With a heritage in bike manufacturing stretching back to the 19th century, it’s no surprise Schwinn knows what it takes to make a great air bike…
See how it compares to the best exercise machines
Schwinn Airdyne AD8
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$2,478 / £1,499, schwinnfitness.com
- Stable and robust
- Good range of hand grip options
- Plenty of mid-workout data
- Battery or mains power
- Saddle not the comfiest
- Foot pegs a little awkward to align
- Phone difficult to read in its slot
The Airdyne AD8 is the latest iteration of Schwinn’s Airdyne air bike range, and a more fully featured model than the company’s AD6i and AD2i models.
It’s an air bike that you’ll often see in commercial gyms and fitness studios, so that should give you an idea of its pedigree.
Arriving on a pallet, the Airdyne AD8 was already fully assembled. Unlike the AssaultBike Classic, the AD8’s pinion arms are hidden away and protected, so no chance of them getting caught on your clothing. It also meant there were no fiddly hinged arms to attach on arrival. However, with copious instructions detailing how to assemble the arms, pegs and console, I suspect consumer models will need some basic home assembly.
Schwinn Airdyne AD8 dimensions
At 113.1lb / 51.3kg, it’s an unsurprisingly substantial unit, and I’m glad I didn’t have to get it up any stairs. But with dimensions of 52.9 x 26.5 x 52.9in (134.6 x 67.3 x 134.6cm) it will still fit in relatively compact spaces. I slid it into a 67 x 31.5in (1.7m x 0.8m) space by my desk and had enough room to perform high intensity cycling sessions without fear of knocking lamps or laptops over. It’s maximum user weight is a hefty 350lb / 160kg, so no worries there either.
Getting the bike into these spaces is relatively straightforward thanks to the two wheels on the front base.
Once in position, if you’re near a wall socket you can plug the included a/c adapter in to power the screen. Otherwise you’ll need two 9V D or LR20 batteries for the high resolution multi-display LCD. It’s a more feature-packed screen that the lower models, as well as most other air bikes on the market. For the most part it’s easy to read – the one exception being the dot that denotes what you’ve selected in the ‘rate select’ panel.
Schwinn Airdyne AD8 screen
The screen is so feature packed, there’s almost too much information on display. However, I found that I soon grew accustomed to picking out the data I needed. As well as the main programme display you have the tachometer panel, tach hill panel and rate select panel. The latter allows you choose between calories/min, watts, RPM and speed. Holding the rate select button for 3 seconds enables the scan function, which cycles through each of the four modes every 3 seconds. It’s a really useful way to give you a comprehensive overview of your performance. At the end of your workout this panel also displays your maximum for whichever rate you’ve selected.
The tach hill panel shows your RPM on a linear scale while the tachometer display is a speedometer-style LCD that gives you cal/min and watts metrics. A neat feature here is as you push your effort, your maximum cal/min will remain as a tick mark on the scale of 0-60, so you have that as a measure of your highest score. I found that to be a nice motivational feature, and useful when your power output wanes after successive intervals.
The main console below this is where all your main workout data is displayed. It’s also where you can program your workout. Of course you can just hit ‘start’ and begin pedalling for a simple manual workout. But if you want something a bit more structured there’s plenty of choice here too. First up are the interval sessions: 20/10, 30/90 and custom. The first number is the time in seconds of your interval, the second your recovery time. And you can programme any number of rounds from one to eight. Custom mode lets you dial in your own interval and recovery times.
Schwinn Airdyne AD8 interval sessions
While I found it useful to just hit the 30/90 interval and select the number of rounds, I would have preferred to have the recovery period first to ease you into the session, rather than go straight into the first interval. Otherwise I felt I needed to programme a different workout in first to have a structured warm-up. This may be personal preference, but I suspect many users would prefer a structured warm-up to a cool-down. The three-second alerts is useful to tell you your next interval is approaching, though even at the highest volume setting I found them quite difficult to hear above the noise of the fan.
Other workouts you can programme include setting a target for time, heart rate zone, calories, kilojoules and distance in miles or kilometers. So there’s plenty here to tailor your workout to your needs, and more information than the likes of the AssaultBike Classic can display.
Heart rate monitor compatibility
I was unable to test the heart rate display on the AD8 as I tend to use wrist-based heart-rate monitors. The Airdyne AD8 (and less expensive AD6i) allow you to pair with a telemetric Polar compatible 4.5kHz – 5.5kHz chest strap transmitter. The transmitter will automatically pair and once you enter your age you’ll see what zones you need to stay in for ‘fat burn’, ‘aerobic’ and ‘anerobic’ workouts. You can also switch between current, average and max bpm. Again this trumps the Wattbike Classic, which can’t be used with heart rate monitors.
Onto the hardware and in use I found the Airdyne as study as any of the air bikes I’ve tested. Adjustable feet allow you to counteract uneven surfaces and the saddle is adjustable for a wide range of rider heights. Because of the pull-out sprung dial that slots into holes on the seatpost, it’s not as micro-adjustable as I’d have liked, though. I found myself settling for one of two heights either side of my ideal setting.
The saddle on any exercise bike is always a matter of personal preference, and I found the Airdyne just a little too wide and padded for my taste. But with the amount of hip rotation you tend to do on an air bike I can understand why Schwinn hasn’t gone for a more svelte seating option.
Schwinn Airdyne AD8 ergonomics
Although the arms aren’t adjustable, a feature of the Airdyne I particularly likes was the dual-level handle grips. Not only were the foam-covered grips comfortable for long periods, these handles give you two horizontal grip options and one vertical one. There’s also a nodule on the top that you can grip much like the hood of a traditional road bike. I found the vertical grip particularly valuable when trying to find leverage while hanging on for dear life during a final lung-bursting interval.
The pegs located around the centre of the front fan are a fairly common feature on air bikes, as they allow you to rest your feet while performing arm-only workouts. The ones on the Airdyne are triangular, giving you three flat platforms for your feet. On the first few workouts these irritated me as my feet kept finding the angle between two flat surfaces. But once I realised these pegs are free moving, it didn’t take much to rotate them with my toes. Still, I prefer the rounded pegs of the AssaultBike than having to search for a flat surface.
Other useful additions are slots below the main console for a phone and water bottle. The bottle is easy to access mid-workout, but I did find the positioning of the phone slot a bit odd. As it slopes down and away from you, it’s hard to read the top half of the screen. Given that there’s so much data available on the monitor most people probably won’t need to see any further information on their phone. But I was keen to see my Whoop strain score increasing as I worked out, and the only way I could do that was to have my phone on a desk beside me.
Should you buy the Schwinn Airdyne AD8
I was impressed with the build quality of the AD8. It’s a robust and rugged piece of gear that will withstand years of use and abuse. Its screen gives you all the info you’ll need and more, and has plenty of programme options for dialling in cycling sessions to suit your fitness programme. The arms are well designed with numerous grip options and overall it’s a triumph of ergonomics. Although the retail price of $2,478 / £1,499 is a little steep, the current price of £1,199 at fitness-superstore.co.uk makes this an attractive buy and a great investment for air bike enthusiasts.