Air Bike Vs Indoor Cycling Bike

A burning question that many people want to find out what is best for their cardio…

The air bike vs the indoor cycling bike…

What is better and why?

To be honest, it wasn’t until recent years that I found out what an air bike actually was.

But what I want to do here is give you the ultimate breakdown on both these bikes so you’ll walk away knowing what is best for you and your own training needs!

The Air Bike Vs The Indoor Cycling Bike

Schwinn Airdyne AD8 Duel Action Air Cycle
Sunny Health & Fitness SF-B1805

Key Features

Large Air Wheel
Push & Pull Handlebars
Large Padded Seat
Resistance Is Based off Your Power
Ultimate Full Body Workout

Has Weighted Flywheel
Few Hand-Held Positions
Resistance Increased By Knob/Crank
Magnetic Or Friction Resistance
Ultimate Lower Body Workout

The Bike Wheel

This is easily one of the first differences you’ll notice between the air bike and indoor cycling bike.

The air bike has a large wheel frame made up of fan blades inside that displaces air effectively for an infinite number of resistance levels.

The indoor cycling bike has a smaller wheel or what’s called a flywheel.

This is weighted and can range in weight from as low as 15kg to 20kg.

The higher the weight of the flywheel – the smoother and greater the resistance applied.

The Frame

Both types of bikes can be incredibly well built – as long as you’re choosing a good brand.

They are designed to hold the weight of a person along with the pushing, pulling, and rocking side-to-side motion.

Any good bike shouldn’t experience any real type of shaking.

Most of the bikes are made from welded steel which gives them real durability and robustness.

Air Bike

Now, the air bike has been designed to have more of an upright position when you’re cycling.

Here the seat is lower than the handles which allow you to push your power and energy through the handlebars also.

Indoor Cycling Bike

The indoor cycling bike is designed just like a road bike, where your center of gravity is leaning forward towards the handlebars.

The saddle is raised almost align with the handlebars, keeping your bum up and back straight.

The Handlebars

Air Bike Handlebars
Spin Bike Handlebars

As you can see, apart from the large wheel – the handlebars is what really differentiates the two types of exercise bikes.

Air Bike

The air bike handles are at perfect height for your arms and shoulders to be really engaged when working out.

They’re basically powered by 2 parts:

  • The pushing and pulling motion of your arms
  • The pedalling by your legs which rotates the fan wheel

This acts as one big cardio unit where it allows you to engage your legs, arms, and core!

Indoor Cycling Bike

The indoor cycling bike has a few handheld variations you can get into.

This allows for easy cycling or intense heart-pumping racing.

You can choose whatever you feel is comfortable for you.

It’s developed in a way where you can stand up off the seat and lean into the handlebars putting your centre of gravity over the pedals.

This allows you to cycle through harder and higher resistances.

Ever seen the cyclists in the Tour De France racing?

They change-up their handlebar position all the time to help get their whole body involved through tough inclines.

The Pedals

Air Bike Pedals
Spin Bike Pedals

The pedals themselves don’t really differ as much.

They both perform the same task and both really get the legs working!

The only difference is that on all indoor cycling bikes they’ll have straps so you can secure your feet when cycling.

Some air bikes have straps such as the one above but most don’t actually have them.

This is generally because an air bike is considered to the ultimate HIIT workout machine where you can only use it for a few minutes at any given time to jump off and then hop back on again.

Having straps can limit you getting on and off the bike.

The Seat

Air Bike Seat
Spin Bike Seat

The seats or saddles on both types of bikes are actually very similar also.

Air bike

The air bike usually has a larger surface area where your bum can rest more comfortably.

The reason for this is down to the fact that the air bike is generally only used for small bursts of energy for example a HIIT workout that lasts around 20-30 minutes at the very most.

Indoor Cycling Bike

The saddle on an indoor cycling bike is more narrow down the fact that it tries to resemble a real road bike.

It’s more narrow as cycling on the road or during an indoor cycling class can last anywhere between 45- 60 minutes.

This helps to promote full leg extension so that your Glutes and Hamstrings get full activation as you cycle.

