Spin Bike Vs Airdyne – A Thorough Comparison

spin bike vs airdyne split pictureThese 2 exercise bike types are rugged and robust. They’re designed to give you as tough a workout as you can handle or want.

The Airdyne has been around a little longer than the spin bike but the spin bike is the more popular bike – with special spinning classes and indoor cycling classes helping it out.

Airdynes have seen a rise in their status recently too, with them being in vogue at CrossFit gyms for high intense workouts. It has the reputation of being a machine of torture more so than spin bikes. It is definitely a piece of exercise equipment that people love to hate. Even calling it the misery machine.

People talk much more fondly of spin bikes even though these can leave you exhausted in a ball of sweat too.

These bikes are ridden in a similar fashion to a bike in that you sit on a bike seat, lean forward on the handlebars and pedal with your feet.

See how they compare in our informative head to head.


The basic difference here is the spin bike has a flywheel at the front and the airdyne has a fan wheel.

The flywheel is heavy, made from iron/steel and can be perimeter weighted. This weight helps to keep the pedaling motion circular by pulling the pedals round in 360 degree motion. This helps it to feel more like a road bike.

The pedals on the airdyne are used to push the fan round with the resistance provided by air as the blades of the fan move round. Its this resistance that make this bike so loved to be hated.


The handlebars on the spin bike are fixed in place like you have on a bike allowing you to grip them for leverage and / or lean on them as you would a bike.

Like an elliptical bike the handlebars on the airdyne move back and forth which push and pull them while you pedal providing a workout to the arms as well as the one you get with your legs. You can rest your hands on them and just work your legs but the arms still continue to move. Or you can use your arms only to move the wheel giving your upper body a workout.

Again the spin bike design is for a more road bike experience so you can lean on the handlebars and grip them as you would when riding a bike outside. The airdyne is designed to work more of your body.


For both bikes the seat can be adjusted upwards to get the right height to give provide the proper distance between the pedal and seat for the right amount of extension of the leg for an efficient and safe workout.

The spin bike also has adjustment to horizontally move the saddle. You can also move the handlebars vertically and in some cases horizontally too. This is to get the bike to fit you properly to get the maximum results from the workout and it also helps in preventing injury. You can also use the adjustments to get as close as possible to the set up of your road bike

As the handlebars move with an airdyne this horizontal adjustment is not as critical although other types of fan or air bikes do cater for this to provide a a better and more ergonomic fit.

Riding and Cycle Motion

The spin bike provides as close a ride as you can get from an indoor bike to a road bike with the heavy flywheel pulling the pedals through a complete 360 degree motion just as you get when cycling outdoors, fixed handlebars and manually variable resistance.

The riding motion of the airdyne doesn’t come as close as the spin bike does to a road bike as there is a bit more up and down motion of pedaling as it slows at the top and bottom of the cycle due to lower inertia of the flywheel and moving handlebars.

In this respect the spin bike is more likely to be softer on the joints as it promotes better form of pedaling especially for the beginner.


Both bikes promote more cardio and endurance than strength but as the resistance increases on both you are pushing harder and thereby building some strength in the legs (and arms in the airdyne).

The spin bike does give you more of an opportunity to build strength as you can turn the resistance up manually and not have to cycle faster to do it, so you can do it for longer periods of time before without burning as you are more likely to do on the airdyne to get the resistance levels up.


The Airdyne use air resistance against the fan to provide something to push against. The faster you go the harder is the resistance i.e. goes from easy to very hard as you pedal faster. There is not the option of varying resistance levels any other way. This riding against resitance and high speed helps it to earn its nicknames.

With spin bikes you normally twist a knob to increase the resistance in increments to provide a similar experience as to the gradients you experience on an outdoor bike. It does make it easier to ride at certain levels of resistance but at a lower RPM to build endurance rather than just cardio capacity. You can also at the higher resistance levels come out of the seat and pedal standing to work the legs harder.


Of the 2 bikes the Airdyne is the noisier one. You hear the air whooshing as it being pushed by the fan as well as some noise from the chain drive. It is like an electric fan going at full blast

The noise from spin bikes is less as they don’t have the fan. With the majority of models there is some noise from the drive and from the resistance pad that pushes on the flywheel and is quiet enough for use at home (as is the airdyne). But for a quieter riding experience there are those that have a belt drive and magnetic resistance which are very quiet.


This is dependent on the model of bike you buy particularly with spin bikes as there are many different manufacturers, unlike airdynes which are manufactured by Schwinn.

Having said that they do all tend to be basic (and not all spin bikes have one anyway) giving you information like power, rpm, speed, distance, time and heart rate (when paired with heart rate monitor). These are helpful in keeping you in the best zone for fitness or weight loss.

Cardio and Calories

There are a number of claims about how many calories you can burn riding a spin bike or airdyne.

