I’ve been tempted to buy an air bike for awhile now, and I finally pulled the trigger. The main reason for the purchase is to provide a cardio alternative that’s easier on my back than rowing. Don’t get me wrong, rowing will still be a central part of my workouts, but it’s not always the best option.
There are days when my back needs a break (I’m getting old, after all…), but I still want to get my heart pumping. An air bike will provide a nice alternative jumping on our Concept2 rowing machine.
But which air bike to buy? Ignoring the cheap-o options that really aren’t worth a second look, there are three main options: the Assault AirBike, the Schwinn AirDyne, and the Xebex Air Bike.
Spoiler: I bought the Assault AirBike.
Assault has made it’s name as the ‘official’ choice of CrossFit competitions. The AirDyne, which comes in multiple versions, (i.e., AD2, AD4, AD6, AD Pro), is the traditional standard, with older versions collecting dust in basements across America. And Xebex is a newer entry to the marketplace that is very (very!) similar to the Assault bike.
Since I ended up buying an Assault Bike, I’ll compare it to each of the major options below, and share with you my thought process. With the AirDyne, it came down to price and (perceived?) reliability. With the Xebex, it was mostly a gut feeling…
Assault AirBike vs. Schwinn AirDyne
As noted above, the Schwinn AirDyne is the traditional standard, and you might be able to pick up an older one for pennies on the dollar on Craigslist or at a yard sale. Unfortunately, Craigslist has a pretty sad selection of fitness gear around here, so that was out.
As for new AirDyne options… The AD Pro has received excellent reviews, but it comes with a hefty price tag. It lists for $1299, but typically sells for $999. Given the alternatives, I didn’t seriously consider this due to cost concerns.
The AD6 is the current ‘mainstream’ AirDyne model. It has a list price of $999, but (as of this writing) is selling for $539. It’s quite popular, and gets solid reviews. I seriously considered the AD6, but ultimately ruled it out for a few reasons, outlined below.
Note: They also have the AD2 for even less (ca. $350) but I didn’t seriously consider it, as I was looking for a beefier option. For the record, AD4 is the old school, traditional style of AirDyne, but you can only find them on the used market.
For one thing, all current AirDyne models include a whole lot more plastic in their design than the Assault or Xebex models. This may (or may not) translate into problems down the road, but…
I also have some concerns about AirDyne durability. I’ve used the Schwinn AD6 in a local gym and I liked it well enough, but… They frequently seemed to have one problem or another that knocked them out of commission. When I buy something like this, I want it to last.
Perhaps this isn’t a fair comparison, as the AD6 was certainly getting more (and probably rougher) use in a commercial setting than it would get in a typical home gym. But the maintenance issues that I observed were a definitely knock against the AirDyne and made me look elsewhere.
The Assault AirBike, by comparison, is designed for a commercial setting. Thus, it should easily withstand anything we can throw at it down in our basement. Is it over-engineered for our needs? Perhaps. But I’d rather err on the side of too durable when making a purchase like this.
Another, somewhat minor consideration relates to adjustability. The seat on the AD6 can only be moved up-and-down. In contrast, both Assault and Xebex (as well as the AD Pro) also offer front-to-back adjustment. Since this will be used by my entire family, I wanted more flexibility.
Assault AirBike vs. Xebex Air Bike
The Assault AirBike vs. Xebex Air Bike comparison is almost like comparing mirror images. As far as I can tell, the Xebex is essentially a clone of the Assault bike in terms of both design and functionality. They are both made in Taiwan, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they rolled out of the same factory.
Not surprisingly, they are priced alike, too. Both bikes list for $999, but (as of this writing) sell for $799. This price typically includes shipping, so it’s a push in terms of overall cost.
Given that there really wasn’t a compelling reason for choosing the Xebex over the Assault AirBike, I opted for the latter for name recognition if nothing else. And I figured that my stats (distance, calories burned, etc.) would definitely be comparable to those of other Assault bike users.
Does the Xebex estimate wattage, calories, and distance in the same way as the Assault AirBike? Perhaps. I’m not entirely sure. I do know, however, that the Xebex rower uses different math vs. the Concept2 rower. It would drive me crazy to have non-standard numbers on the erg, and I wanted to avoid similar issues on the bike.
Note: I’m well aware that the Schwinn AirDyne and the Assault AirBike produce different numbers. In general, it’s easier to accrue calories on the AirDyne, so you need to be careful when making comparisons. I just didn’t want to add another variable by throwing Xebex into the mix.
Summing it up…
So. There you have it. An overview of the thought process that went into my choice of the Assault AirBike vs. the AirDyne and Xebex alternatives. As with all thing, you need to consider what’s most important to you.
If you’re looking for an accepted standard, I would stick with an AirDyne (either AD6 or AD Pro) or the Assault AirBike. The Xebex looks like a solid option, but it’s not as widely used and their math might (?) be different from the other options.
If you’re price sensitive, the Schwinn AirDyne AD6 might be your best option (unless you can find something used). As an added bonus, you’ll get an inflated calorie count (vs. the Assault AirBike) when you use it, so you’ll be able to feel better about yourself. 😉
If you’re looking flexibility and durability (and/or you want to conform to the CrossFit standard), then the Assault AirBike is like your best option.
As for where to buy, pricing is pretty standard across resellers. I wound up ordering from Amazon. The main driver was free two-day shipping via Prime, so I was able to order it tonight and I’ll have it by Friday.