Assault AirBike Elite review in a sentence: a new breed of home gym machine that is far more than a hybrid bike/elliptical gimmick.
There is currently a mad rush for home gym equipment, resulting in some of the largest stockists on the web running out of popular pieces of kit. But anyone looking to keep in shape, tone muscle and improve cardiovascular fitness should consider an air bike. And, as its name tantalisingly hints, the Assault AirBike Elite is an air bike.
Air bikes are intense contraptions that – almost uniquely – work the upper and lower body in unison, in theory forcing the heart and lungs to work doubly hard to keep up. The Assault AirBike Elite is a culmination of many years worth of experience, building on pro athlete knowledge to deliver a robust and brilliantly linear riding experience.
It sits near the top end of the air bike budget scale but it backs up the asking price with solid stats tracking, tough components and infinite levels of resistance, thanks to the massive fan attached to the front.
Assault AirBike Elite: price and availability
Wolverson Fitness is one of the largest UK suppliers of Assault Fitness products in the UK and it is one of the only online outlets to sell the AirBike Elite, priced at £1,249.99. However, be aware stock levels and availability changes on an almost daily basis. As does the name: Wolverson has it listed as Elite Assault AirBike.
Alternatively, the cheaper and slightly more basic Assault AirBike Classic is also available on the site, while Powerhouse Fitness also has some availability.
Product dimensions (in cm): 140L x 66.3W x 1148.8H cm
Boxed weight: 56.7kg
Max user weight: 160 kg
Assault AirBike Elite: ergonomics
As with many pieces of home fitness equipment, there can be a fairly lengthy (and sweaty) build process involved. If the AssaultBike Elite is delivered unassembled, be prepared for a bit of heavy lifting and more than a few expletives.
That said, it is a mighty fine piece of equipment when fully assembled, featuring thick steel structures for the legs, seat posts frame and handles. The metal used is nicely textured and boasts neat curves to ensure the otherwise awkward-looking contraption feels at home in a smart living room.
The provided seat is a bit on a bone of contention, because the surface is fairly slippery and its flat construction makes it fairly easy to slip off the front, but it is otherwise very simple to adjust to get the fit just right.
Assault Fitness generally provides flat, mountain bike-style pedals, but these feel sturdy and feature small spikes for getting a good grip. They attach to cranks using the same thread as most other pedal brands, so it's very easy to swap them out. The same can be said for the saddle.
The neatly curved handles also feel beautifully constructed and they naturally sit in the hands of most users, despite height or build. Although these can be adjusted for an even better fit.
Assault AirBike Elite: ease of use
Although the Assault AirBike Elite is extremely easy to hop on and use, it only really comes into its own when users properly push themselves to the limit. The unique thing about an Air Bike is its ability to practically infinite amounts of resistance. The more you pull on the bars and stamp on the pedals, the harder things get.
With that in mind, the workout experience can be rather intense and using one of the numerous built-in interval training programmes (via the LCD computer at the front of the bike) only goes to prove this point. A mere 20 seconds of flat out effort is enough to have the heart racing.
Moving the machine is also a fairly strenuous affair, as it weighs almost 60kg, but there are small caster wheels at the front of the machine that allow you to tip the bike and wheel it around.
Thankfully, the computer doesn't require a power source, instead drawing its energy from powertrain, meaning there's no need to trail a plug or invest in packets of batteries.
Assault AirBike Elite: working out
The aforementioned computer is extremely easy to live with and is operated via simple push buttons. It also allows users to connect with Bluetooth and ANT+, so monitoring your heart rate is straightforward, and you can quickly connect your mobile device for data tracking. Calling up classic time, distance, and calorie goal programmes is also as easy as hitting a dedicated Target Programmes button.
Sitting on the bike for long periods of time (think over an hour) can get uncomfortable and it's not really the best way to get the most out of the machine. Instead, mixing short periods of intense exercise with even shorter periods of rest is the best way to burn calories. Fast.
In fact, many CrossFit disciples will use the calorie burn read out as a good workout indicator, opting to burn, say, 10 calories on the bike before hopping off to hit 10 burpees, followed by 10 push-ups and back on the bike.
The Air bike is perfect for this kind of circuit training, as it's possible to go full throttle on the wattage output from a complete standstill. There's no need to mess with gears or manually adjust resistance. Simply go hell for leather and the machine will fight back.
Annoyingly, Assault Fitness doesn't offer a bottle or cupholder for the Elite machine yet and for me, this is a massive oversight. There's also a distinct lack of space to place a smartphone, should the user opt to use a third party app for tracking.
On top of this, the redesigned seat is still not as economically designed as it could be and it proves difficult to get properly comfortable. Replacing this with a more traditional bike seat could be an option for most and it's easy enough to do.
Assault AirBike Elite: verdict
With excellent build quality and a superbly robust drivetrain, the Assault AirBike Elite oozes commercial gym qualities, but it is wrapped in a package that wouldn't look out of place tucked inside the home or in a dedicated workout area outside.
It is fairly large, although so is most fitness equipment, and the weight of the unit makes wheeling it around a bit of a pain, but it is no worse than an exercise bike and arguably easier than a chunky elliptical machine.
The onboard computer is fairly basic but gives readouts on the most important statistics. It's a shame there isn't a phone holder, as it would make using third party fitness apps, such as MyZone, a lot easier. The same goes for the bottle holder - not having one is just annoying.
Above all else, it delivers on the best Air Bike experiences around, proving it can handle masses of torque and deliver a buttery smooth ride in return. It sits at the top of the budget scale for a reason.
Assault AirBike Elite: also consider
Arguably the closest rival we've tested is the Schwinn Airdyne AD8 Air Bike, which sits in a similar price bracket and offers the same kind of riding experience. The AssaultBike feels slightly better bolted together, with less cheap plastics used, while the Schwinn's computer isn't as clear or concise.
Alternatively, Raze offers the overtly masculine Renegade Air Bike for a very similar price and it uses toughened 3mm steel for the frame, as well as a single belt drive transmission and sealed bearings to protect all of the main joints.
Those looking to spend less should check out the Schwinn AD2 or the JTX Mission Air Bike , both of which are around half the price of these elite machines but offer a solid HIIT session nonetheless.