Quality air bikes can whip you into shape and help you stay in top physical health. Crummy air bikes, on the other hand, can only discourage you and cost you money.
You want to learn the difference between quality and crummy? How about whether an air bike is really what you need?
Keep reading to learn all about air bikes. Then I'll show you the five best air and fan bikes on the market today.
What To Look For In An Air Bike
Choosing the best air bike requires an in-depth knowledge about them. Let's look at what they're all about and what features are important for you.
What Air Bikes Can And Can't Do
Before you can decide which bike is the best, you need to know what standards it must live up to.
Air bikes are made for cardio, from slow and steady to intense interval training and everything in between. You get all the same benefits that most other forms of cardio can give you, like:
- Weight loss
- Fat loss
- Strength conditioning
- Body toning
- Metabolic enhancement
A good air bike gives you a full-body workout. Your legs crank the pedals, and your arms pump the handles. Just about every other muscle group of your body joins in as a stabilizing force.
Obviously, you can't expect to bulk up your muscle mass. That's what resistance machines and weights are for.
You can use air bikes for rehabilitative workouts. Any good physical rehab center has air bikes. Patients start gentle and easy, then progress as they are able to.
How To Use An Air Bike
You have to understand the right way to use one before you know why some of those cool features are important.
I mostly use mine for HIIT. Normally, I go all out for 20 seconds and take a rest for 10. About a dozen intervals is a good workout for me.
If you can ride a mountain bike or use a mag resistance bike, you can use an air bike. It's kinda like a sit-down elliptical. It takes some practice to split the effort between your legs and arms, but it eventually becomes intuitive.
This Air Bike video from Rowlett Transformation gives you a great idea of how to get the most out of one.
Air Bike Features
I don't want you to have any buyer's remorse. Really understand what the features mean, because the features act individually as selling points.
Materials And Craftsmanship
Check out how a bike is made and what its made of before shelling out any dough. Avoid plastic frames. Only steel and steel composites will do. Anything else will either break or quickly become a noisy, wobbly pile of crap.
Fiberglass would be a good material for an air bike frame, but I haven’t yet seen a fibergalss bike that I would recommend. I’ll keep my eyes open and get back to you when I find one.
The only places you should see plastic are the console, shrouds and guards, components that don’t bear any weight or force and maybe the pedals.
The best steel parts are useless if they’re not put together right. Check out my Assault Fitness bike reviews. Assault assembles their bikes with a jeweler’s precision.
And they use bearings between all moving parts and pivot points. You pay more for that kind of craftsmanship, and not everyone can afford it. But if you have the cash, go with the best.
Size And Fit
As far as the size of the bike goes, just get one that will fit comfortably in your gym. They don’t vary much in size. You’ll need a space of about 55L”x26W”. Some are about 20” shorter, if your gym is as tight on space as mine is.
More important is how the bike fits you. If it feels awkward, you won’t use it as much as you planned on. Then you’ve lost value. And you know how I am about getting good value out of my equipment. Be like me, and demand the most for your money.
Most bikes are advertised as being for people in a certain height range, like 5’6” to 6’2”, for example. You’ll have to adjust the seat and maybe the handles for that perfect fit, but you should know whether the bike is a good fit for you or not.
You’re not a wuss for wanting a comfortable exercise bike. It’s mostly about the fit, but not entirely. If you’re not reasonably comfortable on the bike, you’re not going to use it. Think of an unpadded weight bench or a barbell that’s too small in diameter. You’ll avoid it/
Don’t expect a comfortable seat. I’ve studied dozens of the best air and fan bikes, and I’ve written about five of them so far. I’m convinced that there is no such thing as a comfortable air bike seat, so don’t look at it as a deciding factor.
Get the bike you want based on the other criteria, and plan on replacing the seat with a mountain bike seat or getting a gel seat cover.
Another thing that most air bikes don’t have, even though they should, is fully adjustable handles. The length isn’t as important as you may think.
When you adjust the seat, the handle length pretty much takes care of itself. It’s the angle of the handles that count. Adjustable is better.
