A very quick glance and you could easily be forgiven for thinking air bikes and ellipticals are the same thing.
Both work the arms and legs. Both offer training that is low-impact on the joints. Both burn a load of calories.
Despite these similarities, each machine typically has different uses. The air bike is a brutal machine, capable of simultaneously exciting and terrifying you as it eats away the calories. The elliptical meanwhile takes a calmer, more measured approach to burning calories.
So how do you decide which is best for your home or garage gym? Fortunately, our detailed comparison is here to help you choose.
Assault Bikes vs Ellipticals: Overview and Typical Uses
With a full metal construction, heavy-duty handlebars, and a menacing fan glaring at you as you approach, air bikes can deliver an uncompromising and brutal workout 10 times out of 10.
A part of the exercise bike family, air bikes offer excellent versatility delivering an upper and lower-body workout. This versatility makes them suitable for fat-burning, calorie-blasting, muscle toning, and increasing cardio endurance. As a result, they are growing in popularity amongst fitness enthusiasts.
The way they generate resistance is what helps them stand out from the crowd though. Air rushing over the blades of the fan creates resistance, therefore the faster you pedal and push/pull the handlebars, the more resistance you will feel.
Whatever your level, the air bike will provide a stern test. If you’re able to walk after an air bike workout, you’ve probably done it wrong.
Pros and Cons of Air Bikes
- Air resistance delivers unlimited resistance
- Simple to use
- Full-body workout
- Versatile as suitable for endurance sessions, moderate-intensity, HIIT, and muscle toning
- Deliver an intense yet exhilarating workout
- Low-impact workout
- Large footprint & don’t fold
Stylish and hi-tech, you’ve probably seen people gliding their way to their fitness goals on an elliptical in your local gym. They can provide unmatched cardiovascular endurance sessions, with the reverse stride option, low-impact design, and upper body muscle toning giving them the edge over treadmills.
They do lack the simplicity of an air bike, but once mastered you can achieve an excellent full-body workout from an elliptical. With moving handlebars and numerous levels of resistance, muscle toning is a big plus of ellipticals too.
Much like your standard spin bikes, modern ellipticals use magnetic resistance.
Pros and Cons of Ellipticals
- Low-impact workout
- Deliver full-body toning
- Smooth ride and fairly quiet
- Reverse stride and incline/decline allow focus on different muscles
- Good for injury rehab
- Can be monotonous and boring
- Large footprint and (most) don’t fold
Air Bikes and Ellipticals: Key Differences
When considering which machine is best for you, there are a few key differences that are important to consider.
Which One is Best Suited to Which Types of Exercise?
Both air bikes and ellipticals are cardio machines, but their areas of specialization are considerably different.
The intensity of the workout you can achieve on an air bike is unmatched across the cardio machine world. The simplicity of the movement combined with unlimited resistance means you can go flat out on the sprints and intervals. As you pedal harder, the intensity and resistance increase.
It’s this trait that makes air bikes perfectly suited to high-intensity training such as HIIT or Tabata. They are versatile enough to deliver a cardio endurance session, but you really won’t feel as though you’re making the most of an air bike’s capability and can be incredibly tough to do.
High-intensity training can burn more calories and fat, as well as building your overall fitness levels. They’re also much more “fun” than your standard steady-state cardio session.
Ellipticals’ precise level of resistance and controlled movement helps them thrive on those long, cardio endurance slogs. Ellipticals are great if you are looking to build stamina and endurance, strengthen heart and lungs, and tone muscles.
Despite their benefits, ellipticals can become quite monotonous and tedious which can decrease people’s motivation to keep using the machine. Whilst an elliptical can be used at higher intensities, HIIT and Tabata style workouts can be awkward due to the importance of posture and form on an elliptical.
Both methods of resistance are durable and effective in their own way. They both play a crucial part in the specialization of each machine.
An air bike uses the air rushing over the fan to produce its resistance. The speed and power you put into the pedals and handlebars directly affect the amount of resistance you feel.
This means not only is the power transfer fluid and instant, but you also can achieve unlimited levels of resistance. By forcing the user to push hard, the air bike delivers intense and grueling workouts.
Ellipticals tend to use magnetic resistance systems, with magnets positioned next to the flywheel influencing how easily it spins. This means that although there is a limit to your resistance level, you are usually able to find a more precise level of resistance and maintain it for the duration of the workout.
With increased control, less noise, and smooth transitions, magnetic resistance allows ellipticals to deliver high-quality and highly efficient workouts.
Dimensions and Space Needed
Both machines have a large footprint, so before buying one it’s important to check out the specific dimensions of your model and whether you have enough space for them.
One of my biggest gripes about both machines is that neither of them folds. This means that even when not in use they can take up a lot of space in your home. The size can also make them difficult to put together and move around.
