2020 has been a weird year as we have all been stuck in the COVID-19 pandemic. With a bunch of lockdown restrictions (that are, frankly, hard to keep track of!) many including myself have turned to doing all our cardio in our home gyms instead of out and about.
One of the coolest ways to get a varied cardio workout at home is by using an air bike. Intervals, steady state, upper body or lower body – a fan bike has you covered.
So what is the best fan bike to buy here in the UK in 2020?
At a glance…
- The Bulldog Gear Airbike 3.0 is the best airbike available in the UK in 2020
- I own a Rogue Echo bike that is virtually identical, but significantly more expensive
- Both the Bulldog and Rogue are belt driven to keep the noise down
- Most other options in the UK are chain driven or much lighter
The best air bike in the UK for 2020 is…
The Bulldog Gear Airbike 3.0! I’ve done a full review of the fan bike here, but in summary the pros and cons of the bike are:
- Design – pretty much identical to the Rogue Echo bike which moved the fan bike game on massively when it was released
- Drivetrain – crucially the Bulldog is also belt driven like the Rogue. The belt drive keeps the noise level as low as possible which is ideal for home use, and also means the bike is virtually maintenance free
- Price – considering the engineering and sheer weight of the thing, it retails for a bargain price undercutting the Rogue by around £100
- Accessories – even at a lower list price it comes with the wind shield and water bottle holder included in the price as well (these are extra from Rogue)
The downside is in the branding. Rogue is a stronger brand than Bulldog and certainly more recognised internationally (if your Instagram follower base is American for example they will recognise the Rogue instantly… If that matters!)
So how much is a brand name worth to you?
Rogue Echo Bike vs Bulldog: Fight!
Ultimately if you want the best fan bike in the UK in 2020 you have two choices – the Rogue Echo bike, or the Bulldog Gear Airbike 3.0.
These two bikes are – ultimately – more similar than they are different. I’ve laid out a ton of detail on what to look for in a fan bike below, but these bikes have so much in common it really comes down to two factors:
- Price – The Bulldog is around £100 cheaper
- Brand – Rogue is a more internationally recognisable brand
The actual machine is so similar it would not surprise me if they were made in the same factory (or at least the drivetrain) with a different branding attached.
How much do you value the Rogue branding?
Personally? I valued it quite highly so I put my money where my mouth is and bought an Echo bike as soon as it was released in Europe. The bike itself is great (now… see below), but I do have a few regrets or ‘sour taste’ moments that have stopped me recommending the Rogue to friends:
- Price – I paid list price for the bike, waited around 3-4 weeks for delivery and then it went on sale shortly after. Obviously I was happy to pay the price I did at the time, but it’s a bit annoying none the less that I had to wait for stock then they dropped the price so quickly. It didn’t feel like a reward for being an early adopter.
- Build quality – having paid top dollar for the bike I was very pleased with it and used it a lot. It did however develop an incurable squeal that rendered it unusable. Rogue did replace it after a few months of back and fourth with various attempted fixes. I was pleased with their customer service, even if it did go on for a bit longer than is ideal. It does however show that the premium paid does not guarantee a fault free product.
At the time I bought the bike there were no other credible alternatives to the Echo available in the UK with most options being chain driven or comparatively lightweight. Now with the Bulldog 3.0 we have two great choices.
What should I look for in a fan bike?
When shopping for an air bike you’ll be taken aback by the range out there. Luckily narrowing it down is pretty easy and boils down to a few differentiating points:
Resistance – Fan bikes generally have infinite resistance as it’s just you vs the air. Each bikes design will be a little different here though so it might be relatively harder to burn calories on a Schwinn bike vs Rogue as a (fictional) example simply due to the size of the fan and/or blades.
Drive – Most bikes use a chain drive system similar to a traditional road or mountain bike. The best air bikes for crossfit or other similar ‘new age’ uses are belt driven. In fact, there is no scenario I can think of where a chain is better than a belt for a fan bike. If you can afford it a belt offers a much lower maintenance, less noisey, higher end solution.
Weight – Depending on your plans you might be putting your bike through some serious pain! A 200lb crossfit athlete thrashing out repeated HIIT sessions will be punishing the equipment. That’s why many of the new age bikes designed for crossfit or similar serious athletes are so sturdy and heavy (Bulldog and Rogue weigh in around 60kg for example!)
Adjustments – make sure you can get ‘comfortable’ on your chosen bike. Users below 5’2” struggle with the Rogue Echo bike for example as the throw of the arms is a little too long to comfortably do while seated.
Price – last, but not least, is price. If you have a decent budget you can get yourself an incredible piece of equipment that will last a lifetime in one of the new, crossfit-friendly, extra-quiet belt driven all signing all dancing fan bikes. If you have a lower budget you will need to compromise with an entry level machine, or by scouring the second hand market.
Are air assault bikes good?
They sure are! The versatility is – for me – one of the best aspects. I use mine for light intensity steady state work (LISS) as well as high intensity interval training (HIIT).
I find the nature of the exercise – being sat on a bike – really good for LISS as it lets me do things like watch TV or change music on my phone without too much hassle. When I’ve used C2 rowing machines previously I find it difficult to focus on a screen as I slide fore and aft, and fiddling with your phone is definitely out.
Another hobby of mine is road cycling – the cross over from working out on an air bike is obviously huge. I was able to jump straight on my bike in Spring after a winter off and basically pick up broadly where I left off.
The Concept 2 rower is still absolutely great – it’s just not quite as versatile for my personal situation. That said I would love to add a rower as an additional cardio option… Maybe I’ll pick one up… You know, just for a test, right?!
Is an air bike good for weight loss?
Yep, it sure is. I simultaneously love and hate my air bike. It’s brutally effective at burning calories as the second I stop pushing it, the bike grinds to a halt. There is no riding momentum. There are no gears to fiddle with. You get on it, and you GRIND. And the GRIND is a motion we know well (most of us have cycled a lot as kids) so there isn’t a whole heap of skill to build. Just hop on the assault bike and GRIND out the calories!
If this is helpful, I’ve been using my air bike roughly twice a week as part of my regular training and I’ve lost a ton of weight.
I’m not going to lie to you and say it is a magic Rogue Echo bike, it has been a combination of diet, self discipline and cardio. But the bike has still played its part!
In the UK we are lucky to have the choice of the Bulldog air bike as well as the ubiquitous Rogue Echo bike. Both are so similar in design it really does make the decision easy – keep the extra £100 in your pocket and go for the Bulldog.