Pros: Lots of program options - more than most bikes.
Cons: Can be confusing if this is new to you.
I am reviewing the Life Fitness 5500 Recumbent bike. I have only reviewed one other recumbent a long time ago and that was the Precor.
You may be confused about the different models. I am not going into great detail about them but to make it easier for you, in a nutshell, the Life Fitness (many of Life Fitness' models are called Lifecycle) 4000 doesnt have the heart-monitoring feature the 5500 has. I have read that some feel the 5500 is for home use while the 5500HR is for commercial use. I have also read that they are both considered home use bikes. The higher the number you go the more commercial the bike will be. www.lifefitness.com has this as a commercial bike.
A recumbent stationary bike is very different than an upright. There are many differences but the most notable is the fact the recumbent has a seat with a back making it much more user friendly for those of you with bad backs. I think youll find the Life Fitness 5500 very comfortable.
The bikes features and comfort:
I have been on many recumbent bikes and there are slight differences but personally I dont notice a major difference from line to line. The seat of the 5500 may be a bit more comfortable than the Precor but not so noticeable that I would choose this one over the Precor for that one reason. The back is a bit higher which is a newer feature and does make a difference. Since the recumbent is used to protect the back, I find the higher the seat, the more comfortable so I like the Life Fitness' design, but the Precors back isnt low.
I think the 5500 (Which Ive used for years at my moms fitness room in her condo.) can be a complicated machine. Certainly you will learn how to use it. The 5500 has one of the more complicated displays I have seen so dont expect to buy this and think there is something wrong with you when you cant figure out all the displays right away.
In addition to the heart rate feature, the electronic console displays distance traveled, elapsed time, calories burned, rpm, and effort level.
There are 12 resistance levels, an LED display, and programs including hill, random, manual and fit test, as well as race mode.
The width of this machine is 25 inches, the length, 56 inches. It is 48 inches high and weighs 121 pounds.
How to use the 5500:
There is a pull button, which pulls up to adjust the seat. I find the seat adjustment easy to use and I can get as close as I need to for comfort. Some bikes have the adjustment on the side, which isnt difficult either, but I find the side adjustments dont sit in place quite as easily as the top button adjustments.
It is crucial that you realize that unlike any other machine I can think of, these bikes do not show a display until you start pedaling. The first thing you do is to choose if you want to quick start or program start. Once you choose either of these start pedaling. If you choose quick start all you then have to do is enter one of the resistance levels (I am comfortable around 8- you will have to play around with it yourself and remember for the best workout change resistance levels regularly. Thats called interval training.)
If you choose program start you will, after you pedal, choose which program you want- hill, random, manual or you can choose a fit test, which is a 5 minute test and the machine will take you through what you need to do, or race mode. All these choices are on the display. They are clearly displayed and you wont have a problem finding them you may just be initially overwhelmed with all the displays. After you have chosen a program, you then put in how long you want to bike for and then the resistance level, which can be changed at any time as I noted above.
The display shows you the calories you are burning per hour, the miles you have traveled, and the total calories you have burned. (Take into consideration that studies show these numbers to be about 20% off one way or the other.) The fit test and the program start option takes into consideration your weight and age. I really like that about this machine. In my opinion none of these calories burned numbers can be at all accurate if they havent asked your weight and age. I use a Cybex bike at my gym and it doesn't have this feature. I like the Life Fitness bike much better.
You must keep up your pedaling or the machine will stop and you will have to start all over. I have used the machine where I just slowed down and it went into a pause mode so when I started up again I didnt lose my information. If you pause for too long, though, you will have to start over.
The display also has 2 other features I want to note. One is a display that lights up showing you what level of resistance you are on. Personally I dont find that necessary, but it is something to look at!
The other display is the zone training graph, which I have a problem with. It gives a range of ages from 20-65, which is fine. So for example at 50, my cardiovascular training zone would be 145. That is 80% of the maximum. Remember this has a heart rate monitor and I love that about this machine. At any time you can see what your heart rate is. What I dont like and isnt on some other machines is the fat burning zone. Without getting too complicated at one time it was thought that you burn more fat if you are in a lower cardio range. That made and makes no sense and since this thinking came out about 8 years ago, we now know that, of course, the faster you go, the more calories you will burn and the more fat you will burn. In any case this machine shows a fat burning zone of 65% of your maximum heart rate. I dont have a problem knowing what 65% of my maximum heart rate is- I find that helpful. It is just misleading (Not intentionally) to look at it and think, I will burn more fat if I am working in this zone. That just isnt the case.
My thoughts on the Life Fitness 5500:
I enjoyed this machine the week I was in Florida. I find it comfortable and once I figured out the display (It had been a while since I used anything but a Cybex recumbent), it was fun to use.
I found the ride very, very comfortable. I usually bike for about 35 minutes and neither my back or butt got numb or sore. It has a lot of programs so you can gear your workout to what you feel like doing on a particular day. One day I would do hills, one day manual (meaning I put in what my resistance will be, rather than the bike doing it for me) and another day random. Level one is an easy bike ride. It will not get your heart rate up unless you have never worked out or if this is your first time on a bike. If it is, stay on level 1 until you are comfortable and of course check with your doctor before using any machines if you are just starting out.
When I wrote my review of the Precor bike I said that I didnt get a good cardiovascular workout on it. I feel the same way about the 5500 and I dont think it is the brand or model. I think it is very easy to take a leisurely ride on a recumbent bike versus a Stairmaster or Elliptical machine.
The bike is working your lower body only, not your legs so if you are buying a piece of equipment for a full body workout this isnt the one you want.
This machine is in a very small fitness room not in a large gym. I think it is appropriate for the home in spite of the site's having it as commercial.
If something is not clear or you have a question, please leave a comment.
Other reviews you may be interested in:
NordicTrack Classic Pro
Precor Stationary Bike
Precor Elliptical Machine
Precor Stretch Trainer