Under Desk Elliptical vs Bike: Which is Better?

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If you work at a computer, chances are you’re spending a large part of the day sitting in a chair. You might then drive home to spend the evening watching TV. Sound familiar? The reality is office workers spend 75% of their waking hours sitting down. Needless to say, this isn’t great for our health. 

I’ve been curious about under-desk bikes and ellipticals lately. They offer a fantastic way to stay active without even leaving my chair! But here’s the thing – they seem pretty similar at first glance. So, I decided to dive into the nitty-gritty and figure out which one was the right fit for me. Join me on this journey as we explore the world of under-desk bikes and ellipticals, and hopefully, we’ll find the perfect choice for our active lifestyle.

Sum-up: Differences Between Under Desk Bikes & Ellipticals 

When deciding between a mini exercise bike and a mini elliptical, there are a few important factors to remember.

The main difference is the type of motion, with the under-desk bike moving in a circular pattern and the under-desk elliptical providing a forward and backward motion. This can affect your comfort and personal preferences during use.

Another key difference to consider is the amount of desk height clearance required. Under-desk bikes generally need more clearance, which may not be ideal for lower desks. Meanwhile, under-desk ellipticals require less clearance and may be a better fit for tighter workspaces.

Lastly, under-desk bikes offer the added benefit of working your upper body as they can also be used on a raised surface to provide an arm workout.

Key Differences

Under Desk BikeUnder Desk Elliptical
MotionCircularForward and backward
Desk HeightMore desk clearance requiredLess desk clearance required
VersatilityProvides upper body exerciseLimited to lower body exercise
PedalsStrapped pedals restrict larger foot sizesCompatible with larger foot sizes
VariabilityRestricts foot positioningTargets different muscles by adjusting your foot positioning
Under desk bike vs elliptical comparison table
cubii jr2 side and above

Under Desk Elliptical vs. Bike: Detailed Differences

Under desk bikes and ellipticals are very similar, but have some subtle differences.

Under-desk bikes are essentially the pedals of a normal bike compacted into a small machine. The device fits under your desk and allows you to pedal in your chair. Like cycling, your feet move in a circular motion. 

Under-desk ellipticals are more like the pedals of an elliptical machine. Again, it fits under your desk, allowing you to exercise from your chair. Under-desk ellipticals move in a forward and backward motion. 

Now that we know what those machines are, we can dive deep into their differences and similarities in detail.

1. Motion  Type

The primary difference between under desk bikes and ellipticals is their motion. Ellipticals require a forward and backward motion, similar to shuffling. Whereas bikes move your feet in a circular motion, like a regular bike. Of course, they both work the legs. But, because the motion is different, they will target different parts of the leg. The shuffling movement on the elliptical means a lot of the movement comes from the knees. Thus, placing more focus on your quadriceps and hamstrings. But, the extra lift required by the bike will demand more from your hips and core. 

Under Desk Bike vs Elliptical Motion

under desk elliptical motion
Back and Forth Motion
under desk bike motion
Up and Down Motion

2. Desk Height

We’ve mentioned the range of motion differs between bikes and ellipticals. Therefore, the amount of space you need between the floor and your desk will differ. The shuffling movement on the elliptical allows your knees to remain relatively low.

Yet, the extra height required to perform a circular motion on the bike means you’ll need a good amount of space for your knees to rise. Make sure you check how much desk clearance you have before buying an under desk bike or elliptical. You don’t want to be knocking your knees with each rotation.

3. Versatility

Both the under desk bike and elliptical have been designed to work the legs while seated. However, the under desk bike can also be used on a raised surface to provide an arm workout.

using an sunny health under desk bike in the table with your hands
Work your Hand Muscles

You simply grip the pedals and move your arms in a circular motion, just like you would with your legs. Unfortunately, the elliptical isn’t able to provide a great arm workout. Sure, it will give your arms some movement, but the range is limited and it’s a lot harder to grip and move the pedals. 

4. Pedals

Under desk bikes typically come with a pedal whereby you have to strap your feet into the loop. Due to the circular motion required by the bike, that strap will help you pull the pedal up and complete the movement. However, most pedals are designed to suit the average foot size. So, if you have larger feet, you might need to shop around to make sure you can fit your feet in the pedals. You can place your feet over the strap, but it’s uncomfortable and makes it awkward to perform the motion. 

cubii jr2 slots for pedal straps

Ellipticals don’t use straps and have a much larger area. They don’t need the strap to help complete the movement. They have a slightly raised edge to keep your feet in place. As a result, pedal size isn’t a huge concern for those with larger feet. 

5. Variability

Under desk ellipticals have a larger area so you can play around with your foot positioning.  Different positions help target different muscles. This is good for people in rehabilitation, who need to focus on specific muscles. The pedal of an under desk bike is a lot smaller and doesn’t allow much flexibility in terms of foot positioning.

Under Desk Elliptical vs. Bike: Detailed Similarities

1. Purpose  

Under desk bikes and ellipticals have the same purpose. They burn calories and get us moving in our chairs. They both work our legs to build strength and endurance. Although they have their differences, their concepts are the same.

2. Features 

The primary function of under desk bikes and ellipticals is to burn calories and increase movement. But, there are many cool features that can make the experience more enjoyable. Extra features are available for both under desk bikes and ellipticals. However, if you want these extras you have to be willing to spend a bit more money. 

3. Resistance 

A lot of under desk bikes and ellipticals allow you to adjust their resistance. Mixing up the resistance is a great way to alter the intensity. 

4. Monitor Display 

Some under desk bikes and ellipticals come with a monitor that shows your calories, strides, miles, minutes, and RPM. Knowing your output data can be motivational when aiming for a target. 

cubii jr2 monitor
Monitor of the Cubii JR2 elliptical

5. Bluetooth Connectivity 

Bluetooth connectivity allows you to connect your machine to your electronic device. You can use the brand’s app to track your progress and connect with others using the machine.  

