No pain, no gain. That’s the mantra when you hop onto the assault air bike, an increasingly common sight at the gym. Nicknamed Satan’s tricycle, the assault air bike is a low-impact, high-output cardio machine that combines the arm action of a cross-country ski machine and the workout you get on stationary bike. The faster you go, the higher the resistance – and the resulting wind generated.
While its not the newest fat-burning machine around, the assault air bike is one of the most effective ones and has come back in fashion, thanks to Crossfit where WODs (workouts of the day) often incorporate it as a way to build grit and improve metabolic conditioning.
Besides Crossfit boxes, the assault air bike is showing up at mainstream gyms and group classes at Pure Fitness, Virgin Active and TripleFit, catering to cardio lovers looking for a new mental and physical challenge. While rowing burns around 12.5 calories a minute, and running and skipping uses up to 11 and 9.5 calories respectively, the assault air bike gives the ultimate burn. For the record, American personal trainer Rob MacDonald holds the current world record by burning 87 calories in a minute on the assault air bike.
Ready to get cranking? Here’s what you need to know.
You will work 1.5X more than on a stationary bike
The increased calorie burn is almost guaranteed as the assault bike’s simple push-pull-push mechanism makes you work really hard. Think of it as a ski machine, just more intense. After giving it a go, I burned 30 calories in a minute. After lasting 10 minutes of pushing and pedalling, my calorie burn worked out to be the equivalent of running 5km, which would have taken me 35 minutes or more.
If you’ve hit a training plateau, this will be your breakthrough
According to TripleFit trainer Fazrul Rozali, the assault bike is a “big enabler towards building that calorie deficit”. During personal training sessions, he puts clients through a HIIT circuit involving exercises like squats, monkey bars, push-ups and crunches, ending with a 20-calorie burn on the bike. “If you’re competitive, this machine will challenge your personal bests at every cycle. Plus, the strong afterburn effect means you’ll keep burning calories post-session.”
It’s a great equaliser
Unlike running or road cycling, mastering the assault bike doesn’t require any special skills or equipment. Simply focus on getting your position right (keep your knees in line with feet, sit straight and tall), ensure minimal torso rotation, set some goals, and off you go. Whether you’re a newbie or a cycling addict, the common denominator stands: expect jelly legs post-workout.
You can achieve your fitness goals with it
The versatility of the assault bike makes this an all-in-one machine. According to David Norman , Head of Fitness for Virgin Active in Southeast Asia, this is how you can use it to train regardless of your goals.
Build explosive power
“Go hard for 10 seconds, followed by an easy recovery period of one minute. If your power level (watts) can’t be maintained for those 10 seconds, increase your rest time.”
“A combination of various workout periods and intervals should be used over time. This could mean doing workouts that last for anything from 10 seconds to 10 minutes, combined with varied rest periods that either allow a rider to fully recover or to simply catch her breath before the next repetition.” He advises individuals to seek professional advice when putting together a conditioning programme.
“Because everyone’s Functional Threshold Power (FTP) – this is 95 per cent of the 20-minute average power – is different, there is no one ideal or standard interval at which people will begin experiencing a calorie burn. That said, when training for an event, riders can track their progress by measuring their FTP every four weeks. If the number increases without the rider’s weight also increasing, the rider should have become fitter.”
Your progress is trackable
There are no strict rules on how long you need to last on the assault bike or how many calories you should burn per minute. However, according to David Seah, personal trainer at Pure Fitness, it helps to know your power-to-weight ratio. “There’s really no hard and fast rule on how much wattage a first timer is supposed to hit. But there is a power-to-weight ratio table that shows how much wattage a certain individual at a certain weight produces. Ultimately, the wattage testing is a measurement of their performance; if they are able to increase the power output while reducing their body weight over time, it’s a clear sign of improvement.”