Pros: Great value, nearly silent, compact, easy to move, good workout
Cons: No bells and whistles, no pre-programmed workouts, seat not super cushy
For several years now I have been using a great elliptical trainer, http://www.epinions.com/review/Smooth_Ce_Elliptical_Trainer_CE05/content_190340894340 , but I decided I wanted an additional machine that I could sit on instead of stand. The elliptical is wonderful but I have been getting busier lately and want to multi-task by reading or knitting/crocheting while I get a little exercise. That really isnt possible on an elliptical since you are standing up.
I have been saving to buy a recumbent bike for outdoors, so I thought it might make sense to go ahead and buy a stationary recumbent bike since it would fulfill my need for a machine I can use while sitting, and get my legs ready for recumbent biking at the same time. Since I spent around $1500 on my elliptical, I did not want to spend very much at all on a recumbent trainer. I didnt know if I could even find anything worth buying for a couple hundred dollars, but I started researching it regardless. I discovered that the Stamina 4600 Magnetic Resistance Recumbent Exercise Bike was only $179 with free shipping and had received some good reviews on various web sites.
My requirements for a recumbent bike in addition to being inexpensive were that it be very quiet so I could concentrate while reading or watch TV without having to raise the volume, and that it be compact and easy to move to different rooms. I found 3 models of Stamina recumbent machines for sale. There was a folding model which would certainly be space saving, but I generally worry that folding machines wont be as sturdy so I wasnt interested in that one. There was also the 4600 and one that was more expensive, the 4800. The 4800 didnt appear to have many more features than the 4600, and it was about a foot longer so I selected the 4600 since space was a factor to me. The main advantage to the 4800 was that it has pre-programmed workouts and the 4600 does not. But the difference in length was more important to me than the pre-programmed workouts.
The Stamina 4600 is adjustable from 36-45 inches long, is about 24 inches wide, and is 32 inches high at the top of the back of the seat. That is the highest point and the rest is several inches shorter. The bike weighs 67 lbs and has a maximum user capacity of 250 lbs. It is constructed mainly of steel and has various plastic parts.
The magnetic resistance is adjustable from 1-8 using a simple dial that you turn to click into place. The foot pedals have adjustable straps too fit the size of your foot. The seat can slide forward or back to accommodate different lengths of legs by simply pulling up on a bolt and sliding the machine until you reach the appropriate size and then inserting the bolt into another hole on the steel bar. There are wheels on the front of the machine so you can lift up the back and move it like a wheelbarrow to another location.
The machine comes with an Intouch battery operated monitor that requires 2 AA batteries which are included. There is nothing on the machine that needs to be plugged in which makes it easy to use the machine in any location. The only part that requires a power source is the monitor and that just uses the 2 AA batteries. The monitor has readouts for speed, distance, time, odometer (total distance traveled), and calories burned. There is also a scan feature that rotates through each reading. When you start pedaling the monitor automatically turns on and it will be on the last numbers from your previous workout. To reset it you simply hold down the single button on the monitor for a couple of seconds. The odometer will still retain the total distance traveled number until you replace the batteries. The monitor turns off by itself after you stop using the machine for 4 minutes. Also, it is important to point out that the manual explains that the calories burned function is only a rough estimate and it really meant to be used as more of a comparison from one workout to another. The manual also contains basic training, heart rate, and stretching information.
The machine comes in a box that is about 12x12x36 inches in size. There is some assembly required but it is pretty basic and it only took me about 20 minutes to unpack everything and assemble it. The assembly instructions were very clear and accurate. It also came with a multi-tool which worked fine and was the only tool needed to assemble it. I was able to do it all without any assistance, including getting the box from the porch into the house.
I am about 5'6" tall and weigh about 135 lbs. I adjusted the seat distance from the pedals to about the middle hole on the bar and found this to be comfortable. The manual gives illustrations of what your legs should look like when fully extended. The first thing I noticed was that the machine is silent. I thought there would be some sort of whirring noise as the flywheel spun around but there was no noise at all except for the rustle of my pants occasionally brushing against the machine. The pants I was wearing were sort of boot cut so they had a lot of extra fabric at the bottom of the legs. While watching TV and using this machine at the same time I did not have to raise the volume of the TV at all. While pedaling the machine felt pretty stable. I played around with the resistance dial and I found there was a good range of resistance and it was easy to adjust. There wasnt nearly as wide of a range as my elliptical machine, but for less than $200 I was impressed with the performance of the Stamina recumbent at this point. The monitor worked well and was easy to read. It was intuitive to use and I didnt even have to look at the manual to figure it out. I found that the traction on the foot pedals was enough that I didnt actually have to tighten the straps to fit my feet and they never slid out. The seat was adequate and not very cushy but not that uncomfortable either. I think for long periods of use a gel pad seat cushion on top of it might be a good idea. I found that I didnt need to use the handle bars at all and I just kept my hands on my lap or held a book. To get a full body workout it would be easy to use hand weights while pedaling on this machine since it is so easy to keep your balance while using it without holding onto anything. Also, I found it easy to get on and off the machine, and I found that I was in a comfortable position while using it.
I was surprised at how good of a workout I got in a short period of time while sitting down. It was wonderful. I really got my heart rate up and felt like I had worked my legs, buttocks, and even stomach. So far I have used the machine daily for a week and for the first 3 days I was sore the next morning. I was usually using the machine around resistance levels 3-6 of 8 total levels for about 20 minutes at a time. Even my calf muscles were getting worked and when I use my elliptical I dont feel like these muscles get a workout much at all.
Overall this machine was a pleasant surprise. I was hoping it would be quiet but it turned out to be nearly silent. It is much sturdier than I expected for an exercise machine priced at less than $200. The workout I get is good and the machine is compact and easy to move. I can read, knit, or just watch TV while using it and it is even a little fun to use. I also can get my legs ready for an outdoor recumbent bike down the road. The monitor gives basic information but no pre-programmed workouts which is fine with me. I only needed the basic info and it is super easy to just turn the dial to increase or decrease the resistance when I want. This machine is a great value and Im really impressed so far!