Generally, ellipticals have a slightly larger footprint than air bikes due to the size of their pedals and additional features. If space is an issue, consider an air bike or a more compact elliptical machine.
Both offer a full-body workout and come with adaptations that allow you to target specific muscles. On an air bike, you can beast your upper body by resting your feet on the provided footpegs and using just the handlebars. Alternatively, you can let go of the handlebars, rest your arms, and exclusively work your legs by just cycling.
Ellipticals don’t have this same versatility. Because of your standing position, the handles and pedals can’t be used independently. That said, their relative sophistication and motorized components means that you can do some specialized targeting of muscles. Many good ellipticals allow you to adjust the incline and decline to target hamstrings or quads, or you can reverse the stride to more strongly work the glutes and calves.
An air bike will work:
- Gluteal muscles
- Calf muscles
- Core muscles
- Pectoral muscles
- Biceps and triceps
- Posterior and anterior deltoids
An elliptical will work:
- Gluteal muscles
- Calf muscles
- Biceps and triceps
- Posterior and anterior deltoids
As with most cardio machines, air bikes and ellipticals will both burn plenty of calories supporting weight loss goals.
A look at the metabolic rates (MET) of each can help compare the calorie-burning effects of each machine. The table below uses the MET calculation for elliptical training and air bike training to compare the effects of each at moderate intensity.
As the elliptical cannot be used for high-intensity it’s difficult to calculate a MET so this has been left out.
|Calories burned in 15 minutes|
|130 lbs.||175 lbs.||220 lbs.|
|Air bike (moderate effort)||120||160||200|
|Elliptical (moderate effort)||75||100||125|
|Air bike (vigorous effort)||180||240||300|
|Elliptical (vigorous effort)||125||166||208|
|Metabolic equivalent (MET) values|
|Moderate effort||Vigorous effort|
As the table shows, an elliptical is much less effective at burning calories than an air bike. A 15-minute session on an air bike can burn up to 70% more calories than an elliptical.
Of course, we should consider that a workout on an air bike is likely to be significantly shorter. Air bikes are well-suited to short, sharp interval sessions (see the discussion earlier) whilst ellipticals come into their own on those long, aerobic slogs.
On an elliptical, you could probably maintain that moderate intensity for 45 minutes, whilst on an air bike maintaining a vigorous intensity is hard for just 15 minutes. This moves the goalposts a little in the ellipticals’ favor, with a long cardio session burning more calories than a short anaerobic blast on an air bike.
Air Bike vs Elliptical: Product Comparison for Private Use
Now we’ve taken a look at the machines in general, it’s useful to look at how the best-in-class models compare, as well as the most popular models.
Best Air Bike: Rogue Echo Air Bike
Overbuilt. That’s how Rogue describes their first foray into the air bike market and they couldn’t have used a better word for it. Rogue are known for their success in the powerlifting market and it does rather feel as though they have taken one of their power racks, painted it black, and turned it into an air bike.
The Rogue Echo Bike’s steel construction, huge frame, and unbelievable durability make it arguably the best air bike on the market. It’s sturdy enough to sustain an all-out sprint from the heaviest of users and versatile enough to be suitable for all fitness levels.
With its belt-driven system providing a smooth and relatively quiet ride, and its 27” fan providing plenty of resistance as you pedal, the Echo has developed a deserved reputation for leaving users struggling to walk following a brutal workout.
Whether struggling to walk post-workout is an attractive proposition is up for debate, but the Rogue will certainly help catapult you towards your fitness goals. It’s difficult to find any faults in this bike without nitpicking.
Even small additions such as the knurled, rotating footpegs for resting your feet, or the nifty triangular design to help move the machine around, demonstrate the thought and research that went into the development of the Echo.
A recommended addition to your home gym and probably the most well-built and fairly-priced bike out there.
Most Common Air Bike: Assault Air Bike
The aptly named Assault Bike is so popular that air bikes are commonly referred to as assault bikes. Surely that’s the point that you realize you’ve conquered the air bike market? Even the US military agree, reportedly using the bike to provide physical training.
Its 25″ fan wheel will run without fault as you power through your workout. With 6 fan blades, the Assault will match any fitness level whilst its solid components and high-quality pedals mean it will likely run without problems for years.
The Assault is user-friendly too (I use friendly in the lightest sense as it will leave your legs in bits!). Its LCD touchscreen is simple to use and offers a variety of workouts and feedback. The adjustable seat is comfortable too, shaped to fit as nicely as possible, and easy to adjust.
Despite its comfort, the seat does have a tendency to come loose which isn’t ideal when you’re engaged in an all-out sprint. The cost of the bike is rather high too, priced well above its competitors despite not offering that much more.
Overall, a good bike, just not as good as the Echo Bike.
