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Build Yourself A Home Exercise Machine

Don’t spend hundreds of dollars on a fancy exercise bike machine, and, instead use this guide to make one from scratch.

| September/October 1986

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    During the short and often cold days of winter, when you're probably not able to get out on the asphalt at least every other day, a session or two per week on a wind-load trainer may be the answer to staying in top condition.
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    Wind-load trainer diagram.
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    Wind-load trainer blower detail.

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Keep your aerobic capacity at its peak even when bad weather stops you from taking to the highway. 

Build Yourself a Home Exercise Machine

Bicycling is widely recognized to be an excellent form of aerobic exercise, and it's also great fun. However, bad weather and lack of time can sometimes make it difficult to keep up a regular training program. During the short and often cold days of winter, when you're probably not able to get out on the asphalt at least every other day, a session or two per week on a home exercise machine like a wind-load trainer may be the answer to staying in top condition. (See the image gallery for wind-load trainer diagrams).

Is It an Exercise Bicycle?

No, it's better than an exercise bicycle. A wind-load trainer is a home exercise machine that uses a fan (rather than a friction device) to resist pedaling, so the effort required increases nearly exponentially with speed. This more accurately mimics actual conditions encountered when riding a bicycle. Furthermore, you use a wind-load trainer from the platform of your own, familiar bicycle, so you stress the same muscle groups as you do when cycling. Working out on a wind-load trainer can also improve the smoothness and speed of your cadence, while using an exercise bicycle may have the opposite effect.

Wind-load Trainer Features

The MOTHER EARTH NEWS wind-load trainer is built from wood — unlike most commercial models — because it's the easiest material to work with. Nonetheless, our trainer doesn't sacrifice features. The 28 inch-wide base makes it as stable as any, the drive shaft rides on sealed roller bearings, the bicycle is supported under the bottom bracket so that no unusual load is imposed on the machine's front fork, and a channel along the right-hand side routes air from the fan to an adjustable nozzle that allows a cooling breeze to be directed on the rider.

Home Exercise Machine Construction Details

The only significant disadvantage of MOTHER's wind-load trainer is that it isn't widely adjustable. The wooden front wheel braces could be slotted to accommodate different widths of tires, but the height of the bottom-bracket clamp — built from a 1-1/2 inch by 10 inch pipe nipple, two 1-1/2 inch floor flanges, parts of a kickstand, and assorted hardware — can't be easily altered.

Consequently, you should build the trainer to suit the dimensions of the bicycle you'll be using on it. To do so, mount the bottom bracket clamp last, and position it so that the rear tire of the bicycle bears down on the drive shaft enough to deflect the tire 1/16 inches to 1/2 inches. At the same time, mount the bicycle as far forward as possible, so that the rear tire clears the wooden base by about 1/2 inches. This keeps the cycle's frame as close to level as possible to maintain a comfortable riding position.

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