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Who among us hasn't used our heavy workloads as justification to skip exercise? For better or worse, this well-worn excuse loses much of its strength with the introduction of the FitDesk.

An American designed and manufactured stationary bike, it looks and functions a lot like any other compact spinner. Its 18-kilogram mass is sufficient to keep it stable while pumping away, and it folds up small enough to be easily stored in an average closet when not in use, making it a good fit for both home dens and executives lucky enough to have a little extra space in their offices.

What distinguishes it from other exercise bikes is a patent-pending pillow-sized foam pad that slips onto its handlebar. This nylon-sheathed platform acts – as the bike's name implies – as a desk. A 15-inch notebook secured by a pair of heavy-duty elastic bands fits perfectly on the far end of the pad, leaving enough room for your forearms to rest on the nearer edge.

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Admittedly, it's probably not ergonomically sound. It feels a little like working on a laptop while lying on your tummy, and you'll likely notice some burning in your wrists if you keep at it too long. However, I've found it fine for the 30 to 45 minutes I've spent on the bike each day for the last week.

And there's no denying that the FitDesk accomplishes its mission of allowing one to work while getting fit. Consider, for example, that I'm on the bike right now as I tap out this review. Rather than tacking my workout onto the end of a hectic day, I'm able to get my heart pumping on the job. That's a powerful perk.

FitDesk suggests that its bike frees one's hands to do other things, too, like play video games and read books. However, a desk-like pad hardly seems necessary for these activities. I already play games and read books using my traditional exercise bike simply by sitting straight in the seat. It might be nice to have a desk-like pad to lean on once in a while, but it's certainly not necessary. If you're thinking about the FitDesk, it ought to be with the intent to use it with a laptop.

What may prove a deal-breaker for some, though, is the quality of the bike. It requires about an hour's worth of assembly, and I found it felt a little rickety afterward. I wasn't worried it would fall apart, but I was left with a constant, nagging feeling that I needed to look for screws to tighten.

Also, the desk pad comes off as a little shoddy. It's functional, but the fabric shell feels cheap and is left wide open on the bottom, revealing a wall of stark white foam when the bike is folded up. This makes it easy to remove and clean the covering, but it doesn't look particularly nice.

Plus, the digital cycling computer hangs from a Velcro patch on the front of the pad and points slightly toward the ground, making it hard to read. Its modes are woefully limited, and its tiny, unlit, digital watch-like screen isn't a friend to the nearsighted. I ended up rarely using it, preferring instead to simply adjust the bike's manual tension dial and track workout time using my computer's clock.

I'm actually a bit surprised there isn't an app to go with it. A little program that runs on your computer or phone and interacts with the bike to assess workout data seems like it would have neatly solved the cycling computer problem, even if the extra tech resulted in a slightly more expensive apparatus.

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Still, if you're looking for a way to fit a little more exercise into your schedule, there's a lot to like about the FitDesk. You can order the bike by mail directly from the manufacturer for $230. Shipping is free to American residents, but Canadians will need to tack on $50 to have it couriered over the border.

If you're interested in the concept but crave a better bike, FitDesk also offers the FitDesk Pro, an $80 desk pad that attaches to your existing stationary bike. I haven't seen the FitDesk Pro in person, so I can't say how easily or securely it attaches to different types of bikes.

If you prefer walking or running to cycling, you might want to investigate treadmill desks. Varying models are available from a range of manufacturers, but be warned that they're typically several times the price of FitDesk's bike and require a lot more space.

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About the Author
Game and Gadget Reporter

Chad Sapieha has been writing about video games and consumer gadgets for the Globe and Mail since 2003. His work has been published in magazines, newspapers, and Web sites across North America, and he has appeared as an expert on television and radio newscasts. More

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