Pedal pusher: Desk-bike marketer hopes to get more workers into shape

By Sue McAllister, San Jose Mercury News
Posted July 16, 2012, at 7:13 a.m.

SAN JOSE, Calif. — You’re a savvy worker, so you can multitask with the best of them, pinging out text messages while listening to conference calls and tending your Twitter stream.

Pleasanton, Calif., entrepreneur Bryan Wassom wants you to consider adding one more task: pedaling.

Millions of office workers spend long hours at their desks. But they need a little exercise too, and Wassom’s preparing to market his own workaholic’s solution — it’s a desk crossed with a modified recumbent bike.

“I’m riding while I’m talking to you,” Wassom said over the phone last week. “I can type, I can move the computers aside and take handwritten notes if I need to. If you can do it in a regular desk, you can do it in this desk.”

Though he has yet to forge a Web presence for it, Wassom says he will introduce his product — which he calls the ActivOffice Exercise Desk — and start taking orders at this weekend’s FitExpo, a fitness and health event at the San Jose McEnery Convention Center.

He’s not the first to develop such a contraption; treadmill desks and various under-desk pedaling devices have been around for a while. But Wassom is nonetheless hopeful that his machine will strike a chord with thousands of deskbound workers who know they should be getting more exercise but can’t carve time out of their busy days.

In his day job as a high-tech sales guy, he too spends a ton of time behind a desk.

Because his weight and blood pressure were rising — and because his son Alex was nagging him to get in shape — he started tinkering with how to combine a bike with a high-functioning work station.

About a year later, with lots of help and prodding from Alex, 21, Wassom’s device combines a recumbent fitness bike from Schwinn (he’s a reseller of their products), a computer that will track one’s progress in miles, minutes and calories burned, and a substantial, adjustable desk that’s manufactured in Livermore. The desk/bike will be priced from $1,800 to $2,000, he says.

Wassom now “rides” an average of 48 miles a day on his invention while working in his home office. In the past nine months he’s ridden nearly 5,000 miles at work, lost 18 pounds and brought his blood pressure down.

Though users can set the desk/bike to provide more strenuous exercise, Wassom uses the “level” setting while at work: “I don’t want to have just climbed a hill when the phone rings,” he says, still pedaling with nary a huff nor puff.

He acknowledges the exercise desks might be more appropriate for those who work alone or at home than the average cubicle-heavy office design. But he’s optimistic that health-conscious companies will buy them too.

“I think we’re on to something,” he says. “I think the market’s huge.”

Experts on both marketing inventions and ergonomics, however, said that Wassom faces a steep uphill climb.

San Jose State University adjunct professor Anthony Andre, who teaches in the university’s Human Factors and Ergonomics master’s program, said most employers don’t like to spend extra money on desks unless an employee has a specific injury, and at-home workers tend to spend the least they can to set up their work spaces.

“I love it. It’s just never going to catch on in large numbers,” he said.

Wassom’s product does appear to improve on some other options, Andre said. But going outside for exercise would be preferable.

“On the positive side is, hey, you’re exercising even though you’re sitting on your butt,” said Andre, who also owns an ergonomics consulting firm, Interface Analysis Associates. “On the negative side, it’s another use of technology to keep you away from the real world.”

http://bangordailynews.com/2012/07/16/business/pedal-pusher-desk-bike-marketer-hopes-to-get-more-workers-into-shape/ printed on October 1, 2014