What’s An Air Bike, What’s It For And Should You Get One?


Air bike sounds like something from a science fiction novel but it’s actually a much simpler piece of workout equipment. It’s a very effective and value for money workout tool as well.

An air bike is a stationary exercise bike that creates resistance by spinning a big fan blade instead of applying a physical or magnetic brake on a flywheel. Most models have both pedals for your feet and pivot arms for the upper body that are connected to the fan blade.

Air bikes are a really amazing yet simple tool to get a really hard workout done. Let’s dive in what they’re good for and if it’s the right choice for you.


What is an air bike

An air bike is a stationary exercise bike that creates resistance by spinning a big fan blade instead of applying a physical or magnetic brake on a flywheel. Most models have both pedals for your feet and pivot arms for the upper body that are connected to the fan blade.

Suggested: Why are air bikes so hard to work out on?

The pedaling and pushing the arm levers spins the fan blade. This creates air resistance. The faster you spin the fan blade, the more resistance the fan blade has to cut through the air. This means it’s harder for you to go faster.

This creates a kind of ‘infinite’ resistance. The harder you push, the harder it gets.

Air bikes are sometimes also known as ‘assault bikes’. The two are used interchangeably but actually the ‘assault’ name is the model name for an air bike from one specific manufacturer. So an assault bike is an air bike but, an air bike is not necessarily an assault bike. Kind of like all iPhones are smartphones but not all smartphones are iPhones.

Assault bikes became popular because they were one of the first to implement the fan blade into the bike design and they are used for the very popular Cross Fit workout program. Cross Fit is all about going as hard/long as you possibly can to push yourself which is why an air bike is such a great tool.

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Air bike characteristics

Let’s quickly go over the characteristics of the typical air bike. Sure they’re all a little different but they also have a lot in common.

  • Use a fan to create resistance
  • Have both pedals for lower body and levers for upper body
  • Small footprint
  • Great to use under low ceilings
  • Have ‘infinite’ resistance
  • Quite affordable compared to treadmills and elliptical trainers
  • Low maintenance
  • Can provide a really tough workouts

What’s an air bike good for?

An air bike is one of the best tools on the market for an amazing (-ly tough) cardio workout. Because the fan blade provides more resistance the faster you go, the resistance is always matched to the effort you put in.

The faster a fan blade spins, the more resistance it has to cut through the air. And air resistance isn’t linear, it’s exponential. That means that when you double the fan blade speed, you have to put in much more effort than just double.

Other stationary bikes have other ways of creating resistance. The felt brake on a spin bike or the magnetic brake on a recumbent bike apply a certain stopping force to the flywheel. There is a limit to how strong this resistance can be unlike an air bike which always keeps getting harder. Also, the other types of resistance tends to feel lighter the faster you spin the pedals, especially on a spin bike.

An air bike does the opposite, the faster you go, the harder it pushes back. This means your muscles have to work very hard to keep the blade spinning at a certain speed. Using your muscles is what gets your heart rate up because the muscles need more blood for oxygen and nutrients. An assault bike uses both your upper and lower body muscles which means your heart has to pump even faster to supply all the muscles with what they need.

HIIT

Because of the characteristics mentioned above, assault/air bikes are especially good for High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). This type of training means you have to go as hard as you possibly can for a certain amount of time and then rest/go slow for a certain time.

An air bike is good for HIIT for three reasons;

  • The resistance always matches the effort you put in: This means no pushing buttons or turning knobs when you want to change the resistance from low to high and vice versa.
  • There is no maximum resistance, there’s always more resistance if you can produce the power. That means you can go as hard as you possibly can without running out of resistance
  • You always have the right ‘setting’. On other cardio machines you can set the resistance for your high interval. But especially when you’re new, you don’t always set it to the right level so it can be too light or heavy. This means a suboptimal training. An air bike always provides the optimal resistance and therefore training.

So while an assault bike is good for low to medium intensity workouts, it really shines when used for high intensity workouts.


Does an air bike build muscle?

To grow muscle, you need enough resistance. When you put your muscles under enough stress for long enough, your body will grow those muscles to be able to deal with that stress the next time. Keep upping the resistance and after a while you’ll see significant results.

