Exercise bike mod
October 28, 2020 11:41 AM   Subscribe

I need your ideas for modifying my exercise bike so I can use it while recovering from left shoulder surgery. It's super uncomfortable to lean only on my right hand. It would be much more tenable to sit upright while using my right hand to keep my balance, but I can't figure out what to do to make this possible. Any suggestions?
posted by HotToddy to Health & Fitness (20 answers total)
Can you ride with no hands? Maybe just gently touching both handlebars with the tips of your fingers for balance?
posted by aniola at 11:43 AM on October 28

Can you ride with no hands? Maybe just gently touching both handlebars with the tips of your fingers for balance?

No, I can't reach at all if upright and it feels dangerous not to be holding onto anything. I really need something for stability.
posted by HotToddy at 11:49 AM on October 28

I would be looking at a way to clamp something onto the handlebars that you can strap padding to and lean your chest onto it. I can't find a premade option but it seems like it should be possible to rig something.
posted by restless_nomad at 11:51 AM on October 28

Can you adjust the handle so that instead of pointing away, it's pointing up or even towards you? It looks like there might be some bolts that you can loosen that would allow it to be rotated. Then you could sit more upright and be grasping the handle but not leaning on it. You might also need to add some bar ends to get the angle right.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 12:00 PM on October 28 [1 favorite]

Seen a few pro cyclists (breaking your collarbone is pretty common) put up a ladder over the front of the bike, with a piece of wood through it to rest on. Like if you removed the handlebars entirely-- could you put a ladder/table/ironing board/makeshift platform over sideways to find a resting place.

The bigger win though might be taking the time on the bike and investing it into physio for your shoulder, cooking more nutritious meals and resting— putting yourself in the best position where you can recover fully quicker so you get back to real training. Your body is repairing itself, that's a level of stress you need to factor in, as you could end up digging a hole with the same training load.
posted by Static Vagabond at 12:00 PM on October 28

I wonder if you could sit on the floor behind it as if it were a recumbent bike.
posted by advicepig at 12:01 PM on October 28

You really shouldn't be putting enough weight on your right hand to do anything but have it ready to keep you on the bike if you happen to start leaning off. Just riding the bike should already be "sit[ting] upright while using my right hand to keep my balance".

But, sore hands/wrists/arms from leaning too hard on the bars is a common side effect of new cyclists having weak core strength. Doing some floor core strengthening exercises would go a long way.

Also, as someone who vaporized their collarbone in a surfing accident 3 years ago: the recovery from muscle atrophy caused by immobilizing your arm for a long period of time might be more painful than the recovery from the surgery itself. You are going to have enough problems recovering strength and flexibly in your shoulder as it is, you don't want to add extra "crutches" you will need to work to recover from later. I'd suggest getting the core strength rather than trying to make riding with a weak core better.

I personally was on a bike trainer 2 weeks after getting a plate and 5 screws in my clavicle, and riding with one arm took about a week to get used to.
posted by sideshow at 12:04 PM on October 28 [1 favorite]

If it’s just for a feeling of stability can you put the bike next to (secure) shelves or something? I have to admit I haven’t been on a stationery bike where I felt I couldn’t sit up and pedal so I’m not thinking you would have to lean much. Could your seat be tilted too much forward?
posted by warriorqueen at 12:35 PM on October 28 [2 favorites]

It looks like it takes a standard bicycle seat. Maybe replacing it with a wider seat designed for upright cruiser-style bikes will make it feel more stable without holding on. I'd also try re-installing the entire handlebar assembly backwards.
posted by yeahlikethat at 12:50 PM on October 28

I would see if the handlebar can be reversed. I'm guessing it can be if the stem clamp can be opened up, the handlebar removed, reinstalled pointing backwards, and flipped so that the ends are pointing upwards.

Another option would be to adjust the handlebar so that the grips are pointing forward as horizontal as possible, then cable tie a pole, like a broomstick handle, to the right hand side so that it forms a hand rail.
posted by BrStekker at 12:54 PM on October 28

How about one of these backed seats
posted by effluvia at 1:12 PM on October 28 [1 favorite]

Does it work to put your right hand on the center of the bars? That's sometimes a position I'll shift to just to give my wrists and shoulders a different thing to do.
posted by Dashy at 1:23 PM on October 28

"Adaptive cycling" modifications are going to be what you're looking for. Move United (formerly Disabled Sport USA) has a whole manual on it (pdf), and it includes adaptations for limited use of one arm or one-armed cycling. Some of the adaptations listed in there might give you an idea of what's mechanically possible with your your bike.

As BrStekker is suggesting, it might be possible to sweep the handlebars back towards you so you're upright but have a firm handhold with your right hand. There's some discussion of that in this bike forum thread.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 1:54 PM on October 28

Lower the seat as low as tolerable, tilt it as close to horizontal as possible. Raise the handlebars as high as you can even if you can't reverse them. This is a geometry problem more than a skill/strength problem imo.
posted by SaltySalticid at 2:52 PM on October 28

Can you position the bike near a wall, and attach a comfortable handle of some kind to the wall, to hold onto with your right hand? Think the equivalent of a subway strap. You could probably just take a kitchen towel, fold it into a strap, clamp it into the hinge side of a closed door, grab hold and peddle away.
posted by beagle at 2:53 PM on October 28 [1 favorite]

I think restless_nomad's on the right track about something to lean your chest into, because if you try to do it with no upper body support you'll probably put too much pressure on your perineum.

If you can rotate those bars back, you might be able to slide a really big cloth shopping bag down over both bar-ends at the same time and make a kind of sling that you could lean into. Or use some other cloth item like a wound around and knotted bed sheet, or wide climbing sling.
posted by jamjam at 3:15 PM on October 28 [1 favorite]

I wonder if there's a way to put an forearm pad on that, similar to what you see on aero bars as used on regular bikes. This way, you'd be putting your weight on your arm, not your hand. Ideally, you'd want this positioned so that your upper arm is close to vertical, so that you're not straining the muscles in your upper arm to maintain that position.

Unfortunately, this exercise bike doesn't use anything like standard bike parts, and you wouldn't be able to fit off-the-shelf pads, but it might give you some ideas.

You could also pad the space between the stem and your chest with a cushion to take up some weight that way.
posted by adamrice at 3:37 PM on October 28

You know what, I think SaltySalticid is onto something in saying it's a geometry problem. I feel like that might actually solve the problem. Have to wait until I have someone here to adjust it for me but will report back!
posted by HotToddy at 4:08 PM on October 28

Can you move the bike so the back is nearly against a wall, and simply lean your back against the wall for support?
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 4:14 PM on October 28 [1 favorite]

Raising the handlebars was the elegant solution to this problem! It took enough weight off my hands to make one-handed support tolerable and I am even able to periodically use my operated arm, which was not possible before. Thank you to everyone for all the clever ideas, and especially to SaltySalticid.
posted by HotToddy at 10:17 AM on October 29 [2 favorites]

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