Schwinn Airdyne and Assault Air Bike Training

Schwinn Airdyne Workouts

Earlier this week, I posted a brief video to Instagram of me working through an interval on my old Schwinn Airdyne bike. I shared the video in humor as I joked about its fan providing fresh air on a hot, humid day. In the time since, I’m surprised at how many questions I’ve received about the bike and the workouts that can be performed with it. With that in mind, I will use this entry to discuss some of the options that are available with fan bikes such as the Schwinn and Assault Air.

Satan’s Tricycle

I’m not sure who coined the phrase Satan’s Tricycle to describe these fan bikes, but whoever did hit the nail on the head. The bikes are both brutal and evil. The only simple thing about a fan bike is that there aren’t any settings for resistance. Resistance is controlled by the user. As you pedal and pump the arms faster, resistance from the fan increases making it more difficult. In other words, no matter how hard you work, the bike always wins. If you haven’t tasted fatigue after an Airdyne workout, you have no one to blame but yourself.

In the 10+ years that I’ve owned my bike, I’ve had several world class fighters use it and the bike remains undefeated. It isn’t unusual for me to see a professional fighter crumble alongside the bike one week, and then win a nationally televised main event the next. The bike isn’t just useful because of its difficulty though. The real value lies in its effectiveness. Few tools provide such a full body conditioning effect. You aren’t just cycling, but also pushing and pulling simultaneously.

In addition, no matter how hard you work on the bike, you can expect to wake up relatively fresh the next day. Lack of an eccentric component makes soreness essentially nonexistent. I’ll even go so far as to say that the bike can be useful for recovery. It might not seem like it at the time, but you’ll likely forget that you used it when you wake up the next morning.

Acquiring a Bike

Before discussing fan bike workouts, let’s first explore some options for acquiring a bike. For starters, you can certainly find a Schwinn or Assault Air bike online. There are two downsides however. First, when purchased new, these bikes aren’t cheap. You can expect to pay several hundred dollars. I’ve also read that the newer Schwinn bikes lack the quality of their earlier models. I haven’t personally used one of their newer bikes, but I’ve read several complaints. The design has also changed. For example, you’ll notice that their current AD6 model looks much different from my bike. My old Airdyne looks much more like the Assault Air.

The souped up Assault Air is rather pricey though and it doesn’t appear that the older Airdyne models are available for purchase. Fortunately, it isn’t unusual for Airdyne bikes to pop up on Craigslist or even at local tag sales. The average person usually isn’t up to the challenge of battling a fan bike. As a result, these bikes are often sold after minimal use. I’ve had several people tell me how they struck gold and found a used Airdyne for less than $100.

Furthermore, if you come across an older model, it’s safe to assume that it well constructed. Schwinn was a very reputable brand for many years. I can’t speak on the current craftsmanship, but I can speak to my bike’s longevity and durability. It’s extremely well built and has held up to regular use over many years.

Schwinn Airdyne – Assault Air Workouts

As for Airdyne workouts, I keep my approach rather simple. After all these years, I still use the bike similarly to how I did when I first acquired it. After a brief warm up on the bike, I’ll usually perform a series of intervals before cooling down with a few lighter minutes of pedaling. My style of bike work can be summarized in the 2 or 3 seconds of footage seen in the video below (refer to the 2:16 mark). I give the bike everything I have.

A few sample workouts are listed below.

I. Tabata Intervals – If you want to perform real Tabata intervals, look no further than a fan bike. Start with 3 to 5 minutes of lighter pedaling before pushing yourself through four minutes of hell. Finish with another 3 to 5 minutes of lighter work to cool down.

II. Timed Rounds – Another variation that we sometimes use as a finisher is to perform two or three minute rounds on the bike. For example, you’d cycle through four 2 or 3 minute rounds, resting 30 to 60 seconds between rounds. During these rounds, you’ll maintain a steady, but brisk pace. I define such a pace as one where you both maximize and optimize your output.

III. Continuous Work – Another variation that I’ll use on occasion is to ride the bike continuously. I rarely exceed 15 minutes as I find longer sessions to be incredibly boring. If I need a longer conditioning workout, I’d rather divvy the work in more than one place. For example, a 30 minute workout might include 10 minutes of rope skipping, 10 minutes of swinging a sledgehammer, and finally 10 minutes on the bike. During each minute of continuous biking, I’m still looking to maximize and optimize my output though. I strive to accumulate as much work as possible.

IV. Continuous Work Intervals – A variation to continuous work is to add an interval at the beginning of each minute. For example, I might go hard for 20 seconds, followed by 40 seconds of moderate pedaling. I’ll continue this approach on every minute for 10 to 15 minutes. You can also vary the work-to-rest ratios (ex. 15/45, 30/30, etc.). There are endless options with this approach. I encourage you to experiment with different times.

V. Pyramid Intervals – Another option is to pyramid through various work-to-rest ratios within a single session.

For example, after warming up on the bike, continue with the following sequence:

  • 15 seconds sprint, 45 seconds of recovery
  • 20 seconds sprint, 40 seconds of recovery
  • 30 seconds sprint, 30 seconds of recovery

Repeat this sequence four times (12 minutes total).

