When it comes to cardio, we love a good piece of equipment that will kick our butts. (Woodway Curve and WaterRower, we’re looking at you.) And one of the newer machines to hit the floor is actually an oldie but goodie: the air bike. Don’t be fooled, though. It’s just like riding a bike, but not at all. Unlike a traditional bicycle or spin bike, the air bike has a big fan in lieu of a front wheel (check one out here). And if you’ve heard rumblings that it ain’t easy, it’s true. These “assault” bikes will blast major calories, but straight up humble you, too.
All About the Air Bike
While you’d set a stationery bike at a certain resistance (or watts), the fan bike is different in that the faster you pedal, the more resistance you generate. “The harder you work, the harder it gets,” says Mike Boyle, co-founder of Boston area Mike Boyle Strength and Conditioning. Plus, you also use your arms at the same time, which allows you to work both your upper and lower body together. Boyle calls it the bike equivalent of an indoor rowing machine.
“It becomes a total-body exercise, which you’re not able to get on a regular bike,” he says. “They’re almost like a well-kept secret, because the average person tends to say they’re way too hard,” he says. But now that CrossFit’s gone mainstream and HIIT is hotter than ever, there’s a desire for equipment that takes your workout up a notch.
Because you use your arms and legs simultaneously, your heart rate soars about 20 percent higher than if you were to just pedal with your legs, says Boyle. So it makes sense that you also get a boost in calorie burn by about the same amount, he adds.
It’s also gentler to your joints. “With any bike, you eliminate the ground reaction force, so it’s safer. The only thing that gets beat up is your heart and lungs,” says Boyle. Plus, unlike other bikes, you sit up straighter, which puts less pressure on your spine.
Your Air Bike HIIT Workout
So how do you use the air bike? HIIT workouts are generally the best place to start. And, because you don’t have to deal with buttons or dials to change the resistance, you can simply hop on and go.
But before Boyle gets his clients going, he first has them do a “maximum speed aerobic test” or MAS. Translation: Ride the bike at a sustainable pace for five to six minutes. At the end, the bike should tell you what your average rpm is. The rate that you can hold for five minutes is your max aerobic speed, says Boyle. Once you know that, then you can set up your intervals in several ways:
- 20 seconds on, 10 seconds off
That means you ride at 110 percent of your MAS. Let’s say your trial told you your MAS was 60 rpm. In the “on” portion of the interval, you’d shoot for 66 rpm. Follow it up with 10 seconds off. “Off” means you simply spin the pedals with your feet. Don’t be concerned with your speed here — the idea is to recover, says Boyle.
To switch things up, other options for the intervals include:
- 10 seconds on, 10 seconds off
- 30 seconds on, 30 seconds off
- 30 seconds on, 15 seconds off
The total number of intervals you complete will vary depending on your work/rest ratio. But Boyle typically recommends spending the last 10 to 15 minutes of your workout doing conditioning on the air bike. (Yes, that means all this work happens after your regularly scheduled strength session.)
To vary things up, you can also use the air bike for a steady state ride (again in the 10 to 15 minute range). Or, you can try a timed two or three miles. No matter which route you go, we guarantee you’ll feel the burn.