NEW: Bulldog Gear Belt Driven Airbike 4.0 REVIEW

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When Bulldog released their latest version of their airbike I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it! I’ve used the predecessor as my “daily driver” out for over a year and rate it as one of (if not THE) best pieces in my home gym. The 4.0 has moved the game on in virtually every area – so if you’re thinking of buying, here’s what you need to know:

Best bits:

  • Excellent value
  • Super smooth and quiet motion with ultra-direct feeling in use
  • Maintenance free: Belt drivetrain requires NO regular maintenance
  • Most adjustable air bike tested to date – excellent for short or tall users
  • Thinner handles more comfortable than competition
  • Includes wind guard and bottle holder

Considerations:

  • Metal kick plate removed in redesign
  • Multi-grip handles would be a cool addition in future
  • LCD monitor is unchanged from predecessor & Assault Bike

What is the Bulldog Gear Airbike 4.0 about?

This is Bulldog Gear’s latest take on the modern airbike. Now in its fourth generation, Bulldog have progressively developed and improved the design over the years. Compared to the competition this iteration has far superior adjustability largely thanks to the vertical seat stay, as well as a more ergonomic handle for manoeuvring around the gym.

Air bikes are great for LISS or HIIT workouts and made their recent rise to fame largely thanks to CrossFit. If you like to get your cardio in and want the ability to challenge yourself when doing it (or compete in CrossFit!) you will benefit massively from having a bike to play around with and practice on. Build that cardio engine like no other with one of these!

The robust belt-driven design is maintenance free and the technique requires very little mastery compared to rowing or running making it an ideal set-and-forget cardio modality for the general “all rounder” trainee.

Hello, beautiful - Redesigned air bike has 'slim fit' appearance which looks great!
Hello, beautiful – Redesigned air bike has ‘slim fit’ appearance which looks great!

Is it worth it?

If you want an air bike and live in the UK then the Bulldog Gear belt driven bike is definitely worth it over the alternatives. It’s competitively priced, built like a tank, utilises a low maintenance belt-drive system AND has the most adjustable riding position on any air bike I’ve tested. 

This adjustability makes this an excellent bike for shorter or taller users as the vertical seat post enables a super-wide range of seating positions where the competition generally is restricted in reach adjustment as the seat moves AWAY from the bars as it rises. Not here.

While a belt driven bike is a little more expensive than a chain driven one, and having used both types of bikes, I think the price gap is worth it here. In a home gym setting the reduction in noise and maintenance is HUGE, and this price point saving a few quid is simply not worth if it comes with these compromises. I’m such a fan (excuse the pun…) of belt driven bikes that I don’t have ANY chain-driven bikes at home at the moment (but I do use them at work or commercial gym settings!)

Overall it is safe to say I am highly impressed with the Bulldog Airbike and recommend it as a best buy.

Test subjects: Rogue Echo (nearest) vs Bulldog Gear 3.0 (right) vs Bulldog Gear Belt Driven Airbike 4.0 (top)

Bulldog Gear 4.0 Bike Specs:

Specification:

Footprint149cm (l) x 76cm (w) x 134cm (h)
Weight57kg
Weight capacity136kg / 300lbs
MonitorLCD console with rubber buttons
Metrics trackedRPM, intervals, distance, calories burnt, watts and heart rate
Seat adjustment8 height; 17 front/back
HandleYes; Rubber coated on rear upright
DrivetrainBelt driven steel fan
ColourBlack
PedalsMetal flats included

Useful dimensions & measurements:

It’s worth pausing on the seat adjustment metric – Bulldog offers a whopping 17 reach adjustments and 8 for height which produce the following measurements:

  • Seat height range: 80cm – 110cm (from floor to top of seat)
  • Pedal height: 10cm (from floor to top of pedal at lowest point)
  • Reach adjustment: 65cm – 85cm (from mid seat to handle at furthest point)
  • Arm throw: 42cm

This makes it the most adjustable air bike I’ve used.

What it’s like to use…

I’ve been using the 4.0 airbike regularly in the build up for this review for a while now. The bike feels EXCELLENT in use – the motion feels super lively and direct. I also think the redesign looks pretty cool with a tighter appearance vs the bulkier Bulldog 3.0 and Rogue offerings. 

Here’s my review of each area:

Chassis

The body of the 4.0 has been redesigned – think ‘slim fit’! The pedal box area has shrunk and has a more shapely appearance as the plastic body contours around the internal workings. This contrasts to the previous ‘chunky’ style.

