Would you like to burn calories while playing video games on your computer? How about getting a workout while watching TV? Or are you someone who simply has no time to go to the gym, spending all day working at your desk?
A desk cycle may be just what you need!
What is a desk cycle?
A desk cycle is a mini exercise bike that you can place under your desk. By cycling and working at the same time, you can get a cardio workout and achieve toned legs while being productive at work.
In fact, a desk cycle is not just for your legs. Certain desk cycles can even be placed on top of your desk to let you pedal away with your hands! It’s a low impact upper body workout that is convenient and easy to do.
It even goes beyond exercise and burning calories. If you are a naturally fidgety person, the under desk cycle can be a way for you to focus your energy more productively. If you are someone who tends to lose focus and get sleepy easily, the constant motion of cycling will help keep you alert and your mind focused.
The Best Desk Cycles
1. DeskCycle Under Desk Exercise Bike and Pedal Exerciser
Overall Rating: (4.5 / 5)
- 10-inch pedal height
- Very quiet and smooth when pedaling
- Bidirectional pedaling
- Can’t pedal using hands (foot pedal only)
The DeskCycle tops our list with its high quality build, stability and quiet mode of operation.
Firstly, at only 10 inches tall, the height of the pedal on this desk cycle is one of the lowest among desk cycles available today. Even if you have a desk that is lower than usual, there is a good chance that the DeskCycle will fit comfortably. The short height makes the DeskCycle more stable than other taller bikes. This means that it is a lot less likely to slide around. A Velcro tether is also provided to prevent sliding.
Secondly, this under desk cycle comes with a magnetically driven resistance mechanism. This is a feature to look out for if you need a desk cycle that is quiet. By utilizing magnets, this bike avoids having parts rubbing against each other and producing noise. This is especially great if you need an under desk cycle that is discreet enough to be used in an open office environment.
As there are 8 different resistance settings within a range of 130 Watts for you to choose from, there is something for everybody, whether you are a beginner or a more athletic person. Other user reviews have also praised the smooth pedal motion of this desk cycle, ensuring an uninterrupted and enjoyable pedaling experience even as you ramp up the resistance levels. This bike also allows bidirectional pedaling. This means that you can cycle both backwards and forwards.
Finally, there is an LCD display for you to monitor your exercise time (the timer goes up to 16 hours/1000 minutes), speed, distance pedaled and calories burned. If you need a more accurate estimate of your calorie expenditure, DeskCycle has included a calorie calculator (https://software.deskcycle.com/CalorieCalculator.php) on their website which takes into account factors like your age, height and weight.
The LCD display is mounted on a display stand that sits at the top of the bike. On one hand, we loved this feature as we could place the display on our desk while using the bike. Watching the numbers on the LCD display motivated us to keep going! But conversely, it also means that when you are not using the bike, it is quite easy to accidentally knock the display stand off the top using your feet.
One major drawback of the DeskCycle is that it is designed to only work out your lower body. You can’t pedal this desk cycle using your hands. This is could be a drawback if you are looking for an under desk bike that offers you the option of exercising your arms.
2. Sunny Health & Fitness SF-B0418 Magnetic Mini Exercise Bike
Overall Rating: (4.5 / 5)
- Can be used to exercise arms
- Magnetic resistance- smooth and quiet
- Stable- unlikely to slide
- 14-inch pedal height – may not fit lower desks or taller people
- No bidirectional pedaling – you can only pedal forwards
The second desk cycle on our list is the Sunny Health & Fitness model SF-B0418. Just like the DeskCycle, this is a magnetically driven desk cycle that is smooth, stable and virtually silent, making it perfect for office use. However, there are a few key differences between our top two desk cycles.
Firstly, unlike the DeskCycle, you can easily use the Sunny Health desk cycle to exercise your upper body by placing it on your desk and pedaling with your hands. This makes it a more versatile product to invest in. Although, be aware that this cycle does not support bidirectional pedaling.
Secondly, with pedals that are 14 inches high, the Sunny Health desk cycle is quite tall. Despite its height, this desk cycle is still very stable. Its 18 inch length, weight of 24 pounds, a sturdy steel frame and rubber traction on the bottom all work together to provide stability on a wide variety of surfaces, even carpets.
However, the larger size means that it may not fit under your desk.
To check if it will fit, we recommend this method. First, stack books or boxes under your desk up to 14 inches high. Place your feet on the stack. Are you able to move your knees comfortably without hitting the top of your desk? If yes, this could be a great choice for you. If not, we’d suggest looking for a desk cycle that is shorter.
Another factor in favor of the Sunny Health is its cost. It is often for sale cheaper than the DeskCycle.
Apart from that, this desk cycle offers eight well defined resistance levels controlled by a knob on the cycle. With a resistance range of around 80watts, users have mentioned that the highest resistance level needs a good amount of effort to overcome. This is great if you are an athletic person who loves a challenge in your workouts. It also comes with a top carrying handle to help you easily move this desk cycle around different parts of your home or for storage purposes.
There is also an LCD display for you to see your progress, with details like time, speed, distance, calories and an odometer.