VI. Longer Intervals – Yet another option is to perform slightly longer intervals. I typically cap the time at 60 seconds for these “all out” intervals. A minute will never seem so long. After just a few intervals, your all out effort won’t look like much of an effort at all. You can expect to be challenged physically and mentally.

Summary

Clearly, these are just a few of the workout options available to you with a fan bike. In the past, I’ve worked through longer Airdyne workouts, but found that I’d eventually become bored of the bike. I’m certainly not suggesting that everyone limit their fan bike workouts to 10 or 15 minutes. That’s just the time frame that has worked best for me in recent years. It’s also worth noting that I rarely just work with the bike during a session. The bike often serves more as a finisher or as one piece of a larger conditioning puzzle.

If you have any other questions about fan bikes and workout options, feel free to shoot me an email or comment below.

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“We must embrace pain and burn it as fuel for our journey” – Kenji Miyazawa

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16 comments:

  1. Ross,

    Great info..I may look into this type of bike when I have some extra cash but my question is that I currently have a high quality Spin bike that I should use more..It has resistance settings but can I use the same interval/routines that you listed with my current bike? I need to do more conditioning work also to get into shape for hiking??

    Thanks,

    Kevin

    1. You certainly can use a regular bike for similar intervals. The fan bike is much more difficult however as the upper body is equally challenged (which is one of the true benefits IMO).

  2. Great stuff.
    My parents had one of these sitting in the basement for years. Recently, I took it off their hands and have made great use out of it.
    I am currently rehabbing after ACL reconstruction. The ability to use the arms and not just the pedals has helped keep my conditioning up during the rehab process. A very versatile piece of equipment.

  3. there’s an old Schwinn Airdyne that looks just like Ross’s on my local craigslist (except it’s white) for $60. i’m tempted because i really struggle with how to keep my conditioning up when my achilles tendon is acting up, and this bike sounds like it might be a good option for me? i’m not sure i can get it myself though – about how heavy is it? and is there any way to cram it in a car?

  4. Comment to Air about AirDynes and then 2 AD stories.

    Air, get the AirDyne. It’s worth the $60. Caution though. They are NOT plastic like the cheapies you get at Sears or Walmart. Need a truck or a good size SUV to haul it. And may need some help loading and unloading it. Once out of the truck, it rolls.

    1. And yes, you can find these machines all over. I’m a massage therapist and was at a business doing chair massages. Saw one, brand new, in the company warehouse. Asked the manager about it. Long story short, got it for $100 worth of massages.
    2. A friend was going through knee surgery rehab and her boss loaned her a Sears/Walmart plastic bike. While driving down the street I pass a yard sale and, yep, there is a used AirDyne…..for $20. Took the plastic crap back to her boss.
    And no, chivalry goes only so far. She got the used one, I’ve got the new one. 🙂
    Good Luck.

  5. Airdyne is a great tool , just would like to add if you see a bike called a Ross Futura it’s almost the exact same bike ( in fact Ross bikes lost a lawsuit over it )
    I just bought one for 100$ ,either brand is well worth buying

    Tom Mack

  6. I’ve purchased several Airdynes over the past few years. Earlier models are the best home cardio machine made.

    You can easily pull cotter pins from the arms of the unit and pull off the seat post/saddle. This allows it to collapse into a manageable shape that should fit into the trunk of a midsize car. Heavy to get in, but they travel well!

  7. Like air, I have achilles issues that have been interfering with conditioning. Picked up a 15-year-old Airdyne for $200 on Craigslist after reading this post. Did an interval workout and holy cow did it kick my ass in a very short time. Thanks for the rec!

  8. Ross, have you ever tried one of those Concept2 rowing machines? What’s your opinion of them?

    Some hardcore fighters love them, they are quite popular in Northern Europe. I’ve found they work very well for warming up and for Tabata intervals. They are also extremely gentle on joints.

  9. Ross, Awesome write-up like always.
    Have you used the airdyne in a way that is similar to your II intervals? (ie 800m, 400m, etc)?

    Thanks

    1. @Ruben – That would typically fall under the “timed rounds” category. For example, you could cycle for 60 to 90 seconds for a 400 and closer to 3 minutes for an 800.

  10. I have had my Airdyne since my by-pass surgery in 2004 and used with moderation it certainly helped with my recovery. Currently, an old football injury from the 70’s has developed arthritis and I had to have the ankle surgically fused. I can no longer walk far and definitely not run, but I work out daily on the Airdyne and have maintained good conditioning.
    Thanks for the article.

  11. I recently came across this workout:
    Put ‘calories’ mode on the monitor
    Bike 50 calories as hard and fast as you can. Note the time. Rest for the same time, then row 40/30/20/10 calories respectively, the rest period after each is determined by the prior interval time. Looks easy but is brutal. As you stated, Airdyne workouts never get easier because the better your conditioning, the harder you push.

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