Cubii Smart Under Desk Elliptical Review
High-tech office fitness product that stands out as the only one that connects to your smartphone through Bluetooth and integrates with popular wearable devices such as FitBit. Within the category of under desk ellipticals, nothing beats the Cubii. All the other products are basic mechanical devices sold through infomercials and mass merchants and aren't designed to last.
All under desk pedal units require switching to a height-adjustable desk, especially for people with longer legs. If you work at a fixed-height desk, you may need to upgrade to a sit-stand desk to avoid banging up your knee caps. Cubii is at least twice the price of popular competitors that don't have the wifi connection, phone app, and cool looks. All under-desk ellipticals pose some ergonomic stresses on the lower spine, neck and shoulders; Cubii is not immune to these issues, which affect all products in this category. If you're susceptible to low back pain or posture-related issues we recommend sticking with a standing desk or walking desk.
To Cycle or Not to Cycle
It’s not every day that we at WorkWhileWalking & WorkWhileStanding delve into a product category we don’t consider core to our office fitness charter. But every once in a while, a new product appears in one of these tangential categories that is a true example of office fitness innovation—and if we’re going to review it, we’re going to review its peers as well. Thanks to the Cubii smart under desk elliptical, we’ve taken it upon ourselves to test all the popular desk cycles on the market today—both circular and elliptical—as well as upright bike desks, which you can read about in our comprehensive Desk Cycle and Bike Desk Comparison Review.
Small, portable pedal units have been around for years. Tens of thousands of these products are being sold, albeit primarily via late night infomercials to couch potatoes sprawled on the sofa. They’re pitched as exercise products designed to be used while watching TV. In the best case, some can be used while standing directly on the pedals, like a poor man’s stepping machine. Most, however, are designed to be used while remaining seated. We’re not sure how hard people are actually going to pedal once they start sweating into their sofas, but on TV commercials, folks seem pretty happy, if not a little awkward and a bit uncomfortable.
A few of these products are specifically sold as under desk pedal devices to be used while working at a computer. And on that point, some devices work reasonably well, some are mediocre, and others are nigh impossible to actually use while seated at a desk—at least not without a lot of desk and chair modification. Unlike standing desks and treadmill desks, it’s important to note that a desk cycle, an under desk elliptical, and a bike desk are all exercise devices. They aren’t merely a means of injecting a little more movement into your day while remaining productive at your computer.
But just because the category as a whole doesn’t meet our standard for office fitness, that doesn’t mean all the products can be painted with a single brush. They do have the potential to inject a little more movement into the workday—even if you do remain seated while using them—and some are of better quality or greater functionality than others. We want to help those already enamored with the idea of a desk cycle become better informed about their options.
With that proviso, let’s dive into the Cubii review.
The Cubii Pedals onto Center Stage
The Cubii entered a market for under desk pedals that’s come into its own over the past few years. Back in 2014 when we first reviewed the DeskCycle under desk bike, there were fewer products on the market and less competition. The two category options for pedaling under your desk were upright stationary bike desks like the FitDesk 2.0 and LifeSpan C3, or under desk bikes like the DeskCycle.
Also in 2014, we ran into Cubii at the Neocon office furniture trade show in their hometown of Chicago, while they were in the midst of a runaway campaign on Kickstarter. Not only did they exceed their "funding goal" (a sales goal, really), but they also managed to raise $943K of capital from five health-oriented angel investors in Chicago. The three co-founders—bright, ambitious entrepreneurs who were still completing their studies at the University of Chicago at the time—seemed to be on a tear. They proved to be masters of social media and e-commerce promotion. The Cubii is marketed differently from your standard infomercial offering, and the product’s design and construction sets it completely apart from the lot you’ll find advertised at 2:00 AM.
We elected not to run a review of the Cubii at the time because the product was still a prototype. In fact, while we had a fair degree of skepticism about its ergonomics, we also had a sneaking suspicion these savvy entrepreneurs—especially the charismatic CEO of Fitness Cubed, Arnav Dalmai—would eventually find a way around the inevitable challenges of bringing a product like this to market.
Indeed, as has been the case with several high-flying Kickstarter campaigns, actually getting to market was a grueling process for this upstart. The eighteen months it took them to finally establish a reliable factory relationship in China far exceeded their original objectives. Despite the delay, thousands of consumers waited patiently for the product, and thousands more have flocked to buy a Cubii since the unit finally started shipping in December of 2015. After visiting with the company’s Chicago loft headquarters this summer, we decided it was time to finally take the unit into our testing lab, and do a full Cubii review.
A New Subcategory—the Under Desk Elliptical
Cubii became one of several new under desk elliptical “trainers” to hit the market, which feature a lower profile pedaling motion versus the traditional higher profile circular pedaling motion of a bike trainer.
