How We Conduct Desk Cycle and Bike Desk Reviews
We put each product through a lengthy review process, beginning with detailed internet research on product specifications and customer reviews, and often times ending with the product in our own labs for testing. That process is detailed in our article, Anatomy of a Review, and we applied it to desk cycles just as we apply it to every product category we undertake reviewing.
But no two categories of office fitness products are entirely alike, and the need develops for fresh criteria each time we foray into a new product space. That’s what this guide sets out to articulate—the specific criteria we used for our desk cycle reviews and bike desk reviews.
As an example, one criterion we used in the desk cycle category is Quality & Aesthetics, (which you’ll find listed below). For desk cycles, this criterion includes measuring pedal height. That measurement gives us a clue about how well the unit fits under a desk, an important pre-purchase consideration since customers often complain there isn’t enough space between their knees and desk to pedal. By comparing pedal heights across the product field, we’re able to give you insight into how well one unit versus another will fit under your desk. Approaching reviews this way helps keeps things in like terms—comparing apples to apples—and offers you a more meaningful evaluation at the end of the day.
So, without further ado, here’s how we got the low-down on desk pedals:
1. Quality & Aesthetics
Is It Fit for Use While You Work?
This criterion tackles the overall design of the unit, asking what qualities give it an advantage in the workplace. It includes questions like the following:
- Can You Fit It Under the Desk? – Fitting a unit under your desk without it sticking too far out the front or back is a common problem. We look at factors like length, width, and height of a unit to make sure it fits under most workspaces.
- Can You Pedal It Under the Desk? – The biggest dilemma for desk cycle users is hitting their knees on the bottom of the desk. We measure pedal height and stroke length to get an idea of how high a unit will raise your knees while you pedal.
- How Noisy Is It? – No one wants to distract their coworkers while they pedal. We evaluate the noise a unit makes as well as complaints about knocking or clacking sounds that develop over time.
- Can You Move It Easily? – Most of these devices are heavy for a user to carry. Average weight rolls in at approximately 24 pounds. We look to see if the unit comes with a handle and/or wheels for easy transport.
- Does It Earn Style Points? – Just as no one likes to distract their coworkers, most prefer their device to fit in stylistically at the office. We judge the unit for aesthetics to see if it’s office chic, or office faux pas.
Is It Ergonomically-Friendly or Compromising?
We’re basically looking to see if the desk cycle will present any unwelcome ergonomic problems when you use it. We give points to products that are comfortable to use and avoid causing strain or injury.
- Does It Sport an Elliptical Pedal Motion? – The elliptical pedal motion is easier on the knees (hence its popularity in the gym) and tends to keep the knees lower than the circular bike pedal motion, which makes it easier to fit underneath a desk. So, elliptical units have a slight advantage in this aspect.
- Is It a Stationary Bike Desk? – We’re harshest with the bike desks. To reach the keyboard from the bike, you have to hunch your body over the frame, leaning with your arms outstretched to be able to type. If you start pedaling in this position, you brace yourself by instinct with your forearms on the desk. Do that for long and you’ll be in sore need of a physical therapy session.
- Does It Have Sit-Stand Capability? – We think the sit-stand capability on some of these devices leads to a suboptimal ergonomic setup. For the Stamina InMotion Elliptical Trainer, for instance, the manufacturer claims you can use their standing mode at your standing desk. But some users have trouble keeping their balance with the no-hands grip. It’s also difficult to keep your gaze steady on the screen as you rock back and forth. And when you try to type and mouse, you tend to put undue pressure on your arms and wrists.
Does It Stay Put While You Pedal?
Stability is an important quality that justifies its own star rating. Does the unit itself remain stable without moving about while you pedal?
- How Stable Is It? – Some units tend to slide on surfaces that have less grip, like hardwood. Light weight generally exacerbates the problem.
- Does It Work with a Rolling Chair? – Pedaling tends to push rolling chairs backwards, leaving you lunging for your keyboard. Does the unit come with accessories like pedal stoppers or a tether to tie it down? Higher weight tends to help here, but it hurts ease of transport.
How ‘Smart’ Is It?
Here, we’re looking for the ability to connect to devices, integrate home and office fitness activities, and measure exercise stats.
Does It Have an Electronic Monitor? – Nearly every device has some ability to measure exercise stats like time, distance, and speed. Some are more advanced, like the Cubii, offering calories burned and displaying friends’ stats in a custom-designed smartphone app.
- Does It Connect to a Social Platform? – Extra motivation comes from a little friendly competition. We’re impressed with devices that link people together. This offers extra encouragement to achieve our health goals.
- Does It Integrate to Other Fitness Devices Like FitBit? – The Cubii is the only one we’ve come across. The future belongs to devices that connect your home and office fitness activities in one, offering an integrated approach to health.
What’s the Bang for the Buck?
Pretty self-explanatory. We’re after products that are priced well for what they have to offer. A Stamina product may be poor quality, but it’s priced low, and that’s what you’d expect. That being said, we give out points for products that offer more for a fair price, not an inflated one.
6. Customer Experience
What Do Verified Customers Have to Say?
Customer experience is key. For this product category, we read through hundreds of verified user reviews on sites like Amazon, looking for consistent patterns in the comments. If a product has many complaints about squeakiness, we’ll indicate that in the review. That said, we recognize that star ratings on Amazon tend to be inflated.
When we bring a product into our labs for testing, we evaluate the customer experience firsthand. We look at things like ease of setup (does it require a degree in engineering to put together?), as well as long-term customer satisfaction.
Does a User Assume Physical Risk?
It’s an unfortunate reality that some products pose a risk to users’ physical safety. In the desk pedal category, that comes to a fore with the sit-stand function some products offer. With no hand grips like a normal elliptical provides, users may lose balance while pedaling—especially at first. Some of these products also have consistent issues with their pedals falling off after sustained use, believe it or not (that’s what happens with cheap design and manufacturing).
How Long Will It Work Right?
We all want products that are going to last. Reliability is a factor we’ve come to expect.
- Is It Well-Designed with Quality Parts? – Our mechanical engineering experts will examine the component quality of every product we get in our labs and note if there were too many corners cut or if the manufacturer consistently used high quality components. Our experts also look at the quality and precision of cast and molded parts, weld seams, and other indications of good design and manufacturing quality.
- Has It Been Time Tested? – New products to the market haven’t been time tested like their predecessors, but products that have been in the market for a while have either stood the test of time (like the DeskCycle), or failed (like the Stamina products), largely based on the thoughtfulness of the engineering and the quality of the component parts.
Pedal to the Medal
When we used these 8 criteria to evaluate the desk pedal category, the Cubii stood out as the clear winner, with its sleek design and ‘smart’ capabilities. But you can see how the rest of the competition fared in our Comparison Review. And if you like the reviews and want to move full speed ahead, subscribe to our monthly newsletter, and we’ll deliver you the latest office fitness news and reviews from our testing labs. We’ll also let you know when our staff does sweet product experiments, like creating this quad-mode office fitness DreamStation (pictured to the right).