Pedal Your Way Through Games With This USB Exercise Bike

An exercise bike modified to become a game controller

If you’re into cycling, there’s nothing better than heading out on the open road and feeling the wind in your hair. Unfortunately, climatic conditions make this uncomfortable or impossible at certain times of year, so you might be tempted to stay inside and play video games instead. Luckily, you can now get your gaming fix and still get in shape thanks to [Patrick]’s exercise bike game controller.

Two 3D-printed boxes with buttons and joysticks, to be attached to a bike's handlebar[Patrick] got himself a second-hand exercise bike and discovered that the speed sensor inside it was based on a magnet and reed relay, just like a regular bike computer. Reading out the sensor was therefore as simple as counting pulses using an Arduino Leonardo, and the USB HID protocol made it easy to turn the cycling mechanism into a one-dimensional game controller.

He then completed the setup by adding two 3D-printed handlebar-mounted gamepads with a few buttons and a thumbstick on each side. The total system now works as an ordinary gamepad, but with the option of using the bike as a forward/backward control.

We can imagine that this system will stay interesting for far longer than any off-the-shelf internet-connected exercise bike, because you can interface it with basically any game. [Patrick] demos his rig using first-person shooters like Doom and Team Fortress 2, but the possibilities are endless: how about turning FIFA games into bike polo? Or Mirror’s Edge into a bicycle courier adventure? After all, we’ve already seen how a similar game controller can turn Grand Theft Auto into something more like Grand Theft Bicycle.

10 thoughts on “Pedal Your Way Through Games With This USB Exercise Bike

  1. Unfortunately, the sensors available in bikes are inadequate for game controlling, as their resolution is too bad (typically one impulse per wheel/crank turn). I was very excited when I picked up a training bike supposedly made specifically for arcade gaming (Capital Sports Arcadion) and became very disappointed when it turned out that its sensors were much worse than what I already had in my DIY bike… Luckily the price was rather low and the bike still had redeeming features (being magnetic and an option to control the intensity programmatically). Still, I had to tear out the sensors and put two Hall sensors (for direction detection) and twelve magnets on the crank. All this is connected to a microcontroller and digital potentiometer, which in turn is connected to a Logitech wheel in place of pedals (turning forward controls acceleration and turning backwards braking).

  2. When I saw this I thought the behavior would be different. Obviously it can only do forward and backward on a bike, but I thought it may be more affective if the bike was like a controller activation. e.g. you can only operate your characters movement, from another device, only when peddling.

    An added challenge is the resistance goes up if your health is down. Now the game becomes a grueling challenge if you play poorly. Might incentivize the way you play to avoid the pian.

    1. The Computrainer and Tacx indoor trainers used to come with optional steering sensors, so you could control your direction. I always thought some sort of flight based sun that allowed you to go higher with more power would work pretty well. An FPS night be bit involved while pedaling, though an adventure game where you need extra power to make a jump, etc could work.

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