DeskCycle Under Desk Bike Review
Small but powerful, the DeskCycle is a solid piece of equipment. Its low profile and quiet magnetic mechanism make it unobtrusive in offices and cubicles. But under desk ellipticals now compete with desk cycles for prominence in the market for desk pedals, and the DeskCycle has some disadvantages when stacked up to the new competition.
Free with Amazon Prime
One-year warranty for parts and labor
24" L x 20" W x 10" H
The DeskCycle sports a sleek, low profile for use under a desk, and it takes up little space in your office. Its quiet pedaling mechanism means you're not going to bother your co-workers. Different resistance levels allow you to customize your desking routine.
A height-adjustable desk and ergonomic peripherals are necessary for using a DeskCycle. It doesn't prevent back stiffness from sitting in a chair.
We've written before about under desk bikes, specifically our reservations about them. We were concerned about their ergonomics and skeptical about their health benefits as well as users’ ability to multitask. Our team of experts tested another one of these office gizmos in our lab and we can now report our findings. Meet the DeskCycle Under Desk Bike, from 3D Innovations.
Under Desk Bike: A Pair of Desk Pedals
The DeskCycle is a pair of under desk pedals: it's a small, low-profile foot-pedal machine designed to fit under your work desk. DeskCycles are less expensive than their large, full-size bike desk cousins, and the ergonomically safer choice for aspiring under desk bikers. Resistance is adjusted by a knob on the front of the unit, and an LCD display is mounted either directly on the bike or on your desk.
Installation is a simple matter of attaching the legs and pedals to the bike with the included wrench tool, and plugging in the small display. Once assembled, you position the bike under your desk and start pedaling away. That’s the idea, anyway. In reality, setting up the DeskCycle is just the first step of the prep work. The next step is adjusting the rest of your workstation.
Looking for a little leg room
You'll need to adjust your monitor arm if you are using one—which you really should be— but that's to be expected. The real problem is in the height of your desk. Most office desks are about 30-inches high. The DeskCycle has a maximum pedal height of ten inches. This means that many users, particularly taller ones, will find themselves bumping their knees against their desks. You can alleviate this to some degree by moving away from the DeskCycle, but doing so often places you too far from your mouse and keyboard. You also have to take care not to overextend your legs while pedaling. Having a height-adjustable desk allowed us to keep our knees unscuffed without having to reach for our workspace, but not without consequences. Raising the desk higher meant giving up ergonomically-sound posture in our arms and wrists since we had to bend them at sharper angles just to type.
Another thing to be concerned about when using the DeskCycle is your lower back. Unlike a standing or treadmill desk, the DeskCycle doesn’t keep you from sitting, so you’re still susceptible to the aches and pains associated with your chair. Extending your legs forward while pedaling can actually exacerbate those back pains, so it’s crucial to keep the DeskCycle as close to your core as possible. The FitDesk bike desk actually includes a more traditional bicycle saddle, which allows for more correct ergonomics.
All pedaled out
Once you get going, the DeskCycle proves to be a pleasant experience. The magnetic resistance mechanism makes pedaling smooth and silent. At ear-level we measured 45 dB while pedaling at 22 mph, making these desk pedals quiet enough that your co-workers won’t notice. The display indicates speed, distance, calories burned, and time. The timer measures cumulative cycling time and will pause when you stop pedaling. The bike’s resistance is adjustable and you shouldn’t be cycling too quickly anyway. Just don't treat the DeskCycle like a gym's stationary bike. The DeskCycle shouldn't be confused with a true NEAT machine like a treadmill desk, with its automatic belt that allows for greater productivity at your desk.
To our surprise, we found working on the DeskCycle relatively painless for light tasks. Checking e-mails and typing up documents is easy enough to do at a leisurely speed, as is conversing with a colleague or answering phone calls. Mousing is actually easier on the DeskCycle than on a treadmill, since you’re not being constantly pulled backwards. Anything more difficult than simple tasks, however, and you’ll find your feet slowing to a standstill. Unlike a treadmill desk, which maintains your walking pace automatically, an under desk bike require you to devote at least some of your attention to pedaling. A lapse in concentration means a lapse in the desk pedals.
This goes double on the higher resistance levels; once you get out of that comfortable NEAT zone and start really exerting yourself, you’re not going to be able to get much work done. At the higher levels you’ll also be using more of your body to pedal, and your typing accuracy will suffer from all that swinging side to side. We found levels 2 and 3 to be the most conducive to work.
We’ve had a couple of weeks to test the new DeskCycle out, and through a lot of trial and error have found a comfortable desk pedal routine that worked for us. First, we make sure our knees aren’t going to hit the table and that our screen and peripherals are in ergonomically sound positions. Then we set the DeskCycle to a low resistance and get to work. At first we attempted long pedal sessions. We’re used to walking on a treadmill for up to two hours at a time and tried the same with the desk pedals, only to be met with fatigue and sore hamstrings. We’ve since shortened our pedaling sessions to about 20-30 minutes, making sure we didn't go faster than what was comfortable – which in our case came out to be around 16mph. You can also pedal backwards on the DeskCycle, allowing you to use your legs' opposite muscle groups and stave off some of the soreness.
After two weeks and two hundred miles on the DeskCycle, we've come to a few conclusions about under desk bikes. Cycling isn’t as difficult as we’d initially thought. Multitasking isn’t as natural as on a treadmill desk, but it’s definitely possible with a bit of practice. However, under desk bikes – which still require sitting –aren’t fit for all-day use, but best in short pedaling sessions. Moreover, they demand a complete readjustment of your workstation – table height, monitor height, chair angles, keyboard and mouse position all need to be considered to guarantee proper ergonomic posture while you work.
The DeskCycle is not a substitute for a walking treadmill, which is easier to work on and allows for more full-body movement. In any case, you shouldn't be sitting in place all day, under desk bike or not. It's better not to think of the DeskCycle as a complete active workstation, but as an accessory piece. We generally recommend that deskers alternate between sitting, standing, and walking throughout the day. While standing and walking are both NEAT activities, sitting is usually a sedentary affair. The DeskCycle can therefore bring an active component to sitting sessions. And while we like the DeskCycle’s low profile, silent mechanism, and adjustable settings; right now we look forward to returning to our treadmills.
For kicks, our review staff created 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. We 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 optimize movement during the workday.
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.
See our comprehensive Comparison Review of Desk Cycles and Bike Desks.