Just working out on an assault bike for long durations at the same speed won’t result in much muscle growth. Sure you will tone your arms and legs a little if you’re untrained but it won’t be a dramatic difference.

To focus more on more muscle growth, you have to up the resistance. On an air bike that means spinning the blade faster. Of course you can’t do that for long periods of time. That’s why HIIT style training is much better for muscle growth than steady-state, low intensity workouts. With HIIT you go as hard as you can which means a lot of weight has to be pushed/pulled by your muscles. This gives your body the impulse to grow.

Think about it, weightlifters lift a weight they can just handle roughly 5-15 times in one set. That’s usually less than a minute of work and after that they rest. This is actually very similar to a HIIT style workout. Implementing this regularly on an air bike will result in muscle growth.

Suggested: Does a recumbent bike build muscle?


Is an air bike good for weight loss?

For weight loss, you simply have to burn more calories than you eat. Yes, fat loss is a bit more complicated than that but overall weight loss is just calories in vs. calories out.

Because an air bike uses so much muscle mass at the same time and you have pretty much infinite resistance, it’s a very good machine for burning calories. The more work your muscles do the, more calories you burn.

You can let your muscles do light work for a longer time or heavy work for a short period of time. And of course the more muscle mass you use, the more calories are needed to move all of that.

And since an assault bike uses both the lower and upper body, there’s a lot of muscle mass that is used at the same time. Air bikes can also provide as much resistance as you can handle. Working with that much muscle and pushing it to produce as much force as you can, burns a tremendous amount of calories in a short period of time. That makes an air bike a fantastic machine to lose weight.

Of course to lose body fat, you’ll have to back up your exercise routine with a good, healthy diet. It’s much easier to eat 300 Kcal than to burn them on an air bike. Eat whole foods, reasonable portions and try to keep your protein intake up during periods of weight loss.


Is it worth getting an air bike for your home gym?

If you don’t have another cardio machine in your home gym yet, an air bike is a great choice. Let’s quickly look at all the benefits again;

  • Great cardio workout
  • Great for weight loss
  • Can build some muscle
  • Low impact
  • Compact
  • Durable, especially the higher end models

Air bikes are great for a cardio workout, weight loss and some muscle building all at the same time. So if you’re building your home gym and are looking for a suitable cardio machine, any kind of air bike is a great choice. A good one will serve you for a long time and the maintenance is pretty easy. Much easier than on a treadmill for example.

While a good air bike isn’t exactly cheap, they aren’t as expensive as some other cardio machines. Treadmills and elliptical trainers can be much pricier. The value for money you’re getting is tremendous with an air bike. It’s such a tough workout with plenty of other benefits that they are easily worth their price tag.

There are cheaper and more expensive models with prices ranging from about $200 to $1500. In the middle of that price range, around $700, you can get a very good one that provides all the benefits you need. If you pay more, you’ll get a better looking, better constructed model with nicer console but for most people that’s not necessary.

For that price you cannot get a treadmill or elliptical trainer with similar quality. Other stationary exercise bikes are a little cheaper but don’t have the benefit of the variable resistance and usually don’t use any pivot arms to work out the upper body.

An air bike is definitely for people that want to go hard and have a tough workout. So if you’re more for a longer, steady state cardio workout during which you can watch TV or read a book, a recumbent bike is probably a better choice. An air bike can certainly be used for lower intensity workouts, but, you always have your hands full so you can’t really do anything else besides using it. If that’s a good or bad thing is up to you.

So, if you’re looking for a compact cardio machine that can provide a full body, very tough workout, an air bike is more than worth its price.

If you’ve already have a treadmill, elliptical or similar machine, the question becomes a bit more difficult. Do you want to get rid of your old machine? Is it broken? Do you just want to upgrade? Are you looking for something tougher? It really depends on what you already have and what you’re looking for.

There will always be something better and shinier available but upgrading isn’t always necessary.

In the end, you should buy what you like and what you’re going to use. Buying something that can be very effective but you never use is a waste of money and space. However, a workout machine that’s used regularly is probably going to save you much more than its purchasing price in hospital bills so that is more than worth it.

Matt

Hey, I'm Matt. Welcome to HomeGymResource.com. I've been going to the gym for about 15 years and am now looking to build my own. In the process I've learned many things I'd like to share with you.

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