As far as cardio workouts go, there aren’t many machines that can match the level of workout an exercise bike can give you. For me, they are the kings of cardio machines. Associated with weight loss, cardiovascular health, and burning legs, an exercise bike can deliver the ultimate workout without the need for any other equipment.
But, with so many exercise bikes out there, how do you know which is the best type for you? Air bikes and spin bikes are unique variants on the old classic and are quickly becoming the most popular kinds of exercise bikes, especially amongst home gym owners. Both can provide a brutal cardio workout, helping you burn calories and build and tone muscles as you cycle your way towards your fitness goals.
So, What’s the Difference Between Air Bikes and Spin Bikes?
The quick answer is that an air bike utilizes air resistance, while a spin bike generally uses magnetic resistance (some use contact resistance too). Most air bikes also have moving arms/handlebars, meaning you engage and work the upper body (especially the arms). Spin bikes don’t have this feature and aim to work the legs intensely.
Finally, spin bikes are designed for Spinning programs, which are instructor-led exercise classes that aim to replicate (as much as possible) the experience of outdoor cycling. These classes originated in commercial studios, but are now popular amongst home exercisers who can join classes virtually via their tablet, smartphone, tv, or spin bike’s in-built console. Air bikes are designed to make you as miserable as possible…or so it seems when you’re on one.
So, while air bikes and spin bikes have their similarities, several significant differences make choosing the right one an important decision. We’ve given you the short version above; below is our in-depth guide that will provide you with all the info you need to choose the best exercise bike for you.
What is an Air Bike?
Also known as assault bikes, air bikes are recognizable by their independent moving handlebars and large fan often at the front of the bike. They can be pretty formidable-looking machines but in reality, are straightforward to use and can give you a fantastic workout when used correctly.
The air bike is a brilliant calorie-burning option as it can provide a full-body workout thanks to resistance in both the pedals and handlebars. As you push and pull the handlebars, the resistance ensures you end up working your upper body muscles including your shoulders, upper back, arms, and core. The resistance in the pedals ensures your legs take their fair share of the pain too.
The full-body workout means air bikes can supercharge your muscle growth and burn additional calories. It’s this ability of the handlebars to work the upper body that is the main reason fitness goers are likely to buy an air bike over a typical cycling bike. In fact, it’s for this reason that an air bike is actually more comparable to a rowing machine or elliptical trainer.
Whether you’re doing short, sharp intervals, or long-lasting marathons, the air bike is a great way for both beginners and fitness enthusiasts to stay in shape. With its fat-burning and muscle toning capabilities, it’s no wonder so many have turned to the fan bike as their go-to fitness machine.
What is a Spin Bike?
Spin bikes are a wonderfully simple fitness device, ensuring you burn plenty of calories and tone your legs in a hard, grueling workout. They’re brilliant if you’re training for competitive cycling or if you just prefer the experience of riding an outdoor bike.
Unlike air bikes, they can deliver a very precise level of resistance with their adjustable magnetic resistance system. They are built around a flywheel mechanism (see the large metallic disc near the front or rear of the bike), simulating the variable resistance experienced when riding an outdoor road bike.
The wide range of resistance levels ensures you get an intense workout, making it the machine of choice for those looking to build and maintain endurance and cardiovascular health. You can also set up hard-hitting HIIT sessions by varying the resistance throughout the workout.
Air Resistance vs Magnetic Resistance
The main difference between air bikes and spin bikes is the type of resistance they use. While one is not better than the other, this difference can have a significant impact on the quality of your workout depending on what your fitness goals are.
On an air bike, all the resistance comes from the fan, which is driven by the speed and power going into the pedals and handlebars. This means that the harder you pedal, the more resistance you will feel. As a result, there’s no limit to the amount of resistance on an air bike. Furthermore, the power transfer is fluid and instant, meaning there’s no delay or jerking when you increase your intensity.
On modern spin bikes, the resistance is magnetic. This is created by magnets positioned around the flywheel. The force of magnetic attraction creates friction that makes it harder to drive the flywheel. Adjusting the resistance means adjusting the distance the magnets are from the flywheel. Closer creates more resistance, while further away creates less. Magnetic resistance allows you to set the resistance yourself, making it easier to get a more precise level. This more closely mimics the gearing on a road bike.
