DeskCycle Under Desk Exerciser Review
Cons: Limited workout intensity, short crank arms
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Our Analysis and Test Results
When scouring the internet for the best affordable exercise bikes, it became clear that the DeskCycle dominates the competition in the under-desk market. This brand specializes in compact exercise equipment that can be used just about anywhere, including under your desk at home or work. We tested the DeskCycle against a diverse field that included several different styles of exercise bikes and came away surprised and even a little impressed by this unique and interesting model.
The exercise quality of the DeskCycle is unique compared to the other models we tested due to its "under-desk" style and intended use. This bike was made to give people sitting at their desks a convenient way to get the blood flowing, burn a few extra calories, and improve their cardiovascular fitness while working. Its light weight and small size also make it easy to move around and use anywhere you like, reading a book or watching TV so that you can make the most of your time. That said, it does have some limitations when compared to full size upright or recumbent models, and we found it best for light to moderate intensity levels of exercise. It was far from a gym-quality workout, but excellent for an under-desk exerciser.
Sitting at a desk all day doesn't exactly benefit our fitness, health, and well being in many ways, and that's where the DeskCycle comes in. This is somewhat of a niche product that was designed to be used anywhere you can sit, and your legs are free, including at your desk. Being active at work can have many benefits, including burning calories, improving your mood, or increasing productivity. According to DeskCycle, you expend 53% more energy using this bike on level one, and 100% more energy at resistance level three compared to sitting still. It has eight levels of magnetic resistance ranging from the super-easy level 1 up to relatively challenging at level 8. Changing the resistance is done by turning the resistance knob at the front of the machine, and there is a noticeable change between each level. The machine is very quiet, although not completely silent, and doesn't create a noisy distraction when in use.
At first glance, we seriously questioned whether or not we'd be able to get any sort of workout while using the DeskCycle. This initial impression quickly faded away as the sweat began to pour, and the muscles started to burn. The intensity of the workout is entirely up to the user, of course, and this isn't a great option for fitness fanatics who are looking to do some serious training, but that isn't what it's intended for either. We found that it was easy to work up a sweat and that using resistance levels above four made it more challenging to focus on other things. Sure, our bike racing tester was able to max out the resistance levels while doing the interval test, but it was by no means too easy. For use in the home or office, testers found this to be a relatively distraction-free way to boost the heart rate and burn calories while working on the computer or paying attention to other things.
As a rating metric, comfort is not particularly applicable to the DeskCycle. Since this machine is basically just the magnetic resistance apparatus and a set of cranks and pedals, user comfort is almost entirely up to the individual. We recommend choosing a seat that you find to be comfortable and setting the DeskCycle up in a place where the pedaling motion will not be impeded. After purchasing our DeskCycle, they sent us a helpful e-mail with tips for use, and these included several suggestions for staying comfortable and maximizing your workout.
It is worth noting that due to the nature of its design and to make it compatible with use at desks, the DeskCycle has very short crank arms. Most casual users will likely never notice the difference, but people accustomed to regular exercise bikes, spin bikes, or outdoor bikes may find the short cranks to feel a little awkward. Other comfort considerations, all of which are addressed in the owner's manual and online resources, include sitting up straight, keeping your back supported, and desk clearance issues. Taller users who try to use the DeskCycle at their desk may require an adjustable height desk and/or chair. It is worth noting that the DeskCycle doesn't have any height restrictions, anyone who can pedal a bike should be able to use this machine.
The DeskCycle has a straightforward and no-frills user interface. It is almost identical to that found on the less expensive recumbent and folding models we tested. It has a small battery-powered computer with a simple LCD display and one button. The display shows only basic information and is relatively easy to read and intuitive to use. The resistance level is adjusted by turning a knob at the front of the machine by your feet.
