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Rob Brown: professional cyclist

Blog by Rob Brown
Walk It Off

I do a fair bit of cycling and try to stay active. Working in the shop is very much in keeping with that way of life, but sitting in front of my computer, editing and writing, sure isn’t.

Don’t get me wrong; I enjoy the work I do with the magazine, but it’s far from active. It’s fine when I spend half a day in the shop and half the day in front of my computer, but if I spend a whole day working on the magazine, I’m sluggish and tired by the end of the day. My back also hurts a lot more after sitting down all day than it does if I’m active. I guess it’s true what they say: Sitting is the new smoking.

As always, woodworking is the answer

A few years ago, I realized I could turn to woodworking to solve this problem. I have a treadmill in the basement, and I made a treadmill desk to hold my laptop while I read and write. It worked well enough that I thought others could benefit from it, too. You can read the article here. It didn’t get as many online views as our digital editor Carl Duguay’s streamlined workbench article, but I tried not to be jealous.

The treadmill desk was pretty simple, in terms of its construction. The main plywood platform had two short legs that protruded down into the storage compartments on the treadmill to keep the desk stationary during use. They would have to be customized by each user, depending on the design of their treadmill. Attached to the upper surface of the treadmill is a piece of solid wood with a groove in it that holds my laptop. I played around with the angles and dimensions, so my wrists and hands would be in a comfortable position while working. This was the trickiest part. I was back and forth between my shop and the treadmill more than a few times to fine-tune the setup.

Once it was done it worked great. I could work on the treadmill, while walking at a medium pace for an hour or so in the middle of the morning or afternoon, or whenever I felt the need to move.

But what about my true love?

This treadmill desk got me out of my desk chair and turned me into a pretty good walker. Having said that, walking isn’t a passion of mine. My true love is cycling. This got me to thinking of taking the treadmill desk approach and adapting it to my bike when it’s on my indoor trainer stand. It certainly had more challenges, with the lack of a stable platform in front of me to secure a surface onto and my laptop on top of that, but it was worth some experimenting.

I started with a piece of plywood about 16″ x 16″ and measured my bike’s handlebars and stem location to see how they could support the plywood. I drilled 3/4″ deep holes in some chunky 8/4 pine I had on hand and secured them to the underside of the plywood. I cut a groove in a piece of solid and added it to the upper surface of the plywood. Again, a few more trips between the shop and home and I had it dialed in pretty well.

I used this setup for about a year, but then the inevitable happened: I bought a new bike to use on my indoor stand. This meant that I needed to adjust the bike desk to fit the new steed. Thankfully I didn’t glue any of the parts together, as there was so much adjusting to do initially. I decided to add a couple of pieces of material between the plywood surface and the parts securing the desk to my bike, so the writing height of my laptop would be slightly more comfortable.

While making these changes, I also added a small piece of wood to either side of the desk to ensure it doesn’t slide off the edge and come crashing to the ground. This almost happened once, but thankfully I caught it just in time. Bikes just seem to inject some energy into the situation, wherever they go.

A pair of medium-sized fabric elastic bands wrap over the front corners of the bike desk to keep them loosely secured to the handle bars. This is also because I’ve almost lost my laptop a few times due to me pressing down on one side of the desk and having it tilt upwards on the opposite side. If you think riding a bike gets your blood pumping, try nearly dropping your laptop from 4′ off the ground.

I’ve written a fair number of weekly columns and articles on both my treadmill and bike desks over the past few years. I‘ve surely written hundreds, if not thousands, of emails on them, too.

Getting social

I’m a member of an active social media website called Strava, which tracks users’ physical exercise. Members post their activities, from rides and runs to hikes and paddleboards so others can see and comment on them. One of our regular magazine contributors, James Dobson, is also on Strava and we’re following each other. I often post “write and ride” sessions, which he noticed. Since he does a fair bit of both writing and riding, he wanted to know my setup.

It then occurred to me than others might also be in the same situation and would like to stay active while working on their computers. I don’t mind sharing my cycling training secrets with James, as he lives in Saskatchewan, and I won’t ever have to contend with him while sprinting up a hill. I just hope none of my local cycling friends see this. I’m already showing signs of age and they’ve somehow found the fountain of youth. I’m very rarely the first to the finish line, but at least I have the best job. I’m the only one of my cycling friends who gets paid while riding their bike.

Walk It Off

This treadmill desk allows me to bring some movement into my day, even while I’m on my laptop for work. It’s nice to have options of where to work.

Walk It Off

Rough, But It Works

This is my bike desk. It sits on the brake hoods and stem while supporting my laptop. A pair of fabric elastics keep it from going too far while in use.

Published:
Last modified: February 1, 2024

Rob Brown - [email protected]

Rob is a studio furniture maker and the editor at Canadian Woodworking & Home Improvement. Instagram at @RobBrownTeaches

5 Comments

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  2. Hi Rennie,

    Too many pros and cons to cover here, but I’d much rather ride my real bike, as opposed to a Peloton bike. And when you’re done riding indoors, just take that same bike outdoors! Don’t know much about Peloton, but high monthly fees and whether or not they will still be around a year or two from now are two downsides. To each their own though, and it depends on what you want.

  3. I am trying to get set up to ride as well. I thought I would be buying Peleton or such. Could you give me your opinion on the bike support or platform (not sure what you call this)

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