Recumbent vs. Upright: Which E-Trike Is Right for You? (2023 Updated)

Recumbent vs Upright E-Trikes: Unveiling the Best Choice for Your Rides!


E-trikes, equipped with their electric pedal assist, have recently initiated a significant transformation in the field of cycling. These highly versatile three-wheeled vehicles are expanding accessibility to biking for people of all ages and abilities. But once the decision to purchase an e-trike has been made, it often leads to the question - should you choose a recumbent or an upright style? Both designs come with unique benefits, making the choice somewhat challenging.

This article will analyze the critical differences between recumbent and upright e-trike designs. The goal is to simplify the buying decision by comparing the pros and cons of each type. There will also be recommendations on selecting the right e-trike based on your needs and riding style. So, without further ado, let's delve into the comparison of recumbent versus upright e-trikes.

What Is a Recumbent E-Trike?

Recumbent E-trikes are electric tricycles designed with a seat that places the rider in a laid-back reclining position. This design is known for prioritizing comfort and reducing strain on the back and wrists alongside a low center of gravity, which enhances stability. The pedals and crank system on a recumbent trike are positioned out in front of the rider, allowing you to push and pull with your legs in an ergonomic motion. Your legs remain parallel to the ground rather than having to bend up to reach traditional pedals. This leg extension reduces strain on your knees.

In addition, most recumbent trikes are configured with two wheels at the front and one at the back, also known as a "tadpole" design. But some have two wheels at the rear and one at the front ("delta" style), like an upright trike. Steering a recumbent e-trike is done through either under-seat or over-seat handlebars that connect to the front wheel. Underseat handles let you steer using handles located under the seat, while over-seat steer has higher handlebars in front. Both offer responsive handling.

Electric Trikes and Recumbent

Pros and Cons of Recumbent E-trikes

Recumbents provide an ultra-comfortable reclined riding position and ergonomic pedaling motion that reduce strain on the back, knees, and other sensitive areas. However, the unconventional low-seated posture also introduces some handling and storage challenges. Please refer to the following table, which details the pros and cons of Recumbent E-trikes:



The reclined position distributes weight evenly, reducing strain on the back, arms, hands, and perineum.

Lower seat and pedal position make mounting and dismounting more difficult.

A padded chair-like seat with a backrest provides lumbar support and feels like sitting in a comfortable recliner.

The long wheelbase and extended frame complicate storage in small spaces.

Legs extend forward to the pedals, allowing a natural pedaling motion that is easy on the knees.

Limited space on the lower seat deck restricts cargo capacity for bags and racks.

Weight spread wide across the seat avoids pressure points and numbness in sensitive regions.

The reclined position leaves riders feeling more isolated from their surroundings.

The low seat and laidback position are aerodynamic, reducing wind resistance at higher speeds.

Requires more core strength and balancing skills at low speeds

A low center of gravity creates high stability when cornering, braking, and handling.

Higher manufacturing costs make recumbent trikes more expensive than uprights.

Reclined posture prevents back pain and discomfort on long rides

Heavier weight can make transporting more difficult

Gentle leg extension pedaling is easy on the knees, even for riders with arthritis.

Unfamiliar recumbent position has a learning curve for some riders.

The comfortable, laidback position allows you to ride long distances without fatigue.

A limited dealer network makes test-riding recumbent trikes less accessible.

In summary, recumbent e-trikes provide exceptional comfort, aerodynamics, and stability through their unique reclined seating position. However, some adjustment time may be necessary for new riders to get used to the recumbent riding posture and handling. Carefully weighing the pros and cons will help determine if a recumbent e-trike is the right choice based on your intended uses and preferences. Read more: What are the advantages of riding a recumbent trike?

What Is an Upright E-Trike?

Upright E-trikes are traditional electric tricycles where the rider maintains an upright position, much like standard bicycles. Known for their good visibility and ease of mounting/dismounting, they allow riders to maintain a posture reminiscent of conventional bicycle riding. Upright trikes have one steerable front wheel with handlebars and pedals. The two rear wheels provide stability in place of a bike's rear wheel. A cargo rack or basket is often behind the seat for hauling stuff. They maintain the classic bike look and feel while adding stability to the extra rear wheels. The compact triangular frame is easy to mount, store, and transport.

Recumbent vs Upright E-Trikes

Pros and Cons of Upright E-trikes

Upright e-trikes provide a familiar riding position to upright bike riders. At the same time, this posture has trade-offs, especially for long rides. Below is a table showing the key pros and cons of upright e-trikes:



The upright bike-like position feels familiar and natural to most riders.

Hunched over posture strains hands, arms, shoulders, and neck

It is easy to stop, put your feet down, and start pedaling again.

Standard bike seats can cause discomfort on long rides.

Provides good visibility of surroundings and road conditions

Less aerodynamic than recumbents, more wind resistance

Simple to mount and start riding like a normal bike

A higher center of gravity reduces stability at high speeds

Allows attaching racks, panniers, and cargo bags

Not ideal for those with back pain or conditions aggravated by posture

A compact triangular frame is easy to store and transport. Read more: Frame Design.

Best suited for recreational local rides, not long distances

Works with standard bike racks, carriers, and accessories

Requires more upper body strength and coordination

Familiar riding position builds confidence for new cyclists

Less knee extension can strain joints on long rides

Many affordable, entry-level upright trike options are available

Multiple points of contact can create numbness or nerve pain

As we've seen, upright e-trikes offer a comfortable and familiar riding experience for recreational pedaling around town. With the right accessories and fit adjustments, upright trikes can work well for some longer excursions.