The DeskCycle's small computer can be attached to the top of the machine itself, or it can be mounted on the included display stand for your desk. Those using the DeckCycle under their desk will likely want to opt for the display stand. Otherwise, the display will be blocked from their view. Either way, the computer has a small, 1.75" wide x 1.5" tall, LCD screen. While the numbers on the display are quite small, they are generally pretty easy to read. The computer has an auto start/stop feature, and it turns on when you begin pedaling and turns off a few minutes after you stop. The screen displays two numbers at a time, one above and one below, and the top number always shows your pedaling speed. The bottom number displays one of the other metrics of RPM, distance, speed, elapsed time, calories burned, or scan mode, which changes every 5 seconds. The default mode is scan, but you can choose to display whatever mode you like by pressing the mode button. When the display is attached to the machine, it can be difficult to reach the computer to press the button without stopping pedaling.
The magnetic resistance of the Desk Cycle can be changed by turning the adjustment knob at the front of the machine. Like the other eight resistance level models we tested, you turn the knob clockwise to increase resistance, and counterclockwise to decrease it. The knob itself is easy enough to turn, although you do need to reach down almost to the floor to do it. This can be an awkward maneuver while pedaling.
Due to the compact size and relatively simple design of the DeskCycle, it does not have many features. In fact, it has the fewest features of all the models we tested.
Perhaps the most obvious and most useful feature of the DeskCycle is its size. The compact nature of the design means that it can be used just about anywhere, even under a desk. It also takes up comparatively little space and is lightweight enough o move or stow away when not in use. The display stand is another useful feature should you choose to use the DeskCycle at your desk. The included stand and cord make it easy to position the computer on the top of your desk so you can monitor your workout.
The DeskCycle took top honors in this metric for its easy assembly, low weight, and small size. It comes in a small box that is relatively lightweight and easy to pick up and carry. Upon opening the box, we found that it comes in several pieces with all of the necessary hardware, tools, and a user manual. The manual features diagrams, as well as detailed written instructions for each step in the assembly process. The entire setup took our testers approximately ten minutes from start to finish. You attach the two legs, larger in the front and smaller in the back, and leave them a little loose to level it before tightening them all down. Attach the pedals on the correct side of the machine and make sure they are tight. Put the included batteries in the display, slide it into place, and plug it into the machine. That's it in a nutshell.
Once the DeskCycle is assembled, it is quite easy to move around thanks to its lightweight; just over 20 lbs. It is also quite small with measured dimensions of 24.75" long x 20" wide x 12.5" tall (with display attached), so it doesn't take up much space under your desk, in a closet, or the trunk of your vehicle. It is only a fraction of the size and weight of the full-size competition and easily the most portable and storable model we tested.
Should you choose to use the DeskCycle at your desk, it comes with a display stand and an extension cord to move the display up onto your desktop where you can see it. Some additional setup may also be necessary to get everything dialed in to your liking. Raising or lowering your desk or chair height may be necessary, and possibly the installation of the "tether" to keep your chair from rolling away or the machine from being pushed away on a slippery floor. We did not find the tether to be necessary during testing, even when using a wheeled desk chair.
There are less expensive under-desk pedal exercisers on the market, but none that are as highly regarded as the DeskCycle. We feel this is a good value for the consumer who seeks a convenient, portable, and unobtrusive way to stay active at home or in the workplace. Whether for therapeutic reasons or to reach health and fitness goals, the DeskCycle is an affordable option to consider.
The DeskCycle is an excellent little under-desk model that provides more of a workout than you might expect from such a small and simple machine. Obviously, this exerciser isn't intended to provide a super high-intensity workout. However, it provides plenty of resistance range to burn calories and work on your cardio compared to sitting still at your desk or while watching TV. It is small enough fit under a desk, it's lightweight enough to bring and use wherever you like, plus it can easily fit in the trunk of a car or a closet when not in use.
Other Version and Accessories
In addition to the DeskCycle we tested, there is also a DeskCycle 2. The 2 costs slightly more and features an adjustable height to give you more under-desk clearance, as well as a slightly larger LCD display.
DeskCycle also makes the Ellipse, an under-desk elliptical exerciser.
— Jeremy Benson