Decisions about new exercise equipment can be personal. What works for you may not work for someone else. Even within the same segment, such as recumbent bikes, an expensive, feature-rich bike might be best for your workout partner, while you might prefer a solid yet simple machine. At each price point, however, there are highly rated recumbent bikes.
Schwinn 200 Series
Schwinn, makers of all types of road bicycles since the turn of the 20th century, is one of the more recognizable names in recumbent bikes. The 200 series, including the 220, 230 and 240 models, is comparable to health club units in many ways and have prices the average consumer can afford. Most models cost less than $500 as of February 2011 and feature magnetic resistance, built-in exercise programs, a heart-rate monitor and a large LCD display. "Consumer Reports" named the 230 a "best buy" and the 240 has a 4.5 star rating based on compiled user reviews, according to Consumer Search.
Lamar Fitness is a growing player in home workout equipment with a line of recumbent bikes that are versatile, sturdy and feature-rich. Lamar occupies the luxury segment, which may be too high end for some consumers. The Lamar 7250 starts at about $799 on the low end, while the 7450 retails for up to $2,199, as of February 2011. Both models feature a step-through design, meaning you don't have to swing your leg over the middle support like you do with some recumbents. They use magnetic resistance with 20 preset levels and 16 workout programs. The 7450 features a telemetric heart-rate monitor that uses both the grip and a chest strap for accurate measurements. Star Trac acquired Lamar in 2008, but the product line remains under the Lamar banner, as of 2011.
Advances in materials, construction methods and electronics have made entry-level recumbents more attractive. The Marcy ME 709 is one such model, starting at under $150, as of February 2011, and providing eight resistance levels, or plenty for beginner and intermediate exercisers. The large LCD display tracks speed, distance and calories burned, but the unit lacks a heart-rate monitor and cup holder, standard items on more expensive models. It is easily portable, featuring transport wheels at the base, and it has an adjustable, padded seat.
The R514 by Nautilus packs the features of a health-club recumbent bike into a package costing under $500, as of February 2011. Its robust feature list includes telemetric heart-rate monitoring with the chest strap included, water-bottle holder, magazine rack and an LCD display with all your relevant information. There are two programmable user profiles and seven preset profiles from which to choose. The seat features lumbar support, and the bike has a fan to keep you cool.