It also helps to stop chafing on the inside of your legs.


So, the air bike and the indoor cycling bike have two forms of resistance.

Both work incredibly well at really getting your muscles activated and your blood pumping.

Air Bike

Just as the name suggests here…air!

Air is going to be your resistance, well for most part of it anyway!

What happens is that when your pushing on the pedals and at the same time pushing and pulling on the handlebars – this helps to create a rotation effect.

This rotation then powers the air wheel in front.

As I said, the air wheel has a number of fans that are angled at the exact direction to create drag against them.

The faster or harder you go – it’s this drag effect that makes it harder for the wheel to turn helping to create resistance!

Indoor Cycling Bike

The indoor cycling bike actually has 2 forms of resistance.

Friction resistance & Magnetic resistance

Or in some better indoor cycling bikes, it can have a hybrid of both!

So on an indoor cycling bike, the resistance comes from inertia.

When your pedalling, you’ll be moving and rotating the flywheel in front.

However, by the simple turn of the knob the felt pads (on a friction based indoor cycling bike) or magnets (on a magnetic based indoor cycling bike) come closer together against the flywheel and try to counteract the speed of the wheel.

With this level of resistance against the flywheel it makes you have to push harder on the flywheel in order to keep the same level of RPM (Repetitions Per Minute).

Noise Level

I would say this applies more if you’re after your own home bike.

Don’t want to be waking the family at 6am do we?

Air Bike

With the air bike, the only real sound you’ll hear is the howling blow of air as you push through each rotation.

It can be a loud blow of wind or air but I don’t think it’s loud enough to be considered a real issue.

Indoor Cycling Bike

As I said, the indoor cycling bike comes with either magnetic resistance or friction based resistance.

The magnetic resistance is basically noise-free as there is no actual connection between the flywheel and magnets so no noise can be created.

With the friction resistance, there are felt pads that rub against the flywheel and this resistance can make a slight ‘whistling’ noise.

But once again, not by any means a real issue.

Cycling Motion

So, these bikes have been designed in such a way that it allows your body to get into the right position to perform at your best ability helping to keep injury at bay.

Air Bike

The air bike has an upright design to it with a seat slower to where the handlebars are.

This helps to engage both your legs and arms with the constant pulling and pushing motion whilst keeping your back straight at all times.

It makes sure that your shoulders and arms are at the right level rather than being too hunched forward or too high.

Indoor Cycling Bike

The indoor cycling bike has more of a ‘racing-forward’ design to it.

This tries to promote the body towards a forward motion where your pressure is being taken off the legs so you really activate those leg muscles and perform to your highest ability.

The upper body is pointed forward to lean against the handlebars so your centre of gravity is just in front of where your legs are.

This helps give a safe and injury free workout.

Have a look at these 8 easy tips on how to maintain proper indoor cycling form!

What’s Better For HIIT?

So, the main question!

What is better for HIIT?

The Air Bike or the Indoor Cycling Bike?

First off, both types of bike really provide that heart-pounding, sweat dripping workout where you come off the bike knowing that you’ve worked your a** off!

As I said, they are designed to work the body in such a way that you’re giving it your 110% everytime!

Now, that being said…

What I feel is personally better for HIIT is the air bike.

The air bike is generally supposed to be used for a few minutes at a time (exactly what HIIT is)

As it involves the arms, the legs, the core, the shoulders and the back – it means your body is under a state of constant pressure burning off a mass amount of energy in very short bursts.

People normally use the air bike no more than 30 minutes and even that would be long enough!

You would give it your all for 30 seconds to 1 minute and come off it for 1 minute.

This would be a repeated process until you finish the workout.

Now, I don’t want you to think that the indoor cycling bike is no good at HIIT…definitely not!

The indoor cycling bike is awesome for HIIT actually where you’re cycling at a steady speed then increase the intensity for inclines and back down again.

But if you’re really after that High Intensity Training that can done and dusted in a short period of time, then the air bike is probably more suited to you.

What Provides Overall Strength?

