A burning question that many people want to find out what is best for their cardio…
The air bike vs the spin bike…
What is better and why?
To be honest, it wasn’t until recent years what 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!
Table of Contents
The Air Bike Vs The Spin Bike
The Bike Wheel
This is easily one of the first differences you’ll notice about the air bike and spin 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 spin bike has a smaller wheel or what’s called a flywheel.
This is weighted and can range in weights from as low as 15kg to 20kg.
The higher the weight of the flywheel – the smoother and greater resistance applied.
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 it real durability and robustness.
Now, the air bike has been designed to have more of an upright position when your cycling.
Here the seat is lower than the handles which allows you to push your power and energy through the handlebars also.
The spin bike is designed just like a road bike, where your centre of gravity is more leaning forward towards the handlebars.
The saddle is raised almost align with the handlebars, keeping your bum up and back straight.
As you can see, apart from the large wheel – the handlebars is what really differentiates the two types of exercise bikes.
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!
The spin 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 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 spin 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 seats or saddles on both types of bikes are actually very similar also.
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.
The saddle on a spin 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 a spin 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 spin bike have two forms of resistance.
Both work incredibly well at really getting your muscles activated and your blood pumping.
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!
The spin bike actually has 2 forms of resistance.
Or in some better spin bikes, it can have a hybrid of both!
So on a spin 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 spin bike) or magnets (on a magnetic based spin 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).
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?
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.
As I said, the spin 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.
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.
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.
The spin 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.
What's Better For HIIT?
So, the main question!
What is better for HIIT?
The Air Bike or the Spin 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 thinking that the spin bike is no good at HIIT…definitely not!
The spin 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?
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!
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:
- and calves
All whilst burning off a huge amount of calories at the same time.
The spin bike is awesome at targeting your lower body and involving your core.
On the spin 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.
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 BH Fitness Cross1100!
Provides the ultimate overall body workout where you can choose pre-programmed or custom workouts.
The interval programming is awesome!
The spin 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 NordicTrack GX 7.0
An incredible spin bike that offers an extraordinary workout.
So there you have it
A full breakdown on the air bike vs the spin 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.