The stationary bike has long been derided as a largely ineffective way of toning up and getting fit. This is largely due to the relative lack of resistance that most models offer – even the commercial models that you find in most gyms. This connotation does not extend to the air resistance bike, AKA the ‘fan bike’, which when used properly is one of the most gruelling cardiovascular workouts that you can perform. Fan bikes were also the original high intensity training tool, with the Schwinn Airdyne bike used in the very original Tabata protocol. For the uninitiated, these devices are unofficially known as ‘the misery machine’, and are very much not for those lacking the heart to work hard. If you’re willing to nail it, these machines will give you the mother of all quad ‘finishers’, and will radically help you to cut body fat and get leaner faster.
This bit of kit is almost the ideal ‘home friendly’ workout, as the stationary bike does not take up much space yet delivers great value for money. So when a reader emailed in to ask us which is the best air resistance home exercise bike going into 2016, we decided to delve a little deeper. First let’s remind ourselves about the differences between this form of exercise bikes and the more common alternatives.
How do air resistance bikes differ from regular exercise bikes and spinning bikes?
Unlike spinning bikes, which utilise magnets in order to deliver varying levels of resistance, air insistence bikes – as you’ve probably guessed from the name – utilise air flow. Therefore the basic premise is that the harder you peddle the harder the resistance will be. This gives you an almost limitless amount of resistance, which is perfect from the home gym point of view. After all, most home gym equipment lacks the resistance to really give you a workout. Cheaper materials, smaller size profiles, the need to fold for space efficiency, the lack of general usage etc all conspire to mean that home gym equipment is generally lacking. Air bikes are thus the best piece of equipment for a CV based piece of equipment.
Also, air bikes differ due to their dual action. Where regular bikes only work the user’s legs, air bikes typically include arm movements too. So in essence, this form of bike combines elements of cycling with elements of rowing. It’s for this reason that these bikes are considered to be a significant upgrade on the regular bikes, and this high intensity full body workout generally lends itself very well to high intensity interval training and other such high octane, short duration exercise protocols.
2015’s best air cycles
For this piece, we wanted to categorise the options to suit all budgets and requirements. The focus of this article is on air bikes which we feel are most applicable for the home, and as such we have not included the sorts of air bikes that you may find in commercial establishments.
The best budget Air Bike: The V-fit ATC1 Air Cycle
The ATC1 air cycle has an RRP of £159.99 but is generally available for a bit less on Amazon.
As you’d expect from a model in this price range, it’s not exactly ‘all singing all dancing’ but it does boast of the main features that most people would seek from a home solution. This V-Fit offering has 5 pre-programmed workout routines, an easy to adjust seat and the dual action workout mechanism that makes the air bike standout. The inclusion of a break function, allowing you to quickly slow down makes this bike a good bet for anybody who wants a simple tool for hitting some gruelling HiiT intervals in the comfort of their own home.
The best space conscious Air Bike solution: The Gymmaster 2 in 1 bike and cross-trainer
In terms of an air bike offering, this is definitely no standout solution. For starters, it does not have the arm row movement that makes – in our opinion at least – these bikes standout from the pack. It does however deliver a nice blend of two different cardio workouts – cross training and biking. If you’re in the market for a solution which delivers maximum bang for the buck (this combo offering from Gymmaster is currently available for just £119) with dual functionality, then this should not be ruled out. Its seriously space efficient, and you still get an air resistance mechanism, which is a good way of getting a non-commercial cross trainer which actually delivers some resistance.
The best mid-level Air Bike solution: The Airdyne AD2 dual action air cycle
Coming in at around the £400 mark, this offering by Schwinn is the entry level model from a company that specialises in air cycles. The name may not resonate, as the company are not known for any other types of fitness equipment, but what they do specialise in is making tremendous air bikes at very tidy price points.
For many of us, a £400 commitment for a single piece of home equipment is fairly significant, so what do you get at this price point that you perhaps don’t from some of the more budget models? For a starting point, when it comes to any home exercise equipment, you certainly get what you pay for in terms of build quality, robustness and sturdiness. In our time, we have seen some shockingly flimsy pieces of kit in the circa £100 price range. By moving into this category, you start to move away from towards something more akin to what you’d expect to find in your local gym. With this model, you benefit from Schwinn’s plethora of patents, most of which focus on the actual air flow through the bike, and you’ll definitely notice this on a side by side test between bikes made by this company and their rivals. This better air displacement, alongside the more comfortable design and the better bike longevity make this a good mid-tier home gym investment.
The best high level Air Bike solution: The Airdyne AD6 dual action air cycle
Our pick for the best higher end solution also comes from Schwinn, this time with their more advanced AD6 model. This is the only model featured that is fit for light commercial use (defined here as up to 5 hours per day of use), which in the context of the home, means you’re looking at a very good lifespan even with heavy home use. This model also boasts of some higher end features and training routines, all delivered with greater resistance that you would get on the AD2 above. You also get advanced support for heart rate monitors, including all Polar models.
So there we have it, a quick look at 2014’s best air resistance cycles. We’ll be posting up some full reviews of these cycles over the coming weeks.