You think these bikes are just cardio machines?

Hell no!

Yes, it does really, really benefit your cardiovascular system and keeps the heart fit and healthy but when it comes to strength, toning and laying on pounds of muscle these bikes are incredible!

Air Bike

The air bike is a full body workout machine where you’re basically involving every major muscle group in your body.

To get the pedals and handlebars moving, you need to exert your body’s energy to push and pull through each rotation.

Now, the harder you go the greater drag and resistance you make meaning your body must work harder to get from one rotation to the next.

With consistent use of the air bike, you’ll start to notice toning of your:

  • biceps
  • triceps
  • lats
  • pecs
  • abdominals
  • obliques
  • hamstrings
  • quads
  • and calves

All whilst burning off a huge amount of calories at the same time.

Indoor Cycling Bike

The indoor cycling bike is awesome at targeting your lower body and involving your core.

On the indoor cycling bike, your legs would be more involved than the air bike as this is the only form of kinetic energy that helps to move the flywheel in front.

So through high levels of resistance your leg muscle groups need to get into this state of constant tension where every push and pull of the pedals makes them exert more energy and makes your fast and slow muscle twitch fibres push harder.

This is what helps to strengthen and tone the legs.

Your core does certainly get involved due to the up and down off the seat and side to side rotation.

This is all to keep you balanced so you can stay upright on the bike.

What Bike Is Suited To Who Exactly?

If you’re a person who is after a good, solid sweat dripping workout then either bike is an excellent choice.

Where I wouldn’t be advising these bikes is to people with poor mobility or have back or knee problems.

Bikes that would be suitable here is either the upright bike or a recumbent bike.

Air Bike

The air bike is suited to someone who wants a quick yet very effective workout that is going to burn calories like nothing normal!

You’ll probably notice how the air bike is mostly used in the likes of the Crossfit Games.

Simple – because it gives the ultimate cardio workout in a very short space of time!

An air bike I would highly recommend is the SportsPlus Fan Bike!

Provides the ultimate overall body workout where you can choose pre-programmed or custom workouts.

The interval programming is awesome!

Indoor Cycling Bike

The indoor cycling bike would be more suited to someone who prefers the actual ride of a bike.

Someone who possibly enjoys cycling outdoors and likes the same bike when cycling indoors.

I would recommend the JLL IC400 Pro

An incredible indoor cycling bike that offers an extraordinary workout.

Or why not have a look at some other indoor cycling bikes you can get your hands on?


So there you have it

A full breakdown on the air bike vs the indoor cycling bike!

Two incredible bikes that are going to provide the very best in a cardio workout!

They do have their differences in appearance and function but are very similar in their overall objective….

To help burn calories and help you lose weight!

I hope this has helped and if you do have any questions, please drop me a comment and I’ll be sure to get back to you.

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  1. Please answer my question
    I want to make my knees stronger for trekking. Which bike should I choose for good knees workout i.e air bike or spin bike ?
    From what I understand spin bikes are able to provide higher resistance than air bike. Is that true ?

    1. Hi Vijay,

      If you’re aim is to improve muscle tone and strength both the spin and air bike will help you achieve this easily!

      A standard spin bike will allow you to crank up the resistance to as high as you can whilst still being able to keep up a good level of RPM.

      The air bike basically uses your own resistance against you – the harder you pedal, the greater the resistance – the more difficult the workout becomes.

      Both these types of bikes are going to have your legs burning – no matter what!

      It just comes down to your endurance and current level of strength.

      To get an all body workout, I would recommend the air bike but if solely wish to focus on your legs then the spin bike may be better for you.

      Hope this helps!

  2. Quite helpful. thanks for that.
    I have a bad back. Ellipticals are not said to be good for such people due to the twisting movement on spine.

    You wrote air bike is also not good for persons with bad back. How is it affecting the spine?

    1. As the air bike makes you use your back muscles more actively compared to that with a spin bike, it could cause further injury or discomfort when cycling as your arms are moving along with your pedalling.

      If you feel you have a sore back already, the spin bike may be the safer choice.

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