Surviving Chicago winters can be brutal, especially when polar vortex events lead to freezing temperatures colder than readings found at the North Pole. While some might prefer to hibernate until the spring, I try to keep active by maintaining my bike riding pace. In this article, I will provide you with a glimpse of the custom configuration I came up with using spare parts I had around the house. What you have available in your home will inevitably be different than me, but I hope sharing my setup, as well as a collection of product selections, will serve as inspiration for you to create your own home biking setup.
Stationary bicycling is as exciting as running on a treadmill, but with the help of my triple monitor PC, and several iOS home automation and fitness apps, I look forward to hopping on my fitness rig and riding for hours.
Attaining my homemade indoor biking rig wasn’t cheap or easy. I have been riding a custom recumbent bicycle since the ‘80s, from an Indiana-based company that has since exited the bicycle business.
The rear tire of my recumbent is attached to a Blackburn magTrack-stand trainer ($60 used on eBay) that has progressive resistance to further elevate my heart rate to its fitness target. I use a Wahoo Tickr Heart Rate Monitor ($49.99) and Sean Pedley’s Heart Buddy app (free) to track my heart rate before, during, and after the riding exercise.
The last major component required for my setup is an Ikea Bekant Standing Desk ($409) that allows me to clear enough height to comfortably pedal my bike underneath. The desk height is controlled by a powered motor. Some standing desks have a more expensive controller that can assign height preferences to button presets. I would actually prefer a desk height adjustment device that was HomeKit-aware so I could assign the height dynamically based on my intent. I may ultimately just build my own using a manual controller and an Arduino ($22).
Since the entire setup takes about 20 minutes to have everything in place and properly calibrated, I usually do this onetime configuration when my outdoor riding season ends. Then I ride daily indoors for about an hour every day (longer on the weekends) from mid-November until mid-April.
I have been fortunate to have acquired over many years all the equipment and technical knowledge necessary to assemble this custom fitness solution into a viable working system. Given the variety of parts, if I were to estimate the total cost of all the equipment acquired over the years that make up this solution, it would likely exceed several thousands of dollars. Fortunately, people much smarter than me have created companies to achieve the very objectives I did with my custom setup.
While some readers may be techies and tinkerers, others may be too busy to build their own fitness solution like I did. Fortunately, several companies offer iOS-compatible products to make home fitness effective and reasonably affordable. For those who prefer to multitask during their workouts, a company called Uplift Desk not only provides a range of manual and powered standing desks, but also recently released a convenient Under Desk Exercise Bike for $269 that instantly transforms a plain desk into an active cardiovascular workout station.
Creative placement of the Wahoo Fitness’ RPM CadenceSensor ($39.99) will translate riding distance and speed estimates to your iPhone running the free Wahoo Fitness app. If you don’t have the latest Apple Watch and you want to obtain accurate heart rate measurements for a much lower cost, Wahoo sells the Tickr Heart Rate Monitor for $49.99. Combined with the cadence sensor, these devices provide a fairly comprehensive picture of stationary bicycling exercise effectiveness.
Finally, for those bicycling fitness enthusiasts who want an all-in-one solution focused entirely on the riding experience rather than multitasking at work, Wahoo offers the Kickr Core Smart Trainer that delivers a variety of highly accurate sensor data for competitive and hard-core fitness riders.
Even though my indoor riding setup is a complex mashup of analog and digital equipment, it helps me attain my goal of maintaining fitness levels throughout the deep winter freeze. Fortunately for everyone else interested in maintaining their physical fitness, there are more economical ways of achieving the same goal. For roughly the cost of an annual fitness membership, you can create your own low-impact aerobic activity center that is even more high-tech than what you’ll find at many high-end fitness centers. May you ride on in good health!
Mike Riley, a professional software developer and emerging information technologist, is the author of Programming Your Home, published by Pragmatic Bookshelf. Mike is also a contributing editor and author of hundreds of technical articles and reviews for a number of popular technology publications. For more information, contact Mike via email at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @mriley. ■