To facilitate this new look there is now a support bar running front-to-back under the bike where the previous model (and Rogue Echo) have a void. Functionally there is no difference to either design. Initially I was not sure if this would prove to be awkward when moving or storing the bike but in truth I have not noticde it when using the bike and it looks ‘normal’ in the metal.

One bit that HAS changed is the removal of the metal kick plate on the top of the pedal box. The new shapely top of the pedal area means there is not a flat surface to place this on. I quite liked the metal plate on the old bike and used it as a step – with the 4.0 I now have to stand on the plastic chassis directly. This has not damaged the chassis at all, but it is something I think could be improved on in the future by adding the metal protective plate back.

The rubber coated vertical handle on the rear of the bike is more ergonomic than the outgoing model which had a bare metal loop and more of an angle to it. As a result moving the bike around is easier.

New slimmer design (foreground) looks more modern in the flesh than older predecessor in background. Different seat adjuster and handle also visible
New slimmer design (foreground) looks more modern in the flesh than older predecessor in background. Different seat adjuster and handle also visible

Arms & handles

The arms on this bike look really cool with an exaggerated ‘question mark’ shape compared to the traditional straighter design. This compliments the new shapely design well. In practice the question mark shape doesn’t offer much practical difference when up and running as the length of the stroke is pretty much identical to other bikes, BUT it does feel easier to start the movement off!

The grips and handles themselves are great – they are rubber dipped giving a nice grippy finish and at 37mm diameter they are awesome to hold. This is a useful 10% thinner and therefore more comfortable than the Rogue Echo handles for many users.

If looking for improvements, a multi grip option would be nice – a bull-bar style vertical grip or 45 degree option would be a nice touch.

Pronounced curve in handles looks good in the metal without impacting the range of motion
Pronounced curve in handles looks good in the metal without impacting the range of motion

Monitor

The included monitor is identical to the one found on the Assault Bike as well as the Bulldog Gear 3.0 predecessor. Bulldog say this enables direct comparison between bikes as they use the same logic for calculating calories burned, distance etc. This is unlikely to be relevant for many of us with home gyms BUT might be handy if you’re upgrading your commercial gym stock.

Personally, and as I’ve stated elsewhere before, I think the monitors on most cardio equipment could be improved. I would love to see Concept2 levels of data available even if it was logged in a supporting app on a smartphone. A WiFi connection could be used to enable a global leaderboard, and stats could be poured over later to look for improvement. We are still some way off this – but it would be AWESOME if Bulldog were able to release this as a retrofit option to get ahead of the game!

Putting my personal wish list to one side – the packaged monitor is functional and – whisper it – SLIGHTLY preferable to the Rogue Echo equivalent in use as the display shows elapsed AND remaining read outs. It also offers a shelf to hold your phone or iPad at eye level. Rogue’s design look a little cooler with the custom branding but is missing the shelf.

Monitor is familiar: Same as predecessor & famous Assault Bike; Functionality the same as Rogue Echo

Heart rate monitor

As with the screen, the heart rate monitor compatibility is unchanged from the BG Airbike 3.0 and Rogue Echo with limited Polar products working using a 5kHz transmitter and scarce information around exactly what spec is required for compatibility. My Polar HRM connects to the screen and provides a readout in realtime throughout the workout which is helpful.

Personally I would like to see the monitor updated to support ANT+ and Bluetooth HRMs – if I want to use a Wahoo Tickr or similar I have to forego the readout on the screen and have it on my phone instead. Alternatively they could upgrade the monitor as per above to show enhanced heart rate stats on screen.

Trusty Polar T31 (Uncoded) hooked straight up to the monitor
Trusty Polar T31 (Uncoded) hooked straight up to the monitor

Seat & height adjustment

As with most airbikes the standard seat here is pretty big and wide. It is a slightly different design to the outgoing Bulldog model and the Rogue Echo and feels a little more comfortable in use. But this may be down to the extra adjustability allowing me to get in to a more ergonomic position.

The 4.0 air bike is the most adjustable I’ve used. The vertical seat post enables more height and fore/aft combinations than the angled seat tube on the Rogue or the predecessor from Bulldog. This lets you slide the seat WAY forward or WAY backwards letting you get the position just right. I love this as it allows me to get more ‘over’ the pedals which is my preferred position after years of road cycling.

Ultimately this makes the Bulldog Gear Belt Driven Airbike the most suitable option for short AND tall users. And this extra adjustability makes it is even easier to get comfortable on for those of us in the middle!

Adjustable seat: Pictured on setting 3 of 8 possible vertical positions; Fore & Aft on a slider
Adjustable seat: Pictured on setting 3 of 8 possible vertical positions; Fore & Aft on a slider

Drivetrain

The Bulldog Airbike 4.0, unlike cheaper offerings (including those from BG themselves), is belt driven. This means your pedals / arm cranks are connected to the fan via a belt rather than a more typical, cheaper chain.

