July is when I'm finally ready for some serious bike trips.

I've caught up on work, lost a few pounds, and gotten into the habit of biking even on hot summer days by now. This year was a little different, though.

In May, I started using the LifeSpan Fitness Unity Bike Desk. This model costs $399 and has a big advantage over treadmill desks and other "workout" furniture I've tested before, including one product where you bike using pedals below a normal desk. As a self-contained unit, it stays nice and stable when you ride, so I had no trouble using a laptop for about six weeks.

The top of the desk measures 31-inches by 24-inches, which was about right for a MacBook 1--inch. The pedals are large enough for my feet and made of rubber so I didn't have any trouble with slippage. There are no frills to get in the way--the desk doesn't track your ride, although I did use a Fitbit Alta that automatically senses when I'm moving.

After the first week of riding, I noticed I was getting used to typing while my feet kept pedaling. Other fitness products--like a Peloton Indoor Exercise Bike--don't have a place to set a laptop, and a treadmill involves moving your arms and legs in a way that can be annoying if you want to work. At the same time, the Unity is not designed for aerobic workouts. It is a good match for me because it meant I could do a mild workout for several hours at a time.

I love this paradigm. I tend to lose myself in my own productivity, forgetting I'm even on a bike and mindlessly pedaling. I've mentioned this before, but a desk workout is a good match for my career choice because I have to sit at a desk all day. In other jobs, you might not be able to get a workout like this because you have to meet with clients or go on a sales call. I could see programmers, graphic designers, customer support specialists, and any knowledge worker liking the Unity.

For me, it helped get me ready for a real bike. By June 1, I was already doing short commuting trips across town, and then by mid-June I was riding on trails a good 30 miles or more. Last year, I had to warm up to longer trips, so the Unity did work wonders for helping me get ready for more biking.

The bike desk also felt sturdy enough to last a few years. It's made of steel with a wood laminate top. After biking for six weeks, it didn't seem like the components were going to wear out or cause me any problems. The seat felt comfortable and rigid enough for longer typing sessions. My only slight issue is the overall space. If you use a larger 15-inch laptop and want to use a mouse, you might find the desk top is a little cramped.

Overall, the Unity was exactly what I needed to get into shape this summer. It meant I wasn't sitting as rigid in a normal chair, and helped my posture as I sat more upright. I highly recommend it, even for those who don't plan on biking 30 miles anytime soon.

Published on: Jul 19, 2017