The air bike is the most brutal piece of cardio equipment you're not using

An air bike shown inside an empty gym
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Part stationary bike, part elliptical machine, the air bike looks like a medieval torture device. After a bad bout with runner's knee this summer I've been looking for low-impact cardio workouts, and the air bike just replaced the rowing machine as my top choice. 

In just a matter of minutes I'm able to work up a sweat and spike my heart rate to 160bpm, which is a rate I only hit when I'm out on a run. Make no mistake, the rowing machine provides an awesome workout, but the air bike is my new favorite calorie torcher. 

What is an air bike?

An air bike is a stationary bike with built-in handles designed to simultaneously work the upper and lower half of your body. Unlike a traditional stationary bike, air bikes rely on progressive resistance, so the faster you pedal, the more resistance you'll feel. Since you're seated during your workout, air bikes provide a great low-impact workout that'll have you sweating in seconds. 

The greatest HIIT machine I've used

The air bike is the most brutal cardio machine I've used. It'll work your arms, back, core, and leg muscles. The first time I used it, I was only able to endure 10 minutes. After my third workout, I was able to ramp up to 20 minutes with a few sprints peppered in for good measure. 

My current air bike routine consists of a 5-minute warm up followed by an additional 5 minutes at a speed of 50 rpm. Then I begin my HIIT segment wherein I sprint at my max speed for 30 seconds followed by 30 seconds of recovery. I (try) to maintain that back-and-forth for at least 5 minutes. By the time I'm done, I'm drenched in sweat, gasping for air, and the muscles in my legs feel like they've run 12 miles.

One thing I dislike about the air bike is the noise level. I've been training on the Assault Fitness AirBike Classic ($749 at Amazon) and that sucker gets loud. Even with my AirPods Pro on, I can still hear the blender-like churn of the air bike when I'm sprinting. However, I do like that it's very sturdy and provides solid resistance, thanks in part to its 25-inch diameter steel fan. 

Another thing I like about air bikes in general is that if my legs tire out, I can concentrate on pulling/pushing with my upper body while giving my legs a "rest." This also lets you get creative with your air bike workouts, so you could divvy up your sprints so that one sprint is focused on your leg muscles, whereas the next sprint emphasizes your upper body. 

I hope to get back to outdoor running soon, but in the meantime the air bike is my new go-to machine for torching calories. 

Looking for more workout inspiration? Here are two full-body workouts you can do from just about anywhere. If you're a runner, why not check out the best running shoes on the market, as well as the best Nike running shoes for fans of the Swoosh, and the best running sunglasses to keep your eyes protected in the summer? 

Next: I don’t want a new running watch, I want the streets to be safe for female runners, writes our Fitness Editor.

Louis Ramirez

As deals editor-in-chief at Tom’s Guide, Louis is constantly looking for ways to avoid paying full price for the latest gadgets, appliances, and apparel. With over 10 years of deals-hunting experience, Louis price checks against multiple retailers and searches high and low for the best deals to bring readers. He's also always on the look out for the best coupon codes to use when shopping. A born-and-bred New Yorker, Louis is also an avid swimmer and marathoner. His work has appeared on Gizmodo, CNET, and Time Out New York.