Some air bikes are known for blowing the air from the fan into your face as you workout. Some people like this, others hate it and some don’t care either way. That’s why I was careful to mention this aspect in the individual reviews I’ve written so far.
If the bike you want does something you don’t like with the wind you generate, add or remove the wind guard. Some bikes include a shield like this, some charge extra.
In case you don’t already know, air bikes offer infinite resistance. The harder you go, the harder they push back. That’s one thing that makes them better than mag resistance bikes, in my opinion. No adjustments are necessary. Some bikes do have a tension adjustment knob.
This doesn’t really give you any extra resistance. It helps you fine tune it a bit. That’s a good feature if you want to pedal at a high RPM with milder resistance than a bike would normally give you. For example, if you want to keep your heart rate up for a bit longer, but your legs are about tho give out, you can ease the tension a bit.
Chains Vs. Belts
What kind of drive do you prefer? The drive mechanism is what transfers the power from your arms and legs to the fan.
Chain drives are familiar to everyone. Just look at any mountain bike or BMX. On an air bike, chains do make the same noise that they do on regular bicycles. As time goes on and the bike gets some miles behind it, figuratively speaking, the chain will get noisier.
Chains also need to be oiled regularly. What I like about chains is that they give an air bike that authentic mountain bike feel. It’s a little gritty. You can almost feel the road that isn’t there beneath you.
Belt drives don’t really require any maintenance. They are smooth and quiet. A belt-drive air bike may be the best choice if you’re going to be working out when others in your house are asleep.
The only thing I really don’t like about belt drives is, even though they are more or less maintenance-free, they can sometimes undergo some unusual wear without you even knowing about it.
I reviewed one bike that tended to eat belts. On the other hand, when everything on the bike is operating as it should be, you’ll likely never have any trouble out of the belt.
I wouldn’t buy an air bike without a console, not unless I had to go dirt cheap. A well-designed console gives you invaluable information about your workout. This info may include:
- Watts generated
- Distance you would have ridden if you were riding a regular bicycle
- Calories burned
- Your heart rate
- How close you are to your goals regarding the above factors
- Elapsed time
- Time left to go
- Seconds left in your interval
- Seconds left until your next interval begins
You get the idea. I really like those consoles that display heart rate. You’ll like them too if you like to get your rate up to a certain level and keep it there for a certain period of time, like good old-fashioned cardio.
Most bikes require you to buy the sensor, which is usually a strap that goes around your chest, separately. They connect either by a wire or bluetooth. I’ve seen a couple air bikes that can sense your heart rate through your hands when they’re on the handles.
That’s intriguing, but I haven’t investigated any of them enough to say for sure whether they work well or not. I think if they did, Rogue or Assault Fitness would have incorporated that feature into their awesome air bikes.
The Five Best Air Bikes
Speaking of awesome air bikes, here are five that really jumped out at me while I was becoming something of a modest expert on the subject. I wrote more detailed reviews on each of them, but here is a quick rundown on each.
The Overall Best – Rogue Echo
This is a big, heavy, durable air bike that is a good fit for people of all sizes. It’s incredibly well-built out of the thickest steel. All of the parts are tough. All of the metal parts are powder coated with a textured black finish. It looks good enough to sit in your living room.
It doesn’t wobble, regardless of the size of the rider. It’s a tank. And its belt-drive system is smooth. There’s virtually no noise, except of course for the whooshing and rushing of the wind, which blows right into your face unless you buy the $30 wind guard.
The console is easy to read and tells you everything you’d want to know. You can connect a heart rate sensor. It’s compatible with Polar sensors.
The only real drawback is the price. It’s a fair price, but this is an incredible bike. So of course it’s expensive. I recommend the Echo to anyone who simply wants the best of the best.
- Almost the most well-made air bike available
- Can last for decades
- Fully adjustable for all people
- Smooth and quiet
- Fully functional and useful console
- May be too big for smaller and more cramped gyms
Second Place – Assault Elite
The Elite is just a small step down from the Echo in terms of quality, but it may actually be a better value because of its lower price.
You’ll notice that I said the Rogue Echo is the best built. However, the Elite is not far from it in the quality department. I don’t own an Elite, but I was able to check one out at a local hotel’s gym.
