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.

photo of bike pulling two trailers loaded with empty mailboxes

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 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

Testing

I started using a PedalPC in my home office in 2009. In 2010, I began logging how much electricity I produced each day. Here’s my totals so far:

Pedal-Powered Office Electricity Production
Year Total Electricity Generated (Whr) Average Daily Production (Whr) Average Daily Generating Time
2010 33,070 153 2 hrs, 35 min
2011 51,702 155 2 hrs, 34 min
2012 60,768 177 3 hrs, 8 min
2013 68,488 192 3 hrs, 7 min
2014 54,055 150 2 hrs, 46 min
2015 44,146 121 3 hrs, 3 min
2016 52,191 143 3 hrs, 3 min
2017 55,521 152 3 hrs, 30 min
2018 76,390 210 4 hrs, 38 min
2019 89,217 257 5 hrs, 9 min

The Result

This is what I use today:

My office PedalPC

My office PedalPC

I currently use this machine 4-5 hours per day. It powers all the equipment in my home office, including my computer, monitor, printer, and fan. It recharges our phones, headphones, and all the small lights in our house. Its reserve battery powers our modem/router to provide us with wifi and internet service 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

In short, it powers almost all the low-powered devices in our household. It won’t power the major loads in our house, like our heating & cooling system, water heater, or cooking appliances. They consume far more energy than a human-powered generator could provide.

Contact

If you are interested in using human power to power your office, sign up for the newsletter or subscribe to this project’s RSS feed to get updates.

If you have any questions, you can email me at jim-pedalpc-com (replace the two hyphens with a ‘@’ and ‘.’, respectively).

Thanks,

Jim Gregory