Sonic Riders is based around characters racing each other using devices known as "Extreme Gear", anti-gravity-equipped vehicles consisting of hover boards, hover skates, and hover bikes. Players compete to finish three laps around a racetrack before their opponents and complete the race in first place. Each race features up to eight characters competing. A key component of gameplay is the air tank, displayed in the lower right-hand corner of the screen. Air serves as the fuel for Extreme Gear, and is depleted gradually as the race goes on. Characters can also perform a Boost, which will give them a sudden burst of speed at the cost of a significant amount of air. If a player boosts into an opponent, their character will attack and stun the opponent for a brief period. Air is also more quickly spent using techniques like cornering, which allows the player to round sharp turns with ease, and building tension before a jump, which involves using the air to propel the player higher off of ramps. If a player runs out of air, their character will start running on foot; this prevents them from boosting, attacking, cornering easily or using charged jumps. Players can refill their air by performing tricks when jumping off ramps or off opponents' slipstream, with higher-rated tricks sequences restoring more air. Players can also collect rings scattered across the track; collecting a certain number of rings will cause their character to level up for the remainder of the race, increasing the strength of their attacks and extending their maximum air capacity.