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If you hear rhythmic bumping and heavy breathing from my office cubicle, don’t worry, I’m just getting in my workout. At least that’s how it used to be. When the first wave of seated pedal exercisers hit the market, you could tell instantly when someone had one in their office. They were inefficient, loud, and just plain obnoxious.
Now, however, a bunch of recently released “under-desk” peddlers have revolutionized the at-home (or at work) exercise industry. At least that’s what I had heard. So I decided that, since I wasn’t getting any skinnier, I might as well put them to the test!
Now, these seated pedal exercisers are good for a ton of different people. However, the huge list of benefits (which I’ll get to below) typically means that three are three types of people who really get the most out of them:
- Obese people. People who can’t stand to use a traditional elliptical or even sit on a stationary bike might enjoy pedaling away while seated in a favorite chair. What’s more, many pedal exercises can also be used for arm exercises for a full-body workout. Even though I can use traditional exercise machines, I fall into this category and would rather use a seated pedaler.
- Fitness nuts. If you’re one of those people that wants a treadmill desk but your work won’t allow it, an under-desk pedaler is a valid option. Just don’t forget to do your crunches during your lunch break…
- People with circulation issues. This one is also me. If I sit at my desk all day long I end up with throbbing calves and sore knees. A seated pedaler and a standing desk fixed this almost entirely for me.
Now, I’ll be honest. I did have a fantasy about buying a pedaler and magically losing a hundred pounds over the course of a year without even thinking about it. While that (obviously) didn’t happen, I have lost a bit of weight and experienced a bunch of the other touted benefits.
Here are just a few of the benefits you can expect to get from the best under-desk bike (or other under-desk exercise machines):
- Decreased joint pain
- Increased blood flow to feet and legs (varicose veins, poor circulation, etc.)
- More toned leg muscles
- Increases focus and productivity
- Improved cardiovascular health
- and the one everyone is looking for….weight loss!
So if you’re in a hurry (like maybe you’re reading this at work…) then here are my top options for the best seated pedalers.
Or you can just get my favorite option, the Cubii. It fits under any desk, is quiet, easier to use than a cycle (since it has platforms instead of pedals), has a wide range of adjustments, an LCD readout, and is available on Amazon. Not to mention it has significantly helped my knee pain!
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Characteristics of the Best Under Desk Bike
The reason that I even felt the need to write this article is that the average seated pedaler has some serious issues. They make noise, they don’t fit under most desks (especially if you have long legs), they don’t have significant resistance, and they slide around when you try to pedal them!
Knowing those things, I set out around the office to try as many machines as I could before spending several hours at my computer doing research. The conclusion I came to is that the best under-desk bike will have the following characteristics:
- It will be low to the ground.
- It will provide quiet and consistent resistance.
- It won’t shift or slide around when in use.
- It will have a readout and a way to store my progress.
- It has to be easy and comfortable to use
Armed with my list, I set out to find the corresponding machines and give them a workout! After researching and trying more than a dozen under-desk bikes, these are the 3 that made the final cut.
However, I will give you a spoiler and say that the winners are the ones that I have the most experience with…and one isn’t even a pedaler. It’s a seated elliptical (and the one that I decide on for myself).
Best Under Desk Pedal Exercisers
1. The DeskCycle 2 – Best Overall
DeskCycle is the name is under desk seated peddlers. I was sold on their slim design and boatload of features when I read about them but, since using one for a while, I’ve been blown away by the quality and ease of use.
I didn’t end up buying this one for a few reasons I’ll get to below but I did borrow my father-in-law’s for a couple of weeks and here are my impressions:
Smooth and quiet pedaling. Most cheaper peddlers have uneven resistance which results in a “catch” at the top or bottom of the pedaling cycle. This disrupts the whole experience and can be pretty unpleasant. DeskCycle uses magnetic resistance that is whisper quiet, stays even through the pedal stroke, and provides twice the resistance range of most under desk cycles!
Full Removable Display. Not only does the display show all the information you need, but it can also be removed from the cycle and placed on your desk! Now you won’t have to stop pedaling and bend down to check your calories, distance, etc.
Lowest Height. If you are taller than 5’6″ you’ll end up banging your knees on the bottom of your desk with most bikes. This is the shortest bike out there and can fit under desks as low as 27″. However, if you are a big and tall guy (like myself) you might have to raise your desk a bit (I used bed risers) so you can pedal more easily.
Adjustable Pedal Height: Speaking of pedaling more easily, the front leg on the DeskCycle is adjustable, meaning you get an inch of adjustment in pedal height to suit your legs!
App Integration: Not only does DeskCycle have an awesome web app to track your cycling, but it also integrates with FitBit (a huge plus for me) to track your calories and exercise throughout the day!
