29
Aug
08

Another project complete

I had been having trouble figuring out where I could fit exercise into my routine. The problem is that I’m lazy and unless I make exercise really easy to work into my schedule, I won’t do it. I had tried a set of workout tapes we have but working out with Elizabeth around is really difficult. Plus, she has a routine of watching a show on TV starting at 7am, so if I wanted to use the TV without her around, I needed to wrap it up before 7am. The tapes are about 35 minutes and by the time you factor in a few minutes for me to wake up and get dressed I’d basically need to wake up at 6am, which just isn’t going to happen. However, I have an exercise bike and I like reading news websites in the morning, so I thought I could combine the two. After some planning, some purchases, and a lot of sweat (Really. It was really hot in our apartment.) I have a finished product.

Allow me to present the fruits of my labors: my exercise bike, newly modified with a laptop shelf where the handlebars had been.

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My last project basically just involved buying a few parts and following some online directions. This project involved a lot more creativity and engineering. In principle, the project is simple: screw a board into an angled block of wood that is then screwed into the angled metal plate on the exercise bike. However, my lack of tools made it much more difficult. The project was further complicated by the fact that I couldn’t fully design things without knowing definitively what I would be able to buy at the hardware store. So, I just took a note card with a bunch of measurements on it and tried to buy stuff I thought would work. Once I got home, I worked out the final design and started building. I’m pretty happy with how it turned out.

One nice touch is the built-in AC adapter for my laptop. I bought a used one from eBay and ran the cord up through the pipe leading to the handlebars. I was able to hide the power brick inside the plastic case of the exercise bike, making everything nice and sleek.

I have some future plans for the project. The observant among you may have noticed a second cord in the pictures. That is the cable that connected the tachometer sensor to the information display unit on the handlebar assembly. Basically, it just passed a pulse to the circuitry in the display for each revolution of the pedals. That allows the display to calculate things like RPM and distance traveled. Now that I’ve removed that display in order to make room for the shelf, I’d like to move the display’s functionality to my laptop. I’d like to somehow create an interface between the tachometer sensor and my computer so I could write some software for my laptop that would mimic the data that was shown on the old display.

However, I’d like to do more than just mimic the minimal information that I could get with the old setup. Instead, I’d like to create the ability to log all the information as well. Unfortunately, though, I think a lot of the information shown in the old setup was made up. For example, after taking apart the bike, it became clear that the display had no knowledge of the resistance level I was using. How can it calculate calories burned if it doesn’t know the resistance level? So, at the very least, I’d like to have an additional sensor that reports the resistance level, which I could then incorporate into a calculation of calories burned. Ideally, though, I’d like to be able to set the resistance level from the computer. This would enable me to create exercise programs that alternate between periods of low resistance and high resistance, which would be nice. Right now, I’m thinking that an Arduino board may be the way to go in terms of an interface between my computer and any sensors or actuators that I end up using. In addition, I’ll probably have to rethink the way that the resistance is set on the bike – a little controller board would not be able to work with the current setup. So, this could turn into a very big project – one that I’ll be saving until after I graduate.

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2 Responses to “Another project complete”


  1. August 30, 2008 at 6:37 am

    I wondered when this post would appear! Nice photos. Perhaps you need one with you in action using your new project.


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