3. MagneTrainer-ER Mini Exercise Bike Arm and Leg Exerciser
Overall Rating: (4.3 / 5)
- Highest maximum resistance (170 Watts)
- Compact minimum length of just 15.5 inches
- Well built and stable
- Pedal height of 15 inches may be too tall for regular sized desks
The same company that gave us the amazing DeskCycle has produced yet another well built desk cycle, the MagneTrainer-ER Mini Exercise Bike.
There are several differences between these two bikes and knowing these will allow you to choose the desk cycle that best fulfills your needs.
Firstly, the MagneTrainer is much bigger than the DeskCycle with a pedal height of 15 inches. This makes it difficult to use under your standard sized desk, but is great when used in physical therapy clinics or adult homes. It will also work fine under a desk that is tall enough to accommodate this desk cycle machine.
Secondly, the MagneTrainer desk cycle has an adjustable length of 15.5 (without display) to 20 inches when fully expanded. This makes it a great alternative if you don’t have enough space under your desk to accommodate the 24 inch non-adjustable DeskCycle.
Its magnetic resistance system provides users with a smooth and quiet pedaling experience with a wide resistance range. In fact, the maximum resistance of the MagneTrainer is 170 Watts, which is significantly higher than the DeskCycle’s 130 Watts. This makes it a good choice for people seeking an intensive workout for maximal calorie burn. It also supports bidirectional pedaling.
Another advantage of the MagneTrainer over the DeskCycle is that you can use the MagneTrainer to work out your arms. Just place it on your desk, pedal with your hands and choose a high resistance level to enjoy a more toned upper body or a lower resistance level if you are pedaling for physical therapy purposes.
Stability is not an issue with this desk cycle. It weighs 22 pounds and has a 15 inch wide base to keep it in place. It also comes with a Velcro strap to stabilize it further by strapping the base of the desk cycle to your chair. Just like the DeskCycle, the MagneTrainer-ER has its own online calorie calculator.
All things said, the main issue to consider with this desk cycle is its height. If you have a tall desk that is at least 34 to 36 inches from the floor, it may fit well. To test it out, stack up boxes or books under your desk until a height of 15 inches and then, place your feet on the stack. If you knees fit comfortably, this desk cycle would fit your desk.
It also has an electronic display that shows you details such as time, calories, distance and speed.
4. Stamina 15-0125 InStride Folding Cycle
Overall Rating: (4 / 5)
- Very affordable
- Lightweight and easily portable
- Gets heated after prolonged use
- Occasional jerky motions
Are you looking for a below desk cycle that is extremely lightweight, foldable, portable and affordable?
If you don’t quite need the advanced features offered by the more expensive bikes, we would recommend considering the basic but perfectly capable Stamina InStride Folding Cycle.
First of all, this desk cycle weighs just 6.2 pounds with a length of 15.5 inches and it is easily foldable. This makes it possible for you to pack it up and take it anywhere you like. You could even take it on vacation quite easily! The pedal height is 12.5 inches, which means that this desk cycle would fit under most desks.
Unlike other desk cycles mentioned so far, the Stamina InStride comes pre-assembled from the manufacturers. You can start pedaling straight out of the box without having to fuss around with assembly.
This desk cycle can also be used on your desk to exercise your arms and tone your upper body. While there isn’t a magnetic resistance system in place, it does have an adjustable tension knob that lets you choose the intensity of your cycling workout by twisting the T handle on the bike.
In keeping with its simplified approach, this desk cycle does not have a fancy LCD screen with all sorts of complicated details. Instead, it opts for a basic battery powered timer to keep track of your workout duration.
However, as the friction based resistance system produces heat, this desk cycle can get quite warm after prolonged periods of cycling. It also means that the motion when cycling can occasionally be quite jerky. Stability can also be an issue with this bike.
As it is so lightweight, you might need to brace it against something heavy or push it against the wall to keep it from sliding away when you pedal, especially at higher resistance levels. It is also more stable when placed on a rubber or carpeted surface compared to smooth surfaces like hardwood floors.
If all you need is a basic, lightweight and budget-friendly desk cycle to lightly exercise both arms and legs, this can be a good choice.
5. Platinum Fitness Fit Sit Deluxe Folding Pedal Exerciser Leg Machine with Electronic Display
Overall Rating: (3.8 / 5)
- Lightweight but comes with a Velcro strap for stability
- LCD display with detailed exercise statistics
- Cool Rev Technology to prevent overheating
- Small pedals- if you have big feet, it may not fit
The next lightweight under desk cycle on our list is the Platinum Fitness FitSit Deluxe desk cycle.
With a pedal height of 12.25 inches, this bidirectional desk cycle will likely be able to fit under your desk. Although it does not have clearly defined tension levels like the more expensive desk cycles, the Platinum Fitness still has an adjustable resistance level that is controlled by twisting a knob.
As a lightweight desk cycle that weighs only 7 pounds, sliding when pedaling can be a real problem. To combat this issue, the desk cycle comes with a Velcro strap. Just use the strap to anchor the bike to your chair and stability will be dramatically improved.
One advantage of the Platinum Fitness over the Stamina InStride is that it has a full LCD display. This shows you all your exercise statistics such as your total exercise time, total revolutions, revolutions per minute and calories burned.