As there are no parts moving parts coming into contact with each other, magnetic spin bikes are virtually silent and the top models provide an unbelievably smooth ride. The increased control over resistance levels means you have more influence over your workout, and the smoothness of the ride is just a nicer experience.
Assault Bikes vs Spin Bikes: Pros and Cons
- The resistance system ensures there is no limit to the intensity and level of resistance you can achieve on an air bike.
- Moving handlebars ensure a full-body workout. Even better, if you’re carrying a leg injury and can’t pedal stick your feet on the pegs and just use the handlebars (Warning: This is a tough exercise).
- Can support higher weights as they are often well-built, strong, and sturdy machines. Most air bikes will support users up to 350lbs.
- Non-impact workout means you won’t get the joint pain and injury risk that comes with activities like running.
- Simple and uncomplicated to use. The faster you go, the harder it is. Easy!
- The fixed wheel makes it easy to get the right pedaling technique.
- A precise resistance system makes spin bikes brilliant for an authentic HIIT workout.
- Even a short spin session can burn both calories and stored fat. It’s the perfect fat-burning machine if you’re looking to lose weight.
- Supremely quiet so you won’t have annoyed neighbors knocking on your door.
- Low-impact workout so perfect if you’re prone to injuries or recovering from an injury.
- Seriously heavy. They can be tricky to set up and move around. They’re also relatively large so ensure you have enough space.
- Expensive to buy and ship.
- The best spin bikes can leave a hole in your wallet.
- Often requires Wi-Fi and electricity to run, limiting where in your home/gym you can put one.
- If not set up properly (seat position and handlebar height) they can cause long-term shoulder and back pain. Check out some videos on how to set up a spin bike properly.
- The weight limit can be significantly lower compared to an air bike, so be sure to check before buying.
Comparison of Best-In-Class Models: Rogue Echo Bike vs Peloton Bike
So, now that we know what each type of bike is and how they work, let’s compare a couple of the most popular products: The Rogue Echo Bike, and the Peloton Bike. While we do consider the Echo Bike to be the best air bike on the market, we don’t necessarily consider the Peloton to be the best spin bike available, especially for home use. Nevertheless, the Peloton is arguably the best-known example of a spin bike, and that’s why we’ve included it in this comparison.
For those who want the abbreviated version, check out the comparison table below. Keep reading if you want a more detailed review of each bike.
|Rogue Echo Bike||Peloton Spin Bike|
$1,895 – $2495, plus $13/mnth membership
Interactive Touch Screen
LCD console display
22″ HD touchscreen
59″ L x 53″ H x 29″ W
59″ L x 53″ H x 23″ W
5yrs frame, 1yr parts
Where to Buy?
Rogue Echo Air Bike
Rogue has leaped into the air bike market with a bang via their Echo Air Bike. Sturdily built and capable of delivering a brutal workout, the Echo is an impressive bike. It’s great for building endurance and burning fat. The slightly stiff moving handlebars, huge steel fan, and unlimited resistance allow you to increase muscular endurance and upper body strength.
It’s a hefty machine, with the sizeable, metal frame providing plenty of stability for when you unleash those sprints. Despite its size and weight, it’s fairly easy to move around too. The Echo has transport wheels and a nifty triangular handle at the back allowing you to wheel it around with ease.
The 27″ fan on the Rogue Echo features 10 steel blades that help create more resistance than on your standard air bike. This produces a tougher workout that can leave you both exhilarated and worn-out.
It’s also a lot quieter than your standard air bike. Air bikes tend to be somewhat noisy because of the air rushing over the fan blades. This is still the case on the Rogue however the belt-driven system is smoother, more durable, and a lot quieter than the chain-driven system seen on other popular air bikes.
This is a well-built, durable, high-performance machine. It’s capable of giving even the fittest of athletes a good workout and is an investment well worth the money.
Peloton Spin Bike
A recent entry into the spin bike market, the stylish Peloton Bike combines hi-tech equipment, connectivity, and elegance to deliver a serious heart-pumping cardio blast. One ride on this bike and you can understand why Peloton is hailed as the future of both fitness and media & tech.
It comes with an impressive 22″ HD touchscreen, that aims to immerse you into a world of diverse workouts led by a personal trainer. Using this screen, you can join fitness classes from anywhere in the world, led by Peloton instructors.