Best Elliptical: Precor EFX 222
Well-priced and suitable for virtually any level of fitness, the feature-laden Precor EFX 222 is top of the class when it comes to ellipticals.
Like all Precor machines, the EFX 222 supports a smooth, natural motion, increasing the durability and stability of the machine. It combines this with an array of features including an incline of up to 25-degrees for extra body sculpting, a variety of stride lengths to vary the elliptical path, and a tablet holder for entertainment whilst you workout.
A range of preset workouts can support interval training, cross-country training, heart-rate control, and endurance training. Whatever your fitness goals, the EFX 222 can provide.
With a vast array of feedback provided, up to 2 users can save their workout summaries and look to beat their stats on their next workout. The EFX 222 makes it feel like it wants you to achieve your goals, supporting and providing you with loads of useful information and even giving you tips along the way to maximize your workout.
Coming from a trusted brand, the Precor EFX 222 ticks all the boxes; for me it’s the best elliptical on the market right now. For an entry-level model, you wouldn’t expect so many features and such a smooth ride. A great trainer and well-worth the price.
Most Common Elliptical: Schwinn 470 Elliptical
Stationary bike fans will know of Schwinn thanks to the AirDyne Pro taking the air bike market by storm. Little do they know Schwinn are also taking the elliptical market by storm too. The 470 is well-priced and user-friendly, suitable for all fitness levels.
You get a lot for the price. Motorized incline up to 10-degrees is a useful feature for users looking to maximize muscle toning, likewise the 25 levels of resistance. Meanwhile, features such as Bluetooth data export and a 20″ footpath are usually reserved for higher-priced ellipticals.
It also comes with 29 preset workout programs covering beginner workouts, advanced workouts, and even recovery workouts for those rehabilitating from an injury. The large backlit LCD shows an array of useful exercise data helping you to maximize your workout goals.
There are issues that explain the price. The short labor warranty is disappointing, particularly as plenty of customers report things going wrong within 6-months. The reliability of the machine is another issue. A lack of synchronization across the various parts can cause serious issues not long after set-up, perhaps suggesting the 470 is not such a bargain.
Overall, it is a decent machine. With plenty of features that defy its price tag, you can see why the Schwinn 470 is so popular.
|Rogue Echo Bike||Assault Air Bike||Precor EFX 222 Elliptical||Schwinn 470 Elliptical|
|Footprint||58”L x 30”W||51”L x 23”W||75”L x 29”W||70”L x 28”W|
|Resistance Type||Air resistance||Air resistance||Magnetic||Magnetic|
|Amount of resistance||Unlimited||Unlimited||16 levels||25 levels|
|Max user weight||350lbs||350lbs||275lbs||300lbs|
|Warranty||2yr frame||2.5yr limited warranty||Lifetime frame, 5yr parts, 1yr labor||10yr frame, 2 yr parts, 90d labor|
|Where to Buy?||Rogue Fitness||Rogue Fitness||Amazon||Amazon|
Air Bike & Elliptical FAQs
There is a lot of factors to consider when buying an air bike or elliptical. Here are some commonly asked questions regarding these cardio beasts.
Which burns more fat: Elliptical or air bike?
Burning calories is key to burning fat. By removing more calories than you intake, you can burn more fat.
If we look at the metabolic rates again, we can see that a moderate-intensity workout on the air bike burns more calories than the same intensity on an elliptical. In a vigorous intensity workout, you can burn over twice the calories using an air bike compared to an elliptical.
Of course, sustaining this intensity for the duration of a typical elliptical workout is near impossible. However, an air bike is still better for burning calories quickly, and thus fat.
Can you lose belly fat using an elliptical?
You can. An elliptical will burn plenty of calories thus improving your calories in/calories out ratio. Just remember that using n elliptical will require time and patience. To burn sufficient calories a long workout at moderate intensity is required.
Pair elliptical training with a good diet and you’ll lose that belly fat in no time.
Is an air bike better than an elliptical for knees?
The ability to raise the seat on an air bike can reduce knee impact decreasing the amount of pressure you put on the knee joints when pedaling.
Whilst low-impact, the gliding motion on an elliptical does put slightly increased loading on the knee joints compared to an air bike as your knees support your weight as you move.
With the correct posture an elliptical is low-impact (note that achieving the correct posture isn’t always achievable). However, I believe when comparing cross-trainers vs air bikes, the latter are slightly easier on the knees as they are not supporting your weight.
Are ellipticals bad for your back?
Your feet never leave the pedals thus an elliptical reduces impact stress. The correct form on an elliptical can actually improve posture and in some cases support lower back injury rehab.
The way you want to train should determine which of these cardio machines you will get. If you intend to engage in high-intensity interval blasts, then an air bike is more suitable. For those long endurance sessions though, the elliptical will thrive. Just be ready for a significantly lighter wallet.