6. Noise 

Under desk machines can be used in your office. But, your colleagues might not appreciate the repetitive pedaling sound. Fortunately, some companies have created near-silent machines that allow you to exercise without a sound. 

7. Dimensions 

The size and weight of under desk bikes and ellipticals are very similar. They are designed to fit under a desk while you exercise. Thus, they’re both low and flat. You’ll typically find ellipticals are shorter than bikes due to their motion differences. But, when you compare their size to a regular bike, there’s little difference. It also means they’re both easily transportable. 

Due to their similarities in size and material, the weight of under desk bikes and ellipticals is also very similar. Most under desk bikes and ellipticals weigh around 20lbs. 

8. Cost 

Under desk bikes and ellipticals vary greatly in price depending on their quality and features. But, there’s little difference between the cost of an under desk bike and an elliptical when quality and features are similar. For a quality machine, expect to pay ~$200.

Alternatives to Under Desk Bikes & Ellipticals

I searched Reddit, Facebook groups, and forums for device alternatives. Here’s what I found:

  • Some users suggest using resistance bands as an alternative for under-desk exercise, particularly for leg and calf workouts.
  • The use of thin (under-desk) treadmills designed for standing desks is considered, enabling walking or light jogging while working.
  • A user mentions using a Peloton exercise bike with a desktop, combining work and exercise. They find it sturdy and versatile.
  • A wobble board is suggested as an alternative for balance and movement, particularly helpful for rehab after an injury.
  • Some users recommend taking walking breaks throughout the day as a better option for staying active.

Under Desk Bike & Elliptical Considerations: Cubii vs Deskcycle

There are many under desk bikes and ellipticals available on the market. The best exerciser is the one that aligns with your individual needs and requirements. If you’re not too sure what to get, take a look at Cubii and Deskcycle, they are the most popular exercisers on the market.


Cubii manufactures a range of compact under-desk ellipticals. Cubii under-desk elliptical trainers are quiet and compact pedal machines that burn calories, strengthen, and tone, all while you sit down. I have tried the Cubii Total Body+ and the Cubii JR2, which I found really great!



Deskcycle creates under desk bikes with magnetic resistance. Magnetic resistance allows for smooth, joint-gentle movement without making a sound. Track calories burned and distance covered to help you in your fitness journey. 

deskcycle 2 under desk bike

Is under desk elliptical or bike better?

Under desk bikes and ellipticals are a great way to add movement to a sedentary lifestyle. They both help you improve your fitness and lose weight. Yet, there are a few minor differences that will influence your choice when it comes to deciding which one is best.

  • Under desk bikes can be used to work the upper body, but restricts those with bigger feet and smaller desks.
  • Under desk ellipticals target specific muscles and don’t restrict foot size or desk height. But, can’t be used to perform upper body exercises.
  • Due to its full-body accessibility, under desk bikes provide more bang for their buck.

If you just want to add more movement to you your day, it’s up to you whether an under desk bike or elliptical is more suitable. 

Do Under The Desk Bikes / Ellipticals Really Work?

Compared to some of the equipment we see in the gym, under desk bikes and ellipticals seem small and simple. It makes us question whether they can actually help us get into shape and improve our fitness.

The good news is, they can. Under desk bikes and ellipticals make us move more, and in turn jack up our heart rate and burn more calories. Increased movement aids weight loss and strengthens our muscles, joints, and cardiovascular system.
A downside to under desk machines is they can only be used for low-intensity exercise. If you have specific fitness goals, other equipment will be more useful.

But, under desk machines are designed to increase movement whilst sitting. They do that – we can’t fault them for their intended purpose. If you want to move more while sitting, under desk machines are effective and definitely worth it. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can you lose weight with under desk elliptical?

Yes. Under desk ellipticals allow you to add extra movement into your day and thus burn more calories. In addition to nutrition, an increase in movement will help you lose weight.  

How many calories do you burn with an under desk bike?

Calorie burn depends on a range of factors such as time, intensity, weight, height, gender, and others. However, studies show you can burn up to 500 calories.

When should I consider a stationary bike instead of an under desk exerciser?

The main differences between a stationary bike and an under desk exerciser is seat positioning and stability. Stationary bikes put more emphasis on the core, thus can help strengthen the core muscles. Stationary bikes are also more stable and can withstand higher intensity workouts. Under desk exercisers provide low-intensity movement to improve health and fitness. If you’re looking to perform high-intensity exercise specific to cycling, a stationary bike would be more suitable.


Under Desk Bike and Under Desk Elliptical are worthy investments in health. Take your first step towards a healthier life. Consider under the desk exercise equipment to exercise when you’re working and stay fit!

under desk bike vs under desk elliptical featured 1
Michaela Summers

Michaela Summers is a health and fitness content creator. She holds a Master of Research in Health and Wellbeing and a BSc in Exercise and Sport Science from the University of Exeter. She is on a mission to help people live a more fulfilling, impactful life through fitness and lifestyle. When she's not writing, she can be found in the gym, playing tennis, or exploring the great outdoors.

6 thoughts on “Under Desk Elliptical vs Bike: Which is Better?”

  1. I would like to stealthily use one of these during zoom calls. Does one cause less upper body movement than the other? or would both cause obvious shoulder movement? (fyi, I’m 5’1″)

    • Hi Tracy!

      We think it depends on how vigorously you ride it. If you are riding it too hard, there could be some shoulder action and a change in your respiratory pattern when speaking. However, if you ride at a lower resistance, it should be less noticeable.

      P.S. We will upload the video of Katie using the Cubii JR in her review very soon, so you can see in action how it is with an under desk elliptical.


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