These trainers don’t hold back either. They bark orders and try to motivate you throughout the workout to ensure you burn maximum calories. Beyond your standard cycling workouts, there is also a library of strength and yoga stretches too, which are intended to help you work on your functional strength, movement, range of motion, and athleticism.
The Peloton’s pre-loaded classes are actually pretty good too. Once you jump on, you can select a class from thousands of possible options, picking whatever length, type, and instructor you want. You can even select a musical genre, but if you don’t like the tunes selected you can just link up your own Spotify account. Just note that you’ll need a minimum 10Mbps internet connection that has a strong connection to the area you put your bike to be able to stream Peloton content without issue.
If personal training sessions aren’t your thing, then use the screen to watch your favorite TV shows or immerse yourself in a virtual world using street view. The street view feature allows you to cycle your way to your fitness goals anywhere in the world.
It’s the connectivity and social ability of this bike that sets it apart though. It’s almost like a social network, on an exercise bike. You can connect with and follow anyone in the world, seeing their stats and how they compare to yours.
The camera allows you to chat and workout with friends, motivating each other along the way. You can both pick your favorite personal trainers, and have them inspire you all the way to the finish line.
Considering it has a 22″ TV screen attached to the front, it is surprisingly compact. At 1.2m x 0.6 it can fit comfortably in even the tightest of spaces.
This really is an impressive bike, and the price tag reflects that. The basic bike is ~$1895 (the more advanced bike+ is ~$2495), while the ongoing Peloton digital membership that’s necessary to stream their content is ~$13/month .
Air Bikes vs Other Kinds of Stationary Bikes
Spin bikes aren’t your only option when it comes to stationary exercise bikes. And for many people, they’re not even the best option.
How do air bikes stack up against other kinds of stationary bikes?
Air Bikes vs Recumbent Bikes
Good recumbent bikes provide exceptional comfort because you’re not hunched over or in an upright position whilst cycling. Recumbent bikes are, therefore, a good option for mature adults, people who are overweight, and anyone who experiences joint pain in their upper body. Being in this reclined position reduces pressure on the groin area, the lower back, neck, shoulders, elbows, and wrists whilst still allowing for a good deal of calorie burning.
Recumbent bikes don’t typically don’t incorporate any upper body movements, and so lack the intensity of a fan bike. This makes them liable to becoming quite boring, particularly once you start to get fitter. For this reason, a spin bike may be a better option if you’re planning on increasing your fitness, but don’t feel an air bike is suitable.
Get a recumbent bike if you need back support or experience joint pain anywhere in the upper body.
Get an air bike if you’re looking for a consistently tough and intense workout.
Air Bikes vs Standard Stationary Exercise Bikes
Because their resistance doesn’t come from a fan, typical upright exercise bikes tend to be easier to use than air bikes. They can also work muscles not targeted by the air bike including glutes, lower back, and core.
They usually offer a variety of simple workout programs and basic tracking but lack the tec-savvy nature of spin bikes. This said they are great if you simply want to burn calories with minimum fuss.
They are unable to give your upper body a workout as the air bike can, so if you’re looking for a dynamic workout to build upper muscles, the air bike is your best bet.
Get a stationary exercise bike if you want a no-frills, calorie + fat-burning cardio session.
Get an air bike if you want to work your upper body and have a more interactive workout.
Air Bikes vs Indoor Cycle Trainers
Cycle trainers are useful if you’re looking for a workout representative of cycling on the road. The pricier models now tend to come with stats and gadgets that can help you track your stats and do different workouts.
The big negative compared to air bikes is that you need to have your own bicycle (ideally a road bike, which can be quite expensive), a special tire, and they don’t workout your upper body in the same way an air bike can.
Get an indoor cycle roller if you have a road bike and love cycling.
Get an air bike if you want the upper body workout and don’t have a road bike to use on a roller.
Air Bike vs Spin Bike: Final Thoughts
Neither the air bike nor the spin bike is better than the other. Both deliver an excellent cardio workout and which one you choose will be dependent on your preferences and fitness goals.
The air bike provides a full-body workout that both tones upper body muscles and burns extra calories. The spin bike though is easier to use, quieter, and smoother. It provides an intense, leg-burning cardio blast, unmatched by many other home exercise machines.
If your goal is cardio health, fitness, and a toned body go for the air bike. If your goal is weight loss, endurance, and toned glutes go for the spin bike.