The Match-Up: “In this Corner…”
The Assault Fitness Air Bike and Rogue Fitness Echo Bike are just the two most common examples of fanbikes found in CrossFit gyms. Whether as a cause or an effect, this means that most of the competitions that involve an event that includes a fan bike use one of these two brands. The Assault Bike is by far the most common bike historically, but when Rogue Fitness released their version, the Echo Bike, in the end of 2017 it became popular almost immediately. This is largely because of Rogue’s great rapport with the CrossFit community at large. I’ll compare the two brands, first based on the product itself (user experience) and then on how the units (Calories, Watts, Distance) stack up.
Which Bike is a Better Buy?
With similar price points, the Echo Bike is often described as “overbuilt” in a favorable sense, as in it’s sturdy and won’t break down. The Echo Bike is belt-driven, which makes the ride quieter and often smoother. Plus, the chain of the Assault Bike is a frequent weak link during max effort sprints, occasionally resulting in catastrophic failure. The Echo bike itself is slightly larger, including a slight increase in handle height, which can create inefficiencies and discomfort for smaller athletes.
Check out more specs and pricing on the Assault Bike here.
Check out more specs and pricing on the Rogue Echo Bike here.
Assault has recently released a new version of their Assault Bike, which I have heard great things about, if you don’t mind the much higher price tag. Check out the newest version here.
Do Both Brands Measure Output the Same?
In terms of how they measure work, the bikes are comparable, but they are definitely not identical. By no means would you want to compare your results on a test-retest from one with the other. However, I wouldn’t even do that with a bike of the same brand and generation, mainly with the assault bike. For this reason, if you do a test on one bike, I would only recommend using that exact bike to do your retest. This is because even within brands there is variation of resistance. These models base calories, distances and watts on the Revolutions per Minute (RPMs), so even though one bike (of the same brand) may spin with less effort, since the RPMs stay consistent so do the calories, distance and watts. Basically, there are inaccuracies.
Older models of the Assault Bike -that have the pedals with rubber tread- tend to spin at higher RPMs with the same effort than the newer models that have metal pedals. The main reason for these intra-brand differences is deformation of the fan blades over time. If a few of the fan paddles become slightly turned, a common occurrence, they become more aerodynamic and slice through the air easier, resulting at higher RPMs at the same bodily output.
Counting Calories (& other measures)
Comparing the models, there is a general consensus in the CrossFit community that the Echo Bike is slightly more difficult than the Assault Bike, especially when the RPMs climb in all out effort. At cruising RPMs, the difference is less noticeable. Depending on which Assault Bike you measure it against, you are looking in the neighborhood of a 8-12% reduction on RPMs on an all out effort. This is a ballpark figure because each person’s peak wattage will be different, and therefore so is their place on the power curve.
Too Many Discrepancies for Online Competitions?
Practically, the implications of this are that you don’t want to compare a score on one bike with the score on another. This is the fundamental reason why an air bike has never been included in the CrossFit Open or other CrossFit online qualifier events for Sanctionals. One, there isn’t one brand that has a monopoly (like Concept II for the rower). Two, each brand has slightly different metrics for the same output. Three, there are discrepancies within the same brand. Until the air bike can be universally standardized, it will be reserved for competitions that have a fleet of bikes within the same model (e.g. CrossFit Games, Sanctioned Events, Local Competitions).
Nonetheless, the air bike is an incredible tool for driving adaptation and even if you are an athlete training solely for the Open or another Online Qualifier, I would still recommend using it in training. The difference is you should aim to use it as a means to drive adaptation rather than optimizing (a.k.a. gaming).
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