Stationary bikes are a great way to improve cardio fitness, given that they are low-impact and virtually anyone can ride. Today’s models include stationary upright and recumbent bikes, Airdyne (or fan) bikes and indoor cycling units (or Spinning® bikes).
While actual indoor biking doesn’t vary much, some differences exist among the various styles of bikes. Airdyne bikes and Spinning bikes are very popular, whether at the gym, in a class or at home. Both are excellent choices, and neither is better or worse, but they do feel differently. Read on for a brief overview of Airdyne bikes versus Spin bikes.
Airdyne Bikes versus Spin Bikes
Airdyne – These classics are known for their giant wheel, or fan, which has 26 blades that help drive the motion via your effort on the pedals. The Airdyne uses a single-stage belt drive to transfer energy from the pedals to the wheel (some brands use a chain drive, or two stages).
A Spin bike has a flywheel, either at the front or rear, which is weighted to keep the pedaling motion in a 360-degree circles. This also makes it feel more like a road bike.
Airdyne – The beauty of the Airdyne is that your effort directly controls the amount of resistance. Push and pull faster for more air resistance, and slow down for lighter intensity. That means resistance is virtually infinite, so you can’t plateau. Plus, it responds quickly to your efforts, so there isn’t ramp-up time.
Spin bike – A knob adds or subtracts incremental resistance, similar to changing gears on an outdoor bike. This way, you can ride at higher resistance levels and pedal more slowly, or decrease the gear and sprint.
Airdyne – The Airdyne has an oversized, padded seat that provides comfort and can be adjusted vertically for height and fore-aft to ensure proper fit. Some models also include a universal rail and clamp system which enables you to remove the seat and use your own instead.
Spin bike – These saddles are narrow and stiff, and are often criticized for being uncomfortable. They also have height and fore-aft adjustments to simulate your road bike set-up.
Airdyne – The handlebars are built to move forward and back to engage the upper body, and some have multiple grip positions for variety and comfort. Plus, the Airdyne lets you fully isolate the upper body by putting the feet on stationary foot pegs. Conversely, you can take your hands off the handlebars entirely and drive the wheel solely with your legs.
Spin bike – Designed like those on road bikes, these handlebars typically offer several positions that you can use from a seated or standing position, either upright or hinged forward. They can be adjusted higher or lower according to preference, and in some models, forward and backward as well. Most spin bike handlebars also incorporate water bottle holders.
Airdyne – As expected, Airdyne bikes can be loud due to the constant sound of the air being pushed through the fan. And chain-driven units are noisier than belt-driven.
Spin bike – These tend to have minimal noise, depending on the brand. Some sound comes from the flywheel and the brake pads, but typically not as loud as what you hear on Airdynes.
Airdyne – The Airdyne lets you use your entire body, so more muscles are involved, and you benefit from unlimited resistance. It’s a great machine for HIIT, circuit workouts and warmups and cooldowns.
Spin bike – Here, you can work cardio and strength with a variety of resistance levels and tempos, and simulate sprints, flats and hills, which makes this an ideal modality for both steady-state and HIIT regimens.