The spin bike claim is that you can burn up to 500 – 600 calories in an hour. With an airdyne the claim is the top trainers can burn up to 75 calories in a minute but you can only sustain that very short periods of time (most won’t get near that level).

The cardio workout for the spin bike is the legs and core, it does give you the ability to move in and out of the saddle to add more work into the workout.

With the airdyne you can also be working the arms and legs to be able to work harder and get a more intense workout and burn more calories. It is also great for conditioning and is used by many MMA fighters for that reason. You may find with HIIT that you work harder on the training interval but are slower during the recovery part due to the additional work put in.

In the end burning calories and weight loss will depend on the amount calorie put in as well. With Airdyne you need to be more careful with your food as there can be the temptation to eat more due to the intensity of the exercise making you feel hungry.

The Airdyne will work your arms, core and legs hard and you can get a very high intense workout and there is probably not a better piece of exercise equipment than this.

The spin bike can give you are variety of workouts that are similar to riding a bike which is good for those who want longer endurance type workouts as well as intense ones and for those doing indoor training for cycling. A spin bike can be used for high intense interval training too. It is more for the legs and core than your arms. It’s real strength is being able to have cycling style workouts that take advantage of the changing gradients using resistance and cycling at various tempos

Both can also help you build mental toughness with the spin bike being slightly gentler but both can put you in that dark place if you want to work through it

(Photo credit for airdyne picture only, other picture and wording added.

15 comments for “Spin Bike Vs Airdyne – A Thorough Comparison

  1. amitabh
    October 9, 2017 at 9:00 am

    Thanks man for putting things up it really helped me. only one question , which one will be faster in burning tummy and leg fat also which one will be good for girls and which one will be good for boys. Please suggest need you personal opinion, rather than general.

    • Paul
      March 3, 2018 at 3:34 pm

      Both can help in burning calories for boys and girls, however for exercising the upper body (including the tummy) I’d go for the Airdyne.

      • Brian
        June 7, 2018 at 12:09 am

        You cannot spot reduce fat, where you lose any gain fat is genetic

        • Paul
          August 26, 2018 at 12:52 pm

          Thanks for clarifying.

  2. lonnie perryman
    February 11, 2018 at 1:08 pm

    what would you buy sole 700 or fan exercise bike need to know asap before i go buy

    • Paul
      March 1, 2018 at 6:56 pm

      I like them both and you can get a good level of exercise from both. As to which you should buy it depends on your exercise goals – for example – if you want to exercise you upper body at the same time then a fan exercise bike is best or if you want to use it as part of your cycling training then the sole 700 would be better.

      • Dude Garcia
        December 4, 2020 at 9:21 am

        Thanks for your work putting this review together.
        It made my buying decision easier.

        • Paul
          December 4, 2020 at 8:47 pm

          You are welcome. Great to hear it helped.

  3. February 16, 2019 at 1:43 pm

    do air bikes come with clip in pedals?

    • Paul
      June 21, 2019 at 7:46 pm

      I’ve not seen any that come with that as standard. Sorry, I haven’t checked whether you can change them out.

    • January 10, 2021 at 3:04 am

      My Schwann Airdyne bike has a label that says do not use pedals with toe clips or straps

      • Paul
        January 10, 2021 at 6:17 pm

        Thanks for this. Good to know.

  4. Traci Olafson
    March 31, 2020 at 7:05 pm

    Thank you for taking the time to explain the benefits of the two types of exercise bikes, it is very helpful. For those of us with knees and hips issues, or maybe those prone to lower back pain, which one would be easier on the joints?

    • Paul
      March 31, 2020 at 7:28 pm

      That is great to hear. Thanks for feedback.

      The spin bike can be easier on you if you stay in the seat but you may want to consider a recumbent exercise bike as it has better support for the back and your feet are out in front of you which tends to be easier on the joints and back. You can read more about recumbent bikes here . Although you are in more of a seated position you can still get a good cardio workout

  5. Al
    March 4, 2023 at 4:01 am

    I think the airdyne is best on the joints. I had the meniscus removed from my
    knee 30 years ago and every aerobic machine I tried besides airdyne made my knee hurt. For example, with a regular stationary bike, you have to turn the resistance up to get a hard workout and that can squish the knee. With the airdyne, you just pedal and push harder and your arms take some of the pressure off the knee joints. But it’s as hard as sprinting if you push hard, a fantastic workout.

    The doctor told me I needed a knee replacement 25 years ago and that eventually I wouldn’t be able to do the airdyne anymore, but that never happened , instead my knee got stronger and I got to the point where I could do over 20 calories per minute for 36 minutes and now I’m running again too. Don’t get a knee replacement, try an airdyne first.

    By the way, the reason you shouldn’t use clips on the airdyne is because if you slip off the seat while going hard, your momentum will keep the pedals going and you could get hurt if you’re clipped in.

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