The benefits to this are huge and valuable – belt driven bikes make less noise, require less maintenance, feel smoother in use and offer an ‘inertia free’ feeling where a chain tends to have a lag and a bit of ‘ghosting’ as it relies on cogs and gears.

In use the bike feels extremely alert and direct – the sharpest riding airbike I’ve experienced. Whether this is the internals, the shape of the arms proving better leverage or the impact of superior adjustability I can’t be sure – but whatever it is, I like it. A lot.

Fan build

Similar to other premium air bikes the 4.0 is build around a heavy duty steel fan. The one installed here is virtually identical to the 12-blade fan on the BG 3.0 which I’ve used heavily for years with no issues.

Fan unchanged: The latest Bulldog Airbike (foreground) has the same fan as the predecessor (background); [plus bonus Rogue Echo peeking in :) ]
Fan unchanged: The latest Bulldog Airbike (foreground) has the same fan as the predecessor (background); [plus bonus Rogue Echo peeking in 🙂 ]

Pegs

The foot pegs feel identical to both he Bulldog 3.0 (the predecessor) and the Rogue Echo. Construction is quite basic with a knurled metal cylinder secured to the bike with a huge single hex-head bolt. They feel high quality robust in the hand.

Be warned – they spin!

A fixed peg would be more convenient for hopping on and off – but not as useful for arms only workouts. Spinning pegs mean you can keep your feet on them while using the arms of the bike without them rubbing or wearing on your shoe soles. 

Accessories

As standard the Airbike 4.0 ships with a wind guard and bottle holder. Having a mix of bikes with and without the guard I now have a preference for riding WITH the guard – far less dust and general garage-ness gets blown in to my eyes and face.

In my experience this issue is worse if you put your bike on a bare concrete slab (more dusty). If you put your bike on gym mats or otherwise sealed floor this is less of an issue.

Accessories included: Ships with wind guard & bottle holder; Wind guard is excellent addition in a dusty gym - bottle holder a touch small for my taste
Accessories included: Ships with wind guard & bottle holder; Wind guard is excellent addition in a dusty gym – bottle holder a touch small for my taste

Ordering, delivery & assembly

Ordering is a painless process – Bulldog rarely run any kind of sale so I simply ordered the bike when it was released for delivery ASAP. 

What I was pleased to see it was shipping FOR FREE at the time of ordering. When it arrived it was a guaranteed two person delivery service which meant two delivery men unloaded the bike and put it in to the garage for me – with no wooden pallets to dispose of!

Assembly

Building the bike was very straight forward. Within the large cardboard box it comes encased in polystyrene with all the tools and hardware required to build it up. Having built a fair few of these bikes now I was able to get it up and running really quickly and I think almost anyone could be up and running in 30-60 minutes.

The key to a speedy is SPACE – if you can clear enough room to cut the box open and access all sides readily it is quite easy to rattle through the build. If you have to do it in a cramped room it may take a bit longer to unpack.

Another top tip is to use your own tools if possible – it will be quicker and easier than with the included ones!

Easy assembly: Delivered part-assembled in a single box; Attach the feet, arms and monitor then get riding!
Easy assembly: Delivered part-assembled in a single box; Attach the feet, arms and monitor then get riding!

Warranty

Bulldog offer a 5 year warranty on the frame with 1 year on the parts as long as the bike has not been misused. I think it is unlikely you will invalidate the warranty accidentally as there is minimal maintenance or adjustment required.

Returns

The bike can be returned within 28 days.

Conclusion

I’m really impressed with the tight, direct feeling when riding this bike. The adjustability makes it a breeze to get comfortable even for my LISS sessions AND the new handle on the rear makes it easier to move around my space (which I am doing more frequently since I moved my gym!) While I would have liked to see a new monitor with enhanced connectivity and data logging it simply isn’t something offered by ANY air bike manufacturer yet so it would be a big ask to have that included at such a competitive price.

Best bits:

  • Excellent value
  • Super smooth and quiet motion with ultra-direct feeling in use
  • Maintenance free: Belt drivetrain requires NO regular maintenance
  • Most adjustable air bike tested to date – excellent for short or tall users
  • Thinner handles more comfortable than competition
  • Includes wind guard and bottle holder

Considerations:

  • Metal kick plate removed in redesign
  • Multi-grip handles would be a cool addition in future
  • LCD monitor is unchanged from predecessor & Assault Bike

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