Now, there are two cons to this cycle. First off, the price. It is the best there is and, correspondingly, was the most expensive bike I tested. However, my father-in-law paid $199 on Amazon (December 2022) which, in my opinion, is an excellent price for what you get.
Secondly, I don’t like the foot straps. Now, this issue isn’t just about this cycle but about all pedalers. If I’m going to use something it has to be super easy and getting my feet comfortably in the strap just…wasn’t.
Add in the fact that I may or may not be wearing shoes and it left me to adjust the straps far too often (admittedly they’re velcro and very easy to adjust).
I do have an alternative but it’s not a pedaler. So, if that’s what you’re looking for, you can’t do better than this one!
2. Cubii JR1 – Best Seated Elliptical Pedaler
Now, on to the one that I ended up keeping and using on a (nearly) daily basis.
I solved the problem of adjusting foot straps (for my fat hobbit feet) by buying a “pedaler” that doesn’t have straps at all. Because it’s really just a mini seated elliptical: the Cubii.
Here’s my home-office setup:
Despite the obvious structural difference, it has very similar features to the DeskCycle including:
- Smooth magnetic resistance with 8 levels so you’re always challenged.
- Workout display which will give you all the information you need quickly.
- The hefty frame and anti-skid feet ensure that they won’t slide around when in use.
- 10″ max pedal height allows it to be used under a desk of 27″ if you’re 5’10” or shorter.
- App integration adds interest and accountability to your workout.
After using this for about a year I really have no complaints about it. It is so simple to use that it ends up being a fidget more than anything and I find myself pedaling on it all the time.
Just be aware that if you’re over 5’10” you may have to do some fiddling with your desk/chair height to get everything to work together comfortably.
However, if mine got struck by an asteroid I would buy the same one again tomorrow!
3. Himaly Folding Pedal Exerciser – Best Budget Option
I hesitated to include this option on my list but I figured that, if you want a basic under desk cycle, you still want the best basic version there is! While it is obviously bare-bones, this cycle is a great option to get started on. It might slide a little when you pedal, it doesn’t have the fancy Bluetooth connections, and isn’t as low as either of the above options.
With that being said, you can still get almost all the benefits.
At this level, most under desk cycles are fairly similar in the features that they offer. The trick, then, becomes finding the one that is made of the best materials, is the most durable/reliable, and comes from a company that provides excellent customer service. This pedaler from Himaly checks all those boxes.
What’s more, this is a great option if you want to play it on a table or desk and pedal with your arms to get a better overall workout.
So, if you’re not sure what the best exerciser for you will be, this is a great machine to get a feel for a cycle. You may find you prefer an under-desk elliptical such as the Cubii but the only way to know if to test them! So get one and start pedaling!
How To Get The Most Out Of Your Pedal Exerciser
Whatever the best under desk exercise bike was for your situation, there are three guidelines that, if followed, will ensure that you have a pleasant and productive time with your new exerciser:
- Don’t sweat. If you are sweating, you are working too hard. The purpose of an under desk exerciser is to increase your blood flow and calorie burning over the course of a day. Manufacturers suggest pedaling for around 4 hours of your workday so keep it low and slow. If you go too fast you’ll burn out and won’t be able to focus on the task at hand. If you need something to push yourself on, consider a heavy-duty treadmill as a home companion to your under desk bike.
- Use the included attachments. Be sure to use the included rope or strap that is designed to hold your chair and the under-desk peddler together. If you don’t, you’ll end up slowly rolling your chair back away from your desk.
- Use it consistently. If you don’t feel like you get much out of your cycle for the first day or two, don’t despair. It took me a week for it to become an enjoyable daily habit that didn’t distract me from my workflow. It is now natural for me to sit down, start pedaling, and get work done!
That’s all there is to it! Now, would you believe I’ve burned an extra 600 calories while writing this article (I’m pedaling as I type)? Who would have thought that going to work would actually add some years to the end of my life?
Are Pedal Exercisers Actually Good For Weight Loss?
Pedal exercisers can offer an effective and convenient way to help people lose weight and improve their cardiovascular health.
While I haven’t noticed any earth-shattering changes, pedaling itself has gotten easier so my body must be adapting and improving in some way!
Studies have shown that using a pedal exerciser for just 30 minutes per day can significantly increase caloric burn and overall fitness level, leading to improved heart health and weight loss over time. Additionally, since they are low impact, they can be used by individuals of all ages and fitness levels without having to worry about joint or muscle fatigue.
So in conclusion, the DeskCycle 2 turned out to be the best cycle and the Cubii turned out to be my favorite. So get one (either one will do) and give it a whirl! Happy exercising!