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We’ve all seen the Rogue Assault and Echo bikes on the CrossFit games, but what if you want to stand out from the crowd? What if you want to do your cardio DIFFERENTLY? Then you are probably in the market for a great alternative to these air bikes. Here are a few ideas on what to look for as well as a few specific options you could try out.
At a glance…
What are the best Rogue Echo alternatives out there?
If you’re in the market for a Rogue Echo alternative it is really important to understand why you DON’T want the Echo in order to find the best substitute for you. Don’t like the movement pattern? Then a C2 Rower or Bike ERG may be best. Is it the cost? In that case an entry level Schwinn may fit the bill (if you can accept the performance compromises of the cheaper bike).
Here are a few options with my thoughts on each:
Bulldog Gear 3.0
At the moment I have two air bikes in my personal gym – a Rogue Echo and the Bulldog Gear 3.0. The Bulldog is my ‘daily driver’ and I use it over the Rogue pretty much every time for three relatively simple reasons:
- Handles are thinner which makes gripping the bar for longer workouts more comfortable
- Arms have a more positive feeling – the Rogue Echo arms can work a little loose. This can be rectified by I just find it easier to jump on the Bulldog since I have both around
- Console has a phone or tablet holder built in so when doing heart rate training in the Wahoo app (my heart rate monitor of choice) it’s easy to have the display at eye level. Also when doing workouts in the garden it is nice to chuck a cheap tablet on there and catch up on some Netflix while punching the clock with LISS sessions.
- I’ve written a comprehensive review you can check out here if you are interested in the details
None of these are game changers and I would be more than happy with one or other bike, but if I was only keeping on hit would be the Bulldog. Fortunately I can justify having both as they come in handy for articles such as this 🙂
The ubiquitous Assault Bike is really the predecessor to the Rogue Echo. The Assault Bike uses a chain drive compared to the Echo’s belt which means it requires more maintenance and is noisier. Personally I think on balance that the Echo is a superior machine for these reasons alone. That said, given its popularity pre-Echo, there are loads of AB’s in the marketplace and therefore they are easier to find second hand – this is when they would be worth considering if you can find a great deal.
Given their popularity in the community the other cool thing is it can be quite easy to compare results and workouts online as everyone is using spec equipment (this is the same for the Echo).
Xebex Air Bike
Xebec is a well respected brand with a few air bike offerings. They offer a few genuine alternatives to the common Rogue Echo or Assault Bike offerings with their Xebec MG3 Magnetic Air Bike, standard Air Bike and crazy VR1.
The magnetic offering is not one I would consider as the magnetic functionality to vary resistance goes against the simple design of an air bike that i really enjoy. The VR1 has similar variable resistance so I would also pass over that one for my own garage – not to mention it being almost double the price of the Rogue.
The standard Xebec Air Bike is the sweetest in the range – but is more of an alternative for the Assault Bike than the Echo which I consider to be a tier above this in the real world.
Schwinn have been building air and assault bikes for years and offer a broad range of current models, as well as having an enviable back catalogue. Be sure to research any potential purchase carefully to make sure you are getting the features you need – particularly important if you are shopping on the used market!
AD2 is a solid enough bike in isolation but inferior to the Rogue offering if comparing side by side. The Echo is simply a nicer product with a bit more weight and therefore sturdiness when pushing on. The drivetrain feels smoother as well. Personally I would view this as a budget alternative and not really a like for like quality wise.
The Schwinn AD6 is more robust with an extra 7kg of weight over the AD2 and adds a more functional console with heart rate monitor support. Like the AD2 however it has a smaller fan unit and will therefore feel different to the larger fanned AD8 and Echo. The best thing about the AD6 is the price – when it goes on sale it can be a bargain which makes the compromises just about acceptable for those looking to save some money.
By contrast the AD8 is actually more expensive than the Rogue Echo BUT is therefore more of a like for like alternative. The frame is similar to Rogue albeit with a bit more of a ‘Life Fitness’ vibe rather than the chunkier metal ’Rogue’ design. I love the arms and handles which offer multiple grip options (compared to the Rogue’s one size fits all) and this would make me consider it as a contender. The downside is that they are a bit less common in the CrossFit community so comparing outputs is more difficult.
Concept2 Rower, BikeERG or SkiERG?
All offerings from Concept2 are FANTASTIC, but they offer very different movement patterns to air bikes. I’ve focused on the competitors which are directly targeting the air bike market here, so if you are deciding between a rowing machine and a Rogue Echo then I think you may need to do a bit more research in to exactly WHAT you want to get from your cardio equipment before committing to a purchase.
Is the Rogue Echo bike worth it?
I have a pretty extensive post on this very question if you want more info, but, sure – if you use the bike regularly enough, find the cardio style fits your goals (e.g. runners may be better suited to treadmills, endurance cyclists more so BikeERG, etc.) and you have the budget a Rogue Echo is definitely worth it. It is one of the best all round cardio options for a home gym and the design is up there with the best.
Is it perfect? No. The handles are too thick, more grip options would be useful and the console is basic. None of these are fatal as the bike is truly excellent – but there are a few reasons you might be considering an alternative.
That said if you have the budget and think it will fit your routine an Echo is fantastic – particularly in America where the cost is far below that we have to pay in Europe.
What muscles does an air bike work?
The Echo bike (or any like for like alternative) delivers a decent full body workout as your lower half powers the typical pedal box but you can also use your arms for the cranks to bring your upper half in to the mix. The heavy hitters are your hamstrings, quads and calves which do the majority of the pedalling with your deltoids, lats and biceps contributing to the arm movements.
One of the best things about an air bike is the ability to emphasise different muscles throughout a workout – getting a bit tired? Try arms (or legs) only. Need to maintain a constant RPM – then if you ease off the pedals you can increase upper body effort to compensate.
So… Is an air bike a good cardio workout then?
Absolutely – an air bike offers a comprehensive full body cardio workout in a reasonably compact space. It can be used for HIIT and LISS effectively and has carry over to other applications such as road and mountain biking and CrossFit.
So there ARE alternatives to the Rogue Echo out there – in the UK the Bulldog is the one I find myself actually using more – but if you’re in America then the Rogue pricing makes it a REALLY compelling purchase. That said, if you are happy to deviate from bike-based cardio then the Concept2 Rower is excellent for getting the work done. Personally I find the variation offered by an air bike (hands only, legs only, LISS, HIIT, etc) make them comparatively MORE useful in a home gym for someone who is training for general fitness so I would likely be looking to Bulldog, Rogue or Schwinn for my cardio hit!
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