Key Differences and Factors to Consider

When choosing between a recumbent or upright e-trike, it's important to know the differences between recumbent and upright e-trikes. Carefully considering the differences between these two will help you select the best e-trike for your intended use, comfort needs, and budget. Here is a table comparing key factors of them side-by-side:


Recumbent E-Trike

Upright E-Trike

Riding Position

The reclined, laidback position distributes weight evenly across the back and seat. Reduces pressure on hands, arms, and perineum.

An upright bike-like position places more weight on the hands, arms, and rear. It can cause discomfort on long rides.


Legs extend forward to pedals, reducing knee strain. Lumbar support from seat backrest.

Requires bending knees up to reach pedals. No back support. It can aggravate back pain.


The low seat and reclined position are very aerodynamic. Slices through wind easily, allowing higher speeds.

The upright position catches more wind resistance, reducing high-speed performance.


A low center of gravity provides excellent stability when cornering and braking at high speeds.

A higher center of gravity makes upright trikes less stable at high speeds.


The ultra-comfortable reclined position is excellent for long rides. Weight is distributed evenly.

The upright bike seat focuses pressure on the rear. Less comfortable for long distances.

Cargo Capacity

Limited space for panniers and bags due to low seat placement.

There is more cargo capacity from racks and bags on the upright frame and behind the seat.


It is harder to put your feet down when stopping due to the low pedals. Requires care when mounting.

It is easy to stop, put your feet down, and start pedaling again-simple mounting.


Long wheelbase and frame make storage and transport more difficult.

Compact triangular structure easy to store and transport with bike rack carriers.


The reclined position gives less visibility of the surroundings. Riders feel more isolated.

The upright position provides good road visibility and environmental awareness.


Recumbent e-trikes tend to cost more than upright models. But prices are dropping.

Upright e-trikes are widely available at lower price points and are suitable for casual riders.

As the table illustrates, recumbent and upright e-trikes each have their own advantages and disadvantages. Whether you prioritize comfort, performance, or practicality, there is an e-trike option that will get you pedaling with power assist.

Choosing Between Recumbent or Upright E-Trikes for Every Rider

Now that we've compared the features of upright versus recumbent e-trikes, it's important to consider how different models suit various riding needs. After looking at key factors like comfort, visibility, stability, cargo capacity, and more, recommendations can be made for specific types of riders.

E-Trikes for Seniors

For seniors or those with limited mobility, an upright e-trike can be a great option. The stability of the three wheels allows confident stopping and starting. The step-through frame makes mounting and dismounting easier. Handlebars and seats can be adjusted for comfort and ease of reach. But you always need to consult your doctor before cycling if you have any health conditions. Discover more: Never Cycled Before? Easy E-trike Guide For Seniors.

Recumbent vs Upright E-Trikes: Unveiling the Best Choice for Your Rides!

E-Trikes for New Riders

For younger or new riders, upright e-trikes provide a familiar biking experience. The upright position gives excellent visibility of your surroundings, building confidence as you learn to navigate different terrains and traffic. The controlled speed variations also help new riders get used to adjusting pace for conditions. Plus, many affordable upright models make cycling accessible for recreational fun without a big investment.

Cargo Carrying E-Trikes

For riders needing cargo capacity to haul purchases, gear, pets, or other items, upright e-trikes are a great choice. You can use the cargo options for shopping trips, commuting, picnicking, or other everyday situations requiring extra storage and hauling capability. Upright trikes provide versatile cargo solutions well-suited for many practical transportation needs. Read to get more tips: Traveling With Your Electric Trike: Tips for Transport, Storage, and Vacation Planning.

E-Trikes for Disabilities

For people with disabilities, recumbent and upright trikes can both provide accessible cycling options. Recumbents allow those unable to sit upright to ride in a laidback reclining position. For those with limited leg function or paraplegia, hand-powered upright e-trikes can be a great choice. Upright e-trikes can carry medical devices, oxygen tanks, or other mobility equipment. Given these options, it's important to remember that each person's needs are unique. You should always seek advice from medical professionals about your specific physical needs and abilities to ensure safe and enjoyable cycling. Click for details: How Electric Trikes Empower the Disabled with Enhanced Mobility?

E-Trikes for Long-Distance

For long-distance touring, recumbent e-trikes excel. The laidback reclined seat distributes weight comfortably over hours of pedaling. Aerodynamic performance helps maintain higher speeds to cover more ground. You can attach pannier bags and gear to camp along your route. In addition, recumbent models with full suspension can also provide the ultimate cushioned ride over varied terrain.

E-Trikes for Speed and Training

For cyclists focused on performance, speed, and training, both recumbent and upright e-trikes have benefits depending on your goals. Recumbent e-trikes tend to be better for maintaining faster speeds over distance. But some upright e-trikes can hit up to 25 mph, which is great for intense interval training. With upright e-trikes, you can also have the freedom to pedal while standing up. To maximize speed potential, you can look for quality components and a robust motor on either trike type.

No matter your cycling goals, always test-ride the e-trike model first. Focus on comfort, stability, ease of use, and intended purposes. Fine-tune the fit with seat and handlebar adjustments. Consult an e-trike dealer or occupational therapist to find the best match for your needs and preferences. With the right e-trike selected, the open road awaits your exploration.


Indeed, both recumbent and upright e-trikes offer unique benefits catering to riders with different needs and preferences. From the casual rider to the avid cyclist, there's an e-trike out there well-suited for various uses, be it commuting, exercising, or just plain recreational biking. Test riding both types of trikes could be beneficial - you might appreciate the comfort of the recumbent or enjoy the familiar feel of the upright.

Before long, any rider can experience the ease and joy of cycling with an electric assist. Whether your goals are centered around fitness, fun, or freedom, there's an e-trike ready to get you pedaling comfortably.

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