes that are good for bad knees are somewhat basic. You will usually find a smaller LCD monitor which displays basic fitness metrics you can use to guide your workout. A few exercise bikes that made our top list offer monitors with interactive, touchscreen displays on which you can engage in some virtual programming. Typically the more technological displays come on bikes that cost more and require a subscription to the associated virtual fitness platform such as iFit or JRNY. If you prioritize interactive training options be sure to consider the display any given bike comes with for functionality and size.

Size and Weight Capacity

Because of their inherently larger size, many stationary exercise bikes that are good for people with knee pain weigh quite a bit. As such, they are less portable than some of the more compact cardio machines found in home gyms so be sure to have a dedicated space for your new bike to call home.

As a general rule of thumb, the greater in weight the bike is, the sturdier ride it offers. While this is not always the case, it holds true for most exercise bikes. And, the girthier frames usually accommodate a higher user weight capacity. This is an especially important consideration when multiple users of different weights plan to use the same machine.

Adjustability

The best exercise bikes for bad knees come with adjustable seat positions and/or adjustable handlebars. Not only does this allow for multiple users in one household but it also enables each user to find a fit that is comfortable and ergonomically sound.

FAQs About Exercise Bikes for Bad Knees


Is using an exercise bike ok if you have bad knees?

First, it is always important to check with your doctor before starting an exercise routine, especially if you are dealing with bad knees. But, generally, stationary exercise bikes are a good way to strengthen muscles and ligaments surrounding the knee while keeping the stress on the area minimal. In fact, most physical therapists use stationary bikes as part of knee rehabilitation.

Is an upright or recumbent bike better for bad knees?

There is a lot of mixed information gleaned from research studies regarding whether an upright or recumbent bike is better for bad knees. Some research points to recumbent bikes being a better choice for bad knees since there is even less stress on the joint in the reclined position. But it is often dependent on why you are experiencing pain.

Which is better for bad knees: a treadmill or a bike?

Treadmills certainly place more stress on all joints as it involves higher-impact activities such as walking, jogging, or running. For those with bad knees, this kind of impact will likely aggravate bad knees. As such, cycling on a stationary bike is a better, low-impact choice for bad knees.

About the Author

Kristine Golden

Kristine has been immersed in the fitness world for nearly 20 years. She has competed in marathons and Ironman races and earned a spot to compete in the 2012 Age Group National Championship Olympic Triathlon.

See More from Kristine

Kristine has been immersed in the fitness world for nearly 20 years. She has competed in marathons and Ironman races and earned a spot to compete in the 2012 Age Group National Championship Olympic Triathlon.

See More from Kristine

Discuss This Article