The Slickest Part Of This Exercise Bike? The UI, Actually

In redesigning the stationary bike for a lifestyle, Lunar also offers a peak at how gestural interfaces might filter into our everyday tech.

A home exercise machine is like Mr. Rochester’s first wife in Jane Eyre—something you acquired with good intentions and then secreted away and kept from public view. Lunar Europe, the Munich-based design studio, wants to bring it out of hiding and install it in the living room to mix with polite society. The first effort in a series of revamped gym equipment, its Vela stationary bike is a sculptural beauty consisting of a minimal frame with gears and pedals suspended inside.

"Home fitness equipment usually looks as if it belongs in a torture chamber," Lunar states in its press release. "Chunky and heavy, it often leads a shadowy existence in the guest room or basement. The designers at Lunar deliberately set out to change this state of affairs." They did so by reducing the exercise bike to a sinuous, geometrically balanced frame that’s worthy of display. The flywheel itself is suspended using a novel system of high-tension wires—the idea being that the flywheel can actually be moved up, down, forward, and back to accommodate different riders.

But the most interesting idea lies in the UI. Rather than being a simple touch screen near the bike’s handlebars, Lunar proposes a projected light display, shined down on the ground around the bike. The colors would change based on where you are in the workout, such as warm-up or anaerobic threshold. And you’d interact with the display simply using gestures—thus, no more fumbling with a button when you’re bone-tired. You can imagine a bright future for this kind of idea—and indeed, we’re betting that you’ll soon see shades of this in TV and car interfaces, among others.

Click here to read about Lunar Europe’s climbing-wall concept.

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  • Writer Dave

    Ben nailed it. This is design porn, not practical equipment. That said, I wish the author would be just a smidge more critical of the actual practical applications of the equipment (like with the wall) before unreservedly gushing over it. I'd say that for exercise equipment, form really must follow function, no matter how annoyed that makes the designers.

  • olli

    I would like to see a close up video on those strings holding up the wheel, when the rider puts in a >1000W effort. Will it just wobble like crazy – or pop with a funny sound?

  • Paul

    The problem with it is that to own it you'd have to be a banker, drive a Lexus, prefer Stella Artois, and apply cologne with a hose.

  • ISO

    My main problem with designs like this is that it's more about the designers and them getting off by what they've done than the usefulness and practically of the design itself. You as a viewer is expected to be almost sexually panting at it, like with Apple's products - If you're not fainting by the mere prologue, you're obviously not one of the enlighten ones.

  • Dawes

    Comments regarding the fit and actual function of this are spot-on. Despite just trying to be something totally new, I'm willing to bet this fails in the most important way: daily, comfortable use. 

    Anyone using this more than 10 minutes is going to need a spinal readjustment. Frankly, it looks clunky and will work better as a sculpture shoved in the corner (which I suspect most of it's owners will do). 

    Besides which, the design and shaping being done on most modern bike frames is way more beautiful and functional. Nevermind the fact that a regular bike can be ridden and used for health and transportation. Get a nice carbon fiber frame and spend $200 for a stationary trainer. 

  • Ben Griffin

    Either that, or she really appreciated my 2-finger technique. Typing, I mean.
    Thanks KatieJ, whoever you are.

  • jones19876

    Kudos for the artsy sculpture-like form factor, but it's cryptic, overdone and ultimately useless.

    But hey, if you can afford it, who cares if you actually use it, right?

  • Kathy

    I can't stand concept crap that would have to be totally different in order to function in the real world. These designers are looking for a pat on the back or what? They get a nice right up Co.Design? The people with the hard job are the ones that have to design stuff that can be real. 

    Oh wait, it's supposed to inspire future design.. [Eyeroll]

  • Ben Griffin

    As with the climbing wall, it's very telling that at no point is a human shown interacting with the design. If you were designing sports equipment for use in the real world, the details (and constraints) of the human interaction experience should figure highly in your inspiration and inform every design decision.

    But... It's clear that these concepts aren't intended for use in the real world, so we shouldn't judge them as such. They are in the "concept car" vein: Practicality and constraints have taken a back seat, allowing the designers to focus on the expression of emotional attributes through form, finish etc. That's a valid and important aspect of design, if only one of many that need to be balanced in commercial projects.

    In the context of styling exercises, I think these are really successful. The design doesn't suggest comfort or stability but it positively screams "dynamic, high-performance & expensive". Presumably that was the intent, so job well done! I'm sure it'll be featuring on many a designer's inspiration wall and mood boards for the foreseeable future.

    I'll avoid the line that "anyone can design a beautiful object without constraints" because triggering a particular emotional response in customers through form and finish is a very real, difficult and commercially valuable skill. However, I'm peronally most inspired by design which delivers in this respect whilst also considering and responding to the broader range of "real world" constraints: combining detailed understanding of the user experience, technical constraints and commercial context. For me, that multi-faceted approach is a bigger, more rewarding challenge, and is key to adding real (commercial) value in business.

    All that said, a beautiful chair or a sexy excercise bike concept can still make me smile and remind me why I love design!

  • Αen

    Looks beautiful but it should stay true to the geometry of a bicycle for optimal benefits or even avoiding strain. I reckon when the designers come back to earth the frame will be longer for comfort, the pedaling circumference sensibly smaller, the base wider for safety and a whole lot of other issues. Basically they have to repay the debt of ignoring important constraints and requirements in the beginning by making the design ugly at the end.