If it is important for your desk cycle to match the rest of your interior design, the Platinum Fitness has a variety of colors for you to choose from. This desk cycle comes in five different colors – yellow, blue, pink, orange and green. It is also easily foldable, making it convenient for you to move it around or take it with you when traveling.
One feature that we particularly love about this bike is its Cool Rev technology. This patented technology prevents the FitSit from overheating even during long sessions of intense pedaling. This is especially important as this bike utilizes a friction based resistance system which generates more heat than a magnetic resistance system. It’s nice to know that we can pedal away for long hours without the worry of hot metal parts near our skin.
However, a possible issue with this desk cycle would be the size of its pedal. The pedals on this desk cycle are slightly on the smaller side. If your shoe size is larger than a men’s size 13, your feet may not fit so well in the 4 inch wide pedals.
If you need a basic desk cycle that is a step up from the Stamina InStride in terms of LCD display and exercise statistics, the Platinum Fitness FitSit Deluxe is one to consider.
Do desk cycle machines truly work?
Let’s look at the scientific evidence.
Firstly, research has shown that too much sedentary sitting is an active health hazard.
By sitting still for many hours in a day, you are increasing your risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and possibly shortening your lifespan.
Since sitting for long periods is known to be bad for you, researchers went on to see if active workstations or standing desks can help make things better. The results are convincing, to say the least.
In 2014, a study investigating active workstations including desk cycles found that being physically active while working has a positive effect on several health markers and has no detrimental effects on work performance.
WebMD has also published an article about the benefits of desk cycles. It was found that using desk cycles offsets some of the harmful effects of having a sedentary desk job, burns calories and improved the general health of the users.
In 2016, a group of researchers from Belgium and the US did a study on cycling desks and how it affects brain activity. Interestingly, they found that those who cycled while working had faster response times compared to participants who were sitting still.
Finally, several office workers involved in an American Journal of Preventive Medicine study found that they had lost significant amounts of weight and reduced their body fat percentage by consistently using desk cycles over a period of time.
Desk cycles are widely used. A Business Insider article featured a middle school maths teacher in North Carolina who has installed bicycle pedals under the desks in her classroom. She reports that her students are now performing much better, are more focused and missing fewer assignments.
The staff at East Carolina University’s Department of Exercise and Sport Science has also adopted the desk cycle trend as part of their research on reducing the risk of chronic disease.
Now that we know how beneficial these machines can be, let’s move on to discussing the different desk cycle models available in the market today.
Under desk elliptical versus under desk cycle
While shopping for a desk cycle, you may come across the under-desk elliptical. This is a very similar device to the under desk cycle.
The main difference between the two is the pedal. An under desk elliptical has longer and wider pedals whereas the under desk cycle has the kind of pedals that you would find on a bicycle.
If you have larger feet, an elliptical pedal may fit you better. As this is a bike you will ideally be cycling several hours on, do not underestimate the importance of good pedal fit. An elliptical pedal also allows you to position your feet at different angles. This way, you can target different leg muscles as you cycle for a more varied workout. Something like the Cubii Elliptical is a good example of this.
Finally, the stride between the elliptical and under desk cycle can feel different. The under desk cycle feels rounded, similar to riding a bicycle but the under desk elliptical uses a stepping motion and feels a lot like climbing stairs or jogging.
Common questions asked by desk cycle users
“Will this under desk cycle fit my desk?”
Our advice for you is to check the pedal height before deciding on a desk cycle. Use this measurement to check if the bike can fit under your desk comfortably.
There is a simple method to check. If a desk cycle has a pedal height of 12 inches, stack up boxes or books under your desk to form a 12 inch high stack. Then, sit in your chair and place your feet on the top of the stack. If your knees can move comfortably without hitting the underside of your table, a 12 inch under desk cycle will fit. Adjust the height of the stack accordingly for different pedal heights.
“Help! My desk cycle is sliding away from me.”
Another common problem faced by desk cycle users is sliding. To stop your cycle from rolling away as you pedal, focus on pedaling downwards instead of forwards. If you are planning to use it on a smooth surface, be sure to select desk cycles that are heavier and have rubber bottoms, Velcro strap anchors as well as a wide base.
“Is this going to be noisy?”
If you are planning to use it in an open office environment, it will be especially important that the under desk cycle is silent and would not produce noise that would annoy your coworkers (or yourself!). In this case, choose a desk cycle that is magnetically driven. Without having cycle parts rubbing against each other like they do in friction based resistance mechanisms, most of the sound will be reduced.
We hope that this list has given you a clear overview of the best under desk cycles available today.
Once you have found the best desk cycle for your needs, you will be able to reap the benefits of cycling while sitting. It definitely beats sitting still and with such a variety of under desk cycles available to fit every need and budget, there is no reason not to get one.
Other sources that were used for general comparison purposes when writing up the reviews:
Dr. Praveena Asokan, MBChB has a background in medicine, having graduated from the University of Leicester before working in various hospitals. Her additional experience as a medical researcher helped her transition to a career as a writer, and she now enjoys researching and writing on a number of health-related topics.