Since Christmas 2022 I’ve been regularly excising on a bike on my garage. Most of the time when I ride the bike I’m also playing a game. This helps me exercise much more regularly (because I want to play the game) and means I game much more responsibly (because I want to stop cycling).

My current setup is this:

current setup of bike

There’s a PS4, Bose QE-35 noise canceling headphones (ever quiet spin bikes are loud), a monitor and a spin bike. I use the Pusalarm app on my Apple Watch so that an alarm goes off if my heartrate drops below a certain amount (normally during a puzzle sequence)

Since Christmas 2022 I’ve got through:

  • Uncharted 1,2,3 and 4.
  • Spider-Man

…and got about halfway though a bunch of other ‘classics’ - I stopped either because I didn’t like them, or because they aren’t particularly good for playing while riding an exercise bike. I’m currently working my way though GTA5 and expect to be doing that for six months or so.

The evolution of the setup is covered below.

History

The first version was borrowing Leo’s iPad to watch TV while cycling. iPad hanging over a bike with string

Then I tried balancing my old PS3 on a shelf and buying a audio splitter for about £10 to pipe the audio direct to my headphones (two years later I discovered I didn’t need this and there was a headphone port in the back of the monitor)

exercise bike in front of computer screen

Then I put together something slightly more study. exercise bike in front of ps3 setup that is balanced on two chairs

When it became apparent that this was a habit that was sticking (after I’d played through the whole of Uncharted 3, and started Uncharted 2). I built a more permanent and compact version out of scrap wood in the garage. If you look closely you can see these photos accidentally also document our winter ‘tidy the garage’ project.

Exercise bike in front of some permanent shelves with a ps3 on them

May 2023

I replaced the bike with a proper spin bike and picked up a cheap (and slow) running machine from eBay. The idea of the running machine is that is keeps my heart rate up a bit with films and the like: trying to play a complex game would be very dangerous.

EDIT: as of May 2024 the running machine has had a total of about 40 minutes use.)

July 2023

Tidied up setup and a PS4

I was lucky to find myself with a friend’s old PS4 and have been enjoying an entire summer of playing through Spider-Man while keeping my legs moving. I’ve also upgraded the monitor stand.

October 2023

Not so much an upgrade of the setup, but a massive reorganisation of the garage around it so it looks nicer.

A before and after shot of bike and mats

Downsides.

I started to find it harder to keep my heartrate high . That might be me getting fitter but that sounds too convenient: it’s more likely I’d learned to keep the exercise bike going at the minimum possible level of effort. Towards the end of the summer I made a determined effort to do more running instead, which is overall much better for me (also, this can’t be my only form of exercise, it has to represent the baseline).

June 2024

I did a full rebuild and now the setup looks like this:

A before and after shot of bike and mats

There are three major changes:

  • The monitor is much closer to the seated position. It used to be about 160cm from my face and it’s now 80cm. Thus it looks much bigger. Also it’s on a movable arm so it would be much easier to see from the treadmill if I ever used that again.
  • The noise canceling headphones are now rechargeable by USB rather than using a recharging AAA battery. It used to be the case that they were always flat (they worked as headphones but the noise canceling didn’t work) - now the active noise canceling works while I’m cycling, which can make a real difference.
  • There’s now space on the desk area for a laptop if I want to play something on Steam or keep working on making the bike an active controller, and it’s now strong enough that I can lean on it without worrying I’ll bring down the whole system.

Everything else is technical detail - I simplified various things; swapped long cables for short ones, found that I didn’t need certain bits of kit, replaced the desk for a deeper bit of wood, properly mounted the power strip underneath, that sort of thing.

Future plans

The setup is really good right now, particularly for gaming. I’d love to be a bit more open to working through my film watchlist, but I’m pretty happy. Possibilities include:

  • Upgrading the running machine - the current one is a bit unstable and doesn’t go particularly fast.
    • This also opens up the possibility of a ‘walking desk’ for working, but I don’t know how much use that would be for anything other than zoom calls which I rarely have.
      • “Using” the running machine would be a start. I haven’t even thought of using it as a ‘walking’ tv.
  • A blind (Agghh! I took one to the dump the other day) or curtains for one of the garage windows (there can be a glare on the screen)
  • More work on making the bike an active controller
  • Sooner or later I’ll move up to a PS5 but honestly I’m in NO hurry. It’s much cheaper to be a few years behind current (also all the bugs are fixed and you can focus only on the games that turned out to be really good)