Schwinn Airdyne Bike: Pedalling Against the Wind
By Rhian Hunt
Back when I was in my late teens, my father bought an exercise bicycle for me shortly after I underwent major surgery, as a way for me to build up my muscles after being bedridden for several months. The machine was a convenient way to start revving up my muscles from the feebleness they had gained during my hospital stay – similar, in fact, to the proverbial noodle – because I could sit down and exercise, and it could be placed indoors in a convenient place, while offering something of the healthful toning of real bicycle-riding.
That early exercise bike was a primitive affair. There was a gauge on it to show revolutions per minute (RPM), and the only way to increase resistance was to press a brake pad against the wheel by adjusting a butterfly screw. It was excellent for starting me on the road to recovery, but its extreme limitations meant that I soon had to abandon it in favor of more versatile exercise devices that would allow me to perform different routines and work at strengthening more than one narrow muscle group.
Many years have passed since then, and in that time, exercise bikes have advanced from that primitive type to sleek, state-of-the-art machines that often provide a full-body workout and include high-tech monitors that allow the user to precisely calibrate their bike workout to their needs. An exercise bike which includes some highly innovative features – including the ability to automatically adapt resistance to the strength of the user – is the Schwinn Airdyne Upright Exercise Bike, which stands to my teenage ‘recovery bike’ as an F-15 jet fighter stands to Hughes’ clunky wooden Spruce Goose aircraft.
Resistance Provided by Air – Why Is It Innovative?
When I first began to investigate the Schwinn Airdyne Upright Exercise Bike, the first thing that I noticed was that the resistance on the wheel was provided not by a physical brake pad or electrical magnetic resistance. This feature is plainly visible on the Schwinn exercise bike in the form of the large flywheel, which contrasts with the smaller flywheels of other models that rely on physical friction or magnetism to provide resistance. Resistance, for those who have never used an exercise bike before, is needed to increase the difficulty of pedaling, since the easiest setting will provide no workout to any except the weakest legs.
How Does It Work?
On most exercise bikes, resistance must be adjusted in some way by the user, while the construction of the resistance element itself means that it is often the first part of the machine to break or wear out. Friction resistance – that is, a brake pad – tends to develop uneven wear and give a ‘jerky’ pedaling experience after a while, meaning that the exerciser uses their muscles unevenly and may pull a tendon because of sudden, unexpected changes in resistance. Magnetic resistors last longer, but if the magnetic device burns out, it will simply stop working and the flywheel will permanently offer only the lowest level of resistance – the basic force needed to turn it.
The Schwinn Airdyne Upright Exercise Bike, on the other hand, uses an air-resistance flywheel – the entire flywheel is, in effect, a large fan operated by the pedals. For this reason, the faster the user pedals, the stronger the resistance becomes, as the ‘blades’ within the flywheel are pressed harder and harder against the air. Thus, there is no need for any additional device, such as a brake pad or magnetic resistor, because the flywheel itself provides its own resistance in direct proportion to the vigor of the user’s pedaling.
This, in turn, means that the user is constantly and automatically adjusting the amount of resistance, without the need to make any direct adjustments to the wheel or the machine in general. Pedal hard, and the resistance will get stronger the harder you pedal. Pedal more slowly, and the resistance will slack off. The elegant simplicity of this approach strikes me as one of the Schwinn Airdyne’s best features. In effect, the user will always find the right level of resistance for their strength, energy level, and endurance ‘built in’ to the bike.
Slow pedalers with weak legs will find a level of resistance that they are able to handle, but which will be enough to help build up their musculature – and the additional resistance will then automatically compensate for their increased strength. Strong, vigorous pedalers will generate enough resistance to challenge them. And all this is accomplished without complex secondary equipment, which is inevitably prone to breakage and needs to be adjusted.
Upper Body Workout on an Exercise Bike, and other Features
The Airdyne exercise machine’s usefulness does not end with the unusual and effective flywheel, however. Instead of simply being passive handgrips for steadying the ‘bicyclist,’ the handlebars of the Schwinn Airdyne Upright Exercise Bike move and can be used to work out the upper body while pedaling on the machine. Indeed, it is possible to use the handlebars for an upper body workout without pedaling at all, by resting the feet on two immobile supports built into the Airdyne for this purpose.
There is also a monitor on the machine, which operates on two AA batteries. This handy little device faces the user squarely between the handlebars, and gives readouts indicating the time of each session, the distance pedaled, the user’s heart rate, calories and calories per hour, RPM, and workload (the amount of force being exerted). This allows users to track their efforts and adjust them as needed to reach their goals, or set new marks to aim for.
The Airdyne is built to last, with sturdy all-metal construction (except for padding, of course). The frame is warranted for 30 years, parts for 3 years, and electronics for 3 years. However, some users report using the Airdyne steadily for over 12 years without any problems with any of the equipment, meaning that this machine is likely to remain a viable part of your exercise routine for a long time to come.
Cool as a Cucumber – How Comfortable is the Airdyne?
My use of the exercise bike that my father bought me to tone up after my teenage surgery was shortened not only by the fact that it didn’t provide a full-body workout, but also by the fact that sitting on its seat was about as comfortable as perching on top of a rather wide fence-post with a quarter-inch of padding stretched over it. One expects that there is, as the well-worn phrase suggests, some pain order to make gain in fitness training or weight loss. But generally, people prefer the pain to be in the muscles they are exercising, and not like the bruised ache caused by sitting in old pick-up truck seat after the shock absorbers have worn out.
Fortunately, the Schwinn Airdyne’s seat is comfortable and designed to support a seated human properly, rather than balancing them on some approximation of a medieval torture device. The seat is thickly padded, fairly wide (meaning that even larger users should have no discomfort sitting on it), and contoured to provide a pleasant seating experience. The height of the seat can be adjusted with an easy-to-use knob, accommodating many different heights of users easily.
I was also interested to discover that the air-resistance flywheel of the Airdyne acts as a fan that blows air onto the user – and, as might be expected, the harder you pedal, the stronger the air flow will be. Thus, the cooling effect will increase exactly as it is needed – more effort will lead to a stronger breeze, once again demonstrating the true innovativeness of the Airdyne’s air-flywheel design. There is also a water bottle holder on the frame to keep a refreshing beverage close by. The chain is encased to prevent injuries and the operation is quiet.
All in all, the Schwinn Airdyne Upright Exercise Bike is a versatile, well-made, comfortable, and long-lasting exercise machine which can provide legs-only, upper-body only, or whole-body workouts which automatically adjust themselves to the user’s physical needs and capabilities.
Where Can You Get the Airdyne for a Good Price?
Although the Airdyne would be a good deal even at full manufacturers’ suggested retail price, a good price and fast shipping can be found on Amazon.
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