The tolerances between the frame and all the parts are so tight that you would need a micrometer to measure any gaps. And the frame is so thick and sturdy.
Let’s talk about the chain drive. You won’t find anything like this on your kid’s bike. It’s a spline drive, meaning that the cranks attached to the pedals and fan are wide, not just a think circle of teeth.
That means the chain is wide too. It’s the most durable chain-drive system you’ll find.
You have the option to use it as a regular air bike or as an isolation bike for just your legs or just your arms. You can also pedal backwards for a more challenging and better rounded workout.
The console tracks your calories burned, distance, RPMs and heart rate, if you spring for the heart rate sensor. It also times your intervals. And it is bluetooth-capable.
If you want a high-quality chain-drive air bike, this is the one I’d have you look at first.
- Great build quality
- Isolation modes
- Reverse mode
- Great value
- Difficult to assemble
- Still a bit pricey for tight budgets
- You’ll definitely want to replace this slippery seat
This is Assault’s base model. It’s cheaper than the Elite. And while it is still a great bike, it’s lacking in some areas.
It doesn’t have that spline-drive system, but the chain is pretty quiet. You’ll definitely hear it in the next room, though. It’s not quite as smooth as the Elite or the Rogue Echo, either.
The console is about the same, but it’s smaller and the contrast isn’t as crisp. It’s not bluetooth-capable, either. One thing that’s missing from the console is the cue LEDs that help you time your intervals.
You’ll have to watch the clock in the screen to know when to push and when to rest. That’s not a deal breaker for me, but it’s a nice feature to have.
As far as comfort goes, the smaller size of the Classic makes it less comfortable for most that either of the above bikes. It’s not that it’s uncomfortable, it’s just not made with comfort in mind. You’ll still get a killer workout.
- Affordable on most budgets
- Good value
- Relatively easy to assemble
- Good warranty
- Has a bit of noise
- Not very smooth compared to other high-end air bikes
Schwinn AirDyne Pro
The AirDyne is a more affordable option than any one I've talked about so far in this post. It qualifies as mid-priced, as far as air bikes go.
It has more plastic than I like to see on a bike. The fan is plastic. That makes it quieter, but I would worry about its durability.
It has a belt drive, which is smooth and quiet. But I would rather replace a broken chain than I would a frayed belt any day.
The AirDyne isn't quite as adjustable as the Assault bikes. The way it's built, it will be a good fit for anyone under 6′. And it is a bit more comfortable than either of the Assault bikes as well.
Even with all that plastic, the AirDyne's warranty is 15 years on the frame.
The AirDyne is a good air bike for anyone that doesn't want to spend a bunch of money, but still wants a solid, quality air bike.
- Refreshingly affordable
- Great warranty
- Despite the long warranty, all that plastic detracts from durability
- Not very adjustable for size
Budget Pick – Body Rider Fan Bike
This one is about an eighth of the price of the more expensive high-end air bikes. It costs about as much as a couple month's-worth of commercial gym fees.
The Body Rider isn't for tall people or those over 250 pounds. But if you are under the height and weight limits, you should see if it fits all of your needs. You can save a fortune.
It isn't the most stable or durable air bike. There have been issues with the belt grinding away on the crank. And the hardware that holds it together is cheap enough that I would recommend replacing it. Nuts and bolts are cheap enough, though.
The console is legit. It does everything that the consoles of more expensive bikes do, except for heart rate tracking and interval timing.
If you need a cheap air bike, the Body Rider is a totally decent one.
- Budget friendly
- Good console
- Not very durable
- Short 90-day warranty on parts
So, there we have the best fan and air bikes available today.
The Echo by Rogue is the king. Assault's Elite is a close second. The Classic, also by Assault, is the Elite's almost-famous little brother. Schwinn made the AirDyne to be a more affordable option than anything Rogue or Assault can offer, and Body Rider makes it possible to buy an air bike on any budget.
Be sure to check out my more detailed reviews to learn more about these cool bikes. But if your home gym demands the best. Rogue is our top choice.