About the PedalPC

Back many years ago, my wife and I operated a bicycle-powered delivery and recycling service. We carried our customer's cargo on large bicycle trailers we built for the task.

bicycle pulling two long trailers loaded with two stacks of plastic mailtubs
hauling cargo for our customers

I loved the work. It gave me lots of exercise while providing a service that's good for the environment.

Other people saw our trailers and asked if we could build one for them, too. So, we started a side business manufacturing bicycle trailers. We created a web site and began selling them over the internet.

Over time, our bicycle trailer business grew while the delivery business shrank. Eventually we chose to shut down the delivery business and just manufacture bicycle trailers.

The Problem

Shutting down the delivery business took away my source of daily physical activity. I now faced the same problem many people face today: how to get adequate exercise when you have a sedentary job.

I considered using a treadmill desk or bike desk, but found the idea unsatisfying. I would be burning calories for no useful purpose. That seemed both pointless and wasteful.

A better idea, I thought, would be to use a desk bike that could generate electricity, and use the electricity to power some or all of my office equipment. The electricity generated would be clean, renewable, and--unlike many other forms of renewable energy--always available whenever I needed it. I just needed to pedal to produce it

Such a bike desk would allow me to get plenty of exercise each day while making a positive environmental impact--just like before, when I rode a bike for a living.

Finding a Solution

I couldn't find anything on the market, so I started building one for myself, using some of the materials and equipment we use in our manufacturing business. I built several prototypes, making improvements and adding features to each successive desk.

photo of me working on my laptop on early prototype desk
My first prototype, made by welding a 20" bicycle wheel rim to bicycle crank spider which drove a treadmill motor
photo of later PedalPC prototype I used in my office
Another early PedalPC prototype I used in my office

I began recording the amount of electricity I produced each day in 2010. My first few prototypes were primitive and buggy. That's why, in the graphs below, many days in the early years have zero data values [1].

Hours Generating Electricity Per Day

Electricity Generated Per Day

Average Electrical Power Output Each Day

My original goal was to just power my laptop, printer, modem, and network-attached storage (NAS) device for a couple of hours per day. But as I improved the desk, I also improved my office 's energy efficiency.

I replaced my original 25 W laptop with a desktop and monitor that use less than 10 W combined. I powered our modem/router directly off 12V DC rather than use an inverter and power adapter. We retired the NAS for a lower-power file storage solution.

These savings, plus pedaling a little more per day, allowed me to power much more than I originally could.

The PedalPC now powers more than just my home office. It recharges our phones, headphones, and all the small lights in our house. Its battery powers our modem/router and a small web server 24/7, providing us with wifi and you the ability to view the web site you're currently visiting.