The new category stiffens the competition. For one, the elliptical motion is generally easier on your knees. That’s one reason they’re so popular in the gym. But the elliptical motion also packs another benefit specific to desk use. The knees aren’t raised as high as in a regular circular cycle motion, so there is less chance you’ll hit them on the bottom of the desk when you’re pedaling. This is one of the most common complaints from under desk bike users, and while the elliptical motion does not completely solve this issue—except, perhaps, for the shortest of individuals—it does mitigate it somewhat. Taller users will especially have difficulty. (Pointer: an adjustable height desk, ideally one equipped with an adjustable under-counter keyboard tray, can resolve the issue entirely.)
So, as an elliptical, the Cubii starts out with an advantage over its category counterparts. But how do the rest of its features stack up against the competition? There’s been a lot of hype since the company’s inception in 2014. Does it live up to it? Our answer is yes.
Better, Faster, Stronger (mainly “Smarter”)
Generally speaking, the desk cycle category is filled with cheaply manufactured mechanical devices sold on late night infomercials to yawning couch potatoes. Given the landscape, the Cubii stands out like a rose among thorns.
Besides its elliptical motion, the Cubii blows away the competition in one main category, its “smart” functionality. Only the Cubii uses Bluetooth to link to an app on your smart phone (Android and iPhone are currently supported) where it keeps track of your exercise stats like speed, distance, time, stride, and calories burned. Most products on the market offer similar tracking ability but send it to a separate, cumbersome console (either on the product or on your desk).
The Cubii app also allows you to make goals, compete with friends, and share your progress. This way, you can tap into the extra motivation you might stand to gain from your social circle. It even integrates with the popular fitness device FitBit, keeping your fitness progress in the office linked with your fitness outside of work. Cubii seems to be hard at work developing more integrations with popular wearable devices and adding evermore social and tracking features to its app.
We give out major points for creating a device that bridges the gap between home and office and utilizes the social sphere to help keep you on track. From our standpoint, the Cubii takes steps towards a more holistic approach to health, and it definitely qualifies as the first of these products to be considered a bona fide office fitness aid.
Fitting in at the Office
It’s natural to be concerned about how these devices will fit in to the office environment. An author of a study on desk cycles even attests that users are more comfortable when they're pedaling at their desks in private. So let’s tackle the question straight on. What’s a customer experience like using the Cubii in the office?
Based on online reviews from sites like Amazon, and our own personal experience with the machine, the Cubii is quiet. Sometimes, similar products will start squeaking or making other noises with time, but our Cubii has not, and there are very few complaints of any noise issues on Amazon or other third party reviewers. Some describe the Cubii making a ‘soft white noise’ or a ‘faint whishing’ when pedaling, and we think that’s fairly accurate. It’s quiet enough to be unobtrusive to your coworkers, and that’s the important thing.
Measuring in at approximately 23" x 17.5" x 10”, the Cubii is actually one of the shorter units in terms of height that we’ve tested and researched. Its other dimensions come in around average for the desk cycle category. At just under 28 lbs, it is on the heavier side, but there is a convenient built-in handle for moving the unit out of the way when you’re done using it. The Cubii’s weight feels evenly distributed throughout the frame, so it is stable when carried and won’t tip easily.
As far as design goes, as you can see by the pictures, it’s sleek and professional. The product comes in two color patterns: black with red, and gray with black. It fits easily into a smart, tech-friendly work environment. Overall, we give the Cubii high marks for being a stylish and relatively inconspicuous device to use in the office.
We call the Cubii the Cadillac under desk elliptical and stand by that statement when it comes to quality. The manufacturing is solid; the unit feels like a product built to last. Even its attractive packaging is a notch above what we’ve come to expect from products in this category. It’s true that the Cubii is a newer product to hit the market and hasn’t been time tested by consumers, but so far, and in contrast to many other products in this category, there have been no complaints on Amazon about durability. In fact, it covets a rare 5-star average in customer reviews.
Our office fitness experts will always promote standing desks and treadmill desks as the best way to get your work done while staving off sitting disease. But, we recognize that there are a lot of cycling enthusiasts out there who resonate with this type of device, and the proof is in the thousands of Cubii units flying off the shelves. So, if you’re committed to buying a desk cycle and want the best in the market, the Cubii Under Desk Elliptical clearly has the most to offer, though it comes at a higher price, no surprise.
The Cubii’s elliptical motion is more ergonomically sound, it fits better under a desk, and its smart features and clean industrial design add real value. It has the potential to help you shape your health goals, and the Bluetooth link with your smartphone and popular wearable devices means these goals can be cleanly integrated between your home and office activities.
If you do end up deciding to invest in a cycling workstation, definitely check out our primer on How to Set Up an Ergonomically Proper Desk Cycle to ensure a successful experience.
For kicks, our review staff integrated a Cubii with an iMovR Everest Dual-Tray desk, an iMovR ThermoTread GT office treadmill, a Tempo TreadTop Office Chair, and an EcoLast TreadTop Anti-Fatigue Mat to create what we imagine is the world’s first sit-stand-walk-pedal workstation. Check out the blog article on our Quad-Modal Office Fitness DreamStation.
See our comprehensive Comparison Review of Desk Cycles and Bike Desks.